Kindly explain the meaning of wudu in the following Hadith?

Sayyiduna Nazzal ibn Sabrah (rahimahullah) says that he was with Sayyiduna ‘Ali (radiyallahu ‘anhu) after performing Zuhr Salah whilst he sat with some people in the courtyard of the masjid. Water was then brought. He did masah of the face and the hands and then did masah of the head and feet and then stood up and drank the rest of the water. He said this is what the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did and that this is the wudu of a person who already has wudu.

Some people say that wudu means washing. Is this correct and if so, is there any evidence for this?



This Hadith has been recorded in various primary Hadith sources with slight variations in the wording. Among them are:

Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 5616

Shamail Tirmidhi, Hadith: 209

Sunan Nasai, Hadith: 130 (Al-Mujtaba)

Sahih ibn Khuzaymah, Hadith: 16

Sharh Ma’anil Athar, Hadith: 156



The meaning of وضوء (wudu) in this Hadith rests on how the word مسح (masah) is interpreted.

If the word مسح is understood literally in its linguistic sense , i.e to merely wipe a wet hand over the limb, then the word وضوء will also be understood literally in its linguistic sense, i.e to merely cool off and/or wash up (for the purpose of cleanliness/hygiene and not for the purpose of making a valid Shar’i wudu required in worship).

The word مسح can also be interpreted as a light form of washing which is not thorough (yet still sufficient to perform a valid Shar’i wudu). As a result, the word وضوء will be understood in its more technical Shar’i sense (i.e a washing thorough enough to perform a valid Shar’i wudu).

It is also possible that the incident referred to in the Hadith has occurred more than once and ‘Ali (radiyallahu ‘anhu) demonstrated two different incidents on two separate occasions. If such an approach is adopted, then both meanings would apply based on the scenario.

(Shamail Tirmidhi with the commentary of Al-Bajuri, Hadith: 209; Also see: Sharh Ma’anil Athar, Hadith: 156, and Hashiyatus Sindhi on Sunan Nasai, Hadith: 130)


And Allah Ta’ala knows best.


Answered by: Moulana Farhan Shariff


Approved by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar