Published in  
January 17, 2024

Types of Water and Cleaning | Book of Purification | Bidayat al-Abid

Bidayat al-Abid wa Kifayat al-Zahid is a concise manual restricted to the acts of worship based on the jurisprudence of the madhab of Imam Abu Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal. This article focuses on the types of water and the different methods of purification after relieving oneself.

Before starting the study of this book, we recommend familiarising yourself with the Hanbali School and a quick biography if Imam Ahmad so that you can appreciate this work better. We have summarised the key points about the Hanbali Madhab in the post here.

About The Author

Abdur Rahman Ibn Abdullah Ibn Ahmad al-Halabi al-Dimashqi al-Ba'li al-Hanbali (1110-1192) was born on 12th Jumadah al-Ulaa 1110 AH in Balabak (Lebanon) in al-Shaam. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather and even his elder brothers were scholars of repute. 

He memorised the Quran by the age of 10 and began seeking knowledge. His first teacher was Sheikh Awwad al-Hanbali al-Nablusi who taught him al-Ajrumiyyah and Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat for many years. When his father passed away, he and his brothers studied Fiqh and Hadith further under the tutelage of Sheikh Abu al-Muwahib al-Hanbali for 5 years. He then studied Fiqh, Hadith, Arabic Grammar, Usool, and Inheritance under Sheikh Abdul Qadir al-Taghlabi, the famous author of Nayl al-Ma'arib for about 15 years. Upon completion of his studies, he was awarded a general ijazah. Imam al-Ba'li also attended the lessons of Sheikh Ismail al-Ajluni, author of Kashf al-Khafaa, learning Sahih al-Bukhari under the Nasr dome in the Umayyad Masjid for approximately 9 years. He was granted a general ijazah. Later, he travelled to Halab and remained there studying the sciences of logic, Usul, grammar and speaking. He had numerous teachers and received many accolades and ijazat from them. Imam al-Ba'li had the shortest chain to Sahih al-Bukhari with only 10 narrators between him and Imam al-Bukhari. 

Imam al-Ba'li was praised by many scholars and was known for seeking knowledge throughout his life and for the large number of his teachers.

Imam al-Muraadi said that Imam al-Ba'li was a scholar, virtuous, righteous, a faqih, proficient in the Islamic sciences and in particular, the Qira'at. 
Imam Ibn Badran said that Imam al-Ba'li was a faqih and an eloquent poet. Sheikh Abdul Hayy al-Kettani said that he was a sheikh, a faqih, and a musnid. 

He authored an abridgement of al-Jami' al-Sagheer of Imam al-Suyuti and he named it Nur al-Akhyar wa Rawd al-Abrar fi Hadith al-Nabi al-Mustafa al-Mukhtar in which he confined himself to the Ahadith reported on the authority of Imam Ahmad, Imam Bukhari, and Imam Muslim. He further wrote an explanation of this work called Fath as-Sitar wa Kashf al-Mukhtar. 

He authored a concise manual of Fiqh titled Bidayat al-Abid wa Kifayat al-Zahid. He explained this book in his Bulugh al-Qasid.  He authored Kashf al-Mukhaddarat which was a commentary of Ibn Balban's Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat.

He remained in Halab (Aleppo) till his passing in 1192 AH.


Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Ba’li opens the book by saying, 

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
الحَمْدُ للَّهِ الذي فَقَّه في دينهِ مَنْ شَاءَ مِنَ العِبَادِ، وَوَفَّقَ أَهَلَ طَاعَتِهِ لِلْعِبَادَةِ والسَّدَادِ، والصَّلاَةُ والسلامُ على سيِّدنا مُحمدٍ الهَادِي إِلى طريقِ الرَّشَادِ، وعَلَى آله وأصحابهِ السَّادَةِ القَادَةِ الأَمْجَادِ، وعَلَى تَابِعيهم بإِحسانٍ صَلاَةً دَائِمَةً مُتَّصِلَة إِلى يَومِ المَعَادِ.
أَمَّا بَعْد:
فَقَد اسْتَخَرْتُ اللَّهَ في جَمْعِ مُخْتَصَر مُفيد، مُقْتَصِرًا فِيهِ عَلَى العِباداتِ تَرْغيبًا للمُرِيدِ، وتقريبًا لِلمُستفيدِ، في فِقْهِ الِإمامِ المُبَجَّلِ، أبي عبد الله أحمد بن مُحمَّد بن حَنْبَل، وَسَمَّيْتُهُ: «بِدَاية العَابِدِ وكِفَاية الزَاهِدِ»، ومِنَ اللَّهِ تعالى أرتجي له القبولَ والنفْع لكُل مَن اشتغلَ به مِنْ سائلٍ ومسؤول، إِنه أكْرَمُ مَأْمُول.

“In the name of Allah the Most Gracious. Most-Merciful All praise belongs to Allah who bestows understanding of the faith upon whom He wills from the slaves and grants the ability to the obedient for ibadah and uprightness We ask Allah for eternal and continuous prayers and peace for our master Muhammad. the guide to the path of truth, for his family, his honourable leading and exemplary companions, and all who perfectly follow them until the Day of Return. 

