Why is soiling oneself with urine a big sin?
Punishment in the Grave Because of Urine Uncleanness
It is argued that the Islam’s stance on soiling oneself with urine is absurd and that it is unfair to one with a disease or one who cannot control his urination. (1)
The Hadith under discussion is as follows:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Most of the punishment of the grave will be because of urine. (2)
Another Hadith is as follows:
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: Once the Prophet, while passing through one of the grave-yards of Medina or Mecca heard the voices of two persons who were being tortured in their graves. The Prophet said, “These two persons are being tortured not for a major sin (to avoid).”
The Prophet then added, “Yes! (they are being tortured for a major sin). Indeed, one of them never saved himself from being soiled with his urine while the other used to go about with calumnies (to make enmity between friends).
The Prophet then asked for a green leaf of a date-palm tree, broke it into two pieces and put one on each grave. On being asked why he had done so, he replied, “I hope that their torture might be lessened, till these get dried.” (3)
If one considers the Islamic position on cleanliness, they would find these narrations to be full of wisdom and fine teachings. Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him) said:
Cleanliness is half of faith. (4)
Islam has stressed great importance on cleanliness. Above is just one of hundreds of narrations on cleanliness. The Qur’an is also clear in its position on cleanliness:
Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves Mutatahhireen (those who purify themselves, those who keep themselves clean). (5)
There are plenty of other verses with the same message. Instead of appreciating this teaching of Islam, finding faults in it portrays an unclean mind.
Explaining the importance of cleanliness, Ibn Nujaym al-Misri (d. 970 AH) states:
وفي معراج الدراية وجه مناسبة عذاب القبر مع ترك استنزاه البول هو أن القبر أول منزلة من منازل الآخرة والاستنزاه أول منزل من منازل الطهارة والصلاة أول ما يحاسب به المرء يوم القيامة فكانت الطهارة أول ما يعذب بتركها في أول منزل من منازل الآخرة
In Mi’raj ad-Dirayah [of al-Kaaki (d. 749 AH)] it is stated that relation of punishment in grave with not keeping oneself from defiling by urine is that grave is the first of the stations of Hereafter and keeping oneself from defilement is the first step of purification and prayers (salah) which is the first thing a person will be questioned about on the Day of Judgment. Therefore, purity is first thing leaving which a person will be questioned at the first of the stations of Hereafter. (6)
Moreover, urine is a strong medium of transmission of diseases and one need not be a specialist in the field of biology to know this basic fact. Therefore, if one does not find the Islamic teaching of prevention from urine to be a good teaching, then they must rethink their approach to life.
The Qur’an orders the believers to refrain from following the footsteps of the devil. (7) Since one step leads to another, it is best to stop before the first step. Realizing the importance of prevention from sprinkling urine on oneself leads one towards the path of cleanliness and prevents from several diseases.
One may still argue that this teaching of Islam is harsh towards those with medical conditions. This conclusion is reached if other narrations carrying similar message are ignored.
Reported Ali ibn Abi Taalib: “I used to have a great deal of prostatic fluid flowing, so I asked a man to ask the Prophet (peace be upon him about it (as I was shy to ask him, due to my relationship with him through his daughter). He asked him and the Prophet (peace be upon him), said, “Make ablution and wash your male organ.” (8)
Al-Athram narrated, “I was bothered by a great deal of prostatic fluid, so I went to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and informed him of this. He (peace be upon him) said ‘It is sufficient for you to take a handful of water and sprinkle it over.”‘
The statements of the Prophet peace be upon him are clear in denoting that someone carrying a medical condition is exempt from the apparently strict ruling. Moreover Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz, while commenting on Sahih Bukhari, vol. 1, book 4, hadith no. 215 states:
“Most of the punishment of the grave is because of urine.” What it means is to avoid urine and be careful about it. ‘… so that drops of urine will not splash back on him’.
This applies to both men and women: they should pay attention to this matter. Urine should be in a place where it will not splash back on one. If some of that gets onto the thigh or foot, one should pour water on it and wash the place where it touched, so as get rid of the urine.
If the surface is soft or the individual makes sure that his urine lands in the toilet where it will be washed away when flushing, so that nothing will splash back onto him, that is sufficient.
However, avoiding urine and being careful about it is good. If it so happens that the urine hits the edge of the toilet and splashes back on the thigh or calf, then both men and women have to wash it off in that case. (9)
Moreover, the scholars have also clarified that those with medical conditions have certain exemptions. Islam encourages cleanliness and is not unfair towards those who have medical conditions. The teachings of Islam are practical and Allah does not hold to account people for things that are out of their control.
Indeed, Allah knows the best.