The sacred Islamic law pays significant attention to cleanliness and purity and this attention is not limited to material aspects.
The question of identifying what is Najis (impure) and also how to purify it is called “Tahara min al-khabath”, i.e. purity from filth.
Taharah also includes spiritual aspects that might contaminate the soul, contaminations which will hinder a person from being totally directed to his/her creator.
The situations that cause the contamination of the soul are called “Hadath.”
There are two categories of Hadath:
- “Asghar” (minor)
- “Akbar” (major).
Each one has its own causes and ways of purification. The purification for minor Hadath is Wudhu (washing); and for major Hadath is Ghusl.
Tayammum (dry washing) is an alternative in some difficult/urgent situations, using Earth (dust or dirt) when water cannot be used.
To further protect the spiritual development of an individual, the sacred Shari'ah recomends that the Mukallaf perform Ghusl in certain circumstances and times (such as the Friday Ghusl, and Ghusl for the Nights of Qadr), even if there has not been a Hadath.
The kind of Ghusl, that is not obligatory, is known as recommended Ghusl (mustahabghusl).
Purification from “Hadath” (taharah min al-hadath)
1- Wudhu - is composed from six aspects.
The first aspect is washing the face. The face is defined vertically as the limit from the hairline (where hair starts growing) to the tip of the chin. And horizontally as the area between the middle finger and the thumb (the area of the face covered by an open hand’s thumb and middle finger). Every part within these limits must be washed.
The second aspect of Wudhu is washing the right arm and hand. The limits of the arm are from the elbow down to the finger tips.
The third aspect of Wudhu is washing the left arm and hand. This is exactly the same as for the right arm and hand.
The fourth aspect of Wudhu is wiping the front part of the head, that part that is from the end of the top of the head down to the hairline. It is enough to wipe the width of one finger but it is preferred to wipe the width of three fingers.
The fifth aspect of Wudhu is wiping the top of the right foot. It is obligatory to wipe length-wise from the tips of the toes to the ankle, and width-wise as much as is considered wiping, even if it is only the width of one finger.
The sixth aspect of Wudhu is wiping the upper part of the left foot. It is the same method as wiping the right foot. It is preferred to wipe with the left hand, although it is permitted to wipe with the right hand also.
Wudhu becomes void after:
- Discharge of urine.
- Discharge of excrements.
- Passing wind.
- Sleep that overcomes the senses, meaning that sleep that overcomes sight, hearing and understanding, also that which affects sensibility such as insanity or unconsciousness.
- Istihadha (undue menses), which is irregular or non-cyclical bleeding in women.
- Janabah (a state of being ceremonially unclean) voids the Wudhu, but only requires Ghusl as will be discussed later.
There are two methods of Ghusl
- Submerging in water (irtimasi), and in a specific sequence (tartibi)
- Ghusl by submersion (ghusl irtimasi) is performed by completely submerging the body in water at one time. However, it is obligatory to first wash the head and neck, and then the right side of the body, and then the left side.
In most kinds of Ghusl, except for the Ghusl of a dead body (Ghusl al-mayt), it is permitted to wash the head and neck, and to then wash the rest of the body at one time, without consideration for right or left side.
There are six obligatory instances for performing Ghusl:
- Haydh (menstruation).
- Nifas (bleeding that occurs after childbirth).
- Istihadha (undue menses).
- Ghusl Al-Mayyit (washing a dead body).
- Ghusl Mas Al-Mayyit (touching the dead).
Janabah occurs by two actions:
First: Seminal discharge that occurs either due to sexual intercourse, fantasising during sleep or other ways. It is usually ejaculated when orgasm is achieved and semen ejaculates the body, followed by the relaxation of the body.
When in doubt whether a discharge is semen or not; it is considered semen if the three elements of desire, ejaculation and then the body relaxation are present. If these are not present, it is not considered semen. In persons with illness, it is sufficient for the presence of one element, desire, to consider it semen.
However, in females the liquid discharged from her vagina when reaching orgasm is akin to male semen, whether it occurred during sleep or while awake.