I have sought Allah's guidance in authoring a beneficial and concise manual restricted to the acts of worship based on the jurisprudence of the venerated Imam Abu Abdullah Ahmad bin Hanbal to encourage the disciple and grant access to those seeking benefit. I have called it, ‘Bidayatul Abid wa Kifayat al-Zahid’. I request that Allah accept it and to benefit everyone, both inquirer and inquired of, who busies themselves with it, for indeed He is the most generous in whom to place one's hope."

This book covers the 4 pillars of Islam. We must learn to crawl before being able to walk and to walk before being able to run. This is why we learn Fiqh with a structured approach of a Madhab so we can gradually progress along the levels. Each level of learning has books that have been authored, verified, peer-reviewed, and explained by a multitude of scholars for centuries to make sure that they represent the most authentic teachings from the Sunnah. 

Bidyat al-Abid is a beginner level book of fiqh that can fall under Level 0 or Level 1 of study. This short commentary of Bidayat al-Abid has benefited from Bulugh al-Qasid, Munyatus Sajid, and the works of Sheikhs Dr Khaled al-Mushayqih, Dr Mutlaq Jasir, Amir Bahjat, Dr Ahmed al-Quaymi, Dr Ahmed Khater, and Bilal Ismail among others.

The Hanabilah divide their books of fiqh into 4 sections:

  1. Matters Related to Worship (al-Ibadat)
  2. Matters Related to Transactions (al-Muamalat)
  3. Matters Related to Family Law (al-Usrah)
  4. Matters Related to Criminal Law and Penalties (al-Qadah)

Be it any action of ours, the Shariah has a ruling for it. There are some actions that we do that Allah has prohibited and some that we are obligated to do. Some that we are recommended to do and some not. Also, there are those actions where it's left to us and nothing has been said explicitly regarding it. Since these terms will repeat many times in the book, its good to go over a quick summary. 

Ahkam are of 5 types:

  1. Wajib: This is an act, the doer of which gets rewarded for doing it and the one who leaves it gets a sin. It is usually synonymous with Fardh. Ex: Praying the 5 Daily Prayers.
  2. Haram: It is the opposite of Wajib. So basically, it is an act, whose doer gets a sin for doing it and the one who leaves it gets a reward. Ex: Zina.
  3. Masnun, Mandub, or Mustahab: It is the opposite of Makruh. This is an act, which when left gets no punishment, and the one who does it gets a reward. Ex: Nawafil Ibadat.
  4. Makruh: This is an act, which when left gets a reward, and the one who does it doesn't get a punishment. Ex: Giving and taking with your left hand instead of the right.
  5. Mubah: This is an act, whether a person does it or abstains from it, gets no reward or sin for it by itself. Ex - Driving or abstaining from driving a car.

If a mubah action becomes a means for a wajib action then it also garners a reward and takes the ruling of wajib. Specific intentions to do such, like driving to the Masjid could make it rewarding and its opposite like driving to the club could be sinful and it becomes haram.

It is wajib on the mukallaf that he obtains from Fiqh, knowledge knowledge that which is necessary for a person in terms of his ibadat and muamalat. Ex: Gaining ilm about the 5 obligatory prayers. Who is considered a Mukallaf? Mukallaf is he who is held accountable as per the Shariah. A person is considered a mukallaf if he fulfills the following 4 criteria:

  1. Aaqil - A person of sound intellect.
  2. Al-Bulugh - A person who has hit the stage of puberty.
  3. Al-Qudra - The power/ability to complete the task/action.
  4. Al-Ilm - A person has knowledge of the command/action.

The Books of Purification | كتاب الطهارة

وهي ارتفاع الحَدَث وزَوَالُ الخَبَثِ.

It is the removal of a ḥadath and elimination of a khabath.

Why do we start with purification? The most important act of worship is salah. Salah has certain prerequisites needed for it to be valid. Of them is to attain a state of purity. Taharah is the key to Salah.

Linguistically, Kitab is derived from the root word Ka-Ta-Ba which refers to joining together or gathering together.  Linguistically, Taharah refers to cleanliness or cleansing from something tangible or intangible. Kitab al-Taharah linguistically means the gathering of all the matters pertaining to purification.  

  1. Taharah al-Ma'nawaiyyah: This refers to purification from Shirk. This is the most important type of taharah. This impurity cannot be seen and is spiritual in nature targeting the heart.  
  2. Taharah al-Hissiyyah: This is the literal or technical meaning and the oft-understood meaning when the term taharah is used as is. This includes the physical impurities that can be seen and is applicable to the limbs. 

