Taharat – The Jewish and Muslim laws for purification

Both Muslims and Jews attribute great importance to keeping their physical body spiritually pure. There are many similarities between the rituals and laws that define taharat (the Hebrew and Arabic term for purity).

Ghusl

In both Judaism and Islam in serious cases of impurity the entire body is washed to achieve taharat. While the act of completely washing the body is shared by both religions, the method in achieving this differs:

Islam Judaism
First have niyyah (intention) to make oneself tahir First have kavanah (intention) to make oneself tahar
Wash the right hand up to the wrist 3 times and then the left hand three times Thoroughly clean the body of any dirt (eyes, nose, fingernails)
Wash private parts and body  
Perform wudu (mouth, feet, hands) three times  
Pour water over head three times  
Pour water over shoulders three times Then emerse oneself fully in water
Wash feet  

In both religions the only certain types of water can purify.

Islam Judaism
Rain water Rain water
Well water Well water
Spring, sea or river water Spring, sea or river water
Water of melting snow or hail Water of melting snow or hail
Water of a big tank or pond Water of a big tank (with at least 480 liters of water that has not – been drawn or stored in a vessel) or pond

Those that need to purification are:

Islam Judaism
A woman must purify herself after ending her menstrual cycle A woman must purify herself after ending her menstrual cycle
One who has come into contact with a corpse One who has come into contact with a corpse
One who has had an immission One who has had an immission
One who has performed an act of intimacy One who has performed an act of intimacy
One who has given birth One who has given birth
Before a religious festival Before a festival
Before going on Hajj Before ascending to the temple mount
A convert is required to purify themselves after conversion A convert to Judaism must purify themselves immediately before the act of conversion
  One who came into contact with the carcas of an animal that died of natural causes
  One that contracted or came into contact with some with the skin disease of tzaraat

Wudu

While washing the body is reserved for serious cases of impurity, both Jews and Muslims also ritually wash themselves frequently in everyday life. In Islam this act is called Wudu and is performed:

Islam Judaism
  • As a part of ghusl
  • Before prayer
  • Before reading from the Quran
  • Before prayer
  • Before reading from the Torah
  • When a person awakes in the morning
  • Before a bread meal
  • Before giving thanks to the Creator after a meal
  • After going to the toilet
  • After cutting ones hair and nails
  • After touching a private part
  • After being in the vacinity of a corpse
  • The Levi’im will also wash the hands of the priest before they bless Bnei Yisrael

The ritual is achieved by:

Islam Judaism
  • Washing the face once
  • Washing both arms including the elbows once
  • Performing masah on one fourth of the head (for Shiia you wipe one fourth)
  • Washing both feet once up to the ankles (with Shiia you wipe once)
  • Washing the right hand 3 times, then the left hand 3 times

Comments

comments

3 thoughts on “Taharat – The Jewish and Muslim laws for purification

  1. The Talmud states that one should wash his face, hands, and feet daily, as it states “prepare to approach your G-d.” The Rambam codified this law in the Mishneh Torah, even though very few still follow it. He codifies it as a binding halakha only for Shahareeth… yet several even earlier authorities instruct that it should be done before every prayer. Even the Rambam’s own son writes that we are obliged, albeit not strictly obligated, to do so before every prayer.s

  2. In the first column, you forgot to mention that in Judaism, the ENTIRE body must be throughly cleansed before immersion in the mikvah.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. However, I would like to point out that Muslims are required by the Sharia to perform a ritual cleansing of the private parts after relieving one’s self. This is typically achieved in accordance with the Sharia by cleaning and removing any filth by dry lawful materials, which is called Al-istijmaar in Arabic, and then thoroughly cleaning the areas again with water, which is called Al-istinjaa’a. A Muslim cannot approach prayer without these practices. This state of purity must be obtained before a Muslim performs wudu. The prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be forever on him and all of the prophets, said, that the lack of performing this aspect of taharah (ritual purity), or a Muslim who is careless about this requirement, will punished in the grave.

Taharat – The Jewish and Muslim laws for purification