Ablution is preparation and part of prayer. It is the clearing away from our subtle body of any sense of separation, which forms like a film on our pure awareness. Ablution is beyond the act of washing the physical body, for if you perform the washing without uttering Allah’s Name, the ablution is void
How can we obtain a robe of stainless, selfless awareness in which to perform true salat? Allah alone can provide this, as He provides every miraculous gift by which we exist and praise. The ablution before prayer is the royal wedding garment with which we can authentically enter Divine Presence and delight in the communion desired by the mystical King.
- Shaykh Nur al-Jerrahi, Atom
Physical cleanliness is a preparation for wudu. This includes instinjah, cleansing the private parts with water after elimination.
The basic method of performing wudu, the minor ablution is the following:
With the intention of making wudu, repeat softly the divine phrase, Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim, or simply Allah throughout the ablution. As you touch the different parts of your body with water feel the light of Allah illuminating them. You may also offer a specific prayer for each part of the body bathed by water. “O Allah, may my hands be vessels of Your mercy, may my mouth sing Your praises and call to the truth, may I always breathe Your fragrance, may my face merge into Your face, may my ears hear Your voice, may my neck be bowed before You, may You strengthen my arms in Your service, may my head disappear in the flames of Your love, may my feet take me to the places of Your pleasure.”
Hands: Pass the left hand holding a little water, over the right three times, then pass the right hand three times over the left hand.
Mouth: Rinse three times with water from the right hand.
Nostrils: Gently inhale the water from your cupped right hand, then expel it with a rapid breath, three times.
Face: With a little water in your hands, draw them three times over your face going from crown to chin.
Forearms: Pass left palm, with a little water, three times over the right arm up to elbow, then repeat three times for the left arm.
Head: Pass wet palms over hair, front to back, once briefly.
Ears and neck: Wipe each ear once briefly inside and outside with wet fingers, then pass wet hands across back of neck once briefly.
Feet: Wipe right foot up to the ankle three times with left hand, holding a little water, then left foot three times with right hand. One can rinse the hands once more after washing the feet.
Shaykh Muzaffer recommends sipping a little ablution water, and sprinkling a few drops on one’s undergarment.
There are simpler forms of ablution one can offer. The first is with water but reduces the washing to the hands and forearms in one gesture and then brushing the water over the head, and completing by drawing the left hand over the feet. We even have the permission when it is not convenient to remove our shoes to pass the water over the shoes themselves. This is a helpful practice when we have little time but desire to be in the state of ablution. Remember that we must accompany it with Allah’s Name. The second is called tayyamum and is the ablution with clean earth in the case there is no water available. Both hands are used to tap the earth three times, making the intention of performing the ablution of tayyamum. Then, with the fine dust that adheres to the palm of the hands one draws the palms over the face. Again one taps the ground, and draws the left hand over the right hand and forearm up to the elbow, and then the right hand over the left forearm. Tayyamum is a ‘valid’ ablution, and remains so until one comes to a place with water.
One can also do the ablution of tayyamum by tapping one’s hands on the trunk of a tree. I even make tayyamum on the seat of the car as I am traveling. These permissions are intended to make ablution easy.
Beyond the practice of ablution for salat, it is recommended that one be in a state of ablution for reading Quran and also for sleeping. The Prophet has stated that entering sleep with ablution ensures that our soul is taken to the Throne of Allah and that our sleep is counted as prayer.
It is recommended for dervishes to keep their ablution as much as possible.
The state of ablution needs to be renewed:
After sleep or loss of consciousness, unless seated firmly in an upright position
After passing wind
After any flow of blood, even from a small cut
After becoming angry
After lovemaking—this requires a ‘full ablution’, which consists of a shower or bath accompanied by wudu, the ‘smaller ablution’ described above.
For guidance regarding ablution and prayer, you may consult a senior dervish or leader of the order. The dervishes who stood to your left and right in the four steps of the initiation ceremony may be considered special friends on the path.