Monday, February 21, 2011

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 "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: buy 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, masha'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, masha'Allah. Some were given as gifts as well, so think of this when you need a gift idea for a sister insha'Allah. Now, we have a nice little basket with napkins folded up in it and whenever they are needed, they are on hand. They get thrown in the washing machine and are good to go again. We even take them with us on picnics with all our reusable plates, cups, and cutlery masha'Allah.

Paper towels: buy cloths to wipe up the spills or simply cut up old towels or absorbent t-shirts. When it comes to cleaning 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. No more paper towel bills.

Tissues: buy cotton handkerchiefs. I'm stressing cotton because we really need to get back to natural materials. 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.

Toilet tissue/paper: Small washcloth or hand size towels for drying oneself. Separate (color coded) ones for each family member. We use water to wash ourselves, so they are really for drying purposes only. This is one that, for most, is hard to implement with a big family, so I'm not stressing it.

Diapers: Get cloth diapers. That's the Sunnah, cloth. Get cotton, nice and absorbent, no allergy problems for your baby's behind, simply throw into a bucket with water and vinegar or baking soda, and throw in the washing machine every couple of days. You will never have to buy a disposable diaper again. I've done it, I can advise about all the ins and outs of making it easy, inshaa Allah.

Baby Wipes: Use small baby washcloths and a spray bottle of water with some aloe vera juice, a few drops of tea tree oil, and a 1/4 teaspoon of castille soap. Spray and wipe, 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 five 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 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.

Shopping Bags: Get strong canvas bags from thrift stores, freecycle, or hanging around your closet/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.

Mashaa'Allah, going back to some of the simple living of the sahabah not only brings about a healthier lifestyle, it also saves the earth, puts a stop to the huge waste we perpetrate every day, and eliminates many expenses. Remember that we must answer for everything we did in this life, including 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).


  1. I don't understand why you would stress that it is sunnah, I mean the disposable napkins etc were not invented yet.
    It wasn't only muslims using these,all people did, there wasn't any other alternative.
    I do beleive in the green movement however we have to be careful labeling things sunnah.
    Do you use a car or a camel???

  2. Salams sis! Although I don't think I'll be able to switch EVERYTHING, this made me think about how wasteful my family has been. One thing I will add is I LOVE using old cloth diapers around the house as rags. Super absorbent! Jazak Allahu Khair.

  3. Errrr........WOW!!!!. That is "heavy green"!! I did realize there are some things that I could change and become more resourceful. *I am still walking out of Walmart with a bunch of crap that I dont need*
    "Hello! My name is UmmSalwaa, and..........I'm a walmart addict".

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    Using cloth is a sunnah of a'adaat, lifestyle and habits...however respect for the earth and avoidance of wastefulness are most certainly a strong sunnah of ibadah. Do an analysis of cloth vs. disposables and see which is better and which would align itself with Islam's tenets. For Muslims, every day is earth this earth and its resources are both a gift and an amanah (trust) from Allah.

    I use a car, because I'm not in a place where I could use a camel...but given the chance, I'd be on a horse or camel, inshaa'Allah.

    I stress that it is a Sunnah because the Muslims were given the best example in the way the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam lived. I can say that in the olden days these were the things used by everyone, but as Muslims, we need to anchor ourselves to OUR history and the example we are supposed to be following. We need to conscious of why and how cloth was used by regard to not wasting, cleanliness, personal hygiene, and to see where our priorities and example line up with current day issues. Going back to those ways solves many of the problems of today. Why? Because it was ALL the best way. In addition, levels of cleanliness were established with the Muslims that exceeded that of all other peoples that went were earth consciousness and accountability before the Creator.

    Allah, azza wa jaal, provided us with the ideal examples. He could have sent us a Messenger from a different time, with different habits, and with different developments around him. Allah can do anything. However, it is important to know that when we make changes in our life out of obedience to Allah, to emulate the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam), and out of love for him, then it becomes more than just environmental awareness - it is ibadah.

