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March 05, 2022 6 min read
Allah’s Messenger was quoted by Abu Huraira describing Paradise where, among many wondrous things, agarwood would be used in their incense burner (López-sampson and Page 2018) This is because the scent of Oud is described as “the scent from heaven”. Not only does it smell divine, but also it is spiritual for many Muslims (and many other religious and non-religious people). Today, we will discuss the use of Oud in some Muslim communities.
A trade associate of mine, Idrees, is a Muslim who uses Oud in his daily life.
Early morning before the sunrise, around 4 am, he wakes up and performs Fajr. He usually heats Agarwood chips when he prays. He says the scent is awakening helps in his spiritual and ritual process.
He said perfumery has a vital role in prayer practices in Islam. Muslims enjoy burning incense and bakhoor during prayer. They can do it in the mosque or at home.
When he works during the day, he wears Oud oil. It is convenient because he does not need to burn anything to create the aroma he usually uses to perform the Dhuhr prayer.
He has a rare collection of Oud oil. These oils are no longer in production because gathering Agarwood chips to distil is challenging. Wild Oud does not work in the long run because it is not sustainable. So Idrees chooses cultivated Oud instead.
He also uses an Agarwood Tasbih to pray for one reason. Rubbing his thumb against the beads many time will create friction. This friction will heat up the beads, making the scent molecules stick on his thumbs. When he moves his thumb to his beads for nose, he enjoy this subtle aroma from the bead.
He says when Agarwood Tasbih is not available, some Muslims will use Agarwood oil to rub on their prayer beads to create the aroma before reciting the Quran.
When he visits the mosque, he either smokes his clothes with Agarwood chips or perfumes them with Oud oil.
Volume 2, Book 13, Number 8:
The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Whoever takes a bath on Friday, purifies himself as much as he can, then uses his (hair) oil or perfumes himself with the scent of his house, then proceeds (for the Jumua prayer) and does not separate two persons sitting together (in the mosque), then prays as much as (Allah has) written for him and then remains silent while the Imam is delivering the Khutba, his sins in-between the present and the last Friday would be forgiven."
Abraham, the founder ofSimple Pleasures, says:
There is no denying how ingrained Oudh and perfumery are in Middle Eastern culture and have stayed around for 3,000 years. The traditional use combined with religious encouragement is probably why the Oudh industry in the Middle East has always been growing.
Friday’s have a special place for each Muslim. Just as you hear people dressing up in their “Sunday’s best”, the same applies for Friday prayer. Whilst it is not compulsory to wear fragrances as part of worship, it is very strongly recommended to put on your best (including to perfume one’s self) before Friday prayers if one gets a chance. It is not uncommon to see bottles of Oudh, Amber or other types of perfumery either at the entrance or a special area at the front of the hall for anyone to use.
For a Muslim, a mosque is referred to as “The house of God” where Angels come to attend and join in prayers. It makes perfect sense to perfume oneself in a good fragrance in the presence of God and the Angels.
There is no guide to the type of perfumery that can be worn. The traditional favourites are Amber, Musk, Oudh, and a combination of each in oil form. Oudh stands out for its scent projection in all forms. Then there is the ‘Dry scenting’ process through a charcoal burner where one applies perfume through smoking themselves.
To this day, charcoal incense by burning bakhour(scented wood)/Oudh is the favourite means for purifying both open and closed spaces. At a Muslim place of worship (Masjid), the scent penetrates deep into the carpet and can stay keep a place well scented for days. Bakhour is good, but if you really mean business in the Middle East, you’d burn a good quality Oudh for yourself and your guests.
Traditionally, it is not uncommon to see a charcoal burner with Oudh/Bakhhor being passed around to each guest as a sign of generosity during gatherings. Arabs will literally fumigate themselves with fantastic Oudh smoke. The scent is so penetrating. It stays on clothing for days, and one can usually sense someone’s ‘Oudh Trail’ even when walking in a crowded bazaar. Apart from offering charcoal incense to guests and everyday use, a decent amount of Oud/Bakhour smoke is spread around and used at the Masjid or prayer hall. Upon entering the prayer space, you are greeted with a wonderful smell that clears the mind and helps you wind down when you are engaging in worship, helping further tie you down to a state of ‘Khosho’, which can be referred to as the religious awareness in the present moment. Furthermore, the Quran extends this to include mosque visits outside Friday [Al-Araaf – 31] to highlight bringing out your best.
Personally, I also see Oudh as a lifestyle. Middle Eastern perfumery is all about projection and longevity. Usually, I would put the oil around pulse points, outside or inside wrist or palms, so the scent moves with me as I move. I'll rub it through my hair or over the beard to treat myself on extra special occasions. You can seriously look good and feel good with perfumery, and Oudh is something that I use to take my game to the next level. So why not give this ancient wood a try?
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Abraham's store: L3 Simple Pleasures at Glebe Markets : Glebe Point Rd &, Derby Pl, Glebe NSW 2037
The bride's assistants may carry Agarwood burning censers during a Muslim marriage celebration to create an unforgettable atmosphere. The aroma of these censers will create an ambient, smudging the area with positive energy and blessing the married couple.
In small and intimate celebrations with fewer guests, the host also provides attar oils or oud oils. This is a great way to build friendships through aroma.
In some Muslim communities, people wash the corpse several times. Some people may perfume the corpse by applying musk, sandalwood and Agarwood directly on the body and the clothes. Finally, a person will smoke a shroud with Agarwood and wrap the corpse. The Muslim Creed Shahada, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”, is written on the forehead with Oud oil to assist the deceased in passing through the threshold of the afterlife.
After eight days, relatives and friends gather in the bereaved family's house for a funerary ritual. The ritual expresses grief and asks for forgiveness from Allah’s mercy for the deceased person.
The unhappy mood is reduced by continuous burning of Agarwood and bunches of basil which may be handed to the guests. As the ritual goes on, the atmosphere is enhanced. While burning agarwood incense mixture, the community of women recite biographical poems and prayers to commemorate Prophet’s life.
After the ritual ceremony has been completed, the women are offered a selection of perfumes to show respect and hospitality. Depending on the hostess, these may include incense, oils, or creamsDr Jung Dinah (2011).
Sometimes it is hard to gift something to someone as you are unsure what the recipient's preference is. Usually, the recipient will accept your kindness but the gift that you give will remain untouched or wasted.
But if you provide a small vial or bottle of Agarwood (Oud) oil, your loved one could use it daily as a perfume itself.
Or Agarwood chips which can be used in daily praying, something that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) personally love.
Do you have your oud ritual? Try them and see how you feel today
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