Article: The cleansing power of cold water

From the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond (January 2013)

Just a few weeks ago, Kingston looked like a winter wonderland with the 30 centimetres of snow that blanketed the city as it prepared to say goodbye to 2012.

With most of that snow now gone, some people are surely hoping and praying for snow. Did you know that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) also referred to snow and ice in his supplications?

No, he didn’t ask for snowstorms in Arabia or for his enemies to be frozen as punishment. Rather, his supplication had to do with the wiping away of sins.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

O Allah, cleanse my heart with water, snow and ice, and cleanse my heart from all sins as a white garment is cleansed from filth.” [Reported by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad and others]

Madinah rarely sees any ice and the lowest temperature on record is 1 °C. So what could be the reason for mentioning snow and ice, in addition to water?

Various classical hadith commentators have suggested different reasons. Some have said that it is for emphasis, because an item that is washed three times will be very pure. Others have suggested that it could be due to the purity of snow and ice that fall from the sky, as opposed to water found in rivers and lakes which could contain contaminants and organisms.

A deeper explanation, from a spiritual angle, suggests that the mention of cold forms of water is intentional. Sins heat and blacken the spiritual heart. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

When the believer commits sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents and gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. But if (the sin) increases, (the black spot) increases. That is the raan which Allah mentions in His Book (Qur’an – 83:14): ‘Nay! But on their hearts is the Raan (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn.’” [Reported by Tirmidhi]

Lust and the pursuit of desires are fuel to sins just as wood is to fire. If left unchecked, they can consume ones spirituality. Therefore, the cool water from snow and ice are ideal for extinguishing lust and cooling the spiritual heart.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) made a similar connection between water and the feeling of anger when he stated:

Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created of fire, and fire is extinguished only with water; so when one of you becomes angry, he should perform ablution.” [Reported by Abu Dawood]

When it comes to washing clothes, conventional wisdom suggests that warm or hot water is more effective for cleaning. But according to the makers of Tide laundry detergent, some of the worst stains caused by things such as juice, coffee, mud, blood and vomit should immediately be soaked or rinsed in cold water first. This may also suggest that our sins penetrate our spiritual heart just as stains penetrate clothing and cold water is the best remedy.

When we see snow and ice, let’s remind ourselves of this supplication of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). May Allah purify our hearts with water, snow and ice as a white garment is cleaned from filth and stains. Ameen!