What is Ghusl (Shafii)


What is ghusl? What does ghusl means in islam?

Ghusl means to wash the whole body with the intention of performing ghusl without leaving any part of the body dry.

Ghusl is required to rid the person of the states which prevent the performance of particular acts of worship. Allah says in the Qur’an, “O you who believe! If you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body...”[1] Regarding the ghusl of a woman, Allah the Almighty says, “… And they ask you about menstruation. Say: It is a discomfort; therefore keep aloof from the women during the menstrual discharge and do not go near them until they have become clean; then when they have cleansed themselves…[2] The purification process that is mentioned in this verse refers to performing ghusl to get rid of the major impurity that comes with menstruation for women (also post-child birth bleeding).

I. Circumstances that Require the Performance of Ghusl

Six circumstances require the performance of ghusl. Three of them are common for both men and women:

  1. Jima (sexual intercourse): By having sexual intercourse (even if there is no semen emitted), the state of major impurity happens for both man and woman and performing ghusl becomes obligatory.
  2. The emission of Mani (semen for men): After the discharge of mani (semen for men), no matter for whatever reason it happens, one must perform major ablution (ghusl). It does not matter that the emission of mani happens while sleeping or awake, or out of pleasure or without feeling pleasure. In other words, it does not matter how it happens, but the discharge of mani requires major ablution. Even if the person does not remember seeing any dream, if he feels wetness similar to mani on his body and clothes, he needs to perform the major ablution. On the contrary, if he does not feel wetness on his body or clothes, even if he remembers seeing a dream, he does not need to perform the major ablution. This is a situation usually particular to men.
  3. Death: It is wajib (obligatory) to wash the body of a believer when he/she dies.

The other three conditions are particular to women:

  1. At the end of the menstruation period (menses): Menstruation is a special situation that is seen with girls after the age of puberty. Menstruation begins with the discharge of blood. Menstruation blood comes from the non-pregnant and healthy girls after the age of puberty for certain periods of time. The minimum menstruation period can be one day and night (24 hours), and the maximum limit of menstruation is fifteen days. It can be six or seven days in average. The duration of ritual purity seen between the menses should be at least fifteen days and there is no maximum limit for its duration. The blood seen less than a day or more than fifteen days is considered chronic vaginal bleeding (istihada). Woman who experiences chronic vaginal bleeding (istihada) performs minor ablution just like those who suffers other types of chronic problems invalidating ablution and performs her acts of worship. She can also sleep with her husband.
  2. At the end of postpartum bleeding (nifas): Postpartum bleeding is defined as blood, which is shed [by the uterus]following childbirth. The postpartum bleeding can start after the infant has come entirely out of the uterus. Unlike menstrual flow, there is no minimum length of time set for postpartum bleeding; hence, if a woman gives birth and her bleeding stops immediately or very soon thereafter, or even supposing that she gives birth without any flow of blood at all, her postpartum bleeding will be viewed as having ended and she must engage in all activities required of a woman who is in a state of ritual purity. The maximum length of time set for postpartum bleeding is sixty days. However, it usually ends in forty days. After the period of postpartum bleeding, the woman performs the major ablution (ghusl) and begins performing her acts of worship.
  3. After a woman has given birth to a child: Normally, when a woman gives birth to a child, she experiences postpartum bleeding. Even if the woman does not experience bleeding after giving birth, she still must perform ghusl. According to the preferred views of scholars, if a woman gives birth to a child earlier than regular labor, or suffers a miscarriage, she should still perform major ablution even if there is no discharge of blood.

