Why was the verse of purification revealed after the Hijra…

… when ablution was already being practiced and done in Mecca? What was the need for doing so and the wisdom underlying it? Usually, people overlook such things, due to whatever reasons, but there is no doubt that there are deep meanings and lessons to be found in these very subtle points – in both the texts of the Qur’an and hadith.

The verse of purification is found in surah al ma’idah. Allah Most High says:

يا أيها الذين آمنوا إذا قمتم إلى الصلاة فاغسلوا وجوهكم وأيديكم إلى المرافق وامسحوا برؤسكم وأرجلكم إلى الكعبين

“Oh you who believe! When you stand for prayer wash your faces and your arms to the elbows, wipe your heads, and [wash] your legs to the ankles.”

According to the commentators of the Qur’an, such as Imam Qurtubi in his Al Jami` Al Ahkam al Qur’an, this verse is madani, meaning that it was revealed after the hijra of our beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace). In specific, it was revealed quite late in the Prophet’s life as is gleaned from hadith in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, the Mustadrak of Hakim, and others – some scholars even stipulating that it was the last of the Qur’anic chapters revealed. This is detailed in Mufti Muhammad Shafi`s Ma`ariful Qur’an for whoever is interested in reading more into the issue.

Imam Haskafi in his al Durr al Mukhtar mentions two basic wisdoms behind the revelation of this verse at such a late period, even though ablution was being practiced well before the verses nuzul (coming down). He states (with Ibn `Abidin’s hashiya included):


( قوله : ففائدة نزول الآية إلخ ) جواب عما يقال إذا كان الوضوء فرض بمكة مع فرضية الصلاة وهو أيضا شرع من قبلنا فقد ثبتت فرضيته فما فائدة نزول آية المائدة ؟ أفاده ط . ( قوله : تقرير الحكم الثابت ) أي تثبيته ، فإنه لما لم يكن عبادة مستقلة بل تابعا للصلاة احتمل أن لا تهتم الأمة بشأنه ، وأن يتساهلوا في شرائطه وأركانه بطول العهد عن زمن الوحي وانتقاص الناقلين يوما فيوما ، بخلاف ما إذا ثبت بالنص المتواتر الباقي في كل زمان وعلى كل لسان . ا هـ . درر . ( قوله : وتأتي ) مصدر تأتي معطوف على ” تقرير ” . ( قوله : اختلاف العلماء ) أي المجتهدين في النية والدلك والترتيب ونقضه بالمس وقدر الممسوح

(a) That the benefit in revealing this verse after the hijra was to establish the command of ablution again. Ibn `Abidin explains this by stating that wudhu’ was not (and is not) considered an independent act of worship but rather a tabi` of prayer. It was possible that people not grasp and understand its relevance – thus, easing themselves greatly in regards to fulfilling its conditions and integrals. This could also arise due to the diminishing of its transmitters. However, the Qur’anic verse established its importance and its mass-transmission (tawatur), something that remains in every time period on every tongue.

(b) Another reason was to establish khilaf among the `ulema since such difference is a mercy. Ibn `Abidin adds that this means, “The people of ijtihad (differing) in intention, rubbing the limbs, order of ablution, nullification through touching (the private parts), and the extent of wiping.”

And Allah Knows Best




Filed under Fiqh/Law

11 responses to “Why was the verse of purification revealed after the Hijra…

  1. Jazakallah for this useful information

  2. Qushayri

    May Allah bless you at all times. Very beneficial post.

  3. abd al-hakim

    By ‘tabi of prayer, does that mean an integral part?

    Why wouldn’t ablution by itself be considered an act of worship? There are times when wudu is required, but not for the act of praying – when touching the qur’an for example.

  4. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi `Abd al Hakim: What is meant is that ablution only follows as a result prayer.

    There is no doubt that ablution carries reward since it is fulfilling the command of Allah and His Messenger and a means to fulfilling other commands. “Means” here is the key word.

    An act of worship can either be [1] Sought in itself (maqsud) or (2) Not sought in itself but a means (wasa’il) to fulfill that which is sought. Ablution comes in the later category. Imam Shurunbulali thus says in his Nur al Idah “wa sababuhu istibahatu ma la yahilu ila bihi” i.e. “Its cause is to make permitted that which is not permitted without it.”

    But imagine someone spending all night doing ablution. Would we say he is rewarded? No, we’d probably think he’s alittle out of it. This is because ablution is not sought in itself, like prayer , but only ameans to make such things permitted. Thus it follows as a result of these acts fo worship – a tabi`.


  5. Sidi your blog is by far the most beneficial blogs I’ve come across. May Allah continually reward and bless you and elevate your rank and bring you closer in love of Him and His Habeeb (sallahu alahyi wa sallam)

  6. A

    salam, do you have an email address you can be contacted on?

  7. salamu `alaykum

    My email is salmanhusayni@yahoo.com


  8. A

    salam. i tried emailing but it didn’t work. please could you email me, its quite important. thanks.

  9. Masha Allah, excellent lesson.

    So, by being a form of worship, is that why I’ve been told by a brother that you’re not supposed to talk about dunya while making wudu?

  10. Qushayri

    At the spiritual level, the wudu is a step towards attaining khusu'(concentration/humility) in one’s prayer. The remembrance of Allah ta’ala during wudu helps to increase that. Alternatively, busying oneself with anything else while performing wudu detracts from attaining khusu’ during prayer(salat).

    In other words, one’s attitude towards prayer should begin way before the takbir.


  11. Were art thee, oh salmany…

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