Customs and Rituals

Do Muslims engage in any specific purification rituals?

Prior to each act of ritual prayer Muslims perform a brief purification called wudu’ (pronounced wuDOO). Worshippers perform each of the following cleansing motions three times: rinse hands and wrists, rinse out the mouth, then the nostrils likewise, rinse the whole face, arms up to the elbows, whole head and neck, and finally toes and feet up to the ankles. Mosques today typically provide separate facilities in which men and women can perform the ablution. Older mosques often have fountains or taps running along an exterior wall, with small benches or stools for worshippers to sit on. They usually use tap water, but under peculiar circumstances even sand or earth is acceptable, in which case it is called tayammum (pronounced taYAMmum). Clearly the idea is to prepare oneself symbolically to enter a state of mindfulness. In addition to this cleansing, Muslims also regard a more thorough bathing (called ghusl) essential to restore the state of ritual purity after sexual intercourse, seminal discharge, or the menstrual cycle. Ghusl includes the motions of the ablution just described, but encompasses the entire body as well. The intent of these rituals is to put the individual in a state of maximum attentiveness to and spiritual worthiness for entering into the presence of God.


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