Dialogue on ritual purity (Taharah)

Before my father came to attend this session, I had been meditating. I was trying to find applications to the theoretical information, I gleaned from the Dialogue on Najis Things, in my daily life. In so doing, I might be able to rectify my misconception of najasah. I was eager to know from today’s session how purity is restored to things after they have been contaminated.

No sooner had my father arrived, I started by asking him:

* Yesterday, you told me that things become tainted if they meet with najasah. I wonder how lost purity is restored to these things?

- “The First” of purifying agents is water. By washing najis things with water, you render them tahir again. That is why we should start our discussion with water.

Water is of two kinds: pure and diluted.

* What is pure water?

- Pure water is that which we and animals drink, and irrigate plantations with. The water of oceans, seas, rivers, streams, wells, and that which we use at our homes through mains supply is pure water. For example, the water of rivers and brooks remains pure, even though it may contain some impurities, such as soil and sand.

* What then is diluted water?

- Diluted water is known by the additional name you give it to qualify the type of water. For example, you say rose water, grape water, melon water and so on. However, this is not a matter that concerns us. As you may have noticed, our discussion revolves around the water we drink and use to wash and clean things that became najis.

Moreover, pure water is of two types: immunized (mu’tasim) and that which is not immunized.

* Immunized! What precisely do you mean?

- Immunized water is that which does not become najis when najasah meet with it, except when either its colour, taste, or smell changes as a result. Water that is not immunized is that which turns najis as soon it comes into contact with anything najis, even though none of its three attributes is affected by the pollutant.

* Could you tell me more about immunized waters?

- 1. Abundant water that satisfies the capacity of a kurr (a unit of size, equivalent to 384 litres) or larger, such as the water connected to our homes through the water grid, the water of storage tanks installed in our homes, if they were of a kurr capacity, and smaller water storage tanks, if they were directly connected to mains water supply.

2. Well water.

3. Running water, such as that of rivers, tributaries, streams, and springs.

4. Rainfall.

These are the immunized waters.

* What then are waters that are not immunized?

- These are waters found in small reservoirs, utensils, bottles, tumblers, etc. that are stagnant, apart from well water that is less than kurr, and that which is termed “little water”. By now, you know they become najis on contact with najis things.

* What about diluted water?

- It is judged by the same criterion as that applied in the case of “little water”. However, it becomes najis on contact with najis things, irrespective of its quantity. An example of water that comes under this banner is that of tea. Liquids that may come under the same definition are milk, kerosene, medicinal liquids, etc. They turn najis when they meet with najasah.

Moreover, when “abundant water” is connected to “little water”, the latter can be regarded as abundant whereby it remains immunized as long as it is fed from an abundant source of water. To give you some examples, your domestic storage tank that is normally connected to water mains supply becomes abundant; likewise, if you placed a bowl or a saucepan under the running water of a sink tap, the water in it becomes abundant, and so on. That is, as long as the water remains running.

* Fine. What, if a drop of blood falls in the water of a tank the size of a kurr, that is not connected to the mains?

- It will not become najis, unless blood keeps dripping that the colour of the water changes to yellowish, for example.

* What, if it falls in a small plate?

- It will render it najis.

* What, if we turn the tap on, thus restoring the original purity of the water?

- The water in the plate will become tahir. [However, it will become najis again, if you turn the tap off. This is because, if the plate becomes najis, it becomes tahir only when it is washed three times], as shall be explained to you later.

* If we were to pour water from a pitcher, or watering can, onto something najis, does the water become najis?

- No, because najasah does not climb the water column. Accordingly, neither the cascading water nor the water in the can becomes najis.

* How would rain water render najis things tahir?

- When rain continues to fall on things that had become najis, be they floor, garments, mats, utensils, etc. in such a quantity that it soaks them, they become tahir.

* Is it sufficient that rain pours on such najis objects once to render them tahir?

- Yes, except in the case of the human body and garments that became najis through contamination with urine. They need to be washed a number of times. [The same goes for najis utensils].

* Does rain water render tahir other water that became najis?

- Yes, when they mix.

* How do we render tahir objects that had become najis, if we have little water?

- We can render tahir anything najis by washing it once with water, be it abundant or little. However, when washing with a limited quantity of water, you need to separate the water from the najis thing.

* Can all things that turned najis be rendered tahir in this way?

- Yes, except the following:

1. Cutlery that became najis through contamination with alcohol should be washed three times so that they become tahir again.

3. Objects that became najis through contamination by nursing babies should be rendered tahir by soaking the affected parts with water; there will be no need for wringing the garments, for example.

4. Utensils licked or lapped by dogs should first be scrubbed with soil or dust. They should then be washed with water twice. If, however, dog’s saliva falls in such utensils, or they meet any part of the dog’s body, [they should be wiped with soil first, then washed with water three times].

5. Garments contaminated with urine should be washed with running water once. They should be washed twice if the water used was that of taps, kurr, or little water; they should also be wrung. As for garments that became najis through other means, they should be washed with either little water and wrung or with abundant water without the need for wringing.

6. Restoring the purity of the body, that became najis by urine, should be done following the way outlined in the preceding paragraph. However, if the water was little, you should separate the water used for purification from the body as is customary.

7. If the interiors of utensils have become najis as a result of any source of najasah, other than those of alcohol, dogs, licking by a pig, death of a rodent, they should be washed three times with little water, or [three times too] with abundant water, running water, or rain water.

* What, if the interior of utensils become najis in the same way?