Technically, taharah refers to a specific type of purification and not necessarily that which is entailed by the language alone. Purification is the lifting of the state of ritual impurity (hadath) and the removal of physical impurities (khabath)

The fuqaha, coined a statement that is based on 3 points. If this sentence is understood then we can easily understand and remember the concept of taharah: 

 ارْتِفَاعُ الْحَدَثِ، ومَا في مَعْنَاهُ، وَزَوَالُ الخَبَثِ

Taharah is the upliftment of hadath and whatsoever carries a similar meaning, and the removal of the state of khabath.

The word “ارْتِفَاعُ” refers to the state of upliftment. Hadath is a state of impurity that prevents one from engaging in acts of worship where purification is needed. Wudhu or ghusl is required to exit from this state. In this state, the impurities are intangible - it cannot be physically seen, rather it is a state of spiritual impurity that is removed preferably by washing with water. Khabath is any physical impurity that is preferably cleaned through water. 

Hadath is of 2 types: 

  1. Hadath al-Akbar: This is the major state of ritual impurity. This form of impurity cannot be seen. This is anything that necessitates ghusl and cannot be removed by wudhu or tayammum.
  2. Hadath al-Asghar: This is the minor state of ritual impurity. This is that which can be removed by wudhu or tayammum.

Hadath is not necessarily equal to najis. A Muhdith is not najis. This point needs to be remembered. 

Khabath refers to the physical impurities. Ex: Human feces etc. When it comes to impurities, it is of two types:

  1. Najis al-Ayni: Those substances that are impure in and of themselves. They cannot be made pure. Ex: Pigs.
  2. Najis al-Hukmi: Those substances that are pure but become impure because of coming in contact with some external impurities. Ex: Dirty water. What suffices here, is the removal of the impurity from the substance. 

Whatsoever carries the same meaning refers to a separate type of purification. They don’t uplift spiritual impurity or remove physical impurity. It is similar to lifting spiritual impurity but it is not the actual lifting of the spiritual impurity. Ex: Doing wudhu after giving ghusl to the dead. This is a ta’bbudi matter where one is asked to do wudhu. Other similar instances are:

  • This includes the recommended wudhu or recommended ghusl like that done on Friday. 
  •  This includes the second and third washing during wudhu or ghusl after the first necessary washing.
  • Washing hands after waking up in the middle of the night and before scooping out water. 
  • Washing the penis and scrotum after the emission of madhiy (pre-seminal fluid).

Another point that some scholars add under taharah is - lifting the ruling of that which came before. This refers to instances where a person has to lift hadath via wudhu. Because of no water, the person does tayammum. As per the madhab, tayammum lifts the ruling of impurity for the time being as a concession allowing the person to engage in limited acts of worship but does not completely remove one from the state of hadath.  

Incorporating all these, the final definition as per the Hanabilah would be: Taharah is the upliftment of hadath, the removal of the state of khabath, whatsoever carries a similar meaning, and lifting the ruling of that which came before.

والمياه ثَلاَثَة:
طَهورٌ، وطَاهِرٌ، ونَجِسٌ.
فالطهورُ: هو الباقي على خِلْقتِهِ طَهُورٌ في نفسِهِ مُطهِّر لغيره، يَجُوزُ استعمالُهُ مطلقًا.
والطاهرُ: ما تَغَيَّرَ كثير من لَوْنِهِ أو طَعْمِهِ أَوْ ريحِهِ بِطَاهِرِ، وهو طَاهِر في نفسه غيرُ مطهِّرِ لِغَيْرِهِ، يَجوزُ استعمَالُهُ في غَيْرِ رَفْعِ حَدَثِ وزَوَالِ خَبَثِ.
والنَجسُ: ما تَغَيَّرَ بِنَجَاسَةٍ في غَيْرِ مَحَلِّ تطهير، ويَحْرُمُ استعمالُهُ مطلقًا إِلاَّ لضرورة.
والكَثيرُ قُلَّتَانِ فَأَكْثَرَ، واليَسيرُ ما دونَهُمَا، وهما: مائةُ رطْلٍ وسبعةُ أرطالٍ وسُبُعُ رِطْلٍ بالدمشقي وما وافَقَهُ.

Water is of three types: tahur; tahir; and najis.

Tahur is what remains in its natural state. It is intrinsically pure and purifying. It is categorically permissible to use.

Tahir is what has greatly changed in color, taste, or odor due to a tahir object. It is intrinsically pure, but not purifying. It is permissible to use, except to remove a ḥadath or a khabath.

Najis is what has changed due to najasah, except at the location being purified. It is categorically impermissible to use, unless in dire need.

