Allah, the Exalted, has blessed this Ummah (nation) with an exceptional code of hygiene; no other nation has witnessed a similar system. It was said to Salman aI-Farsi (may Allah be pleased with him):
"Your Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught you everything, even how to relieve yourselves! Salman (may Allah be pleased with him) answered, 'Of course! He forbade us to face the Qiblah when answering the call of nature (i.e. when defecating or urinating), to cleanse ourselves using our right hands, or to use less than three stones when purifying ourselves. He also forbade us to cleanse ourselves using dry dung or bones." (Muslim).
The Arabic word for 'purification' is 'ta-ha-ra', which literally means 'purity'; from an Islamic point of view this term refers to a state of cleanliness which a Muslim must be in to perform certain acts of worship. Although this purification will render one physically clean, the actual purpose behind purification in Islam is spiritual cleanliness. This is clear from the Prophet's words:
"What do you think? If there was a river at the door of one of you in which he bathes five times a day, would there be any filth left on him?" They answered, "There would be no filth left." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "That is like the five prayers, through them Allah effaces the sins." (Bukhari).
Purification is a precondition for the acceptance of prayer. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "No prayer is accepted without purification..." (Muslim). In Islam, one is encouraged and commanded to be clean.
Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "Once the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) came to us and saw a man with shaggy hair. He said (peace and blessings be upon him) 'Couldn't he find something to tidy his hair up?' Then he saw another man with dirty clothes and said, 'Couldn't this man find anything with which to clean his clothes? (Ahmed).
If a Muslim purifies himself in. the manner ordained in the Shari'ah (Islamic Jurisprudential Laws) his Prayers will purify him from sins.
In general, purity is of two types:
a. Spiritual cleanliness.
b. Habitual cleanliness.
Spiritual cleanliness refers to purification from Shirk (i.e. associating partners with Allah). Allah says:
"Verily, the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, and in the Message of Muhammad) are Najasun (impure)." (9:28).
Habitual cleanliness refers to purification from major and minor ritual impurities.
Purification Episodes: Rules of Purification and Prayers. Prepared by: Abdurrahmaan M. Murad. Cooperative Office of Call and Guidance at Sulay.