- They should become tahir again, if they were washed once, even with little water.

* How can I render my hand tahir after it has become najis, if I have little water?

- If it was not made najis through urine, you can pour water on it once. As soon as the water becomes separated from your hand, it becomes tahir again.

The Second purifying agent is the sun.

* What are the najis things, that the sun can render tahir again?

- It renders ground and buildings - apart from doors and other wooden material - straw rugs, not the strings used in making them, and bamboo mats tahir again. [Other things that are not covered are trees and their leaves, plantations, and fruits before they are picked, etc.].

* How does the sun render the floor and buildings tahir?

- It does so by drying them up, provided that the actual najasah is removed.

* What, if the najis ground was dry, how can we restore its original taharah?

- By pouring water on it. Once sun light causes the water to evaporate, it becomes dry and thus tahir.

* What, if the ground became tainted with urine, then the sun shone on it and it became dry?

- The ground restores its taharah, if no trace of urine was left.

* Suppose things like shingle, stone, soil, and mud, that are considered part of the earth, became contaminated with urine. They were then rendered dry by sun light. Should they be considered tahir?

- Yes, they should be considered tahir.

* What about nails used in buildings?

- [They are not covered by the same principle, i.e. they are not rendered tahir by sun light].

The Third purifying agent is the removal of najasah from certain parts of the human body, and those of animals, that have become contaminated.

* Could you give me an example?

- Removal of blood from the mouth, ear, and nose is a removal of the najasah.

In other words, as soon as the blood is removed they become tahir, i.e. there is no need to use water.

* What about an animal’s body?

- The same rule applies. For example, if the blood disappears from the beak of a chicken, or the mouth of a cat, the beak and the mouth should become tahir again.

* Does the needle, used in injecting medicine into the body of a human or animal, become najis as a result of meeting blood inside the body?

- No, it does not become najis, if it comes out uncontaminated with blood. This is because najasah does not materialize through meeting najis things inside the body per se.

The Fourth purifying agent is earth:

Whatever comes under the definition of earth, such as stones, sand, soil, flooring with bricks or cement - not tarmac, has a purifying quality. It is, however, conditional that the earth should be [dry] and tahir.

* How can I ascertain that it is tahir?

- As long as you do not know that it was najis, it is tahir, and therefore can be considered a purifying agent.

* What are the najis things that the earth renders tahir?

- The soles of feet and shoes are rendered tahir by walking or rubbing them against earth, provided that the material najasah is removed as a result of walking or wiping. It is to be noted, however, that the najasah should have originated from the earth, be it through walking or in any other way. [If it has come about from other sources, earth cannot serve as a purifying agent].

The Fifth purifying agent is the state of belonging or affiliation.

* For example?

- If the unbeliever, who is deemed najis, becomes a Muslim, he is rendered tahir. Subsequently, his young offspring become tahir. The same goes for the grandfather, grandmother, mother, and their young babies, after they have embraced Islam. This should be the case regarding the young child, as long as it is under the guardianship of those who converted to Islam. That is, the child should not be in the company of an unbeliever.

Also, if alcohol turns into vinegar it becomes tahir. As a result the bottle or glass that contains it becomes tahir too.

The dead body becomes tahir, when it undergoes three types of ghusl. As a result the hands and clothes of the person conducting the ghusl become tahir, and so does the bench on which the body was laid for washing.

If a najis garment was washed with little water, for instance, it would become tahir, and so would the hands that did the washing.

The Sixth purifying agent is Islam.

* How does Islam work as a purifying agent? And whom does it render tahir?

- Islam renders tahir an infidel who was deemed najis. That is, after he had embraced Islam.

Accordingly, all parts of his body become tahir.

The Seventh purifying agent is the absence of a Muslim who is adult or a discerning youth.

* What do you mean by the absence of a Muslim?

- The Muslim who is physically not around.

* How does his absence work as a purifying agent?

- When a Muslim is away, all his belongings should be considered tahir, if you think that he rendered them tahir.

* Could you give me an example?

Suppose the shirt of your brother was najis. He does not know whether it was najis or not. However, you may know it is the case, irrespective of whether or not he was a practising Muslim. Your brother has gone away and returned. To the best of your knowledge, your brother has rendered his shirt tahir, in which case, you should assume that the shirt be tahir, without the need to ask him.

The Eighth purifying agent is transfer.

* For example?

- Human blood that was sucked by a mosquito. If you had smashed the insect and your clothes became tainted with that blood, it is tahir.

The Ninth purifying agent is istihala (transformation).

* What is transformation?

- Transformation is a complete change of something to something else, not only by name, but also through change of its properties, or dispersal of its parts.

* Could you give me an example?

- If a najis wood, or the dried animal dung used in fire, is burned and subsequently turned into ashes, the latter is tahir.

The Tenth purifying agent is the blood trapped inside the carcass of animals slaughtered according to Islamic law.

The Eleventh purifying agent is the change of alcohol into vinegar because, while in the process of fermentation, it turns najis. If it turns into vinegar, it becomes tahir.

The Twelfth purifying agent is weaning the animal that developed a habit of eating human excrement. This is because the meat of such an animal becomes haraam to consume, so does drinking its milk. Its urine, dung, or droppings, and sweat become najis too.

* How do we achieve the weaning of this animal?

- It could be achieved by preventing it from eating human excrement for such a period that it could be said that it reverted to its natural self.

* If this was achieved, what then?

- We can then deem its meat, milk, etc… tahir.