    If I am wrong, please forgive me. For any benefit, thank Allah.

  5. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Umm Hamza!

    Even the smallest changes are ibadah when done with awareness and intention. Do whatever feels good and reap the rewards, bi ithn Illah! I agree, those old diapers are a cleaner's dream, lol! It is amazing how addictive cloth can get, once you get started.

  6. Umm Salwaa...ROFL, you are funny!

    Do we need to develop a 12-step program? How about you walk out of Walmart with some cotton napkins and hankies for a start? You still get to shop, but you will have some long term benefit from the purchase and inshaa'Allah it will be the start of an "ibadah trail." Baby steps, my steps!

  7. As-salaam Alaikum wa-rahmatuhllahi wa-barakatuhu

    Subhan Allah, i recently collected material on how many families in my country recycle all the time for an article for a local magazine (haven't written it yet), though we don't call it recyling- clothing bedsheets and towels are handed down to family members and maids and those that are really unwearable become dishrags, bathroom mats, placed under doors to stop lizards from entering the house, draped on washing machines as dust covers, sheets to picnic on and even folded and used as a padding on the ironing stand to iron on Masha'Allah.

    A group of sisters is working hard with a "Say no to plastic bags" campagn here and sell cloth bags to shop with, and a no. of affluent shops have started distributing cloth bags with their logo on it too - unfortunately its as plastic bags are cheaper most shops still goods in it, but most families reuse these bags too ALhumdulillah.

    Glass bottles, plastic bottles, containers paper, Alhumdulillah are all reused as a norm and those who don't reuse these things sell them to local " old-paper men" who buy it by weight and then sell them at recycle plants.

    Unfortunately food is wasted a lot here and more awareness is nec. and saddest of all is lack of value for human life.

  8. Assalamu alaikum sis,

    I noticed for awhile I have been so wasteful with paper napkins, toilet paper, kleenex, baby wipes and diapers too! :S

    I hope that Allah will make it easy for me not to be in such a habit of buying these things. I always come up with excuses for buying them and then go and waste them! Subhanallah. I will print this and put it on the fridge to remind myself inshallah if that's ok. Jazakallah Khair!

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  10. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Em Hamzah.

    Please do print it if it will benefit, bi ithn Illah! I have come to a stage that if we go to a restaurant and they give us loads of paper napkins, I keep a couple to tear in halves or quarters for our needs and simply give the rest back. It is scary how easily we get drawn into waste. May Allah make it easy for us all - ameen. Wa iyaaki, wa barak Allahu feeki.

  11. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Umm Shudah.

    Mashaa'Allah, you are blessed to be in such a pro-active community in this regard. Now I'm wondering where you live. One of the most disappointing things about Madinah and Makkah is the incredible waste, volume of rubbish, and carelessness about the environment. As for wastage of food, that is a whole other post! Jazaaki Allahu khayran for sharing some of those other great uses for old clothes and linens.

  12. One thing I noticed when I moved to the Middle East was the over use of tissues! My goodness! They are everywhere. They even have their own COMPLETE ISLE at the hypermarket! You dont just buy one box at a time, you buy 6!!! When I was living in the States, I would buy a box of tissues maybe 2x a year....if I had a cold.. Haha. It was nothing to have the same box of tisue for a few months. People here are lucky if it lasts a few days. I have started trying to ween my hubby off the dependency of tissues. I have cloth towels in the bathroom, dish rags in the kitchen and a couple of hand towels strategically placed throughout the house. I still keep a box in the car and one on the table but I can honestly say that when I buy tissues they can last a long time! Mashallah....I feel its just such a waste.

    Cloth diapers have always interested me. I always hoped to be able to use them when I have a baby...Inshallah. My mother raised me on cloth diapers and I remember her saying how much money was saved. She also stayed at home, which I do not. I cant see me working 10 hours a day and coming home to wash out diapers... :)

    Good tips Mai.....

