Ghusl (Ablution) in islam

Meaning/ Translation of Ghosl (Ablution) in english:


noun: ablution; plural noun: ablutions
  1. the act of washing oneself (often used for humorously formal effect).
    “the women performed their ablutions”
    • a ceremonial act of washing parts of the body or sacred containers.
late Middle English: from Latin ablutio(n-), from abluere, from ab- ‘away’ + luere ‘wash.’ The original use was as a term in chemistry and alchemy meaning ‘purification by using liquids,’ hence ‘purification of the body by washing’ (mid 16th century).

A Brief History of Ghusl



The history of “Ghusl” goes back to the time that Adam and Eve were living. As stated, Adam and Eve have performed “Janabat Ghusl” [3]. Also, Seth (Son of Adam) and Gabriel (the angle) have performed “Mayat Ghusl” on Adam after his death [3]. Moreover, performing different kinds of ablution exists in a number of religions and schools of thought, and nations such as people of Lot (the prophet), Dhul-Qarnayn, John (the prophet) as well as ancient Egyptians [10], Hindus, Cherokees (Indians), Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and etc.

For instance, ancient Egyptians had performed ablution twice a day in cold water. In Zoroastrianism, ablution was a part of the set of acts that a person needed to perform in order to be a priest. In Judaism, the people had to perform ablution in order to be able to enter sacred places and one of the places that the ablution could take places was called “Mikveh”. In Christianity, baptism is a rite that is performed in the ceremony of admission to the church with Trinitarian invocation, “I baptize you: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The candidate may be wholly or partly immersed in water, the water may be poured over the head, or a few drops may be sprinkled or placed on the head.


Etymological Study

In this section, we investigate the words that are used in Quran and imply on the act “Ghusl” from etymological point of view. The first word is derived from the root “غسل” (Ghasala) which means “washing” [6]. Derivatives of “ghusl” might result in different meanings such as “hitting” or “sweating”. The second word is derived from root “طهر” (Tahara) which means “sanitizing” or “purifying”.

Ghusl in Quran

The word “غسل” (Ghusl) and its derivatives are used in Quran 4 times that only one of them implies on the act “Ghusl” (Surat An-Nisa:43) and the other three ones are related to just washing (Surat Al-Ma’idah:6, Surat Sad: 42, Surat Al-Haqqah: 36). In addition, the word “طهر” (Tahara)  and its derivatives are used in Quran 31 times   that only  one of them related to the act “Ghusl” (Surat Al-Ma’idah:6). The way of performing the “Ghusl” is never mentioned in Quran.

Analysis of Hadiths (Narrations)

In this research, no hadiths were found in which prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaches performing Ghusl. Also, the two terms “Squential Ghusl” or “Ghusl Tartibi” (Persian: غسل ترتیبی) and “Ghusl Irtimasi” (Persian: غسل ارتماسی) wasn’t found to be used directly in the hadiths and Islamic narrations. It seems that these two terms are more due to peoples’ interpretation of Hadiths and narrations.

Based on the narrations, that some of them are attributed to Prophet Muhammad’s wives, it can be concluded that in performing Ghusl, washing the whole body is crucial. However, based on the fact that Prophet Muhamad preferred to perform everything (such as brushing the teeth) first on right side of his body and second  on his left, it is plausible to conclude it is not crucial to perform the Ghusl first on right side and then left side, however it is preferred. Moreover, no strong reasons were found to prove the up-down sequence in Ghusl (first washing the upper part, head and neck, and then the lower part). In addition, washing inside of the nose and mouth is not obligatory in Ghusl.

Here, some examples of narrations about Ghusl in the Islamic literature are presented.

Ja’far al-Sadiq: If you want to do Mazmazah (washing the mouth) or Estinshaq (washing inside of the nose), do it. But, it is not vajib (obligatory) since external parts of body should be washed in the Ghusl, not internal. [4]

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): if somebody, as the Ghusl, goes completely under the water including the head that is enough. [12]

Aisha: Whenever the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) took a bath after Janaba he firstly washed his hands and then performed Wuzu (partial ablution). Then, he would make his fingers wet and move the roots of his hair with them, and then pour three handfuls of water over his head and then pour water all over his body. [11]



In the Ghusl, washing the whole body is Vajib (obligatory). But, there are no evidences of proof for the order of washing, i.e. first head and necks should be washed and then the other parts of body, or first right side of the body should be washed, then the left side.



[1] Sahih Al-Moslem

[2] Vasele Al-Shie’, Sheikh Hor

[3] Behar Al-Anvar, Allameh Majlesi

[4] Elal Al-Sharaye’, Sheikh Al-Sadooq

[5] Ghesas Al-Anbia’, Sa’labi

[6] Ghamous Almaany, Firoozabadi

[7] Dehkhoda Encyclopedia

[8] Britannica Encyclopedia

[9] Jewish Encyclopedia at www.