Second: Sexual intercourse. This causes the state of Janabah for both male and female.
Ghusl Janabah is obligatory for performing acts such as prayers that require purification of major Hadath. It is also forbidden for a person with Janabah to:
- Touch the writing of the Holy Qur’an.
- Touch the holy name of Allah and also, as a precaution, touching the names and adjectives that relate to Him only such as “The Creator.”
- Recite the verses that have obligatory sujood (prostration) in Sura Iqra, Sura An-Najm, Sura Sajda and Sura Fussilat.
- Entering a mosque or staying in it, including taking or replacing something in it.
It is allowed for a person with Janabah to cross a mosque by entering one door and exiting from another, except in the two holy mosques (Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid Al-Nabawi in Madinah). On basis of precaution, the shrines of the Infallibles are also considered to be mosques.
2. Haydh (Menstruation)
Menstruation is bleeding which women experience and know (recognise).
Menstruation bleeding can begin at nine lunar years of age and usually ends at about 60 years of age. Thus, the blood seen before 9 years of age and after 60 is not considered menstrual bleeding, and is not subject to the same rulings.
The minimum period of menstrual bleeding is three days and maximum ten days. It is required to be continual in the first three days and nights. If the bleeding does not continue for three days, the rulings for menstruation do not apply.
A female with menstruation is in one of two states: woman with regular menstruation, and woman with irregular menstruation.
The regular is in three types:
- Regular timing and duration
- Regular duration only
- Regular timing only
The irregular are:
- Without habit
- Duration forgotten(refer to books of law for further rulings)
The prayers, fasting and Tawaf (circling of the Ka’ba) are not allowed for a woman during menstruation. During the holy month of Ramadan she will have to compensate the days of fasting for which she missed during menstruating. She does not have to compensate for prayers missed during the time of menstruation.
The divorce of a woman during menstruation is void, except in some exceptional circumstances. It is forbidden for the husband to have sexual intercourse with her during the days of bleeding. She is also forbidden from all the things a person in the state of Janabah is forbidden from.
It is obligatory for the woman, after menstruation, to perform Ghusl for actions that require purification from major Hadath such as prayers.
3. Nifas (Bleeding after childbirth)
Nifas is the bleeding that a woman sees when giving birth or after.
She is then called “Nifsa” (in a state of bleeding due to childbirth). There is not a minimum time for Nifsa; it could be one moment, the maximum is ten days. If the bleeding exceeds ten days, and if she had a regular menstruation, then she will count the number of days of menstruation for Nifsa.
For example, if her menstruation is 5 days, then she will count 5 days for Nifsa and the rest as undue menses (Istihadha). If she does not have a regular menstrual cycle, then she will consider 10 days as Nifsa, and any bleeding after that as Istihadha.
The woman who is Nifsa is obliged to follow all the obligations and abstain from all the forbidden things, similar to a woman in menstruation. As an obligatory precaution, she is forbidden from reciting the verses of prostration (Sujood) and from entering the mosques in Makkah and Madinah, and from entering other mosques other than to pass through, or place something inside.
4. Istihadha (Undue Menses)
Istihadha is the bleeding seen by a woman that is not due to menstruation (Haydh), bleeding related to childbirth (Nifas), or bleeding from wounds and ulceration. Usually the bleeding in undue menses has different characteristics from the bleeding of menstruation.
Undue menses is in three types:
- Major undue menses (istihadhakathira): blood soaks the cotton that is used by the woman and is absorbed by the cloth around it.
- Moderate undue menses (istihadhamutwasita): blood penetrates the cotton, but does not seep to the surrounding cloth.
- Minor undue menses (istihadhaqalila): blood stains the cotton but does not soak it, because it is little.
5. Ghusl Al-Mayyit (washing a dead body)
It is obligatory to perform Ghusl for a dead Muslim, even for a miscarried foetus if it was more than four months old (as a precaution, even if the foetus is less than 4 months). The way to carry out the Ghusl is to wash the body first with water and lotus (sidir), second with water and camphor, and thirdly with pure water. (For more details and the rulings for the dead, refer to books of law).
