What are the etiquettes of wudu and what should I do if I doubt my wudu?

What are the etiquettes of wudu and what should I do if I doubt my wudu?

The Etiquettes of Wudu

The wudu is divinely prescribed (tawqifi). It was demonstrated by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to his companions. The differences of opinion between the different schools arise due to their using different narrations. It is not the case Imam Abu Hanifa, or Malik or Shafi are creating their own styles of wudu; there is no way a faqhi will rely on his own opinion in these matters.

Ali and Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them) would perform wudu in public to show them how they saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) do it so they could emulate it.

Their rulings are based on observations (mushahada) of how the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed his wudu by his companions and narrations by him about what to do. Accordingly there are differences between the schools. For instance, there is a difference whether the intention (niyyah) is a sunnah or an obligatory aspect of the wudu.

Abu Hanafi considers it a sunnah because Allah Almighty did not mention in the Quran that you have to make your intention before you do your wudu. However, in the Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali school they consider making the intention for wudu necessary for its validity. Thus whereas going for a swim without the intention of making wudu would be considered a valid wudu in the Hanafi school, (though not rewarded as the intention was missing), in the other three schools it would not count as a valid wudu as the intention was missing. Alhamdulillah due to the differences between the schools we have leniency on matters – we have ease and flexibilty to follow their opinions.  

The intention

Although the schools are deriving their rulings from the same hadith, namely, ‘Actions are (judged) by intention.’ (Bukhari), the rulings vary depending on their understanding, language and the authenticity of the narrations. The hadith of intention is authentic, but the discussion arises on how you apply the hadith.

The sequence

There is a discussion whether the sequence (al wila) of the wudu is obligatory for its validity or sunnah. it has to be in order: 1) face, 2) hands, 3) head and 4) feet? According to the Hanafi school, the sequence is not fard, it is sunnah, so if you forgot and did them in the wrong order your wudu would still be valid. However the other schools say you have to do them in order, so if you forget one part, you have to repeat your wudu in order.

Al Wila means that the actions should be performed consecutively, without any gap between performing them. These part of the sunnah from the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Starting with the right side

What aspects of wudu are mustahab (recommended)? How do we classify what is recommended? Mulla Ali defines it as what the Prophet (peace be upon him) did sometimes and not at other times. Therefore it is not a confirmed sunnah but a receommend sunnah. If the Prophet (peace beupon him) did anything  it becomes a Sunnah, however scholars distinguish what he did between those he did regularly, and those he did occasionaly. If he never missed an action, it is more confirmed than mustahab. For instance, starting with the the right hand is a confirmed sunnah, not only mustahab. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to like to start with the right whenever he could, when purifying himself and when putting on shoes or combing his hair.” (Sahih)

The narration of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) is about his preference for beginning with the right side in general. On the matter of wudu, we have a hadith narrated in Ibn Hibban, Abu Khuzaymah, Ibn Majah that he preferred to start wudu with the right side (al yameen).

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

 “When you perform ablution, start with your right side” (Abu Dawud)

Similarly, if you are taking a shower, start with right side (this is known as tayamun) as it is the sunnah.

Wiping over the neck

The collection of narrations about the neck are good overall. You can therefore wipe the back of the neck, and if you do not it is not a big deal. However wiping the front of the neck is classified as biddah, which is an innovation in the deen, as there is no narration that supports doing that, so avoid doing this.

Aadab al wudu (the etiquettes) of wudu and maqruhaat al wudu (disliked actions of wudu)

In addition to the obligations, Sunnah and recommendations, Mulla Ali added the etiquettes of wudu.For instance, not speaking during wudu.  You should not cannot carry on a phone conversation, for instance with the phone on speaker while you do your wudu. It is not haram but it is not from the etiquettes of wudu as wudu is the preparation for salah. If you are not focused during wudu then you will lack focus in your salah.

Face the qiblah

When performing wudu face the qiblah if possible, however this is not always an option, as you cannot change the direction of your sink if it is in the opposite direction.


