Taharah refers to the process of purifying the body or clothes. All Muslims are required to wash themselves before praying, either through partial ablution (wudu) or full ablution (ghusl). If one neglects to do this or break it, the prayer would be invalid. It is also important to make use of istanja before ablutions in order not to invalidate them.

Istanja simply refers to washing one’s private parts after using the toilet with water to get rid of any uncleanliness. Although toilet paper is used to wipe first, water is obligatory to make sure that one is clean. Toilets in Muslim countries has a special spray hose for this purpose, but the devout would carry water with them for this purpose when traveling in places where the bathroom setup is different. Any washing is done only with the left hand, which is reserved for unclean tasks. This is why it is an insult to a Muslim to offer him/her anything with your left hand.

The following steps are followed during wudu:

  • Wudu starts with niyat, which is the intention to purify one’s heart.
  • Say “bismillah”, which means “in the name of Allah”.
  • At this point one has to pour water on both palms and wash them up to the wrist and run one’s finger through the other fingers. No part of one’s hands should be left dry.
  • Next, one should rinse one’s mouth thoroughly followed by inhaling water into the nose with one’s right hand, while cleaning it with the left hand.
  • Wash the face completely and make sure that no part of it is left dry.
  • Wash the right hand up to and including the elbow, before doing the same on the left.
  • One then wipes one’s wet hands over one’s head, from the forehead to the nape of the neck, and then from the nape of the neck back to the forehead.
  • Wipe the inside of the ears with the index fingers and the outside of both ears with the thumb.
  • Wash the right foot, including the ankle thoroughly. Run the little finger of the left hand through the space between each toe, starting from above moving below. Repeat the same procedure with the left foot, again using the little finger of the left hand to wash between the toes.
  • Make du’a.

The root of the word du’a means “to call” and it is basically a call upon God in which the following words are uttered: I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone and I testify that Muhammad (PBUH) is his slave and his messenger.

All the actions that are performed during wudu may be performed one, two or three times, except for wiping the head and ears, which should only be performed once.

Wudu becomes invalid after any of the following:

  • Sleep
  • Defecation, urination or the passing of wind
  • Touching one’s private parts without any cover
  • Eating camel’s meat
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Losing one’s senses, like fainting

The emision of semen or sexual contact with another person requires ghusl to be performed. Women also has to perform it at the end of their menstrual cycle or after the bleeding has stopped when they have given birth. When a person dies of natural causes it should be performed for him/her by another Muslim. It is also recommended for someone who washes corpses, before Friday or Eid prayers and in preparation for Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

The following steps are followed during ghusl:

  • Just like wudu it starts with niyat, or intention to purify one’s heart.
  • Say “bismillah”. 
  • Wash the right hand up to and including the wrist, as well as between each finger three times, before repeating it with the left hand.
  • Wash the private parts.
  • Rinse hands before rinsing the mouth three times.
  • Rinse the nose three times by inhaling water through the nostrils and wiping it away with the left hand after expelling it.
  • If one is not in a bathtub, then the feet should also be washed three times, including in between the toes.
  • Pour water over the head three times and make sure that it flows all over the body. Pass the hands over the whole body while the water is being poured to make sure that none of the body remains dry, and that it reaches the roots of the hair.
  • Du’a can only be made once one leaves the bathroom if it contains a toilet.

When there is no water available for making ablutions, one may make use of tayammum or dry ablution.

The following steps are followed during tayammum:

  • As with the previous two types of ablution, the process starts with making niyat first.
  • Say “bismillah”.
  • Place the palms of both hands on clean earth or dust.
  • Blow into the palms.
  • Wipe the palms over the face.
  • Wipe the right palm with your left palm.
  • Make du’a.