Forgetting Parts of Ritual Ablution (Wudu) and Maintaining Continuity
Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Salaamu Alaykum,
Can you please tell me what one should do in the Hanafi madhab if someone :
1a) Was unable to complete his wudu (due to dropping his water and having to find new water) and a long time passes such that his limbs have dried – start again?
1b) Was unable to complete his wudu (due to dropping his water and having to find new water) and a short time passes such that his limbs haven’t dried – continue?
2a) Forgot to finish his wudu and a long time passes
2b) Forgot to do an obligatory action (like wiping his head) and a long time passes/short time passes.
2c) Forgot to do a sunna action and a long time passes/short time passes.
3a) Intentionally leaves an obligatory action such as his feet to answer the phone and a long time passes.
3b) Intentionally leaves an obligatory action for a short time such as leaving the wiping of the head and doing at the end of the wudu.
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
In general, continuity (wila’) is to wash the subsequent limb before the previous limb has dried, under normal conditions. This is a confirmed sunna in the Hanafi school. And leaving a confirmed sunna without excuse is blameworthy. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]
The consideration is given to whether the limb would have dried under normal circumstances. Time is irrelevant.
 Running out of water would be considered an excuse. You would continue from where you left off, and are considered to have performed the sunna.
 If you forgot to perform an obligatory action, it would be best to restart the wudu. Though if you continued from where you left off, it would be valid but improper as you missed the sunna. Genuinely forgetting to perform a sunna action would be considered an excuse.
 It is also a recommended sunna not to interrupt the wudu with any foreign actions. A brief interruption would be fine, though in and of itself, better to start anew. An excessive interruption, without strong need, would be improper and it would be best to restart the wudu.
Maintaining the order (tartib) during the wudu is also a confirmed sunna, but a separate issue.
[Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
And Allah alone gives success.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani