We bathe in the water, sopping, sponged and soaked, cleaner than clean we become. Scrubbed to white bone, this one moment, with our head under a stream of warm water, we feel the bliss of cleanliness and purity, overwhelming us as we bathe in this moment of peacefulness.
After a person gets a clean shave, a haircut, a blow dry, or even takes a shower, we, in Lebanon, love to congratulate them on looking cleaner and fresher.
Nai’man, which doesn’t exist in any other language, is a beautiful expression that is imbued with cultural, religious, and sociolinguistic connotations. It originates from the word na’im meaning something in between heaven, bliss and tranquility.
Although the word is quiet particular to the Arabic language, the concept is not. There is a saying in English that is very similar to this idea, cleanliness is next to godliness, emphasizing the importance of being clean, meaning that except for worshipping God, the most important thing in life is to be clean. We have a very similar saying in Arabic, al nazafa min al’iman, meaning cleanliness is part of faithfulness.
Understanding the importance of being clean in our culture will shed light on this wonderful little word that congratulates you on being clean, blissful, tranquil, and close to God, because we understand the undertone of being hygienic. In Islam, before one prays, they are expected to wash their hands, their feet, and their face so they can pray with a clean body and soul.
Of course part of our culture is to always reciprocate the blessing. The reply to nai’man is “Allah yena’am ‘a lek” (may God bestow bliss upon you). How beautiful is that?
Knowing that the highest form of happiness is bliss, that cleanliness brings health, and health is wealth, one can’t but congratulate the other person on his clean look, so na’iman!