Purification with the Water of the Love
Wudu’ is an important spiritual practice that purifies and realigns us with Allah using the cleansing and healing properties of water. Doing wudu’ entails washing your face, head, arms, hands, and feet with pure, unadulterated water. To “be in wudu’” is to be in a refined, purified state during which it is acceptable for you to pray salah and engage in other forms of worship.
Spiritual Secrets of Wudu’
Wudu’ is performed with pure water, and there is a special reason for this. Sidi extolled water’s spiritual and physical value many times over the years, saying, “Water carries the secret of existence,” and, “The water that comes to earth is true love. This water is the deep secret of the divine love that comes from Heaven. It brings life to your body and to the earth.”
Most commonly, wudu’ is done before each prayer (salah) because it is mandatory to be in wudu’ during salah. However, Sidi encouraged his students to maintain a state of wudu’ at all times. Being in wudu’ when you’re not praying salah is like saying to Allah, Most High, “My Beloved, I love you so much that I wish to always be ready for my intimate connection with You (salah). I wish to always be in my purest state, cleansed by Your Love.”
“The Sufi traveler uses every wudu’ as a chance to release the detritus of day-to-day earthly life, and to receive Allah’s Love, directly from Heaven.”– Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal
When to Perform Wudu’
Do wudu’ to ensure you are in the highest state of alignment, appropriate to performing the prayer (salah) or any other form of worship. Wudu’ does not just clean your body, it cleans your mind and spirit, which is why it’s often recommended to help release anger and other toxic emotions. Wudu’ helps the traveler let go of anything that is distracting him/her from seeing Allah in each moment.
Once you’ve done wudu’ you are in a state of wudu’ until you break it. Islamic law (the shari’ah) teaches us about the physical ways we can break wudu’, which tend to be coarse. Your wudu’ needs to be renewed if you:
- Pass gas
- Pass any waste while on the toilet
- Leak blood, pus, or yellow liquid that flows or spreads from any part of the body (includes menstruation)
- Ejaculate or have sexual intercourse
- Vomit a mouthful of water, bile, or food
- Ingest enough of an intoxicating substance to make you feel intoxicated (Note: ingesting any amount of an intoxicating substance is forbidden in our path)
- See water after performing tayammum
The list above is broad in scope and does not cover some of the detailed, specific situations that may cause to you to wonder if your wudu’ is intact. You’re not alone–over the centuries, scholars have had differing opinions about many of these subtle but important details. If you are unsure about a specific situation you experience, consult our Imams and insha’allah (God willing) they can help you find clarity.
How to Wudu’ & Ghusl – Video
How to Perform Wudu’
At each step, cover the body part completely with just enough water to wet it. The water used must be clean and unaltered by any soaps, perfumes, oils, etc.
1. Begin by stating your intention to make wudu’ aloud or silently. You may say, “I intend this wudu’ as a prayer to Allah, Most High. In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.”
2. Wash your hands three times. Wash your right hand using your left hand, then your left hand using your right hand, and finally each hand twice more.
3. Rinse your mouth and spit out the water three times. It is recommended to clean the teeth now or before wudu’.
4. Rinse your nose three times by snuffing water and blowing it out. Gently sniff water until it goes up your right nostril and then blow it out. Repeat with your left nostril, and then both nostrils.
5. Wash your face with both hands three times.
6. Wash your right forearm from the fingers to the elbow three times. Wash your left forearm the same way three times.
7. Wash your head once. Run both hands from your forehead to the top of your head, to the nape of your neck, and then back up to the forehead.
8. Wash the outside of your ears one time. Place your index finger on the front of the outside of your ear and your thumb on the back of your ear. Start where your ear meets your head and work your way to the other end.
9. Wash each foot three times. Using your left hand, wash the right foot first. Be sure to get the entire ankle, heel, sole, top of the foot, and between the toes. Repeat for the left foot.
10. Then say: ash-hadu an la ilaha illa-lla wa ash-hadu anna muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasulu.
“I bear witness there is nothing worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad is His slave and messenger.” You may raise your right index finger, indicating Divine Unity, as you say this.
Q: How do I know if my water is pure?
A: To be considered pure your water cannot be noticeably discolored, have a foul odor or taste, or be mixed with any soaps, oils, or perfumes, etc.
Q: If I have a beard, do I need to touch the skin under the beard when washing, or is it enough to wash the hair of the beard?
A: If you can see the skin beneath the beard when you look in a mirror, wash the skin and the hair of the beard. If you can’t, washing the hair of the beard is sufficient.
Q: What do I do if I break my wudu’ in the middle of salah or another spiritual practice?
A: Even though it may feel impolite, the best thing to do is to go renew your wudu’, and then start your practice again.
Q: When is it mandatory to be in a state of wudu’?
A: It is required to be in wudu’ if you are:
- Performing any type of salah
- On Hajj and performing the obligatory circumambulation of the Ka’ba.
- Using certain spiritual healing methods of Sidi’s
Q: If I am menstruating, is it possible for me to be in a state of wudu’?
A: No, because there is blood that flows during menstruation, menstruating women are out of wudu’. While women can’t do salah and certain other spiritual practices if they are out of wudu’, practices like the remembrance, al-wird, and recitation of the Divine Names are still strongly encouraged.
Ghusl is a deeper level of spiritual cleanliness. It is a full body wash not unlike taking a shower, where the entire body is washed, including all hair and skin. Ghusl is performed after sexual relations or after any major discretion such as going mad and losing your senses or performing a major sin. Your morning shower counts as ghusl as long as you set the intention to be spiritually cleansed and are conscious as you clean, assuming you wash all skin and hair with water being passed over all parts at least three times.
There are resources and specific rules regarding what is a major sin requiring Ghusl. Ghusl is required during the day before beginning a khalwa (spiritual retreat), and for women after menstruation ends each month.
The Sufi stays in the state of wudu, refreshing throughout the day as needed and ghusling when needed.
 Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal ar-Rifa’i ash-Shadhili, “Complete Tawba” in The Traveler’s Journey of Healing Through Divine Love, Knowledge, and Truth, (Pope Valley: Shadhiliyya Sufi Center, 2010), 15.
 Al-Jamal ar-Rifa’i ash-Shadhili, “Complete Tawba”, 22.