What does Islam say about bad breath and body smell?
The sections of this article are:
1- Allah Almighty orders the Muslims to follow Prophet Muhammad's commands.
2- The bad breath and body smell.
3- The bathing of the body and staying clean.
4- The brushing of the teeth.
5- Prophet Muhammad was sensitive to offensive smells.
6- What does the Noble Quran say about body cleanliness?
7- Not just body cleanliness is mandatory, Good attitude is also mandatory.
Islam is very precise about Muslims keeping themselves clean and smelling good at all times. Islam is a beautiful religion, full of wisdom and harmony. If this wonderful religion is followed properly then a typical Muslim would only be a great example to follow.
1- Allah Almighty orders the Muslims to follow Prophet Muhammad's commands:
Before we look the Sayings and Commands of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, it is important to know that according to the Noble Quran, Allah Almighty ordered the Muslims to obey the Prophet and to follow his commands.
Allah Almighty said in the Noble Quran:
"O ye who believe! Obey God, and obey the Apostle, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Apostle, if ye do believe in God and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination. (The Noble Quran, 4:59)"
"When there comes to them some matter touching (Public) safety or fear, they divulge it. If they had only referred it to the Apostle, or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have Tested it from them (direct). Were it not for the Grace and Mercy of God unto you, all but a few of you would have fallen into the clutches of Satan. (The Noble Quran, 4:83)"
Having said that, let us look at some of the Sayings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him:
2- The bad breath and body smell:
Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) saying: "He who eats of this (offensive) plant, i. e garlic, and sometimes he said: He who eats onion and garlic and leek, should not approach our mosque for the angels are harmed by the same things as the children of Adam. (Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Prayers (Kitab Al-Salat), Book 004, Number 1147)"
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah: "The Prophet said, 'Whoever has eaten garlic or onion, should keep away from us, or should keep away from our mosque and should stay at home.' Ibn Wahb said, 'Once a plate full of cooked vegetables was brought to the Prophet at Badr. Detecting a bad smell from it, he asked about the dish and was informed of the kinds of vegetables in contained. He then said, 'Bring it near,' and so it was brought near to one of his companions who was with him. When the Prophet saw it, he disliked eating it and said (to his companion), 'Eat, for I talk in secret to ones whom you do not talk to.' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Holding Fast to the Qur'an and Sunnah, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 458)"
If a person has a bad breath, then he not only will harm his fellow Muslims, but also the angels as well. Notice that the first Saying of our beloved Prophet is not just limited to bad breath. Any type of bad smell that comes out of a person is not accepted. This could be the smell of bad body sweat, morning breath, etc.... These people are not allowed near the Muslims or the Mosques.
Narrated Abu Musa: "The Prophet said, 'The example of a good pious companion and an evil one is that of a person carrying musk and another blowing a pair of bellows. The one who is carrying musk will either give you some perfume as a present, or you will buy some from him, or you will get a good smell from him, but the one who is blowing a pair of bellows will either burn your clothes or you will get a bad smell from him.' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Hunting, Slaughtering, Volume 7, Book 67, Number 442)"
Narrated Abu Musa: "The Prophet said, 'The example of a believer who recites the Qur'an and acts on it, like a citron which tastes nice and smells nice. And the example of a believer who does not recite the Qur'an but acts on it, is like a date which tastes good but has no smell. And the example of a hypocrite who recites the Qur'an is like a Raihana (sweet basil) which smells good but tastes bitter And the example of a hypocrite who does not recite the Quran is like a colocynth which tastes bitter and has a bad smell.' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues of the Qur'an, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 579)"
Narrated Abu Musa: "Allah's Apostle said, 'The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is I like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith's bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof.' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Sales and Trade, Volume 3, Book 34, Number 314)"
In the above Sayings, we clearly see how Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him praised the "good smell". He associated the good Muslims with good smells, and the not so good Muslims with the bad smells.
3- The bathing of the body and staying clean:
Narrated Aisha: "(the wife of the Prophet) The people used to come from their abodes and from Al-'Awali (i.e. outskirts of Medina up to a distance of four miles or more from Medina). They used to pass through dust and used to be drenched with sweat and covered with dust; so sweat used to trickle from them. One of them came to Allah's Apostle who was in my house. The Prophet said to him, 'I wish that you keep yourself clean on this day of yours (i.e. take a bath).' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Friday Prayer, Volume 2, Book 13, Number 25)"
Notice how Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him became offended at the man who's body smelled bad. It is essential that Muslims keep themselves clean at all times. As also explained in the first Saying in the section above, not only humans get harmed and offended by bad smell, but so do Angels as well.
