Monday, February 3, 2014

The Beauty of Cloth

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Ever read a single hadith about anyone having a paper napkin, paper towel, tissue, toilet paper, disposable diaper, flushable tampon, or disposable sanitary pad in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? Well, I'm waiting. What? You cannot believe it? There isn't anything about Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) wiping up the mess with Bounty Extra-Strong? Nothing about Sumayyah (may Allah be pleased with her) digging a hole for her Stayfree with Wings? I guess you get where I'm heading with this then.

During the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), they used cloth for all these daily household and personal care things. The modern day "green" movement has already gone back to using cloth because, after killing off and wasting so many natural resources, it has become an environmental issue. Most of us know by now that the diapers and sanitary pads stay in landfills and don't decompose. We are simply filling up the earth Allah (subhaana wa taala) has entrusted to us with najiss (filthy) waste. How do we turn this thing around?

Napkins: Cloth napkins made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen. If you can, please buy them from a thrift or second hand shop like Goodwill. You will often find better quality and will put them to good use instead of them going to waste. You will also gain the reward of not spending more money than necessary, mashaa Allah. Better yet, use those extra sheets or cotton shirts and make your own; after all it's just sewing around a square of cloth. Recycling is an important Sunnah... yet another discussion to get to! I have seen some beautiful napkins at yard sales, etc. and have collected them from here and there, mashaa Allah. Some were given as gifts as well, so think of this when you need a gift idea for a family, newlyweds, or someone moving to a new home, inshaa Allah. Imagine how beautiful a gift they would make if you embroidered their initials, names, or small Islamic reminders of the etiquettes of eating on them! In our home, we have a nice little basket with napkins folded up in it and whenever they are needed, they are on hand. After use, they get thrown in with the laundry and are good to go again. We even take them with us on picnics with all our reusable plates, cups, and cutlery mashaa Allah.

Paper towels: Never let old cotton clothes, sheets, and towels go to waste; use them as cloths to clean. When it comes to cleaning, polishing, and wiping up spills, I have a big bag of cotton clothes that aren't fit for charity that I cut up and use. I never buy paper towels and the cloth is all natural cotton. Nothing beats a nice tube sock on the hand for wiping down cupboards and countertops...and since the odd socks keep turning up, our house is quite famous for our cleaning socks! When the cloth is dirty simply wash it, or if it is in a horrible state, throw it away or better yet, cut it up/shred the material and compost it. No more paper towel bills!

Tissues: Buy or make cotton or linen handkerchiefs. I'm stressing cotton because we really need to get back to natural materials and they are best for blowing noses on and being absorbent. I strongly recommend you look in thrift stores and yard sales for these simply because the old ones are exquisite, masha'Allah, The embroidery work, the designs, the workmanship... all are outstanding. My mother had a big collection of handkerchiefs she was happy to share with us. I also bought a big lot from e-bay and distributed them to my children. The girls all know which ones are theirs because they each have different designs. The "men" of the house have their own as well. They are washed, returned and we never have a problem about running out of tissues. Personalized hankies are a lasting, environmentally friendly gift that will last for years.

Toilet tissue/paper: Small washcloths or hand size towels for drying oneself. Have separate, color coded, marked, or named ones for each family member. As Muslims, we should use water to wash ourselves after using the toilet, so they are really for drying purposes only. There is also the practice of simply having a box of cut up cloths for single use in the toilet and another box or basket for them to be put in for laundering. This causes more laundry and, but is a great solution for those with small children and/or large families.

Diapers: Get cloth diapers. Get cotton, nice and absorbent, no allergy problems for your baby's behind, simply throw into a dry bucket and when you have a few, wash them with soap nut powder, a little homemade natural washing soap, or eco wash balls. You will never have to buy a disposable diaper again. I've done it and am currently cloth diapering, so I can advise about all the ins and outs of making it easy, inshaa Allah.

Baby Wipes: Use small baby washcloths or cut up soft cotton and a spray bottle of water. You may want to make up a concoction of water with a little aloe vera juice, a few drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils, and a 1/4 teaspoon of Castille soap. Spray and wipe your baby's private parts, then simply wash the cloths to be used again and again. Your baby will get used to being washed with water from day one, making istinjah a natural thing.

Sanitary pads: Hemp or cotton washable sanitary pads are comfortable, natural, and the Sunnah. Go read ahadith about it and you'll clearly see that the women simply used pieces of cloth to catch their menstrual blood. I bought mine 8 years ago, before I had my second daughter and I've never looked back since. They don't move around, they are comfortable and breathe, and mashaa Allah I haven't had to buy a single sanitary pad since that day. If you hate to see stains, then go for dark colors. For a discount on LunaPads, just send your order or questions to For the sewing sisters, there are patterns online for ones with wings that you can sew up simply. You can even buy thick hemp knit material and just cut it to size. Looking for an even easier solution. Fold thick terry washcloths into three and use them. Believe me, it is simplicity itself. Just have a little bag to collect them in, wash them, and you are all set again. I have found that having my girls reuse outgrown t-shirts, pajamas, favorite nightdresses, etc. to make their own sanitary pads is a very nice project. It not only prepares them mentally and physically for the onset of menstruation, but it is fun and they get to choose different colors, patterns, and sizes to make.

Shopping Bags: Get strong canvas bags from thrift stores, freecycle, or unearth the ones hanging around your closet or basement and use them for your shopping instead of the plastic bags. They are stronger, can safely hold more, and not only save money but also the environment mashaa Allah.

Children's toys, doll clothes, and stuffing: My daughters have made many little dolls, doll clothes, quilts, and pillows from scraps of leftover material and the little bits or smaller scraps can be used to stuff them

Mashaa'Allah, going back to some of the simple living of the sahabah not only brings about a healthier lifestyle, but also saves the earth, puts a stop to the huge waste we perpetrate every day, and eliminates many expenses. You will find that you eliminate a notable amount in expenses by going back to cloth and making use of every scrap of cloth you have in your house before throwing it away. Remember that we must answer for everything we did in this life: our wastefulness, extravagance, the part we play in polluting and destroying the earth, and the distance we have put between our lives and the life of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him).

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