What is Wudu?

Wudu is the ritual state of purity we have to be in for performing our prayers, handling the Holy Qur’an, or when reciting passages from the Qur’an.

It is recommended to be in the state of wudu whenever you can.

Wudu is where we make ourselves spiritually clean by washing our hands, our face, our arms, our head, and our feet.

Once we have purified ourselves in this manner, we say that we “have” wudu.

In Surah al-Ma’idah in the Qur’an, Allah tells us :-

“When you rise to perform the prayers, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet up to the ankles. If you are in a state of major ritual impurity, then purify yourselves.”

Minor and Major Impurity

Major ritual impurity is caused by such as menstruation, sexual intercourse and seminal discharge. This requires taking a full bath or shower in which all the body is washed in a ritual manner. This is called Ghusl and is described further below.

Minor ritual impurity is caused by such as various forms of bodily discharge, such as performing the toilet, or by having slept or otherwise lost consciousness. Minor ritual impurity requires that the believer performs Wudu. Whenever something like this happens we say that your wudu has been “broken”. Once wudu has been broken, it must be renewed before performing prayers, touching or reciting Qur’an etc.

What if You Cannot Use Water or if There is No Water ?

It is possible to do a dry ablution in circumstances where there is no water available for you to perform wudu or ghusl. Or where getting a wound wet, for example, would cause complications.

This method of performing ritual purification is called Tayammum and it is covered further at the bottom of this webpage.

What Breaks Your Wudu?

There are slight differences in opinion between the various schools of practice within Islam about what breaks your wudu. The following is a list of some things that are seen to break your wudu :-

  • Liquid or solid matter coming out of the private parts of the body e.g. urine, faeces, semen, blood.
  • Breaking wind from the anus
  • Blood – if it flows or spreads
  • Vomiting
  • Being intoxicated through alcohol
  • Being intoxicated through drugs
  • Losing consciousness
  • Sleep
  • Madness, or not being in control of one’s mind through mental incapacity

The exact conditions of these wudu nullifiers will vary from one school of practice to another and it is not possible for us to explain all of these in detail in the space we have available.

You should seek the knowledge and help of an :-

  • Imam
  • Islamic scholar
  • Islamic teacher
  • a knowledgeable Muslim

at your local mosque or Islamic centre to explain the details of what exactly breaks the condition of being in wudu.

Performing Wudu

To perform wudu you need a supply of clean water. The water should be free from any impurities that you can see with your eyes, can taste with your tongue. or that you can smell.

Your hands should be clean from impurities to begin with and anything that might prevent water reaching your skin should be removed.

n.b. if you are wearing some sort of bandage that should not be removed or where water touching a wound may be a source of infection etc, then you should seek futher help on what to do.

You need to make some form of intention before performing wudu. This is usually called making a niyyah.

Your niyyah can be said out loud or can be an intention you make in your mind or heart.

You could make niyyah to perform wudu with the intention of praying salah, or of worshipping Allah, or of purifying yourself to stand before Him. You can make the niyyah of purifying yourself for the pleasure of Allah.

Making niyyah is a way of making sure that whatever action you are about to do is for the purpose of obeying and pleasing Allah.

In Islam, we always try to start things by saying bismillah – which means “in the name of Allah”. So it is good if you can say bismillah before beginning your wudu.

An example, in English, of making a niyyah for performing wudu could be something like :-

“O Allah, I make the intention of performing wudu so that I might worship You in salah, bismillah”

How you perform wudu may vary according to which particular school of practice you are following. The basics are all the same but there are some differences in the way that various schools perform wudu.

We cannot go in to all the precise variations of wudu here but we will show you two general methods of performing wudu. You should ask for some help and instruction at your local mosque or Islamic centre in how you can best carry out wudu.

Wudu According to Sunni Islam Tradition

Video#1 Sunni

Video #2 Sunni

Wudu According to Shi’a Islam Tradition

Video #1 Shi’a

Video #2 Shi’a

Ghusl

Ghusl is the purification that is needed in the case of major ritual impurity and this is where there has been sexual intercourse, seminal discharge, menstruation etc,

Ghusl is performed :-

  • in a bath
  • in the shower
  • by pouring water over your body

and where all body parts are washed in a ritual manner and in a certain order.

In the same way as with performing wudu, there are slight differences in the way that different schools of thought within Islam will carry out ghusl, but the general principle is that :-

  • a niyyah is made to perform ghusl
  • the body is washed from the head down to the feet
  • the right hand side of the body is usually washed first, then the left

Ghusl in the Sunni Islam Tradition

Ghusl in the Shi’a Islam Tradition

Tayammum

Where illness or a lack of water makes performing purification with water unhealthy or impossible, then it is possible to ritually purify yourself by wiping the face and hands with clean earth. In Surah al-Nisa in the Qur’an, Allah says :-

“But if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you has come from a call of nature, or you have touched women, and you find no water, then resort to clean earth, and wipe your faces and your hands.”

In general terms, to perform tayammum, it is required to :-

  • make the intention to lift the state of impurity i.e. make niyyah
  • strike the earth or sand – or anything found on the top surface of the earth, like a stone – with the flat of your hands
  • wipe your forehead and face
  • strike the earth – or sand or stone – a second time
  • wipe the right arm completely, up to and including the elbow, then wipe the left arm in the same way

In some schools of Islamic law you may find these differences :-

  • only the hand up to the wrist is wiped – and the arm is not wiped
  • the ground is only struck once, and not a second time

You can speak to your local Imam, or Islamic scholar or Islamic teacher to find out the particular way that you should be following for tayammum.

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