the truth of ghusl/tahara for me


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

O YOU who attain security with God, When you declare His blessedness, wash your faces, and your hands and arms up to the elbows, and pass your hands over your head, and your feet up to the ankles. Therefore, when you find yourself remote, purify yourselves [ I should realize that when my maker speaks of being remote, he speaks of me being remote/far from Him]. But if you are ill, or are traveling, or have just satisfied a want of nature, or have cohabited with a woman, and can find no water-then take resort to pure dust, passing therewith lightly over your face and your hands. God does not want to impose any hardship on you, but wants to make you pure, and to bestow upon you the full measure of His blessings [it is in finding Him that i find the full measure of blessings..otherwise they are passing goods that leave me in sorrow as they pass into non-existence], so that you might have cause to be grateful [gratitude, without finding the eternal source of all things good for all beings, would be selfishness…only when I find the One with whom all will find everything they can ever desire endlessly can gratitude be possible while I am still in this limited realm of differently endowed beings]


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 غَفُورًا

O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not come near salah while you are in a state of drunkenness i.e. until you know what you are saying; nor yet when you are remote [from Me] until you have washed yourself. And if you are ill, or are traveling, or have just satisfied a want of nature or have cohabited with a woman, and then you can find no water – then take resort to pure dust, wiping lightly your face and your hands. Behold, God is indeed eraser of wrongs, much-forgiving [the washing is an act of asking forgiveness for being remote from Him. One is, in a way, asking one’s remoteness from God to be washed away].

With the above two verses, consider these

A verse about God being Lord not just in the heavens but Lord of heavens and on the earth. A Lord of heaven only would be remote for me and without any evidence or experience for me. A Lord on/in the earth, if such a thing is possible, is what I need and then I would have also found the Lord of the heavens.

The Quran says in 43:84

وَهُوَ الَّذِي فِي السَّمَاء إِلَهٌ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَهٌ وَهُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْعَلِيمُ

for it is He who is God in heaven and God on earth, and He alone is truly wise, all-knowing

The Quran also says in 30:18

وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَعَشِيًّا وَحِينَ تُظْهِرُونَ

and unto Him is due all praise in the heavens and on earth, in the evening and when you enter upon the hour of noon.

And a very interesting verse, 55:29 says

يَسْأَلُهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ هُوَ فِي شَأْنٍ

On Him depends all creatures in the heavens and on earth [or Ask Him or look to Him for their existence and all their needs]; every day/moment He is in yet another action

Now consider this verse:

إِذْ يُغَشِّيكُمُ النُّعَاسَ أَمَنَةً مِّنْهُ وَيُنَزِّلُ عَلَيْكُم مِّن السَّمَاء مَاء لِّيُطَهِّرَكُم بِهِ وَيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمْ رِجْزَ الشَّيْطَانِ وَلِيَرْبِطَ عَلَى قُلُوبِكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتَ بِهِ الأَقْدَامَ

when He caused inner calm to enfold you, as an assurance from Him, and sent down upon you water from the skies [notice it is not called “rain falling down” but “WE sent down water..”], so that He might purify you thereby and free you from Satan’s impurity [rijz..notice the water sent is purifying not some physical dirt by Satan’s impurity] and strengthen your hearts and thus make firm your steps [notice the proverbial steps that one takes with one proverbial feet…those are the feet that need cleansing with water before salah..the physical cleaning is a sign and means to such cleaning of rijz of shaytan]

Purification is, it is obvious, tied to impurity. If impurity was in me holding a piece of cloth, then purification would be to lose the cloth and not hold it anymore. If impurity was hair on my legs, then purification would be the removal of hair. If it was dirt on my face, then cleaning the dirt would be purification. These are just examples. You get the point. Notice what the Quran calls impurity and how it claims it is cleansed and with what consequence. See if this is true of you.

I read in the Quran that the “establishing of salah” for those would be thus secure with their Lord, should be preceded by cleansing/washing which is described as purification.

the rijz of shaytan is cleansed by water that my maker sends! really? If its “rain coming down” for me, it is impurity. But If its water being sent down by the One who brings life with it and feeds me with it, then its a cleansing. what then the is rijz? I need to reflect. I think if it is just rain as a natural phenomenon, it is being in loss, being “abtar” [cf surah al-kawthar] even as the world is full of amazing natural laws and amazing “nature” for me. I am alone and without security or news of eternal life of bliss, without any source that I can trust with my existence. If its water being deliberately and wisely and mercifully sent down for me by my eternal sustainer, I have kawthar! i.e. abundance! I am with the source! I can receive eternally! It’s not the kind of “abundance”/takathur of things, none of which are the source of what I need, that distracts. It is the abundance I get by finding my eternal and bountiful Sustainer eternally taking care of me each moment.