II. What a Person, who is required to Perform Ghusl, Can and Cannot Do

The person who is in the state of major impurity, postpartum bleeding, or menstruation are prohibited to do the following acts:

  1. To perform any obligatory or supererogatory prayers.
  2. To perform prostration of recitation or thanksgiving.
  3. To circumambulate around the Ka’bah.
  4. To stay, to sit, or to retreat in a mosque: one must not enter a mosque in the state of major ritual impurity unless there is a necessity. It is not forbidden to enter a mosque from one side and exiting from the other and neither is it forbidden for a menstruating woman to stay in the extensions of a mosque, but not in its main building.
  5. To touch or to carry the Qur’an: Those who are in the state of major ritual impurity, menstruating and experiencing postpartum bleeding cannot touch the Holy Qur’an or a verse written on a wall or any such place. There is no harm in looking at the verses.
  6. To recite the Qur’an: Those who are in the state of major ritual impurity, menstruating and experiencing postpartum bleeding are not allowed to read or recite the Qur’an. It is not permissible to recite a verse, even if it is a single letter, with the intention of worship. The Prophet (pbuh)’s saying, “No one who is sexually impure and no woman who is menstruating should recite anything from the Qur’an”[3] clearly expresses that the woman who is menstruating or experiencing postpartum bleeding is not allowed to recite the Qur’an.[4]

In addition to the above-mentioned prohibitions, women who are menstruating or experiencing postpartum bleeding neither are allowed to fast nor sleep with their husbands.

It is not appropriate for women who are menstruating or experiencing postpartum bleeding to perform major ablution with the intention of performing an act of worship (for example, performing major ablution on Fridays based on the belief that it is a prophetic practice).

Imam Ghazali deemed it inappropriate for those who are in the state of major ritual impurity to have a haircut, to clip their nails, and to give blood. On the other hand, there is no harm for menstruating women to do all these actions.

It is forbidden for a husband to divorce his wife when she is menstruating or in the period of postpartum bleeding.

The prayers which could not be performed during menstrual and post-partum bleeding period are not required to be made up. However, it is obligatory to later make up the fasting-days missed in the month of Ramadan.

Men – women who are in the state of major ritual impurity (janaba) and women who are in menstrual or post-partum bleeding period are allowed to recite the verses from Qur’an about remembrance of Allah or admonitory verses if their intention is to remember Allah or to take heed, but not the recitation of the Qur’an. For example, when getting on a vehicle, one may recite the 13th verse of chapter Zukhruf (43) with the intention of supplication “Subhanalladhi sakhkhara lana hadha wa ma kunna lahu muqrinin” (Glory to Him Who has subjected these to our (use), for we could never have accomplished this (by ourselves), or when afflicted with a calamity, one may recite the verse “inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (al-Baqara 2: 156) (To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return) or remember Allah by saying, “la ilaha illa Allah”.

III. The Sunnah (Supererogatory) Types of the Major Ablution

In addition to obligatory types of major ablution, there are Sunnah (supererogatory) types, which are recommended to be performed at various times and occasions. One may try to perform such major ablutions when it is possible:

  1. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution on Fridays to get ready for Friday Prayer.
  2. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution on Festival days to get ready for Eid Prayer.
  3. It is Sunnah for the person who washes the dead body to perform the major ablution after washing it.
  4. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution while getting ready for the state of ihram during pilgrimage, before entering Mecca and Medina, before circumambulating around the Ka’bah or performing the ritual walk between the Hills of Safa and Marwa, when getting ready for the ritual standing in the plain of Arafat, before spending the night in Muzdalifa and before stoning the Devil.
  5. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution when getting ready for spiritual retreat in a mosque (i’tikaf) in the month of Ramadan.
  6. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution before performing Drought Prayer.
  7. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution before performing the Eclipse Prayers (Lunar and Solar Eclipses – Kusuf and Husuf Prayers).
  8. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution for a disbeliever when he/she embraces Islam.
  9. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution for a child who attains the status of competency by reaching the legal age of maturity (not by biological puberty, because in that case, performing the major ablution becomes obligatory).
  10. It is a Sunnah to perform the major ablution for a drunken person after achieving sobriety or after recovering one’s sanity or regaining consciousness after having lost it.

It is also recommended for a person to perform the major ablution when repenting a sin, before attending a meeting gathered for good purposes, during every night in Ramadan, after bloodletting (hajamat), (for a divorcee or a widow) after the end of waiting (‘iddah) period, or just for the purpose of removing sweat and bad smell.

