Is It Obligatory to Start with the Right Side during Ablution According to Imam Al-Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad?

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by

Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam aleykum,

Is it Wajib to start with the right side during Ablution according to Imam al-Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

Starting with the Right is Sunnah

In the Shafi’i school, it is a sunnah and recommended act to start with the right side (for the hands and feet) during ablution.

This is due to narrations from:

(a) ‘Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) that “the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to love starting with the right side in all his affairs whenever possible; in purification, in combing his hair, and in putting on his shoes” (Bukhari, Muslim);

(b) Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When you perform ablution, start with your right side” (Abu Dawud).

Imam al-Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad’s Position

Imam al-Rafi’i mentions in al-Sharh al-Kabir that al-Murtada, a Shi’i scholar, considered Imam al-Shafi’i’s old opinion to be that it was obligatory to begin with the right side. However, he does not give much credence to this report, as it does not appear to be found in any Shafi’i source.

Moreover, Imam al-Shafi’i had stated in al-Umm that is disliked to begin with the left side, indicating that it was not his opinion that starting with the right is obligatory (al-Majmu’).

Imam al-Rafi’i does mention in al-Sharh al-Kabir that Imam Ahmad held [at least in one narration from him] that starting with the right was obligatory.

Sources: al-Sharh al-Kabir; al-Majmu’

Shuaib Ally