Hamza Babangida, Ismawi Hj. Zen, Zaiton Abdulrahim

Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design

International Islamic University, Jalan Gombak, 53100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Corresponding author:,,


In Islam, provision and design of toilet facility in a residential house should be considered important, since it is where the inhabitants obtain physical cleanliness. The Shari’a sources had provided basis for its design to conform to Islamic criteria thereby facilitating various Ibadah activities for the inhabitants and users. It is the intention of this paper to examine the prototype designs of chosen katsina public housing estate to investigate the level of conformity to Islamic criteria in their toilet design, on one hand and to suggest possible alternatives and choices of architectural design approaches on the other. This study was possible through literature search on the relevant Shari’a sources and floor plan analysis of the housing estate. The outcome of the study indicates little consideration of Islamic criteria in toilet design of this housing estate. This therefore calls for concerted efforts on the part of Muslim architects, planners and other professionals in the built environment to strive to provide designs that respond to spiritual needs of Muslim inhabitants.

Key words: Islamic Built Environment Criteria, Shari’a, Ibadah, Public Prototype Housing,



The Islamic criteria for the built environment can be defined as set of principles that guide the architectural design of housing, and other buildings according to Shari’a. The Shari’a prescribes directives for the regulation of the Muslim individual as well as the society (Hisham 2004), the prescription covers socio-cultural, economic, political aspects of the society as well as for the management of the built environment (Hakim, Zubair 2006).  These principles are found in the sources of the Shari’a, the primary sources of which are the al-Qur’an, the word of God. Other sources are the Sunnah of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) his deeds, and sayings, the Ijma’ and al-Qiyas of the Learned in Shari’a Ulama. There are other recognized sources of the Sharia, but for the purposes of this paper the four sources are considered.

The al-Qur’an is the basic source of Islamic Jurisprudence and Islamic teachings.

﴿الم – ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ ﴾

This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God.”(Al Baqara 2: 2)

The Sunnah is the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H). It comprised of his deeds, words, actions, and indirect commandments’. The Qur’an provided the basis for this in Sura 3; 32.


قُلْ أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْكَـفِرِينَ ﴾-


Say (O Muhammad): “Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad S.A.W.). But if they turn away, then Allah does not like the disbelievers” (Al’imran 3:32)

Ijma’ is the consensus of the companions or qualified jurists. It is the agreement of general consent and refers to the decision of the community at large. The last sources of Shari’a considered here is the al-Qiyas or Ijtihad. It means literally striving hard to make a ruling based on peculiar circumstances by the Ulama (Hisham 2004; Azila 2007).



This is based on Hadiths;

When a judge exercises Ijtihad and gives a right judgment he will have two rewards but if he errs in his judgment he will still have earned one reward

In another Hadith the Prophet (P.B.U.H) said


God will not let my community agree upon an error.

Islamic criteria can be categorized into three. Firstly, the architectural and constructional details of the house itself This deal with aspects such as privacy needs of the family and provision, the protection of neighbor’s rights to privacy, security etc, modesty in building expenses through the use of available indigenous building materials, optimum utilization of space, orientation of building in relation to Qibla, and the separation of male and female spaces, considerations of building heights, among others(Hisham 2004: Akeel 2007) see figure 1.


The second aspect is meeting the socio-cultural needs of the inhabitants. This consists the provision of spaces for religious activities such as prayers for the women, learning and teaching the Qur’an, and other activities include daily basic chores of households such as; cooking, eating, sleeping, relaxation and social production and reproduction hygiene needs, and security.


Finally, the house should be able respond to environmental constraints and hence protect the inhabitants from the harshness of weather (Akeel 2007). It involves the provision of shading in form of verandah, courtyard, and use of materials with appropriate thermal property in roof, floor, and wall to provide thermal comfort, and fenestrations located appropriately to achieve adequate ventilation and natural lighting.


For the purpose of this study the architectural and constructional aspect is considered. The analysis was carried out in terms of; toilet orientation in relation to Qibla, facilities provided, and user entry and exit behavior.


Various definitions of toilets were put forward among which are:


1. A large bowl attached to a pipe that you sit on or stand over when you get rid of waste matter from your body(Oxford advanced learners dictionary 7th edition)


2. A room or small building containing a toilet (Oxford advanced learners dictionary 7th edition)


3. fixture for disposing of body waste: a bowl-shaped fixture with a waste drain and a flushing device connected to a water supply, used for defecating and urinating (Wikipedia 26th October 2008)

4. room with toilet: a room with a toilet and usually a sink(Wikipedia 26th October 2008)


For the purpose of this study however, a toilet shall refer to the physical space including all fixtures purposely provided for cleaning and disposal of bodily waste in form of urine, defecation, and other forms of bodily dirt. It is  a place where one purifies him/herself from various forms of Najis (bodily waste), a prelude to any Ibadah activity.


The flush toilet has undergone slight modification since its invention in 1596 by John Harrington. J.F. Bronde introduced a first valve-type flush system in 1738(, 2008). There are two basic types of toilet fixtures used in the house; the dry toilet and wet toilet, the primary concern for this paper shall be the domestic wet toilet type, which is the commonest type used in western designed style house. It was also the type used in the housing estate used for this study.