IV. The Obligatory Features of the Major Ablution (Ghusl)

There are three obligatory features of major ablution:

  1. To remove the impure materials from the body: in order to perform a valid major ablution, one needs to wash the genitals and remove the impure substances.
  2. Having the intention: Intention can be stated in Arabic as follows, “nawaytu raf’al hadas al-akbar” (I intended to remove the major ritual impurity). It can be expressed in Kurdish by saying “Min neyta destmeja xweyi mezin helal bikım bı ave”, and in Turkish “niyet ettim gusül abdesti almaya, cenabeti gidermeye veya hadesi kaldırmaya”. It is a Sunnah to express the intention by tongue. Major ablution begins with intention. Therefore, if one starts washing his/her body and then express his/her intention for major ablution, he/she needs to start major ablution from the beginning.
  3. Washing whole body: One must be sure that water reaches all parts of the skin and the roots of the hair. If braid prevents water reaching the roots of the hair, that person should undo the hair.

V. The Sunnah Features of Major Ablution (Ghusl)

The Sunnah acts of ghusl are as follows:

  1. Saying the name of Allah when beginning to perform ghusl.
  2. Rinsing out the mouth and the nostrils (This is obligatory according to the Hanafi school.)
  3. To perform the minor ablution before performing the major ablution.
  4. Rubbing the body while performing the major ablution.
  5. Washing the right limbs before the left ones.
  6. Washing the body parts successively without giving time between washing them (Muwalat).
  7. Washing each part of the body thrice.

VI. How to Perform the Major Ablution Properly

One should perform the major ablution in a secluded place that nobody can see. If one has to perform major ablution in a public place like a bath house, then the private parts of the body must be covered by a waistcloth, towel, or something similar.

Before beginning to perform the major ablution, one should take off the false teeth (if there is any). Paints or make ups which forms a layer over the skin should be removed before performing the major ablution.

Hands and genitals should be cleansed thoroughly – even if there is nothing impure on them. If there is something impure over the body, it should be removed.

One should say the name of Allah (bismillah) when beginning to perform the major ablution and then rinse out the mouth and nostrils. Those who are fasting should be careful not to swallow water.

After that, one should state the intention to remove ritual impurity for the sake of Allah.

Face and head, eyes, and the outwardly visible portion of the ear canals should be thoroughly washed. One should move the fingers through the hair, and make sure that water reaches the roots of hair and beard.

After that, the right side of the body is washed before its left side.

The body should be rubbed thoroughly while washing. Water should reach under nails, open ear holes, into the navel, and other outwardly parts of the body. No dry spot should be left in all parts of the body.

If water accumulates in the place where major ablution is performed, washing the feet should be done as the last action. When getting out of the bath, first the right foot is washed and then the left one is washed.

Using water excessively or too little, talking while performing the major ablution, saying the prayers, and asking unnecessary help from another person are reprehensible acts related to the major ablution.

Performing a minor ablution after a major ablution (unless something that nullifies minor ablution happens) is reprehensible. If time is appropriate, performing a two-cycle prayer to thank Allah is recommended.

[1] Al-Maida, 5: 6.

[2] Al-Baqara, 2: 222.

[3] Ibn Maja, Tahara: 105; Abu Dawud, Tahara: 90; Muwatta, Qur’an: 15

[4] According to the Maliki School, women who are menstruating or experiencing postpartum bleeding are allowed to recite the Qur’an for the purpose of teaching the Qur’an. The reason for this permission, which is especially expressed in the books of Islamic law, is that it is possible for women to forget the memorization of the Qur’an because menstruation or postpartum bleeding may take a very long time. This view in the Maliki School that women who are menstruating or experiencing postpartum bleeding may recite the Qur’an for teaching purposes has caused some misunderstandings in practice, and therefore it should rather be regarded as a concession (rukhsa) and women in such conditions should avoid reciting the Qur’an unless it is necessary.

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

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