When converting to Islam, one of the first things on your to-do list should be learning how to pray the Islamic ritual salah. It is not just the series of movements and words you need to learn, but also the conditions applied which make a salah valid, such as the clothes you are wearing, the direction you are facing, and whether you are ritually clean.
All these conditions and prerequisites to worship are often looked upon by dubious non-believers as limitational rules and boundaries. Yet, when you are a practicing Muslim who performs these rituals daily, you soon feel for yourself what a blessing they are, and how fulfilling it can feel to perform them.
What Is The Purpose of Wudu?
Cleanliness and hygiene are an important element of practicing Islam, and regularly performing wudu is an example of this. Plus, not only is it a means of cleansing ourselves physically, but also spiritually:
The Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) said, “When a believer washes his face (in the course of wudu), every sin which he committed with his eyes will be washed away from his face with water; when he washes his hands, every sin which is committed by his hands will be effaced from his hands with the water; and when he washes his feet, every sin his feet committed will be washed away with the water, or with the last drop of water; until he finally emerges cleansed of all his sins.” (Muslim)
Performing wudu is also useful for bringing yourself into the correct mindset for salah. During a busy day, while our minds are preoccupied with various tasks and responsibilities, it can be challenging to switch these thoughts off in order to allow ourselves to concentrate effectively during our prayers. I personally find it much easier to concentrate in my salah if I have taken the time to mindfully complete my wudu beforehand, thereby separating myself from whatever task I was engulfed in just moments before.
When Should You Perform Wudu?
There are a number of activities which require a believer to first perform wudu. These include:
- Before offering salah – this is obligatory. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “The salah of any one of you who has invalidated his purification, is not accepted unless he makes wudu.”(Bukhari)
- Before reading Qur’an – the majority of scholars agree that this is obligatory, and that one should not touch the Qur’an without wudu.
- Before attending an Islamic class – it is not unanimously agreed that this is obligatory, but is highly recommended among scholars.
- Before bed – it is sunnah to sleep each night with wudu.
After you have performed wudu once, this remains valid and you do not have to repeat it until your wudu is broken.
What Breaks Your Wudu?
Wudu is nullified and needs to be repeated before offering any salah if any of the following have occurred:
- Passing of wind
- Passing of urine or faeces
- Falling asleep
- Losing consciousness or becoming intoxicated
- Touching of private parts without a barrier
- Intimate relations between spouses or ejaculation (for example due to a wet dream)
Some scholars state that any touch (including non-sexual) between a man and a woman who are not related (i.e. non-mahram) invalidates wudu, but this is not unanimously agreed upon and depends on which school of thought you choose to follow.
In the event of sexual relations, ejaculation, as well as after the cessation of menstrual and post-natal bleeding in women, it is necessary to perform a more full version of ablution, known as ghusl (how to perform this is described after How To Perform Wudu).
How To Perform Wudu:
Wudu is performed over a series of steps which must be completed in this specific order. It is also advisable to prepare by removing any substances which might prevent water from penetrating the skin, such as nail varnish, thick make-up, grease, paint, etc.
Step 1: Intention
Before performing wudu, inwardly state your intention of making wudu, and then say “Bismillah” (in the name of Allah).
Step 2: Wash Hands
Starting with your right hand, wash between the fingers and up to the wrist, using your left hand to rub the water over. Do this three times, then switch and wash your left hand, using your right hand to rub the water over.
Step 3: Rinse Mouth
Use your right hand to bring water up to your mouth. Swish the water around your mouth, gargle it, and then spit it out. Repeat this three times.
Note: If you are fasting, do not perform the gargling element, and be careful not to swallow the water.
Step 4: Rinse Nose
Again, use your right hand to bring water up, this time to your nose. Sniff the water gently so that it goes into your nostrils, before then sniffing it out with your left hand. Repeat this three times.
Note: This may take a little practice, but be careful to do this gently – you don’t need to make yourself feel like you’re breathing in a swimming pool. If doing this step causes you to choke, you’re doing it too harshly – but don’t worry, it happens to all of us at some point!