An abundant amount is two qullahs or more and a small amount is lesser than that. This is equivalent to 107.7 Damascus Ritls or whatever is comparable.

al-Miyaa (المياه) is the plural of al-Maa (الماء). Water is the real path to taharah through which purity can be attained. Why? Allah says,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ وَإِن كُنتُمْ جُنُبًا فَاطَّهَّرُوا وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰ أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائِطِ أَوْ لَامَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا مَاءً فَتَيَمَّمُوا صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُوا بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُم مِّنْهُ مَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ حَرَجٍ وَلَٰكِن يُرِيدُ لِيُطَهِّرَكُمْ وَلِيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

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 so that you may be grateful. [Surah al-Ma’idah, Ayah 6]

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَعْلَمُوا مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلَا جُنُبًا إِلَّا عَابِرِي سَبِيلٍ حَتَّىٰ تَغْتَسِلُوا وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰ أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائِطِ أَوْ لَامَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا مَاءً فَتَيَمَّمُوا صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُوا بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَفُوًّا غَفُورًا

O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through (a place of prayer), until you have washed (your whole body). And 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 find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving. [Surah an-Nisa, Ayah 43]

The state of purification cannot be attained as per the Hanabilah and the majority of the scholars unless it is by means of water. If anything else would purify, then surely Allah would have mentioned it before moving on to purification using clean earth. Hence, it is important to know what matter can be or cannot be used to make wudhu or ghusl. 

As per the Hanafis, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah and a second narration from Imam Ahmad, purification of this type of impurity can be removed using any other substance as long as the eye of the filth is removed. Meaning that all traces (sight, smell, etc) of the impurity are completely removed. 

Water is of 3 types:

1. Tahur: It is that water which remains in its natural or original nature. It is water that is pure in and of itself and has a purifying nature. Pure in itself means that if a person or his clothes come in contact with it, it doesn’t need to be worried about being cleaned. It is the water that is used for wudhu, ghusl, washing away any impurities, etc. Ex: Sea Water.

Another easy way of looking at it is, can this water be used for purification? Yes. Then it is tahur water.

Tahur water in its original state can be divided into:

  • In its origin. Ex: Salty water, well water, rainwater, etc. 
  • In its original state in the ruling. Slight change might have occurred but it's not enough to change its purifying nature. Ex: Leafs falling into the water or the smell of the container it is kept in might change some of the characteristics of the water slightly which is negligible.

Tahur water in terms of its usage can be divided into:

  • Permissible (Mubah)
  • Disliked (Makruh)
  • Impermissible (Haram)
  • Tahur but doesn’t purify men and hermaphrodites.

2. Tahir: The Hanabilah don’t give an exact definition for tahir water, but instead give scenarios. It is the water that has changed a lot in its taste, color, or smell by something that is pure by mixing or dissolving into it. This change could be completely of one type or a sum of all three. The particles of the substance have to mix and cannot remain insoluble or float at the top. Tahir water is pure in itself but it is deprived of its purifying nature. It cannot be used for the removal of hadath or khabath. It is permissible to use it for any other matter. Ex: Adding tea to a liter of water. If the liquid can no longer be called water but takes the name of that which it is mixed with like tea, then it is now called tahir water instead of tahur. Likewise, if the water is mixed to such a degree that it is now qualified with it then that is also called tahir water. Ex: Vinegar with water. 

Other examples of tahir water are:

- Water gathered after being used for ablution. The water that is used for obligatory worship (dropped from the wet limbs) is considered tahir even though the 3 characteristics remain the same.

- The water gathered from the last wash that does not leave any trace of impurities. 

- Water is rendered tahir when the hand of a Muslim with legal capacity is submerged into it after waking up from a night's sleep. This is from the Mufradat of the Hanabilah.

Abu Huraira reported: The Apostle of Allah (ﷺ) said, “When anyone amongst you wakes up from sleep, he should wash his hands three times before putting it in the utensil, for he does not know where his hand was during the night.” [Muslim] Why? This is a ta'abbudi matter. It means that we do not know the logical reasoning behind the command but we are to submit to it.

More details of such water will be discussed in the next level of books like Zaad al-Mustaqni or Umdat al-Talib. Another easy way of looking at it is, can this water be used for purification? No. Can it be used for drinking? Yes. Then it is tahir water. 

3. Najis: It is the water that has changed in taste, smell, or color because of impurities. It cannot be used for purification or similar situations except under a dire need like dying of thirst.  Najis water can be divided into:

  • A small amount of water into which something impure has fallen or come in contact with. This water is now impure by default irrespective of any observable change in its characteristics. In general, when water comes into contact with najasah it becomes najis.

    However, the water at the location that has been soiled by najasah is not najis as it is doing its job of purifying when it is being poured over. If it were not pure, it would never purify the area. Once it drips or drops off the area, it is then that it is considered najis. On the other hand, if an impurity is put into a small amount of water, it becomes najis.

  • A large amount of water into which something impure has fallen or come in contact with such that it has changed even the slightest of its characteristics. This is in contrast to tahir water which had a large change in its characteristics.

Another easy way of looking at it is, can this water be used for purification? No. Can it be used for drinking? No. Then it is najis water. 

This three water classification is the opinion of the vast majority of the scholars. We have another riwayah from Imam Ahmad and the opinion of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah that states that water is of only 2 types: Tahur and Najis.

What are small and large amounts of water as mentioned above? An abundant amount of water is that which is measured to be a Qullatān or more whereas a small amount is anything less than that. According to the Madhab, there is a distinction between an abundance of water and less water. This line is the measure of 2 Qullahs. 