  13. Daisy, my flower...I could scream when I see all those tissues being pulled from the boxes by the Arabs! What gets me is that they never pull out one, but always a few even if they only wipe up one single drop of water. Arrrrgh!

    I went to college while I was cloth diapering, as well as homeschooling three children. Believe it or not, it is nothing more than dumping the bucket of diapers in the washing machine. Let's hope it's less than ten hours of work once that baby comes along, bi ithn Illah!

    Jazaaki Allahu khayran.

  14. Then it can be done ;) Inshallah...when and if the time comes, I know who can give me good tips.. :)

    About the tissues..lool It is infuriating isnt it? Ughh.. How about when you go to a cold store and ask for "Wahad moi" and they put it in a plastic bag..LOOL I take it out and hand them back the bag. Plastic bags for everything... Even before I stated to bring cloth bags with me when i went to the hypermarket, they would put maybe 2 or 3 items in one plastic bag. Such a waste!

  15. btw...when you get your camel, cross over the causeway and give me a ride... LOOL!!1 ;) I lived here for 2 years and have yet to ride on a camel. Wouldn't we be a sight.... Two women crossing the causeway wearing full abaya and niqaab riding a camel..!!!!!!!! Too funny!! That would give them something to talk about.

  16. Subhaan Allah, yes. Even if you were buying one single peanut it would go into a plastic bag. I came with a collection of reusuable Wholefoods and Trader Joes bags. The man in the supermarket looked at me as if I was from outer space. My husband just told him firmly, "LA!" to the plastic bags and insisted he put the groceries in our own bags. Now, several months later, we are famous for those bags and once when we forgot them, the cashier even asked what happened to our bags, LOL! It isn't easy to change a mindset, but it's important to try.

  17. Yes, breaking news at 7 o'clock and every hour thereafter that two women in full hijab crossed the causeway on a camel, LOL! Knowing these countries they'd probably arrest for illegally riding a camel without a license and me for riding anything by myself without a driver, LOL!

  18. Alhumdulillah our community is good with recycling cloth and paper, but unfortunately they are wasteful with most other things. As people here to 'modernize' their lifestyle they are getting more wasteful astagfirullah.

    Camels? I love riding them with my kids at the beach, we don't sit side saddle though (no side saddles here or houdahs) so i make sure i'm wearing clothing that will keep me well covered incase my abaya moves out of place. Yes we are quite a sight!

    i'm pakistani, I live in Pakistan.

  19. Umm Shudah, modernization seems to take us further and further away from what is important for our dunya and aakhirah. May Allah protect us from misguidance and ignorance - ameen.

    Mashaa'Allah, now it makes sense that you were born in Bahrain! So many families from Pakistan live in Bahrain while the father or some family member is employed, returning to their home country when the contract ends or retirement age comes along...just like the British or Americans. It is an amazing thing to meet so many people from all parts of the world. Like a mini United Nations! Al hamdul'Illah.

  20. Subhan Allah this post made me think too about how sometimes the "old-fashioned" ways come around again, even if there's a modern replacement. Like the siwak for example. It's still here, even though we have toothbrushes and every flavor/color toothpaste you can find, but there are some modern dentists who swear the benefits of siwak are still unmatched. There's even all these cool siwak extract toothpastes. I mean, Allahu Alim, look at how dependent we've become on computers and technology, if that all were to fail one day maybe we would be riding camels LOL!

  21. As-salaam alaikum

    It really seems that with each step we take fwd we move two steps back, Alhumdulillah things like computers, blenders and cell phones have made life easier in some ways, but as with all things they are a test from Allah SWT and if we misuse them or allow ourselves to become lazy because of them we will face the consquences for it.

    Email and sms can not replace the concern and comfort found when a person visits a sick relative (as per the Sunnah), and over here there are some desi dishes that are cooked and served only in earthen ware pots to retain their flavour, and some familes still take out the tiime to grind fresh spices by hand and even some kababs cause they taste better.