1.1 Toilet in global societies

The Flush type toilet is the primary concern for this paper. It has been in use in both public and private toilets in some societies even in ancient times, for example in India and Pakistan. They used   an ingenious flush systems attached to a sophisticated sewage system. Other form of toilets were used both in the time of Romans and Egyptians as well ( 26th October 2008).

According to a World Health Organization report on the Global Water supply and sanitation assessment for the year 2000, 40 percent of the global population does not have access to excreta disposal facilities of which mostly were in Asia and Africa ( 2008). In the year 2008, the trend had increased in Africa where it was estimated that at least 2.3 billion people representing two-third of its population had no access to toilet facilities ( 2008).

In ancient traditional Malay house there was no toilet in the house, inhabitants go to the nearby surrounding to relieve and clean themselves. As time went by however, toilet was created yet not part of the main house but placed away from it (Ismawi, 2007; Wan and Ahmad 2006)). The situation is the same with the Gbayi tribe in central states of Nigeria where they had a concept of a ‘hidden toilets’, which means using the nearby bush to relieve and clean themselves. (Moukhtar, 2008).  According to a survey by the authors, in rural Hausa agricultural compounds there was absence of a dedicated toilet; however an area was provided for bathing and other forms of cleaning.


1.2 Role of toilet in Islam


According to Islam, one must be in a state of cleanliness before his or her Ibadah (worship) was valid, therefore toilet facility is an important element that facilitates acts of worship in the house, this is more so if designed according to criteria set by Islam through the applications of principles of the Sharia. worship activities in the house such as prayer, reading, teaching and learning the Qur’an, are not validated except in state of purity, which among others achievable within the confines of a toilet. In it one cleanses him/herself before any act of worship. Inhabitants of a house visit toilets at least once in a day. According to Ingrid Wenz-Gahler as cited in (Wan and Ahmad 2006), people visit toilets for eight minutes on average daily, equivalent to 3650 hours or 150 days in ones life time. This indicates the importance of toilet in any residential house.


Unlike the Japanese culture which considered toilet as ‘pure and sacred place (Wan and Ahmad 2006,, 2008), and in the houses of the affluent in the United States where the size of toilet is more than average and more numerous, the design of which reflect the status of the occupant.  Islam considered toilet as a place to visit only when there was the need. This clearly demonstrates divergent views and approaches to the issue of toilet from the western and Islamic contexts.


Hadith of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) states…. Narrated Zayd ibn Arqam:

The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: These privies are frequented by the jinns and devils. So when anyone amongst you goes there, he should say: “I seek refuge in Allah from male and female devils.” (Sunaan Abu Dawud, Book 1, Number 0006:

When you enter a lavatory say, “O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from wicked and noxious things.”… (Sahih Muslim, 3.0729)

When entering a toilet, say a prayer: O’ Allah I seek refuge with you from all offensive and wicked things (evil deeds and evil spirits)… (Sunaan Nasai, 1.19)

To screen you from Jinns, when visiting toilet say Bismillah… (Sunaan Tirmidhi, 130)



The position of Islam on toilet does not however in any way means compromising the quality and importance which it deserved in its design.

On this Hisham Mortada (2004) wrote:


‘Islam is not against the western concept that planning should be geared towards

The improvement of the quality of life, but it disagrees on how this should be achieved.

’                       According to Islam, this goal is to support the purpose of life: Worshipping God’


The basis for cleansing and purification is found in the Qur’an


لاَ تَقُمْ فِيهِ أَبَدًا لَّمَسْجِدٌ أُسِّسَ عَلَى التَّقْوَى مِنْ أَوَّلِ يَوْمٍ أَحَقُّأَن تَقُومَفِيهِ فِيهِ رِجَالٌ يُحِب

أَن يَتَطَهَّرُواْ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُطَّهِّرِينَ ﴾


In it are men who love to clean and purify themselves.

And Allah loves those who make themselves clean and pure.)

At-Taubah 9; 108)


Wan and Ahmad 2006 described type of dirt or Najis that requires the use of toilet for cleaning.


For clarity they are reproduced below;


  1. Najis Aini which can be seen, felt and smelt such as blood, menstrual blood, urine and excreta.
  2. Najis Hukmi which has no smell or color.


Najis Aini can further be divided into three types as follows:


  1. Najis Mukhaffafah (light category of najis) e.g. baby males urine less than 2 years old, with condition that the baby does not eat any meals like biscuits, bread, rice and fruits and does not drink any beverage like dairy milks, glucose and fruit juices except only milk from breast feeding of his mother
  2. Najis Mutawassitah (middle category) is all types of najis other than najis mughallazah and najis mukhaffafah such as blood, pus, liquid from itches, vomiting, and carcass/remains of animal.
  3. Najis Mughallazah (heavy category of najis) is the excreta from dogs and pigs and the generation or hybrid associated with any of these two animals.


1.3 Aim of the paper

The purpose of this paper is to achieve the following:

  1. Analyze the architectural design of the toilets of the housing estate with a view to assessing their compliance or response to Islamic criteria.
  2. Suggest planning alternatives and choices of architectural design approaches, and the use of appropriate elements of design to conform to Islamic criteria, with regard to existing situation.
  3. Study one of the housing estates built by Katsina state; the Goriba road housing estate, to illuminate the concept of Islamic Built environment Criteria with respect to toilet design


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