In Islam Wudu (ablution) is a sign of purification and cleanliness. It is an important part of ibaadah. Allah says in glorious Quran:
“O you who have believed! When you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles…”[Quran 5:6]
It is the commandment of Allah azawajal that in order to perform the acts of worship one is to purify himself first.
Abu Hurayrah may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that he Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Allah does not accept the prayer of one who nullified his ablution until he performs it again.” [Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daawood and At-Tirmithi]
From this hadith, we can understand the importance of ablution. Allah does not accept a prayer of one whose ablution is nullified.
There are many reports describing the manner in which the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention )performed ablution, and the following is one of them. Humraan, the freed slave of ‘Uthmaan bin ‘Affaan may Allah be pleased with him narrated that ‘Uthmaan may Allah be pleased with him once asked for a tumbler of water in order to perform ablution; when it was brought to him, he poured water from it over his hands and washed them thrice, and then put his right hand in the water container and rinsed his mouth and washed his nose by putting water in it and then blowing it out. Then, he washed his face thrice and then his forearms up to the elbows thrice; then, he passed his wet hands over his head and then washed each foot thrice. After that, ‘Uthmaan may Allah be pleased with him said: “I saw the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) perform ablution like this of mine, and he then said: “If anyone performs ablution like that of mine and offers a two-Rak’ah (units) prayer during which he does not think of anything else (not related to the present prayer) then his past sins will be forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari]
There are certain acts of ablution that must be done and skipping them may make the ablution void. These are called the compulsory actions or Fardh actions of Wudu. These are:
1.Washing the face. This includes washing from hairline to lower portion of the chin, from across one ear to other.
2.Rinsing mouth and nose with clear water.
3.Washing both hands and arms up to the elbow.
4.Performing Masah i.e. wiping wet hands over one’s head and wiping over ears as well.
5.Washing both feet up to ankles.
Some of the hadith that tell us how to wipe over head and how to wash our feet.
Three different ways were recorded of how he sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) would wipe his head:
(a) Wiping all of his head: ‘Abdullaah Ibn Zayd may Allah be pleased with him reported that the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) would wipe his entire head with his hands. He would start with the front of his head, then move to the back, and then return his hands to the front. [Ibn Maajah, Abu Daawood and others’]
(b) Wiping over the turban only: Bilaal may Allah be pleased with him reported that the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Wipe over your shoes and head covering.” [Ahmad]. It should be noted that the condition for wiping over the turban and socks is that prior ablution was performed before putting them on. Many Prophetic narrations have been related on this topic by Imaams Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.
(c) Wiping over the front portion of the scalp and the turban: Al-Mugheerah Ibn Shu’bah may Allah be pleased with him stated: “The Messenger of Allah sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) performed ablution and wiped over the front portion of his scalp, his turban and his socks.” [Muslim]
Washing the feet and the heels:
This has been confirmed in narrations from the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) concerning his actions and statements. Ibn ‘Umar may Allah be pleased with him said warning against not properly and entirely washing the feet: “(Once), the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) lagged behind us on one of our journeys. He caught up with us after we had delayed the afternoon prayer. We started to make ablution and were (only) wiping over our feet (and not washing them) when he sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention )said: “Woe to these heels! Save them from the Hell-fire” repeating it twice or thrice.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
However, apart from the fardh parts of ablution, there are certainly other aspects of it based on Sunnah. These are:
1.Saying the Intention (Niyyah)
3.Brushing teeth with a tooth-stick (Miswak)
4.Combing (doing Khilal) the beard with the fingers
5.Passing fingers of both hands, against each other, and also passing them through the toes (Khilal of fingers and toes)
6.Washing, each limb, three times
7.Performing the Masa’h once over the whole head
8.Performing the Masa’h of the two ear
9.Performing Ablution (Wudu) in proper order
10.Washing each part, one after the other, without pause, to ensure that no part dries up before the next step.
In addition to Fard and Sunnah, there are some other desirable actions (Mustahabbat) in Wudu. These are:
To begin Ablution (Wudu) from the right side some scholars regard this among the Masnun (Sunnah) acts. This is quite likely.
1.Performing ‘Masa’h’ of the nape.
2.Performing Ablution all by himself, without taking other’s help.
4.Performing Ablution while sitting at a clean and elevated place.
Some things that are not considered as desirable in Wudu are known as Makruhat. These are:
1.Performing Ablution at a dirty place
2.Blowing one’s nose with the right hand
3.Talking worldly affairs while performing Ablution
4.Performing Ablution in a manner contrary to Sunnah
We must ensure that while doing the ablution we must be very attentive and try to do that in the best possible manner. It must be noted that this applies to both men and women and there is no difference in the ways of performing ablution for men and women.