Laws of Religion
Laws of Islam Concerning Ritual Purity and Cleanliness
4. Filth from Bodily Emissions
from the Holy Qur’an, major hadith collections
and Islamic jurisprudence
From Islamic source documents: Qur’an and hadith
The Qur’an says to purify one’s garments. It also says to wear beautiful clothing every time one prays. The Qur'an refers to a true house of worship as a place in which are found men who love to purify themselves; Allah (God) loves those who purify themselves.
The Qur’an also requires the washing of one's face and one's hands up to the elbows and the wiping of one's head and also one’s feet up to the ankles before commencing prayer. If a person is in a state of sexual defilement, it is necessary to purify oneself. The Qur'an talks of how Allah sent down water from the sky to purify Muslims. (This refers to a particular time of battle.) Only those who have been purified may touch the Holy Qur'an.
Washing away bodily emissions. (Editor’s note: There are descriptions in the hadiths of the removal of bodily emissions from clothing, from a place of prayer and from a person’s body. In some cases, this is accomplished by washing with water but other procedures are also used, as summarized in this section. Cleaning of the body is discussed further on the pages that follow on ritual ablution and bathing.)
In the hadiths, it is explained that menstrual blood is to be washed from a woman's clothing with water before she prays with that garment on. Aisha, one of Muhammad's wives, says that such blood was removed with saliva and scraping with fingernails (but this hadith does not say that such cleaning is sufficient for prayer.)
When Muhammad's clothes had marks of his semen on them, either he or one of his wives (Aisha) would wash them off with water before he went to pray in them. Aisha also said that she would scrape Muhammad's semen off his clothing with her fingernails and that he prayed while putting that garment on. (Editor's note: This implies either that semen is not filth that had to be removed from clothing before Muhammad prayed or else that filth could be removed to permit Muhammad’s prayer without washing with water.) Aisha advised a man who had had a wet dream while staying at her home that washing a visible spot of semen off his garment would clean it but that, if the semen stain was not seen, sprinkling water around the area would suffice.
When Muhammad saw sputum on the wall of the mosque in the direction of prayer (the qibla, toward the Ka'ba in Mecca) he was disgusted and he scraped it off with his hand or with small stones or with a twig. He said that it is better not to spit at all when praying, but if it is necessary to spit, it is not permitted to spit forward (in the direction of prayer) or to the right when praying, but only to the left or under one's left foot. He also said that one can spit into some material and fold it up if there is no room to spit on the floor or if the spitting comes on too rapidly to do otherwise. Muhammad himself was seen spitting when praying and using his left shoe to rub it. He also said that it is a sin to spit in a mosque and that burying the sputum expiates the sin.
When a Bedouin began to urinate in the mosque, Muhammad told the people to allow him to finish. Muhammad then directed that water be poured over the urine. He said to the assembled people that things in Islam are meant to be easy to follow, not difficult. (Editor's note: This explained why the problem was solved by simply pouring water on the urine). He told the Bedouin that urine and other filth do not belong in a mosque.
When a child who had been brought to see Muhammad urinated on him, Muhammad just had water sprinkled or poured on the affected area and did not wash the garment. The child is described in some hadiths as a baby, a male, a baby still not weaned and not eating food.
Menstruating women. While the Qur’an says to keep away from a woman who is menstruating, Muhammad did not take a strict view of this matter. He would drink from the same cup as his menstruating wife and eat meat from a bone she had eaten from, even putting his mouth in the same place where hers had been. In fact, he stated that the only interaction that is prohibited with menstruating women is sexual intercourse. (Rules and restrictions concerning menstruating women from the Qu’ran and the hadith collections are described in detail on the page, “Laws of Islam Concerning Ritual Purity and Cleanliness/6. Impurity Requiring a Bath of Purification.”)
Urine and feces. Muhammad had a particular prayer, asking Allah (God) for protection from evil, that he would say before urinating or defecating. Muhammad said that a dead person in a grave was being tortured because he had never taken the necessary steps to avoid being soiled and defiled by urine.
Muhammad prohibited urinating into water that is not flowing or in any other place which might be later used for bathing. Muhammad preferred to go to a concealed place for bodily elimination. He warned against defecating on roads or in places where people would find shelter or take rest. He was seen going to a dumping ground to urinate, which he did while standing up and placing himself behind a wall.
