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Back to Basics: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Perform Ghusl

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 5th January, 2023

What is Ghusl?

The word Ghusl literally translates from Arabic to “wash” or “clean”. It is a full ablution or a ritual bath taken when in a state of major impurity to purify our bodies and ready ourselves to worship Allah.

Ghusl brings up a lot of questions, especially as newly weds when there is already an overwhelming amount of information to process along with the anxiousness to do things the right way. We’re here to answer some of the questions we’ve received in our inbox, verified by an aalimah.

Why Do We Perform Ghusl?

Allah says in the Qur’an:

 “O Believers [faith]! If you are in a state of major impurity [that requires ritual bath], then purify yourselves.” (Qur’an 5:6)

Ghusl is considered an act of worship. One of the most important aspects of our faith is purification and cleanliness. The purpose of Ghusl is therefore to purify ourselves physically so that we are able to fulfil our spiritual duties. Ghusl is also mentioned in the Hadiths:

Aishah (RA) narrated that Asma (RA) asked the Prophet about Ghusl following menses. He responded, “Let one of you take her water and lotus leaves and clean herself well, then let her pour water over her head and rub it vigorously so that it will reach the roots of her hair. Then let her pour the water over herself, then take a piece of cloth scented with musk and purify herself.” Asma (RA) said, “How should she purify herself?” He said, “SubhanAllah, purify yourself with it!” Aishah (RA) whispered to her to perfume the area where blood flowed. She then asked him about Ghusl in the case of post sexual impurity to which the Prophet said, “Let her take water and clean herself well, then let her pour water over her head and rub it so that it reaches the roots of the hair, then let her pour water over herself.” 

Aishah (RA) said, The best of women are the women of the Ansaar! They don’t let shyness prevent them from understanding their religion properly.” [Muslim]

When Should I Perform Ghusl? 

Ghusl is Fard (obligatory) to perform in the following circumstances:

  • When in a state of Janabah (sexual impurity)
  • When menstruation and postpartum bleeding ends 
  • When a wet dream has been seen and wetness is found, based on this hadith of Umm Salamah (RA) who reported that Umm Sulaim, the wife of Abu Talha, asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Allah is not shy when it comes to the truth. So is it obligatory for a woman to perform Ghusl if she has a wet dream (i.e. discharge comes out)?  The Prophet ﷺ responded, “Yes, if she sees the fluid.” [Bukhari and Muslim] 

* It is important to note here that most discharge in women is part of the natural cleansing of the vagina and does not indicate a wet dream. Also, if a wet dream is seen but no discharge is found, Ghusl is not necessary. 

When is it Recommended to Perform Ghusl?

There are times when it is not obligatory to perform Ghusl, but instead recommended by the Sunnah:

  • When going out into a religious or social gathering including the prayers for rain and Eid
  • On Fridays
  • Before some acts of worship such as entering Ihram
  • For the deceased
  • After performing Ghusl for the deceased
  • When reverting to Islam

How to Perfom Ghusl

There are two types of Ghusl you can perform for different circumstances. The first is the obligatory form of Ghusl. This is performed when in a state of sexual impurity and involves less steps than the complete Ghusl:

Step 1:

Start with the Niyyah or intention to purify yourself from the state of impurity in order to worship Allah

Step 2: 

Wash your entire body once making sure water reaches every part, including rinsing the mouth and nose

The second type of Ghusl is the complete Ghusl, and it is recommended to do this type of Ghusl after the bleeding of menstruation and postpartum has ended as evidenced by the following hadith: 

Aishah (RA) said, “When the Prophet did Ghusl for janabah, he would wash his hands and do wudu as for prayer, then he would wash himself, then he would run his fingers through his hair, then when he thought that it [the water] had reached his skin, he would pour water over it [the head] three times, then he would wash the rest of his body.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Step 1: 

Start with the niyyah or intention to purify yourself from the state of impurity in order to worship Allah 

Step 2: 

  • Say Bismillah 

Step 3: 

  • Wash the hands three times

Step 4: 

  • Wash the private parts

Step 5: 

  • Do wudu 

Step 6: 

  • Pour water over the head so that it reaches the roots 

Step 7: 

  • Wash the whole body three times, starting from the right side then moving on to the left side

FAQs about Ghusl

  • Should I unbraid my hair? 

It is not a requirement for purification after sexual impurity but some scholars recommend it for purification after menstruation and postpartum bleeding.

Umm Salamah (RA) asked the Prophet about that. She said, “I am a woman with braided hair; should I undo it when doing Ghusl for janabah?” He said, “No, rather it will be sufficient for you to pour three handfuls of water on your head, then pour water over yourself and you will be purified.”

  • Can I do Ghusl with my husband? 

Yes, based on this hadith of Aisha (RA):

Aisha (RA) said, “The Prophet and I used to perform Ghusl from the same container. He would sometimes get to it before me, so I would tell him, ‘Leave me some! Leave me some!’” [Bukhari and Muslim]

  • Do I have to do wudu after Ghusl? 

The scholars have confirmed that ghusl is purification and does not require an extra wudu.

  • Can I say Bismillah during Ghusl if I am in a bathroom? 

Scholars recommend that it is not said out loud, rather in the heart. 

  • What if I continue to bleed past 40 days postpartum? 

40 days is the maximum time period. Before this, if bleeding stops, women are required to perform ghusl and continue their prayers. If the bleeding goes past 39 days, then ghusl must be performed at the end of the 40 days.

Tips for Ghusl 

  • Ghusl often gets difficult for newly weds who live in joint households. It may feel difficult to perform Ghusl at odd hours, but it is important to remember you are only fulfilling Allah’s commands and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. 
  • There may be slight differences in how ghusl is performed in different madhabs.
  • While doing ghusl, be conscious of getting water in places that are usually missed for example under piercings, the belly button, armpits, etc. 

Additional Resources to Learn About Ghusl

8 Muslim Sex Educators and Resources | Amaliah

Ghusl Guide Part 1 & Part 2 from @thevillageauntie 

Lights On with Amaliah and @thevillageauntie 

Amaliah Team

Amaliah Team

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