6. Ghusl Mas Al-Mayyit (touching the dead)
Ghusl is obligatory after touching a dead body after the body has cooled, and before it has been ritually washed. It doesn’t differ if the touch was with dampness, or without it, and it doesn’t differ if the deceased is Muslim or not.
This Ghusl is necessary to perform acts of worship such as praying and touching the script of the Qur’an, that require purification from minor Hadath. However, Ghusl is not required for entering a mosque and staying there to recite verses of the Qur'an, even those requiring prostration (Sujood).
Mustahab ghusl (recommended bathing)
As explained in the introduction, these Ghusls are not for purifying from any Hadath, whether major or minor. They are simply recommended or advisory before any acts of worship, such as Ghusl for Ihram, or to enter a holy place such as Ghusl to enter Makkah Al-Mukarama or Madinah Al-Munawwarra. Ghusl is also recommended at sacred times, such as the Friday Ghusl and the nights of Qadr in the holy month of Ramadan.
Ghusl that has had its recommendation confirmed by Islamic law will substitute for Wudhu. Also, obligatory Ghusl is sufficient for a person with major Hadath to purify him/herself for all acts that require purity, e.g. prayers, and will not need the performance of other types of Ghusl.
Tayammum (dry washing) is an alternative in some difficult/urgent situations and is valid as a substitute to Wudhu or Ghusl in these situations:
- If the person does not find enough water to perform Ghusl or Wudhu as needed.
- If water was available, but he/she is unable to get it due to physical limitation; for example, being disabled or due to it being associated with committing a forbidden act (for example, not using permissible water because the container belongs to someone else).
- If he/she feared thirst for his/herself or any other person related to or with him/her due to not having enough water to perform purification and quench the thirst.
- If there was insufficient time to perform Wudhu or Ghusl and perform the complete prayer on time.
- If obtaining water for Wudhu or Ghusl involves awkwardness or level of difficulty that is commonly seen as unacceptable.
- If using water for Ghusl or Wudhu will conflict with another obligation; for instance, if the body or clothes are contaminated and the water is not enough to purify them from the Hadath and the impurity, then he/she should use the water to purify the impurity, and perform Tayammum instead of Wudhu or Ghusl and pray.
- If it is feared that using water in Wudhu or Ghusl will harm him/herself by causing illness, or by increasing, complicating or prolonging the illness.
When performing Tayammum, the person must:
- Hit or place the palms of the hands on the earth, and as an obligatory precaution, both hands should come in contact with the earth at the same time.
- Wipe the forehead and the sides of the forehead as a precaution, with the palms from the hair line downwards to the upper part of the nose and eyebrows.
Wipe the palm of the left hand over the back of the whole of the back of the right hand, from the wrist to the fingertips, and then wipe the right palm on the back of the left hand.
Al-Najasat - Purification from Khabath (impurity)
There are ten impurities (Najasat):
- Human urine and excrement, and the urine and excrement of every animal that is haram to eat. These are animals that have an ethereal soul; i.e. when they are slaughtered, blood gushes out forcefully. As a precaution, also the urine of animals that don’t have an ethereal soul and have meat which is also impure.
- Dead bodies of humans or animals with ethereal souls, including amputated parts from living humans and animals.
- Semen of humans and of animals with an ethereal soul. As a precaution, this includes even animals that are halal to eat.
- Blood of humans and any animal with an ethereal soul.
- Alcohol, and as a precaution beer as well.
- A non-believer (Kafir), with the exception of Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.
- Sweat or perspiration of an animal that has a habit of feeding on human excrement.
Mutahirat (Purifying Agents)
There are 12 purifying agents (Mutahirat) that purify impure (Najis) items:
The first purifying agent is water, meaning normal water from any source such as: river, rainfall, wells, etc. It is called absolute water, as opposed to diluted or added water such as rose water, pomegranate water or grape water, etc...
