Alhamdullilah Allāh azzawajal has allowed us to witness yet another blessed month of Ramadan. Many of us are also blessed to be able to pray our ṣalāh-ut-taraweeh in the masjid enjoying varieties of beautiful recitations from different imams.
Last year I prayed taraweeh in the Middle East. I was impressed with the way the masājid are taken care of over here. So far I have not found one masjid that was not well-maintained, cleaned and incensed, and even when I make sajdah the carpets smell fresh!
Unfortunately though, the problem arises when the people who attend the masājid do not take care of themselves, their clothes and their body odor. Let me politely explain my dilemma without offending anyone. I have had days when I really wanted to pay attention to the recitation but couldn't do so because the person standing next to me had a stench of sweat or food!
I am not sure how common this problem is amongst the brothers, but I know it exists because my husband, too, has complained at times about the same issue.
Obviously, the brothers do not have any excuse for smelling bad, but as for the sisters, some of them think that since they cannot wear perfume outside their homes, they cannot smell good at all!
It is true that sisters have to be extremely careful when they leave their homes and must avoid wearing strong perfumes on themselves lest they be smelled by the men they pass by, but let us be a bit more rational and use our common sense to figure out the difference between having an aroma oozing out and blowing away anyone's mind who passes by and not being malodorous.
There is nothing wrong if a sister wears a light perfume on her body (especially if she is wearing abaya) and knows that she will not be mingling with men so her perfume will not be smelled by other men. We meet different sisters at the masjid, get in close body contact, hug them and especially during ṣalāh we stand shoulder to shoulder, closer than we would ever stand next to men even when intermingling with them. In such circumstances it is especially advisable that a sister takes care of herself and removes any foul smell from herself or from her clothes. If it is needed, perhaps she should carefully apply a very light perfume so she doesn't offend anyone at the masjid. Please see point 4 here: http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/102329/smell
Here are a few precautions that can be taken before leaving the house for taraweeh:
- If you are wearing an abaya, please make sure it is does not have a sweat odor or food smell.
- Please realize that in summer abayas get dirty faster, and it is best to not use the same abayas twice without washing them first.
- If you are not wearing an abaya, please make sure that your clothes don't smell like sweat or food! Please change your clothes especially if you were wearing them while cooking.
- Please wear deodorant.
- If you haven't had a chance to take a shower that day, or if you are not sure if your clothes smell or not, please apply a light perfume or 'itar (fragranced oil) on your body IF you are only going to the women's section of the masjid and will not be encountering men before or after. Again, please refer to the fatwa here: http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/102329/smell
Please be considerate of others, and try not to become a source of distraction during ṣalāh. Remember the advice of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam):
“Whoever eats garlic, onion, then keeps away from our masjid because the angels get offended from what offends the children of Adam.” (Bukhāri, Muslim)
When the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) warned against a foul smell coming from one's mouth so as to not offend anyone attending the masjid, then imagine how much more we have to be careful of any foul smell coming from our clothes or our bodies!
Muslims should really be in a habit of wearing clean clothes and taking a shower every day. If not, then at least whenever they sweat, they should wash themselves off to not only avoid being malodorous but to also feel fresh themselves.
On the contrary, I have also witnessed sisters who wear such strong perfumes that even the masjid's hallways are filled with their aroma! Again, they must be reminded that it is not allowed for women to wear perfume in such a way that it can be smelled by other non-mahram men. And the ruling is the same whether they are wearing the perfume or if their clothes/abayas are perfumed with fragrances like bukhoor or the likes of it.
This is just a friendly reminder to myself first, and then to anyone else who reads it. I hope and I pray that we all can benefit from each other and learn to take advice without being offended.