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Islam and Spiritualism ( 27 Apr 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Ablutions and Prayers (Part I)




By Dr A Q Khan

April 27, 2015

Random thoughts

It would be a sheer waste of time to comment on the political scenario and the performance of our rulers. Topics of importance to the common man seem more relevant at this time; and what could be more relevant than the fundamentals of Islam.

Today more about ablutions (vuzu), ghusal (shower) and prayers in response to the many requests/reactions I receive to my articles. From High School days on, I have been in the habit of reading religious and Islamic History books. Namaz (prayer) plays a very central role in our life and ablution and ghusal are important and compulsory (wajib) before prayer.

Ablution. A Western scholar, Carsten Polanz, has written a beautiful and useful article on this topic ( in which he drew the attention of Muslims and non-Muslims alike to this fundamental aspect of Islam, i.e. cleanliness: “According to Islamic teachings in matters of faith, purity is half the story. This is because Allah is pure and will only accept that which is pure.

Islamic jurisprudence has clearly and carefully defined the various forms of ritual impurity and the ablutions which are necessary for participation in prayer.” According to the author, the Islamic practice of ablution and shower has its origin in old Jewish customs. This should not surprise us as Moses (PBUH) was also a Messenger of Allah and what he taught to his people was divine instruction. Naturally, our Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), the last of the prophets, had to follow many old divine edicts.

Allah Almighty has very clearly and unambiguously given us instructions for ablutions in Surah Maida, Ayat 6: “O you who believe! When you prepare for prayer, wash your faces, your hands (and arms) to the elbows, rub your heads with water and wash your feet to the ankles.

If you are in ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body, but if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the offices of nature or you have been in contact with a woman (had sex) and you find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth and rub these into your faces and hands (and feet). Allah does not wish to place you in difficulty but to make you clean and to complete his favour to you that you may be grateful” (5:6).

Allah has also clearly defined what the quality (purity) of the water used for ablutions and ghusal should be: “He sends the winds as joyful harbingers of His mercy and We send down pure water from the clouds” (25:48). The exact definition of which liquids constitute water is also discussed together with permission to substitute clean sand or earth if water is not available. There are some minor differences in the interpretation of the use of ablutions and shower. The followers of Imam Shafa’e consider excretions from the body, children’s urination and fainting as requiring ablution/shower.

The followers of Imam Abu Hanifa consider the touching of a non-related woman and the touching one’s own genitals as elements for ablution/shower. They also consider uncontrolled laughter during prayers requiring renewed ablution. All Muslim scholars advise that, should there be the slightest doubt, ablution should be renewed. According to Imam Ghazali, intent, washing the hands and face, wetting the head, neck and ears, washing the feet and cleaning the mouth with misvak (acacia stick) are all essential for ablution.

The well-known German convert to Islam, Ahmad A Reidegeld, has further elaborated on this ritual. He says one should start with Bismillah, sit facing the Kabah, wash all organs three times, always right side first, then left, wet head and beard thoroughly (masah) and end with recitation of the Confessional Kalima that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) is His prophet. Furthermore, he advises that water should not be unnecessarily wasted, one should not dry oneself and, while fasting, should not swallow water while cleaning the mouth.

He has pointed out that, while Sunni Muslims practice doing masah of the shoes, Shias want the feet to be properly washed before prayer. A shower (ghusal) is required before sacrifice, before Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha prayers and after performing Haj. Non-Muslims are required to take a shower before accepting Islam and reciting the Kalima. Dead bodies should be washed before burial but a martyr should be buried in the state the body is found in.

Carsten has pointed out that Muslims from various countries, various tribes and various sects have somewhat different practices. Reidegeld has published a book in German entitled “Handbuch Islam – Die Gebrauche und Lehrrechte des Islams (Handbook of Islam - Customs and Laws) containing a number of his articles on Islam. (Spohr, Germany, 2005).

In his book “Islam between East and West” (Sohail Academy, Lahore, 2007) the former President of Bosnia Herzegovina, Alija Ali Izetbegovic, a great Islamic scholar, has also discussed in detail the importance and utility of ablution and shower/bath. He points out that prayer is not just a ritual, but a discipline, as also is vuzu before prayer five times a day at regular times.

Nowadays our young generation is hardly being taught to recite the Quran, learn namaz and the rituals of vuzu and shower. We have witnessed how some of our intellectuals are unable to recite the easiest and shortest Shurah-e-Ikhlas.

I am from Bhopal. As boys of about 5 or 6 we used to regularly swim in one of the many lakes having deep, clean water are harbouring abundant fish. There was a boy by the name of Zahid, about 16 years old, who used to teach us about morals, ethics and religious matters.

One day he called six or seven boys together and taught us how to do vuzu, starting with Bismillah, then the right intention of vuzu, then the washing of hands, face, masah of head, neck and ears and the washing of the feet, concluding with the Kalima “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) is His prophet”.

He also showed us the procedure of performing ghusal, the intent of ghusal, the rituals of ghusal and then concluding with the Kalima. The intent for vuzu is: In the name of Allah the most magnificent and the most merciful. I intend to do vuzu to clean myself and to protect myself from shaitan.

For ghusal the intent is: In the name of Allah the most magnificent and the most merciful. I intend to perform all the ghuzals which are compulsory for me to cleanse myself and to protect myself from shaitan. For the last 60 years or so I have prayed to Allah for a place for his soul in Jannah and for Allah’s favours to his family.

To be continued