(Editor’s note: Certain hadiths in compilations other than those of al-Bukhari and Muslim should be noted here. There are hadiths which say that according to Muhammad’s wife Aisha, Muhammad never urinated while standing, but only while squatting or sitting.  He forbade other men from urinating while standing. Muhammad says that Allah becomes wrathful when two men uncover their private parts and converse when relieving themselves. Obviously, squatting or sitting provides more modesty for a man than standing when urinating. We have cited above Muhammad’s statement that a dead person in a grave was being tortured because he had never taken the necessary steps to avoid being soiled and defiled by urine. In another related hadith, Muhammad explains his own practice of squatting to urinate by saying that when urine fell on a Jewish person that person refused to permit the cutting off of the areas where the urine fell and, as a result, that person was punished in the grave. Standing when urinating is more likely to result in urine soiling a man’s leg or foot than is sitting or squatting.)
It is forbidden to face or have one's back toward the qibla (direction of prayer – the Ka'ba in Mecca) when urinating or defecating. This prohibition specifically applies when one is in an open space. It is not necessary to avoid facing in a prohibited direction when using a latrine that already exists. Muhammad was, himself, seen answering the call of nature with his back toward the qibla and also when facing Jerusalem.
Muhammad would not return a greeting while he was urinating. He refused to return a greeting until he had performed dry ablution. (Editor’s note: A hadith from the compilation of Abu Dawud explains that Muhammad would not greet another person after urinating until he had performed ablution because he did not want to mention Allah unless he was in a state of purity.)
People would bring water for Muhammad to use in cleaning himself after answering the call of nature. (Editor’s note: The translation of a hadith outside the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim clarifies that Muhammad specified cleaning oneself with water after urinating as well as defecating; thus the penis as well as the anus is to be cleaned.) Alternatively, Muhammad would use stones to clean himself. Three stones would be brought for his use. He specified that an odd number of stones, at least three, should always be used to clean one's private parts. The number of wipes is also to be an odd number. Muhammad specifically said that bone or dried animal feces are not to be used to clean oneself because these things are food for the jinn or, alternatively, because such fecal matter is filthy. Furthermore, the right hand is not to be used for cleaning oneself after defecating or when touching one's penis. (Editor’s note: Note the admonition to eat only with the right hand, discussed on page “18. Table Manners” under “The Laws of Islam Concerning Food.”)
It is required to wash one's hands three times after waking up from sleep before putting one's hand in the utensil (containing water to be used for ablution), though some versions of this hadith omit the specific reference to three times. Such washing is necessary because, as Muhammad pointed out, a person doesn't know where his hands have been while he was sleeping.
Muhammad prescribed camel milk and urine or only camel milk as medicine. In other hadiths, he sends the ailing people to the camels and they drink the milk and urine as medicine without explicitly being told to do so by Muhammad. The original Muslims would treat themselves with camel urine.
From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh§): The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller
(Editor’s note: Rules and restrictions concerning menstruating women in Islamic jurisprudence are described in detail on the page, “Laws of Islam Concerning Ritual Purity and Cleanliness/6. Impurity Requiring a Bath of Purification.”)
Bodily emissions that are filth. Human urine and feces are filth, except for the urine of an infant male. Among the scholars*, Abu Hanifa and al-Shafi‛i agree that urine and feces of animals are also filth but Malik says that this is true only if the animal is of a type that is prohibited for use as food or that consumes filth. Malik and Abu Hanifa say that semen is filth while al-Shafi‛i says it is clean. Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) lists as filth: urine, feces, blood, pus, vomit, madhy (thin, white, sticky fluid discharged from the penis during amorous activity before intercourse), and wady (thick, white fluid discharged after urinating).
Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) lists some things emanating from the human body that are clean, rather than filth: saliva, but not stomach-derived substance, coming out of a sleeping person's mouth; vaginal fluid (though a 19th century commentator quoted in this section of the translation of Reliance of the Traveller says that if this fluid exits, then it is impure and a bath of purification is required); and human sperm and female sexual fluid (which is emitted in spurts during sexual gratification). Some clean substances, such as saliva and sperm, are unlawful to eat according to the Shafi‛i school because they are considered repulsive though they are not classified as filth.
