How Much Water Is Required for Ritual Bath (Ghusl) at a Minimum?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad

Question

I was taught that water that was used to lift a state of ritual impurity (like janaba) becomes ‘used’ once it departs from the specific area (e.g. the whole body during ghusl) and can then no longer be used for tahara anymore.

Recently I began doubting in ghusl whether in between rubbing movements water departs and therefore becomes ‘used’ in the middle of the process. This unfortunately led me to take up to an hour for the whole process which I know is just wrong.

I guess our Shafi’i scholars did mention something of which I am not aware. How much water is minimally needed for purification anyway?

Answer

Thank you, you have asked a very good question. You are correct that taking an hour to perform your ritual bath (ghusl) is just wrong and wasteful. A ghusl can be performed in just a few minutes. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) used about 4 liters of water for his ritual bath. Please see this for details:
How Many Liters of Water Is Considered Sunna to Use for the Ritual Bath?

In the Shafi’i school, the water that flows off one’s body during ritual purification becomes used, and no longer purifies. Keep in mind that purifying water can flow from the head to the foot before it drips off.

The purpose of rubbing the body during the ghusl is to ensure that water covers the entire area. This is best done by moving the water along in an easy, gentle, and swift fashion on the body with one’s hand. The rubbing motion does not cause water to fly off of the body, but rather to spread it. If you have rubbed an area, consider that area pure. Ignore any baseless misgivings on the subject and finish up your ghusl in five minutes or less.

Follow these steps in your ghusl, and in sha Allah you should be fine:

  • Begin by saying, “In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate”;
  • Remove any unclean matter on the body (pure or impure);
  • Perform ablution (wudu) as one does before the prayer;
  • Pour water over the head three times, intending to lift a state of major ritual impurity (janaba) […] and running the finger through one’s hair to saturate it;
  • And then pour water over the body’s right side three times, then over the left side three times, ensuring that water reaches all joints and folds, and rubbing oneself. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveller]

Allah says, “Surely the wasteful are (like) brothers to the devils. And the Devil is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” [Quran, 17:27]

Related:
How Can I Avoid Taking 20 Minutes to Make Wudu?
Purification Issues: Washing Limbs & Used Water
Washing Limbs During Wudu and Ghusl With Used Water
Is My Wudu Invalid If Used Water Has Dripped From My Face Onto My Hands?

May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.