Missing congregational prayers because of chronic bad breath
Fatwa No: 252481

Question

He has deadly bad breath!can that enough reason to exempt him from congregation(jama'a) if he fears harming fellow muslims due to bad smell?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and messenger.

If a Muslim is unable to get rid of the unpleasant and foul odor emitted from his mouth or elsewhere, he is exempted from attending the congregational prayers in the mosque. This is based on the Ahaadeeth in which the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, prohibited Muslims from attending the congregational prayers in the mosque in case of eating garlic, onion, and leeks (on account of the discomfort that their breath will cause for the angels and for their fellow worshippers). For example, Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullaah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: "He who has eaten garlic or onion should keep away from us or our mosques. Whoever eats garlic or onions should stay away from us” – or he said: “from our mosque” – “and he should remain at his home.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The same Hadeeth was reported with a different wording, “He who has eaten onion or garlic or leek should not approach our mosque, because the angels are also offended by that which offends the children of Aadam.” For more benefit, please refer to Fatwa 87904.

In fact, scholars have added to garlic and onion anything that possesses an unpleasant, pungent smell that bothers people, if such pungent odors cannot be removed or treated. It is stated in Mughni Al-Muhtaaj (a Shaafi'i book) that, “This is in case it is difficult for the person to remove such pungent smell, by means of washing it off or the like; however, if it is not difficult to get rid of the unpleasant pungent smell, it should be removed.”

The Hanbali book Kashshaaf Al-Qinaa‘ reads, "The same ruling applies to a butcher who emits a pungent odor or a person who suffers from fetid sweat."

The Maaliki scholar Al-Hattaab wrote, “Al-Maaziri said, "The Maalikis included those whose work entails having pungent smells such as fishmongers, butchers, … etc. in being exempted from attending the congregational prayers in the mosque and added the radishes to the food the eating of which entails not going to the congregational prayers in the mosque for those who belch after eating it. Moreover, Ibn Al-Muraabit included also the case of having bad breath and a foul-smelling wound.” [Mawaahib Al-Jaleel]

The Shaafi‘i book Nihaayat Al-Muhtaaj reads, “The same ruling applies to a person whose clothes or body smells bad due to being tainted with blood in case of bleeding, those whose jobs entail having an unpleasant odor such as butchers, those suffering from bad breath, excessive fetid sweat, or foul-smelling wounds.”

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, “If a person suffers from foul-smelling breath, or [has] a foul odor coming from his nose or elsewhere, causing annoyance and discomfort to other worshippers, he should not attend the congregational prayers in the mosque so as not to offend other worshippers. However, it is not the same as the case of someone who eats garlic; since the latter does something which offends people out of his free will. Unlike the case of eating garlic, the person in such cases gets the rewards for attending the congregational prayer in the mosque because he was forced to miss the congregational prayers in the mosque; so he is to be excused. We may also suggest that he would not get the rewards for attending the congregational prayers in the mosque, but he would not bear any sin for not attending.” [Ash-Sharh Al-Mumti‘]

Allaah Knows best.

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