Prayer and bodily emissions. Some scholars, including Malik, say that a prayer is invalid when a person is suppressing the urge to urinate or defecate, though others disagree. Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says that it is offensive to pray when having the urge to urinate or defecate. In fact, it is better to be late for, or even miss, group prayer when one feels the urge to relieve oneself or pass gas through the anus.
Reliance of the Traveller also says that it is offensive during prayer to spit to the front or to the right. Spitting to the left, into the hem of one's clothing or under one's foot is preferred.
Scholars* agree that pure water can clean filth away from anything and, alternatively, that stones can be used to clean the anus and the urinary outlet. Abu Hanifa says, further, that anything clean can be used to clean any filth, while Malik and al-Shafi‛i limit cleaning substances to water and stones. However, Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) explains that other solid and ritually pure substances can be used instead of stones in cleaning the anus and urinary outlet. However, only water can be used for cleaning urine from the body elsewhere than the head of the penis or feces that are beyond the internal buttocks. Reliance of the Traveller says that the cleaning of all impurities that come out of the anus, penis or vagina is required except for gas, stones, dried worms or dry feces. Scholars disagree on whether washing of the whole penis is required to remove madhy (thin, white, sticky fluid discharged from the penis during amorous activity before intercourse), or if it is sufficient to wash only the part covered by it.
It is offensive to use the right hand for cleaning oneself after urinating or defecating. Al-Shafi‛i specifies that, when using stones to clean oneself, three stones must be used, though Malik and Abu Hanifa do not specify any particular number of stones. Reliance of the Traveller presents more detail concerning the procedures for cleaning of feces and urine according to the Shafi‛i school. It says that either three stones can be used or one stone can be used for three wipes, using different surfaces of the stone for each wipe. Each stroke should be from front to back, first on the right side, then the left, then both sides and the anal opening. If more than three strokes are needed to clean feces, then more should be used though it is recommended that the total be an odd number. Also, it is recommended to force any remaining urine out of the penis with three strokes from the base to the head using the fingers of the left hand. A commentator from the 19th century cited in Reliance of the Traveller says that women are to use their thumb and forefinger, pressing on the front to remove all urine. A 20th century commentator says that complete removal of urine is necessary so that it does not come out later and nullify ablution. Imam Dhahabi, an important 13th-14th century Shafi‛i scholar quoted in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller, says that failure to free oneself of all traces of urine is an enormity.
Privy behavior. Other details concerning defecation and urination are given by the scholars. For example, it is recommended that a person isolate oneself away from, and unseen by, other people. Malik held that it is forbidden to face or to have one's back to the qibla (the direction of prayer – the Ka’ba in Mecca) when urinating or defecating in an open space, like the desert, but it is permitted in other locations, such as when there is a covered privy as in a settled area. Some of the other scholars held that it is forbidden to face toward or directly away from the qibla no matter where one is urinating or defecating, while still others said that it is permitted in all locations. Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) explains in more detail that it is permitted to urinate or defecate facing, or with one's rear toward, the qibla only if one is behind a barrier no further than 1.5 meters away and no less than 32 centimeters high. If one is in a privy with walls further away than 1.5 meters or lower than 32 centimeters, it is also permitted, but nevertheless offensive, to face directly toward or away from the qibla. In all other cases, it is a violation of the law to face or have one’s rear toward the qibla when urinating or defecating. In addition, it is recommended according to Reliance of the Traveller that one not face directly toward or away from the sun, the moon, or the sacred area of Jerusalem when urinating or defecating. Two possible reasons for the rule prohibiting facing toward or away from the qibla are suggested by al-Shafi‛i: first that it was to prevent those relieving themselves in the open desert from exposing their private parts to others who were praying in the direction of the qibla or, alternatively, that it was to prevent the soiling with filth of places on which people would be praying.
Scholars* agree that it is recommended not to speak when urinating or defecating and not to touch the genitals with the right hand. Khalil Nahlawi, a 20th century Hanafi scholar, is quoted in the translation of Reliance of the Traveller as saying that it is offensive to laugh, as well as to speak, when in the lavatory or relieving oneself. Similarly, Nahlawi says that it is offensive to say a greeting to someone who is relieving himself.
Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) gives additional detailed recommendations to be followed when going to urinate or defecate. These include wearing something on one’s feet, covering one’s head, not taking anything with the name of Allah or any revered person to the place where one urinates or defecates, reciting the proper blessings when entering and leaving, stepping in with the left foot and stepping out with the right, not standing when urinating, squatting with most weight on left foot and not to talking or spending too much time.
According to Reliance of the Traveller, it is recommended to lift up one's clothing only after assuming the squatting position and to lower the clothing before standing up. A 19th century commentator in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller explains that the purpose is not to reveal oneself more than necessary. According to Reliance of the Traveller, it is prohibited to expose one's nakedness even when alone unless it is necessary to remove one's clothing. A 19th century commentator points out that one's nakedness must be concealed not only from people but also from angels and jinn. Zarkashi, a 14th century Shafi‛i scholar, is quoted as specifying that, when alone, a man must keep only his private parts, front and rear, covered and that a woman must not expose the area from her navel to her knees; a 20th century scholar points out here that this is the authoritative position of the Shafi‛i school.
*Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the compiled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.
§The more general term sharia is often used loosely to mean the specific derived laws of fiqh, such as those summarized here.
Abbreviations used in footnotes:
BK: Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.
DJP: The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.
RT: Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.
SR: al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.
● The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.
 QR 74:4
 QR 7:31
 QR 9:108
 QR 5:6
 QR 5:6, QR 4:43
 QR 8:11
 QR 56:77-79
 BK 1:4:227, BK 1:6:304, BK 1:6:305, ML 2:573-574
 BK 1:6:309
 ML 2:570, ML 2:571
 BK 1:4:229-230, BK 1:4:231, BK 1:4:232, BK 1:4:233, ML 2:571
 ML 2:566, ML 2:567-568-569, ML 2:572
 ML 2:572
 ML 2:566
 DJP 126.96.36.199 (Volume 1, page 88) discusses the scholars who held these differing views
 ML 2:572
 ML 2:566, ML 2:572
 ML 2:566
 BK 1:8:399, BK 1:8:409, BK 2:22:304, BK 8:73:132, ML 4:1121, ML 42:7149
 BK 1:8:400, BK 1:8:401, BK 1:12:720, ML 4:1116-1117, ML 4:1120
 BK 1:8:399, BK 1:8:409, BK 2:22:304, BK 8:73:132
 BK 1:8:402, BK 1:8:403, BK 1:8:406, ML 4:1118-1119
 ML 42:7149
 BK 2:22:304
 BK 1:8:399, BK 1:8:400, BK 1:8:402, BK 1:8:403, BK 1:8:404, BK 1:8:405, BK 1:8:406, BK 1:8:408, BK 1:8:409, BK 1:10:508, BK 1:10:509, BK 1:12:720, BK 2:22:304, BK 2:22:305, BK 8:73:132, ML 4:1116-1117, ML 4:1118-1119, ML 4:1121, ML 4:1123, ML 42:7149
 BK 1:8:399, BK 1:8:409
 ML 4:1121
 ML 42:7149
 ML 4:1127, ML 4:1128
