Taharah – Half of Faith

Clean water and water bubbles

By Hafsa Ahsan and Naba Basar                                                             

We live in a world which gives us mixed messages regarding cleanliness (Taharah). On the one hand, Islam lays great emphasis on cleanliness and encourages oneself to stay clean at all times. On the other hand, the mass media encourages our children to get as dirty as they want. Washing one’s hands is recommended only when selling a certain brand of antiseptic soap. So, what guidance do we derive from the Quran and Sunnah regarding Taharah?

Importance of Taharah

Taharah has been greatly emphasized upon by Allah (swt) in the Quran.

“Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves (by taking a bath and cleaning and washing thoroughly their private parts, bodies, for their prayers, etc.).” (Al-Baqarah 2:222)

Types of Impurities

Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Approach not Salah (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning) of what you utter, nor when you are in a state of Janabah, (i.e. in a state of sexual impurity and have not yet taken a bath) except when travelling on the road (without enough water, or just passing through a mosque), till you wash your whole body.” (An-Nisa 4:43)

Impurity may be categorized as ritual impurity (Hadath) and physical impurity (Khabath). A person attains ritual impurity when something comes out of the anus (feces or wind) or the frontal private area (urine or prostatic fluid), or when a person vomits. If a person enters this state, he must abstain from prayers, until he departs from this state. Wudhu would be enough for purification.

Physical impurity, on the other hand, is the impurity of physical substances, which include menstrual blood, urine, feces, pork, canine saliva and vomit. These impurities must be removed from whatever they contaminate (such as the person’s skin, clothing or prayer rug); otherwise, the prayer will not be valid. If you come in contact with any of these impurities, then they must be washed, since it’s a matter of basic cleanliness.

Significantly, if an impurity is invisible or does not smell, it does not affect a person’s worship. Such trivial amounts are unavoidable and are forgiven under Islamic law.

Wudhu

Taharah must precede Salah. One has to be in a state of purity, plus one’s clothes and the place where Salah will be offered, must be clean as well. Wudhu is an essential pre-requisite of Salah, without which one’s Salah is not accepted. The procedure of Wudhu has been described in the Quran as follows:

“O you who believe! When you intend to offer Salah (the prayer), wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles. If you are in a state of Janaba (i.e. had a sexual discharge), purify yourself (bathe your whole body). But if you are ill or on a journey or any of you comes from answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (i.e. sexual intercourse) and you find no water, then perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands. Allah does not want to place you in difficulty, but He wants to purify you, and to complete His favour on you that you may be thankful.” (Al-Maidah 5:6)

Humran (the freed slave of Uthman Ibn Affan (rta)) narrated: I saw Uthman Ibn Affan (rta)asking (for a tumbler of water) to perform ablution (and when it was brought) he poured water from it over his hands and washed them thrice and then put his right hand in the water container and rinsed his mouth and washed his nose by putting water in it and then blowing it out. Then he washed his face thrice and (then) forearms up to the elbows thrice, then passed his wet hands over his head and then washed each foot thrice. After that Uthman (rta) said, “I saw the Prophet performing ablution like this of mine, and he said, ‘If anyone performs ablution like that of mine and offers a two-Rakah prayer, during which he does not think of anything else, then his past sins will be forgiven.’ (Bukhari)

The Fard (obligatory) actions of Wudhu are:

1)        washing the face,

2)        washing both arms, including the elbows;,

3)        performing Masah of one fourth of the head,

4)        washing both the feet, including the ankles.

It’s not sufficient to pass a wet hand over the feet or shoes. However, certain conditions make an allowance for Masah to be done over certain types of socks.

Wudhu has a great psychological impact on the one performing it. If performed properly, it not only washes away one’s sins, but also cools down parts of the body. Dr. Ghulam Mustafa Khan in his booklet “Personal Hygiene in Islam” states: “The psychological advantages derived from performing Wudhu are clearly evident in the Prophet’s (sa) advice to perform Wudhu when we are overpowered by anger. The psychological changes, brought about by the physical act (of Wudhu), may be compared to a cold sponging of the body to reduce convulsions due to high temperature. In addition to the physical removal of a person from the arena of arguments, all parts of the body instrumental in the expression of anger – the hands, tongue, eyes and teeth – are cooled down and so are the brain centres controlling these parts.”

Tayammum

If water is not available, then Tayammum is one of the options to be availed. Allah (swt) says: “…And if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes after answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (by sexual relations) and you find no water, perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands (Tayammum). Truly, Allah is Ever Oft­ Pardoning, Oft ­Forgiving.” (An-Nisa 4:43)

Tayammum (dry ablution) can be done as follows:

1)      Make the Niyyah (intention) to perform ablution.

2)      Strike the soil/earth with your hands and wipe your face.

3)      Then, wipe your hands up to the wrists. Wipe the right hand first, followed by the left.

