Wudu and ghusl facilities (in background) at Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ghusl (Arabic: غسل Ġusl, IPA: [ˈɣʊsl]) is an Arabic term referring to the full body washing ablution mandatory before the performance of various rituals and prayers, for any adult Muslim after having sexual intercourse, orgasmic discharge (e.g. semen),[1][2] completion of the menstrual cycle.[3]

The washing is also recommended but not required (i.e. it is mustahab) before the Friday sermon prayer[4] and Eid[5] prayers, before entering the ehram, in preparation for hajj, after having lost consciousness, and after formally converting to Islam. Shia Muslims also perform the ablution before Namaz-e-tawbah (Prayer of Repentance).

Ghusl is often translated as "full ablution", as opposed to the "partial ablution", of wudu وضوء, that Muslims perform after lesser impurities such as urination, defecation, breaking wind, deep sleep, light bleeding, etc.

Types of ghusl by purpose

Ghusl becomes obligatory for seven causes, and the ghusl for each of these different causes has different names:[6]

Water requirements

Similar to Wudu, some water is permissible for use for ghusl whereas some water is not, as defined by the source of the water.

Ghusl is allowed with the following types of water

Ghusl is not allowed with the following types of water

The acts of Ghusl

The Qur'anic mandate for Ghusl comes in the forty-third ayat of sura 4 (An-Nisa (Women)):

"O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For Allah doth blot out sins and forgive again and again."[8]

The phrase for 'contact' in this verse has been interpreted by Hanafi scholars to mean sexual contact, while Shafi'i scholars interpret contact to mean both physical and sexual contact. Hence, the Hanafi school of thought does not require one to take Wudu if there is non-sexual contact with a member of the opposite sex, while the Shafi'i school of thought does require Wudu before being able to pray, and so on.[9]

Farā'id of Ghusl

There are three fard (obligatory) acts. If one of these acts is omitted, it must be returned to and completed before the remaining acts.[10]'

Sunnah of Ghusl

Sunnah (optional - practised by Muhammad according to Sunni Hadiths) acts.

In Islam, ghusl requires the washing of the full body. There are some differences in details between the Sunni and the Shia schools of thought.

Sunni school of thought

  1. Start by making niyyah (intention) to perform Ghusl, say Bismillah (in the name of Allah) and cleanse yourself of impurities.[3][10][11]
  2. Wash the right hand up to and including the wrist (and between the fingers) three times, then similarly for the left hand.
  3. Wash the private parts and remove dirt or filth from the body.
  4. Perform Wudu as if for prayer. Ensure that the mouth and nostrils are thoroughly rinsed three times. If sitting on a stool or stone while bathing then the feet should also be washed when performing Wudu. But if sitting in a muddy place, feet should not be washed at this stage.
  5. Water should be poured over the head three times so that it flows all over the body, ensuring that the roots of hairs and parts not easily reached by water such as the backs of the knees are washed thoroughly.[3]
  6. Pour water over both the shoulders three times each. Hands should be passed all over the body when water is poured so that no part of the body is left dry.
  7. Move to a clean spot and wash the feet if not washed during Wudu
  8. As at the end of Wudu, it is recommended to recite the Shahada.[3][11]

If, after Ghusl, one recalls that a certain portion of the body is left dry, it is not necessary to repeat the Ghusl, but merely wash the dry portion. It is not sufficient to pass a wet hand over the dry place. If one has forgotten to rinse the mouth or the nostrils, these too could be rinsed when recalled after Ghusl has been performed.

The following hadith describes how ghusl should be performed by Sunni Muslims.

A narration attributed to Aisha bint Abi Bakr reports:
When Allah's Messenger bathed because of sexual intercourse, he first washed his hands; he then poured water with his right hand on his left hand and washed his private parts. He then performed wudu as is done for prayer. He then took some water and ran his fingers in the roots of his hair. And when he found that it had been properly moistened, he poured three handfuls on his head and then poured water over his body and subsequently washed his feet.[12]

In another hadith, ibn Abbas stated that Maimuna said that The Messenger of Allah was given a towel (after ghusl), but he did not rub his body with it, but he did like this with water (i.e. he shook it off).[13] In addition, ibn Abbas recorded the following hadith on the authority of his mother's sister.