There is no specific Sunnah dua however you can make dua from your heart or any good supplications such as e.g. ‘O Allah, make us drink from Al Kawthar’. When you wash your nose, say ‘O Allah allow us to smell the fragrance of jannah’, when you wash your face, say, ‘O Allah, enlighten my face when faces are enlightened’. When you wash your hands up to the elbows say, ‘O Allah give me my book in my right hand and not my left hand’. When you wipe your head, say, ‘Give me the shade of the Throne on the Day of Judgment.’ When you wipe over your ears, say ‘O Allah, allow me to hear good things’; when you wash your neck, say, ‘O Allah, release my neck and the neck of my parents and loved ones from hellfire’. When you wash your feet, say, ‘O Allah make my feet firm on the straight path on the Day of Judgment, on the Siraat.’

Though there is no narration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) making these dus, we can make these duas knowing that they are not authentic. Or we can say our own duas that we wish to make.

In another hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned that the eight gates of jannah are opened for those who do their wudu carefully:

Umar bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَنْ تَوَضَّأَ فَأَحْسَنَ الْوُضُوءَ ثُمَّ قَالَ أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْنِي مِنْ التَّوَّابِينَ وَاجْعَلْنِي مِنْ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ فُتِحَتْ لَهُ ثَمَانِيَةُ أَبْوَابِ الْجَنَّةِ يَدْخُلُ مِنْ أَيِّهَا شَاءَ

The Messenger of Allah (peace be un him) said, “Whoever of you performs Wudu’ carefully and then affirms: ‘Ash-hadu an la ilaha illallahu Wahdahu la sharika Lahu, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa Rasuluhu [I testify that there so no true god except Allah Alone, Who has no partners and that Muhammad (ﷺ) is His slave and Messenger],’ the eight gates of Jannah are opened for him. He may enter through whichever of these gates he desires (to enter).” [Muslim]

In the narration in Tirmidhi, to this same hadith, it is added: “Allahummaj-‘alni minat-tawwabina, waj-‘alni minal-mutatahhirin (O Allah make me among those who repent and purify themselves.” (2:222)

You can link this hadith to the verse in the Quran, which is asking to be from those whom Allah loves, as they keep continuously repenting and purifying themselves inwardly and outwardly. This will elicit Allah’s love because he purified. Aim to be from the tawabeen who purify themselves from the inward and outward.

2 rakahs

In another hadith, we are told that is recommended to pray two rakahs after doing your wudu.

Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him):

At the time of the Fajr prayer the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Bilal, “Tell me of the best deed you did after embracing Islam, for I heard your footsteps in front of me in Paradise.” Bilal replied, “I did not do anything worth mentioning except that whenever I performed ablution during the day or night, I prayed after that ablution as much as was written for me.” (Bukhari)

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) acknowledged these two rakahs, and this is why it is known as sunnat al wudu. Can you combine the intention of sunnat al wudu, sunnat al tawba and sunnat al fajr? Yes you can! You will be rewarded for 6 rakahs. Bilal was delighted to hear that Allah loved his habit of praying two rakahs after every wudu. It showed that he was committed to it. Commitment is the supersonic vehicle that transports you and delivers you to the highest level. With all his purity and commitment, the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw bilal in Jannah and gave him the good news.

Makruhaat al wudu (disliked actions of wudu)

Wasting water

What is disliked during wudu? Firstly it is dislkied to waste water, this is israaf, extravagance. Extravagance and wastefulness is disliked in general. To waste water is disliked to the extent that we should not waste water even by a running stream.

عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِي أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَرَّ بِسَعْدٍ وَهُوَ يَتَوَضَّأُ فَقَالَ مَا هَذَا السَّرَفُ يَا سَعْدُ قَالَ أَفِي الْوُضُوءِ سَرَفٌ قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ عَلَى نَهْرٍ جَارٍ

Abdullah ibn Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) passed by Sa’d while he was performing ablution. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “What is this extravagance?” Sa’d said, “Is there extravagance with water in ablution?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Slapping your face with water

Other things which are disliked, though Mulla Ali did not mention it, is slapping your face with water. This is not liked, even on a hot day. Wash your face gently.

Clean spaces

Do your wudu in a clean space – avoid filthy places which have impurity (najasah). in that place. You want to do the beginning of the wudu with dua and bismillah and ashahdu after. It has to be in a place which is pure not filthy, as you want to be able to make dua and dhikr and boost your focus.

