Ghusl (the Complete Ablution): Its Rulings from Qur’an and Sunnah

By: Sayyid Saabiq

Ghusl means to wash the entire body with water. Says Allah in the Qur’an, “If you are sexually impure, purify yourselves”. (AL-Ma’idah 5:6) And, “They question you concerning menstruation. Say: It is an illness, so let women alone at such times and do not have sex with them until they are cleansed” (Al-Baqarah 2:222)

When Ghusl Is Obligatory

1- Discharge of al-Mani owing to stimulation while asleep or awake The opinion of the jurists in general is that ghusl is a must should one have a discharge of al-mani (sperm) owing to stimulation while asleep or awake.

Abu Sa`eed reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say, “Water (washing) is (needed) after (ejaculation of) sperm.” (Muslim)

Um Salamah reported that Um Sulaim said, “O Messenger of Allah, Allah is not ashamed of the truth. Does a woman have to perform ghusl if she has a wet dream?” He said, “Yes, if she sees the liquid.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others)

There are some other points of importance that need to be noted:

If the sperm is discharged without any type of stimulation (owing to illness or extreme cold)

In this case, ghusl is not obligatory. ‘Ali reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said to him, “If sperm is ejaculated, perform ghusl.” (Abu Dawud)

Said Mujahid, “We were in a meeting in the mosque with the companions of Ibn `Abbas (Tawus, Sa`eed ibn Jubayr and `Ikrimah). When he stood to pray, a man came in and said, ‘Is there one who can give a legal verdict?’ We said, ‘Ask your question.’ He said, ‘Whenever I urinate, a liquid always follows it.’ We asked, ‘Is it the type of liquid that gives birth to children?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ We said, ‘Then you have to perform ghusl.’ The man went away. Ibn `Abbas hurried to finish his prayer, after which he told `Ikrimah to bring the man back. He turned to us and said, ‘Is your verdict found in the Book of Allah?’

We said, ‘No.’ He asked, ‘Is it based on the sayings of the Prophet, upon whom be peace?’ We said, ‘No.’ ‘Then from what?’ We said, ‘From our opinion.’ He said, ‘That is why the Messenger of Allah said that one learned man is more difficult for Satan than a thousand worshippers.’ The man came and faced Ibn `Abbas, who said to him, ‘When that happens, is it owing to any stimulation?’ He answered, ‘No’. Ibn `Abbas asked, ‘Do you feel any numbness in your body?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Said Ibn `Abbas, ‘That is from the cold. Ablution is sufficient.’”

If one has a wet dream but does not find any traces of ejaculation

There is no need for ghusl in this instance either. Ibn Al-Munzhir said, “All of the knowledgeable people known to me agree on this point.”’ The hadith of Um Salamah mentioned earlier supports this proposition.

If one wakes from sleep and finds some moistness, but does not recall any wet dream, though he is sure it is sperm, what should he do? To be safe, he should perform ghusl. Said Mujahid and Qatadah:

“There is no need for ghusl until he is sure that it is sperm, for his prior condition of purity is not ended by an uncertainty.

If a man squeezes his penis to prevent ejaculation

This also makes ghusl unnecessary. This is based on the hadith which states that ghusl is required if the sperm can be seen. But, if the person walks and cannot control his ejaculation. he must perform ghusl.

2- Sperm on the clothes during prayer

If a man does not know how the sperm got on his clothes, and he has already prayed, should he perform ghusl and repeat all of his prayers since the last time he slept?

If he thinks that it happened before his most recent sleep, he should repeat all of his prayers since the supposed time of his ejaculation .

3- Touching the two circumcised parts

This refers to the penis and the vagina. If one’s penis has entered his wife’s vagina, ghusl is obligatory even if there was no ejaculation. Says Allah, “If you are sexually impure, purify yourselves.” (AL-Ma’idah 5:6)

Commenting on the subject, Ash-Shaifi says, “In the Arabic language, sexual impurity refers to any type of sexual intercourse, regardless of whether sperm was ejaculated or not. If someone says, ‘So and so is sexually impure due to so and so,’ it refers to any type of sexual intercourse between them, even if there was no ejaculation. No one disagrees that the fornication which requires the prescribed punishment is sexual intercourse, even if there is no ejaculation.”

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him)said, “When anyone sits between the four parts of her body and exerts himself (has intercourse), bathing becomes obligatory (for both).” (Ahmad and Muslim)

Sa`eed ibn Al-Musayyab reported that Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari said to `A’ishah, “I would like to ask you something, but I am embarrassed.” She said, “Ask and don’t be shy, for I am your mother.” He asked about a man who had intercourse but did not ejaculate. She said, on the authority of the Prophet, “If the two circumcised parts encountered each other, ghusl is obligatory.” (Ahmad and Malik).

There is no doubt that there must be insertion; if there is only touching, ghusl is not obligatory for either. All scholars agree on this point.

4- Women and their period

Concerning menstruation and childbirth bleeding, Allah says in the Qur’an, “Do not approach them until they become pure. When they are pure, go to them in the manner that Allah has prescribed for you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:222)

The Messenger of Allah said to Fatimah bint Abu Habish, “Do not pray during your period. After it has ended, perform ghusl and pray.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Post-childbirth bleeding is treated in a similar manner, according to the consensus of the companions. If a woman gives birth and has no flow of blood afterwards, some scholars say that she must perform ghusl, while others say that it would not be necessary. There is no textual authority on this latter point.

5- Death

When a Muslim dies, it is obligatory to wash his or her body, according to the consensus of the Muslims.

6- A non-Muslim upon embracing Islam

New converts to Islam must perform ghusl. Abu Hurairah reported that Thumamah Al-Hanafi was captured. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, passed by him and said, “What do you have to say for yourself, O Thumamah?” He said, “If you kill me, you would be killing a relative. If you give me a bounty (set me free), I would be thankful. If you want wealth (as a ransom), we can give you what you wish.” The companions of the Prophet preferred the ransom and said, “What would we get if we killed him?” One time when the Prophet passed by him, he finally embraced Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) untied him and told him to go to the garden of Abu Talhah and perform ghusl. He performed ghusl and prayed two rak`ah. The Prophet said, “Indeed, your brother became a fine Muslim.” (Ahmad)

There is also a source for the story in reports by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

7- Prayer

8- Circumambulating the Ka`bah

The reasoning behind this can be found in What actions require the ablution as a prerequisite.

9- Touching or carrying the Qur’an

The companions were all agreed that it is forbidden to touch or carry the Qur’an while one is in a state of impurity. There are some jurists, such as Dawud ibn Hazm, who allow the physically unclean person, whether because of sex or menstruation, to touch or carry the Qur’an, and they see nothing wrong with this. He derives his support from a hadith in the two Sahihs in which it is stated that the Prophet sent a letter to Heraclius saying, “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful…O people of the book, come to a statement that is common between us and you, that we should worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords besides Allah. If they turn away, then say ‘Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him).” (Aal `Imran 3:64)

Ibn Hazm concludes, “This is the letter the Messenger of Allah wrote, containing this verse, to the Christians, and of course they touched it.” The majority of scholars answer him by stating that one is allowed to touch parts of the Qur’an that are used in letters, books, tafsir, and so on, as such things are not copies of the Qur’an, nor is it confirmed that such an action is forbidden.


The article is an excerpt from the author’s translated book “Fiqh Us Sunnah”.


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