ATTAR IS SUNNAH
A peaceful Jawad looks up and smiles at the passerby waving, bringing the rigorous shaking of the thumb sized bottle to a halt. Fishing out a bright red velvet bag, he meticulously places the bottle inside, handing it over to the waiting customer, "Attar Is Sunnah, Shukriya Sir"!
This last part of the scene that I just witnessed, leaves me deeply intrigued. I decided to dive right in, and here is what my search brought me to. Sunnah essentially means following a way of life that rises from the teachings and practices imparted by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Staying clean and hygienic, adoring oneself with pure and halal things are all part of Sunnah. A true Muslim keeps his clothes, body and mind clean at all times. There are many Hadiths in the Quran that talk about the importance of cleanliness.
A good smell is always better than a bad smell. Fragrances have the power to transcend through nature and bring in the spirit of power and positive energy in its realm. “ Allah is pleasant, and enjoys pleasant stuff, clean and enjoys cleanliness, generosity and kindness “ Abu Hurairah says. Everything that the Prophet (PBUH) does has a spiritual dignity to it, which serves as a lesson for mankind.
Attar is a means to adore the body through the nasal senses. Attar is a concentrated perfume made by blending natural ingredients and essential oils without any chemicals and alcoholic additives. It is long lasting and holds purity to the last drop. A small bottle of Attar lasts for days and lingers into the atmosphere for long. Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) would relieve himself, perform Wudhu (the act of Ablution) and apply fragrance to his clothing. He would also use fragrance at night, especially on Jummah nights. As noted, some of his favorite Attars included Musk and Ambergris (Amber).
While Attar is Sunnah is Muslim tradition, it is also noted as a holy and soul purifying agent in other religions as well. “Fragrances have the capacity to connect us to God, hence aiding in Worship”, said Sharon Binyamin Galsurkar, a venerated Jewish Educator. For the First temple of Jerusalem there are certain families that make scented oil and incense. In Judaism there are special blessings recited over fragrances.
Bruhat Samhita, a literary work of religious importance to Hindus, talks about the art of making pure scent and the ability it holds to uplift the spirit. Rose and Mogra have the innate ability to lift the soul. Thus devout Hindus prefer to have it as an offering to the idols of deities. Likewise Sikhs also prefer roses for the Rumala Saheb (sacred cloth) in Gurudwaras. Buddhist Monks, Jain Sadhus and Christian Mystics all affirm that fragrance plays an integral role in their prayers/sadhana.
When the Prophet (PBUH) would pass a path, the fragrance of Musk and Amber would linger in the atmosphere. It is said that when he shook his hands with someone that person could smell Nabi scent from his hands for the entire day. Such is the beauty of Attar! It is a blessings made in Jannat-Ul-Firdous (the Garden of Heaven) that has been sent down to Earth as blessings to mankind.
Fragrance is more than a personal fashion statement. It is a Heritage. It is a Way of Life!