What is Wudu’?
It is cleaning of specific parts of the body with water, namely: the face, both hands, the head and
both feet. It is a prerequisite for both obligatory and voluntary prayers after minor impurity
(like urinating, defecating, passing gas/wind and eating camel meat). The Wudu’ was prescribed
along with prayer (salat) one year before Hijrah and it is a privilege of the Muslim community
over other nations.
Ablution is a prerequisite for the following acts:
- Prayer (Salat), whether obligatory or voluntary. The Prophet ( s ) said: “The prayer of none amongst you would be accepted in a state of impurity until he performs ablution.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
- Tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka’bah): as the Prophet Mohammad ( s ) said: “Circumambulation of the (Holy) House is a prayer, except for the fact that Allah has made talk permissible during it.” (Tirmidhi)
- Touching the Noble Book (The Qur’an): Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Amr said, “The Prophet ( s ) wrote a letter to the people of Yemen which read: “Nobody is allowed to touch the Qur’an unless he is pure.” (Nasai, Daraqutni & Baihaqi)
Washing the palms of the hands three times at the beginning of the wudu’.
Full Description Of WUDU’
- Intention (or: niyah), which is an act of the heart and has nothing to do with the tongue. It denotes willing or planning to do something. Thus a person intends (in his heart) to perform wudu’ (ablution) in order to be permitted or able to perform acts that require wudu’ as a prior requirement, such as prayer, tawaf, and touching the Holy Qur’an. He may intend to remove the state of impurity without uttering such intent. That is because there is no Hadith in which the Prophet ( s ) pronounced the intention in the case of wudu’, prayer or any of his acts of worship except Hajj. Besides, Allah is Well-Aware of the content of the heart. The proof of the necessity of intention (niyah) is the tradition narrated by Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, reading: “(The reward of) acts are based on their intentions, and each person will be rewarded according to what he intends.” (Agreed upon)
Saying at the beginning of wudu’: “Bismillah,” (In the name of Allah) on account of Abu Hurairah’s tradition which states
“No prayer is valid without wudu’, and no wudu’ is valid without mentioning the
Name of Allah.”
(Ahmad, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah etc.)
The noble Prophet ( s ) also said: “Every important matter will be imperfect (or lacking in blessing) if it is not started with the name of Allah.” (Ahmad)
Washing the palms of the hands three times at the beginning of the wudu’. Aws ibn Aws Al-Thaqafi, may Allah be pleased with
“I saw Allah’s Messenger, (
s ), wash his palms three times when he performed wudu’.”
(Ahmad & Nasai)
The Prophet ( s ) also said: “If any of you wakes up, he should not dip his hand into a container unless he washes it three times, for he does not know where it was (what it was doing or touching) during the night.” (Agreed upon)
Rinsing the mouth and nostrils three times.
“Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, had water brought to him, upon which he
rinsed his mouth and nostrils, then cleared his nose with his left hand.
He did it three times, then said: Such is the ablution of Allah’s Prophet
(Ahmad & Nasai)
The Prophet ( s ) also said: “If a person performs wudu’, let him clear his nose, and if he cleans himself (with stones after urinating or defecating) let him do it with odd numbers.” (Bukhari)
A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, reported the Prophet ( s ) as saying: “Rinsing the mouth and nostrils are an essential part of wudu’.”“Rinsing the mouth and nostrils are an essential part of wudu’.” (Daraqutni)
It is recommended to use the right hand when rinsing the mouth and nostrils (when putting water into them) and the left hand when rinsing the nostrils out (clearing them). This is based on the behavior of Ali ibn Abi Talib may Allah be pleased with him. “When he had water brought to him, upon which he rinsed his mouth and nostrils, then cleared his nose with his left hand. He did this three times. After this he said: This is the wudu’ of Allah’s Prophet ( s ).” (Nasai)
- Washing the face once, as a minimum. It is optimum to do it three times, by pouring water on the face. The face must be covered with water from the top, at the hairline, down to the bottom of the chin or beard, and from the right to the left earlobe. The Qur’an says (that which means): “O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles.” [5:6]
- Washing the hands from the tips of the fingers up to the elbows including the elbows once as a minimum, but three times is better. It is recommended to start with the right hand, then the left, and move the ring and watch (if any) so that water should reach under them. This is supported by the same verse mentioned in the former section. “Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, washed his right hand up to the upper arm, then the left hand like that. He washed his right foot up to the leg, then the left foot like that. Then he said: I saw the Messenger of Allah ( s ) perform ablution like this.” (Muslim)
Wiping the head once with wet hands from front to back then the other way round. Abdullah ibn Zaid, may Allah be pleased
with him, narrated that:
“Allah’s Messenger (
s ) wiped his head from the forehead to the back of his head and then
back to the forehead with his wet hands.”
wIn another description of the Prophet’s wudu’, it was mentioned that: “He wiped his head (with water) only once.” (Agreed upon)
Wiping the ears once (from the inside with index fingers and from the outside with thumbs). Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased
with them, in his description of the Prophet’s wudu’, said:
“He wiped his head and ears once.”