4- The brushing of the teeth:
Our beloved Prophet was also big on cleaning the teeth by the "Siwak":
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: "I stayed overnight in the house of my aunt Maimuna. Allah's Apostle talked with his wife for a while and then went to bed. When it was the last third of the night, he got up and looked towards the sky and said: "Verily! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth and in the alteration of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding." (3.190) Then he stood up, performed ablution, brushed his teeth with a Siwak, and then prayed eleven Rakat. Then Bilal pronounced the Adhan (i.e. call for the Fajr prayer). The Prophet then offered two Rakat (Sunna) prayer and went out (to the Mosque) and offered the (compulsory congregational) Fajr prayer. (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 93)"
Narrated Anas: "Allah's Apostle I said, 'I have told you repeatedly to (use) the Siwak. (The Prophet put emphasis on the use of the Siwak.) (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Friday Prayer, Volume 2, Book 13, Number 13)"
Narrated Hudhaifa: "When the Prophet (p.b.u.h) got up at night (for the night prayer), he used to clean his mouth. (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Friday Prayer, Volume 2, Book 13, Number 14)"
Narrated Abu Huraira: "Allah's Apostle said, 'If I had not found it hard for my followers or the people, I would have ordered them to clean their teeth with Siwak for every prayer.' (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Friday Prayer, Volume 2, Book 13, Number 12)"
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: "Once I stayed overnight at the house of (my aunt ) Maimuna while the Prophet was with her, to see how was the night prayer of Allah s Apostle Allah's Apostle talked to his wife for a while and then slept. When it was the last third of the night (or part of it), the Prophet got up and looked towards the sky and recited the Verse:-- 'Verily! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth....there are indeed signs for the men of understanding.' (3.190) Then He got up and performed the ablution, brushed his teeth and offered eleven Rakat. Then Bilal pronounced the Adhan whereupon the Prophet offered a two-Rak'at (Sunna) prayer and went out to lead the people in Fajr (morning compulsory congregational prayer. (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 544)"
As we clearly see above, our Prophet peace be upon him constantly cleaned his teeth and mouth by using the Siwak. A siwak is a piece of small wood that is approximately as thick as a thumb and as tall as double the height of an index finger. It's tip is vertically fine-sliced, which means it has wood teeth or hair that is similar to the hair of a tooth brush today, except they are a little thicker.
Obviously tooth paste and tooth brushes didn't exist 1400 years ago. The siwak with rinsing the mouth was the best and most effective mean to brush off the bad smell and bacteria from the teeth and the tongue, as well as massaging the gums and squeezing out any bad blood from them that may cause tooth aches.
Notice how Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was very sensitive about not having a bad smell whether from his body or mouth. Notice also how he was big on keeping the teeth and gums clean and healthy.
5- Prophet Muhammad was sensitive to offensive smells:
Let us look at the following Noble Verse and its explanation from what Minister Abdullah Yusuf Ali (may Allah Almighty rest his soul) wrote from foot notes:
"O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which God has made lawful to thee? Thou seekest to please thy consorts. But God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (The Noble Quran, 66:1)"
Important Note: The colored paragraph in dark green below clearly shows that Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was very sensitive to offensive smells.
