What are the four fard elements of wudu?

What are the four fard elements of wudu?

Tahara (purification)

Kitab at Tahara is always the opening chapter of any book of fiqh. Tahara is a word with wide ranging meaning from the purification of the body, clothes, wudu (minor ablution) and ghusl (major ablution).

Not everyone is aware that the parts of wudu are divided into the obligations (fard) and the Sunnah, which are rewarding but not essential for a wudu to be valid.

Why is this important? If one finds they are short of water, they can do the minimum aspects of wudu for it to be valid. When they have no problems accessing or performing wudu, they can do the more rewarding wudu with all the sunnah elements.

The obligations are mentioned in the Quran. Mulla Ali begins by listing the obliagation (fard) aspects of wudu:

  1. Wash your whole face from the hairline above your forehead to the chin and from ear to ear. This does not include the neck or ears. The mouth and nose are not considered fard in the Hanafi school, but are considered fard in the Shafi school.
  2. Wash both your hands upto and including the elbows
  3. Wipe over the head.
  4. Wash both feet upto and including the ankles. Washing between the toes is considered fard by some and Sunnah by the others.

How do we define the fard parts of wudu?

The definition of the farida in the Hanafi school is ‘what has been proved with definitive evidence’, meaning there is strong, clear evidence that something is obligatory.

If it is not proved by definitive evidence, it is classed as wajib, which means it is more mandatory than the Sunnah but less mandatory than the fard. Other schools do not have the category of wajib, they differentiate between fard and Sunnah, with a few exceptions such as related to matters of Hajj.

The evidence for the fard parts of wudu are mentioned in Surat al Ma’idah:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ فَٱغْسِلُوا۟ وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى ٱلْمَرَافِقِ وَٱمْسَحُوا۟ بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى ٱلْكَعْبَيْنِ ۚ وَإِن كُنتُمْ جُنُبًۭا فَٱطَّهَّرُوا۟ ۚ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰٓ أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَآءَ أَحَدٌۭ مِّنكُم مِّنَ ٱلْغَآئِطِ أَوْ لَـٰمَسْتُمُ ٱلنِّسَآءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا۟ مَآءًۭ فَتَيَمَّمُوا۟ صَعِيدًۭا طَيِّبًۭا فَٱمْسَحُوا۟ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُم مِّنْهُ ۚ مَا يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ حَرَجٍۢ وَلَـٰكِن يُرِيدُ لِيُطَهِّرَكُمْ وَلِيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُۥ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ ٦

O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of janābah,1 then purify yourselves. But if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women2 and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it. Allāh does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favour upon you that you may be grateful. [5:6]

Arabs define the face as the part of your head with which you face people. Scholars have defined the face as the skin on the surface not including the neck or behind the ears. Face includes the chin. What about beards? We will discuss this later.

Running water

When Allah commanded us to wash our face, He used the word ‘ghasil’ which means to wash with  flowing water. Therefore it is not merely wiping (massah) your face with wet hands but washing (ghasala) the face with flowing water, i.e. water that drips. How much water is required for this? The minimum is just to wash the face (faghsilu wujuhakum), hands and feet completely once.

Do you need to make wudu if you already have wudu?

The ayah says you have to do wudu ‘when you rise’ to perform salah, does this mean you have to repeat wudu every time you are about to commence salah, even if you already have wudu? No. If you take the ayah literally, every time you rise to pray, you would have to refresh your wudu, but you are only required to do wudu if did not have wudu already. If you have wudu, you are not required to repeat your wudu before salah.

The sequence of the fard parts of wudu

The ayah lists the face (wuju), hands (yad), head (ras) and feet in that order.

How many times do you wash the face, hands and feet?

The obligations of wudu are four. If you don’t have enough water to wash them three times each, you can do it only once.

The nature of the mutun

Mulla Ali didn’t go through too many details, as his book is based on the abridged text of the Hanafi schools. Though the rulings are based on the Quran and Sunnah, the mutun (texts) can sometimes be like riddles as their meanings become so compacted.

When was the obligation of wudu introduced?

Mulla Ali quoted Imam Abu-l-Qasim Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn Qasi Zuhayli from the 6th century who (passed away 581AH), who was a faqhi and usuli, and commented on Seerat Abi Hisham. Though he was well known for his work on seerah, he also wrote books on other sciences. Zuhayli mentioned that Usama bin Zayd bin Haritha (may Allah be pleased with him) said after the first revelation, Angel Jibril came and taught the Prophet (peace be upon him) how to perform wudu and the salah. Imam Ahmed narrated this in his Musnad and other narrators of the Sunnah did as well. The narration is sound, and a correct and good narration.

The ayah of Surat al-Maidah was revealed in Madinah, but the hadith says the wudu was revealed right at the beginning of the revelation, so how do we reconcile these? Scholars said the obligation had been revealed Makkah but the evidence for this farida (obligation) was revealed in Madinah.