In another narration, he said: “He wiped his head and then his ears from the inside with the index fingers and from the outside with his thumbs.” (Ahmad & Abu Daud)
- Washing the feet once as a minimum. It is better, however, to wash them three times from the toes up to the ankles. The ankles should be included in washing. Ibn ‘Amr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “We were with the Prophet ( s ) on a journey, and Al-‘Asr prayer was over-due. We were performing ablution and passing wet hands over our feet (not washing them thoroughly), when he said to us in a loud voice: Woe to the heels because of the hell-fire.” (Agreed upon)
Doing the above steps in order, and succession just like they have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an of which the meaning is translated as: “O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles.” [5:6]
Succession here means that one should not delay washing of a part of the body until the previous one has become dry. Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that: “The Prophet ( s ) saw a man praying, but a portion of his foot as large as a [silver coin] was not touched with water. Therefore, the Prophet ordered him to repeat his wudu’ and prayer.”
Supererogatory Acts of Wudu’
Starting on the right side. A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated that:
“Allah’s Messenger (
s ) liked beginning with the right side when putting on his shoes, combing
his hair, his purification and in all his actions.”
He also said: “On performing ablution, begin with your right side.” (Ibn Majah)
- Washing the parts three times each, except for the head which is wiped once. “A bedouin came to Allah’s Messenger ( s ) to ask him about wudu’. The Prophet ( s ) demonstrated for him three times each and said: This is wudu’. If anyone exceeds this, he will commit a wrongful act.” (Ahmad & Nasai)
- The use of the miswak or tooth-stick/brush. The Prophet ( s ) said: “Were it not that I might over-burden my people, I would have ordered them to use the tooth-stick with every wudu’.” (Ahmad)
- Running fingers through the beard. Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that: “The Prophet, when performing wudu’, used to take a handful of water and pour it on his beard, running his fingers through it, and then say: Thus my Lord, glory be to Him, has commanded me.” (Abu Daud, Baihaqi & Hakim)
- Rubbing washed parts. Abdullah ibn Zaid, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: “The Prophet ( s ) was brought a third of a Mudd (about 600 grams or 21 ounces) of water. He performed ablution and rubbed his arms.” (Ibn Khuzaimah)
Increasing the brightness of the forehead by washing the top of it up to the roots of the hair, when washing the face, as well as washing the hands up to elbows and the feet above the ankles. The Prophet ( s ) said: “My people will come on the Day of Judgment with bright faces, hands and feet from the traces of wudu’. If any of you can lengthen his brightness, let him do it.” (Agreed upon)
- Running fingers between the fingers of the hands and the toes. Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them, reported the Prophet as saying: “When you perform wudu’, run your fingers between the fingers of your hands and toes of your feet.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah)
- Sniffing water up well inside the nose except for those who are fasting. Laqit ibn Saburah said: “O Messenger of Allah ( s ), tell me about wudu’. The Prophet answered: Perform ( s ) a perfect wudu’, run your fingers between the fingers of the hands and the toes, and sniff water up well inside the nose unless you are fasting.” (Sunan narrators)
Avoiding the wasting of water. Abdullah ibn Mughaffal, may Allah be pleased with him, heard his son say: ‘O Allah! I beg
You to give me the white palace on the right side of Paradise if I enter it.’
He said to him: ‘My son! Ask Allah for Paradise and seek refuge from Hell. I
heard Allah’s Messenger (
s ) say:
“There will be in this nation some people who trespass in matters of purification
Our example in this regard is our Prophet for: “He used to bathe himself with a Saa’(2) (about 2.5 liters or two-thirds of a gallon) up to five Mudds, and to perform wudu’ with a Mudd (about 600 ml or 21 ounces).” (Agreed upon)
- Invocation following it. Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that Allah’s Messenger ( s ) said: “If one of you performs ablution in a perfect manner then says: “I testify that there is no true god but Allah alone, and I testify that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger”, the eight gates of Paradise will be opened for him to enter through any of them.” (Muslim)
- Performing two rak’at after wudu’ (sometimes called the sunnah of wudu’), based on Allah’s Messenger tradition narrated by ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amer, may Allah be pleased with him: “If a person performs ablution well, then prays two rak’at dedicating his heart and body to them, he will surely be entitled to Paradise.” (Muslim)
Things That Invalidate Wudu’
Relieving oneself (defecating or urinating), or passing wind. God, the Exalted, says:
“… or one of you comes after answering the call of nature.”
