Wudu – الوضوء| Ablution: Purification
Ablution: Purification before the prayers (As-Salah)
Wudu (Arabic: الوضوء al-wuduʼ; Hindi: वुज़ू; Persian: آبدست ābdast; Urdu: وضو vazu; Turkish: abdest; Pashto: awdas; Bengali: ওযু Ojoo; Indonesian: wudhu; Chechen: Lamaz etsar; Bosnian: abdest; Kurdish: destniwej; Somali: weeso.) is the Islamic procedure for washing parts of the body using water, typically in preparation for formal prayers (salah).
The Qur’an says “For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”
Muslims are also required to be clean when handling and reading the Qur’an. The Qur’an says “Which none shall touch but those who are clean.” Purification of the body and clothes is called taharah. The Islamic prophet Muhammad said that “Cleanliness is half of faith”. To have taharah for the body, one should do either ghusl or wudu. Wudu is often translated as “partial ablution”, as opposed to ghusl, or “full ablution”.
Muslims often recite the Durood (or AS-Salatu alan-nabi: الصلاة على النبي) and Ayatul Kursi after ablution.
Permitted water types:
- Rain water
- Spring, sea or river water
- Water of melting snow or hail
- Water of a big tank or pond
- Well water
Prohibited water types
- Unclean or impure water
- Water extracted from fruit and trees
- Water that has changed its colour, taste and smell and becomes thick because something was soaked in it
- Small quantity of water in which something unclean has fallen, e.g. urine, blood, stool or wine or some animal had died after falling into it
- Water left over after drinking by haraam animals, e.g. pigs or predatory animals.
- Used water of wudu or ghusl (according to the opinion of the Hanbali School)
The acts of wudu
There are four fard (obligatory) acts. If one of these acts is omitted, it must be returned to and then completion of the successive acts are to be performed.
There are other acts that are performed during wudu (coming from the sunnah of Islamic prophet Muhammad and Sunni Islamic scholars) and the detailed acts of the wudu can be classed into 3 types:
Farā’id according to Sunni Muslims
According to Sunni Muslims the Qur’anic mandate for wudu comes in the sixth ayat of sura 5. The ayat has been translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Rashad Khalifa, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Pickthal and Maulana Muhammad Ali as follows. Note these scholars translation refers to washing the feet.
O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful. [Al-Ma’ida, Sura 5, Ayah 6]
- Washing the face once.
- Washing both the arms including the elbows once.
- Performing masah of one-fourth of the head.
- Washing both the feet once up to and including the ankles. It’s not sufficient for one to pass wet hand over the feet or shoes. Under certain conditions masah can be done over leather socks known as khuffs.
- Narrated by Abd-Allah ibn Amr: “…we were just passing wet hands over our feet (not washing them thoroughly) so he addressed us in a loud voice saying twice or thrice, ‘Save your heels from the fire.’.”
- Narrated by ‘Ubaid Ibn Juraij: “…and he used to perform ablution while wearing the shoes (i.e. wash his feet and then put on the shoes).”
- Narrated by Yahya Al-Mazini: ” ‘Can you show me how Allah’s Apostle used to perform ablution?’ …and washed his feet (up to the ankles).”
- Narrated by ‘Amr: “…and then he washed his feet up to the ankles.”
- Narrated by Humran: “…and washed his feet up to the ankles…”
- Narrated by ‘Amr bin Yahya: “…and washed his feet up to the ankles…”
- Narrated by ‘Abdullah bin Zaid: “…and washed his feet (up to the ankles).”
Farā’id according to Shia Muslims
According to Shia Muslims the Qur’anic mandate for wudu comes in the sixth ayat of sura 5. The ayat has been translated by Muhammad Habib Shakir as follows. Note this scholars translation refers to wiping the feet.
‘’O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful.’’ [Al-Ma’ida, Sura 5, Ayah 6]
- Washing the face once.
- Washing both the arms including the elbows once.
- Wiping one fourth of the head.
- Wiping both the feet once up to and including the ankles
Sunnah (optional – practised by Muhammad and according to Sunni Hadiths) acts.
- Reciting bismillah.
- Intention of performing wudu.
- Washing both the hands up to the wrists.
- Rinsing the inner mouth.
- Sniffing water and blowing it out
- Passing of wet fingers between the fingers of the hand and feet.
- Passing of wet fingers into the beard.
- Brushing the teeth, preferably with a miswak.
- Wudu is done systematically.
- Washing of each part one after the other without pause, so no part dries up before wudu is completed.
- Washing each limb thrice.
- Performing wudu towards the Qiblah
- Mustahabbāt (recommended acts)
A handful of mustahabb (recommended) acts that are considered to make the wudu better. If one of these acts is omitted, the wudu is still considered valid.
- Reciting the shahadah after the ablution.
- During wudu one should not engage in worldly talk.
- Choosing a clean place for ablution.
- Not wasting water in ablution.
- Starting from the right side and then the left.
Performance| According to Sunni Muslims
Sunni Muslims perform the following:
- Start by making niyyah (intention) to perform wudu and cleanse the self of impurities.
- Say bismillah.
