Wudu and ghusl both are ritual ablutions;
the former is a minor ablution while the latter is a
major ablution. In Islamic laws, the wudu is
considered a ritual act of worship which is done
with the intention of seeking the pleasure of Allah.
The act of wudu
consists of washing the face and the fore-arms, and
wiping the head and the feet. These six parts of
human body -face, both fore-arms, head and both feet
are known as "the organs of wudu".
itself is always a recommendable act in Islamic
rituals, but it becomes obligatory in certain circumstances.
One of such circumstances is the daily ritual
prayers; and therefore it is important for every
Muslim to know the method of wudu and its
Qur'an says: O you who believe! When you stand up
for ritual prayer (sala), wash your face and your
hands up to the elbows, and wipe a part of your head
and your feet up to ankles. (5:6)
the face: After doing the niyyat
[Intention], pour water over the face from the top.
Then using the right hand, wipe the face from the
top to bottom, in such a way that the water reaches
all parts vertically from the hairline to chin,
and every place horizontally within the reach of the
span of the hand from the middle-finger to
It is not
obligatory to wash the parts which do not come
within the middle-finger and the thumb; however,
there is no harm in including those parts to ensure
that all the necessary parts have been washed.
is not obligatory to wash the inside of the
eyes, the lips, the mouth, the nose, and the
eyelids. If one has beard or mustache, it is
enough to wash the hair which are apparent; it is
not necessary to make the water reach the inside of
the hair or to the skin. However, if the hair are so
sparse that they do not hide the skin, then one
should make the water reach the skin.
person or those with receding hair-line should wash
their face as if the hair were growing
normally. If someone's face is larger, or smaller,
than normal, then he should wash the part which
comes within his middle finger and the thumb.
the fore-arms: Pour water
over the right fore-arm from the elbow to the
finger-tips; and using the left hand, wipe the water
over the arm to ensure that all the necessary parts
are washed. Then do the same with the left fore-arm.
The washing must be done from the elbows to the
finger-tips and not vice versa.
The water should
be poured from a little above the elbow to ensure
that the whole fore-arm is covered. It is necessary
to wash the fore-arms in such a way that the water
penetrates the hair, if any, and reaches the skin.
fore-arm should be washed before the left.
Wiping of the head: Wiping of the head means
to wipe a wet finger of the right hand from the crown of the head to
the hair-line. Wiping of the head can be performed on any part of the
quarter of the head which is over the fore-head.
act of wiping can be done with one finger only, but it is recommended
to use three fingers together. The water must reach the root of the
hair. However, if the hair are so short that they cannot be combed
then it is enough to wipe the hair.
wiping the head, your hand should not touch your fore-head; otherwise,
the water of the fore-head will mix with the wetness of your hand, and
this will render the act of wiping the right foot invalid. Why?
Because the act of wiping must be done with the wetness of the hands
Wiping of the feet: Again using the wetness
of the hands, wipe the right foot with the right hand, and then the
left foot with the left hand.
wiping the feet, place the palm or the fingers of the hand on the
finger-tips of the foot and then wipe to the base of the ankle. One
can even wipe from the base of the ankle to the finger-tips. In wiping
the feet, your palms should wipe your feet; it is not enough to move
your feet against your palms.
face and the fore-arms: Enough care should be taken so that all the
necessary parts are washed; the wudu will become invalid if any
part (even though it be equal to a pin-point) is left out.
wiping of the head and the feet: As mentioned earlier, the wiping must
be done with the wetness of the palms, i. e., after washing both the
fore-arms, one is not permitted to wet his hands with another `new'
water. Likewise, the wiping will become invalid if the wetness of the
palms is mixed with the water from other organs of wudu.
if the palms become dry before one can wipe the head or the feet? In
such a case, the palms can be made wet by the water from beard,
mustache, eye-brows or the other organs of wudu. What if the
weather is so hot that one's face and hands become dry immediately? In
such a case, one should do tayammum instead of wudu.
it is not possible to wipe the head or feet with the palms due to
injury, etc., then the following organs may be used (in order of
preference): the upper part of the hands and the inner part of the
starting the wudu, make sure that the front part of your head and the
top side of your feet are dry; otherwise your wudu will not correct
because the water on your head or feet is `new' water. However, slight
wetness or dampness can do no harm to your wudu unless it is so much
that the wetness of palms, while wiping the head or feet, is
immediately mixed with it.
