Respecting Privacy at Home

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

Members of the family should respect the sanctity of each other’s privacy in the family. The adab of asking for permission before entering a room is especially important for privacy in home life, and this adab can be gained and developed with practice.

According to the Qur’an, mothers and fathers should train their children to ask for permission and they should follow a progressive pedagogical method to this end. Until adolescence, children should knock and wait for permission before entering the room of their parents, at three particular times of the day. These are times when the mother and father need privacy because they may be wearing nightclothes. The private times are before dawn, in the early afternoon, when they may be sleeping, and after the night prayers. In the Qur’an God says:

O you who believe! Let those whom your right hands possess (as slaves), as well as those of you (your children) who have not yet reached puberty, ask for your permission (before they come into your private room) at three times (of the day) —before the Morning Prayer, and when you lay aside your garments in the middle of the day for rest, and after the Night Prayer. These are your three times of privacy. Beyond these occasions, there is no blame on you nor on them if they come in without permission— they are bound to move about you, some of you attending on others. Thus, God makes clear for you (the instructions in) the Revelations. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Nur 24:58)

When children reach maturity, they should knock and wait for permission before entering any room when the door is closed, be it in their own home or someone else’s. The following verse makes this clear:

And when your children reach puberty, let them ask you for permission (whenever they want to enter your private room), even as those (who have already reached the same age) before them ask for it. Thus, God makes clear for you (the instructions in) His revelations. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Nur 24:59)


Regular sleep is necessary for the purpose of rest and rejuvenation. On average, we spend one third of our day sleeping. Such a large part of daily life should be examined to make sure that this time is spent in the right way and not carelessly. When the fruitful lives of productive people are examined, we can see that they worked much and slept little. Thus, it follows that we should sleep only as much as necessity dictates. Those who sleep less actually have more energy than those who sleep too much and are more effective and outgoing. People who sleep little are more likely to be happy with themselves and their life, and to have better interactions with the outside world. From the active person’s perspective, time spent sleeping is lost time. It is obvious that reducing the time spent sleeping will increase the time we have to do things that matter in life. So, once again, we should approach our sleeping and waking consciously and with care.

1. Before going to bed we should make ablutions. There is a hadith related by Abu Umama that the Prophet said, “Whoever enters the bed with ablutions and engages in remembrance of God until falling asleep, and then wakes up at some hour of the night and asks God for something either material or eternal, God will certainly give it to him.” [Tirmidhi, Da’wat, 100, 3525.]

2. It is Sunna, to clean our teeth before bed and upon waking. The Messenger also cleaned his teeth when he woke up during the night to pray. [Bukhari, Jum’a, 8/2, 212; Wudu, 73; Tahajjud, 9; Muslim, Tahara, 45, 254; Abu Dawud, Tahara, 30, 55; Nasai, Tahara, 2/1, 8.] In addition, he would clean his teeth and take ablutions before lying down, whether at night or in the daytime. [Abu Dawud, Tahara, 27, 30/51, 56–7; Muslim, Tahara, 45, 253; Nasai, Tahara, 8/1, 13.]

3. When going to bed for the night, we should intend to wake up during the night and pray. The Prophet said, “I recommend that you get up at night. For the saints who lived before you used this as a path to get close to God, to save themselves from sin, to atone for wrongs, and to protect the body from illness.” [Tirmidhi, Da’wat, 112, 3543–4.] In another hadith he said, “May God extend His bounteous mercy to the man who gets up at night to pray, and wakes up his wife also, and if she does not get up, pours water on her face. May God extend His bounteous mercy to the woman who gets up at night to pray and wakes up her husband, and if he does not get up, pours water on his face.” [Abu Dawud, Salat, 307, 1308; Nasai, Kiyam al-Layl, 5/3, 205.]

4. Someone who is unsure whether or not they can wake up at night should perform the three rakat witr prayer before going to bed, though its preferable time is after the supererogatory prayer of tahajjud which is performed at night. For the Prophet said, “Whoever is afraid he cannot get up at the end of the night to pray witr, let him do it at the beginning of the night. Whoever hopes to wake up at the end of the night, let him pray witr at the end of the night (before the time comes for the obligatory morning prayer). For prayers at the end of the night are acceptable and pleasing to God (since both night and day angels are gathered together ready to bring mercy.) So, it is more virtuous to pray at the end of the night.” [Muslim, Musafirin, 162, 755; Tirmidhi, Salat, 334, 465.]

5. If you have trouble sleeping, the Prophet made the following suggestion. One day, Khalid ibn Walid al-Makhzumi said to the Prophet, “O God’s Messenger, last night I could not sleep at all!” The Prophet told him, “When you enter your bed say this prayer: ‘O Lord of the seven heavens and everything else they shade! O Lord of the worlds and everything else they contain! O Lord and Creator of satans and all the creatures they have led astray! Safeguard me against the evil of all these creatures, so that none may descend upon me, nor attack me. One whom You protect is mighty. Your praise is exalted, there is no deity but You, the only deity is You.” [Tirmidhi, Da’wat, 96, 3518.]

