What Are the Things That Require Ghusl (Ritual Bath)?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahmad


What are the things that require Ghusl (ritual bath) for someone who has reached the age of puberty?


In the name of Allah, and all praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, and thereafter:

The Precedence for Ghusl from the Quran and Ijma’

The precedence of the ritual bath(ghusl) from Major Ritualistically Impure State (janaba) is indicated by the verse of Allah, the Most High: “And if you are in a state of ˹full˺ impurity, then take a full bath.” [Quran, 5:6]

The consensus among the leading scholars is that ghusl is obligatory for the validity of worship, and no contrary opinion is known in this matter.

What Necessitates Ghusl?

Six things necessitate ghusl: three are common to both men and women, which are the contact of their genitals, the ejaculation of semen, and death; and three are specific to women, which are menstruation, postnatal bleeding, and childbirth. [Matn Abi Shuja‘]

Causes of Major Ritualistically Impure State

There are two causes for Major Ritualistically Impure State: The first is the discharge of semen from a man or a woman by any cause, whether it be due to a wet dream, foreplay, or thought.

Umm Salamah (Allah be pleased with her) narrated that Umm Sulaim came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, Allah is not shy of the truth. Is it necessary for a woman to perform ghusl if she has a wet dream?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied: “Yes—if she sees fluid” [Bukhari, Muslim]

The second cause is sexual intercourse, even if semen is not discharged.

It is narrated from Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyab that Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), used to say, “When one genital touches another, ghusl becomes obligatory.” This applies to both the man and the woman as they both share in the cause. [Muslim, Malik]

The Obligatory Acts of Ghusl

The obligatory acts of ghusl are three: Intention, removing impurity from the body if present, and ensuring water reaches all parts of the body and hair.

The Sunnahs of Ghusl

The sunnahs of Ghusl are five: Saying “Bismillah” (In the name of Allah), performing ablution before it, passing the hand over the body, continuity in washing, and giving precedence to the right side over the left.

Evidence and Explanation of the Obligatory Acts

  1. The first is the intention at the beginning of washing the body, due to the Hadith: “Actions are judged by intentions.” [Bukhari]

    To make the intention, one should say in their heart – and it is better if uttered by the tongue – “I intend the obligatory ghusl” or “I intend to lift the Major Ritualistically Impure State.”

  2. The second is to remove any impurity from the body if present.
  3. The third is to wash the entire external body with water, both skin and hair, ensuring water reaches the roots and base of the hair.

    Zadan reports that Ali narrated that he heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say: “Whoever leaves the space of a hair on his body from Major Ritualistically Impure State which water does not reach, then such and such from the Fire will be done to him.” Ali said: “From then, I started washing my head.” Ubaidullah, in his narration, said: “And he used to trim his hair.” [Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra]

Means to Controlling One’s Desires

Note: It is essential for you, dear questioner, to restrain your desires and avoid causes that may arouse them, such as mixing freely, looking lustfully, and fantasizing about beautiful women.

Hasten to marry if possible; if not, then be diligent in fasting frequently, as it weakens desires, as per the saying of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace): “O young people! Whoever among you can afford to get married should do so, and whoever cannot afford it should fast, as it will be a means of controlling the sexual desire.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

I also urge every Muslim to read a book on Fiqh with a specialized scholar, as it is an individual obligation upon every responsible person, male or female.