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Pre-Requisites of the Prayer
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


Following are the pre-requisites of the prayer:

i. A person must not be in a state of inebriation,

ii. A person must have done the ceremonial ablution (Wudu) and in case of Janabah1 or menstruation or puerperal discharge must have taken the ceremonial bath,

iii. In case of being on a journey or being sick or in case of non-availability of water, a person can offer the Tayammum (dry ablution) in place of both the ceremonial ablution and the ceremonial bath,

iv. Facing the Qiblah.

These four things have always remained as the essential pre-requisites of the prayer. However, since the Arabs were ignorant of divine guidance for a long time ever since the Prophet Ishmael (sws) left them centuries ago they were not very aware of these pre-requisites; thus the Qur’an in order to remind them of these stated them with full clarity in the following words:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَى حَتَّىَ تَعْلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلاَ جُنُبًا إِلاَّ عَابِرِي سَبِيلٍ حَتَّىَ تَغْتَسِلُواْ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاء أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّن الْغَآئِطِ أَوْ لاَمَسْتُمُ النِّسَاء فَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ مَاء فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَفُوًّا غَفُورً (٤٣:٤)

Believers, do not approach the place of the prayer when you are drunk till you know what you are saying nor when you are [ceremonially] unclean – except if the intention is to pass through [the prayer place] – until you have washed yourselves. If you are sick or on a journey, or when you have relieved yourselves or had intercourse with women and you find no water, take some clean mud and wipe your faces and your hands with it. Gracious is God and forgiving. (4:43)

 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلاةِ فاغْسِلُواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُواْ بِرُؤُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَينِ وَإِن كُنتُمْ جُنُبًا فَاطَّهَّرُواْ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاء أَحَدٌ مَّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائِطِ أَوْ لاَمَسْتُمُ النِّسَاء فَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ مَاء فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُم مِّنْهُ مَا يُرِيدُ اللّهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ حَرَجٍ وَلَـكِن يُرِيدُ لِيُطَهَّرَكُمْ وَلِيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (٦:٥)

Believers, when you rise to pray wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbow, and wipe your heads and wash your feet to the ankle. If you are [ceremonially] unclean, cleanse yourselves. But if you are sick or on a journey, or when, you have just relieved yourselves or had intercourse with women, you find no water, take some clean mud and wipe your faces and your hands with it. God does not wish to burden you; He seeks only to purify you and to perfect His favour to you so that you may express gratitude. (5:6)

Regarding the Qiblah, the Qur’an says:

قَدْ نَرَى تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَاء فَلَنُوَلِّيَنَّكَ قِبْلَةً تَرْضَاهَا فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّواْ وُجُوِهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ (١٤٤:٢)

We have seen you turn your face many times towards the sky. So, [O Prophet!] We have decided to turn you towards the Qiblah that you like. Turn your face towards the Holy Mosque; wherever you are, turn your faces towards it [in the prayer]. (2:144)

These verses have declared that the states of inebriation and Janabah are equal as far as terminating the prayer is concerned. The Almighty has directed Muslims not to go near the place of prayer in these states. It is evident from this that both are impure states. The only difference is that inebriation affects the intellect and Janabah the body. It is evident to every person that just as liquor arrests his intellectual power, the spiritual impediment caused by Janabah in a person deprives him of the inner satisfaction and presence of mind that is a requirement of the prayer. The Almighty has however given one relief to a person who is in the state of Janabah that he can pass through a mosque in this state if some need arises. In order to come out of this state, the ceremonial bath has been prescribed. Without this bath, the prayer cannot be offered. One should have this bath in a thorough and complete manner. The Qur’anic words ‘اِطَّهَرُوا’ (Ittaharu) and ‘اِغْتَسِلوُا’ (Ightasilu) testify to this. The way the Prophet (sws) set about following this directive, as mentioned in various Ahadith, can be summarized as:

First the hands should be washed; then the genital area should be thoroughly cleaned by the left hand; then Wudu should be done except that feet should be washed later at the end; then while inserting the fingers in the hair, water should be soaked into it so that it reaches its roots; then water should be poured all over the body. In the end, the feet should be washed.