    Suprisingly (or is it?) the more things we have adopted to make life easier the busier and more stressful life has become and even more illnesses to deal with, Subhan'Allah! Maybe because we begin to rely on these things more and seek them out more feverishly, and then seek Allah (SWT) less - we distract ourselves rather then using these things to make more time to spend with Allah (SWT).

    Jazakullah khair for starting up this useful topic, may it become a saqdah-e-jariyya for you.

  22. Salaam Alaikum Dear Mai,

    Im a crunchy mom so I love cloth diapering and using natural wipes =) I think of it this way, I wouldnt use chemicals on my private parts so why would I use wipes that have chemicals in them on my daughter?

    Another great tip is using vinegar when cleaning. I just add vinegar with water and put it in a spray bottle to clean our bathroom. I also use vinegar with hot water to wash our floors. Cleaning products have harsh chemicals and toxins in them which are released into their air and can cause allergic reactions and other problems. Therefore my motto is if you cant eat it dont put it on your skin and dont use it to clean. Lemons are also great to use when cleaning or making your place smell nice.

    I think the only thing on the list Id have to get used to is not using sanitation pads lol
    Ive tried going natural and using cloths but i feel it gets a bit messy so prefer pads. Im sure there are natural pads that have cloth inserts similar to diapers I just havent found any.

    Thanks for all the tips!

  23. mashaallah good article sister...keep up the good work

  24. Umm Hamza, now your really thinking! It takes time to prove that the old ways are best, but it does get proven subhaan Allah. There are no coincidences and most certainly the time, situation, and development during the time of our Prophet's life (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was set by Allah as our example for a reason. Inshaa'Allah I will be posting more on this subject, and you will find that what you said about siwak is just a correct drop in the ocean!

  25. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Umm Shudah.

    Yes, yes, very true! Jazaaki Allahu khayran for your dua and ameen! Inshaa'Allah, I post more on this subject. Perhaps it is time to bring the content of my Simply Sunnah Sisters group to the blog.

  26. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Rene my sweet.

    Yes, my fellow crunchy mama, lol!, vinegar and lemons are wonderful! I have a non-toxic cleaning regime too, mashaa'Allah.

    My pads have inserts and wings and there are a load of different ones to choose from online. In fact, it is quite a big business, especially for stay at home mothers. I was amazed at how much more comfortable they are...and much better for our health. Inshaa'Allah, you will be contributing to the ideas I put forth in future posts.

    Barak Allah feeki.

  27. i have 5 kids and my co has 10. and for such a large family, and 2 households, we don't waste much. we don't use paper towels, paper plates/cups, napkins, unless we bar be que. we do use toilet paper. buy it 12/16 rolls at a time per house. but we also use it for tissue (runny noses). we use rags for cleaning and wiping up spills. we use dish cloths for dishes, and sometimes scrubing pads. we do use wipes for the babies. but when they got older, then we use wash cloths. we use trays to eat on, and just lick fingers and wash hands after.

    we don't buy a lot of things that come in plastic (i.e pop.. which we don't drink except for special moments). only cooking oil, juice and milk, which i try to reuse. i don't know about cloth diapers. i don't want to be bother with washing the poop out by hand before putting it in the washing machine. i do that when i potty train my kids, around 2 years old. and even after they are potty train and can't make it to the bathroom. with the sanitary pads,.... i don't know. my co-wife could. she has sensitive skin (allergic to all kinds of things) and she has light days. me. i am very heavy. change every 2 hours and still gets stains.

    i would recycle more but they don't come by to pick up and the recycle place is wwwwwaaaaayyyyy on the other side of the city. and my city is 200,000.

  28. Mashaa Allah Huda, that is beautiful! May Allah reward you all richly for your efforts - ameen.

    The key to cloth diapers is rice liners. The liner goes in, if the child poops then you dump the whole liner with poop into the toilet and flush away. If they just pee, then wash the liner with the diaper and reuse. They can go through 3 -4 washes before they fall apart, so they last a long time...and you never have to wash that stuff out of the diaper.

