Communal Bathing, Coming Out of Sin

In the US, we face this situation in the shower area of the swimming pool in some places ; open shower area. I first encountered this situation at the university pool where the MSA would reserve the pool regularly for sisters. Once, a non Muslim lagy and her daughter was there too, and when it came time to shower after getting out of the pool, she proceeded to take her shower with her daughter, in the open area. I don’t remember if I had my daughter then, I probably did, and I don’t remember what I did, but I was in silent shock and I think I started going back to the pool until the lady was done, because she was the only one there who was doing that at the time. When the university built the new pool, alhamdulillah, I don’t remember an open shower area, or if there was, at least it wasn’t prominent. Subhanallah…when I was in boarding school, we had a brick and tiled structure that contained water that we would use for washing our clothes (yes, by hand) or taking a bath (not inside it, but rather by taking the water by bucket or container-ful and pouring it over ourselves before, during and after soaping and shampooing. This ‘communal bath tub’ was located in the open, but surrounded by a zinc fence with two doors from different sides. Surrounding this tub, within the fence, was a small conduit or drain to carry the water away from that area. It’s not that we don’t have restrooms or toilets in our hostel, but there were times, and oh yes, there were a LOT of times when we didn’t have water, and so this communal bath tub became our desperate source of water for bathing and laundry. We would bathe right there and then, but not without any clothes. We use sarongs to cover ourselves and bathe like that. It’s a common traditional practice done by Malays a long time ago, or in villages where they would at times bathe in the river. They wouldn’t do it naked. Alhamdulilah there was a strong sense of hayaa at least. Anyway, this was the closest thing I experienced to what shocked me in that open shower area by the pool.

In fact, we were taught in boarding school (it was an Islamic school), that it’s preferable that even when we take a bath in seclusion, to keep ourselves covered with the sarongs too. This sarong has multiple uses in the traditional Malay culture. It’s used for baby carrying, and is a daily attire for the women as they go about their daily chores. I have to admit that I do not have the skill to wear it. It does require some ‘wrapping’ skill that would keep it on your person without you having to adjust it every few minutes.

Today, in Bukhari class, we did this hadith, in this Musa a.s. was accused by the Children of Israel to have scrotal hernia due to him always bathing in seclusion, while the rest of them would bathe together, naked, and while looking at each other.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet (saw) said, ‘The (people of) Bani Israel used to take bath naked (all together) looking at each other. The Prophet (saw) Moses used to take a bath alone. They said, ‘By Allah! Nothing prevents Moses from taking a bath with us except that he has a scrotal hernia.’ So once Moses went out to take a bath and put his clothes over a stone and then that stone ran away with his clothes. Moses followed that stone saying, “My clothes, O stone! My clothes, O stone! till the people of Bani Israel saw him and said, ‘By Allah, Moses has got no defect in his body. Moses took his clothes and began to beat the stone.” Abu Huraira added, “By Allah! There are still six or seven marks present on the stone from that excessive beating.” Sahih Bukhari Book of Ghusl Hadith 278

I feel compelled to share a few points mentioned in class as we were going over this hadith.
It appears that this practice of communal bathing in nudity was a permissible practice among the Children of Israel, because had it been otherwise, Musa alayhi salam would have forbidden them to do it. Here, Sr. Taimiyah made a point that subhanallah we can apply in other areas of إصلاَح (reformation).
Prioritization in Doing إصلاَح [Reformation]
The Children of Israel in this case had been freed from generations of slavery of body and mind. They couldn’t properly absorb the concept of tauheed as they took to worshipping the golden calf right after they had crossed the Red Sea and seen with their own eyes the splitting of the sea. Years and generations of enslavement has rendered their mindsets in one state, and it’s difficult for them to come out of that state as can be seen in Surah Al Baqarah when they kept on disobeying Musa alayhi salam and Allah again and again. They even asked for agricultural produce despite being given Manna and Salwa from the sky. Nowadays, we look for convenience in making food such that we resort to microwave cooking. We want it easy. They had it easy, but they asked for ‘work’. Subhanallah.
So knowing that this is the state of the Children of Israel, Musa alayhi salam didn’t reprimand them in their practice of naked communal bathing. Furthermore, in their situation, it would be difficult for them to bathe individually while being screened for they were in the open desert (though it can still be done if they wanted to). The wisdom here, of this being permissible, is the concept of prioritization when doing إصلاَح(reformation).
They were already having a hard time grasping the concept of tauheed. How could they then grasp the concept of hayaa?
Do we do this when we do dawah or إصلاَح? Do we jump straight into fiqh issues when talking to a non Muslim interested in Islam, or to a new Muslim who is starting to learn the deen? Do we start with the basics of tauheed first?
Subhanallah, here we see the beauty and wisdom in reformation and teaching that is hinted at in this hadith. We should deal with people based on their level. With those who are new to Islam, a different gentler approach should be taken, while focusing on the concept of tauheed and the 5 pillars, whereas with those who have been Muslim for a while and have in fact learned Islam somewhat extensively but are slacking in it, a more stricter approach should be taken to remind him. The approach should always be customized according to the level and situation of the person.
Sometimes, it’s best to leave the topic of hijab aside with a new Muslim sister. Sometimes, it’s best to leave the topic of of the beard or pants aside with a new Muslim brother. Let them grasp the basics first. They’re going through a difficult process of change, and Allah knows their intention and effort. We need to also make it easy on them.
What also struck me today from class was another point mentioned while covering another hadith:
One Coming Out of a Sin Is Not Sinful

Chapter: If someone while in the mosque remembers that he is Junub, he should leave (the mosque to take a bath) and should not perform Tayammum

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Once the call (Iqama) for the prayer was announced and the rows were straightened. Allah’s Messenger (saw) came out; and when he stood up at his Musalla, he remembered that he was Junub. Then he ordered us to stay at our places and went to take a bath and then returned with water dropping from his head. He said, “Allahu-Akbar”, and we all offered the prayer with him. Sahih Bukhari Book of Ghusl Hadith 275

In this hadith, the prophet sallallaahu alayhi wasalam was about to start the prayer and then remembered that he salllaallahu alayhi wasalam was in a state of Janabah[sexual impurity] which necessitated ghusl[taking a bath]. This hadith is under the chapter stated above – that you do not have to make tayammum first.

This proves that the one coming out of a sin is not sinful while he is in the process of coming out of it. Tayammum is not necessary to walk out of the masjid even though the Prophet salllaallahu alayhi wasalam was in a state of janaabah.

So for example, a person is involved in riba (interest) and he realizes it is wrong and wants sincerely to come out of it, but it may take him years to pay his debts and come out of it. During these years, he is not considered sinning if he is sincerely working hard to come out of it. And Allah knows the intention and effort of the person coming out of sin.

Subhanallah, I find this beautiful. Apply this for example to a sister who is not wearing hijab but wants to wear it but finds it very difficult to do so for whatever reason. Only Allah knows her intention and effort, and it’s during this time that we sisters (mainly) tend to judge a non hijabi sister. Who are we to do so? For all we know, her sincere effort and intention may be so loved by Allah that Allah elevates her to a higher status than those sisters who wear the hijaab but look down upon sisters who don’t. Subhanallah.

[Taken from notes from Taleem Hadith English Advance Course Sahih Bukhari taught by Sr. Taimiyah Zubayr]
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