The Philosophy Behind Wudu and Ghusl 2

The Philosophy Behind Wudu and Ghusl 2

3. What is the manner of washing the face, and wiping the head and the feet in Wudu?

Suratul Maidah makes a mention of all those things that bring about the purification of man's soul and hence, a considerable portion of the rulings associated with Wudu, ghusl and tayammum, which bring about purification of the soul, have been explained therein. Initially the believers are addressed and the rulings related to Wudu, are mentioned as follows:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قُمْـتُمْ إِلـى الصَّلاَةِ فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَ أَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلـى الْمَرافِقِ وَ امْسَحُوا بِرُؤُسِكُمْ وَ أَرْجُــلَكُمْ إِلـى الْكَعْـبَيْنِ‏.

“O you who believe! When you rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles.”(1)

In this verse the portion of the hand that ought to be washed during Wudu has been mentioned, since مَراَفِق is the plural of مِرْفَق - meaning elbow. Since it is possible that when it is said “wash your hands”, it could be thought that they should be washed till the wrists - as this is the measure that is generally washed - the verse, in order to do away with this misconception, specifies 'as far as the elbows' (إِلَى الْمَرافِقِ).

From the above explanation it becomes clear that the word إِلـىَ in the verse is only for mentioning the limits of washing and not the manner of washing as some have imagined - having taken the verse to mean: Wash the hands from the tips of the fingers towards the elbows (as is prevalent amongst a group from amongst the Ahlus Sunnah).

The above issue is similar to the case when a person instructs a worker to paint the walls of a room from the floor up to a height of one meter. It is plainly evident that it is not intended that the wall should be painted from the bottom towards the top - rather, it means that this is the portion that has to be painted - neither more nor less.

Hence, only the extent that needs to be necessarily washed has been mentioned in the verse; however, as far as the manner of washing is concerned, it has been mentioned in the traditions of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) that have reached us by means of the Ahlul Bayt G, and it is to wash the hands from the elbows towards the fingertips.

The letter (ب), which is found in the word (بِرُؤُسِكُمْ) - according to the explicit statements of some of the traditions and clear opinions of some of the lexicographers  - is used to denote 'a part' (or portion) - as such the meaning conveyed by the verse is: 'Wipe a portion of your heads' which, in our traditions, has been delineated as the anterior one-fourth region of the head and this one-fourth portion ought to be wiped with the hand, however small be the measure of wiping.

It follows that the practice which is prevalent amongst some of the Sunni groups, who wipe their entire heads and even their ears, is inconsistent with the meaning conveyed by the verse.

The word أَرْجُلَكُمْ being located next to بِرُؤُسِكُمْ is a testimony to the fact that the legs should also be wiped and not washed. (And if we observe that during recitation, أَرْجُلَكُمْ is recited such that (ل) possesses the fathah (the vowel point for 'a'), this is due to it being superimposed upon the place of بِرُؤُسِكُمْ and not on the word (2)وُجُوهَكُمْ.(3)

4. What is the need to face the Qiblah in prayers?

Suratul Baqarah states:

وَ لِلٌّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَ الْمَغْرِبُ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللٌّهِ‏.

“To Allah belong the east and the West: Whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of Allah.”(4). In consideration of the above verse the question that comes to mind is: If Allah is present wherever we face, what then is the need to face the Qiblah (during the prayers)?

(The order for) facing the Qiblah is not at all intended to confine the presence of the Holy Allah in a particular direction. However, since man is a material entity and thus, must necessarily face a direction while offering his prayers, it has been ruled that all should face one particular direction during their prayers. This is with the objective of realizing unity and harmony amongst the Muslims, and preventing confusion, disorder and scattering amongst them. Just reflect how scathing and disorderly it would be if each person were to offer his prayers in a different direction and the people were to establish scattered rows (for the prayers)?

Incidentally, the direction that has been stipulated as the Qiblah (the direction towards the Ka'bah) is a region that is not only holy but also one of the most ancient bases of monotheism and so, directing oneself towards it serves to awaken the monotheistic reminiscences (within oneself). (5)

5. What secrets lay behind the changing of the Qiblah?

The change of Qiblah from Bayt al-Maqdas to the holy Ka'bah was a puzzle for everyone; those who were of the opinion that every rule ought to be permanent and unchanging, mused: If we had to necessarily pray in the direction of the Ka'bah, why was it not ordered from the very onset?  If Bayt al-Maqdas, which had been regarded as the Qiblah for the previous prophets was superior, why then was it changed?

The enemies too found the issue a fertile ground to poison the minds of the people. They probably might have said:  At the start he (s.a.w) turned towards the Qiblah of the previous prophets but after tasting victories he was overcome by racial and nationalistic tendencies and therefore substituted it with the Qiblah of his own people!

Or they might have said: He initially accepted Bayt al-Maqdas to be his Qiblah in order to attract the Jews and the Christians towards his religion, but later, when he observed that it did not prove effective, he changed it to the Ka'bah.

The agitation and commotion that these whisperings must have generated - especially in a society in which the sediments of the eras of idolatry and polytheism still existed, and one that had yet to be completely illuminated by the light of knowledge, science, and faith - is all too evident.

As a result, the Qur`an explicitly states in Suratul Baqarah(6) that this was a great trial to discern the stance adopted by the believers and the polytheists.

It is not improbable that one of the important reasons for the change in Qiblah could be the following issue:

In that period, since the Ka'bah had been the hub for the idols of the polytheists it was ordered that the Muslims should temporarily offer their prayers in the direction of Bayt al-Maqdas and in this way separate their ranks and disassociate themselves from the polytheists. But when they emigrated to Madinah and established their own community and rule, and when their ranks were completely demarcated from that of the others, it was not necessary to continue with the existing posture and hence they returned towards the holy Ka'bah, the most ancient focal point of the prophets and the centre of monotheism.

It is plainly evident that offering prayers in the direction of Bayt al-Maqdas was very difficult for those, who regarded the Ka'bah to be the spiritual edifice of their own tribe, and equally difficult was the return towards the Ka'bah, after having become habituated to the first Qiblah.

In this manner the believers were placed in a crucible of examination in order that the traces of polytheism, which still existed within themselves, get burnt away in the hot furnace of this test, they sever their association with their polytheistic past, and there develops within them the spirit of absolute submission before the orders of Allah.

Basically, just as we have previously mentioned, Allah does not possess any place or location; the Qiblah is just a code for establishing unity within the ranks of the believers and reviving the reminiscences of monotheism and so, changing it would not transform anything. The important thing is to submit to His commands and shatter the idols of fanaticism, stubbornness and egotism.(7)

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1. (The Quran 5:6)

2. There is no doubt that there exists a comparatively great separation between وُجُوهَكُمْ and أَرْجُلَكُمْ making the superimposition upon it to appear remote. Apart from this, a great number of Qur'an reciters have also recited the word أَرْجُلَكُمْ with (ل) possessing the kasrah (the vowel point for 'i').

3. Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 4, pg. 285

4. (The Quran 2:115)

5. Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 1, pg. 415

6. (the Quran 2:143).

7. Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 1, pg. 485.