Peace, one and all…
The imminent advent of Ramadan has got me thinking about purification. Although purification of the soul is the aim, this starts with physical tahara. Thus Imam al-Ghazali states in his magisterial work, Ihya Ulum al-Din, that there are four levels of purity:
‘Purity has four stages: The first stage is the purification of the body from excrements, impurities, and bodily growths, and discharges. The second stage is the purification of the bodily senses from crimes and sins. The third stage is the purification of the heart from blameworthy traits and reprehensible vices. The fourth stage is the purification of the inmost self (sirr) from everything except God. This last stage is that of the Prophets and saints.
He then states further that:
In everyone of these stages purity is half the activities it entails. For the supreme aim of the activities of the inmost self is to have the majesty and greatness of God revealed unto it. But the knowledge of God will never actually descend into the inmost self unless everything other than God is removed therefrom. For this reason God said, “Say: It is God: then leave them in their pastime of cavilling.” Surah V:91. It is evident therefore that [the knowledge of God and allegiance to another besides Him] can not inhabit the same heart and God has not created for man two hearts within him.
For a beginner like myself, it is important to follow the Shariah with regards to physical tahara. This is based on God’s command in the Quran:
‘O believers, when you stand up to pray wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and (lightly) wipe your heads, and your feet up to the ankles. If you are defiled, purify yourselves; but if you are sick or on a journey, or if any of you comes from the privy, or you have touched women, and you can find no water, then have recourse to wholesome dust and wipe your faces and your hands with it. God does not desire to make any impediment for you; but He desires to purify you, and that He may complete His blessing upon you; haply you will be thankful’. (al-Ma’idah 5:6).
Making wudu properly, in preparation for meeting Allah in prayer, cleanses one of physical and inner dirt. The Prophet (saw) is reported to have said:
‘Anyone who performs the ritual ablution and does so well, their mistakes leave their body, even from under their nails’ (Muslim)
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, in his excellent book The Absolute Essentials of Islam, describes the obligatory actions of wudu as follows:
1. Washing the entire face, from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin in length, and from earlobe to earlobe
2. Washing both arms completely, up to and including the elbows once
3. Wiping a quarter of the head above the ears once
4. Washing the feet completely including the ankles once