In Fiqh-us-Sunnah, the following scenarios have been detailed, which make Tayammum inevitable:

1)      Total non-availability of water.

2)      The amount of water available is insufficient for ablution.

3)      One is ill or injured and cannot use water.

4)      The water is too cold to be used.

5)      It is dangerous to fetch water from a nearby source.

6)      Water has to be saved for things like cooking.

7)      Water is too far away to fetch in time for prayer.

Ghusl

A Ghusl must be performed after completing the monthly period, after ejaculation, after post natal bleeding (Nifas) or after sexual intercourse. It is preferable, but not compulsory, to perform Ghusl in the manner that the Prophet (sa) performed it.

In such cases, you should begin with washing your private parts. The intention is to make sure that pure water reaches every part of your body. However, if you pass wind during the cleansing procedure your Ghusl is still valid, but you will have to perform a separate Wudhu. The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not break off from your prayer, unless you hear or smell the passage of gas.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Ghusl is not compulsory in case of medical/vaginal check-up or ultrasound.

Ghusl-e-Janabah

Ghusl after sexual intercourse is obligatory, even if no discharge took place. Noticing wetness on waking up as a result of Ihtilaam (wet dream) necessitates a Ghusl. However, if upon waking from a wet dream, a person does not see any trace of sexual emission on his clothes or his body, he does not have to perform Ghusl.

Aisha (rta) said: “Someone asked the Prophet (sa) about a man seeing himself discharging in his dream though he does not feel wet. The Prophet (sa) said: ‘He does not have to bathe.’ Umm Salamah (rta) asked: ‘What about women, O Messenger of Allah?’ He (sa) said: ‘Women are the full sisters of men.’” (Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi)

In another Hadeeth, the Prophet (sa) confirmed that a woman had to perform Ghusl: “… if she sees the liquid.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Some people came to the Prophet (sa) and asked him about Ghusl after sexual intercourse. They told him that they live in a cold place. The Prophet (sa) told them: “It would be enough for the one of you to pour water over his head three times.” In another narration, he said: “For me, I pour water over my head thrice.” (Muslim) This indicates that performing Ghusl accordingly is sufficient to attain purification and no Wudhu is required. But one should bear in mind that rinsing the mouth and cleaning the nose by inhaling and exhaling water is essential.

Sunnah method of performing Ghusl-e-Janabah, as extracted from Bukhari and Muslim, is as follows:

  • Wash hands. With right hand, pour water on left.
  • Wash private parts.
  • Do Wudhu.
  • Wet scalp with fingers (run fingers through hair, so as to wet scalp).
  • Pour three handfuls of water on head.
  • Wash whole body (with or without soap), beginning with the right side and then the left.
  • Wash feet in the end.

It is Sunnah to perform Wudhu before bathing.

It was related by the mother of believers, Umm Salamah (rta), that she asked the Prophet (sa) about a woman’s Ghusl. The Prophet (sa) told her: “If a woman is performing Ghusl after having sexual intercourse, then there is no need for her to unbraid her hair. It is sufficient that she pours water over her head three times. But, when she is performing Ghusl after completing her menstrual period, then she has to unbraid her hair.” (Muslim)

Vaginal Discharge (Fatwah by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qasim)

Any discharge which comes from the vagina, emanating from the birth canal, is pure. It requires neither a ritual bath, nor Wudhu, nor the washing of affected clothing. The reason for this is the absence of any textual evidence that indicates the impurity of this discharge or that it invalidates a woman’s Wudhu.

This is very pertinent, especially since this discharge is something that affects all women, from the time of the Prophet (sa) to date. If it had been impure or if it had nullified Wudhu, this would have been clarified by the Lawgiver.

Also, this discharge is not a waste product – like urine and feces, which are the waste products of our food and drink. It is a natural emanation from the womb. This is why it increases with pregnancy, especially during certain months.

Umm Atiyyah (rta) said: “We did not regard yellowish and brownish discharge after Tuhr (becoming pure) as being of any significance.” (Bukhari and Abu Dawood)

General Hygiene

Taharah is not restricted just to Wudhu and Ghusl, as one may believe. A Mumin must strive to attain Taharah in all parts of life. Some basic practices include the following:

1)      Shaving the pubic hair.

2)      Cutting the nails of fingers and toes.

3)      Doing Ghusl, especially on Fridays.

4)      Washing hands, cleaning the nose and rinsing the mouth, after waking up.

5)      Washing hands, before and after every meal.

6)      Cleaning the teeth and rinsing the mouth, after every meal.

7)      Regularly using Miswak.

8)      Washing hands regularly with soap and water.

Conclusion

As one can imagine, Taharah or cleanliness in Islam is not to be taken lightly. All the instructions, which come to us from the Quran and Sunnah, clearly show that Taharah is something that every Mumin has to implement in one’s life consciously. It is the level of importance attached to it that makes it half of one’s Deen.