ACTS OF WUDU
you read above was concerning the obligatory (wajib) acts of wudu.
Now we shall describe the acts which are recommendable (mustahab,
sunnat) during the wudu.
Washing the hands two time before washing the face.
Gargling three times before washing the face.
Rinsing the nose three times before washing the face.
While washing the face and the fore-arms, it is recommended to wash
each part twice before proceeding to the next stage of the wudu.
One should realize that washing these organs of wudu once is
obligatory, while washing them twice is recommendable; but to wash
them for the third time is forbidden (haram). Determining the
first or the second washing depends on the intention of the individual
himself. And so, it is possible that a person may pour water on his
right fore-arm five times and wipe his left hand on it twice, and
still count this washing as the first one.
It is recommended for men to start washing their fore-arms from the
apparent side of the arms, and for the women to start washing their
fore-arms from the inner side.
Reciting the following du'as as taught by Imam 'Ali (a.s.) at various
stages of the wudu:
at the beginning of the wudu:Bis mil-lahi wa bil-lahi; wal
hamdu lil-lahil lazi ja `alal ma'a tahilran wa lam yaj`alhu najisa. = [I
am doing this wudu] in the name of Allah
and for the sake of Allah; all praise be to Allah who made the water
pure and did not make it impure.
at the time of the washing the hands two times before washing the
`alni minat tawwabiyna, waj `alni minal mutatah-hiriyn. = O Allah
place me among those who ask for forgiveness and among
those who are pure.
at the time of gargling:
laqqini hujjaty yawma alqaka, wat liq lisani bi zikrik. = O Allah
teach me the correct answer for the day I shall meet You and open my
tongue for Your praise.
the time of rinsing the nose.
la tuharrim 'alayya riyhal jannah, waj `alni mim man yashummu riyhaha
wa rawhaha wa tiybaha. = O Allah! Do not deprive me from
the smell of the Paradise, and place me among those who will sniff its
smell, its refreshments and perfume.
at the time of washing the face:
bayyiz wajhiy yawma tusawwidul wujuh; wa la tusawwid wajhiy yawma
tubayyizul wujuh. = O Allah ! Brighten my face on the day
You will disgrace the faces; and do not disgrace my face on the day
You will brighten the faces.
at the time of the washing the right fore-arm:
`atiniy kitabi bi yaminiy, wal khulda fil jinani bi yasariy, wa
hasibniy hisaban yasira. = O Allah! Place my scroll of deeds in my
right hand and (the certificate of) permanency in the Paradise on my
left; and do the reckoning of my account leniently.
at the time of washing the left fore-arm:
la tu `tiniy kitabiy bi shimaliy, wa la min wara'i zahriy, wa la
taj'alha maghluqatan ila `unuqiy; wa a `uzu bika min muqatta
`atin niyran. = O Allah! Do not place my scroll of deeds in
my left hand nor on my back; and do not make it strap around my neck.
And I seek refuge with You from the fierce fire.
at the time of the wiping the head
ghash-shiniy bi rahmatika wa barakatika wa `afwika. = O Allah!
Cover me with Your mercy, Your blessings and Your pardon.
at the time of the wiping the feet:
thab-bitniy `alas sirati yawma tuzillu fiyhil aqdam; waj `al sa`iy fi
ma urziyka `anniy; ya zul jalali wal ikram. = O Allah,
keep me steadfast on my path on the day when the feet shall slip; and
make my efforts (in the way) that will please you -O the Master of
power and honour.
The following is a summary of the wudu.
The recommendable acts of wudu are in italics.
Making the intention (niyyat) in one's mind.
Washing the hands two times
Gargling three times
Rinsing the nose three times.
Washing the face first time and then the second time.
Washing the right fore-arm the first time and then the second time.
Washing the left fore-arm the first time and then the second time.
Wiping the head with one finger or with three fingers together.
Wiping the right foot with the right hand.
Wiping the left foot with the left hand.
F. THE CONDITIONS FOR
THE VALIDITY OF WUDU
The performance of wudu
depends on certain conditions which are known in Islamic laws as
"the conditions for the validity of wudu". These
conditions are ten in number: three are related to the water, three to
the person; and four to the act of wudu itself.
