Answered by Sidi Moustafa Elqabbany
The most important things to know regarding wudu are its integrals (obligatory elements) and invalidators; this much is personally obligatory and one is sinful for not learning it. The obligatory aspects of purification and prayer are covered in the Immaculate Raiment and other basic texts. Please see:
One continues to improve one's wudu by actions of the heart, tongue, and limbs. Actions of the heart include sincerity, gratitude, hope, and fear. However, this is the realm of tasawwuf, not fiqh.
As for fiqhi perfections, they involve practicing the recommended acts of wudu and avoiding disliked acts. The following is an abridged paraphrasing of the relevant sections from Fath Al-Allam, by Imam Jurdani.
Recommended Acts of Wudu
1. To say, a`oodhu billahi min-ash-shaytan-ir-rajeem (I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan); bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-raheem (In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful); al-hamdu lillahi `ala-l-islami wa ni`matih, al-hamdu lillahi-lladhee ja`ala-l-ma'a tahooran wa-l-islama nooran, rabbi a`oodhu bika min hamazat ash-shayateen wa a`oodhu bika an yahduroon (All praise is due to Allah for Islam and its blessing; all praise is due to Allah Who made water purifying and Islam light; my lord, I seek refuge in you from the whisperings of the devils and I seek refuge in you that they should attend.)
أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
بسم الله الرحمن الحيم
الحمد لله على الإسلام و نعمته
الحمد لله الذي جعل الماء طهورا و الإسلام نورا
رب أعوذ بك من همزات الشياطين و أعوذ بك أن يحضرون
If one forgets to say it at the beginning and remembers during wudu, one says bismillahi awwalahu wa akhirahu (In the Name of Allah at its start and end) or bismillahi-r-rahman-ir-raheem awwalahu wa akhirahu (In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful at its start and end).
بسم الله أوله و آخره
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم أوله و آخره
However, if one forgets to say it and only remembers after wudu, one does not say this, as opposed to the case of eating or drinking.
2. To wash one's hands up to the wrists, saying bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-raheem at the onset while making the intention of wudu or the sunnah acts of wudu with one's heart (i.e., conscience).
3. To rinse one's mouth and nose, the ideal way being to cup some water in one's hand, rinse the mouth with some of it and then the nose (with the same handful of water). It is recommended for one who isn't fasting to rinse one's mouth and nose deeply. The meaning of rinsing one's mouth deeply is that water reach the farthest extent of the palate and both sides of the teeth and gums. It is also recommended to swish the water around in one's mouth and rub one's left index finger across one's teeth and gums. One also removes the excess water and dirt from one's nostrils with the little finger of the left hand.
4. Wiping the entire head, the ideal way being to place one's thumbs on one's temples with the insides of one's fingers against the front of one's head and the tips of the index fingers together. One then moves his hands back towards his nape and then forward again. (It is only recommended to wipe one's head back-to-front if doing so will cause one's hair to turn over such that some parts of the hair that weren't wiped during the front-to-back stroke will get wiped by the back-to-front stroke. If this isn't the case, such as if one has very short hair, one only wipes front-to-back and not back-to-front.) Wiping the head front-to-back and then back-to-front counts as a single wiping. Unlike the other schools, it is recommended in our school to wipe the head three times. Each wiping should be with new water.
5. Wiping the ears. The ideal way is to insert the tips of one's index fingers into the entrance of the ear canals and and move them round the auricle's inside. (Both ears should be done at once.) The back of each auricle is wiped with the thumb of the corresponding hand. This is done three times each. After the three wipings, one wets one's palms and presses them against the auricles. This is also done three times. In addition to this, it is recommended to wash the ears with the face and to wipe the ears with the head. Thus, the ears are affected twelve times: nine wipings and three washings.
6. Permeating a thick beard with wet fingers. One is only required to wash the outside of one's thick beard during wudu. However, after washing the face, it is recommended for a man to put water in his palm, put his beard into it, then separate his fingers and push them through his beard from his chest forward. Imam Ramli is of the opinion that a man in ihram should not permeate his beard thus, while Ibn Hajar holds that he should do so gently.
7. Permeating between the fingers and toes. The ideal way to do this (though any way is rewarded) is to place the left palm on the back of the right hand and interlace the fingers, and then place the right palm on the back of the left hand and interlace. The ideal way to permeate between the toes is to use the little finger of the left hand and start from the small toe of the right foot, moving leftwards towards the big toe of the right foot. Then one starts with the big toe of the left foot, moving leftwards towards the little toe of the left foot. It is recommended to permeate the toes with wet fingers if water reaches them normally. If water cannot normally reach them, it is obligatory to do so.
8. To wash the right arm and leg before the left.
9. To begin washing the face from the top. The arms and legs are washed starting from the fingertips to the elbows and from the toes to the ankles. According to Imam Ramli, if someone is pouring water for one during wudu, then it is preferable to start with the elbows and the ankles. Ibn Hajar holds that it is always preferable to start with the fingers and toes.