A narration attributed to Maymunah bint al-Harith reports:
I placed water near The Messenger of Allah to take a bath because of sexual intercourse. He washed the palms of his hands twice or thrice and then put his hand in the basin and poured water over his body then struck hand against the earth and rubbed it with force and then performed ablution for the prayer and then poured three handfuls of water on his head and then washed his whole body after which he moved aside from that place and washed his feet, and then I brought a towel (so that he may wipe his body), but he returned it.[14]

Shia school of thought

There are two methods of performing ghusl. One is known as ghusl tartibi, and the other is known as ghusl irtimasi.[15]

Ghusl tartibi

"Ghusl tartibi" means an ordinal bath, performed in three stages.

After washing away the najasat (e.g., semen or blood) from the body and after niyyat, the body has to be washed in three stages: First, head down to the neck; then the right side of the body from the shoulder down to the foot; and lastly, the left side of the body.

Each part should be washed thoroughly in such a way that the water reaches the skin. Special care should be taken while washing the head; the hair should be combed (e.g., with your fingers) so that water reached the hair-roots. While washing the right side of the body, some part of the left side must be washed too, and also, while washing the left side of the body, some part of the right side must be washed.[15]

Ghusl Irtimasi

"Ghusl irtimasi" means a bath involving immersion of the whole body in the water. It is needless to say that such a ghusl can only be done in a body of water, e.g., a pool, river, lake or sea. After washing away the semen or blood from the body and after niyyat, the whole body should be completely immersed in the water all at once, not gradually. One has to make sure that the water reaches all parts of the body, including hair and the skin under it.

However, ghusl tartibi is preferred to ghusl irtimasi.[15]

Recommendable acts of Ghusl

What has been mentioned above are the wajib acts of ghusl; there are things which are recommendable (mustahab, sunnat) during the ghusl.[3] These recommendable acts are five:

  1. Gargling three times and washing the nose three times.
  2. Performing the acts of Wudu before the actual washing
  3. Wiping the hands on the whole body to ensure that every part has been thoroughly washed.[3]
  4. Combing the hair with the fingers to ensure that the water reaches the hair-roots.
  5. (For men only) Doing istibra' before ghusl janabat. Istibra', in the present context, means "urinating." The benefit of istibra': If a liquid comes out of one's penis after completing the ghusl, and he doubts whether it is semen or urine, then should he repeat the ghusl or not? If he had done istibra' before the ghusl, then he can assume that the liquid is urine he will not have to repeat the ghusl; he just has to do wudu for his salat. But, on the other hand, if he had not done istibra' before the ghusl, then he has to assume that it is the remnant of semen he will have to do the ghusl again.[6]

'Ubaydullah al-Halabi narrates that someone asked Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) about a man who performs ghusl and then finds some (doubtful) drops (on his penis) while he had already urinated before performing the ghusl. (That is, should he consider the drops as urine or semen?) The Imam said, "He will just have to do wudu (for hi s salat). But if he had not passed urine before the ghusl, then he must repeat the ghusl."[16]

This rule of istibra' applies only to men. Sulayman bin Khalid asked Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) about a man who became ritually impure because of sexual intercourse and then performed ghusl without urinating. Then some drops came out of him . The Imam said, "He must repeat the ghusl." Sulayman: "What if similar drops come out of a woman after she has performed ghusl?" The Imam said, "She does not have to repeat the ghusl . " Sulayman: "What is the difference between the two?" The Imam said, "(A woman does not have to repeat ghusl janabat) because what comes out of her is certainly from the (remnants of the) discharge of man."[17]

See also


  1. Sahih Muslim, Hadith number 616
  2. Sharh as-Sunnah by al-Baghawi, vol 2., pg. 9
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "The Ritual Bath (ghusl): Obligatory, Recommended, and Disliked Acts - SeekersHub Answers". 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  4. Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 12, Hadith number 817
  5. Sharh Mukhtasar, Volume 2, pg. 102
  6. 1 2 Ghusl Explain QA - IslamicLaws
  7. 1 2 Najasat in the water for Ghusl - My Religion Islam
  8. The Holy Qur'an/An-Nisa (Women) verse 43 (
  9. Does Touching Woman break Wudu - Dr Zakir Naik
  10. 1 2 Pānīpatī, Muḥammad S̲anāʾullāh (1985-01-01). The Essential Hanafi Handbook of Fiqh. Kazi Publications. p. 39.
  11. 1 2 Sahih Bukhari, Book 5: Bathing (Ghusl) Prophet performing Ghusl
  12. Sahih Muslim, hadith number 616
  13. Sahih Muslim, hadith number 622
  14. Sahih Muslim, hadith number 620
  15. 1 2 3 The Major Abolution
  16. Wasa'il al Shia, vol. 1, p. 517.
  17. Wasa'il al Shia, vol. 1, p. 482.

External links

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