Abdullah bin Umar رضي الله عنه narrated that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “If there is enough water to fill two pots (Qullah), it carries no impurity,”  [Tirmidhi] Another version has: “It does not become unclean”.

Qulla (قلة) is a large earthen pot as per the people of the village of Hajar near Madinah, which may contain water up to two and a half water skins. This has been calculated to be equivalent to 500 Iraqi Ritls (107.7 Damascene Ritls) or a comparable measurement. 

1 Iraqi Ritl can fill 128.575 Dirhams
1 Dirham = 2.975 Grams
1 Iraqi Ritl = 382.510 Grams
500 Iraqi Ritl = 191,255 Grams
This is approximately about 191.25 liters of water.

1 Damascene Ritl = 600 Dirhams
1 Dirham = 2.975 Grams
1 Damascene Ritl = 1785 Grams
107.7 Damascene Ritl = 191,244.5 Grams
This is approximately about 191.24 liters of water.

As per another mode of measurement, it is one and a quarter cube of a Dira’a. A Dira’a is measured from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow. This is approximately about 191.25 liters of water.

Scholars have differed over the exact measurement of qullatayn. Some have opined it to be ranging from 158 liters, 190 liters, 270 liters, and 307 liters.

The Hanafi, Shafi, and Hanbali scholars held that Qullatayn in volume are equivalent to one and a quarter cubits in length, width, and depth (one cubit equals the length of a forearm)

Ex: If a person urinates into an ocean, the water is still considered pure as the water quantity is more than Qullatayn (191 liters). But if a single drop of urine were to fall into water less than Qullatayn then that would render the water impure even though you cannot see, taste, or smell the urine in the water. This is the position of the Hanabilah and the majority of the scholars. 

On the other hand, the Malikiyyah, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, a second narration from Imam Ahmed, Sheikh Ibn Baz, Sheikh Ibn al-Uthaymeen, etc opine that there is no difference regarding the amounts of water. They base their opinion on the hadith where Abu Sa’eed AI-Khudri رضي الله عنه narrated: “It was said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Shall we use the water of Buda’ah well to perform ablution while it is a well in which menstruation rags, the flesh of dogs, and the putrid are dumped?” Allah’s Messenger said, ‘Indeed water is pure, nothing makes it impure.'” [Tirmidhi]

Some important points that need to be kept in mind with regard to the hadith of Qullatayn:

  • There is discussion regarding the authenticity of it.
  • The scholars differ greatly over what exactly the exact value is. Some say that it is the Qullah of the people of Madinah while others opine that it is the Qullah of the people of Hajar. The Shariah wouldn’t give such a high variance of quantities for a measurement that is very much needed to be known and fixed.
  • The Prophet didn’t speak about water becoming impure when it is less than Qullatain. Scholars have derived the ruling on that based on qiyas on the hadith. 

وكلُّ إِنَاءٍ طَاهِرٍ يُبَاحُ اتخاذُهُ واستعمَالُهُ غَيْرَ ذَهبٍ وفضةٍ.

Tahir vessels are permissible to keep and use, as long as they are not made of gold or silver. 

After discussing about the water, the next logical step is to discuss the container in which the water will be held. All pure vessels are permissible to keep and use, as long as they are not made of gold, silver or the bones, skin, and hair of humans. 

Remember the Principle:

أصل في الأشياء الإباحة

Permissibility is the original state of things

The proof of this is the Ayah 29 in Surah al-Baqarah where Allah says,

هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ فَسَوَّاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, (His being above all creation), and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things.

The default ruling on vessels is that of permissibility. Even if the utensils are extremely expensive or made from exotic materials, they are permissible to be possessed, bought, sold, and used except for those made with gold and silver or soldered by them.

The vessels or utensils whose price is haram are also deemed impermissible to be used. Ex: Buying a utensil for the price of a pig. The utensil is pure by itself but the price is what makes it haram. Likewise, a stolen utensil is impermissible to be used. This prohibition includes any kind of objects, tools, and instruments as well.

Utensils made of gold and silver are unlawful to be acquired and used even by women. Why? If one is not allowed to use such utensils for basic necessities like eating and drinking, then for sure using it for any secondary use will also be impermissible. Just like, if saying "uff" to the parents is not allowed, then for sure, striking them falls under a greater degree of impermissibility.

This prohibition doesn't refer to those items which are merely coloured silver or golden. It refers to those utensils which are either coated with gold or silver or made by them.

Hudhaifah رضي الله عنه reported, “The Prophet (ﷺ) prohibited us from wearing silk or Dibaj and from drinking out of gold and silver vessels and said, ‘These are meant for them (non-Muslims) in this world and for you in the Hereafter.’”

Umm Salamah رضي الله عنها said, "The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, 'Whosoever drinks in utensils of silver, in fact, kindles in his belly the fire of Hell.'" [Agreed Upon].