 BK 1:8:407, ML 4:1124, ML 4:1125, ML 4:1126
 BK 1:4:218, BK 1:4:219-220, BK 1:4:221, BK 8:73:54, BK 8:73:149, ML 2:557, ML 2:558, ML 2:559
 BK 1:4:219-220, BK 8:73:149
 ML 2:559
 BK 1:4:222, BK 1:4:223, BK 7:66:377, BK 7:71:596, BK 8:73:31, BK 8:75:366, ML 2:560, ML 2:561-562, ML 2:563-564, ML 2:565, ML 26:5487, ML 26:5488
 BK 1:4:223, BK 8:75:366, ML 2:560, ML 2:565, ML 26:5488
 BK 8:75:366, ML 2:560
 BK 1:4:223, BK 7:66:377, BK 7:71:596, ML 2:565, ML 26:5487, ML 26:5488
 ML 2:561-562, ML 2:563-564, ML 26:5487, ML 26:5488
 BK 7:71:596, ML 2:565
 QR 2:222
 ML 3:590
 ML 3:592
 BK 1:4:144
 BK 1:4:215, BK 1:4:217, BK 2:23:443, BK 2:23:460, BK 8:73:78, BK 8:73:81, ML 2:575
 BK 1:4:239, ML 2:553, ML 2:554, ML 2:555
 BK 6:60:365
 ML 3:673
 ML 2:516
 BK 1:4:224, BK 1:4:225, BK 1:4:226, BK 3:43:651, ML 2:522, ML 2:523
 BK 1:4:225, BK 1:4:226
 BK 1:4:146, BK 1:8:388, ML 2:504, ML 2:505, ML 2:507, ML 2:508
 BK 1:4:146, BK 1:8:388, ML 2:507, ML 2:508
 BK 1:4:146
 BK 1:8:388, ML 2:507
 BK 1:4:150, BK 4:53:334, ML 2:510
 BK 1:4:147, BK 1:4:150, BK 1:4:151, BK 4:53:334, ML 2:509
 ML 3:721
 BK 1:7:333, ML 3:720
 BK 1:4:152, BK 1:4:153, BK 1:4:154, BK 1:4:216, ML 2:517, ML 2:518, ML 2:519, ML 2:524-525, ML 2:526
 BK 1:4:157, BK 1:4:158, BK 5:58:200
 BK 1:4:158
 BK 1:4:162, BK 1:4:163, ML 2:458, ML 7:2982
 ML 2:504, ML 2:505
 ML 2:460-461, ML 2:463
 BK 1:4:157, BK 1:4:158, BK 5:58:200, ML 2:504, ML 2:505, ML 2:506
 BK 5:58:200
 BK 1:4:158
 BK 1:4:155, BK 1:4:156, BK 7:69:534, ML 2:504, ML 2:505, ML 2:511, ML 2:512, ML 2:513
 ML 2:541-542-543, ML 2:544-545
 BK 1:4:163, ML 2:545
 BK 1:4:163, ML 2:541-542-543 ML 2:544-545
 BK 1:4:234, BK 5:59:505, BK 6:60:134, BK 7:71:590, BK 7:71:623, BK 8:82:794, BK 8:82:797, BK 9:83:37, ML 16:4130, ML 16:4131-4132-4133
 BK 7:71:589
 BK 2:24:577, BK 4:52:261, BK 8:82:796
 BK 7:71:672
 DJP 1.4.2 (Volume 1, page 81), DJP 188.8.131.52 (Volume 1, pages 86-87), RT e14.1 (pages 95-96), RT e14.9 (page 98)
 DJP 184.108.40.206 (Volume 1, pages 86-87)
 DJP 220.127.116.11 (Volume 1, page 88)
 RT e10.5 (page 80), DJP 1.1.4 (Volume 1, page 32)
 RT e10.5 (page 80), see also DJP 1.1.4 (Volume 1, page 32)
 RT e14.1 (pages 95-96)
 RT e14.3 (page 96)
 RT e10.4 (page 80)
 RT e14.5 (page 97)
 RT j16.6 (page 363)
 DJP 18.104.22.168 (Volume 1, pages 203-204)
 RT f9.9 (page 151)
 RT f12.5(6) (page 172)
 RT f9.11 (page 152)
 DJP 1.4.4 (Volume 1, pages 89-91)
 RT e9.5 (pages 78-79)
 RT e9.4 (page 77)
 RT e10.5 (page 80), DJP 1.1.4 (Volume 1, page 32)
 DJP 1.4.3 (Volume 1, pages 88-89)
 DJP 1.4.6 (Volume 1, pages 93-95), RT e9.5 (Volume 1, pages 78-79)
 SR 19 (pages 73-74)
 DJP 1.4.5 (Volume 1, pages 91-93)
 RT e9.5 (pages 78-79)
 RT e9.1 (pages 75-77)
 RT e9.1(11) (page 76)
 RT p31.1-p31.2 (pages 673-674)
 DJP 1.4.6 (Volume 1, pages 93-95), RT e9.1(14) (page 77)
 DJP 1.4.6 (Volume 1, pages 93-95)
 RT e9.3 (page 77)
 RT e9.1 (pages 75-77)
 SR 307 (pages 217-218)
 DJP 1.4.6 (Volume 1, pages 93-95)
 RT r32.7 (page 767)
 RT r33.1 (pages 768-769)
 RT e9.1 (pages 75-77)
 RT e9.1 (pages 75-77)
 RT e9.1(7) (page 76)
 RT f5.1 (page 121)