The Prophet ( s ) said: “The prayer of any of you who is in a state of impurity (hadath) will not be accepted until he performs ablution.”
One man asked Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him: What is “hadath”, Abu Hurairah? He said: “Breaking wind.” Agreed upon)
Urethral discharge or pre-seminal fluid (madhi) and the secretion of the prostate (wadi). Ali said: “I was a man whose pre-seminal fluid flowed readily. So I requested a man to ask Allah’s Messenger ( s ) about it (in view of his relationship to his daughter). When he asked the Prophet ( s ) he said: Wash your penis and perform ablution.” (Bukhari)
Complete sleep (during which one loses consciousness). Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, reported Allah’s Messenger (
s ) as saying:
“The eye when awake precludes breaking wind. If anyone sleeps he must perform
(Ahmad, Abu Daud & Ibn Majah)
However, drowsiness during which one is still conscious does not invalidate wudu’.
- Eating camel’s meat. Jabir ibn Samurah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that a man asked the Prophet ( s ): “‘Should we perform ablution after eating mutton?’ He replied: ‘If you wish perform ablution, otherwise don’t perform it.’ The man asked (again): ‘Should we perform ablution after eating camel’s meat?’ He said: ‘Yes, perform ablution after eating camel’s meat.’ He asked: ‘Can we perform prayer at camel’s rest places?’ He answered: ‘No.” (Muslim & Ahmad)
- Loss of one’s senses or a state of unconsciousness resulting from lunacy, epilepsy, fainting, drug or drunkenness, because integrity of the mind is a prerequisite to the validity of wudu’. w Touching sexual organs (the penis, vulva or anus) with the exposed palm of the hand. On the authority of Basrah bint Safwaan, that the Prophet ( s ) said: “Whoever touches his private parts, let them perform wudu’.” (Nasai – authenticated by Al-Albani)
Wudu’ Is Recommended For The Following
On going to sleep. Al-Bara’ ibn Azib, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: the Prophet ( s ) said: “Whenever you go to bed, perform ablution like the one you perform for prayer, lie on your right side and say: “Allahumma aslamtu wajhi ilayk, wa fawwadtu amri ilayk, wa alja’tu dhahri ilayk, raghbatan wa rahbatan ilayk, la malja’a wala manja minka illa ilayk. Allahumma amantu bikitabikal-ladhi anzalta, wa binabiyikal-ladhi arsalta.” (O Allah! I surrender to You and entrust all my affairs to You, and depend upon You for blessings, both with hope and fear of You. There is no fleeing from You, and there is no place of protection and safety except with You. O Allah! I believe in Your Book (the Qur’an) which You have revealed and in Your Prophet (Muhammad r) whom you have sent.) Then if you die on that very night, you will die on the religion of pure nature (Islam). Let the aforesaid words be your last utterance (before sleep).” (Bukhari)
- In case of major ritual impurity (Janabah) if one wants to eat, drink, sleep or engage in sex again (with one’s spouse). Ammar ibn Yasser said: “Allah’s Messenger ( s ) recommended the person who has Janabah to perform wudu’ like the one performed for prayer in case they want to eat, drink or sleep.” (Ahmad & Tirmidhi)
- The Prophet ( s ) also said: “If a person goes to bed with his wife and then intends to have her again, let him perform wudu’.” (Narrated by all except Bukhari)
- Just before the ritual bath for Janabah, and after menstruation and postpartum (childbirth) period. A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, reported that: “Allah’s Messenger ( s ) on taking a bath for Janabah, used to wash his hands, and use his right hand to pour water on his left hand to wash his private parts, then perform wudu’ like that for prayer.” (Agreed upon)
- Renewal of wudu’ at each prayer. The Prophet ( s ) said: “Had it not been difficult for my community, I would have ordered them to perform wudu’ for each prayer, and to use the tooth-stick with each wudu’.” (Ahmad)
Some Innovations During Wudu’
- Uttering the intention to perform wudu’. According to Ibn Al-Qayyim, the Prophet used not to say (aloud) at the beginning of wudu’: “I intend to remove ritual (minor) impurity or make prayer permissible.’ Neither he, nor any of his Companions, did that; not even one word has been ascribed to him in this respect, whether through authentic or doubtful chain of transmitters. Imam Ibn Taymiyah said: The intention to perform purification (i.e. wudu’, major ritual purification (ritual bath), tayammum, prayer (Salat), obligatory charity (Zakat), expiations, and other devotions) should not be uttered, as agreed between the Imams of Islam. Intention is in the heart. If a person pronounces it unintentionally, contrary to what he has intended in his heart, what he intends, not what he utters, shall be valid. (Fatawa Kubra P.213 The Book of Purification)
Supplications while washing parts of the body during wudu’, such as saying on washing one’s right hand: ‘O Allah! Give me
my Record on the Day of Judgment in my right hand.’ On washing the face, one
may say: ‘Oh Allah! Make my face bright on the day when some faces grow bright
and others grow dark.’ According to Ibn Al-Qayyim, nothing of this has been proven
to have been said by Allah’s Messenger (
s ) during wudu’ except ‘Bismillah’ at its beginning and the testimony.
