At the basis of any act of worship in Islam is the state of physical and spiritual purity that a Muslim is required to maintain. This is done by taking a ritual bath (Ghusl) or the ritual cleansing of specific parts of the body (Wudhu’). Once in this state, it is important to be careful not to engage in any activity that nullifies it (until the intended act of Worship is complete, at least). These restrictions are primarily for the sake of raising one’s own spiritual awareness and not neglecting the original intention of worship.
Such acts are (according to the Shafi’e fiqh):
- Excretion via the anus/urinary tract
- Deep sleep
- Loss of consciousness or sanity
- Touching one’s husband or wife, or any unrelated person of the opposite gender
- Touching the private parts
In addition to this, it is best to maintain the physical cleanliness of one’s body, clothes and area of worship. These are some general guidelines of what a Muslim should avoid coming in contact with before entering prayer (or any other act of worship that requires wudhu’):
- Dogs and pigs
- Corpses (exceptions from this are: human corpses, fish and grasshoppers)
- Blood and pus
- Urine and faeces
- The milk of prohibited animals (e.g donkeys)
It should be noted that coming in contact with these entities does not nullify the Wudhu’. One must, however, ensure that he cleanses off any traces before he enters prayer.
However, as it goes with any law, there are always exceptions to the rule. The shari’a was never meant to be overbearing, thus the following are excused and it is not incumbent upon one to cleanse himself from these items before prayer (out of the long list here I only quote those immediately relevant to this age and lifestyle):
- When the impurity is indiscernible, i.e, one knows it is an impurity but is unable to identify what exactly it is, then it suffices to simply rinse it off by sprinkling water (this is the method used to cleanse the lowest degree of impurity).
- Small amounts of blood and pus, be it from insect bites or minor cuts.
- Blood and pus from one’s own wounds – of which he did not inflict upon himself.
The blood on meat.
And Allah knows best.