The Sunna Elements of Wudu

How many sunnas of wudu' are there? What are they?

There are eight sunnas of wudu':

1) washing the hands to the wrists

2) rinsing the mouth

3) inhaling water up the nose

4) blowing the water out of the nose

5) the second wiping of the head (from the back to the front)

6) wiping the ears

7) renewing the water for the wiping of the ears

8) Carrying out the obligations of wudu' in their proper order.

Washing the hands to the wrists.

It is sunna to wash the hands to the wrists before putting them in the vessel being used to perform wudu'. Placing the hands in the vessel itself to wash them goes against the sunna, if the following three conditions are met:

1. That there is a small amount of water, like that in a vessel used for making wudu' or ghusl.

2. That is possible to pour from the vessel, like a platter.

3. That the water is not free-flowing.

If these conditions are not met in that there is a lot of water or it is free-flowing, or it cannot be poured out (such as with a wash basin or fountain)then he may put his hands directly into the water without it being disliked. It is recommended that the hands are washed three times.

Rinsing the mouth, inhaling water up the nose and blowing it out

Rinsing the mouth is putting water in the mouth, (gargling) it around and then spitting it out.

Sniffing water up the nose is bringing water to the nose (with the hand) and breathing it up.

It is recommended to do each of these acts three times with three separate handfuls of water, by rinsing the mouth three times and then sniffing up water three times. The one who is not fasting should exaggerate in his rinsing and sniffing.

What is meant by this is that the water should reach the throat when he is rinsing his mouth and should reach the nasal cavity when sniffing.

However the one who is fasting should not do this for fear of breaking his fast. For if he does so and water does reach his throat, then he has to make up his fast.

(Just as water should be sniffed up the nose it should be blown out). This is done by blowing out of the nose while holding the nose with the thumb and index finger of the left hand. The process is similar to that of blowing the nose.

What elements are mandatory in the carrying out of these four sunnas, namely washing the hands to the wrists, rinsing out the mouth, sniffing water up the nose and blowing it out?

The intention is a mandatory element in these four sunnas. He must pretend to perform the sunan of the wudu, or intend the performance of the whole wudu' when washing his hands. If he washes his hands in order to cool down or to remove dirt from them and then intends wudu', he must repeat it in order that the sunan are encompassed by his intention.

Wiping the ears, renewing the water for them, and bringing the hands back over the head.

The outside of the ears should be wiped with the thumbs and the inside with the index fingers. Then the index fingers should be inserted in the holes of the ears. The folds and crevices of the ears should not be followed (as wiping is required not washing). Renewing the water to wipe the ears is also a sunna.

As for bringing the hands back to the front of the head when wiping them, this is only a sunna if there is still moisture left on them after the initial wiping of the head. This return wipe is no longer considered a sunna if the hands have dried. This sunna of bringing the hands back to the front of the head applies whether the hair is long or short, as opposed to those who make a distinction between them - they make the return wipe obligatory for long hair and sunna for short hair.

What is the ruling on the proper order for the obligatory elements of wudu?

The proper order of the four obligatory elements is a sunna. These elements are washing the face, washing the arms, wiping the head and washing the feet. The face comes before the arms, the arms before the wiping of the head and the wiping of the head before the washing of the feet. This is referred to as the order of the obligations on their own (ie. without mentioning the sunnas). As for washing the right arm or foot before the left one, that is a recommended act, and will be mentioned in the section on the recommended acts of wudu.

What is the ruling when this order is reversed and one or more of the elements is performed out of sequence?

If the order is reversed and one the obligatory elements is performed out of sequence, such as when the arms are washed before the face, or the head is wiped before the arms or face, then the ruling varies according to whether it is done deliberately or out of ignorance or forgetfulness. It also varies according to whether a long or short time has passed (what is meant by a long time is covered in section 29).

If a long time has not elapsed, then the person doing wudu' washes that element which was brought forward from its prescribed place in the order and the obligatory elements that come after it in the proper sequence. He only washes it and the elements after once, rather than the three times that are recommended when performing wudu'. In this instance there is no difference between someone who does it deliberately, ignorantly or out of forgetfulness.

If a long time has elapsed, then it is recommended for the one who inverted the order deliberately or out of ignorance to re-perform the wudu'. If he did it out of forgetfulness, then he should only wash the limb that was not its proper place, without doing the obligatory elements that came after it again.

An example of this is that the one performing wudu' first washes his arms and then his face and his head and then his feet. If he remembers before a long time has passed, he does his arms again and then wipes the head and washes his feet, whether he did it. He washes each once only. If he remembers after a long time has passed, it is recommended that he rewash his arms again, if he inverted the order out of forgetfulness. If he did it deliberately or out of ignorance it is recommended for him to redo his wudu'.