Chaplain Chats – Wudu’ Refresher

So you know how to make wudu’, huh? Well here are the notes from our workshop we conducted on the subject of wudu’ [ablution] on March 20th, 2012. The source we used was the text commonly referred to by the Maliki’s as “al-Matn al-Akhdari” by Abu Zayd ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad al-Sagir al-Akhdari, known more succinctly as al-Akhdari. A copy of the text in PDF format can be downloaded here. What’s discussed here are bullet points from al-Akhdari’s text.

al-Taharah [ritual purity]/الطهارة.

al-Taharah can be broken down into two categories: taharah hadath/طهارة حدث and taharah khubth/طهارة خبث:

  1. Hadath: that which invalidates one’s wudu’ by relieving oneself, passing wind, deep sleep, etc.
  2. Khubth: that which disallows one from praying due to the presence of some time of filth or impurity such as blood, urine, etc.

The conditions for water: That it does not change its three main characteristics:

  1. Color.
  2. Taste.
  3. Smell/odor.

There are a few exceptions here that al-Akhdari points out. If water contains a material that does not change its natural state, such as sand, then one can still use this to make wudu’. Another is salt: even though salt does dissolve in water and can change its taste [#2 above], it’s still considered to be a natural state for water [i.e., sea water/salt water naturally occurs] and thus can still be used for wudu’.

Impurities: some notes and conditions:

  • If a garment has an impurity on it that can be seen with the naked eye, then one simply cleans the spot in question or removed the garment if it cannot be cleaned.
  • If a garment has an impurity that cannot be seen with the naked eye, then the entire garment must be cleaned.
  • If one knows there is the presence of some impurity but is doubtful if it has come into contact with your clothes [i.e., walking down the street and one sees excrement or urine from a dog but one’s not sure if one’s clothes have come into contact with that impurity] then one sprinkles some water on that area to remove the impurity instead of washing the garment/ومن شك في إصابة النجاسة نضح.
  • If one is certain that one’s clothing for instance, has definitely come in contact with something [say some type of liquid] but you are uncertain if that substance [here liquid] is pure or impure, then one is not required to take any action because the Shari’ah only deals with certainty.
  • If one remembers the presence of some impurity while s/he is praying and the prayer is still in the mukhtar time [i.e., the early part of the prayer] then one should cut his or her prayer, remove the impurity [or change garments if it cannot be cleaned] and repeat the prayer.
  • If one remembers after the prayer [] and again, the prayer is still its mukhtar/مختار time, then one should repeat the prayer so long as one will not enter into the dururi/ضروري time [i.e., the prayer would be getting late]. If it is the latter case [in the dururi period] then one does not repeat the prayer.

Obligatory acts of wudu’. They are seven [*note: the Maliki’s consider the basmallah/بسملة “saying bismillah” a pure act of worship and thus must be said outside of the lavatory]:

  1. Intention/النية. For the Maliki’s it’s preferred to be done silently, “in the heart.”
  2. Washing the face from the hairline to the chin [for brothers this includes the beard and the area it covers]/غسل الوجه.
  3. Washing the hands including the elbow joint/غسل اليدين إلى المرفقين. In Arabic the “yad” also includes the arm.
  4. Passing the hand over the head once [as we’ll see, the return wipe is part of the fadilah or “Sunnah” aspects of wudu’/مسح الرأس.
  5. Washing the feet including the ankle bone/غسل الرجلين إلى الحعبين.
  6. Application of the water must be done with the hand, including the feet [unlike the Hanafis]/الدلك.
  7. Continuity without the drying of the limbs: in other words, one may pause one’s wudu’ so long as none of the limbs dry/الفور. If they do before the final limb is washed, the wudu’ is broken and must be redone.

*Note: for the Maliki’s, it is not required to do the fara’id/الفرائض obligatory acts in order/الترتيب [tartib]. This is considered a fadilah/Sunnah.

Sunnah acts of wudu’:

  1. Washing the hands including the wrist bones [from the beginning of wudu’/غسل اليدين الكوعين.
  2. Swishing water in the mouth [one may use the index finger, miswak, or a dry tooth brush for an added fadilah]/المضمضة.
  3. Inhaling water [lightly]/الاستنشاق. For the one that’s fasting, this should be done carefully so as to not invalidate the fast. *Note: simply putting water in one’s nose does not count.
  4. Exhaling water from the nose/الاستنثار. This is done by placing the left hand on the bridge of the nose and gently blowing out. It is disliked/مكروه [makhruh] to do this loudly.
  5. The return wipe on the head [see step 4 above]/رد مسح الرأس. This is done only once and does not go past the hairline.
  6. Washing the ear plate/مسح الأذنين.
  7. Renewing water for washing the ear plate/تجديد الماء.
  8. Doing the obligatory acts and Sunnah acts in the order represented here/الترتيب.