Narrated Anas bin Malik رضي الله عنه, “When the cup of Allah's Apostle got broken, he fixed it with a silver wire at the crack.” (The sub-narrator, 'Asim said, "I saw the cup and drank (water) in it.") [Bukhari].

If one of the vessels was welded or repaired with small quantities of silver then that is allowed if there is a need. This is an exception from the general rule as was stated above. But if gold is used, no matter what the quantity, it is impermissible to be used to drink, eat, make wudhu, etc. It is disliked to place ones mouth on the place where the silver has been soldered.

There is nearly an ijmah on the prohibition of using gold and silver utensils. Can they be merely possessed? Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله says that utensils of gold and silver cannot be used or possessed. Other scholars opined otherwise and restricted it to just usage and not possession.

What if a person makes wudhu from a container of gold? The majority of the scholars and an opinion from the Madhab of Imam Ahmad رحمه الله states that the wudhu is valid but the person is sinful for using this vessel. 

Another narration from Imam Ahmad رحمه الله likens this action to a person who prays on land that has been acquired by impermissible means and that salah is invalid. Why? Ibadah is used to get close to Allah and if this is mixed with that which is haram then it invalidates that act of worship as well. 

Istinja, Istijmar, Manners of the Restroom

والاستنجاءُ إِزالَةُ ما خَرَجَ من سبيلٍ بِماءٍ أَوْ حَجَرٍ ونحوِهِ، وهو واجِبٌ مِنْ كُلِّ خَارجٍ إِلاَّ الريحَ والطَّاهِرَ وغَيْرَ المُلَوّثِ.

Istinja is the act of removing whatever comes out of the passages with water or stone, etc. It is obligated due to everything that comes out except the passage of wind, anything pure, or something unsoiled.

Linguistically, Istinja refers to cutting something off. Scholars use the term istinja to refer to the cleaning of private parts using water, stones, or both. Some use the term istibra to specifically refer to the washing of the front private part. The term istijmar is used to refer to cleaning the private parts with stones. 

Istinja can be defined as the removal (cleaning) of the impurity that exits the private parts using tahur water or the removal of its ruling using stones or similar to it. Istinja refers to the cleaning of the original private part and likewise, istijmar can only be done on an original private part. This is an important point as there as also hermaphrodites who have more than one private part. 

For Istinja, it requires 7 washes or more using tahur water for each private part, unlike istijmar which requires a minimum of 3 wipes for each private part. How is purification assessed? Water is used to wash both the private parts till the private parts return to the condition they were in before the emergence of the impurities. Unlike istijmar, no minor trace of impurities is tolerated in istinja. Since one cannot directly look at their anal area, having the strong assumption that the area has most likely been cleaned and all impurities have been removed suffices. 

Istijmar doesn’t remove khabath or the impurities completely. There will always be an element of a trace remaining that can only be removed using water. This small trace is overlooked and forgiven by the Shariah. Rather, istijmar removes the ruling of khabath. This ruling is the prevention of doing wudhu and tayammum. 

For a person to engage in any act of worship, istinja is necessary after the emergence of anything from the private parts. That which emerges could be something frequent like urine, something often like madhiy (pre-seminal fluid), or even something rare like stones. If for any reason one of the private parts were closed and another opening was made in the body and elements emerged from it, then istinja needs to be done specifically with water. 

The exception of doing istinja is:

  • The passing of wind. Flatulence is considered tahir in nature. Imam Ahmad stated that there is nothing in the Quran or Sunnah that stipulated purification after the passing of wind. 
  • Anything pure. Ex: Semen or in certain cases a baby delivered without blood or fluids covering it.
  • Something unsoiled. This is anything that emerges and leaves no trace at all. Nothing separated from the entity when it emerged such that it left a trace behind. Ex: Extremely dried stool. 

Narrated Sa’ad رضي الله عنه, “I was one of (the first) seven (who had embraced Islam) with Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) and we had nothing to eat then, except the leaves of the Habala or Hubula tree, so that our stool used to be similar to that of sheep.” [Bukhari]

In terms of the order of what is best:

  • Washing with water and then stones
  • Washing with just water
  • Cleaning with just stones

If a person doesn’t want to engage in any act of worship that requires purification, then the obligation is not immediate and could be delayed. At this point, it is just recommended.  

ولا يَصِحُّ الاستجمَارُ إلاَّ بِطَاهِرٍ مُبَاحٍ يَابِسٍ مُنَقٍّ، فالإِنقاء بِحَجَرٍ ونحوِهِ أن يبقى أَثَرٌ لا يُزيلُهُ إِلاَّ الماءُ، 

Istijmar is not valid unless performed with something pure (tahir), permissible, dry, and cleansing. Cleaning with a stone (or similar) is completed when nothing remains except for traces that are only removable by water.

What can be used for istijmar?

  • Anything that is pure. 
  • Anything that is permissible. Cleaning with stolen items, gold, or silver is not allowed. Concessions are not allowed to be used when engaging in disobedience. Istijmar is like a concession since it removes only the ruling and not the actual impurity itself. Once something impermissible has been used, nothing else can be used for cleaning other than water. 
  • Anything that is dry and cleansing. This is that which removes the substance of the impurity leaving behind only traces that can be removed only by water. Using items that are very smooth like glass, something soft, or something damp won’t suffice as they will not remove the impurities properly. A person might use wet wipes today, but they won’t fulfill the conditions for istijmar unless dry tissues are used first to attain cleanliness. 

وشُرِطَ لَهُ ثَلاثُ مَسْحَاتٍ فأكثرُ منقيةٍ، وعدمُ تعدي خارجٍ موضعَ العَادَةِ، وبماءٍ عَوْد المحلِّ كما كان، وَظَنُّهُ كافٍ.

The following are prerequisites: that it be made with three wipes or more which cleanse; the excrement must not surpass its normal location; and if water is used, it must completely clean the area, the assumption of which is sufficient.

A person is allowed to do istijmar using stones, tissues, or similar even if water is available provided the conditions are met. These are:

  • There should be at least 3 cleansing wipes for each of the private parts separately. Each of these wipes must encompass the entire affected area. If not, it is counted as a partial wipe and does not suffice. One can keep adding more wipes till the bulk of the impurity is removed. Even if the impurity is removed in one wipe, one needs to make sure to wipe 3 times. It doesn’t have to be 3 different stones or tissues. If it is a stone that has 3 different sides and each is used for wiping, then that will also suffice.

  • Istijmar can be done only for impurities that haven’t dried. If the impurity has dried, then only water can be used to attain purification.

  • Istijmar by itself suffices without the use of water provided that the impurities exiting do not exceed the usual area of the private parts by much. Ex: Faeces being spread over the butt cheeks. The usual area for the back can be said to be less than half of the area of the buttocks that is concealed (when clenched) while standing. The usual area for the front can be said to be less than half of the head of the penis for males. For females (non-virgin), if the urine goes to the area of the menses, istijmar suffices. For the part that exceeds the usual place, water needs to be used to attain purification.

  • For a non-virgin, it is not compulsory to enter her fingers into the private parts to wash the impurity. The Hanabilah divide the female private part into two: the internal and the external. The internal is that which is not visible when she sits to relieve herself whereas the external part is that which becomes visible. This internal part does not have to be washed from impurities by opening the area or putting in fingers etc. The external part is what is obligated to be washed. 

وَحَرُمَ بِرَوْثٍ وعَظْمٍ وطَعَامٍ ولَوْ لبهيمةٍ، ولا يَصِحُّ وضوء ولا تيمّم قبله.

It is impermissible to use dung, bones, or food, including animal feed. Neither wudhu nor tayammum is valid when made before it.

Narrated Salman رضي الله عنه, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) forbade us to face the Qiblah when defecating or urinating, or to clean ourselves using the right hand, or to clean ourselves with less than three stones, or to clean ourselves with dung or a bone.” [Muslim]

Narrated Abdullah رضي الله عنه, “The Prophet (ﷺ) went out to answer the call of nature and asked me to bring three stones. I found two stones and searched for the third but could not find it. So took a dried piece of dung and brought it to him. He took the two stones and threw away the dung and said, ‘This is a filthy thing.’” [Bukhari]

Narrated Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه, “That once he was in the company of the Prophet (ﷺ) carrying a water pot for his ablution and for cleaning his private parts. While he was following him carrying it (i.e. the pot), the Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Who is this?’ He said, ‘I am Abu Hurairah.’ The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Bring me stones in order to clean my private parts, and do not bring any bones or animal dung.’

Abu Hurairah went on narrating: So I brought some stones, carrying them in the corner of my robe till I put them by his side and went away. When he finished, I walked with him and asked, ‘What about the bone and the animal dung?’ He said, ‘They are of the food of Jinns. The delegate of Jinns of (the city of) Nasibin came to me--and how nice those Jinns were--and asked me for the remains of the human food. I invoked Allah for them that they would never pass by a bone or animal dung but find food on them.’" [Bukhari]

What cannot be used for istijmar?

  • Any type of bones, dung, or excretion. This ruling stands even if they are pure and from an animal that was pure.
  • Any type of food. This ruling stands irrespective of if it is the food of humans or animals. Items like hay or grass that are used to feed animals are not permissible.  
  • Anything of value like books, money, or similar cannot be used as it is a form of disrespect and potentially showcasing arrogance and extravagance in doing so.

Once something impermissible has been used, the istijmar is invalid, and nothing else can now be used for cleaning other than water. If someone uses something that is not cleansing like that which is smooth, then it would suffice to use that which is cleansing for istijmar.  

If a person has relieved themselves and then done wudhu or tayammum directly, then as per the madhab, their wudhu and tayammum are invalid. Istinja or istijmar needs to be done after relieving oneself for them to be valid. Ghusl would be valid prior to istinja or istijmar. 