“There is nothing worthy of worship but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.
O Allah! Make me among those who turn to You in repentance and those who
In another tradition narrated by Nasa’i, the following supplication is mentioned: “O Allah! Glory and praises be to You. I testify that there is no true god but You. I seek Your forgiveness and turn to You in repentance.”
Wiping the neck after wiping the head. Imam ibn Taymiyah, Allah’s Mercy be upon him, said: There is no proof that the Prophet ( s ) wiped his neck in wudu’; no authentic Hadith was reported in this regard. The authentic traditions that described the Prophet’s wudu’ did not contain any indication that he ( s ) wiped his neck. Therefore, the majority of Muslim scholars have not recommended this act. Those few who recommended it relied on a tradition narrated by Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, which is weak. If a person does not wipe his neck, his wudu’ is unanimously considered complete.
In another tradition narrated by Nasa’i, the following supplication is mentioned: (Fatawa Kubra, P.280, The Book of Purification)
- Incomplete washing of parts of the body during wudu’. “The Prophet ( s ) saw a man praying and noticed that a portion of his foot as large as a [silver coin] was not covered with water. So he ordered him to repeat his wudu’.” (Narrated by Imam Ahmad, by Abu Dawood, who added ‘and prayer,’ and by Al-Hakim)
- Repetition of wudu’ without performing a prayer (salat) between two wudu’s. Imam Ibn Taymiyah stated: Jurists only discussed the case of the person who performs prayer after the first wudu’: whether it is recommended for him to renew wudu’. In case he does not perform prayer after it, it is not recommended for him to renew his wudu’; such renewal would even be an act of heresy which is in conflict with the Prophet’s Sunnah and the practice of Muslims ever since the times of the Prophet ( s ) up to the present.
Exceeding three times when washing the parts of wudu’, since this in conflict with the Prophet’s instruction: “A Bedouin came to the Prophet ( s ) to ask him about Wudu’, so he showed him how to perform Wudu’, washing each part three times, then he said: ‘This is Wudu’. Whoever does more than that has abused, transgressed and committed injustice’.” (Nasai)
And this excess also goes against the established tradition of the Prophet ( s ) and as such is classified as an innovation. The Prophet ( s ) has said in regard to innovated matters in the religion: “If a person innovated in this religion something which does not belong to it, it would be rejected.” (Agreed upon)
- Some people, when having filth on their bodies or clothes, do not only remove the filth (by washing it away), but also think that they must re-perform wudu’. Sheikh Saleh AlFozan’s answer to a question about this matter was as follows: If filth falls on a person’s body or garment (after he has performed wudu’), his wudu’ is not affected thereby as he has done nothing that invalidates wudu’. The only thing he has got to do is to wash the filth or impurity off his body or garment and perform his prayers, and there is nothing wrong in this. (Fatawa noorun ala-Darb, p.107)
- On washing the face, one must wash the whole face, including the area between the beard and the ears.
- Some women, after performing wudu’, may clean the private parts of babies with bare hands and as such come into contact with impurity like the child’s urine or stool. The Islamic stance on this issue is that though their wudu’ remains valid by touching the private parts of their babies or coming into contact with this impurity, they must still wash their hands to remove the impurity before praying or touching the Qur’an.
- Some women may have their nails polished. It should be noted that this, in the case of most nail-polishes(3), would prevent water from reaching the nails, so it makes the wudu’ incomplete, hence invalid, and prayer would thereby be invalid. Such women must re-perform their prayer after performing a valid wudu’. The same applies in case there is a screening layer of any paint or substance on any body part that is to be washed during wudu’, unless there is a legal excuse.
- Some people think that washing the private parts is required with every wudu’, which is not true. It is only required from the one who answers the call of nature (by urination or defecation). In case of sleep or passing wind, it is not required to wash such parts of the body; wudu’ can be performed directly.
- Some people may think that touching the penis of an animal, for example while herding or slaughtering, invalidates wudu’. “According to Imam Ibn Taymiyah: Touching the penis of an animal, living or dead, does not invalidate wudu”. (Fatawa Kubra, P.280, The Book of Purification)