The Importance of Purification
The Importance of Purification:
I am sure many of you know the saying: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Well the Muslim Ummah has been favored by a code of hygiene that no other religion enjoins on its followers as Islam enjoins on its adherents. Cleanliness in all aspects of our lives, physical and spiritual is a requirement for our body, clothes, environment and also our actions and thoughts. For the purpose of being clean for prayer, certain actions and rules are mandatory.
The Arabic word for Purification is “Tahaara”. It literally means “purity”, but Islamically it refers to state of cleanliness, which a Muslim must be in to perform certain acts of worship. Although the various acts of purification may make one physically clean, the real purpose behind Tahaara is spiritual cleanliness. This is clearly illustrated by the rules governing purification when there is no water. By entering into a state of Tahaara, one prepares oneself spiritually to worship Allah.
For the purpose of prayer (salah) there is a ritual of steps to follow to purify oneself for the salah. These actions are called ablution, in Arabic “Wudhu”. In order to emphasize the importance of wudhu, let me remind you of the importance of salah itself:
Prayer (salah) is the second pillar of Islam and no other worship can be compared to prayer. Our beloved prophet Muhammad (e) stated:
“Between a man and disbelief is (only) the abandonment of prayer”.
(Muslim and Ahmad)
The importance of prayer cannot be over emphasized. No other form of worship can be compared to prayer, for it is the basis of religion without which there is no religion. The earlier prophets and their followers practiced prayer in some form as an essential part of the religion of God.
A precondition for salah is wudhu. Salah is not valid without wudhu. So its importance speaks for itself…
Impurities, what are they?
In Arabic we refer to it as “Najasah”, meaning impurity or unclean. The Muslim must avoid impure or unclean substances and wash them off if they should contaminate his body, clothing or place of prayer. These impurities include:
- Dead animals, which have not been Islamically slaughtered for consumption (except fish, locusts and insects without running blood).
- Blood that has flowed from an animal or a human body (bleeding from a wound that cannot be prevented is overlooked during worship).
- Pigs or any part of them.
- Human vomit, urine and excrement.
- Urine and stool of animals not permissible for consumption.
- Animals that eat the feces of other animals.
- The dog, except for its hair.
- The white liquid discharged after urination (by some people).
- Prostatic fluid resulting from sexual excitement – Seminal fluid is considered pure.
- Scholars differ about the impurity of alcoholic drinks if one comes in contact with them. However there is no question that they are forbidden for consumption.
If the body or clothing has been contaminated by an impurity, it must be washed out with water. Any stain remaining after washing is excused. The ground is purified, by removing from it any solid impurities (or their decay). In the case of impure liquids, water must be poured over them, or they must be allowed to dry completely.
If one comes into contact with water or another substance and doubts its purity, one should assume that it is pure and not question it. If one discovers some impurity on ones clothes after praying and was unaware of or had forgotten about it, then ones prayer is valid and it need not be repeated.
There are different types of purification and they are (The actual steps as to how to perform these purification rituals are covered in later units.):
Due to divine wisdom, the parts of the body that are usually exposed must be cleaned in preparation for prayer. The face; the hands; the arms; the head; and the feet. The actions that necessitate wudhu are covered in lesson 4.
The conditions for wudhu are:
- To be a Muslim.
- To be sane.
- To have reached age of discretion.
- The water must be pure.
- Cannot use stolen water.
- Must remove anything that will prevent water from touching the skin (i.e. nail polish, paint). Bandages or casts due to illness are allowed to be wiped over.
This also referred as a major ritual purification. As the word implies, it means bathing the whole body. Water must touch every part of the body. This type of purification is obligatory in the following cases:
- Janabah or major impurity: The secretion of seminal discharge from man or women, or after sexual intercourse.
- Upon acceptance of Islam.
- At the end of a menstruation period.
- At the end of a post-natal period.
- Death. Once a Muslim dies his body must be washed.
This type of purification is recommended in the following cases:
- Prior to Friday prayer (Jumuah).
- Prior to entering the state of Ihraam.
- After washing a dead body.
- For Eid prayers.
- Prior to entering Makkah.
- After recovering from unconsciousness.
Tayammum is one of the privileges with which Allah has distinguished the Muslim ummah. When water is not available or in times of sickness, then dust becomes an alternative. Tayammum, however does not apply to all the parts that are usually washed in wudhu, it apples to the face and hands only. This drives home the point that the purification for salah is more spiritual than physical. More about tayammum is covered in lesson 3.
Tayammum is permissible:
- When there is no water.
- When water is available, but in limited quantity, which is needed for drinking, cooking or removing defilement from the clothes.
- When the use of water is harmful, i.e. if a person is sick and using water may be detrimental to his recovery.
- When water is too cold.
- When seeking water endangers ones own life or property.
The etiquette of using the bathroom (toilet):
If you are surprised that even this part of a Muslims life is discussed, then don’t be, as a Muslims entire life can and should be a form of worship (Ibadah). We are rewarded for all actions if the intention is correct. There are certain etiquettes that a Muslim should follow in relation to using the bathroom. This lesson will merely mention the points. The details are covered in the Tahaara Level II units.
- Do not take anything with Qur’aanic verses or the name of Allah written on it, into the bathroom.
- Duah (supplication) upon entering the bathroom.
- To enter with your left foot first.
- Not facing the direction of prayer (Qiblah).
- Not standing.
- Avoid splatter.
- Avoiding conversation.
- Avoid using prohibited places to relieve ones
- The cleaning method:- left hand, material; water; number of times.
- Duah (supplication) upon leaving the bathroom.
- To wash your hands.
- To exit with the right foot first.
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