Muslims pray five times a day at specified time periods. Prayers are performed at precise times in mosques.
Now in order to pray, there is a certain prerequisite. The person has to be in the state of ritual purity, known as tahaarah. Ablution, also known in Arabic as wudhoo, is the basic means of entering the state of purity, thus being able to pray.
An ablution is an act of washing parts of the body with water; and it may be done in a basin, in a bathroom, or a specially designated area at the mosque. The washed parts are the parts of the body that are normally exposed: the face, hands, and feet. Ablution is not just simply a washing procedure – it is also internal, spiritual, psychological, and emotional preparation for the prayer itself.
- The very first step is to Make niyyah (intention) to perform wudu and say “Bismillah” (In the name of God).
- The next is to wash your hands. Do this three times from right to left hand. You need to wash away any dirt because you will be using your hands in the ablution. So, they should be nice and clean. While this is just a physical cleaning, you should know that the process of ablution is basically also purification of the soul. Hence, as you physically clean and remove the dirt from your hands, you should at the same time reflect on the sins your hands have committed; and with that, you should seek the forgiveness from Allah and perform both external and internal purification.
- The next step is to take water with your hands and rinse your mouth. Gargle and swish the water around in your mouth, and spit it out three times. Again, as you clean your mouth physically, seek forgiveness from God for the sins your mouth has committed. For example, in the past, during the time of ignorance, you might have eaten or drunk something forbidden, or spoke ill, lied, backbitten, and so on. You should seek forgiveness from God for everything you feel shy about in front of Him. So as you physically clean your mouth, also perform a spiritual purification.
- After that, you will clean your nose by sniffing a little bit of water. Place your hand with water to the base of your nose, and inhale a little. However, not to the point that it will hurt you up in the nose, and not just to wet your nose either. Once you inhale, close one nostril and exhale the water out of the other; repeat for the other nostril for three times.
- Then wash your face three times. There is no particular way of doing this. You are free to wash one side and then the other, or the whole face at the same time. The main thing is to wash your face completely from the chin up to the hairline and until the ears. Eyes are part of our face, so as we clean our face, we should reflect on the sins our eyes have committed. Seek forgiveness from the evil and sinful sights one has seen and observed deliberately, absorbing such displeasing information into the mind and soul.
- Wash your arms next, from the fingertips up to the elbows for three times. Again, there is no specific way, but the key is to start with the right hand. It may be under running water, or you may take a handful of water and wash the other arm. While purifying your hands, remember your sins. The principle of favouring right, in general, is found throughout many Islamic practices, as such was the practice of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. The right reminds us also of the Day of Judgment when our book of good deeds will be given to us in our right hand; and that of evil deeds in the left. Therefore, giving preference to the right reminds us to do the right thing in order to receive our book of good deeds in the right hand.
- Following that, you wet your hands and wipe your head from front to back, and back to front, or simply from front to back once. Along with that, after wiping the head, you wipe your ears, inserting the forefingers into the crease inside the ear. The forefinger follows the crease of the ear, and at the same time, the thumb wipes the outer part of the ear. While cleaning physically, we also clean our ears from the evil and sinful things we have listened to deliberately. There are things that reach our ears that we do not like and we don’t want to hear, but we can’t shut our ears; unlike our eyes, so they may have been heard inadvertently. That is not a sin, but what we deliberately choose to listen to, whether it is gossip, slander, or lies; we seek forgiveness from God for it. So we purify ourselves in this manner also.
- Next, if you have a beard, then you wet your hands and insert your wet fingers into the beard. There is no need to run the water down your beard, just run your wet fingers through it, and that cleans it of the obvious and external dirt which may be caught in it.
- After this, wash your feet up to the ankles; right first and then left for three times. When washing your foot, beginning with the right, as done when you washed your hands, you should also wash between your toes. Use your little finger to rub in between the toes as you are washing. You may use your left or right hand between the toes of your right and left foot. The main point is to clean between the toes so that it is a complete cleaning. If you skip this step then what is between the toes remains not clean. While washing the feet, focus on the sins of the feet – the places of sin, corruption, and evil that they have walked and gone to, or that we may have driven ourselves to. Reflect, and ask God’s forgiveness for where your feet have taken you because the feet are not acting by themselves; they are based on what our soul has told them to do. The feet are only instruments following the commands of the soul. So we seek forgiveness from God for the sins of our feet.
Once you are done, recite the duas after wudu. They are: Ash-hadu ‘an laa ‘ilaaha ‘I’ll all aah wahdahu laa shareeka lahu wa ‘ash-hadu ‘anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa Rasooluhu. Allaahummaj’alnee minat-tawwaabeena waj’alnee minal-mutatahhireen.Subhaanaka Allaahumma wa bihamdika, ‘ash-hadu ‘an laa ‘ilaaha ‘illaa ‘Anta, ‘Astagh firuka wa ‘atoobu ‘ilayk.
This sums up the act of wudhoo’, the preparation for the prayer. Thus, the prayer itself begins with the ablution and without it, we are not allowed to make prayer. Because prayer (salaah) without ablution is not acceptable to God. Therefore, we have to purify ourselves physically, and even more importantly, spiritually, in order to enter into the communion with God known as the salaah, the daily prayer.
We should keep in mind that once we have entered into the state of purification, there are acts which can nullify or invalidate this state. Repeat nullified wudu before praying. Actions that nullify wudu include natural discharges, including urination, vomiting, defecation, excessive bleeding, and gas. Sleep also nullifies wudu.
After intercourse, re-performing wudu alone is not enough to be able to perform Salat (Prayer). There is another form of purification that must be performed known as Ghusul. However, kissing your wife does not break ablution, although some scholars may have that opinion.
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