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Iḥtilām (Arabic: إحتلام) refers to discharge of semen in sleep which is considered as a sign of puberty of men in Islam. Those who experience ihtilam are called Muhtalim (مُحتَلِم). They are obligated to perform Ghusl (ritual bath) before performing religious rituals including saying prayers and observing fast. If a person is fasting and experience ihtilam, his fasting is not invalid.
Ihtilam is as an Arabic term derived from the term ḥulm (dream) which means semen discharge in sleep. Faqihs believe ihtilam means "semen discharge in sleep" or "ejaculation of semen". Those who experience ihtilam are called muhtalim.
Ihtilam is pointed out in the Holy Qur'an in Sura al-Nur verses 58 and 59. In addition al-Kulayni dedicated a chapter of his book al-Kafi to "ihtilam al-rijal wa al-mar'a" (ihtilam of Men and Women) and he cited seven hadiths in this chapter.
According to Shia jurists in Islam Ihtilam is regarded as one of the signs of puberty of men, and their conclusions are all based on hadiths narrated by Yusuf al-Bahrani who described them as mutakathir (abundant).
Those who experience Ihtilam are required to perform ghusl (ritual bath) before performing religious rituals including saying prayers and observing fast or entering mosques, reading Qur'anic verses with obligatory sajda (prostrating).
If there are doubts on whether it was a semen discharge or not, the rule is that if discharge occurred with the specified signs -in the manuals of Islamic law- such as orgasm, ghusl (full ablution) is required, otherwise it is not.
If a person intended to fast and he experience ihtilam before the time of dawn prayers, ghusl is required before dawn prayers' time. However if he experience ihtilam during the day, fasting is not invalid.
If ihtilam occurs during ihram in hajj, ihram is not invalid.
Ihtilam of Women
Ihtilam is not only assigned to men, and it occurs to women as well. A number of jurists believed ghusl is not required for muhtalim women which is ascribed in al-Muqni' by Al-Shaykh al-Saduq. However most of jurists believe that if a woman experiences ihtilam she is required to perform ghusl. Also al-Shaykh al-Saduq has mentioned a narration on the mentioned rule.
Supplications to Avoid Ihtilam
A supplication has been narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that if a person is worried about ihtilam in sleep, he should read this supplication before going to bed: اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّی أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الِاحْتِلَامِ وَ مِنْ سُوءِ الْأَحْلَامِ وَ مِنْ أَنْ یتَلَاعَبَ بیالشَّیطَانُ فِی الْیقَظَةِ وَ الْمَنَامِ
(Oh God, rescue me from bad dreams and ihtilam, and rescue me from wickedness of Satan in deceiving me in my sleep and awareness).
- The material for this article is mainly taken from احتلام in Farsi WikiShia.