The Ruling on Saying the Basmala in Wudu

Question: What is the ruling on saying “Bismillah – With Allah’s name” when performing wudu’ (ritual ablution)? What of the narrations used by the Hanbalis to state it is obligatory?

 

Answer:

Alhamdulillah – Allah praise and thanks is to Allah who gives us the ability to worship Him! Peace and blessings be upon Him and His family, and followers!

Imam An-Nawawi (rahmatullah ‘alayh) states in his Minhaj,

“[and it is sunnah to say] The Tasmiyah (i.e. ‘bismillah‘) at the beginning [of wudu’]…”

In his At-Tahqiq he states, “The tasmiyah is recommended (mandub) at the beginning of wudu’…”1

The proof for it being recommended is that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) performed wudu’ saying Bismillah at the beginning.

Imam An-Nasa’i reports the following hadith in his Sunan,

أخبرنا إسحق بن إبراهيم قال أنبأنا عبد الرزاق قال حدثنا معمر عن ثابت وقتادة عن أنس قال  طلب بعض أصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وضوءا فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم هل مع أحد منكم ماء فوضع يده في الماء ويقول توضئوا بسم الله فرأيت الماء يخرج من بين أصابعه حتى توضئوا من عند آخرهم  قال ثابت قلت لأنس كم تراهم قال نحوا من سبعين

“From Anas ibn Malik (radiya Allahu anhu) who said: Some of the Sahabah of the Prophet were searching for water to perform wudu. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked if anyone had water, and so they brought some. He placed his hand in the container of water and told them to begin performing wudu’ with the mention of Bismillah. I saw the water springing forth from between his fingers until everyone present performed wudu’. Thabit [the one reporting from Anas] said, ‘I asked Anas how many companions were there.’ He said, ‘We were about seventy people.’”2

Al Khatib Ash-Shirbini states in his Mughni al-Muhtaj, “Its chain of narrators is jayyid – good!”3 Imam Al-Bayhaqi states after reporting this hadith in his Sunan Al-Kubra, “This is the most authentic hadith regarding the topic of mentioning Allah’s name in wudu’”4

The proof that it is recommended and not obligatory is found in the Sahih hadith of the Prophet Muhammad:

حدثنا محمد بن يحيى حدثنا حجاج حدثنا همام حدثنا إسحق بن عبد الله بن أبي طلحة حدثني علي بن يحيى بن خلاد عن أبيه عن عمه رفاعة بن رافع  أنه كان جالسا عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال إنها لا تتم صلاة لأحد حتى يسبغ الوضوء كما أمره الله تعالى يغسل وجهه ويديه إلى المرفقين ويمسح برأسه ورجليه إلى الكعبين

“From Rifa’ah ibn Rafi’ that he said that he was sitting with the Prophet  (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and he said, ‘The Salah of one of you is incomplete until he completes his Wudu’ as Allah has ordered him to; Wash one’s face and his arms to his elbows and then wipes his head and his two feet up to his ankles.”

This hadith is reported authentically from Ahmad in his Musnad 4/340, Abu Dawud 858, An Nasa’i 1313 and 1314, Ibn Majah 460, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih 1787, and Ad-Darimi and others.

This hadith confirms that the minimal completion of wudu’ is by what is explicitly mentioned regarding it in the Qur’an. The way of the Prophet Muhammad of saying Bismillah therefore makes it recommended.

 

Follow up question: What of the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad that states,

حدثنا أبو كريب وعبد الرحمن بن إبراهيم قالا حدثنا ابن أبي فديك حدثنا محمد بن موسى بن أبي عبد الله عن يعقوب بن سلمة الليثي عن أبيه عن أبي هريرة قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا صلاة لمن لا وضوء له ولا وضوء لمن لم يذكر اسم الله عليه

From Abu Hurayrah who said that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “There is no prayer for the one who does make wudu’, and there is no wudu’ for the one who does mention Allah’s name!”

This is reported by Ahmad in his Musnad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi in his Al-’Ilal 1/111, Ibn Majah 399, Ad-Daraqutni 1/79, Ibn As-Sakan and Al-Hakim in his Mustadarak 1/146 and Al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan Al Kubra 1/43 all through the way of Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Makhzumi from Ya’qub ibn Salamah from his father from Abu Hurayrah.