A’ishah (rta) reports that when the Prophet (sws) would have the ceremonial bath after Janabah, he would first wash both hands. Then he would clean his genital area by the left hand by pouring water on it by the right one. Then he would do Wudu the same way as Wudu is done for the prayer. He would then take some water and insert his fingers in his hair until the water reached the skin. He would then pour three handfuls of water on his head. Then he would drench all his body with water and then wash both feet.2

Ibn ‘Abbas (rta) reports: ‘My aunt Maymunah [once] told me: “I placed some water [in a utensil] before the Prophet (sws) so that he could have the ceremonial bath of Janabah. He first washed both his hands two or three times. Then he slid his hand in the utensil and poured some water over his private area and washed it with his left hand. He then thoroughly rubbed this hand on the ground and did Wudu the way it is done before the prayer. He then took three handfuls of water and poured them on his head. Then he washed all his body. He then stepped aside and washed both his feet”.’3

The method of doing wudu that is mentioned in these verses is that first the face shall be washed and the hands up to the elbows and after that the whole of the head shall be wiped and after that the feet shall be washed. The wiping of the whole head is essential because for this directive the words are ‘وَامْسَحُواْ بِرُؤُوسِكُمْ’ (wipe your head) and those who are aware of the subtleties of the Arabic language know that on such occasions the letter ‘ب’ signifies completeness. Similarly, it apparently seems that the directive regarding feet is governed by the verb ‘وَامْسَحُواْ’. However, the words ‘إِلَى الْكَعْبَينِ’ (up to the ankles) after ‘أَرْجُلَكُمْ’ (your feet) are decisive that this directive is coordinated to ‘أَيْدِيكُم’ (your hands). Had they been coordinated to ‘ِرُؤُوسِكُمْ’ (your heads) the words ‘إِلَى الْكَعْبَينِ’ (up to the ankles) would have been redundant. We can see this from the verses of Tayammum where wiping has not been made conditional to ‘إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ’ (up to the elbows). Hence, the feet shall necessarily be washed. Their directive has been deferred merely to keep intact the sequence of washing the limbs in Wudu.

How did the Prophet (sws) do Wudu? If all the narratives are collected in this regard the following picture emerges: First, he would clean his teeth and then start with Wudu from the right side. He would begin by washing both hands and then rinsing the mouth three times. He would then pour water in his nose three times and thoroughly clean his nose. Then he would wash his face three times and run fingers through his beard, then would wash his hands till the elbows and then he would take water separately and wipe the head and with it clean the ears from the inside and the outside. The manner in which he would wipe his forehead would be that he would take both his hands from the forehead right to the back of his head and then would bring them back. He would then wash his right foot first and then the left.4

Sometimes, the Prophet (sws) would wash the limbs just one or two times in Wudu.5

It is evident from certain Ahadith that the Prophet (sws) said : ‘اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لَا اِلهَ الا الله وَحْدَهُ وَ اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدَاً عَبْدُهُ وَ رَسُوْلُهُ6 after doing Wudu and mentioned the blessings of praying two Rak‘at7.

It is also evident from certain other Ahadith that the Prophet (sws) would do Wudu before going off to sleep at night and urge other people also to do it8. In particular, he would like and urge people to do Wudu in the state of Janabah before sleeping, eating food and going near one’s wife a second time9.

Following are some of the Prophetic sayings regarding the blessings of Wudu:

‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (rta) says that the Prophet (sws) once said: ‘When a believer does Wudu wherein he rinses his mouth, the sins of his mouth are wiped out and when he puts water in his nose, the sins of his nose get wiped out; when he washes his face the sins of his face are wiped out even from under his eye lashes; and when he washes both his hands, the sins of hands are wiped out even from under his nails and when he wipes his head, the sins of his head are wiped out even from his ears; and when he washes his feet the sins of his feet are wiped out even from under the nails’. He then said: Going to the mosque and praying further [adds] to this’.10

Abu Hurayrah (rta) reports from the Prophet (sws): ‘When the people of my Ummah shall be called over on the Day of Judgement, their foreheads, hand and feet will be bright because of the effects of Wudu. So whoever wishes can increase this brightness’.11

Once Wudu is done, it remains intact until something which terminates it is not encountered. Consequently, the directive of Wudu is for the state in which it no longer remains intact except if a person does Wudu in spite of being in the state of Wudu for the sake of freshness. In such a situation, it is not a requirement though something which earns a person a lot of reward.

Following are the things which terminate Wudu.

i. urination,

ii. defecation,

iii. passing the wind whether with sound or without it, and

iv. Pre-seminal discharge and pre-ovular discharge.

The above things terminate the Wudu except if they occur because of some disease. Sleep and unconsciousness themselves do not terminate Wudu; however, since in these states a person is not able to know for certain whether his Wudu is intact or not, it is better to do Wudu after them.

