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Introduction to Tahaarah

Placement in the books of Fiqh

The scholars often start with the issue of Tahaarah, purification, in the books of Fiqh. Te reason for this is because the first thing one does in Islam is the shahaadah, the testimony of faith, however, there is no fiqh involved in the testimony (rather it is an issue of belief).

Thus the first thing that involves action of the limbs is the salaah, the prayer, and it is the pillar of Islam according to the hadith of Mu'adh ibn Jabal recorde by At Tirmidhi, Ahmad and others:

"The head of the matter is Islam, it's pillar is the salaah and its peak is Jihad"

Often people say Islam is on 5 pillars, however the only one the prophet sallallahu 'alayi wa sallam called a pillar was the salaah.

Tahaarah is the first topic normally mentioned in the books of fiqh as it is required for the salaah:

"The key of the salaah is purification"

(At Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad from 'Ali)

Tahaarah includes many things that are not relevant to the salaah but will be discussed as they fall under this topic.


Linguistic definition:

Tahaarah is equivalent to nidhaafah, cleanliness. It can also include adornment and beautification.

Usage in the Qur'aan

It is used in many verses of the Qur'aan for slightly different meanings:

"And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah has ordained for you. Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves." [2:222]

The purification mentioned in this aayah is bodily purification as this is in regards to menstruation.

"And your garments purify!" [74:4]

In this aayah, it refers to the purification of the garments.

"...and We commanded Ibrahim and Isma'il that they should purify My House for those who are circumambulating it, or secluding, or bowing or prostrating themselves." [2:125]

In this aayah, it refers to the physical purification of the area.

"...And they will have therein purified spouses, and they will abide therein eternally." [2:25]

In this aayah, the purification refers to freedom from any kind of impurity that normally emerges from the body.

"...Those are the ones for whom Allah does not intend to purify their hearts..." [5:41]

In this aayah, purification refers to the spiritual purification of the heart.

"None touch it except the purified." [56:79]

There is a difference of opinion with regards to this aayah. Some said it refers to purity of the heart from shirk and kufr whilst others said it is the physical purity.

"A Messenger from Allah, reciting purified scriptures." [98:2]

Finally, in this aayah, it means purification from all kinds of falsehood.

In the fiqh terminology:

It is important to note that words can have several different meanings but what is addressed in the books of fiqh is the physical purification of the body, clothing, place and others such issues. It is defined as washing a specific part of the body in a specific manner. It is also defined as removal of the ritual and physical impurities.

Types of Impurity

There are two main types of impurity, the ritual impurity and the physical impurity.

The ritual impurity is something that is not tangible whilst the physical impurity is tangible. For example, even if someone washes after going to the toilet, he is not ritually pure but is only physically pure.

Ritual Impurity

This is known as hadath and is of two types, major and minor.

The major impurity, al hadath-ul-akbar, can only be removed by performing ghusl and includes three things:

Janaabah: The sexual impurity as a result of marital relations or a wet dream.
Haydh: The menstrual bleeding
Nifaas: The post-natal bleeding.

The minor impurity, al hadth-ul-asghar, can be removed by washing the area and performing wudhu and includes:

Urine, stool and wind.
Madhiy: Thin liquid that exits the male sexual organ on arousal.
Wady: Seminal fluid that exits the male sexual organ after urination.
Haady: Fluid that exits the female at the time of the birth of the child. (This is important as prayer is still obligatory until bleeding begins).

Purification from ritual impurity is known as implied purification.

Physical Impurity

This is connected with the body, clothing and place and is also known as the 'real impurity'. It is known as khabath or najis and is anything that is unclean and includes some of the impurities that cause ritual impurity. They simply need to be removed before one can become physically pure.

Physical immpurities must be removed before ritual impurity. There are several types:

Those that constitute minor ritual impurities.
The excretement of those animals which are not permissible for consumption. This is based on the following hadith of ibn Mas'ud recording by al Bukhari:

The Prophet went out to answer the call of nature and asked me to bring three stones. I found two stones and searched for the third but could not find it. So took a dried piece of dung and brought it to him. He took the two stones and threw away the dung and said, "This is a filthy thing."

Purification from physical impurity is known as real purification.

Proof for purification after hadath and khabath:

Evidence for the need for physically pure clothes and place lie in the two verses mentioned before, [74:4] and [2:125] respectively. Ritual purification is mentioned in the following two verses:

"O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through, until you have washed..." [4:43]

"O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles..." [5:6]

Sources of Tahaarah


The primary source of tahaarah is water as is mentioned in the following two verses:

"And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy, and We send down from the sky purifying water." [25:48]

The word 'tahoora' in this aayah means that which is pure and purifies and is made clear in the next aayah.

"when He overwhelmed you with drowsiness [giving] security from Him and sent down upon you from the sky, rain by which to purify you..." [8:11]

This is known as al maa-ul-mutlaq, plain water, and there is agreement of the scholars that this removes impurity.

Water is defined based on the following hadith:

"Surely water purifies and nothing makes it dirty except that which overcomes it's smell, taste or colour"

Imaam Ash Shaafi' mentioned that he had not heard anyone saying this hadith was authentic but he did not know anyone from the jurists who did not take this as evidence and accept the ruling from it, thus there is ijmaa' on the validity of the ruling. Anything that has water in it but has different characteristics, would not be classified as water unless it is to such a minor level that it is still considered/called water.

Water is divided into two or three categories:

Tahoor: That which is pure (can be drunk) and is used for purification. Includes water from the sea, rain, hail, snow, wells, springs and anything that is taken from these sources (such as river and tap water).
Taahir: That which is pure but cannot be used for purification. This category was only accepted by the Hanafis as they said water that has been used for wudhu cannot be used to purify but can be drank.
Najis: That which is impure and cannot be used for purification. This is water that has been contaminated by some najaasah, filthy thing, mixed in that results in a change in the characteristics of the water. You cannot drink this or use it for wudhu. If the contamination is not due to some najaasah, it can be drank but no longer qualifies as water.


When one cannot find water, they can use earth as is mentioned in the following aayah:

"...and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it." [5:6]

Therefore, if you do not have water (that which has the characteristics of water), you use earth.