Al-Hafith Ibn Hajr Al-’Asqalani states about this hadith commenting on Al-Hakim’s declaring it Sahih, “He declared it authentic though he was mistaken. What is correct is that Ya’qub ibn Abi Salamah is Al-Laythi and Imam Al-Bukhari said of him, ‘It is not known if he heard from his father or that his father heard from Abu Hurayrah!’ [See Tirmidhi’s Al-‘Ilal] Ibn Hibban also says “He possibly erred” and Ibn Hajr states that this is criticism by Ibn Hibban upon him. Al-Hafith quotes Ibn Daqiq Al-’Id also declaring this hadith inauthentic [see Al-Imam 1/443-444]

  • There is another chain for this hadith containing Mahmud ibn Muhammad Ath-Thifri who is declared weak too, and that he did not hear this hadith from Yahya ibn Ma’in [Talkhis Al-Habir 1/187, Adwa As-Salaf]. Reported by Ad-Daraqutni and Al-Bayhaqi.
  • There is another chain with different wording reported by At-Tabarani in Mu’jam As-Saghir 196 wherein the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) tells Abu Hurayrah to say “Bismillah, Alhamdulillah …” Hafidh Ibn Hajr calls it “Munkar” in Lisan Al-Mizan.
  • In Mu’jam Al-Awsat (9130) from Abu Hurayrah in Marfu‘ form, “When one of you wakes up from sleep he should place his hand in the vessel until he washes it, and he is to say mention Allah prior to entering his hand into it.” The only one who reported this was Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn ‘Urwah and he is Matruk (abandoned) in narrations! Furthermore, this hadith would not prove obligation, but recommendation.

Hafith Ibn Hajr declares this hadith weak in his Bulugh Al-Maram (46), quoting Imam Ahmad saying “There is nothing authentic at all regarding this!” Therefore this narration from Abu Hurayrah is da’if (weak) and contradicts what is more authentic than it.

Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri’s Hadith

Similar to this hadith is reported from Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri from Ahmad, Ad-Darimi, Tirmidhi in Al-’Ilal, Ibn Majah, Ibn ‘Adi, Ibn As-Sakan, Al-Bazzar, Ad-Daraqutni , Al-Hakim and Al-Bayhaqi 1/43 from the way of Kathir ibn Zayd (who is weak) from Rubayh ibn Abdur Rahman ibn Abi Sa’id (deemed rejectable by Imam Al-Bukhari “Munkar Al-Hadith” see ‘Ilal At-Tirmidhi 1/113 & Ahmad said, “He is a man who is not known!”).

Imam Al-Marwazi stated, “It was not declared authentic by Imam Ahmad and he said, ‘There is nothing regarding it that is established!”5 Al-Bazzar declared this hadith ‘without strength’. Al-’Uqayli declared them weak too (Ad-Du’afaa 1/177) quoting Imam Ahmad’s critique.

Sa’id ibn Zayd’s Hadith

حدثنا الحسن بن علي الخلال حدثنا يزيد بن هارون أنبأنا يزيد بن عياض حدثنا أبو ثفال عن رباح بن عبد الرحمن بن أبي سفيان أنه سمع جدته بنت سعيد بن زيد تذكر أنها سمعت أباها سعيد بن زيد يقول  قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا صلاة لمن لا وضوء له ولا وضوء لمن لم يذكر اسم الله عليه

Reported by Tirmidhi 25, Ahmad, Ibn Majah 398, Ad-Daraqutni and others. Imam At-Tirmidhi reports after it from Imam Ahmad, “I do not know of a single report regarding this issue [i.e. with this wording] that is sound [jayyid]!”

Abu Zur’ah and Abu Hatim states that the hadith is not authentic because of Abu Thifal and Rabah are unknown. The grandmother of Rabaah who is being reported from, then Ibn Al-Qattan says, “We do not know her name nor who she is!”6 He also declares the hadith “Da’if Jiddan (Very Weak)!” Hafith Ibn Hajr disagrees and does say we know her name [Asma’ bint Sa’id ibn Zayd], but not her case in hadith. Bukhari criticizes Abu Thifal (Thumamah ibn Wa’il ibn Husayn) saying, “Fi hadithi Nathar – in a phrase of criticism”((Du’afaa’ of Al-’Uqayli who does declare him weak too )) Ibn Hibban states, “He is not relied upon if he singularly narrates something!” [Ath-Thiqaat] Ibn Hajr sees this as declaration of untrustworthiness in his Talkhis. Adh-Dhahabi states in his Mizan that he is without strength in narrating. Al-Bazzar states that this hadith is not “established” and Rabaah and his grandmother are unknown in this chain!  Ibn Hajr deems Rabaah acceptable ‘maqbul‘ in his Taqrib (1874). As for Abu Thifal, he is  of who

Hadith of A’ishah

It is reported by Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah and Al-Bazzar (261) in their Musnads and Ibn ‘Adi in Al-Kaamil (2/198). In its chain is Harithah ibn Muhammad who is weak! Ibn ‘Adi quotes from Ahmad from Ishaq ibn Rahawayh that he severely denied this hadith.

Hadith of Sahl Ibn Sa’d

Reported by At-Tabarani andIbn Majah (400):

حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن إبراهيم حدثنا ابن أبي فديك عن عبد المهيمن بن عباس بن سهل بن سعد الساعدي عن أبيه عن جده عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال لا صلاة لمن لا وضوء له ولا وضوء لمن لم يذكر اسم الله عليه ولا صلاة لمن لا يصلي على النبي ولا صلاة لمن لا يحب الأنصار قال أبو الحسن بن سلمة حدثنا أبو حاتم حدثنا عيسى بن مرحوم العطار حدثنا عبد المهيمن بن عباس فذكر نحوه

In this chain is Abdul Muhaymin ibn ‘Abbas ibn Sahl from his father from his grandfather. And he is weak [Taqrib 4235]! It was followed up by his brother Ubayy ibn ‘Abbas, however he too is weak, declared to be so by Imam Ahmad, Yahya ibn Ma’in, Uqayli, As-Saaji, Bukhari, An Nasa’i. [See Tahrir Taqrib of Arna’ut and Ma’ruf  1/entry 281]

Hadith of Umm Sabarah and Abi Sabarah

Reported by Dawlabi in Al Kunaa, Al-Baghawi in “As-Sahabah”, Tabarani in Al-Awsat from ‘Isa ibn Sabarah ibn Abi Sabarah from his father from his grandfather. They are da’if.

Hadith of ‘Ali (‘alayhis salam)

Ibn ‘Adi reports it and says about its chain, “It is not straight!” i.e. it is weak.7

Hadith of Anas

It is reported from Abdul Malik ibn Habib Al-Andalusi from Asad ibn Musa from Hammad ibn Salamah from Thabit from Anas. Abdul-Malik is “Severely weak!” [Talkhis Al-Habir vol 1 194]  Hafith Ibn Hajr does not declare him severely weak in his Taqrib stating, “He was honest, but weak in memory.” Hafidh Shu’ayb Al-Arna’ut in his Tahrir declares him weak quoting Ibn Al-Fardi as saying that he was an ‘Alim in fiqh but did not have sound hadith skills.

After narrating these chains and declaring all of them weak, Hafidh Ibn Hajr states, “And what is apparent is that collectively these narrations strengthen the fact that there is a premise for them (Asl), although he quotes the response to this by Al-Bazzar that we shall quote soon. Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah stated, “According to us it is established that the Prophet (‘alayhis salam) said this!”

The Hanbali View

Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdisi in his Al-Kafi fi fiqh Al-Imam Ahmad states that there are two opinions reported regarding the bismillah. 1) That it is obligatory (waajibah) and this was the chosen of Abu Bakr, and two that it is Sunnah and this was the chosen of Al-Khirqi.” [See Vol 1 page 53, Dar Al Kutub Al-Ilmiyyah] The proof that some of them use is the narrations we just mentioned.

The response of the Shafi’is is 1) These ahadith are weak and they do not amount to proof . As Al-Khatib Ash-Shirbini states in his Mughni Al-Muhtaj responding to these narrations declaring them, “ da’if (weak)!” Taqiyud-Din Al-Hisni states, “It is weak through all of its reported paths (turuq)!” 2) Al-Bazzar responds to those who accept these hadith collectively as worthy of proof, “However, the narrations are to be interpreted! And its meaning is that there is no virtue in the wudu’ of the one who does not mention bismillah, and it does not mean that wudu’ is not permitted without mentioning Allah’s name!”

Therefore the Shafi’i Madhhab did not see these weak narrations worthy of obligating the saying of Bismillah at the beginning of wudu’, and upheld the aayah in the Qur’an as what is obligatory by way of the narrations we mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Allah Knows Best!

Shafi’i Fiqh.com Fatwa Dept.

  1. page 56 Dar Al-Jil []
  2. Sunan An-Nasa’i 1/61 and Ibn Khuzaymah in his Sahih 144 []
  3. Mughni Al Muhtaj, Dar Ihya Turath Al-’Arabi 1/98 []
  4. 1/43 []
  5. Ibn Al-Jawzi in his ‘Ilal Al Muntanahiyah 1/337 []
  6. Bayan Al-Waham wal Iehaam 3/314 []
  7. Al-Kaamil 5/243 []