    As for sanitary, I bought some that are specially for nifaas or heavy flows. During nifaas, I just changed them every couple of hours until it settled down. I have learned to go to the bathroom more frequently as well, which not only keeps things in check, but also means some can go down the toilet instead of on the pad.

  29. oooohhhh, that clears up the confusion. i might look into that, diapers and sanitary pads. maybe do it part time. like cloth diapers and pads at home. but the others when we are out and about. don't want any embarassements while i'm out the house. people already look at me like i'm from another planet. don't need any more attention drawn to me.

  30. As Salamualaikum!!

    Two words for you: DIVA CUP!!

    I haven't tried it myself YET, inshaallah i will be picking mine up as soon as possible, but it's basically a little cup that you insert to catch your period. it's made of surgical syllicone so there is nothing bleached or any way to get TSS, and i have heard NOTHING but good about it!

    Most women get freaked out when it comes to things like insertion, but i hear it's all painless and extremely comfortable, and the best part is you wash it out with some hot wather and re use it!

    Another thing people may get freaked out with is taking it out or emptying while it has blood in it, which is understandable...but I feel like these days we're so disconnected with our bodies!! it's blood that came from our bodies, not someone elses... To me it's no big deal

    but you can order them on amazon and most health food stores carry them!

    check them out inshaallah!

  31. Btw, What brand do you use? I was looking at and they're so cute! I thought about this before, but you have me convinced to try the cloth!

  32. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Faith!

    I know about Diva cups and actually bought one about 3 years ago but never used it and ended up giving it to my friend. It is a neat idea but I decided that it was less natural than using the cloth. When I think of the ahadith about how the women would ask about the color on the cloths to seek clarity about whether their menses were over or not, I feel like that's the easiest way to follow the Sunnah and be at one with the earth.

    That said, I read so much about the Diva cups and that it took some time to get used to them and get the position right, but afterwards they were great.

    As for the pads I use, I bought them over 5 years ago on e-bay and they aren't branded. Some SAHM was making them out of unbleached cotton with hemp inserts and they are still perfectly fine today, mashaa'Allah. Some are very expensive, but there are a load of different ones all based on the same exact concept. There is even a Muslimah selling them, but I don't have her website. Shop around, but inshaa'Allah you won't be disappointed.

  33. Actually, why not make them Faith? You're talented and into fashion...and there are patterns galore out there! I'm planning to make some soon, ready for my step-daughter inshaa'Allah.

  34. You're so right! I was thinking about this last night after i commented, "why not make them?" Inshaallah i will do extensive research on them to ensure not to buy any irritating fabrics and the likes and see from there inshaallah! Jazakaallahu khair!!!

  35. Yes, look for cotton flannel, terry cloth, if possible. For a natural backing that doesn't leak through easily, boiled wool is amazing. I don't have any with that backing, but the make little pants to cover cloth diapers in the wool and works well. To be crude, I have found that I go the bathroom more regularly so the blood can simply go down the drain, LOL, and also check the pads in case a change is needed. I have a bunch of links, I'll try to post some here.

  36. Asalam Alaykum,
    I'm using the diva cup. I know it's still plastic and not cloth but I really like it. Clean, fast and easy. Also easy to use when traveling around/ being outside of the house. No problems in spotting the end of the period as you can see the color change. Never bought another sanitary product since. Just thought it would be good to mention a " users perspective" on this as I can imagine cloth might be a bigger step for some. Well, at least for me :)

  37. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Selma.

    Jazaaki Allahu khayr for the hand's on product review! I must say, I read several good reports about the diva cups, although I know that many found it very tricky at first to place it properly for effective protection. I was all for it, but I really struggled with the plastic issue. However, something tells me that with all this environmental awareness, an alternative made out of natural rubber may well come along, which would be a boon. In the end, anything and everything we do to reduce our use of manufactured disposables helps, inshaa'Allah.

    Barak Allahu feeki.