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Wuḍūʾ (Arabic: الوضوء) is washing one's face and hands, and then wiping one's head and feet in the specific way explained in the manuals of Islamic laws. Wudu' is mustahab (supererogatory) per se, but it is obligatory for some actions, such as prayer and tawaf around the Ka'ba. Touching the verses of Quran, touching the name of God is not permissible without wudu'. Performing wudu' is mustahab for entering mosque and reciting the Qur'an.
According to historical sources, the ruling of wudu' was stated early after the Bi'that of the Prophet (s) in Mecca. The verse 6 of Sura al-Ma'ida, as well as over 400 hadiths from the Infallibles (a), are concerned with wudu'. There are hadiths according to which wudu', and sometimes the renewal of one's wudu', are said to lead to the forgiveness of one's sins, the restraining of one's anger, longevity, having a shining face after the Resurrection, and the increase in one's livelihoods.
Wudu' can be performed in two ways: sequential (al-Tartibi) and immersion (al-Irtimasi). In the sequential way, one should first wash their face and then the hands, and after that, one should wipe (mash) one's head and feet. However, in wudu' by immersion, one's face and hands should be immersed in water, and then one should wipe their head and feet by their hand. If it is difficult or harmful to uncover an injury, one should do Jabira Wudu'.
There are disagreements between the Shi'as and Sunnis with regard to the way one should wash their hands as well as wiping their head and feet in wudu'. For example, the Shi'as take it as obligatory to wash one's hands from over elbow to the tip of one's fingers, but the Sunnis hold that the reverse should be done. According to sources of hadiths, there was no major disagreement among Muslims with regard to wudu' until the end of the Caliphate of 'Umar b. Khattab, and they all practiced wudu' just as the Imamiyya did. According to Islamic sources, Shi'a-Sunni disagreements over wudu' originated since the period of the Third Caliph.
Wudu' consists in washing one's face and hands and wiping (mash) one's head and feet in a particular manner, with the intention of proximity to God, that is, in order to obey God's command. According to historical sources, the Prophet (s) was taught wudu' by Gabriel in Mecca early after Bi'that, and then the Prophet (s) explained it to people.
- "O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles."
Performing wudu' is by itself mustahab (recommended), and it is obligatory for performing prayers (except for the Funeral Prayer), for performing Tawaf, touching the written lines of the Qur'an, and touching God's name. It is an obligatory caution to have wudu' for touching the names of the Prophet (s), Imams (a), and Fatima al-Zahra (a). In some cases, wudu' is particularly mustahab, including for going into a mosque or the shrines of Imams, reading and carrying the Qur'an, reaching to the cover or margins of the Qur'an, as well as ziyarah (or visit) of the cemetery.
In ordinary conditions, it can be performed either by sequence (tartibi) or by immersion (irtimasi), and in certain cases, it should be performed over jabira (bandage or splint).
The most common type of wudu' is the sequential (tartibi) wudu' in which one first intends to perform the wudu' and then washes his face and then his right hand followed by washing his left hand, and then one should run the remaining water of their palms on the top of his head and the top of his right and left feet, respectively.
The face should be washed from top to down—from the area above the forehead in which hair usually grows down to one's chin, with the width of one hand (extending from the middle finger to the thumb).
The hands should be washed from above the elbows to the tip of fingers; the water should run under one's rings, watch, and bracelet. It is obligatory to wash one's arms once, and it is permitted to wash them twice (according to the majority of jurists), but it is forbidden to wash it three times, though the wudu' would still be valid. However, if one washes one's left arm for three times, one's wudu' would be invalid, because the wiping of the heads and the feet would then occur with extra water other than the one with which one has performed the wudu'.
It is recommended for men to start washing their arms by the outer part of their elbows and for women to do it from the inner part thereof.
Wiping head and feet
When both arms are washed, one should run the remaining water of one's palms over one's head and over his right foot and then the left foot. The wiping (mash) of the head should be over the top of the head (the area between one's sinciput and one's forehead) and the direction is towards the forehead. If one's hair is too long, then the endpoint of one's hair or one's skin should be touched (one can open one's hair to reach his hand to the skin). It is sufficient to perform the wiping over however much of the crown that one pleases, but it is recommended (and on some views, it is an obligatory caution) that one performs wiping over an area of the crown of the length of one finger and the width of three closed fingers. Wiping of the feet is performed from the tip of the toes (not the top of one's nails) to one's ankles (and on some views, to the rising part of feet).
Wudu' by Immersion
In wudu' by immersion (irtimasi), instead of running water on the relevant parts of the body, one should immerse them inside water from top to down, or one should first immerse them inside water and then take them out from top to down with the intention of wudu', and then perform the wiping of one's head and feet with the remaining water on one's hands.
"Jabira" is a splint with which one fastens a broken limb as well as medicine put on it, and performing wudu' with such a splint is called "jabira" wudu'. If it is difficult or harmful to open the splint, or one should not pour water on the injured or the broken limb, then jabira wudu' should be performed, that is, one should wash the parts of the limb that can be washed, and then run one's soaked hand over the splint.
If the splint covers the whole limb, then one should perform tayammum instead of wudu' (on some views, in such a case, both jabira wudu' and tayammum are obligatory).
If one had performed a wudu', but is now in doubt of whether their wudu' was invalidated, then they do not have to perform the wudu' again. And if one is certain that their wudu' was invalidated, but is now in doubt of whether they performed another wudu' or not, then they have to perform another one.