- Wash the right hand up to the wrist (and between the fingers) three times, then similarly for the left hand.
- Rinse the mouth and spit out the water three times and rub the teeth with a miswak. If a miswak is not available then one should use the finger.
- Gently put water into the nostrils with the right hand, pinch the top of the nose with the left hand to exhale the water. This is performed three times.
- Wash the face (from the hairline on the forehead to where facial hair begins and ear to ear). This is to be performed three times.
- Wash the entire right arm, including the hand, up to and including the elbow three times; then the left arm three times. Pass fingers of one hand between the fingers of the other hand. If wearing a ring it should be moved freely to allow water to pass under it.
- Then perform masah. Wet hands should be passed all over the head; then the first finger of the right and left hand should be moved in the right and left ears respectively and in the same operation thumbs should be passed around the ears; then pass the backs of the hands over the hind part of the neck only. Hands should not be passed around the fore-neck as it is prohibited. This is only done once. One may not make masah over a Muslim head cap. Fresh water need not be taken for performing the masah of the ears.
- Starting with the right foot, wash both feet from the toes up to and including the ankles thrice. The little finger of the left hand should be passed between the toes of both the feet beginning from the little toe of the right foot and ending with the little toe of the left foot.
- Recite the shahadah.
- Offer two-rak’at prayer.
According to Shia Muslims
Shia Muslims perform the following:
- Make the intention to perform wudu in the heart.
- Shape the right hand like a cup and take water into it. Then pour the water on the top of the forehead and wipe down with the right hand. It is obligatory to begin washing from the area where the hair of the head normally grows, then all the way to the chin.
- Shape the left hand like a cup and take water into it. Afterwards, pour this water onto your right forearm and wash your right forearm (covering the right forearm in water, leaving no spot dry). Wipe from the elbow to the fingers, and not from the fingers to the elbow.
- Repeat this process except with the left forearm.
- Without taking more water, wipe your hair from the middle down to the forehead, or vice versa, using the index finger of your right hand; it is mustahab to use three fingers. If you are balding, you would wash your hair as if it were growing when you had a full head of hair. It is not permissible to wipe the hair over an obstacle (such as wiping a hat or a turban instead of the hair/skin). It is not obligatory to wipe the actual skin on the head. If, however, the hair isn’t growing from the area you are wiping (such as if you have a comb over), then you must move the hair to where it belongs and wipe the skin.
- Without taking more water, wipe the top of your right foot with your right hand. You only wipe once and with a swiping motion. It is not permissible to wipe the shoe, sock, etc. You must always wipe the skin of the feet unless there is an extreme reason.
- Do the same thing, except using your left hand and wiping your left foot.
- Imam Ali and the other imams have stated that there are mustahab, or recommended actions to wudu along with the above mentioned method. These acts are recommended:
- Washing the hands twice.
- Gargling the mouth three times.
- Rinsing the nose three times.
- Washing the face twice and the arms twice. It is not permissible to wipe the head and the feet twice (unless it is because one missed a spot) and that it is not permissible to wash the face and the arms three times.
Theoretically, one can perform one wudu for salaat and this wudu would be considered valid for the rest of the day. However, traditionally Muslims believe that certain acts invalidate the wudu (often referred to as “breaking wudu” and “losing wudu”) and these can be stated generically thus, although the Quran does not explain most of these:
- Defecation, passing gas or urination
- Emission of semen (ghusl is required)
- Sleep while reclining
- Loss of senses
- Laughing aloud whilst in Salah
- Sexual contact with another person (ghusl is required)
- Touching the private parts with the bare hands (not according to Hanafi Madhhab)
- Blood or pus leaving the body so that it leaves the point of exit (however if the blood or pus exits from the private parts then any amount breaks wudu). Note that bleeding except from private parts does not invalidate wudu according to Shafi’i Madhhab.
Under most interpretations of Islam, smoking does not break Wudu. However, it is advisable that before saying your prayers, especially with Jama’at, you rinse your mouth with water and wash your hands with soap, so that the smell of the cigarette doesn’t cause disturbance for other people who are saying their prayers with you.
Stone of Tayammum
Tayammum is a “dry ablution” using clean soil or dust, to be performed when water is not readily available to perform ablution or when one is defiled (on janabah) and could not perform ghusl, and is authorised under specific circumstances.
Wudu description in Hadith
Wudu in Hadith Abu Hurayra, in reference to the Day of Resurrection, reported that Muhammad, when asked if he would be able to recognise Muslims, said, “Yes, you would have a mark which other people will not have. You would come to me with a white blaze on your foreheads and white marks on your feet because of the traces of ablution.”
Abu Hurayra said, “I have heard my Friend (may peace be upon him) say. In a believer adornment would reach the places where ablution reaches.”
Uthman ibn Affan stated that Muhammad, said, “He who performed ablution well, his sins would come out from his body, even coming out from under his nails.”
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab reported that Muhammad said, “No one among you does wudu and does wudu thoroughly – or adequately – and then testifies, ‘There is no god but Allah Alone with no partner and I testify that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger’, without the eight doors of the Garden being opened to him so that he can enter by whichever of them he wishes.”