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Published on 3rd September, 2001

Wudu - Ritual Ablution

- A Summary, according to the Imamia School of Thought (Manhaj Ul-Fiqh Il-Islami)

By M.Al-Zahra

°The Stages of Purification

°How to Perform Wudu

°Number of Times

°Rules of Wudu  

°Things That Make Wudu Invalid


‘The spirit of a believer is more connected to the spirit of Allah than the connection of the sunbeam to the sun” (Usulul Kafi).

The Reality of Salat is ascension to the Proximity, and reaching the Presence of Allah, the Almighty and Most High. A Salik (traveller to Allah) needs to perform certain stages of purification to achieve this ascension, insh’Allah.

The Salik should be free from the intrusion of nature and impurities should not be allowed into his heart. All acts of worship should be free from all external and internal polytheism. The heart of the Salik should be protected from Satan and impurities and attain two lofty stations. The first being “God fearing” by abandoning everything except Allah and “certitude”, which is perfected by discerning the Presence of Allah (swt) (Imam Khomeini, 1996).

"Allah, the Exalted, does not look at your faces, but He looks at your hearts." (Biharul Anwar).

The Stages of Purification

These stages of purification include the purification of both the outer and inner and open and hidden impurities. Washing specific parts of the physical body in preparation for prayer is called Wudu (ritual ablution).

It is stated in Misbahush – Shari’ah that Imam Jafar as-Sadiq ('a) said:

“When you intend purification and wudu (ritual ablution), proceed to the water as you proceed to Allah’s mercy, because Allah has made water the key to his proximity and supplication, and a guide to the court of His service.”

Allah says in the Quoran:

And He it is Who sends the winds as good news heralding His mercy, 
and We send down purifying water from the sky
(Surah al-Furqan; 48)

Allah says in the Quoran:

“O you who believe! When you rise up for Salat wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows, 
and lightly wipe your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles.”
(5; 6)

Imam Ali ar-Rida ('a) said:

"The servant has been commanded to perform the wudu (ritual ablution) so as to be pure when standing before the All-Powerful and supplicating, and by obeying Him, to be purged from filth and impurity. Besides his removing laziness, expelling sleep and purifying the heart to stand in the Presence of the All Powerful. Confining it (the wudu) only to the face, the two hands, the head and the two feet, was because when the servant stands before the All Powerful, the parts which are exposed are those which are ordered to be washed in the wudu: as with his face he performs  the sujud (prostration), with his hands he requests, desires, dreads and supplicates, with his head he inclines to Him in his (prostration), with his hands he requests, desires, dreads and supplicates, with his head he inclines to Him in his ruku (bowing down) and his sujud, and with his legs he stands and sits.” (Uyunu Akhbarir – Rida, vol. 2, p. 104, Chapter. 34, hadith 1)

How to Perform Wudu

There are six consecutive steps to be observed when performing Wudu.

  1. Wash the right arm from the elbow to the tip of the fingers.

  2. Wash the left arm from the elbow to the tip of the fingers.

  3. Wash the face vertically from the hairline down to the chin, and in breadth from the thumb to the tip of the middle finger.

  4. Lightly rub the top of your head to the hairline with wet fingers of the right hand.

  5. Rub the back of your right foot with your wet right hand, from the tips of your toes to the ankle.

  6. Rub the back of your left foot with your wet right hand, from the tips of your toes to the ankle (Manhaj Ul-Fiqh Il-Islami)

Number of Times

According to the Imamies, washing once is wajib, twice is mustahabb, and thrice is bid’ah (heretical) and the person doing so is a sinner if he performs it as a religious duty. But if he does not, there is no sin upon him, although the wudu’ will become batil on his wiping (the head) with this water (Aqa Rida al-Hamadani’s Misbah al-faqih). There are many other recommended acts, which are mentioned, in voluminous books (Maghniyyah 1995).

Rules of Wudu

There are some acts, which are Mustahab and not wajib. These are as follows:

  1. Saying ‘Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahiim” before starting Wudu.

  2.   Invoking some Mustahab invocations.

  3. Rinsing the mouth with water (after washing the arms to the elbows).

  4. Sniffing water up the nose (after rinsing the mouth) (Manhaj Ul-Fiqh Il-Islami).

1.      Things That Make Wudu Invalid

  1. Urination and defecation- if a person passes urine or faeces after wudu, or during salat, the wudu becomes invalid and will need to be repeated. If during salat, the prayer will need to be stopped and repeated after wudu.

  2. Flatulence (passing gas)- if a person passes flatulence after wudu or during salat, he / she will have to repeat the wudu. If it occurs during salat, then the prayer will have to be stopped and repeated again after wudu.

  3. Sleep - if a person falls asleep after performing wudu, then the wudu will need to be repeated if he / she would like to perform salat. (Manhaj Ul-Fiqh Il-Islami).


  • Imam Khomeini (r.a), Adabus -Salat or The Disciplines of the Prayer

  • Biharul Anwar, vol. 67. Pg. 248, quoting Jami’ul Akhbar, pg. 117 (with a slight difference)

  • Maghniyyah, Muhammad Jawad (1995), The Five Schools of Islamic Law, Anssariyan Publications, Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran.

  • Manhaj Ul-Fiqh Il-Islami, pg. 61.

  • Manhaj Ul-Fiqh Il-Islami, pg 62.

  • S. H. Al-Musawi [translated from Arabic by M. J. Khalili], Manhaj Ul-Fiqh Il-Islami, Published by Islamic Propagation Organisation.

  • Usulul Kafi, vol. 3, “Book of Faith and Infidelity”, Chapter. On “The Believers’ Brotherhood to One Another”, Hadith 4.

  • Uyunu Akhbarir – Rida, Vol. 2, Chapter. 34, Hadith 1

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