Sunday, 19 September 2010

Purity & Purification

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Purity & Purification by Ustadzah Zafirah Jeffrey.

At the basis of any act of worship in Islam is the state of physical and spiritual purity that a Muslim is required to maintain.  This is done by taking a ritual bath, ghusl, or by the ritual cleansing of specific parts of the body or ablution, wudhu.  Once in this state, it is important to be careful not to engage in any activity that nullifies it until the intended act of worship is complete.  These restrictions are primarily for the sake of raising one’s own spiritual awareness and not neglecting the original intention of worship.  According to the Shafi’i fiqh, acts that nullify the state of ritual purity are, excretion via the anus or urinary tract, deep sleep, loss of consciousness or sanity, touching one’s spouse, or any unrelated person of the opposite gender and touching the private parts.

In addition to this, it is best to maintain the physical cleanliness of one’s body, clothes and area of worship.  These are some general guidelines of what a Muslim should avoid coming in contact with before performing swalah or any other act of worship that requires wudhu.  Things to avoid coming into contact with include drinking alcohol, the saliva of dogs, a dry dog when one is wet and a wet dog when one is dry, pigs, the corpse of any animal other than a human, sea creature and arthropods, blood and pus, urine and faeces and the milk of animals whose milk we are prohibited from drinking such as donkeys and carnivores.  It should be noted that coming in contact with these entities does not nullify the wudhu in its entirety.  One must, however, ensure that he cleanses off any traces before he engages in prayer or an act of worship that requires ritual purity such as reciting from the Qur’an.

However, as it goes with any law, there are always exceptions to the rule.  The shari’ah was never meant to be overbearing, thus in the following examples, one is excused and it is not incumbent to cleanse oneself from these items before prayer:  When the impurity is indiscernible, then it suffices to simply rinse it off by sprinkling water.  This is the method used to cleanse the lowest degree of impurity.  The need to retake the ablution is also unnecessary for small amounts of blood and pus, be it from insect bites or minor cuts; from blood and pus from one’s own wounds which are not self-inflicted; and the blood on meat which is technically myoglobin and not haemoglobin.  Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.

In any case, the ablution is a physical manifestation for a spiritual reality.  Imam ‘Ali ibn ‘Utsman al-Hujwiri (q.s.) said, “When a man washes his hand, he must wash his heart clean of worldly things.  When he puts water in his mouth, he must purify his mouth from the mention of other than Allah.  When he washes his face, he must turn from all familiar things and turn towards Allah.  When he wipes his head, he must resign his affairs to Allah.  When he washes his feet, he must not form the intention of taking his stand on anything except according to the command of Allah.  So, he will be purified twice.”


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