The Beauty of Wudu’
August 18, 2006 § 12 Comments
In Islamic life cleanliness and personal hygiene is so important. This is because cleanliness is related to purity and purity is a definition of the highest possible state while in this human life and form. It was said by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) that,
“Purity is half of the faith,”
“Cleanliness is part of the faith.”
In the Prophet’s (s.a.w.s.) Sunnah he also stressed the importance of regular bathing and brushing of the teeth. But to the Muslim, there is no act of cleaning ones self held in higher regard than the wudu’ (ablution). It must be kept in mind that we Americans live in a society where water for bathing is regularly available and we should not take this for granted.
I am of the opinion that American-Muslims should never take this fact for granted, as the need for water to be readily available is such an important part of our spiritual practice. This is because a Muslim is required to be in a state of wudu‘, because wudu’ is a hard-fast condition for Salaat (the Muslim “contact prayer”)…
I realized the importance of wudu’ when I was in my early twenties, mashaAllah, of course I had performed the wudu‘ for many years prior, but it wasn’t until I understood the sanctity of the Salaat that the importance of wudu‘ was realized. Once that happened I had to do what a good Muslim student does, and that is to contemplate, study and practice the object of which I wanted to acquire knowledge.
I became very serious about my wudu‘ and in my search for knowledge of the ablution and its purpose I came across a few teachers some physical and some in the form of literature. These teachers would eventually pass along their jewels on the subject and I was eager to learn.
One of the things that I learned relentlessly gripped my thoughts, which was that the wudu‘ is related to the Heart. Not the physical heart per-se but the essential Heart referred to by great thinkers as “nafs al-nateqa”. The Heart, like the physical heart is the center of essential exchanges, the ebb and flow of the body begins with the heart. Likewise, the ebb and flow of the human-consciousness meets at the Heart.
“If one has no heart, one can gain no benefit; In wretchedness, one will be famous in the world.” (S.M. Lahiji, M. Barzigar)
Therefore, the Heart is the doorway to the righteous, and this door can only be approached in a state of wudu‘. The reasoning is simple, it is because in our murky minds, thick with desires and heated with our passions we are so far from it. But upon approaching purity, first in our niyah (intention) we become that much closer, during the wudu‘ we become closer still.
The spiritual significance of wudu‘ cannot be summed up by one like myself, however I can tell you of its importance and how its significance relates to our lives through what the great sheikhs have left for us. Consider for a moment the actual act of wudu‘ and now contemplate how we perceive… you will find that our perceptions are directly related to our senses. It is at the Heart that these perceptions have the possibility of being utilized to draw you nearer to God. These senses are the ways in which we begin to perceive, but without the involvement of the Heart, the perceptions distort and become the servants of our desires instead of abdullah. This is described further in the following passage by psychiatrist, Dr. Nurbakhsh when he writes,
“The eye of the heart enjoys witnessing (mushahada) of the Unseen. The ear of the heart hears the utterance of the Unseen and of God. The nose of the heart scents breezes from the Unseen, and the palate of the heart tastes the savor of loving kindness, the sweetness of faith and the flavor of gnosis. The heart’s faculty of touch is the intellect, by which it derives benefit from all intelligible things. Hence, the purification of the heart lies in the health of its senses or faculties.” (Dr. J. Nurbakhsh)
The capacity for this experience is not given to everyone, I would expect that all Muslims if they truly are Muslims have this capacity though… but I would like to stress that this reality is not possessed by everyone as it indicates in the Qur’an when it reads,
“Verily in this is a Message for any that has a heart and understanding or who gives ear and earnestly witnesses (the truth).” (50: 37)
What I would also like to point out is that the Qur’an states very clearly that the Message is meant for the Heart, without it you cannot bear witness to the Truth of the Qur’an. This is a very important point. This is probably what instantly occurs with converts who have never practiced Islam, who know nothing of it however, when they read or listen to the Qur’an be recited it speaks to them. Wakes them up, stirs something inside them that has been dormant, waiting to be inspired.
Upon our intention and deeds if purity is attained if only for a fleeting moment its effect is like a baby experiencing light for the first time as it emerges from its mothers womb. This point is supported by Dr. Nurbakhsh’s thoughts as he writes,
“When the wayfarer becomes a person of purtiy and vision he witnesses the light of worship and devotion, and of praiseworthy traits and attributes. Such lights are those of ablution [and], of prayer…” (Dr. J. Nurbakshsh)
In conclusion, I would just like to stress the importance of wudu‘. It seems like such a simple thing, but if you really contemplate the wudu’ and its usefulness you will see it as a dynamic force in our struggle for purity on the path of Islam. As Dr. Nurbakhsh said, it is through purity that we see the light.