Don’t make a mess or leave puddles

In public spaces, like masajid, don’t leave a big puddle. The person who is looking after the area will not appreciate you making a mess when he has just cleaned it. In a public place such as a university, when you go to the public toilets and leave a puddle it is very antisocial. Don’t do this. Clean up your mess. Don’t let the people who come after you find the basin and floor covered in water. This is negative dawah. It will make people dislike Muslims.

Manage by yourself

It is considered disliked to seek help with performing wudu if you are capable of doing it independently. If there is no necessity, it is best not to rely on others for help. However, if you have a genuine issue, such as an injury or disability, that hinders your ability to perform ablution, then seeking assistance is understandable. On the other hand, having someone pour water for you simply because you prefer not to do it yourself reflects a sense of entitlement which is not liked.

What if you doubt your wudu?

If you have a doubt before you finish your wudu and can’t remember if you missed a part of it, which does happen as our minds are preoccupied and we have many files running in our heads consuming our thoughts. What should you do? Mulla Ali says the first time you doubt you wiped your head, wipe it. If you see traces of water on the limb then you know you already washed it. However if this is a repetitive doubt, and you keep doubting whether you have washed different limbs or not, then are always in a state of doubt then you do not repeat your wudu or washing that limb, because this is a trap of shaytan who makes you doubt your wudu to play tricks on you, keep you busy washing and doubting and washing and doubting. The wudu process becomes an act plagued by OCD.

Ubayy bin Ka‘b reported the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying:

“Ablution has a devil called al-Walahan, so guard against the confusion caused by water.” (Tirmidhi)

Confusion caused by water means wondering whether the water reached all the limbs or that or not.

Certainty overrides doubt

There is a Shaytan for wudu whose job is to make you doubt your wudu. If you let him in, he will be your guest and take up residence. How do you lock the door and kick him out? Focus on your wudu. Don’t allow doubts to override your certainty. This is a maxim in fiqh:

Certainty overrides doubt.

Do you have a certainty you washed your face? If you see water on your face, then yes you washed it.

Shaytan’s tricks to make you repeat your wudu

When you finish your wudu it is common for Shaytan to come to you and make you imagine you have passed some wind to make you repeat your wudu just in case. ‘Just in case’ is the password for Shaytan to enter your system and make you keep repeating wudu and salah and end up hating wudu and salah.  In a weak narration, Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said:

“Satan comes to one of you in Salat and blows air in his bottom, so he imagines that he has realised air yet he did not. So if he gets that feeling he should not leave his prayer unless he hears the sound (of the air) or smells its odour.” (Bazzar)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) addressed this situation. He taught us that anyone who feels a sensation in his abdomen but is unsure if he passed wind should not leave his prayer until he hears a sound or detects a smell. This applies to wudu as well.

Abbad bin Tamim (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

My uncle asked Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) about a person who imagined to have passed wind during the prayer. Allah’ Apostle replied: “He should not leave his prayers unless he hears sound or smells something.” (Bukhari)

This shows that certainty is not dispelled by doubt. When you are certain you performed wudu, but  uncertain whether you lost it, when you put the doubt on one side of the scale and certainty on the other, the certainty always outweighs the doubt. The answer is clear cut. It means one need not fret over it. Doubt cannot cancel out certainty.

Avoid excessiveness in wudu

When someone spends an hour doing wudu, shaytan is playing them and it can ruin their life and establish an OCD. Shariah taught us how to break this cycle with the maxim ‘certainty dispels doubt’. We can use this in many situations in life.

Abdullah ibn Mughaffal (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

Abdullah heard his son praying to Allah: O Allah, I ask Thee a white palace on the right of Paradise when I enter it. He said: O my son, ask Allah for Paradise and seek refuge in Him from Hell-Fire, for I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: In this community there will be some people who will exceed the limits in purification as well as in supplication. (Abu Dawoud)

In another narration

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

A man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and asked him: Messenger of Allah, how is the ablution (to performed)?
He (the Prophet) then called for water in a vessel and washed his hands up to the wrists three times, then washed his face three times, and washed his forearms three times. He then wiped his head and inserted both his index fingers in his ear-holes; he wiped the back of his ears with his thumbs and the front of his ears with the index fingers. He then washed his feet three times.

Then he said: This is how ablution should be performed. If anyone does more or less than this, he has done wrong and transgressed, or (said) transgressed and done wrong. (Abu Dawoud)

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – 13th July 2023

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.