The Holy Quran states:
“O ye who believe! When you stand up for Prayer, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows and pass you wet hands over your heads, and wash your feet to the ankles…” 4
Wudhu, the ablution taught by the Holy Prophet consists of washing nine body parts to be carried out five times a day, and so your cleaning those limbs forty five times a day! .
Everyone, through experience, knows that being physically clean keep the bodu fresh, and provides a sense of calmness to the mind. In fact, yoga experts now encourage people to wash key motor and sensory organs including the hands, arms, mouth, eyes and legs before going to sleep in order to induce a deep sleep 5. This was also the practice of the Holy Prophet.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II ra has written the following in Tafsir-e Kabir, “…this act (ablution) also provides physical cleanliness because the parts of the body which are exposed to dirt and dust are cleansed”. Huzurra has also mentioned the psychological benefits of Wudhu by stating “…washing or moistening these body parts is also beneficial for concentration because lack of concentration is due to the senses being occupied”. . Highlighting its medicinal benefits Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II writes “ …through medical experience, it is now clear and well understood that in order to reduce fever, the feet can be washed with cool water, which in turn instantly reduces the temperature.” 6
Dr. Magomed Magomedov, assistant to the department of the Man’s General Hygiene and Ecology in the Daghestan State Medical Academy, has linked the Islamic ablution to Chinese reflexology which targets to change the biological rhythms of the body. Dr. Magomedov explains that Chinese medicine claims that there are more than seven-hundered Biological Active Spots (BAS), more commonly known as ‘pressure points’. Sixty six of these are called ‘drastic spots’ and they have an immediate effect on the body, each spot for different organs. When these spots come into contact with pressure they are activated or re-charged if you like. He explains that sixty one out of sixty six drastic spots are activated when one performs ablution7 .This gives a hydro massage to Biological Active Spots.
Dr Magomedov states, “the majority of the most powerful BAS are being washed during the Muslim ritual. It is not the doctor, who had studied for many years, who does it, but every Muslim himself. Besides, praying five times a day obliges a Muslim to take the preventive measures against diseases beforehand” 8 . Dr. Magomedov explained that his studies were triggered by his solemn belief that the five-time-a-day Muslim prayers were bound to have not only an “indisputable spiritual effect” but were also bound to “have a purely physical healing effect as well” 9 .
The Components of Wudu
As you are aware, water is used to clean various body parts prior to Salat. Allah, The Wise, has enlightened man with the knowledge that every living thing was created by water 10 thus highlighting the importance of water to living tissues. According to the Mayo Clinic the human body is 60 % water. It was vital that the basic component of life itself was to be included in the preparation of Salat.
It is a scientific fact that the body has two internal regulating systems which constantly move around equilibrium, set by the body, throughout the day. The first is the Sympathetic Nervous System which increases metabolic activity and prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’, releasing various hormones like noradrenaline into the blood stream. The other system is called the Para-Sympathetic Nervous System, which inhibits the former nervous system, allowing the body to relax and reach its equilibrium again.
The point to note here is that daily activity generally excites the Sympathetic Nervous System making a person become edgy and jitter. You have probably experienced this. The contact of water with the skin kick-starts the Para-Sympathetic Nervous System, allowing the body to calm down and reduce internal activities, in turn, reaching optimal equilibrium. Thus, ablution prepares a worshipper for meditation and prayer at the psycho-biological level.
Washing the Hands
A no brainer. From childhood our parents tell us to wash our hands before supper or dinner; it becomes routine. However, the mere act of washing ones hands can protect one from a series of diseases and illnesses – it should not be taken lightly.
In fact ‘The Herald Online’ states “experts agree that simple hand washing and cleanliness techniques can significantly lessen the global disease burden and promote good health” 11 This goes to show that by including the washing of hands at least five times a day, Allah, The All-Knowing, has protected mankind as a whole not only at an individual level.
Mukhtar Salem, in his book titled ‘Prayers: a Sport for the Body and Soul’ , explains that ablution helps eliminate ‘pollution’ on the body , whether it is internal or external. Water in particular, aids this process. Salem also explains how water invigorates the ends of blood vessels, nerves and glands which lie just below the skin12.
We recognise how washing our hands can positively affect us physically, but could it have a psychological effect? Could washing our hands have a tangible effect on our thoughts? Well, a study by Spike Lee, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, carried out an investigation where he found that washing hands actually allows people to clear their mind of past immoral actions. He found that when people wash their hands they are able to ‘move on’ from past immoral behaviors. He says the following on ‘the talk of the nation’:
“Psychologically what seems to be happening is that the physical experience of removing germs or dirt or contaminants on your hand is used to provide a basis for an abstract kind of experience, removing residues from your past immoral behaviors”13.
In this connection we can examine the following Hadith, “Abu Hurairara reported that Allah’s Messenger said:
When a bondsman a Muslim or a believer-washes his face (in ablution), every sin he contemplated with his eyes, will be washed away from his face along with water, or with the last drop of water; when he washes his hands, every sin they wrought will be effaced from his hands with the water, or with the last drop of water …”14.
This Hadith confirms that sins are actually removed (when ablution is carried out in sincerity). Thus, ablution enables a Muslim to ‘forget’ his past sins and believe in Allah’s mercy whilst he ‘washes himself’ from the immoral actions he committed.
Rinsing the mouth
Before rinsing the mouth, the worshipper has already washed his hands thus removing dirt and dust. This protects bacteria that were on his hands travelling into his body.
The Holy Prophet used to take special care with his oral hygiene. In fact, Hadhrat Aeyshara relates that the first action the Holy Prophet used to perform after entering his house was brushing his teeth14.
Rinsing the mouth during ablution removes rotting food particles in between the teeth and gums, preventing bacteria build up and bad breath. Keeping your mouth clean prevents gum diseases like gingivitis, and recent studies suggest that those with gum diseases are more likely to suffer heart attacks than those with healthy gums. 15 By removing food particles, the accumulation of dental plaque (which is formed by the mixing of bacteria, food particles and saliva) is also prevented. The formation of the hard and sticky calcified plaque, also known as calculus, is also inhibited by rinsing the mouth.
The main cause of tooth erosion is when acidity is built up in the mouth. This is due to fluids or food particles breaking down its carbohydrates whilst still in contact with teeth. The protective layer on the tooth called ‘enamel’ is then slowly eroded away. If however the fluid or food particles are removed this process does not occur.
Interestingly enough a study issued in the clinical microbiology reviews journal called ‘Systemic Diseases Caused by Oral Infection’ has linked a lack of oral hygiene and systemic diseases. Systemic diseases include cardiovascular disease, bacterial pneumonia, osteoporosis, and low birth weight and diabetes related complications. In fact an eight year scottish study of over 11,000 participants, published by the British Medical Journal 16, confirms that poor oral hygiene is directly related to cardiovascular diseases.
Thus Allah, The Wise, protects a Muslim worshipper whilst he rinses his mouth three times during ablution from all sorts of oral and cardiovascular diseases.
Cleaning the nose
The third step of Wudhu is nasal irrigation where excess mucus, dirt, and debris are flushed out of the nose and sinus. The worshipper flushes his nose with water three times. Nasal irrigation has been found to reduce symptoms such as facial pain, cough, hay fever, allergies, stress, headache and even rhinorrhea which is usually related to sinusitis.
Nasal irrigation is actually a form of medical treatment and promoters rely on it to improve nasal health and the function of the sinuses. In fact, an ancient form of nasal irrigation was started in India called Jala neti. This ayurvedic method involves a ‘Neti Pot’ which is inserted into the nostrils to clean out the sinuses.
According to a study carried out by doctors in Alexandria University, Egypt, the prophetic tradition, which longs the exaggeration of cleaning the nostrils by introducing the water in the nostril then, blowing it out, improves the inner coating of the nostrils17.
Cleaning the nose with water also facilitates mental clarity and concentration by removing irritation in the nose, which a worshipper might feel prior to Salat. Wudhu enables one to practice his faith in the best manner. How true is the saying of our beloved master who said, “cleanliness is half of faith” 18.
Washing the face
The next step of Wudu is to splash your face (up to its extremities) with water three times. This gives instant freshness and revitalizes the body. No wonder most people do this straight after they wake up. Many people swear that splashing their faces with water helps them stay awake, even more than coffee!
