The Legal Rulings of Purification in Islam

The Legal Rulings of Purification in Islam

By Editorial Staff

Purification is the first chapter in almost all the books written about the Islamic science of fiqh (jurisprudence). Since the performance of almost every act of worship is dependent upon the fulfillment of its prerequisites, jurists start with purification because it is one of the most important prerequisites for salah (prayer).

Jurists divide purification into two categories: tangible and intangible.

The ritual purification of wudu’ or ghusl is one of the most important prerequisites for performing salah (prayer).

Intangible Purification

The intangible kind of purification is the freedom or purity of the heart from shirk (associating false deities with God). Thus, it is more important than purification of the body. Believing in the Oneness of God is one of the prerequisites of the acceptance of deeds. Allah says,

“Indeed, the idolaters are (ritually) unclean.” (Quran 9:28)

Allah says about some disbelievers,

“These are the ones whose hearts God does not intend to purify.” (Quran 5:41)

Furthermore, purification refers to the freedom of the heart from sins like grudge, hatred, suspicions, etc. Allah says about the Prophet’s wives (Allah be pleased with them),

“Furthermore, (with respect to his wives,) whenever you ask them for any article, then ask them from behind a screen. That is (sure to deepen) the purity of your hearts, and their hearts.” (Quran 33:53)

Tangible Purification

The tangible kind of purification means cleanliness and the freedom from impurities. In the technical usage of the term, it means to free from hadath (ritual impurity) through wudu’ (ablution) or ghusl (ritual bath) and to remove physical impurities.

Hadath is a legal description of the human body which prevents one from performing prayer or any other act of worship which require purification. Jurists also divide hadath into two categories: major and minor.

Major Ritual Impurity

Major ritual impurity is a state which requires having a ritual bath. It arises from having a sexual intercourse, a wet dream, seminal emission, menstruation and post-natal bleeding. Allah says,

“And they ask you, (O Prophet,) about menstruation. Say: It is a (cause for) harm. So withhold yourselves (from sexual intercourse) with women during menstruation, and do not approach them (there) until they are cleansed. Then, when they are cleansed, come to them as God has commanded you. Indeed, God loves those who are ever-penitent, and He loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222)

Minor Ritual Impurity

Minor ritual impurity is a state which requires ablution. It arises from breaking wind, urination, defecation, etc.

There are two important things here. One thing is that you can use only water to free yourself from hadath (ritual impurity) or soil (i.e. through dry ablution or tayammum) in case there is no water. The second thing is that you can use water or any other cleanser to remove other physical impurities.

Also, hadath is a description of only the human body. Jurists call a person who is free from ritual impurity pure. On the other hand, physical impurity is a description of the body, clothes, objects, places, etc. For instance, a pig is always impure and can never be purified.

The Water That Can Be Used for Purification

Most of the time, we use water for purification. That’s why jurists discuss the kind of water that we can use.

We can use only clean and cleansing water for ritual purification. Jurists call it the absolute water. Based on this, we cannot use rose water for ritual purification. The water may be clean but not cleansing such as rose water. Other liquids such as vinegar, benzene, etc. are clean but one cannot use them to perform ablution.

The Kinds of Absolute Water:

The absolute water is that water found in its original state. For instance, it includes the following:

1. Water or snow falling from clouds, Allah says:

“Moreover, He sent down upon you, from the sky, water to purify you thereby…” (Quran 8:11)

“Thus do We send down, from the sky, purifying water.” (Quran 25:48)

2. Sea water

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said regarding the sea,

“Its water is purifying and its dead (animals) are lawful (to eat).” (Abu Dawud, Al-Nasa’i, Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

3. River water

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Saihan (Oxus), Jaihan (Jaxartes), Al-Furat (Euphrates) and An-Nil (Nile) are all (originally) from the rivers of Jannah.” (Muslim)

4. Ice

The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said as a part of his supplication,

Alluhum maghsilni min khatayaya bith-thalji wal-ma’i wal-barad

“O Allah! wash away my sins with snow, water, and ice.” (Muslim)

5. Underground water

This includes Zamzam water and other wellsprings. Allah says,

“Say, (O Prophet): Have you considered that if, suddenly, one morning (you found that) your water had become deeply sunken (in the ground,) who, then, would bring you water, fresh flowing (and clean)?” (Quran 67:30)

What to Do in Case There Is No Water?

It is not allowed to use liquid other than water for ritual purification of wudu’ (ablution) or ghusl (ritual bath). However, you can use whatever cleanser to clear other impurities on the body, clothes or places. Allah says,

“But if you become sick or are on a journey, or if one of you comes forth from the place of relieving oneself, or if you have touched women (intimately) and you cannot find water then take recourse to (patting) clean earth; then wipe (over) your faces and your hands with it (in place of ritual ablution).”  (Quran 5:6)

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Self-purification in Islam

Self-purification in Islam

By Dr. Ali Al-Halawani


Allah has been Gracious to the believers when He sent a messenger from among themselves to purify them.

Self-purification in Islam

The practice of purifying the human self and turn it into a better one, through a constant process of purification and reform, has been significantly emphasized by the Qur’an which called it “Purification”. In that context, the Ever-Glorious Qur’an has referred to its importance and necessity in several verses. For example, Allah the Almighty says,

“And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it. And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness. He has succeeded who purifies it. And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]”. (Al-Shams 91:7-10)

Allah the Almighty has described whoever seeks to purify himself as being successful and whoever neglects, profanes or does not try to purify it as being a failure.

Allah the Almighty says in another surah,

“Allah has surely been Gracious to the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves to recite to them His verses, to purify them, and to teach them the Book and the Wisdom (Prophetic sayings), though before that they were in clear error.” (Al `Imran 3: 64)

Accordingly, Allah has been Gracious to the believers when He sent a messenger from among themselves to purify them as being the most essential task of that messenger and the most prominent characteristic of that grace. It is noteworthy that Allah has mentioned “purification” before teaching the Book and the Wisdom.

In a third surah, Allah the Almighty says,

“He frowned and turned away when the blind came to him. And what could let you know? Perhaps he (comes to hear you) to be purified. (He might) remember, and the Reminder might profit him. As for he who is sufficed, you attended to him, although it is not for you to be concerned if he remained unpurified. And to him who came to you eagerly and fearfully of him you were unmindful. No indeed, this is a Reminder”. (`Abasa 80: 1-11)

In this surah, Allah blamed His Messenger because he turned away from a blind man who came to seek knowledge so that he might be purified. The Messenger turned away from him because he was busy with those whom he thought were more important and significant for the religion of Islam; i.e. his attempt to invite Qurayesh leaders hoping that they and the Arab tribes who follow them might accept Islam and revert thereto. What was this serious matter that deserved Allah’s, the Almighty, blame of His beloved Messenger? This is an apparent indication to the high rank of those who are keen on purifying themselves and the heaviness of the purification practice itself on the scales of Allah the Almighty.

Allah, the Almighty, says to Prophet Musa (peace be upon him),

“Go to Pharaoh, he has become exceedingly insolent, and say: “Will you purify yourself, that I might guide you to your Lord, so that you fear (Him).” (Ta-Ha 20:43-44)

Allah the Almighty sent Prophet Musa to Pharaoh inviting him to purify himself (Will you purify yourself from the abomination of the Devil? and the dirtiness of disobedience? Will you adhere to the path of prayers (salah) and blessing? Shall I guide you to the path of your Lord?).

It is obvious that summing up the message of our Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) to Pharaoh in these brief words indicates the importance of purification and the necessity of preserving as well as maintaining it.


Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah Interanational Univerity, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department,; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator and researcher. You can reach him at

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