Islamic concepts

Wuḍūʾ وضوء — ablution; ritual washing (before prayer)

ALA-LC wuḍūʾ
IPA ˈwʊdˤuuʔ
You who believe, when you are about to pray, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, wipe your heads, wash your feet up to the ankles [...] He only wishes to cleanse you and perfect His blessing on you, so that you may be thankful. (Qurʾān 5:6)

Wuḍūʾ is the most common hygiene ritual in Islam. It’s a ritual washing of the hands, face and feet. The gentle act of physical purification acts as a sort of water meditation. It lets you enter the appropriate spiritual state of mind before presenting yourself to Allāh (swt).


Wuḍūʾ is mandatory or required before:

Wuḍūʾ is recommended? before:

  • Touching any Islamic book
  • Ritual prayer, even if you still have Wuḍūʾ from your previous prayer
  • Going to bed

Wuḍūʾ is also recommended after:

  • Waking up from sleep
  • Committing any sin
  • Laughing out loud

How to perform Wuḍūʾ

  1. Intend in your heart to perform Wuḍūʾ.
  2. Wash both hands three times, starting with the right. Run your fingers between the knuckles too.
  3. Rinse out the mouth three times with a handful of water. Or brush your teeth.
  4. Gently sniff a bit of water from your cupped hand up your nostrils 3 times to clean out the inside of your nose.
  5. Wash your face from the hairline to the neck, including the chin and the outside of the nostrils.
  6. If you have a beard, comb it with your wet fingers.
  7. Wash your hands and forearms up to the elbows three times, starting with the right.
  8. Run your wet fingers along the sides of your head from the forehead to the nape, including inside the crannies of the ears and behind the ears.
  9. Wash your feet up to the ankles, starting with the right foot, including between the toes. (There’s also a special way you can ritually purify the feet without taking your socks off.)

Losing Wuḍūʾ

Wuḍūʾ doesn’t have to be done immediately before prayer. It can be done earlier in the day. There are, however, certain bodily events that ‘break’ Wuḍūʾ. If any of these happen, you must perform a new Wuḍūʾ to return to a state of purity:

  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness
  • Passing gas
  • Going to the bathroom, e.g. urinating or bowel movement
  • Blood or pus exiting the skin or gums
  • Vomiting
  • Laughing out loud during prayer

Access to water

If you don’t have access to water, you can use Tayammum (purification without water).

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