Cleanliness and Our Spirit

Have you ever stopped to think about why it is that cleanliness plays such an important role in the way we feel? In our homes, our workspace, our school or any other place we are in?

In the last year or so, my husband and I have been reflecting on the importance of cleanliness and the amount of time that needs to be dedicated to such tasks without feeling weighed down. We have also been reflecting on how we can set certain habits in our lives so that they do not become arduous but rather feel like an act of love. Ultimately, I think a significant portion of our time in this life is dedicated to cleaning, in every sense, whether it be physical or spiritual and both are important and necessary for our exaltation. 

Upon these reflections, I was curious to explore the Baha’i Writings on this subject in more depth. These quotes particularly stood out:

Even in the physical realm, cleanliness will conduce to spirituality, as the Holy Writings clearly state. And although bodily cleanliness is a physical thing, it hath, nevertheless, a powerful influence on the life of the spirit. It is even as a voice wondrously sweet, or a melody played: although sounds are but vibrations in the air which affect the ear’s auditory nerve, and these vibrations are but chance phenomena carried along through the air, even so, see how they move the heart. A wondrous melody is wings for the spirit, and maketh the soul to tremble for joy. The purport is that physical cleanliness doth also exert its effect upon the human soul.1

O Friends of the Pure and Omnipotent God! To be pure and holy in all things is an attribute of the consecrated soul and a necessary characteristic of the unenslaved mind. The best of perfections is immaculacy and the freeing of oneself from every defect. Once the individual is, in every respect, cleansed and purified, then will he become a focal centre reflecting the Manifest Light.2

What I find fascinating is that in some matters of life, there is no specific guidance in the Writings and we are left to our own sound judgment and choice. But in regards to cleanliness there are some specifics given in the Most Holy Book, where it outlines the following:

To be the essence of cleanliness:

  1. To wash one’s feet
  2. To perfume one’s self
  3. To bathe in clean water
  4. To cut one’s nails
  5. To wash soiled things in clean water
  6. To be stainless in one’s dress3

Furthermore, there is a beautiful description of our beloved Abdu’l-Baha as ‘the essence of cleanliness’:

The Master considered cleanliness of vital importance. He was indeed ‘the essence of cleanliness’ even as Baha’u’llah had taught His followers. Florence Khanum bore witness to this, for she found Him ‘dazzlingly, spotlessly… shining, from snowy turban-cloth, to white, snowy hair falling upon his shoulders, to white snowy beard and long snowy garment… Although it was high noon, in summer… His attire was crisp and fresh-looking, as though He had not been visiting the sick, and in prison, and toiling for mankind since early morning. Often a deliciously fresh rose was tucked in His belt.4

As I mentioned earlier, the multiple tasks that involve cleanliness can be arduous and even boring. In reflecting how one could best approach these necessary tasks, I found a very interesting perspective given by Ruhiyyih Khanum in the book Prescription for Living, where she says:

There is a way to make such ‘chores’, such drudgeries pay their dividend of satisfaction; that way is to do the job perfectly. If you do a task half-and-half–just well enough to get it off your hands and no more–you cannot possibly derive the slightest pleasure from it, but if you make up your mind that there is a right way and a wrong way of doing everything and that you are going to do that beastly bit of washing or hoeing, or whatever it is, as it was never done before and just could not be done any better–or bust in the attempt–you have the glow of success as your reward, however humble the task may have been. If you approach it and say, ‘So you have to be washed, do you? I’ll wash you all right!’ or, ‘So you need to be riveted on to that gimcrack, do you? Well, I’ll rivet you, just let me get at you!’ You are likely to lose your sense of boredom or rebelliousness in the satisfaction of seeing how well you are doing it.5

To do the job perfectly and actually gain pleasure in doing it. How brilliant! I simply love that! This makes me think that it does not matter what we are doing, if our perspective becomes one of striving for perfection, beauty and refinement. Perhaps with this perspective, we can be inspired and do it all, every single task, with love.

The satisfaction one feels when doing something well, Ruhiyyih Khanum explains further, plays a role even in our mental health and has an influence on those who share spaces with us:

When you pour something of yourself into your task, however contemptible the task may seem, you get a feeling of satisfaction. At least if you had to do it, you did it well. This relieving of an inner urge to express, to give out, is not only good for your mental health, but it adds to the sum total of your life. Your environment will be just that much better for your having done the job as near perfection as possible. If it is your house, it will be cleaner, neater; those who share it with you will enjoy it more for that extra something you put into your work which makes the difference between its having been got out of the way and its having been done perfectly.6

I feel that one of the many blessings we have in the Baha’i Faith is the constant opportunity to study the Writings and refocus. How lovely to reflect on these Writings and passages and refocus even the way we approach cleaning tasks in this mortal life!

I’m grateful to gain a new perspective of cleaning with joy, love and aiming for the highest standard in serving our families, our friends, our co-workers and any other soul who crosses our path.


  1. Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 147 []
  2. Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 147 []
  3. Baha’u’llah, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 50 []
  4. Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of Abdu’l-Baha []
  5. Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Prescription for Living []
  6. Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Prescription for Living []

About the Author

Delaram Erfanian

Delaram is an environmental scientist with a love for chocolate, her nieces and nephews, and above all, laughter. Her parents and two older siblings pioneered from Iran to Ecuador, where she was born and raised. She has since been blessed to live in four different continents and now lives with her husband in Toronto, Canada. Delaram holds a Bachelors degree in Geography and Environmental Studies and a Masters degree in Environmental Science. Her work and research is focused in developing greater understanding of complex environmental issues.

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