#477: The Number of Washing When Performing Ablution

Question:

Assalamualaikum w.b.t. What is the number of washings for ablution according to the hadith of the Prophet PBUH?

 

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam w.b.t.

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.

Allah SWT states:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ

“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.” [1]

Habib Hasan bin Ahmad al-Kaff stated the requisites of ablution are six. Four of them follow what is stated in the verses of the Quran which are washing the face, both hands, a part of the head and both feet. While the remaining two are based on the sunnah which is the intention and according to the order. [2]

Body parts of ablution that are obligatory to be washed

Thus, simply put we know that the following parts are obligatory to be washed:

  • The whole face was preceded by the intention.
  • Washing both hands up to the elbows.
  • Washing a part of the head by at least washing three strands of hair.
  • Washing both feet up to the ankles.
  • All of the body parts should be washed in order.

Other than the obligatory parts to be washed, there are other highly encouraged sunnahs (sunnah muakkad). For example, reciting basmalah when starting the ablution, washing hands before putting them in the water container, gargling/rinsing one’s mouth, rinsing one’s sinuses (nasal irrigation), washing the entire head, washing both ears, starting with the right side of the body parts, perform them consecutively, wipe or wash every body part thrice and others. [3]

The number of washings for ablution

There are several hadiths which mentioned the number of washings for ablution by the Prophet PBUH, among them are:

  1. Rasullullah PBUH washed his body parts for ablution once:

From Ibn Abbas R.Anhuma, he said:

تَوَضَّأَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَرَّةً مَرَّةً

“God’s messenger performed each detail of his ablution once, doing no more than that.” [4]

According to this hadith, Imam al-Syaukani commented in the book Nail al-Autar: “This hadith shows the obligation for ablution is just one washing and hence, the Prophet PBUH only did it once. If the second and third washing is obligated, surely the Prophet PBUH wouldn’t only do it once.”

  1. Rasullullah PBUH washed his body parts for ablution twice:

In another incident, the Prophet PBUH perform the ablution but he washed his body parts twice. From Abdullah bin Zaid RA, he said:

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ تَوَضَّأَ مَرَّتَيْنِ مَرَّتَيْنِ

“The Prophet performed each detail of his ablution twice.” [5]

  1. Rasullullah washed for his ablution thrice:

The usual for the Prophet PBUH is for him to wash his body parts for ablution trice. There are numerous narrations which described how the Prophet PBUH performed his ablution. Scholars stated that it is included as a sunnah to wash the body parts for ablution thrice as stated in the narration of Humran maula Uthman who said:

أَنَّهُ، رَأَى عُثْمَانَ بْنَ عَفَّانَ دَعَا بِإِنَاءٍ، فَأَفْرَغَ عَلَى كَفَّيْهِ ثَلاَثَ مِرَارٍ، فَغَسَلَهُمَا، ثُمَّ أَدْخَلَ يَمِينَهُ فِي الإِنَاءِ، فَمَضْمَضَ، وَاسْتَنْشَقَ، ثُمَّ غَسَلَ وَجْهَهُ ثَلاَثًا، وَيَدَيْهِ إِلَى المِرْفَقَيْنِ ثَلاَثَ مِرَارٍ، ثُمَّ مَسَحَ بِرَأْسِهِ، ثُمَّ غَسَلَ رِجْلَيْهِ ثَلاَثَ مِرَارٍ إِلَى الكَعْبَيْنِ، ثُمَّ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: مَنْ تَوَضَّأَ نَحْوَ وُضُوئِي هَذَا، ثُمَّ صَلَّى رَكْعَتَيْنِ لاَ يُحَدِّثُ فِيهِمَا نَفْسَهُ، غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ

“I saw ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan asking for a tumbler of water (and when it was brought) he poured water over his hands and washed them thrice and then put his right hand in the water container and rinsed his mouth, washed his nose by putting water in it and then blowing it out. then he washed his face and forearms up to the elbows thrice, passed his wet hands over his head and washed his feet up to the ankles thrice. Then he said, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said ‘If anyone performs ablution like that of mine and offers a two-rak’at prayer during which he does not think of anything else (not related to the present prayer) then his past sins will be forgiven.’ “ [6]

In the narration from Ahmad, from Uthman bin Affan RA:

أَنَّهُ دَعَا بِمَاءٍ فَتَوَضَّأَ عِنْدَ الْمَقَاعِدِ، فَتَوَضَّأَ ثَلاثًا ثَلاثًا، ثُمَّ قَالَ لِأَصْحَابِ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : هَلْ رَأَيْتُمْ رَسولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَعَلَ هَذَا ؟ قَالُوا : نَعَمْ

“He called for water and did wudoo` in al-Maqa`id. He did wudoo’, washing each part three times, then he said to the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). Did you see the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) doing {wudoo`) like this? They said: “Yes.” [7]

Syeikh Daud al-Fatani said that it is considered thrice washings for water that flows on the body parts and for stagnant or calm water, it should be moved and wiped or washed the body parts thrice. [8]

According to the above hadiths, the obligated washing for ablution is just once. While washing them twice is permissible and thrice is an encouraged sunnah for the perfection of the ablution.

Scholars agreed that the obligatory total number of washings for ablution is once when the water has been washed thoroughly on every part of the ablution body parts. Imam al-Nawawi in the book Raudhah al-Talibin said:

وَإِنَّمَا تَجِبُ الْغَسْلَةُ مَرَّةً، وَإِذَا اسْتَوْعَبَتِ الْعُضْوَ.

Indeed, the obligatory washing is once when the water is completely wiped and washed the entire ablution body parts.[9]

Conclusion

To close, we state that the number of washings is once, twice and thrice is mentioned in the sunnah of Rasullullah PBUH where the Prophet PBUH himself did as such. Hence, the number of washings once, twice or thrice depends on the situation of the person. However, washing three times is greatly encouraged for the perfection of ablution.

Lastly, may Allah SWT grant us all understanding in this religion.

Wallahu a’lam.

 

[1] Surah al-Maidah: 6

[2] See al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah, pg. 82

[3] See Kasyifah al-Saja, pg. 20

[4] Narrated by al-Bukhari (157)

[5] Narrated by al-Bukhari (158)

[6] Narrated by al-Bukhari (159)

[7] Narrated by Ahmad (488). According to Syeikh Syuaib al-Arnaut in Takhrij al-Musnad (1/523) he stated that the sanadnya is strong.

[8] See Matla’ al-Badrain, 1/54

[9]  See Raudhah al-Talibin, 1/59

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