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Why Muslims perform ablution: A science perspective

Muslims performing ablution

Since the Ramadan started, I’ve been serialising (on social media) my daily musings on Islam and science called “Breakfast with the Qur’an and Science.”  The science part is mainly social science and mainly psychology – my first love.

Either from my old reading or new, once I note an interesting insight from science and I recognise that Islam teaches a similar concept, I interview my friends who are Islamic scholars and draw a synthesis of the idea. It appears that people (internationally) like the daily offerings. So I  have decided to share three days’ worth with you and hope that you will like them too. They are:Why Muslims perform ablution (Day 10), Why Google agrees with the Prophet on naps (Day 9) and  Why Muslims walk to the mosque (Day 8). Enjoy.

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Why Muslims Perform Ablution (a science perspective)

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Breakfast with Qur’an and Science (Day 10)

– Ibraheem Dooba, Ph.D.

“The most dominant species in the world are bacteria. There are four quadrillion quadrillion bacteria living on earth. That is 500 billion billion times the number of humans,” says Netflix’s TV show “Brainchild” in its episode on germs.

Some of these germs are bad for us. This is how:

The average handshake lasts three seconds; during which 124 million microbes literally exchange hands. Some germs are good but some bad germs from our hands can get into our stomach and get us sick. (ibid).

(This is to say nothing of some real messy things we do with our hands.)

Yet you find that Muslims are the most frequent handshakers because Islam encourages it. You would be forgiven if you shake the hand of your brother. Islam says.

Does it then mean Muslims will get ill more? Not necessarily, because Islamic practices also ensure that we enact one of the best protections against germs: Handwashing.

For instance, Global Hygiene Council recommends that we wash hands six times a day.

And the World Health Organisation says: “Hand hygiene is therefore the most important measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germs.”

And when it comes to hand washing, Muslims are also the most frequent handwashers. E.g., during ablution for the five daily prayers and after using the bathroom.

Further, Muslims are also instructed to wash hands not just before meals, but also after meals as this Hadith shows:

“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Whoever would like Allah to increase the goodness of his house, should perform ablution (wash hands) when his breakfast is brought to him and when it is taken away.’” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Chapter on Food).

If you eat three times a day, that’s six handwashings already.

Although other reasons abound, this is a relatable real-world function of regular ablution.

Why Google agrees with the Prophet on naps

Breakfast with Qur’an and Science (Day 9)

– Ibraheem Dooba, Ph.D.

To be creative, take naps

One  thing we learned from the life of  Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was his tradition of going to bed early and his habit of taking a siesta during the day. [Sahīh al-Bukhārī, vol 4, pg 182, Hadīth 6281]

Now science tells us that taking naps, whether at night or during the day, facilitates problem solving.

In 2004, University of Lubeck psychologist Ulrich Wagner gave two groups of participants a tricky problem to solve. Sixty percent of the group that was allowed to start in the evening and finish the next morning after a good night sleep were able to solve the problem compared with 23% of those who had to complete the task in the morning with no break between.

Even innovative companies such as Google and Nike now encourage staff to take naps.

Why Muslims walk to the mosque

Breakfast with Qur’an and Science (Day 8)

– Ibraheem Dooba, Ph.D.

Walking helps you solve problems

In 2014, Stanford researcher, Marily Oppezzo demonstrated that those who walked on a threadmill increased their creativity by up to 60% compared to those who sat down.

Creative minds like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are known for taking walks during breaks, wrote Richard Wiseman, author of “Shoot for the Moon.”

Muslims also have this opportunity to take short breaks from their work and walk to the mosque five times a day. Long walks are especially encouraged on Fridays according to  many hadiths. But a good deal of Muslims don’t use this advantage.

So next time you hear the call for prayers, in addition to fulfilling a spiritual responsibility, also see it as an opportunity to jump start the problem you’re working on by 60%. Never see it as an interruption of your work.

Example of a Hadith that encourages long walks on Friday:

Aws bin Aws narrated:: “Allah’s Messenger said to me: ‘Whoever performs Ghusl on Friday, and bathes completely, and goes early, arriving early, gets close and listens and is silent, there will be for him in every STEP he takes the reward of a year of fasting and standing (in prayer).’”

Jami` at-Tirmidhi, Chapter: The Book on the Day of Friday

 

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