Ghusl instead of Wudu
If one has performed ghusl al-janaba, then one should perform their prayers with that ghusl and should not perform a wudu', unless their ghusl is invalidated (e.g. by defecation or urination). There is a disagreement among faqihs over whether other ghusls suffice for wudu' or not.
The following items invalidate one's wudu':
- Defecation, urination, and emission of flatulence (emission of liquids other than semen and urine does not invalidate the wudu').
- A sleep in which one's eyes do not see and one's ears do not hear. However, if one's ears can still hear, then the wudu' is not invalidated.
- Things that cause the loss of one's consciousness, such as madness, drunkenness, and anesthesia.
- Everything that requires ghusl, such as janaba and touching a corpse under certain conditions.
Difference of Shias and Sunnis
Differences between the Shi'a and Sunnis is mostly originated in different interpretations of the verse 6 of Sura al-Ma'ida, or different recitations thereof. The Shi'as have relied on hadiths from the Infallibles (a) in the interpretation of the phrase, "and your forearms to the elbow," as the obligation of washing one's hands from the elbow downwards, unlike the Four Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence that take it obligatory to wash one's hands upwards.
Moreover, according to the ruling of Shiite jurisprudents, the right hand should be washed prior to the left. However, this is taken by Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence to be only mustahab (or recommended).
The Four Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence take it obligatory to wash one's feet, ankles included, in the wudu', but the Shi'as believe that the feet should be wiped from toe tips to the top of the feet. According to the Shiite jurisprudence, the feet should be wiped by the moisture of the hands, just like the head. Also, Malikiyya and Hanafiyya believe that sequentiality (Tartib) is not required in wudu', and Hanafiyya and Shafi'iyya maintain that continuity (Muwalat) is not required. However, the Shi'as and other Sunni schools take them to be required.
In some cases, wudu' was performed out of taqiyya (dissimulation): in response to a letter by 'Ali b. Yaqtin who had a high-ranking position in the Abbasid Caliphate, Imam al-Kazim (a) ordered him to perform wudu' just as Sunni Muslims do, so that Harun al-Rashid does not learn about his Shiism. Musa b. Ja'far (a) had previously asked 'Ali b. Yaqtin to stay in the Abbasid government in order to serve the Shi'as, while he prohibited other Shi'as from cooperation with the Abbasids.
The Beginning of Disagreements about Wudu' Since 'Uthman's Era
Some scholars believe that there was no disagreement among Muslims with respect to wudu' in the period of the Prophet (s), holding that the Prophet (s) himself performed wudu' with wiping his feet, instead of washing them. Moreover, there is no report of any disagreements about wudu' in the period of Abu Bakr's caliphate. And in the period of the caliphate of 'Umar b. Khattab, there is no report of any disagreements about wudu' except one with respect to wiping over one's shoes, instead of feet.
Some scholars appeal to accounts provided by Kanz al-'ummal and other sources to believe that disagreements about wudu' appeared since the period of the Third Caliph ('Uthman). Sayyid 'Ali Shahristani appeals to disagreements between Imam 'Ali (a) and 'Umar b. Khattab about wiping over one's shoes to show that unlike 'Uthman b. 'Affan, 'Umar did not wash his feet in performing wudu', rather he wiped his hands over them.
The Shi'as appeal to al-Wudu' Verse as well as hadiths to show that the Prophet (s) and his companions wiped their feet in wudu' just as the Imamiyya do, instead of washing them as Sunnis do. With regard to washing one's hands in wudu', there is a hadith from the Prophet (s) which shows that he washed his arms downwards, just like the Shi'as. According to the Shi'as, the hadith appealed by the Sunnis for the requirement of washing one's feet in wudu' is baseless and invalid. Moreover, it contradicts al-Wudu' Verse.
- Being in the direction of qibla
- Brushing one's teeth before the wudu'
- Rinsing the inner mouth (madmada) and sniffing water and blowing it out (istinshaq) before the wudu'
- The water used for wudu' should not be over 750 grams (about three ordinary glasses)
- Letting the parts dry by themselves
- Reciting specific supplications of wudu'
It is recommended that the following supplication be recited when performing the wudu'. The supplication is cited from Imam 'Ali (a). It expresses some mysteries of the wudu' and its manners as well.
|Part of wudu'||Supplication|
|When seeing the water||Praise to God who made the water purifier and not unclean|
|When washing one's hands||In the name of God and in his essence, O God! Make me return to you and seek purity|
|When rinsing the inner mouth||O God! When I meet you, suggest me a firm reason and make my tongue mention you|
|When sniffing water and blowing it out||O God! Do not deny me the odor of the Heaven and put me among those who smell its fragrance|
|When washing the face||O God! Whiten my face on the day when some faces turn black, and do not blacken my face on the day when some faces turn white|
|When washing the right arm||O God! Give the letter of my actions to my right hand and the letter of my eternal stay in the Heaven to my left hand and be lenient on evaluating my actions|
|When washing the left arm||O God! Do not give the letter of my actions to my left hand, nor give it to me from behind; do not hang it from my neck. I refuge to you from fires|
|When performing the wiping of the head||O God! Bless me with your mercy|
|When performing the wiping of the feet||O God! Make me steadfast on sirat (the bridge) on the day when feet slip, and direct my attempts to what makes you satisfied, O the honorable and respectable!|
|When the wudu' is finished||O God! I ask you the completeness of the wudu' and the prayer and your satisfaction and your Heaven. Praise is exclusively for God, the Lord of the worlds!|
- The material for this article was mainly taken from وضو in Farsi WikiShia.