[10] Histories, Herodotus

[11] Sahih Al-Bukhari

[12] Man La Yahzarah Al-Faqih, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Babawaih al-Qummi


Ablution in Islam

Ablution in Islam

Meaning/ Translation of Ghosl/Vozu (Ablution) in english:

noun: ablution; plural noun: ablutions
the act of washing oneself (often used for humorously formal effect).
“the women performed their ablutions”
a ceremonial act of washing parts of the body or sacred containers.
late Middle English: from Latin ablutio(n-), from abluere, from ab- ‘away’ + luere ‘wash.’ The original use was as a term

Seminar topic: Ablution in Islam

Date of presentation:

References: Quran, Torah, Bible, “Farhang Abjadi” dictionary, “Lesanolarab”, “Majmaolbahrain”, “Mofradat of Quran”,” Ghamusolmaani”,” Altahghigh”, “Aljadval fi Erab Al-Quran” by “Safi Mahmud Ibn Abdorahim”, “Almizan” by “Seyed Mohammad Hossein Tabatabaei”, “Kashfolasrar Va Edatolabrar” by “Rashidedin Meibodi Ahmad Ibn Abi Asad”, “Interpretation of Sur Abadi” by “Abubakr Atigh Ibn Mohammad”, “Alkabir” by “Fakhredin Razi Abu Abdellah Mohammad Ibn Omar”, “Interpretation of Tabari”, “Elalosharaye” by “Sheikh Sadugh”, “Man La Yahzarohu Al-faghih” by “Sheikh Sadugh”, “Foru Kafi” by “Koleini”, Interpretation of Ayashi” by “Masud Ayashi”, “Bukhari’s Sahih” by “Hafiz Abu Abdellah Bokhari”, “Muslim’s Sahih” by “Muslim Neishaburi”, Al-fighh Ela Al-Mazaheb Arbaa”

Historical summary:

Cleanliness and Baptism before implementation of worship in all religious is very important. For example in Judaism people are required to washed out before turning to this religion or before The Victim or login Temples. Also in Christianity before performing the Eucharist, people were required to wash and cleanse their hands. The … is also another striking symbol of the importance if the cleanliness in this religion.


وضو (Vodhu) is rooted from وضا in the meaning of washing and wiping (with wet hand) some parts of the body with the intent of closeness to god. It word has not been used in the Quran and words such as غسل in the meaning of washing and مسح in the meaning of wiping hand has been used instead.

The Ablution verse in Quran: Maeedah – 6:

يَأَيهُّا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلىَ الصَّلَوةِ فَاغْسِلُواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ وَ أَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلىَ الْمَرَافِقِ وَ امْسَحُواْ بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَ أَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلىَ الْكَعْبَينْ‏ِ وَ إِن كُنتُمْ جُنُبًا فَاطَّهَّرُواْ وَ إِن كُنتُم مَّرْضىَ أَوْ عَلىَ‏ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائطِ أَوْ لَامَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَلَمْ تجَدُواْ مَاءً فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَ أَيْدِيكُم مِّنْهُ مَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ حَرَجٍ وَ لَكِن يُرِيدُ لِيُطَهِّرَكُمْ وَ لِيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُون

Because of dissimilar hadiths (narrations) of the character “ل” in the word “ارجلکم”, from the etymological perspective there are two different inferences in the meaning of the verse possible:

– Then wash your faces and your hand to your elbows and wipe a part of your heads and wash your feet to your ankles. (ارجلَکم)

– Then wash your faces and your hand to your elbows and wipe a part of your heads and your feet to your ankles. (ارجلِکم)

The Shee’a and Sunni religious experts based in their own narrations and inferences use one either of these meanings for performing the Vodhu.

Hadiths for ablution:

The interesting point in most of both Sheea and Sunni hadiths is the accordance of the hadith with the way of performing the ablution with the followers of each sect.

In “Bukhari’s Sahih” is narrated: It is narrated From “Ibn Abbas” that he did the ablution like this: He took a handful of water and washed his mouth with half of it and his nose with the other half. The he took another handful of water and washed his face with both hands. Then he took another handful of water and washed his right hand and then his left hand with another handful. Then he wiped his head. Then he splashed a handful of water to his right foot and washed it and did the same for his left foot with another handful of water. At the end he said that I saw Prophet Muhammad doing the ablution like this. (Bukhari – Page 140)

Other hadiths used for elicitation of the way of doing the ablution, despite the details and narrator are exactly the same as this.

In “Man la yahzarohu Al – Faghih” is narrated: “Zararah Ibn-Aleen” asked “Imam Bagher” about the extents of washing the face in ablution. He said: It is the area covered between the thumb and the middle finger of hand from where the hair has started to grow in forehead to the chin and whatever outside of this area is not considered “face”. Temples are not considered face as well. Then he asked: How about the parts covered by hair? He said there is no need to try to reach under the hair by water but the surface of that part should be washed. And the extent of washing the hands is from elbows to the finger tips. The extent of wiping the head is wiping with three fingers all together from the front of the head and the extent of wiping the feet is to put palms on the tip of the toes and wipe it to the ankle and the right foot should be done before the left foot and it has to be done with the remaining wetness of the hands without using more water. The interpreter says: apparently this hadith requiring the wiping of the feet by the whole palms which matched the “Baznathi’s” narration from “Imam Reza” but the more common narration is the “Mash Al-Musamma” which means the extent of wiping should be as much as the amount to be called wiping, with one, two or more fingers. (Al-Faghih – Book 1, Page 72)


The interesting point attracting attention after reviewing the hadiths in this presentation is that most of Sunni books of hadith are dated in 2nd and 3rd centuries and most of the Shee’a books of hadith are being authored after the 4th century. The oldest hadith book of Shee’a is “Asrar Al-Muhammad” or the book of “Salim Ibn Gheys Hilali” dated in 2nd century which the quality of performing ablution is not mentioned in it. It seems like mostly the differences between the quality of performing ablution between Shee’a and Sunni has been started form 400 years after Prophet’s death and is continued until now. And it is strange that it looks like the Muslims have not had any conflicts about performing ablution before that. By removing personal inferences with regard to this research, as said at the end of the Vodhu verse by Allah, goal of performing ablution is cleanliness for meeting Allah (Salaat) and not forcing people to have hardship and difficulty.