Physical purity means cleanliness of the body, clothing and environment. According to the rules of Islam, Muslims should keep their bodies and clothing clean from any impurities, especially the body wastes of humans and animals.
Islam insists on the use of clean water to cleanse the body of impurities, and only when water is not available can a person use other things. Even the clothing should be perfectly clean from any impurities. For that reason, Muslim bathrooms have a source of running water or pitchers of water next to the toilet.
Similarly, any animal discharges — including the saliva of dogs — are unclean and Muslims should make sure their clothing, environment, and bodies are free of those impurities.
Muslims must have perfect physical purity to pray the Salah (ritual Prayers).
Before performing the ritual Prayer known as Salah, the Muslim’s body must be totally purified. To be in this state, one must perform the ritual washing known as wudu’ (ablution).
The best way to learn wudu’ is to watch others do it. Here are the steps for wudu’:
1. Have the intention of purifying your heart.
2. Wash your hands, front and back, up to and beyond the wrist three times, right hand first, then left.
3. Rinse your mouth three times, scooping the water up with your right hand.
4. Wash your nose three times by sniffing water up the nostrils and blowing it out.
5. Wash your face three times.
6. Wash each arm up to and beyond the elbow three times, right arm first and then the left.
7. Pass the wet palms of both hands over your head and back. Then rub the inside and outside of the ears with the thumbs and forefingers.
8. Wash your feet up to and beyond the ankle three times, right foot first and then the left. Make sure the water gets between the toes by using your fingers.
You are in this state of ritual purity of wudu’ until you urinate or defecate, pass wind, sleep, or become unconscious. If you do any of these things before or during the Salah, you must repeat the wudu’.
A state of major impurity results from actions like sexual intercourse or sexual discharge for both men and women. A person in such a state must perform ghusl before praying Salah or reading the Qur’an. Women also have to perform ghusl after their menstrual periods and postpartum bleeding.
The procedure for ghusl is as follows:
1. Make the intention for ghusl.
2. Wash the private parts, using the left hand. Then wash the left hand three times.
3. Perform wudu’ as described above, except for the feet.
4. Pour water over your head to thoroughly wet your hair three times.
5. Wash the whole head and body three times, starting with the right side. Use your hands to make sure that water reaches every part of your body.
6. Wash your feet up to and beyond the ankles three times, making sure the water gets between the toes.
A Muslim must bathe the whole body at least once a week. It is highly recommended that this be done each Friday before the congregational Prayer.
Because the Salah requires that one be in a state of purity, a woman is excused from Salah during her menstrual periods and after childbirth until the postpartum bleeding stops or 40 days have passed, whichever comes first. She can and should make other kinds of prayer, such as du‘aa’ (supplication), five times a day while she is unable to perform Salah. When her bleeding stops, she must perform ghusl (bathing) before performing Salah.