Part of Islamic law
This is proven from the three major sources of Islamic law:
1 The Qur’an. Says Allah in the Qur’an, “O you who believe, when you rise for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows and lightly rub your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles (alMai’dah 6).
2 The Sunnah. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Allah does not accept the prayer of one who nullified his ablution until he performs it again.” (Related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and at-Tirmizhi.)
3 The Consensus. There is a consensus of scholarly opinion that ablution is part of Islamic law. Therefore, it is a recognized fact of the religion.
Many hadith state the virtues of ablution. We shall mention just a few:
- ‘Abdullah ibn as-Sunnabiji stated that the Messenger of Allah said, “When a slave makes ablution and rinses his mouth, his wrong deeds fall from it. As he rinses his nose, his wrong deeds fall from it. When he washes his face, his wrong deeds fall from it until they fall from beneath his eyelashes. When he washes his hands, his wrong deeds fall from them until they fall from beneath his fingernails. When he wipes his head, his wrong deeds fall from it until they fall from his ears. When he washes his feet, his wrong deeds fall from them until they fall from beneath his toenails. Then his walking to the mosque and his prayer give him extra reward.” (Related by Malik, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim.)
- Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “If good characteristics exist in a person, Allah makes all of his acts good. If a person purifies himself for prayer, he expiates all of his sins and his prayer is considered an extra reward for him.” (Related by Abu Ya’la, al-Bazzar and at-Tabarani in al-Ausat.)
- Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “’Shall I inform you (of an act) by which Allah erases sins and raises degrees?” They said, “Certainly, O Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Perfecting the ablution under difficult circumstances, taking many steps to the mosque, and waiting for the (next) prayer after the (last) prayer has been performed. That is ribat. (Related by Malik, Muslim, at-Tirmizhi and an-Nasa’i.)
- Abu Hurairah also reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, passed by a grave site and said, “Peace be upon you, O home of believing people. Allah willing, we shall meet you soon, although I wish I could see my brothers.” They asked, “Are we not your brothers, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “You are my companions. My brothers are the ones who will come after (us).” They said, “How will you know the people of our nation who will come after you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “If a man has a group of horses with white forelocks amidst a group of horses with black forelocks, will he recognize his horses?” They said, “Certainly, O Messenger of Allah.” He said, “They (my brothers) will come with white streaks from their ablutions, and I will receive them at my cistern. But there will be some who will be driven away from my cistern as a stray camel is driven away. I will call them to come. It will be said, ‘They changed matters after you,’ then I will say, ‘Be off, be off.”’ (Related by Muslim.)
The obligatory parts of the ablution
Ablution has certain components which, if not fulfilled according to the correct Islamic procedures, make one’s ablution void.
This is the desire to do the action and to please Allah by following His command. It is purely an act of the heart, for the tongue (verbal pronouncement, and so on) has nothing to do with it. To pronounce it is not part of the Islamic law. That the intention is obligatory is shown in the following: ‘Umar related that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, “Every action is based on the intention (behind it), and everyone shall have what he intended...” (Related by “the group.”)
- Washing the face
This involves “pouring” or “running” water from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the jaws, and from one ear to the other.
- Washing the arms to the elbow
The elbows must be washed, for the Prophet, upon whom be peace, did so.
- Wiping the head
This means to wipe one’s head with his hand. It is not sufficient just to place the hand on the head or to touch the head with a wet finger. The apparent meaning of the Qur’anic words, “...and wipe over your heads...” does not imply that all of the head needs to be wiped. It has been recorded that the Prophet used to wipe his head three different ways:
- Wiping all of his head. ‘Abdullah ibn Zaid reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, wiped his entire head with his hands. He started with the front of his head, then moved to the back, and then returned his hands to the front. (Related by “the group.”).
- Wiping over the turban only. Said ‘Amru ibn Umayyah, “I saw the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, wipe over his turban and shoes.” (Related by Ahmad, al-Bukhari and Ibn Majah). Bilal reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, “Wipe over your shoes and head covering.” (Related by Ahmad.) ‘Umar once said, “May Allah not purify the one who does not consider wiping over the turban to be purifying.” Many hadith have been related on this topic by al-Bukhari, Muslim and others. Most of the scholars agree with them. Wiping over the front portion of the scalp and the turban Al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah said that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, made ablution and wiped over the front portion of his scalp, his turban and his socks. (Related by Muslim.) There is, however, no strong hadith that he wiped over part of his head, even though al-Ma’idah: apparently implies it. It is also not sufficient just to wipe over locks of hair that proceed from the head or along the sides of the head.
Washing the feet and the heels
This has been confirmed in mutawatir (continuous) reports from the Prophet, upon whom be peace, concerning his actions and statements. Ibn ‘Umar said, “The Prophet lagged behind us in one of our travels. He caught up with us after we had delayed the afternoon prayer. We started to make ablution and were wiping over our feet, when the Prophet said, ‘Woe to the heels, save them from the Hell-fire,’ repeating it two or three times.” (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Needless to say, the preceding obligations are the ones that Allah has mentioned in (al-Ma’idah 6).
Following the prescribed sequence
Allah mentioned the obligations in a specific order. He also differentiated the legs from the hands-- though both of them have to be washed--from the head, which only needs to be wiped. The polytheists of Arabia would not differentiate items unless there was some benefit in doing so. The way Allah structured the ablution made it easier for them to comprehend it. Al-Ma’idah 6 explains what is obligatory and it falls under the generality of the Prophet’s statement, “Begin with what Allah began with.” The Prophet used to follow that sequence as one of ablution’s principles. There is no such report that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, ever departed from that sequence. Ablution is part of worship, and in matters of worship there is no room for anything except doing what has been commanded.
To be continued