Ablution (Wudu) according to the Shi'i school of thought

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Ablution (Wudu) according to the Shi'i school of thought
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We are all aware that the ablution ( wudu) is one of the prerequisites of performing the Salat prayer. We read in the Sura al-Ma'ida (5:6):

O ye who believe, when ye rise up for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet up to the ankles.(5:6)

In the first sentence, 'wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows,' the word aydiy used here is the plural of yad, meaning 'hand'. Now, in the first place, this word in the Arabic language is used in different ways: sometimes it refers only to the fingers of the hand, sometimes it means the fingers up to the wrists, sometimes it means the fingers up to the elbow, and finally, sometimes it means the whole arm, from the fingertips right up to the shoulder. Secondly, the part of the hands that must be washed for the ablution extends from the fingers to the elbow, as the Qur'an says, clarifying the precise region to be washed, up to the elbows. Thus, the word ila, in the phrase 'ila'l-marafiq' ('up to the elbows'), clarifies the part of the arms to be washed, not how the arms are to be washed (for example, from the elbow downwards or from the hand upwards). Rather, the manner of washing is to be connected with the customs and traditions of the people; now, the most common way of cleaning something is to do so from the top downwards. For instance, if a doctor were to order that the leg of a sick person be washed from the knee, it would be washed from the knee downwards, not inversely, from the foot to the knee. Thus, the Imami Shi'a believe that in the ablution, the face and the arms should be washed from up down, and not the other way around.
Another contested issue is that of wetting the feet in the ablution. According to Shi'i fiqh, the feet are to be wiped with water and not washed; the reason for this, in brief; is that the verse quoted indicates that the one wishing to pray has to perform two duties in respect of the ablution: the first is to wash (ghus[) the face and the arms; and the second is to wipe ( mash) the head and the feet. This becomes clear upon comparing the two sentences of the verse: 'Wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows' and 'wipe your heads, and your feet up to the ankles .... 'Were we to present these two sentences to an Arabic-speaker, who was not aware of any particular juristic opinions on the matter, he would say without hesitation ·that, according to this verse, our duty is to wash our face and arms, and to wipe our heads and our feet.

According to Shi'i fiqh, the feet are to be wiped with water and not washed; the reason for this, in brief; is that the verse quoted indicates that the one wishing to pray has to perform two duties in respect of the ablution: the first is to wash (ghus[) the face and the arms; and the second is to wipe ( mash) the head and the feet. This becomes clear upon comparing the two sentences of the verse: 'Wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows' and 'wipe your heads, and your feet up to the ankles.

As regards grammatical principles, the word arjulakum (your feet') must follow the word ru'usikum both of which are to be wiped; one cannot refer the word arjulakum back to the act of washing by making it follow the word aydiyakum ('your hands'). Thus, it is necessary to conclude that as between the word arjulakum and aydiyakum there is the obstructing sentence, 'so wipe your heads', so there can be no conjunction between the two in terms of the principles of Arabic language; any attempt to make such a conjunction will lead to an erroneous meaning being attached to the verse.

It might also be noted in passing that whether we adopt one or the other of the two possible readings of the verse, the reading of jarr or that of nasb, the meaning remains the same, the word arjulakum still being ruled over by the property pertaining to ru'usikum.
Verified narrations from the Imams of the ahl al-bayt indicate that the ablution is made up of two parts: two 'washings' and two 'wipings'. Imam Baqir, in the course of describing the ablution performed by the Prophet relates that he wiped his feet.

It is worth noting that it is not just the Imams of the ahl al-bayt who performed this act of wiping of the feet; a group of companions and Muslims of the second generation also did the same. But for various reasons that are detailed and commented upon in books of fiqh, a number of Muslims among the Sunnis replaced the act of wiping with that of washing the feet.

It is worth noting that it is not just the Imams of the ahl al-bayt who performed this act of wiping of the feet; a group of companions and Muslims of the second generation also did the same. But for various reasons that are detailed and commented upon in books of fiqh, a number of Muslims among the Sunnis replaced the act of wiping with that of washing the feet.

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الإخْوانُ في اللّهِ تعالى تَدُومُ مَودّتُهُم، لِدَوامِ سَبَبِها.
Brothers [whose brotherhood is] for the sake of Allah, enjoy an enduring Amity, due to the firmness of its foundation