1. The water
must be mutlaq. "Mutlaq" means pure or unmixed; in the
present context, it refers to the liquid which is normally considered by
people as water. (It does not have to be pure chemically.) The opposite
of mutlaq is "muzaf' which refers to the water which is not
considered pure by the people, e. g., orange juice.
The water must be tahir (ritually clean, not najis).
The water must be mubah (lawful), that is, you must be its owner
or you must have the permission to use it
performed with mixed, najis or non-mubah water is invalid even if
it was done unknowingly. Likewise it is difficult to approve the
validity of the wudu performed with the water which was in an
utensil made of gold or silver
4. Niyyat : Niyyat means
intention As wudu is an act of ritual worship (`ibadat), it
is necessary to perform it with niyyat. Niyyat, in this context,
means that one must have the intention to do the wudu in
obedience to the command of Allah. Sincerity is an essential condition
for niyyat; one should do wudu only for seeking the
pleasure of Allah and in obedience to His command. If someone performs wudu
for any other purpose, e.g., making himself cool in summer, then his wudu
In niyyat, it is not
necessary to utter the words; the mere intention of doing the wudu
in obedience to the command of Allah is enough; nor is it necessary to
mention that the wudu is wajib or mustahab.
organs of wudu must be ritually clean (tahir) before
washing or wiping them.
Besides the ritual cleanliness (raharat)
of the organs of wudu, they must also be exposed. In other
words, there should be nothing on them which might prevent the water
from reaching the skin. Special care should be taken by women in case
the lipstick, nail-polish, kohl, and eye shadow are such that the water
does not reach the skin. If the dirt under the long nails is not more
than normal, then it will not harm the wudu.
of the water should not be harmful to the person who wants to do wudu.
If the person fears that he will become ill or his illness will be
prolonged by the use of cold water or warm water in wudu, then he
should do tayammum.
The Acts of Wudu:
place where wudu is being performed must be mubdh (lawful).
normal situation, it is wajib for one to perform wudu by
himself, without the help of others. However, help in the preliminaries
such as fetching the water, pouring out the water, is allowed
In case of disability because of
illness, etc., someone else may help; but in such a case, it is
necessary for both, the helper and the helped, to do the niyyat
Correct Order (tartib): Every act in performing the wudu
must be done in the prescribed order: first the washing of the face,
then of the right fore-arm, and then of the left fore-arm, followed by
the wiping of the head, then of the right foot, and lastly of the left
Continuity (muwalat): The acts of wudu must follow each
other so that, in normal weather, when each part is commenced the
previous parts are still wet.
THE NAWAQIZ OF
WUDUTHE NAWAQIZ OF WUDU
After having done the wudu
once, for how long can a person be considered to be in the state of
ritual purity? Is a Muslim required to do a separate wudu for
each of his prayers, or is one wudu sufficient for the whole day?
Once a person has done wudu, he can consider himself in the state
of ritual purity until one of the nawaqiz takes place. Nawaqiz
(pl. of naqiz) means those things which end the effectiveness
of wudu and make it null and void (batil).
The nawaqiz of wudu
are ten. Six are related to the discharges which take place from the
sexual organs, and four are related to the factors which cause temporary
or permanent disability of the mind.
Common between man and women:
Urine (and semen).
In women only:
Mental Disability Factors:
Sound sleep (in which one cannot hear anything).
Drunkenness (from alcohol or drugs, etc.).
These nawaqiz have been
deduced from the following ahadith of the Imams of Ahlu 'l-bayt
(may peace be upon them): Zurarah bin A'yun quotes from the fifth or
sixth Imam as follows: "Nothing invalidates the wudu except
what comes out of both sides [of the sexual organs] or sleep."
In another hadith, Zurarah
asked both the fifth and the sixth Imams, "What invalidates the wudu?"
They answered, "Whatever comes out from both of your lower organs
like stool, urine, semen or wind; or the sleep which prevents the
functioning of the mind..."