If, in the case of a journey, sickness or unavailability of water, Wudu and the ceremonial bath become difficult, in the verses of Surahs Nisa and Ma’idah quoted above the Almighty has allowed the believers to do Tayammum (dry ablution). The verses go on to state the method of Tayammum as well: hands should be rubbed on a pure surface and wiped over the face and hands. It is reported about the Prophet (sws) that for this he struck both his hands on mud and blew on them and wiped the left hand on the right and the right hand on the left and then wiped both hands on the face.12 The Qur’an has clarified that the Tayammum suffices for all type of impurities. It can thus be done both after things that terminate the Wudu and after states which need the ceremonial bath. Similarly, it needs to be appreciated that in case of being on a journey or being sick, Tayammum can be done even if water is available. Writes Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi:

In case of sickness, the ceremonial bath and Wudu can cause harm and thus this relief was given. Similarly, in case of a person being on a journey he may encounter circumstances in which he might have to limit himself to Tayammum only. For example, water may not be available in large quantities. In such cases, using it for bathing etc might leave it scanty for drinking or there is a chance that if a person starts preparing to have a bath he might be left behind from his fellow companions of the caravan or a situation may arise when having a bath may become very difficult in a ship or aeroplane that a person is traveling in.13

The Prophet (sws), by drawing an analogy with this directive of Tayammum wiped his socks and turbans14 instead of washing the limbs they are worn on. He allowed people to wipe their socks if they are worn after doing Wudu. For a stationed person this was allowed for one day and for a traveler for three days.15

Another relief that was given by the Prophet (sws) on the basis of this analogy was that if the hair of women is plaited, then pouring water over them without disentangling them was enough. Still another relief on this basis was that if states which require the ceremonial bath to become pure take the form of sickness, then the ceremonial bath can be done once and other prayers can be offered without it as well.

Tayammum, no doubt, does not clean a person; however, a little deliberation shows that it serves as a reminder of the real means of achieving cleanliness and as such has special importance. The temperament of the Shari‘ah is that if a directive cannot be followed in its original form or it becomes very difficult to follow it, then lesser forms should be adopted to serve as its reminder. A big benefit of this is that once circumstances return to normal, one becomes inclined to follow the directive in its original form.

It is essential for the prayer that the direction of the Qiblah be ascertained. It is obvious that without this ascertainment, congregational prayers cannot be arranged for. In divine religions, this directive has always been present because of this very reason. It is mentioned in Surah Yunus (10:87) that when the Prophet Moses (sws) started to organize the Israelites in Egypt on the basis of religion, the Almighty directed him to identify certain areas in Egypt for prayers and the houses which they identify for the prayer should be adjudged Qiblah and the congregational prayer should be offered facing them. Later, this status was enjoyed by the ark of the covenant mentioned in Surah Baqarah until the Bayt Al-Maqdis was constructed. When the Prophet Muhammad (sws) was commissioned, the Jews would pray while facing the Bayt Al-Maqdis. He was also directed by the Qur’an (2:143) to the same and was told that the rationale behind this directive was to test the Ishmaelites that whether they follow the Prophet (sws) or disobey him because of their prejudice. Once this objective was achieved, the Qiblah was reverted to the Bayt Al-Haram.

The verses of Surah Baqarah quoted earlier state this directive. The words Masjid Al-Haram of this verse refers to the place of worship in whose centre lies the Baytullah. The words which direct Muslims to turn towards it are ‘فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِالْحَرَامِ’. (So turn your face towards the Holy Mosque, 2:144). It is evident from these words that the requirement is just to face the Baytullah and not to face it dead straight. However, it is emphasized that wherever the Muslims are whether inside the Masjid Al-Haram or outside it – wherever they are they should face this mosque while praying. The reason for this emphasis is that the Jews while inside the Bayt Al-Maqdis would make it the Qiblah; however, outside it they would make the east or the west as their Qiblah. Consequently, Muslims were directed that whether stationed at their residences or while travelling and whether inside the Masjid Al-Haram or outside it, at all places they should face this mosque while praying.

Obviously, circumstances in which it is difficult to ascertain the direction of the Masjid Al-Haram or when a person is forced to pray while walking or on some means of transport, there is an exception to this directive. It is reported that the Prophet (sws) would pray the optional prayer on his camel in the direction it walked thinking that stopping would cause problems for the caravan.16


(Translated by Shehzad Saleem from Ghamidi’s ‘Mizan’)




1. A state that a person is in after sexual intercourse, or a seminal/ovular discharge.

2. Muslim: No. 316

3. Muslim: No. 317

4 Bukhari, Nos: 159, 186 / Muslim, Nos: 226, 235

5. Bukhari, Nos: 157, 158

6. I bear witness that there is no god except Allah; He is alone and has no partners and I bear witness that Muhammad is his servant and messenger.

7. Muslim, No: 234

8. Bukhari, No: 347 / Muslim, No: 2710

9. Muslim, Nos: 305, 307, 308

10. Mu’atta, No: 30. Obviously those sins which require repentance and atonement are not implied here.

11. Bukhari, No: 136

12. Bukhari, Nos: 338, 347 / Abu Da’ud, No: 321

13. Islahi, Amin Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 2, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 303

14. Bukhari, Nos: 202, 203, 206 / Muslim, Nos: 272, 275

15. Muslim, No: 276

16. Bukhari, No: 1093 / Muslim, No: 701

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