The Tabo and Tazkiyah


With Mehol K. Sadain

​The first time I entered the KCC Mall toilet in Zamboanga City, I was pleasantly surprised to find a dipper (a tabó in local parlance) which Muslims can use to wash after they answer the call of nature. This shows that the mall management is sensitive to the hygienic and religious needs of their Muslim clientele. Hopefully, other malls and establishments in Mindanao, and later in the entire Philippines, can and will follow suit, not necessarilyby providing tabó, but by having clean water available near the urinals or inside the cubicles.

​Washing is part of the institution of tazkiyah or purification in Islam and refers to the process of cleansing the self so that it attains the level of purity worthy of acceptance by God. Tazkiyah has the same root with zakah which is similar to a tax imposed on a Muslim’s retained earnings for the year and serves to purify money and possessions belonging to such Muslim.

​The rites of purification are essential to Muslims, physically, economically as well as spiritually. A Muslim is required to perform ablution or washing of designated parts of the body before he can perform the salah or prescribed prayer. When he answers the call of nature, he is also required to wash his affected organs, and not just his hands. When he engages in sexual intimacy, he is required to take a bath before he can pray. These washing and bathing requirements similarly apply to Muslim women, who in addition, must take a ritual bath after they are through menstruating before they can undertake religious activities. 

​The other aspect of tazkiyah is purification of one’s earnings which is manifested in the Islamic pillar of zakah which literally means “that which purifies”. Although some authors call it a “poor-rate” which is extracted from those who have extrafinancial means, and aims to financially assist certain disadvantaged sectors of the Muslim community (the indigent, orphans, needy kins, travelers, new converts, poor scholars, etc.), it actually functions as a purifying tool for worldly goods by channeling part of accumulated wealth into community charity.

​Finally, tazkiyah’s less-explained esoteric spiritual aspect is the purification of the soul (nafs)to bring man closer to God, as verses 7 to 10 of Suratu sh-Shams specify: “By the Soul and the One who fashioned it (Wa nafsiňw-wa maa sawwaahaa), and inspired it as to what makes it iniquitous or reverent. Indeed, he prospers who purifies it (Qad aflaha maň zakkaahaa). And indeed, he fails who corrupts it (Wa qad khaabamaň dassaahaa).” The literal meaning of zakkabeing “to grow” signifies growth towards purity; while the literal meaning of dassa being “to bury” signifies decay into corruption. The process of growth to avoid decay and the state of purity to counter corruption are what constitute Taskiyatun-Nafs or Purification of the Soul, the way of which is provided in the Qur’ān. It is, therefore, not a wonder that the Qur’an is arranged in such a manner that after the Opening Chapter (Al-Fatihah) where the reader asks for Allah’s Guidance (Ihdina s-Siraata l-Mustaqiim” or “Show us the Straight Way”), he is immediately told in verse 2 of the second chapter, Zaalika l-Kitaabulaa rayba fiihHudal li l-Muttaqiin” or “This is the Book, a Guidance without doubt, for the reverent.” [Surat ul-Baqarah, 2:2]  

​The simple provision of a tabó in a comfort room in a mall is not that simple after all. It opens the way in helping one’s Soul unite with the Creator; all in the name of tazkiyah — one word that signifies a range of ascent from the physical to the spiritual, from cleanliness to holiness, from the repentant man to the Merciful Allah. MEHOL K. SADAIN

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