Back to the basics: Perfecting the ablution


Saudi Gazette

Although much attention should be given to this religious ritual, most of us probably just rush straight through it without giving it much thought at all.

Wudu or ablution is the key to the prayer and if the ablution is performed hastily and carelessly, this could take away from the rewards of the prayer or possibly even the acceptance of the prayer. In fact, the less focus we have during the ablution, the less focus we will have in our prayer.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “The prayer of none amongst you would be accepted in a state of impurity until he performs ablution.” (Sahih Muslim)

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The key to Paradise is prayer, and the key to prayer is ablution.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Unless one performs all the necessary steps of ablution, the prayer will not be accepted. If one knowingly forgoes the necessary ablution and then prays, the prayers will be invalid.

We all have been drilled on how to perform wudu as far back as the first grade in school and probably earlier by our parents, but how many of us have revisited it since then? How many of us have tried to implement the exact ablution of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? How many of us say the recommended supplications after the ablution?

A small step in perfecting our ablution can go a long way towards attaining that peace of mind and mental concentration that we have been yearning for in our prayers.

As you begin your wudu, bring your mental awareness to each motion you are doing. Remind yourself of this beautiful saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and it may help you slow down, concentrate, and appreciate the ritual of ablution.

Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “When a Muslim or a believer washes his face in ablution, then every sin which he committed with his eyes will be washed away with the last drop of water. When he washes his hands, then every sin which he committed with his hands will be washed away with the last drop of water. When he washes his feet, then every sin which he committed with his feet will be washed away with the last drop of water until he emerges purified from sin.” (Sahih Muslim)

If I approach the ablution with this Hadith in mind, I will strive to perform the ablution in the best way possible.

Before starting, be sure to remove anything that could prevent water from reaching the skin and nails, such as nail polish and make-up.

First of course, start out with the intention to perform ablution, to purify oneself. And mention Allah’s name as you turn on the water; say, “In the name of Allah.”

Do not open the tap and leave the water gushing. Rather the flow of water from your sink should be a slow trickle, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) was known to conserve water while performing ablution and he discouraged his companions from wasting water. It has been estimated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used only 630 ml of water to perform a thorough ablution.

I had the honor to learn the ablution directly from a scholar from Mauritania, Shaykh Khatri, who meticulously demonstrated each step of the ablution. I met the Shaykh back when I was living in California and again after I moved to Riyadh. Shaykh Khatri had learned the ablution from his scholar who had been taught by his scholar before him, with an unbroken chain all the way back to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

After making the intention and pronouncing Allah’s name, you begin by washing your right hand first and then your left hand, also washing each individual finger.

Rinse your mouth three times, swirling the water around inside your mouth and washing your teeth with your index finger. Rinse the nose by using your right hand to blow in a little water, and then expel the water from your nose using your left hand. Repeat three times.

Washing the face involves not simply splashing water on the face, but also rubbing every part of your face with your hands, to ensure cleanliness. With your fingers, you clean your face from the beginning of the hairline at the top of your forehead to the bottom of the chin, and all the way from ear to ear on both sides of the face. A man should wash his beard and the skin under his beard. One time of washing is sufficient, but it is best to repeat three times to follow the sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

When you wash your arms, you must again wash your hands, including washing in between your fingers and washing your nails. Wash your arms to the elbows. I must point out that many of us skip washing our hands at this stage, but it is obligatory to wash the hands while washing the arms.

With little water, wipe your hair from the top of your forehead all the way to the back of your head and to the roots of the hair on the nape of your neck, and back up again. For women with long hair, they should extend all the way to the end of the hair. Then put your index fingers in your ears and wipe the back of the ears thoroughly with your thumbs. The hair and ears are washed only once.

Finally, wash the feet three times. The feet are to be wished entirely, including between the toes, the soles of the feet, the heels, the tops of the feet, and the ankles up to the ankle bones. Use water and also rub or stroke with your hands to clean the feet properly.

With all this attention to detail, you will come to realize that performing ablution is no light matter; it is in itself a true act of worship, and it is the key to the prayer.

Upon completion, say one of the supplications that the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions used to say.

I bear witness that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah alone, Who has no partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger.

O Allah, make me among those who turn to You in repentance, and make me among those who are purified.

Glory is to You, O Allah, and praise; I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but You. I seek Your forgiveness and turn to You in repentance.