On Dirty Clothes and the Volume of Sin


Umrah’s Life Lessons #2: On Dirty Clothes and the Volume of Sin

No one packs a suitcase like my daughter Ruqaiyah. Ever since she was a child she’s had a knack for folding that renders the item of clothing, towel or sheet to its original store-bought pristine shape.  On our previous Umrah she went with us, and when we saw her neat little sandwich-bag packages, each holding a complete set of underwear (undershirt, underpants and long pants), we all wanted her to pack our bags for us. This trip, my husband took a small bag, Fatimah and I shared a medium-sized bag, and we each had a carry-on as well. Inside, thanks to Ruqaiyah, our bags were fit for display!
We first noticed there was something amiss in Medina. We had been there for less than two days when our clothes wouldn’t fit back into the bags. My husband had bought himself a dishdasheh, but was now wearing the bulky Umrah towels instead, and I had bought myself a thin dress to wear under my black abayeh.  Neither explained our new shortage of space. Our bags, filled with clothes we shed each time we took a shower, had so increased in bulk that we could barely zip them.
It was only two days into our stay in Mecca and I had bought myself a large pink pail, dishwashing liquid and a rope. By now, I was washing clothes on a regular basis. I strung the rope from a nail on the wall across the room into the metal bar in the closet and back. I washed under wear, socks, arm covers, head covers, abayehs and robes. Every night we would come back from taraweeh, have a light supper, and I would do the equivalent of two loads of wash. Strangely enough, it was the wringing not the washing that was the most difficult. I tried to dig up distant memories of my aunt wringing clothes by hand. There is a trick to getting as much water out so that they can dry in a closed up hotel room with no draft, fairly quickly. Despite all this, dirty clothes accumulated. What I wasn’t about to wash we put in plastic bags. Pretty soon, we were putting those bags in larger bags. It amazed me how much laundry two adults and a child could make on a daily basis. It amazed me the amount of sweat a body could produce day after day, hour after hour continuously and from every inch of skin. A young girl came up to me one night and said, “You’re wearing make up!” “No, I’m not.” I retorted. “You mean your face is red and shiny naturally?” My face felt like it was on fire and I was perspiring profusely, even from my eye lids!
As I did my daily scrubbing of clothes, I would think of the Arabic verse of a female poet, “Ah that my heart amongst hearts/were like an item of clothing/once it got soiled, I could wash it”. How quickly and how much laundry one accumulates is difficult to realize, when you are pressing a button and opening a drawer to put detergent in. It made me wonder if, for instance, we could actually see our sins in a concrete manner, wouldn’t it discourage us from accumulating more? It reminded me of the Hadeeth that says something to the effect that ‘Every adhan, two angels call out, O people come to the fires you have kindled with your deeds, and put them out with prayer’. We really do amass sin from prayer-time to prayer-time. If we were to heighten our awareness of our bad deeds, wouldn’t we be motivated to cut down on them?
Then there is the sheer volume of sin. The night before our flight back, we sat there unable to fathom the amount of stuff to pack. We had bought a new bag and we had designated a suitcase especially for laundry. Do dirty clothes multiply? Do they breed in the bags we tie them in or do the bags themselves breed? Do they increase in bulk? I doubt that even Ruqaiyah could have fit everything back that night. We ended up taking a large plastic bag full of smaller bags of laundry onto the plane.
It is scary how sin can claim our time and life. Fill your day with good deeds, and your day expands to fit them and more. That is called barakah. Allow sin into your day, out of belittling it or believing you can control its extent or graveness, and it will throw your heart and mind out of balance, and eat up your day and life.
It is such a blessing that Allah counts each bad deed as one and each good deed as ten… But I wonder if that is any indication of the sheer volume of that one sin.

Read Umrah’s Life Lesson 1: The Chained Chair…The Blessing of Having a Guide

Read Umrah’s Life Lesson 3: The Deprived Citizens of the Land of ‘Good-Enough’


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