6. When lying down, recite Suras Falaq and Nas. According to a narration from Aisha, the Prophet would read these as well as Sura Ikhlas when he came to bed, and then wipe his face and body with his hands three times. He told her to read these suras to him when he was unwell. [Bukhari, Fadail al-Qur ’an, 14; Tibb, 39; Da’wat, 12; Muslim, Salam, 50, 2192; Muwatta, ‘Ayn, 15/2, 942; Tirmidhi, Da’wat, 21, 3399; Abu Dawud, Tibb, 19, 3902.]

We should also pay attention to the following things when we get up in the morning:

1. Try to go to bed early and wake up early.

2. Mention God when you wake up.

3. Wear something appropriate to your situation.

4. Take your ablutions and do your morning prayer immediately after getting up.

5. Eat from the permissible bounties God provides.

6. Have complete trust in God.

7. Thank God for all the blessings He has given you.

8. Earn your living in an upright way (not by cheating others, etc.).

Finally, there is a beautiful prayer that it is recommended to read in the morning. Make your intention for the day (for example, “I am going to work in an upright, honest way for my own and my family’s sustenance, not to depend on another’s generosity nor get into debt, to worship God and please Him, and to serve people.”) Then, as you leave the house, say, “In God’s Name (I leave my home), and I depend on and trust God. Only God Almighty can grant power and strength (in every way.)” [Tirmidhi, Da’wat, 34.]


The Prophet said that “cleanliness is half of faith.” Therefore, we should recognize the importance of both inward and outward cleanliness and keep our living quarters and environment clean.

In Islam there is a great emphasis on cleanliness, both physical and spiritual. After the occasion of the first revelation of a verse of the Qur’an (“Read!”), the second verse to be revealed was a command about wearing clean clothing: “O you cloaked one (who has preferred solitude)! Arise and warn! And declare your Lord’s (indescribable and incomparable) greatness. And keep your clothing clean! Keep away from all pollution” (Muddaththir 74:1–5).

The Islamic scholar Elmalili Hamdi Yazir interprets the word siyab (usually “clothing”) in this verse to signify the “soul” and the “heart.” Thus, he paraphrases the verse as “keep yourself and your heart clean from sin and unrighteousness, stay away from unclean feelings that will ruin your good deeds, and clothe yourself in good morality so that your good works may be acceptable.” But Yazir also sees no problem with a literal understanding of the verse, directly referring to physical and outward cleanliness, as well. Thus, it is highly likely that the verse is also a commandment to keep the body and its garments clean. [Yazir, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, IX.]

This responsibility —to keep oneself clean, both from outward impurities as well as from sins, like ascribing partners to God, rebellion against God, hypocrisy, and so on— is a moral obligation demanded by Islam. Both types of uncleanness are mentioned together in another Qur’anic verse: “Surely God loves those who turn to Him in sincere repentance (of past sins and errors) and He loves those who cleanse themselves” (Baqara 2:222).

The first requirement for deserving God’s love, entering His Presence, and being His servant is cleanliness. It is the first thing we must do to put ourselves in the correct state for performing obligatory daily prayers, which are the “ascension of the believer.” In the following verse God decrees performing ablution or taking a bath for this purpose:

O you who believe! When you rise up for the Prayer, (if you have no ablution) wash your faces and your hands up to (and including) the elbows, and lightly rub your heads (with water) and (wash) your feet up to (and including) the ankles. And if you are in the state of major ritual impurity (requiring total ablution), purify yourselves (by taking a bath) … (Maeda 5:6)

With this verse the ablutions before ritual prayers became obligatory and all Muslims wash their hands, faces, mouths, noses, ears, necks, and feet before each of the five daily prayers.

Just as we should keep our body and the clothes, we wear clean, we also need to keep our living quarters and the places where we worship clean. The Qur’an says, “O children of Adam! Dress cleanly and beautifully for every act of worship…” (A’raf 7:31). God’s Messenger made it an obligatory practice to bathe at least once a week (this was at a time when frequent bathing was uncommon). [Muslim, Tahara, 1; Tirmidhi, Da’wat, 86; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4/260, 5/432–4, 363, 370, 372; Darimi, Wudu, 2.] He also instructed people to “keep your environment clean” [Tirmidhi, Adab, 41.] and urged them to maintain the shared community spaces as well. A hadith recounts his words on this subject: “Avoid two cursed things,” he said, and when the Companions asked, “What two things?” he replied, “Relieving oneself on the road where people pass by, or in a shady place (where people take a rest).” [Muslim, Tahara, 68; Abu Dawud, Tahara, 15; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 2/372.]