Heat is generated by the body throughout the day. The contact of water lowers the temperature on the face giving a cooling and soothing sensation. Dead cells which
are on the skin are also washed away thereby aiding regeneration of skin cells.
The eyes are also washed from dirt and dust, protecting from infection and disease. Previously, mention was made of Dr Magomedov who connected ‘Wudhu’ to Biological Active Spots. These BAS are also present on the face with each pressure point connected to an organ. The following diagram provides a clearer picture of this.
Washing the head, ears, neck (Masah) and arms
The next step is that a muslim washes his arms up to the elbows, washing each arm three times, after which he passes wet hands over the head and neck. Following this he then cleans his ears.
It should be understood that the head, neck and arms have bundles of vital sensory neurones connected to the spinal column and the brain whilst also containing veins supplying oxygenated blood to the organs.
The arm has major arteries and veins which lead to the heart, brain, and liver and this washing your arms improves circulation of these vital components of the circulatory system.
When the head, ears and neck are wiped, veins are stimulated allowing an increased supply of oxygen to organs. Throughout the day the head heats up, and it is a known fact that heat is lost through the head most. In turn, wiping water across the head reduces it’s temperature, protecting it from headaches and migraines. This is especially relevant to hot countries.
There are many lymph nodes around the ears and neck. These are connected to the Lymphatic system which releases lymphocytes that battle pathogens and protect the body. These nodes are stimulated during Masah.
The ear, which is a store house of pressure points and Biologically Active Spots, is also cleansed during Wudhu. Secretion from the ear, such as ear wax is constantly removed throughout the day, preventing ear infections. By rubing the ears one is in theory performing acupressure which is a treatment that encourages patients to relieve themselves from pain and discomfort by applying pressure to various points around the ear. Take a look at the following examples of pressure points on the ear.
The final step of Wudu is to wash each foot three times up to the ankles with water. This removes dirt and bacteria that build up extremely quickly on the foot. Washing the foot prevents fungi accumulation thus preventing the all too common ‘athletes foot’.
One type of Chinese medicine, already mentioned before, is called reflexology, which aims to improve organ function through pressure points. Reflexologists and massage therapist focus huge attention on the foot, as it contains close to 7,200 nerve endings and numerous pressure points. When a Muslim washes his feet during Wudu he simultaneously rubs these nerve endings which increase awareness and invigorate organs.
In conclusion, it is apparent that the Islamic ablution which is called Wudu has obvious and clear physical benefits; it recharges the nervous and cardiovascular system whilst protecting from illnesses and the development of diseases. It has a profound affect on the mind allowing a worshipper to be calm and at peace before starting Salat.
4 The Holy Quran, Chapter 5, Verse 7
5 Avadhuta, Vedprajinananda, Yoga Health Secrets
6 Tafsir-e-Kabir Volume 1, Surah Al Baqarah, pg 109
7 Magomedov, Magomed, Muslim Rituals & their effect on the person’s health http://www.onislam.net/english/health-and-science/faith-and-the-sciences/442018-the-preventive-and-healing-wonders-of-ablution.html?the_Sciences=
8 Magomedov, Magomed, Muslim Rituals & their effect on the person’s health http://www.onislam.net/english/health-and-science/faith-and-the-sciences/442018-the-preventive-and-healing-wonders-of-ablution.html?the_Sciences=
9 Magomedov, Magomed, Muslim Rituals & their effect on the person’s health http://www.onislam.net/english/health-and-science/faith-and-the-sciences/442018-the-preventive-and-healing-wonders-of-ablution.html?the_Sciences=
10 Quran chapter 24, Verse 46
12 Salem, Mukhtar, Prayers: A sport for the soul and body, CAIRO, The Arab modern center (1990) pg.52
14 Sahih Muslim, the book of Purification Kitabl Al-Taharah) Chapter 8: Purgin of sins with Ablution water, Book 002 No. 0475
15 Nery EB, et al. Prevalence of medical problems in periodontal patients obtained from three different populations. J Periodontol 1987 Aug;58(8):564-8.
16 BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2451 (Published 27 May 2010)