Absolute water is divided into types:
Immunised water is the water that does not become impure by contact with impure items except if the colour, taste or smell of the water changes.
Immunised water is:
- Abundant (Maa al-kathir): it is what satisfies Kurr or more. Kurr is the amount of 36 cubic Shiber (span of the hand), Kurr water includes running water connected to houses from large water grids or water pumps.
- Well water.
- Running water, such as water of rivers, streams, and springs.
- Rain water when raining.
- Non-immunised ghairmu’tasim water
Non-immunised water is that which becomes impure as soon as contact is made with impure items, even if none of the three characteristics changes.
Non-immunised water is the water in small pools, utensils, bottles and is similar to stagnant water (other than well water) that is less than kurr water and that is called "Maa qaleel" (little water).
Every item that becomes impure Mutanajis can be purified if washed with water once, whether it is abundant or little with the condition that if using little water, excess water should drip off the item.
Exceptions to this are:
- Utensils such as bottles and glasses that become impure by alcohol or beer should be washed with water three times.
- Utensils in which a rat died, or where licked by a pig, should be washed seven times.
- Utensils that are licked or lapped by a dog become pure again after being wiped with soil first, and then washed with water twice. If the dog’s saliva is dropped on the utensil, or if any part of the dog’s body contacted the utensils, as an obligatory precaution, the utensils should be wiped with soil first then washed with water three times.
- It is enough to purify items that become impure by the urine of a baby that has not yet started eating food, by pouring water on the area of urine to the extent that the water surrounds the urine area and there is not a need for more than that.
- The body or clothes that become impure by urine other than the urine of a baby should be washed with running water once, or with Kurr water, or twice by a little water.
- Utensils that become impure by things other than alcohol, licking of a dog, death of a rat, and the licking of a pig should be purified by washing them with a little water three times. Also, as a precaution, they should be washed three times by abundant water, running water or rain water.
The second purifying agent is the sun. The sun purifies the earth and what is secured to it, such as buildings and walls but, as a precaution, not doors, wooden materials, trees and leaves and such things that are built on the earth. Purification by the sun is sufficient when, in addition to the removal of the impure agents and dampness from the item, the item dries by direct sun.
The third purifying agent is removal of the impure agent from inside a human body or the animal’s body. Therefore, the removal of blood from inside the mouth, nose or ear of a human is sufficient to purify that organ, without the need to purify it with water. Also, the removal of an impurity from the body of an animal will purify its body.
The fourth purifying agent is the earth, which purifies the soles of feet and shoes as they walk on or wipe over the earth. This is provisional on the impurity being removed by walking or wiping on the earth, and without removal by hand or other means.
The fifth purifying agent is a state of belonging, or being affiliated to, such as the purification of a utensil containing alcohol, when the alcohol turns into vinegar. Also, the purification of hands that are washing impure clothing with a little water, as the hands will be rendered pure in affiliation with the clothes.
The sixth purifying agent is Islam, which is a purifying agent for an unbeliever, who is considered impure.
The seventh purifying agent: the absence of an adult or distinguishing youth Muslim: if somebody’s body, clothes or any of his/her belongings become impure and then he/she disappears for a while then the impure body/item should be considered pure if there was a chance that the period of absence was sufficient for the item to have been purified.
The eighth purifying agent is by transfer, such as the transfer of human blood to insects and mosquitoes that normally do not have blood. Therefore, if the insect sucks human blood and is then killed, the blood it contains is considered pure.
The ninth purifying agent is transformation from one condition to another that is different not only by name, shape or being detached. For example, impure wood that is burned and becomes ash will then be pure.
The tenth purifying agent is the emergence of the normal amount of blood from an animal that has been slaughtered according to Islamic law. Thus the remaining blood in the animal is considered pure.
The eleventh purifying agent includes the transformation from alcohol to vinegar, which will purify it.
The twelfth purifying agent is for animals that have been eating human excrement. After an animal has been kept away from eating human excrement for a period of time, the animal along with its sweat, urine and excrement are considered pure.