10. To perform wudu without interruption. The meaning of interruption is to wash something and leave it long enough that it would dry given normal conditions of wind, time, temperature, and the like. It is optimal to avoid interruption in washing a single limb (meaning all of it should be washed before any of it has time to dry), to avoid interruption between consecutive washings of the same limb, and to avoid interruption between the different limbs. What is mentioned regarding washing in this paragraph also applies to wiping.
11. To rub the limbs after water has poured over them. Rubbing the limbs is only recommended if one is confident that water has reached them without it; otherwise, it is obligatory.
12. To extend the area washed beyond the obligatory limits. Ideally, this includes washing part of the neck, the front of the head and ears and the entirety of the upper arm and shank.
13. To face the qiblah and sit in a place where one doesn't get splashed, with the water basin on one's right and the vessel used for pouring on one's left.
14. To avoid all of the following: getting help from others (unless one has an excuse), talking, drying oneself without need, shaking off excess water, and and slapping the face with water.
15. To move one's ring. If water doesn't reach under the ring except by moving it, then doing so is obligatory.
16. To maintain one's intention throughout until the end of the wudu and to drink from the unused water.
17. [Several supplications omitted for brevity.] Upon completing wudu and before a long time has passed one says, ash-hadu alla ilaha ill-allah wahdahu la shareeka lahu wa ash-hadu anna sayyidana muhammadan `abduhu wa rasooluh, allahumma-j`alnee min-at-tawwabeena wa-j`alnee min-al-mutatahhireen wa-j`alnee min `ibadika-s-saliheen, subhanak-allahumma wa bihamdika ash-hadu alla ilaha illa anta, astaghfiruka wa atoobu ilayka, wa sall-allahu`ala sayyidina muhammad wa `ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallam (I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah, alone, without partner and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger. Oh Allah, make me among the oft-repenting and among the purified and among your righteous slaves. Glorified are You O Allah and all praise to You; I seek your Forgiveness and I return in repent to You.)
أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له و أشهد أن محمدا عبده و رسوله اللهم اجعلني من التوابين و اجعلني من المتطهرين واجعلني من عبادك الصالحين سبحانك اللهم و بحمدك أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت أستغفرك و أتوب إليك و صلى الله على سيدنا محمد و على آله و صحبه و سلم
It is best to say all of the above before speaking and while facing the qiblah with one's hands and vision to the sky.
18. To brush one's teeth, meaning to use a twig or the like of any pure, coarse material to remove the bad smell of the mouth. It is optimal to use one from the arak tree. (This is what is normally simply termed miswak in English.) According to Imam Ramli, one brushes the teeth before washing the hands while Imam Ibn Hajar holds that it is recommended to do so after the hands and before rinsing the mouth. According to the former, brushing the teeth is a recommended act of wudu that is external to it, and therefore requires a separate intention. According to the latter, the intention of performing the recommended acts of wudu includes the intention of brushing the teeth. The ideal way to brush one's teeth is to brush the insides and outsides of the top right teeth until reaching the middle (i.e., front) of the mouth, then one brushes the lower right teeth. One repeats this for the left teeth, then brushes the tongue lengthwise and then gently strokes the roof of the mouth. The ideal way to hold a miswak is with the little finger under it and the ring, middle, and index fingers above it with the thumb under its tip. After brushing, one washes the tip. It is recommended to place the miswak behind one's left ear because of the narration that mentions it and the virtue of imitating the Companions. It is better to remove the food between the teeth (such as with floss or a toothpick) before and after brushing. Brushing the teeth is recommended at all times except after zawal (i.e., after dhuhr has entered) for a fasting person, in which case it is disliked.
Disliked Acts of Wudu
1. Starting with the left arm or leg.
2. Rinsing the mouth and nose deeply while fasting.
3. Having someone help one wash one's limbs. This is disliked, as opposed to asking someone to pour water for one, which is merely non-optimal. There is no harm in asking someone to bring one water for wudu.
4. Wasting water by, for example, scooping out more water than one needs to wash a given limb, even if one is scooping out of the ocean.
5. Washing (or wiping) more or fewer than three times. When in doubt, one goes by what one is certain of (i.e., the lesser of the two numbers).
6. Imam Ibn Hajar says in his explanation of Al-Muqaddimah Al-Hadramiyyah that every recommended act that scholars have differed over regarding its obligation is disliked to omit, such as the Friday bath. Furthermore, every emphatically recommended act (Ar. sunnah mu'akkadah) is disliked to omit, such as washing the right before the left and permeating a thick beard with water.
Allah the Exalted knows best.
Metro Vancouver, Canada
MMVIII © Qibla.
All rights reserved
No part of this article may be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, please submit a request at our Helpdesk.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Knowledge is only through study." While some knowledge can be gained from reading or casually listening to lectures, the best means to gain knowledge is through finding a qualified teacher and then setting up a systematic program of learning. Picking up a book or reading an article and trying to figure things out on our own is no substitute for learning from someone who has a direct link to our living tradition.
Through joining an online class at Qibla, you can benefit from convenient, online courses that will give you access to reliable scholars and our popular curriculum learning tracks. Knowledge gained in these courses will both build your iman and assist you in putting into practice what you learn. Don't give yourself less than you deserve, register today.