The first six nawaqiz (i. e.,
the discharges from the sexual organs) can easily be deduced from these
two narrations. Analyzing the last sentence of the second hadith
("or sleep which prevents the functioning of the mind") proves
that the sleep has been counted as one of the nawaqiz because it
prevents the functioning of the mind. This gives a criterion in the
hands of the mujtahids to extend the list to include the other
three things, i.e., insanity, unconsciousness and drunkenness. The hadith
has just mentioned sleeping because it is the most obvious and common
factor that causes `disability' of the mind, of course, temporarily.
It is needless to say that other
than the ten things mentioned above, nothing invalidates the wudu.
Some Muslims think that if a person touches his wife or his own private
parts, his wudu becomes invalid. This is not correct. The Imams
of Ahlu '1-bayt, who are the most reliable source for the sunnah of
the Prophet and the best guides of the Qur'an, have clearly explained
that nothing else affects the wudu in any way.
THE WUDU BECOME WAJIB?
As mentioned earlier, performing the
wudu is always a recommendable deed, but it becomes obligatory (wajib)
in certain circumstances. There are five circumstances under
which wudu becomes obligatory; and whenever a Muslim finds
himself in any one these circumstances, he must do wudu.
circumstances are as follows:-
For obligatory prayers, e.g., the five daily prayers.
Wudu is not wajib for sunnat
(recommended) prayers; but as the prayers whether obligatory or
recommended are invalid without wudu, so we have to pray the sunnat
prayers also with wudu. In other words, if you do not do wudu
for the sunnat prayer you will not have sinned-although your prayer
will be incorrect. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said, "There can
be no prayer except with ritual ablution (i. e. wudu)."
Salatu 'l-mayyit (the
ritual prayer said for the dead person before the burial) is an
exception to this rule; this obligatory prayer can be performed even if
one is in a state of ritual impurity.
For the wajib circumambulation (tawaf) of the Ka`bah in hajj. 'Ali
bin Ja`far asked his father (the sixth Imam) about a person who was
doing the tawaf and then remembered that he had not done wudu.
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said, "He should stop the tawaf and not
count (whatever he had done as valid).
3. For touching the
writings of the Qur' an. The Qur'an is not just a book, it is the
revelation of God, it is the word of God, and therefore it is sacred.
Its sacredness demands that before you touch the writing of the Qur'an,
you must ritually purify yourself. Allah says, "None shall touch
it except the purified ones." (56:79) On basis of the extrinsic
meaning of this verse and the ahadith, the mujtahids have
reached the opinion that it is forbidden to touch the writings of
the Qur' an without being in the state of wudu
However, this law of the shari`ah
should not become an excuse for not reading the Qur'an. There is no
harm in reading the Qur'an without doing wudu provided one does
not touch the writing of the holy book, i.e., just hold the cover or the
border of the page. Once Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) told his son
Isma'il to read the Qur'an . Isma'il said, "I am not in the state
of wudu." The Imam said, "Do not touch the writing,
just hold the paper and then read the book."
Likewise, there is no harm in
touching the translations of the Qur'an, because the translations do not
qualify as the word of God. Neither is it wajib to prevent the children
from touching the writings of the Qur'an unless such an act is
considered a disrespect to the Sacred Book-and this differs according to
the culture and the society' in which the Muslims live.
For touching the names and the attributes of Allah.
It is forbidden to touch the names
and the attributes of Allah, in any script, without being in the state
of ritual purity (wudu).
By looking at the sacredness which
the Prophets, the Imams of the Ahlu 'l-bayt and also
Fatimah (the daughter of the Prophet) have acquired due to their being
chosen by Allah, our mujtahids have recommended that the names of
these holy persons also should not be touched without wudu
For making promise, oath and vow to stay in the state of ritual
purity (i.e., in wudu) for a certain period of time. If a person
makes such a promise or vow, then he must fulfill it when his conditions
have materialized. For example, someone says, "If I pass my exams,
I will stay with wudu for a whole day." So if this person
passes his exams, then he must stay with wudu for one full day.
On A Bandage)
means a splint, but in the present context, it means the material or the
medicine used for bandaging a wound, etc. Wudu' u ' l jabirah means
the wudu which is done on the bandage that has been fixed on the
organs of wudu.