The wudu of the beard depends on the thickness of the beard. If a man has a thick bushy beard which is covering the skin on his face, it is enough for him to comb his fingers through his beard (takhlil). However it his beard is thin, he should rub the water inside it so the water can reach the skin.

Starting with the right

When you wash your hands the Quran does not specify that you have to wash the right hand before the left, however it was the practice of Prophet (peace be upon him) to start with his right hand and then wash his left hand.

Wash thoroughly

It is obligatory to wash the skin thoroughly. If there is anthing such as paint or wax you need to remove it first as it will prevent the water touching your skin. If you are a painter you can avoid these splattering on your skin by wear protecting overalls. However if a painter has limited resources and cannot wear overalls or it is hard for him to keep washing it off for salah it is not obligatory for him, as it would be hardship for him. Otherwise it is necessary to remove it.

The light emanating from wudu

The Prophet (peace be upon him) will recognise his Ummah on the Day of Judgment from the traces of their wudu which will radiate streaks of light. The Prophet (peace be upon him) will be looking at the crowds of billions of people and be able to recognise them from light emanating from their foreheads, elbows, and feet.

Wiping the head – fresh water

While the face, hands and feet are washed, the head is not washed, it is wiped (masih). You don’t need to wipe it three times or put your head under the tap. The Hanafis say it is enough to take water in your hand and wipe it over your head. You have to re-wet your hand with water rather than washing your hand to the elbow and then passing your wet hand over your head without taking fresh water.

Wiping the head – a few strands or a quarter of the head?

The Hanafis say as the size of one’s head is equivalent to the size of four hands, accordingly if one hand is sufficient to wipe it, they say it is enough to wet one quarter of the head. The Shafis disagree with this and say as long as the hand wipes over the head, it does not matter how much hair is wiped over, even a few strands is sufficient. However these strands have to be from above the ears. Any hair below the ears is considered part of the neck, not the head. The Hanafis say this is not sufficient because the companions saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) wipe over all of his head just as the hand means all of the hand, ru’us means all of the head. Each school has its own rulings.

Washing between the toes

When washing the feet, start from the toes and ensure to wash the ankles. There is a difference of opinion of washing between the toes is an obligation but without doubt it is a sunnah. Wash the feet completely is an obligation.

Wudu under the hijab

If a woman has to perform wudu at work or in a public space and is trying to avoid removing her hijab, she can wet her fingers and insert them under her hijab and wet a few strands of hair. That is sufficient as per the Shafi school. However in the Hanafi school she would have to wipe a quarter of her head.

Medical reason

If you have a substance on your skin such as a medicinal cream, you do not have to remove it for your wudu, you can wipe over it.


Hairspray forms a layer that prevents water reaching the hair. If someone has hairspray on, they should wet a few strands of hair that are not covered with hairspray. These strands have to be above the ears.

Moisturiser / cream /make up

Anything that prevents water reaching the skin has to be removed. For instance, makeup which is a barrier to the skin has to be removed as it prevents water touching the skin. Similarly as nail polish prevents water touching your nails, wudu with nail polish nullifies the wudu. Is the new halal nail polish permissible – it is debateable whether the wudu is valid or not. If you have moisturiser or cream or make up which prevents the water reaching your skin, you have to remove it.

Can you dry yourself after wudu?

You are permitted to dry yourself.

Can you speak during wudu?

It is not forbidden, but it is against the mental preparation of salah. Wudu is meant to get you into the frame of mind for salah, if you are talking, it means you are diverted and distracted by other matters.


Precede the wudu by saying bismillah.


There is no set dua from the Sunnah during the course of wudu, though Imam Nawawi in his Book of Adhkar has a dua which is not from the Sunnah, but makes you mindful of the wudu, asking Allah when you wash your mouth to be given water from the hawd of the Prophet (peace be upon him), then as you wash your face ask Allah to illuminate your face, and as you wipe your head ask Allah to give you the shade of His Throne; when you wash your right hand ask Allah to give you your book of deeds in your right hand and when you wash your left hand ask not to be given your book in your left hand on the Day of Judgment and when you wash your feet ask Allah to keep you on the straight path.

Dua at end of wudu

End your wudu with the dua:

Allaahummaj’alnee minat-tawwaabeena waj’alnee minal-mutatahhireen.

O Allah, make me among those who turn to You in repentance, and make me among those who are purified. (Source)

Bald / shaved head

If you do not have hair, you can still wipe over your head.

Wet wipes

If your wet wipes contain water and you have enough wet wipes to create wetness you can use wet wipes for wudu.  

Water from the sea

Is it permissible to do wudu with water from the sea, as sewage is being poured into the sea? As long as the water from the sea does not smell or tastes contaminated, it is permissible to use. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said the water of the sea is pure.

Wiping over socks

If you do your wudu before you put on your socks, when you need to refresh your wudu it is permissible to wipe over your socks, as long as they are thick, like sports socks and are above your ankle.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – 25th May 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.