"The Prophet's household was not like other households. The Consorts of Purity were expected to hold a higher standard in behaviour and reticence than ordinary women, as they had higher work to perform. See note 3706 to (Noble Verse) 33:28. But they were human beings after all, and were subject to the weaknesses of their sex, and they sometimes failed. The imprudence of Aisha (see note 2962 to (Noble Verse) 24:11) once caused serious difficulties: the Holy Prophet's mind was sore distressed, and he renounced the society of his wives for some time. This renunciation seems to be referred to here. The situation was none the less difficult for him because she was a daughter of Abu Bakr, one of the truest and most intimate of his Companions and lieutenants. The commentators usually cite the following incident in connection with the revelation of these verses. It is narrated from Aisha, the wife of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) by al Bukhari, Muslim, al Nasai, Abu Dawud and others that the Holy Prophet usually visited his wives daily after Asr Prayer. Once it so happened that he stayed longer than usual at the quarters of Zaynab bint Jahsh, for she had received from somewhere some honey which the Holy Prophet liked very much. 'At this', says Aisha, 'I felt jealous, and I, Hafsah, Sawda and Safiyah agreed among ourselves that when he visits us each of us would tell him that a peculiar odour came from his mouth as a result of what he had eaten, for we knew that he was particularly sensitive to offensive smells". So when his wives hinted at it, he vowed that he would never again use honey. Thereupon these verses were revealed reminding him that he should not declare to himself unlawful that which Allah had made lawful to him. The important point to bear in mind is that he was at once rectified by revelation, which reinforces the fact that the prophets are always under divine protection, and even the slightest lapse on their part is never left uncorrected. (R)." 
So if Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was sensitive to offensive smells, then this means that any bad smell coming from the body is not accepted in Islam. Bad feet smell, bad breath, bad body sweat smell or bad body odor, making wind while people are present, etc..., are all not accepted in Islam.
By the way, here is Allah Almighty's Response to the Prophet's wives' bad plot:
"It may be, if he divorced you (all), that God will give him in exchange consorts better than you,- who submit (their wills), who believe, who are devout, who turn to God in repentance, who worship (in humility), who travel (for Faith) and fast,- previously married or virgins. (The Noble Quran, 66:5)"
6- What does the Noble Quran say about body cleanliness:
"O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for God loveth not the wasters. (The Noble Quran, 7:31)"
"Beautiful apparel: Zinah (Zee-naa): adornments or apparel for beautiful living: construed to mean not only cloths that add grace to the wearer, but toilet and cleanliness, attention to hair, and other small personal details which no self-respecting man or woman ought to neglect when going solemnly even before a great human dignitary, if only out of respect for the dignity of the occasion. How much more important it is to attend to these details when we solemnly apply our minds to the Presence of Allah. But the caution against excess applies: men must not go to prayer in silks or ornaments appropriate to women. Similarly sober food, good and wholesome, is not to be divorced from offices of religion; only the caution against excess applies strictly. A dirty, unkept, slovenly Faqir could not claim sanctity in Islam." 
"....For God loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean. (The Noble Quran, 2:222)"
"O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For God doth blot out sins and forgive again and again. (The Noble Quran, 4:43)"
"O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, God doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful. (The Noble Quran, 5:6)"
"Which none shall touch (i.e., the Noble Quran) but those who are clean. (The Noble Quran, 56:79)"
In the above Noble Verses we clearly see the following:
1- Muslims must put on their best clothing and appear at their best appearance (including good body and breath smells as clearly shown in the above sections in this article) when they approach their daily prayers. Muslims pray 5 times every day, so body cleanliness and good appearance are constantly required.
2- Allah Almighty loves those Muslims who constantly keep themselves pure and clean.
3- When a Muslim couple have sex, they both have bathe their bodies to regain their cleanliness.
4- Muslims are required to be in a state of cleanliness when they approach the Noble Quran to read it.
7- Not just body cleanliness is mandatory, Good attitude is also mandatory:
Let us look at what Allah Almighty commands the Muslims in the Noble Quran: "Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: For thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (The Noble Quran, 16:125)"
So imagine if a Muslim looks good and smells good, and talks with wisdom and beautiful preaching to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Wouldn't he or she be the best example to Mankind?
Body and breath cleanliness, and good presentation are mandatory in Islam. Muslims must always present themselves in the cleanest way possible. Those who violate this rule are considered "evil companions", and they are resented and are not allowed to be near the Mosques or other fellow Muslims. They are certainly bad examples to Islam.
Body cleanliness and good presentation are not the only things mandatory in Islam. Good attitude with wisdom and beautiful preaching are also mandatory in Islam. As I said above, imagine if a Muslim looks good and smells good, and talks with wisdom and beautiful preaching to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Wouldn't he or she be the best example to Mankind?
1- The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an.
Author: Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
Published by: Amana Publications, 10710 Tucker Street, Suite B, Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2223 USA.
Telephone: (301) 595-5777.
Fax: (301) 595-5888.
ISBN: 0-91597-59-0 (HC).
2- The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an , foot note #1013, page 351.
3- The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an , foot note #5529, page 1490.
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