Step 5: Wash Face
Use both hands to bring water up to your face. Do this three times, ensuring water has covered your whole face, from your forehead to your chin, left earlobe to right earlobe.
Step 6: Wash Arms
Starting with your right arm, wash from your hand, between the fingers, up to and including your elbow, using your left hand to rub the water over. Repeat this three times, before doing the same with your left arm.
Step 7: Wipe Head
After wetting your fingers in water, wipe across your head with both hands, starting at the front of your fringe to the back of your hairline and then back again to the front, all in one movement. Do this only once.
Note: For sisters, it is not necessary to bring your fingers back to the front, as this does not work so well with long hair. Simply wipe from the front of your hairline to as far back as you can go, i.e. up to your bun or ponytail.
Step 8: Wash Ears
With wet fingers, simultaneously wipe both ears using the index fingers to wipe the insides, and the thumbs to wipe the backs. Do this only once.
Step 9: Wash Feet
Starting with the right, wash each foot from the toes to the ankles. For your right foot, use your right pinky finger to wipe between each toe, and repeat on your left foot with your left pinky. Wash each foot three times.
Note: Be careful to cover the entire foot, including the heel. Abd ar- Rahman ibn Abi Bakr was visiting A’isha, the wife of the Prophet, may AIIah bless him and grant him peace, on the day that Sad ibn Abi Waqqas died, and he asked for some water to do wudu. A’isha said to him, ”Abd ar-Rahman! Perform your wudu fully, for I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘Woe to the heels in the fire.'” (Malik)
Step 10: Du’a
Mashaa Allah, you have now completed your wudu! Finish off by repeating the following du’a:
“Ash-hadu anllaa ilaaha illallaah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasooluh.”
(I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger).
“Allahuma ij-‘alnee minat-tawabeen waj-‘alnee minal-mutatahireen.”
(Oh Allah, make me among those who turn in repentance to You and make me among those who purify themselves).
Note: Remember it is not permissible to mention Allah’s name in impure places, such as in a bathroom! If you perform wudu at the bathroom sink or in the shower where there is a toilet nearby, make sure you say your “bismillah” and ending du’a before entering and after exiting the bathroom.
How To Perform Ghusl:
Ghusl is the full wash, mentioned earlier. To perform this you must:
- Wash the private parts, using your left hand to wipe the water over the area, covering from your belly-button to your knees, both front and back.
- Perform wudu as described in the steps above, without washing the feet.
- Wash the entire body, starting with the right side, then the left, ensuring that water touches every part of the body.
- Wash the head, ensuring that water reaches the scalp. If you have thick hair, or your hair is tied up, massage your head with wet fingers to ensure the water penetrates.
- Finish by washing the feet as described in the wudhu steps above.
- Remember to repeat the above du’a after you’re finished!
This is a brief and basic explanation on how to perform your wudu and ghusl, which can hopefully get you started or provide you with the written steps so that you can practice inshaa Allah.
If it would help to see a video demonstration of how to perform wudu, there are some excellent examples on YouTube, including the one I have shared on my earlier post, How To Perform Salah. I also found these animated demonstrations by The Productive Muslimah particularly helpful when I was learning.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Remember, I am not a scholar, but will assist in any way I can, inshaa Allah.
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “I wish we see my brothers.” The Companions said, “O Messenger of Allah! Are not we your brothers?” He (PBUH) said, “You are my Companions, but my brothers are those who have not come into the world yet.” They said; “O Messenger of Allah! How will you recognize those of your Ummah who are not born yet?” He (PBUH) said, “Say, if a man has white-footed horses with white foreheads among horses which are pure black, will he not recognize his own horses?” They said; “Certainly, O Messenger of Allah!” He (PBUH) said, “They (my followers) will come with bright faces and white limbs because of Wudhu; and I will arrive at the Haud (Al-Kauthar) ahead of them.” (Muslim)