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Ghusl (Arabic: الغُسل) is a term in fiqh that refers to the Islamic ritual bath of the whole body from the head to the feet in accordance with the qualifications made by the Divine Legislator. There are two types of ghusl: obligatory and supererogatory. Obligatory ghusls include: ghusl al-Janaba (ritual bath after sexual intercourse or seminal discharge), ghusl al-Mayyit (ritual bath of a corpse), ghusl Mass al-Mayyit (ritual bath after touching a corpse), and three types of ghusls for women.
There are many supererogatory ghusls, such as Friday ghusl, ghusl of Ziyarah (ritual bath before visiting a sacred place), and ghusls for the three Islamic holidays: Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Eid al-Ghadir.
All kinds of ghusls can be performed in two ways: sequential (al-Tartibi) and immersion (al-Irtimasi). In the case of sequential ghusl, it is recommended that no more than three liters of water should be used. One can perform prayers with ghusl al-Janaba and so he or she does not need to perform wudu, but as to other sorts of ghusl, there is no agreement among scholars of fiqh as to whether they suffice for prayers and other acts that require wudu.
The word "ghusl" means bath or washing. Terminologically, it refers to a ritual bath of the whole body from the head to the feet in accordance with the qualifications made by the divine legislator. It should be done with the intention of performing a divine command. It is not necessary to run water over the body with one's hand or anything else. It would suffice if water reaches the body in whatever way. The laws of ghusl are elaborated in the section of "Tahara" (cleanliness, or purity) in Manual of Islamic Laws which are published by Shiite Marja's.
One effect of ghusl is the purity of the spirit and its preparation for worships and more intimacy with God. Some hadiths strongly recommend that one should not sleep while he or she is in the state of janaba (impurity as a result of sexual intercourse or seminal discharge).
According to Shiite fiqh, there are six types of obligatory ghusls:
- Three specific ghusls for women: ghusl al-Hayd (Purification from the impurity caused by menstruation), ghusl al-Nifas (Purification from the impurity caused by post-natal bleeding), ghusl al-Istihada (Purification from the impurity caused by irregular bleeding)
There are many sorts of supererogatory (mustahab) ghusls. Some scholars have mentioned as many as one hundred such ghusls. Here are the most important supererogatory ghusls:
- Ghusl of Ziyarah
- Ghusl in the nights of the Ramadan month
How to perform a ghusl
There are two ways to perform a ghusl: sequential (al-Tartibi) and immersion (al-Irtimasi).
In a sequential ghusl, one should first wash his or her head and neck, then the right side of their body, and then the left side thereof. It is claimed that there is consensus among the scholars of fiqh over such a sequence. Some people take it optional to wash the left side first or the right one.
The order between parts of the body is a factual condition (that is, it is not based on one's attention or knowledge), thus if one performs the ghusl with any other order, then their ghusl will be unacceptable, even if one does so out of ignorance or oversight.
According to most Marja's, no particular order or sequence is obligatory within each part, such as washing from top to down. Neither is it obligatory to perform each following part immediately after the previous one; intervals are allowed even if the previous part has turned dry.
It is supererogatory that the amount of water used for such a ghusl be no more than three liters. Some people are so obsessed with cleanliness that they use too much water for their ghusl. In order to rid of such an obsession, one needs to ignore the obsession and perform the ghusl as ordinary people do.
An immersional ghusl is one in which the person suddenly immerses their body into water. In this kind of ghusl, it is obligatory that one's whole body be under water all at once.
According to some scholars of fiqh, if one intends the act of ghusl when the whole body is not under water, his or her ghusl will not be acceptable.
Obligatory components of a ghusl
There are obligatory components on which the acceptability of a ghusl is dependent:
- Intention of worshiping or obeying God by performing the ghusl. Without such an intention, the ghusl will not be acceptable.
- The continuity of the intention throughout the ghusl.
- Washing all parts of body in the ordinary sense of the term. According to some scholars, one should wash and run water over his or her skin with their hand or something else.
- It is not obligatory to wash internal parts, such as the internal parts of the eyes, nose, mouth, parts of the ear that cannot be seen, and beneath short nails.
- It is obligatory to wash those external parts of the body that can be seen but water does not usually permeate them (such as some external parts of ears or beneath the rings).
- The person should perform the ghusl on his or her own; so if somebody else washes one's body, it will not be acceptable as a ghusl.
- All parts of the body must be clean from the impurity (e.g., semen, blood) before starting the Ghusl.
- The water with which one performs the ghusl should be pure, clean, and legitimate water. Thus it is unacceptable to perform the ghusl with impure, unclean, or usurped water.
What nullifies a ghusl
According to Imam Khomeini and some other Marja's, If urination or emission of gas from the anus (what nullifies wudu) occur during or after the ghusl, then the ghusl should not be renewed, but in order to perform the prayer or other acts that require purity (Tahara), one has to have wudu. What nullifies wudu is different from that of ghusl. What nullifies a ghusl, are those for them one has to perform ghusl, such as: 1. Janaba 2. Menstruation bleeding 3. Post-natal bleeding 4. Istihada bleeding.
Some other Marja's state that If urination or emission of gas from the anus (what nullifies wudu) occur during the ghusl, then the ghusl should be renewed, and in order to perform the prayer or other acts that require purity (Tahara), one has to have wudu.
Does a ghusl obviates the need for wudu?
There is no disagreement among Shiite scholars of fiqh that ghusl al-Janaba obviates the need for wudu. Indeed, many of them take this to be a matter of consensus. Moreover, most scholars take it illegitimate to perform wudu when one has already performed ghusl al-Janaba, but al-Shaykh al-Tusi holds that it is supererogatory (Mustahab) to perform wudu in such a case. Scholars disagree, however, over whether other kinds of ghusl can obviate the need for wudu. According to the majority of scholars, they cannot. According to al-Sayyid al-Murtada, Ibn Junayd al-Iskafi, and Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, it is not improbable. The latter view has been more popular among contemporary scholars.
Different ghusls at once
If one has the obligation for different sorts of ghusl, then he or she can intend to perform all of them just by one instance of washing.
If one of these different ghusls is ghusl al-Janaba, then one needs only to intend ghusl al-Janaba, which would suffice for the rest.
If all or some of them are supererogatory (Mustahab), then according to the majority of scholars, one ghusl will suffice. However, there are scholars who oppose this view.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from غسل in Farsi WikiShia.