Before writing about wudu'u
'1 jabirah, it is necessary to mention the following two points:
If it is possible to wash the wound by taking off the bandage, then one
has to perform wudu as normally. If it is not possible to take
off the bandage, then it will suffice to completely wipe the hand on the
(2) If someone
has a wound which is not bandaged, and there is no harm in washing it,
then he should do wudu normally; but if it is not possible to
wash the wound, then the person has to wash only around the wound as
normally. However, in the latter case, it is better to wipe the hand
on the wound and then place a piece of cloth on it and wipe the hand
* * *
It is needless to say
that wudu'u 'l 'jabirah is relevant only in the case where the
use of water is not harmful for the person. If the use of water is
harmful, then one should do tayammum.
Wudu' u ' 1 jabirah can
be done only in the following cases
If the bandage is on a wound in which the skin is cut or torn. So wudu'u
'l-jabirah cannot be done on a bandage that has been fixed only
for pain or swelling - in such a case, one has either to do wudu
as normally if possible or to do tayammum.
If it is a splint for keeping a fractured limb in a proper position.
3. If the
bandage or the splint does not completely conceal any one of the organs
of wudu. So if the bandage or the splint is completely concealing
any one of the organs of wudu, then the following procedure
should be followed
(a) if it is
concealing a foot or both feet, then the person should do tayammum;
if it is concealing a fore-arm or face, then the person should
precautionarily do both wudu' u l jabfrah and tayammum.
The same applies to a
case where all the organs of wudu are covered with bandage.
IN THE QUR'AN & THE SUNNAH
As mentioned earlier, wudu
is an act consisting of two stages (i) washing the face and hands; and
(ii) wiping a part of the head and feet. This is clearly evident from
the verse No. 6 of the suratu '1-Ma'idah:
O you who believe!
When you stand up for prayer, (i) wash your face and hands up to the
elbows, (ii) and wipe a part of your head and your feet up to the
this verse, two imperative forms have been used: (i) `faghsilu"
means "wash!"; and (ii)"wamsuhu" which
means "wipe!". It is obvious that the first imperative form
("wash!") refers to the two objects which are "your
face" (wujuhukum = )
and "your hands" (aydiyakum =
); while the second imperative form refers to a two objects which
are "a part of your head" (by' ru'usikum = )
and "your feet" (arjulakum = ).
The word "face = "
means the front portion of the head, comprising in man the surface between
top of the forehead and the bottom of the chin, and extending from ear
to ear. In its legal definition, as explained in the ahadith of
the Imams of Ahlu'1-bayt, it covers the surface of the face vertically
from the hair-line to the bottom of the chin, and horizontally the parts
which come within the reach of the span of the hand from the
middle-finger to the thumb.
The word "hand = (pl.
means the organ especially adapted for grasping, and comprising
the upper limb between the shoulder and the finger-tips. So we see that
from the linguistic point of view, the word "yad = "
is common between arm, fore-arm and hands.
When a word is commonly
used in more than one meaning, it becomes necessary for the speaker to
provide an associate (or a context) to specify the meaning. And thus we
see the words "ila '1-marafiq =
up to the elbow" in the verse; these words were necessary to
specify the part of the "hands = "
which is to be included in wudu'.
Now we come to one of
the main differences among the Shi`ahs and the Sunnis in the manner of
performing wudu'. The Sunnis wash their fore-arm from the fingertips
up to the elbows, and the Shi`ahs wash their fore-arm from the elbows to
the finger-tips. As mentioned above the words "up to the elbows =
do not tell us to wash from the finger-tips to the elbow or vice verse;
these words are there just to specify the part of the " =
hands" which is to be included in wudu'.
Then how should we wash
our fore-arm-from the elbow or from the finger-tips? The answer of this
problem is provided by the sunnah. One of the responsibilities of
the Prophet was to explain the details of, and practically demonstrate
how to follow, the laws explained in the Qur'an. And, indeed, the most
authentic way of learning the Prophet's method of performing wudu'
is through the ahadith of the Imams of Ahlu 'l-bayt (the
family of the Prophet). Zurarah bin A'yun narrates the following hadith:
"Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said, `Shouldn't I describe to you
the wudu' of the Messenger of Allah?' We said, `Yes.' When the
water was brought, the Imam washed his hands, then he uncovered his
fore-arms. He dipped his right hand in the vessel ....then scooped it
full with water and poured it on his fore-head .... He let the water
drop on to the end of his beard and then he passed his hand on his face
and fore-head once.