And so, the washing is not about any physical impurity being washed. It is the washing of what I have taken in other-than-God’s name. It is the heedless consumption of things- all that I take into my heart with my eyes and ears and mouth and hands/arms and feet/legs – all that I “do” that is indexed and enacted by the limbs of my body, that has made me unware of the real sustainer. It is what I have seen in a way that didn’t allow me to see the One doing it [e.g. rain vs. water being sent down]. It is what I have touched but did not see as coming from my God here and now, praising Him. It is how I go about and the steps I take, literal or metaphorical, without noticing God as the One praised in those steps and “goings about”. It is all rijz – the things that are like “rain”, just there, as if on their own and by themselves. This is the rijz that I collect in my day to day moments as I interact with things around me. I do, more often than not, see things as beautiful and beneficial on their own and I take them, unthinkingly, to be the source of their own existence and of the benefits they bring to me. I have glorified them. I have adored them. I have loved them NOT as signs of my Lord’s beauty and compassion and provision but as just things that are great, awesome, nice etc. My heedless denial of the signs accumulates rijz all the time. When I am going to glorify Him then, I have to first wash away other-than-God. The physical washing is la-ilaha spoken with the body.

Ghusl is the practice that makes God not a God who is “up there” only but a God who is Lord here in what I see, what I touch, what I walk towards. If i lose Him here, I lose Him everywhere. I have no way of reaching Him except that I see Him Lord here, directly providing me what I need. If I don’t see Him answer me, I am left with causes who do not care about my needs but which I nonetheless make into sources of benefit. I can see that they do not listen to me and know nothing. They are themselves created and cannot give themselves existence. So when I wash, I wash away all I made adorable and praiseworthy to me (my many gods) other than the One who was the source of all the sustenance I received during the day through all my limbs and senses. Wudu is la-ilaha with the body and with water or dust, whatever is available easily. Without la-ilaha, I cannot be glorifying the God of heavens AND earth. I cannot find the eternal One that revelation teaches (allahu la-ilaha illa hu i.e. God is [by Quran’s definition]: “there is no deity except Him”. This is who God is – what is left AFTER negation of deities I had given that status. To use the Quran’s example to make it easier to understand: When I negate “rain” as the source of life and benefit, only then do I have access to a water-sender, life-giver and provider who is then my God here and now. Without negating rain as the source of life and benefit, I cannot glorify or praise God as a merciful provider. If rain is my source of life, I am in trouble. But if an eternal life-giver is my source, I find security.

I see so many people seek God with zikr gatherings and by sitting at the feet of spiritual masters and by joining this or that group or retreat and by traveling long distances and so on and so forth.

The Quran says that with a washing, I wash away my false perceptions with which I took created beings to be sources of what they conveyed to me. I wash away the impurity and the baseless notions that they, on their own, responded to my calls. When I negate them as the answerers to my calls, I find God here, near, answering. If only I take the Quran as my shaykh/teacher, I find my eternal Lord in the simple act of washing. If only I understood the presence of God is only a wash away, a wash that washes away other-than-God. My bodily practice is the same as my heart’s practice for attaining security with my eternal Lord. It is la-ilaha. With the body, this negation is in washing before standing, bowing, prostrating to HIM, the One. And so before I can turn to HIM, i must turn away from other-than-Him.

I personally do not give any importance to gibberish like “wudu/ablution is a legal obligation” or “prayer is not accepted without ablution” or “I have to count my ‘raka’ or I have to recite this or that chapter from the Quran for a salah/prayer to be accepted” etc. I always wonder how people come to believe such curious things. These are not things I learn from my maker and they make no sense to me, whereas what my make teaches me in the Quran about washing before being able to glorify my Lord makes a lot of sense. How do people know what God accepts and what He doesn’t? Ablution is not some legal obligation. It is a guidance whose truth is verifiable and profound. What I know is that I cannot glorify the Lord of heavens AND earth if I did not first cleanse myself of the glorifications I heedlessly attribute to created beings that I touched, walk towards, saw, spoke of and so on. I cannot glorify my Lord without first breaking free from other “sources” of good and beauty and meaning. Such is my washing before my appreciation of my Lord. I can’t imagine or execute praise of the One without it.

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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