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Purification in Islam and Hinduism (2/4)

In the first part of this series, we dealt briefly with the philosophy of purification in Islamic jurisprudence.

Ganga Asnan is a ceremonial bathing in the Ganga River for physical and spritual purification.

Ganga Asnan is a ceremonial bathing in the Ganga River for physical and spritual purification.

Now, in this part we are going to discuss the philosophy of purification in Hinduism. We will dedicate the conclusion of this series for the points of agreement and disagreement in the philosophy of purification in both cultures.

When we take a look at the chapter of purification in Manu Shastr we find good details about the philosophy of cleanliness in Hinduism. The chapter includes the reasons that lead to impurity, method of purification, what are the pure and clean things and what are the unclean impure things.

Causes of Impurity in Hinduism

There are some causes that nullify the purity of a person requiring him to take a bath. If a person touches a Chandal or menstruating woman, he becomes impure and needs bathing as was mentioned in the following Mantra of the Manu Shastr:

  1. When he has touched a Chandala, a menstruating woman, an outcast, a woman in childbed (or a woman giving birth to a child), a corpse, or one who has touched a (corpse), he becomes pure by bathing.(1)

In Hinduism, there are some causes that require a person to make an ablution for purity and cleanliness especially when a person intends to recite the Vedas. The Manu Shastr says in this regard:

“45. Though he may be (already) pure, let him sip water after sleeping, sneezing, eating, spitting, telling untruths, and drinking water, likewise when he is going to study the Veda.(2)

However, sneezing, eating or spitting is not invalidators of ablution in Islamic jurisprudence. In addition, telling lies is a serious sin in Islam but it is not amongst of the invalidators of ablution or purity.

Invisible Impurity in Hinduism

According to Hinduism, when a person sleeps in the night and wakes up in the morning, he becomes impure and no worship or act of devotion can be performed without taking a bath as well as no food can be eaten before purification.

In addition, when a devotee comes out of his worship, he becomes impure and if he wants to perform some worship again, he has to wash both hands, feet to rinse out the mouth.

It is noteworthy here that this purification resembles in some features the ablution in Islam, sleeping is a cause that invalidates the ablution in Islamic jurisprudence, however, sleep itself is not an invalidator of ablution rather, passing gas is an invalidator of ablution, but when a person falls asleep, he cannot know whether he passed gas or not, therefore, sleeping has been regarded a cause of invalidating the ablution.

What is Sutak in Hinduism?

According to Hinduism, when menses begin for a woman her whole body becomes impure even her dry hands turn into impure and she cannot touch anything otherwise the touched thing will become impure too.

When she takes a bath after six days, she becomes pure. Furthermore, when a woman gives birth to a child, she becomes impure and her entire tribe or familymembers including; man and woman become impure. Additionally, if a person from her tribe resides in another city or is on a journey and he received the news of the birth, he becomes impure.(3)

Whenever a child is born in the family, the whole family has to observe Sutak for ten days. No one of the family can take part in any religious activity or can attend the temple. They have to stay away from all kinds of worship and devotion during the ten days. Also she is not allowed to enter the kitchen and do any work until the ritual of Havan is performed.(4)

Purifying with Cow-dung

After the prescribed period, the Hindu woman has to wash her body with cow dung and cow urine and after doing that she will become pure and her impurity will be wiped away. It is also recommended for her to drink cow-urine in order to achieve purity.

It is noteworthy that if a person belongs to the Brahmin caste, the impurity resulted due to the child birth will continue for only ten days. But if the person is from Chattari, then the impurity will continue for twelve days. And if the person is from the Vishay caste, he has to wait for fifteen days, and a Shudra will wait for one month.

The period of purification in Hinduism is not similar for all people; rather it differs from one caste to another as was mentioned in Manu Shastr:

  1. A Brahmana shall be pure after ten days, a Kshatriya after twelve, a Vaisya after fifteen, and a Sudra is purified after a month.(5)

This is unlike Islam. Because Islam has no caste system, as a result, the ruling of purity in Islamic jurisprudence does not differ from one individual to another. Rather, every Muslim is equal in the ruling of purification or cleanses. Any person becomes pure by pouring water on the whole body. There is no difference between man and woman or youth and old.

What is Patak?

In Hinduism, when a person dies, the whole tribe becomes impure and this type of impurity in Hinduism is called Patak. Patak is observed by Hindus after the death of a relative. The Hindu tradition of Patak is also called Sutak. Patak refers to the period of renouncing daily life activities from twelve to sixteen days after the death of a family member in Hindu community.

The Manu Shastr says in this context:

  1. When (a child) dies that has teethed, or that before teething has received (the sacrament of) the tonsure (Kudakarana) or (of the initiation), all relatives (become) impure, and on the birth (of a child) the same (rule) is prescribed.(6)

But in Islamic jurisprudence, we do not find any sort of impurity that travels with the news as we have seen in the case of birth and death in Hindu Philosophy wherein the impurity moves with the news of birth and death even if a relative is in another city, he will become unclean immediately after hereceives the news of birth or death.

Impurity after eating food in Hinduism

There are particular regulations concerning impurity resulting from eatingfood. Before a Hindu eats food, he has to draw a circle with cow dung and water and to sit in it bare body wearing nothing except for Dhoti. During eating, if a person enters the circle with his dresses, the circle becomes impure and the food becomes prohibited for him to eat, though the person is his brother or relative.

It is well known that Islam does not consider eating a pure and permissible food an invalidator of the purity or ablution also Islamic jurisprudence does not regard cow-dung as pure or purifier, rather, cow-urine and cow-dung are real impurities that require purification if it touches the cloth or body or any other pure thing.

Hindus regard cow-dung and cow-urine pure while they regard the water that comes out from the mouth as impure. However, in Islamic jurisprudence we do not find any ruling of this kind. The question is: if cow-dung and cow-urine are clean and pure though cow is a kind of animal while human being is loftier in rank and more meritorious than angels in the sight of Allah the almighty though human feces and urine are impure and disgusting in all cultures and religions all over the world,why are not human urine and feces pure and purifier like the cow excreta?

We cannot find logical reason why the menstruation or child birth makes all family members and relatives impure even if the person is in another city.

In addition, Hindus regard bleacher or washerman as impure and unclean because they touch unclean clothes and dresses of the people but according to this philosophy every person should be regarded as impure as every person cleanses himself of his dirt or excreta after he passes the stool or urine.

According to Islamic jurisprudence, when a person touches something impure or his limb or cloth is polluted with any kind of impurity it becomes pure and clean after washing. Even if a washerman or an employee in the cleaning and beatification job,he washeshis hand or body he becomes pure and allegeable for performing the prayers and he can touchthe Glorious Qur’an and can recite from it and he is allowed to enter the mosque after taking the bath as his impurity is temporary and momentary not permanent or unending.

_______________________

(1)    The Laws of Manu translated by George Bühler, (Sacred Books of the East, Volume 25, chapter 5th.

(2)    Ibid.

(3) But Shikan, Khal`atul-Hunood, Matba`a Siddiqi 1864 A.D., p.119.

(4) http://hindi.speakingtree.in/allslides/hindu-religion-mein-sutak-ka-matlab. (Last accessed, July 11, 2016)

The laws of Manu translated by G Buhler, The Clarendon Press 1886, p.182.

(6) Ibid.

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