If an impurity is on any part of the boy other than the privates, or there is impurity on the privates but did not exit from the privates like blood from somewhere else or the urine of a child being cleaned by the parents, etc, then the wudhu and tayammum are valid if done before removing that impurity. Remember that these are technical matters that discuss the rulings on different scenarios. Ideally, it is best to clean oneself to the best of their abilities before engaging in any act of worship.  

وَحَرُمَ لُبْثٌ فَوْقَ قَدْر حاجتِهِ، وتَغَوُّطُهُ بماءٍ وَبوْلُهُ، وَتَغَوُّطُهُ بِمَرْوَةٍ وبطريقٍ مَسْلوكٍ، وظِلٍّ نَافِع، وَتَحْتَ شَجَرَةٍ عليها ثَمَرٌ يُقصَد، واستِقْبَالُ قِبْلَةٍ واستِدْبارُها بفضاءٍ.

It is impermissible to: linger longer than one’s pressing need; defecate in water; defecate or urinate in a watering place, on a path meant for travel, in a place used for shade, or under a fruit-bearing tree of harvest; or to face or turn one’s back to the qiblah in an open space.

Allah mentions,

وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ بِغَيْرِ مَا اكْتَسَبُوا فَقَدِ احْتَمَلُوا بُهْتَانًا وَإِثْمًا مُّبِينًا

And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin. [Surah al-Ahzab, 58]

The Shariah has prohibited certain places where one can relieve themselves. It is haram to stay in the place of relieving oneself longer than needed. This time period can be defined as the time after relieving oneself and having done istinja such that it is said that the person remains in the place even after relieving themselves. 

It is haram to defecate in water. This is an absolute ruling and it covers both running and still water. The exceptions to this are relieving oneself in water that has been provided to relieve oneself in or in the ocean or any large body of water that is similar. In this case, it is neither haram nor makruh. As per the madhab, it is disliked to urinate in still or small bodies of running water. Another opinion within the madhab deems it to be haram to urinate in small amounts of water even if it is running water.

Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘Avoid two habits which provoke cursing.’ The Companions said, ‘What are those things which provoke cursing?’ He said, ‘Relieving on the thoroughfares or under the shades where people take shelter and rest.’” [Muslim].

Narrated Mu'adh ibn Jabal رضي الله عنه, “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, ‘Be on your guard against three things which provoke cursing: easing in the watering places and on the thoroughfares, and in the shade (of the tree).’” [Abu Dawud]

It is haram to defecate or urinate in a watering place. This is an area where people come to to gather water for drinking or their personal use including for their animals. It is haram to defecate or urinate on a path that is used by the people. The forsaken or abandoned paths can be used if there is a need. 

It is haram to defecate or urinate in a place of shade that people benefit from or under a fruit-bearing tree. The ruling of impermissibility stands irrespective of the edibility of the fruit. Trees that bear items like cotton etc would also fall under this same category. If it is not a fruit-bearing tree, then it is allowed to urinate under it provided it is not a tree that provides beneficial shade. Some of the Hanabilah mentioned that if a person were to relieve themselves near a tree and bury the defecation or urine in such a manner that if there was a strong wind, the fruit would not fall on that soiled area, then it wouldn’t be haram to relieve oneself near such a tree. 

It is permissible to relieve oneself under a fruit-bearing tree in the off-season when there are no fruits provided the fruits don’t appear before the excrement is washed off by rain or the similar. If the tree bears fruits before the excrement is removed, then it is as though the fruits are there and it will revert back to the ruling of impermissibility. 

It is haram to face or turn one's back towards the qiblah while relieving oneself. This is the madhab of the Hanabilah, Malikiyyah, Shafi'iyyah. 

Narrated Abu Ayub al-Ansari رضي الله عنه: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), “Neither face nor turn your back to the Qiblah while defecating or urinating, but turn towards the east or the west”. [Abu Dawud]. 

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari رضي الله عنه said, “When we came to Syria, we found that the toilets already built there were facing the qiblah, We turned our faces away from them and begged pardon of Allah.” [Abu Dawud]

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar رضي الله عنه, “Once I went upstairs in Hafsa's house and saw the Prophet (ﷺ) answering the call of nature with his back towards the Qibla and facing al-Shaam.” [Bukhari]

The qiblah here refers to the Kabah and not Bayt al-Maqdis as that is no longer a qiblah for the Muslims. As per the madhab, this impermissibility is restricted to only an open space. Even in the open space, the Hanabilah mention that if the person were to move such that they deviate a bit from the direction of the qiblah, then that would suffice for permissibility. If one is inside a building or behind a barrier or screen, then it is permissible to relieve oneself while facing in that direction. When it comes to using barriers or screens, the Hanabilah mention that the usage of the backrest of the riding animal even though it's not too big or wide suffices. A person can have a wall, tree, or even the thobe that they are wearing used as a screen between them and the qiblah to suffice while relieving themselves. It is not a condition to be very close to this barrier like a sutrah in salah for it to be valid. A slight distance is also permissible.

Continue to Part 2: The Siwak and Other Matters of Personal Hygiene

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