Ritual Purity In Islam

This article covers the importance of ritual purity in Islam.

Purity (طهارة‎, ṭaharah) is an essential aspect of Islam. It is the opposite of najāsa, the state of being ritually impure. It is achieved by first removing physical impurities (for example, urine) from the body, and then removing ritual impurity by means of wudu (usually) or ghusl.

In the Quran

The Quran says:

“In it there are men who love to observe purity and Allah loves those who maintain purity.”[Quran 9:108]

and also there is one verse which concerned with Taharah or purity and impurity of Humans:

“O you who have believed, indeed the polytheists are unclean, so let them not approach al-Masjid al-Haram after this, their [final] year. And if you fear privation, Allah will enrich you from His bounty if He wills. Indeed, Allah is knowing and wise.”[Quran 9:28]

Bathroom Baths Towel Red White Traditional

Traditional Turkish bath

Importance in Islam

Observing cleanliness of the soul, the clothes, and the surroundings is obligatory upon every Muslim, and this is considered as one of the pillars of Islam.

Before offering prayers, it is necessary to perform wudu, and in certain cases, both wudu and ghusl. The purifying agent is always clean water. However, during times when water is not available or is scarce, symbolic wudu and ghusl can be performed with clean dry earth which is known as Tayammum.

If the body or clothes show traces of urine, feces, semen or alcohol, then taharah becomes essential. Many juridical opinions add blood and pus to that list. The clothes should be washed and the affected part of the body cleaned with pure water, or the whole body given a ghusl as the case may be.

A person must not touch the Quran if the person is not in the state of Tahara. The Quran says: None shall touch it but those who are clean (56:79). When in a state of janaba, one is not allowed even to recite the Quran, let alone touch it. In a state of minor ritual impurity, it is forbidden (in some schools, makruh) to handle the Quran and to read it, and is considered to be acceptable (neutral, mubah) to recite it, although it is better liked (recommended, mustahabb) to be ritually pure. A mushaf is only a Quran if it is the Arabic Quranic text, and a book that contains more than 50% non-Quranic material is not viewed as a Quran for the above purposes, even if it contains verses of the Quran or the entire Quranic text. Examples would be a tafsir, or a translation of the Quran such as Yusuf Ali’s (with commentary) which contains over fifteen times as much text in footnotes than it does in Quranic text or Quranic interpretation in either Arabic or English, or a book of hadith that contains Quranic verses embedded in the narrations.

Shia views

 Hands Water Wash Color Source Hand Background

Hand washing

In respect to purity of non-Muslims, some of the Shia Muslims believe in the impurity of non-Muslims. However, there are others which believe in purity of non-Muslims.

Some people such as Shaykh Tusi believed that it is not permissible to eat with Kuffar or non-Muslims. Considering non-believers as Najis has been prevalent until twentieth century. Muhaqiq Hilli also believes in impurity of non-believers. Most of maraji (authorities such as Sayyid Ruhollah Khomeini, Nasir Makarim Shirazi, Sayyid Muhammad Rida Gulpaygani, and Sayyid Abu al-Qasim Khu’i) believed in impurity of Kuffar, including Ahle Al Kitab. Of course, Khu’i pointed out precaution ruling in the subject. However, there are some authorities such as Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Muhammad Fadil Lankarani, Sayyid ‘Ali al-Sistani, and Sayyid ‘Ali Khamene’i who did not believe in impurity of Ahle-Al-Kitab.

Some scholars such as Mulla Muhsin Fayd al-Kashani (d. 1680) and Al-Muhaqqiq al-Bahrani (d. 1708) did not believe in the impurity of non-believers, and particularly non-Kitabi. For instance, Kashani believes that the impurity of Kuffar is spiritual and internal, so there is no need to wash after touching them. This group believes in the purity of non-Muslims and of all humans. Muhammad Ibrahim Jannaati, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlullah, Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad and Yusuf Sani‘i are part of this group.

Cleaning the teeth

Cleaning teeth is also very important. Muhammad is reported to have said that the angels of mercy turn away from a person whose mouth emits foul smell because of unclean teeth. It is not only unhygienic to neglect cleaning teeth but also an anti-social habit likely to repel people from one’s presence. It is narrated by Ibn Majah to “use the Miswaak, for verily, it purifies the mouth, and it is a Pleasure for the Lord. Gabriel (A.S.) exhorted me so much to use the Miswaak that I feared that its use would be decreed obligatory upon me and upon my Ummah. If I did not fear imposing hardship on my Ummah, I would have made its use obligatory upon my people. Verily, I use the Miswaak so much that I fear the front part of my mouth being peeled (by constant and abundant brushing with the Miswaak).”


The mixed views on the subject came about because tobacco had not been introduced to Arabia at the time when the Quran was written in the 7th century CE. Therefore, one cannot find a verse of Quran or words of Muhammad saying clearly that “Smoking is forbidden.” However, there are many instances where the Quran gives general guidelines, and calls upon Muslims to use their reason and intelligence, and seek guidance from Allah about what is right and wrong. It is universally understood that smoking causes a number of health problems that often ultimately result in death: smoking is, depending on the madhhab, considered to be either makruh or haram, but in Sunni madhhabs it is not considered to cause one to lose ritual purity.

Sexual hygiene in Islam

Sexual hygiene in Islam is a prominent topic in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) due to its everyday nature. Ibn Abidin, a 13th century Hanafi Islamic scholar explains:

When there is discharge of thick, cloudy white fluid (wady) (that exits before or after urinating) or unlustful discharge of thin, sticky, white fluid (madhy) caused by play or kissing, it requires ghusl. And wudu.

Regarding things that necessitates ghusl:

  1. sperm or female ejaculate that leaves its place of origin with desire [f: whether actual or effective], even if it exits the body without desire, even if without sexual intercourse;
  2. the head of the penis entering either private part of a living human being who is fit for sexual intercourse, even without any release of sexual fluids…” [al-Hadiyya al-`Ala’iyya (Gifts of Guidance, unpublished translation)]

After partaking in sexual activity where penetration or ejaculation occurs, both men and women are required to complete a full-body ritual ablution known as ghusl in order to re-establish ritual purity before prayer. Ghusl requires clean, odourless water that has not been used for a previous ritual and begins with the declaration of the intention of purity and worship. A Muslim performing complete ablution then washes every part of his or her body. There are reports in the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad which indicate that the pubic hairs should be removed, he had set a time limit of 40 days, and the hair should not be left any longer than that and he set a time limit of no more than forty days for trimming the moustache, clipping the nails, plucking the armpit hairs and shaving the pubic hair.

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leave a Reply