Prophet Muhammad, who was “the Living Qur’an” and who embodied Qur’anic morality, as with everything, was the best of examples in cleanliness. He was very careful about his own cleanliness and whenever he lay down or got up, day or night, he washed his mouth and nose, brushed his teeth [Muslim, Tahara, 20–1, 237.] and made ablutions. [Abu Dawud, Tahara, 27, 30 (51, 56–7); Muslim, Tahara, 45/253; Nasai, Tahara, 8/1, 3.] In particular he emphasized that cleaning the teeth is crucial not only for the health of our mouth, but also to please God [Nasai, Tahara, 5/ 1, 10.]; moreover, he taught that the first thing a person should do on waking from sleep is to wash their hands. [Bukhari, Wudu, 26; Muslim, Tahara, 87/278; Muwatta, Tahara, 9/1, 21; Abu Dawud, Tahara, 49/103–5; Tirmidhi, Tahara, 19/24; Nasai, Tahara, 1/1, 6–7.] He was also careful to dry his limbs on a towel after washing. [Tirmidhi, Tahara, 40/53.] God’s Messenger paid close attention to cleanliness throughout his life; he would wear clean, nice clothes whenever he out went in public, particularly to the mosque or to visit someone. He used pleasant scents and avoided eating onions, garlic or smelly foods before going out.

Clothing and Outer Appearance

Wearing clean and tidy clothes is the Sunna of the Prophet. It should be kept in mind that dressing in such a way is not a display of vanity or arrogance for a person who has the means to dress well. In fact, God has made it clear that a person has the right to wear clothing that is befitting to the wealth they have been blessed with.

Awf ibn Malik relates from his father, “One day I came to God’s Messenger wearing a coarse, cheap garment. He said to me, ‘Have you no wealth?’ I said, ‘Yes, I have.’ He asked, ‘What kind of wealth?’ I said, ‘God has given me every kind of wealth: camels, cattle, flocks, horses, slaves.’ He said, ‘Then let the abundance of God’s blessings be apparent on your person!” [Nasai, Ziynat, 83/ 8, 196; Tirmidhi, Birr, 63, 2007.] From other hadith we know that the Prophet wore his best clothing. He also had his Companions do likewise. The following narration not only mentions this, but also teaches that those with the responsibility of acting as representatives must dress particularly well. Ibn Abbas conveyed the following hadith: “It was when the Haruriyya (a branch of Khawarij) revolted. I went to Caliph Ali. He told me, ‘Go to those people.’ So, I went and put on the best Yemeni garment. Then I came to them and they said, ‘Welcome to you, Ibn Abbas! Why are you so dressed up?’ I said, ‘How could I be otherwise? I saw God’s Messenger wearing the best clothing he has!” [Abu Dawud, Libas, 8, 4037.]

It is also good adab to say a prayer the first time a new garment is worn, for the protection of God on the wearer. Abu Umama remembers, “Ibn Umar put on a new garment and prayed thus, ‘Praise be to God, Who has given me clothing to cover my body and bring beauty to my life.’ Then he added, ‘I heard God’s Messenger say, ‘Whoever wears a new piece of clothing, and prays thus, will be under the protection and preservation of God both while he lives and after he dies.” [Tirmidhi, Da’wat, 119, 3555; Ibn Maja, Libas, 2, 3557.]

The Prophet also forbade Muslim men to wear silk clothing. Ali ibn Abu Talib explained, “One day God’s Messenger took some silk in his right hand, and some gold in his left hand, and said, ‘These two things are prohibited for my male followers.’” According to a similar hadith from Tirmidhi and Nasai, Abu Musa quoted him as saying, “Silk clothing and gold are forbidden for the men in my community but allowed for the women.” [Abu Dawud, Libas, 14, 4057; Nasai, Ziynat, 40/8, 160.]

On the matter of outward appearance, it is better to avoid broad generalizations concerning the issue of cutting hair so as not to cause any misunderstanding. It is best to mention the relevant hadith and comment on them briefly. Some reported sayings of the Prophet are as follows:

Anas ibn Malik reported that God’s Messenger said, “He who has hair should honor it.” [Abu Dawud, Tarajjul, 1552.] We honor our hair by combing it and keeping it tidy. The Prophet disliked disheveled hair. One should either comb the hair or have a short haircut which does not require much adornment. Ibn Umar narrated, “God’s Messenger saw a boy whose head had been partly shaven. He forbade people to do this, saying, “Shave it all or leave it all.” [Abu Dawud, Tarajjul, 14.] Again, Ibn Umar tells us that God’s Messenger prohibited believers from shaving part of the head and leaving the rest unshaven. [Bukhari, Libas, 72; Muslim, Libas, 72; Abu Dawud, Tarajjul, 14; Nasai, Ziynat, 5; Ibn Maja, Libas, 38; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 2, 39. This hadith was also reported by Abu Hanifa. See Zabidi, Uqud al-Jawahir al-Munifa, 2, 156.]

The Prophet used to look after children’s hair. As narrated by ‘Abdullah, the son of Ja’far, God’s Messenger came to visit them three days after the death of Ja’far; during this time Jaf’ar’s wife had been unable to look after their hair. “The Prophet said, ‘Do not weep over my brother after this day,’ and he said, ‘Call the children of my brother to me.’ We were herded before him. He said, ‘Call a barber.’ He then ordered that our hair should be cut short.” [Abu Dawud, Tarajjul, 13; Nasai, Ziynat, 57; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1, 204.]

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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