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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Ghusl, Wudu, Ritual Bath

There are purity laws in the Holy Quran which have to be maintained before prayer and entering into a place of worship (ie. mosque).

On the surface it would appear to be a straight forward process but it is not.

Islam teaches primarily two types of ablutions. One is a minor one called "wudu"; the other a major ablution called "ghusl". Wudu is a hand, face and feet washing ceremony. Whereas ghusl is a ritual bath where the whole body is immersed in water, we know this in Judaism as the "mikveh".

The rules for ritual purity come from the following Surah:

Surah 5:6, "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. And if you are in a state of janabah, then purify yourselves. But if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it. Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favor upon you that you may be grateful."

On ghusl, the ritual bath or mikveh:

Ghusl is a major ablution as opposed to wudu which is a minor ablution. In Islamic laws, ghusl is considered an act of worship; it is an act of purifying oneself from the ritual impurity (najasat) caused by sexual intercourse, discharge of semen or blood, and by touching the dead body. The ritual bath given to a dead Muslim before burial is also known as ghusl.
Islam teaches before prayer each person must perform Wudu (the ritual washing of hands, face/head, elbows and ankles) to gain purity before prayer or entering into the place of worship. With the ritual bath taken place only when there is a discharge of blood, semen or contact with a dead body.

However ritual impurity comes from any type of discharge from a person. Here, the Quran clearly states, the ritual bath would be required for:

1. Illness

2. Travel

3. Toilet

4.Sexual intercourse

We can see with the exception of "travel" that discharges take place during times of illness where bugs and bacteria come out of the individual. Discharges are made during going to the toilet and emissions of semen from sexual intercourse rending the person unclean in a state of impurity. Most of these rules come from Judaism and are not new concepts to people who study religion.


This is the Hebrew term for seminal discharge which renders a person unclean. From Wikipedia:

Keri (קרי) is a Hebrew term which literally means "happenstance", "frivolity" or "contrariness" and has come to mean "seminal emission".... The term is generally used in Jewish law to refer specifically to the regulations and rituals concerning the emission of semen, whether by nocturnal emission, or by sexual activity. By extension, a man is said to be a ba'al keri (בעל קרי)("one who has had a seminal emission") after he has ejaculated without yet completing the associated ritual cleansing requirements.

The biblical regulations of the Priestly Code specify that a man who had experienced an emission of semen would become ritually impure, until the evening came and the man had washed himself in water; (Leviticus 15:16) any clothes or bits of skin which the semen came into contact with would also become ritually impure, until they had been washed in water and the evening had come. (Leviticus 15:17) The code adds that if the emission of semen occurred during sexual intercourse with a woman, then the woman would also become ritually impure, until the evening had come and she had washed herself in water. (Leviticus 15:18)

The Talmud relates that Ezra's decree forbidding a ba'al keri from studying Torah no longer applies nowadays.[3] Some dispute exists amongst the Rishonim as to whether or not this applies to prayer as well. Rav Hai Gaon (brought in the commentary of Yonah Gerondi on Berakhot) and Chananel ben Chushiel (brought in Tosafot Hullin 122b) say that a ba'al keri, while he may study Torah, may not pray until he goes to a mikveh. Maimonides (Hilkhot Kriat Shma 4:8) says that the decree was cancelled entirely and a ba'al keri may even say Kriat Shma. Maimonides goes on to say, however, that the minhag in Shinaar and Spain is that before prayer a ba'al keri should wash himself entirely with water (Hilkhot Tefillah 4:6). The consensus is that it is praiseworthy for a ba'al keri to immerse himself in the mikveh before praying, Kriat Shma, saying Berakhot etc.[4]

Here we see that seminal discharges in Judaism meant immersion into the "mikveh". Similarly, Islam teaches seminal discharges require immersion into a ritual bath called the ghusl. However, Islam fails to recognise the "ghusl" has the mikveh. This would mean the individual washes themselves after a seminal discharge with soap and water then dips naked into a "mikveh" where he is purified.

Toilet Renders Impurity

In Surah 5:6, persons engaging in sexual intercourse would be required to undergo a ritual bath so too must people going to the toilet, the ill, and the traveller. This is where Islam disagrees with the Quranic text.

Islam teaches:

Most people of the world consider urine and stool as unclean, but Islam has gone one step further in declaring them to be ritually unclean. For example, in the matters of worship a Muslim who has passed urine or emptied his bowels cannot pray even after cleaning his body from urine and stool-he must also do wudu, a minor ablution
. Instead of the ritual bath persons who have gone to the toilet are only required to wash their private parts. This is called istinja. The Prophet Muhammed used water to wash his private parts after going to the toilet. This is where the tradition comes from in Islam.

Whenever the Prophet went to answer the call of nature, I used to bring water with which he used to clean his private parts. (Bukhari, Book of Ablution)

"Wudu" - the ritual washings of head, hands, and feet is then done before prayer time. But the Quranic text implies these people must also be required to have a ritual bath. The issue is that any discharge from the body renders the person unclean and in a state of "impurity". This is something which is known in Judaism but lost by Islamic scholars. This impurity requires a ghusl" (mikveh) not a "wudu". The wudu ritual washings do not necessarily pour water over the places of the body where there has been a discharge rendering the individual in a state of impurity. God in His wisdom knew these ritual purity laws would be impossible to keep a lot of the time so allowed the individual to place their hands in the dust of the earth to purify the impurity.

From Teachings of our Rebbeim About the Importance of Going to the Mikveh:

Ezra Hasofer decreed that men who are in state of impurity are prohibited from learning Torah unless they first purify themselves. A later Beis Din extended the decree to prohibit davening as well without prior purification. This decree is called “Takanas Ezra.” The act of immersing oneself in keeping with this Takana is called Tevilas Ezra.

At a later date, the Chachamim abolished the Takana completely, on the basis of the following two things: First of all, the Takana had never been accepted by the general public, and secondly, it caused Bittul Torah, for people would not learn Torah if they had not gone to the mikvah. There is a dispute among Rishonim which part, or perhaps all, of the Takanah was abolished.

The Rambam writes in Hilchos Tefilla “It is widespread custom in Shinar and Spain that a ba’al keri does not pray until he has washed his whole body in water,[based on the command]: "Prepare to meet your G-d, Israel" (Amos 4:12).

Likewise, the Rosh writes that when one davens in a state of impurity, his Tefilos will not be accepted.

The article also states the importance of having a mikveh before "davening" which is prayer. Some of the Jews would undergo the mikveh after a seminal discharge and before studying the Torah. Islam likewise teaches immersion into the ritual bath "ghusl" on seminal discharges.

Islam teaches:

Ghusl is a ritual bath; it involves washing of the whole body. There are two methods of performing ghusl. One is known as ghusl tartibi, and the other is known as ghusl irtimasi.

1. 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.

2. 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.

Judaism on Urine

Passing urine renders the person unclean on the same level as emitting semen, blood or menstruation which require water immersion in a mikveh to become clean. We can learn this from writings of Judaism:

Certain ritually impure things are Fathers of Impurity. Impurity is transferred from any Father of Impurity in various ways, including by contact with a person, garment or useful object susceptible to impurity.[31] Fathers of Impurity include: a person or a useful object that has been made impure by a corpse;[32] a person,[33] garment[34] or house[35] with leprosy; a man or woman with irregular genital flows; a menstruating woman; a woman following childbirth; a couch, seat, or saddle in which any of these last three have sat;[36] flesh of a dead animal (one not properly ritually slaughtered);[37] a creeping thing;[38] the semen of a Jew;[39] and idols, their accessories, and wine libations and offerings made to them.[40] Impurity is also transferred to, and by, liquids such as urine and spittle that come from a person who transfers impurity to others, including a person who has consumed impure food or liquid.

Source: http://www.religio

m.Kelim 1.3

On a higher plane is the man who had intercourse with a Menstruant, for he conveys to that on which he lies the same uncleanness as [a Zab conveys] to that which lies above him. On a higher plane than these are the issue of a Zab, his spittle, his semen and his urine, and the blood of a Menstruant, for they convey uncleanness both by contact and by carriage. On a higher plane than these is an object on which one can ride, for it conveys uncleanness even when it lies under a heavy stone. On a higher plane than the object on which one can ride is that on which one can lie, for in the latter case uncleanness is conveyed by contact as by carriage. On a higher plane than the object on which one can lie is the Zab, for a Zab conveys uncleanness to the object on which he lies while the object on which he lies cannot convey the same uncleanness to that upon which it lies.

m.Miqvaoth 8.2:

These are the persons that had a seminal issue who require Immersion: if he noticed that his urine issued in drops or was muddy, at the beginning he is clean; in the middle and at the end, he is unclean; from the beginning to the end, he is clean. If it was white and viscous, he is unclean. R. Jose [T4] says: what is white counts like what is muddy.

m.Miqvaoth 8.4:

If a Gentile woman discharged semen from an Israelite, it is unclean. If an Israelite woman discharged semen from a Gentile, it is clean. If a woman had intercourse and then went down and immersed herself but did not sweep out the house, it is as though she had not immersed herself. If a man who had a seminal issue immersed himself but did not first pass urine, he again becomes unclean when he passes urine. R. Jose [T4] says: if he was sick or old he is unclean, but if he was young and healthy he remains clean.

m.Niddah 4.3

The blood of an idolatress and the clean blood of a leprous woman, Beth Shammai [CE1] declare clean and Beth Hillel [CE1] hold that it is like her spittle or her urine, the blood of a woman after childbirth who did not undergo ritual Immersion, Beth Shammai [CE1] ruled, is like her spittle or her urine, but Beth Hillel [CE1] ruled: it conveys uncleanness both when wet and when dry, they agree, however, that if she gave birth while in zibah, it conveys uncleanness both when wet and when dry.

m.Makhshirin 6.6

The following cause uncleanness and also susceptibility [to uncleanness]; the issue of a person who has a running issue, his spittle, his semen and his urine, a quarter-log from a corpse, and the blood of a Menstruant woman. R. Eliezer [T2 or T5] says: semen does not cause susceptibility. R. Eleazar [T4 in M or PA3] b. `Azariah says: the blood of a Menstruant woman does not cause susceptibility. R. Simeon [T4] says: the blood of a corpse does not cause susceptibility, and if it fell on a gourd, it should be scraped off, and it remains clean.

Based on these opinions it would seem that passing urine or going to the toilet would also require a ritual bath or "ghusl" or mikveh before Torah study or Quranic studies. But how practical this type of ritual purity is remains to be seen. Judaism had a tradition of ritual immersion before prayer and studying Torah and the High Priest had to immerse in a mikveh before entering the Temple. Likewise this may be transferred into places of worship where "worship" and prayer will be taking place.

Islam is restoring customs the Jews have abandoned. This is ritual washings before every prayer. And mikvehs after seminal discharges for men, sexual intercourse for men and women. In the process making it easier by allowing "dirt" to be used as a means of purification in the absence of water.

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