"Then he dipped
his left hand (in the vessel), filled it up (with water), poured it on
his right elbow and then passed his palm on the fore-arm until the water
dripped to the finger-tips. Then he fully scooped (the water) with his
right hand, pour it on his left elbow and then passed his palm on the
fore-arm until the water dripped to the finger-tips.
"Then he wiped the
front part of his head and the apparent side of his feet by the wetness
of his left and right hands."
In another hadith
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) narrates the same manner of performing wudu'
which Arnim l-minin 'Ali had demonstrated when a person inquired about
the Prophet's manner of performing wudu'.
* * *
The imperative "wamsahu
wipe" means to directly wipe the hands, etc, on something. When a
word like ""
is used alone in a transitive form it denotes comprehensiveness and
totality of the act; e.g. ""
"would mean "wipe all of your head." But whenever this
verb is followed by the letter "
= ba" it denotes partiality e.g """
would mean "wipe a part of your head." In the verse
mentioned above ""
has been used with the "letter
= ba" and thus the correct translation would be "wipe a
part of your head".
Here again we come
across another difference between the Shi'ahs and the Sunnis. The
Sunnis wipe all of their head whereas the Shi'ahs wipe only a part of
Which part of the head
is to be wiped in wudu? The Qur'an is silent on this; the sunnah
has explained it. Many ahadith from the Imams of Ahlu 'l-bayt
have explained that "a part of the head" is "the
The word "arjulakum
means "feet, leg". To specify its meaning, it was necessary to
add the words "ila ' 1-ka `bayn =
up to the ankles". The word "ar-julakum" is connected
to "bi ru'usikum =
a part of your heads" by the coordinate conjunction "wa =
and". And thus the sentence would mean "wipe a part of
Here again we come to
two more differences among the Sunnis and the Shi`ahs. The Sunnis wash
their whole feet in wudu whereas the Shi`ahs wipe only
the apparent side of their feet up to the ankles. As far as the
Qur'an and the ahadith of the Ahlu 'l-bayt are concerned,
"wiping a part of your feet" is the only correct
interpretation of the verse of wudu. And this interpretation has
also been accepted by the famous Sunni scholar Imam Fakhru'd Din
ar-Razi in his Tafsir al-Kabir.
The only basis for the
Sunnis' point of view about "washing the feet" are some `ahadith'
recorded in their books of tradition. These adadith cannot be accepted
they are contrary to the injunction of the Qur'an. And the Prophet has
said, "If a hadith is narrated to you from me, then put it
before the Book of Allah. If it is according to the Book of Allah, then
accept it; otherwise reject it."
they are against the sunnah of the Prophet as explained by the
Imam of the Ahlu 'l-bayt who have been accepted as reliable by
all the Muslims. Even some companions of the Prophet have clearly stated
that it is wrong to ascribe the "washing of the feet" to the
Prophet. For example, the famous companion Abdullah ibn `Abbas said,
"Allah has enjoined two washings and two wipings (in wudu).
Don't you see that when Allah mentions the tayammum, He places
two wipings in place of two washings (of face and hands) and leaves out
the wipings (of head and feet)."
the ahadith of the Sunnis in this matter are contradictory. Some ahadith
mention "the washing of the feet" like those of Humran quoted
by Imam al-Bukhari and of Ibn `Asim quoted by Imam Muslim. While
some other ahadith say that the Prophet "wiped his
feet" like that of `Ibad bin Tamim which says that "I saw the
Prophet performing the wudu, and he wiped his feet." This
last hadith has been recorded by Ta'rikh of al-Bukhari, Musnad
of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Sunan of Ibn Abi Shaybah, and Mu'jamu
'1-Kabir of at-Tabarani; and all of its narrators are considered
trustworthy. And it is an accepted rule of the Principles of
Islamic Jurisprudence (usulu' 1-fiqh) that if there are
contradictory ahadith, then those which conform to the Qur'an are
to be accepted and the others are to be rejected.
Thus, we can conclude
that the correct manner of performing the wudu, according to the
Qur'an and the authentic sunnah of the Prophet, is the manner which has
been explained by the Imams of Ahlu 'l-bayt .
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