Matters concerning forgetfulness: if one is performing a complete/Sunnah wudu’ and skips a Sunnah act by accident [i.e., step 3 from the Sunnah acts] then one may return to this step at the end of the wudu’ for one does not stop and go back for a Sunnah act in favor of continuing on to an obligatory one.

There are many other points which, God willing if we have the time, will revisit in greater detail.

Islam in a Global Perspective: What Makes Islam Work?

The following is a lecture I gave at the University of Pennsylvania for UPenn’s MSA. This talk kicked off the Chaplain Chats for the Spring 2012 term.

For more on Islam and culture see my lecture Lecture on the Accommodation of Local Customs in Islamic Law at the Ella Collins 2012 Winter Retreat.

Kafir – A Word Reexamined

If there is one primary characteristic that Modernity spells out to me, it is in the way in which certain schools of thought or groups of people, who deemed antagonistic or undesirable, are cast, part and parcel, as barbaric and backwards. The underlined point in this type of casting is that the target group has always been so. Modernity, in all of its technological advancements, falls short in analytical thinking. Islam, as an example, a highly sophisticated entity (no different than any other religious tradition) is reduced to simple barbarism (as if it has always been so). Ironically, many Muslims have fallen pray to this line of thinking as well. Recently, I was reflecting on the user of the word, kafir, and how it is used and understood now, in this Modern context, and then how it was used and understood in contexts prior. And while I do not subscribe to the apologists’ theory that the word some how does not have any application for Modern Muslims, I do think there is a sincere and important need to revisit the history of this word in the Muslim tradition. Sample if you will, as articulated by Dr. Sherman Jackson:

“Premodern and even early modern jurists spoke quite casually of the “non-Muslim wife” [al-zawjah al-kafirah], the “non-Muslim mother” [al-umm al-kafirah], and “non-Muslim parents” [al-walidan al-kafiran] as human beings worthy of respect as such. For example, in Bulgat al-salik li agrab al-masalik ila madhhab al-imam Malik 2 vols. [Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, n.d.] — an authoritative Maliki text still used on the graduate level at al-Azhar seminary today — after indicating that a Muslim must be good to his parents regardless of their religion, al-Dardir [d. 1201/1786] writes, “and he should guide the blind parent, even if he or she is a kafir, to church, and deliver him or her thereto and provide him or her with money to spend during their holidays” [2: 523]. Also, the Maliki and Hanafi schools unanimously agreed that a non-Muslim mother [umm kafirah] had a primary right to custody of her Muslim children in cases of divorce from a Muslim husband, assuming that she would not attempt to steer the children away from Islam. […] It should be noted that the Maliki school bore the brunt of the atrocities inflicted by the Christians upon their expulsion of the Muslims from Spain and Sicily and the Hanafi school bore the brunt of the Mongol invasions. Still, these views on the non-Muslim relatives remain standard in the Maliki and Hanafi schools right down to the present day.

Essentially, in the Modern context, both used by Muslims and understood by non-Muslims, kafir has come to no longer be a religious term for those who are outside the belief-fold of Islam but rather a subset of humanity, unworthy of respect, completely devoid of value. In the Modern context, the kafir is someone who is rejected, not on moral or religious grounds, but some deeper, innate characteristic that is wholly incompatible with Islam. Sadly, this philosophy was common in much of the rejectionist rhetoric I heard as a young Muslim in the Blackamerican community as well as the need-to-dominate propaganda I head from immigrant Muslims. This is completely inconsistent with the view of many of the jurists and great personalities from Islam’s past that Modern Muslims evoke! When one examines this, the [hostile and unfortunate] nature of relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims becomes more clear. Does this mean that the word kafir has no place in Islam today? I would argue it certainly does have a place but it should have nothing to due with placing or determining “human value”. Instead, as it has been understood in times past, it is merely a demarcation, signifying someone who is outside the religious fold of Islam. And as in a recent conversation with a non-Muslim, who stated, “this is the problem with Islam”, in that as long as Muslims see the world in a Muslim/non-Muslim dichotomy, then we will inevitably have this issue. My rebuttal to her was to quite frankly, “grow up”. There is no reason why I should be forced to not recognize those who are outside of my religious fold whilst still keeping good relationships with them. To claim that I have to make up my mind, to either jettison the word [and join the rest of the “reformist” Muslims who would just as soon sell the religion for a chance to gain the approving nod of the dominant culture] or use the word in its current state, dehumanizing all those who fall outside the classification as Muslims, is erroneous and childish. Life is not a true or false exam – I will make my own choices and operate by my own rationals, thank you very much. In truth, this classification, kafir, would apply in my case with many members of my family and even friends – it is no way a classification of their worth as human beings.

And God knows best.

Also see Mu’min and Kafir – Negotiating Shared Space.