The Proofs that Touching A Woman Breaks Wudu’

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by

Compiled By Abul Layth

Unfortunately many Shafi’is do not know the proofs, and legal reasonings or rationale behind the verdict that touching a woman nullifies wudu’. The following article is a collection of proofs that stem from the sources of Islamic Law supporting the Shafi’i position.

The Proofs:

Allah says,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلاةِ فاغْسِلُواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُواْ بِرُؤُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَينِ وَإِن كُنتُمْ جُنُباً فَاطَّهَّرُواْ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاء أَحَدٌ مَّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائِطِ أَوْ لاَمَسْتُمُ النِّسَاء فَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ مَاء فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيداً طَيِّباً فَامْسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُم مِّنْهُ مَا يُرِيدُ اللّهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ حَرَجٍ وَلَـكِن يُرِيدُ لِيُطَهَّرَكُمْ وَلِيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

    “O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful.” [5:6-7 Yusuf Ali translation]

Also the verse:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَعْلَمُوا مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلَا جُنُبًا إِلَّا عَابِرِي سَبِيلٍ حَتَّىٰ تَغْتَسِلُوا ۚ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰ أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائِطِ أَوْ لَامَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا مَاءً فَتَيَمَّمُوا صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُوا بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَفُوًّا غَفُورًا

“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer], until you have washed [your whole body]. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving.” (4:43)

The key words in this verse used by the Shafi’i school are:

أَوْ لاَمَسْتُمُ النِّسَاء

“…or ye have been in contact with women…”

The Shafi’is maintain that the word “lamastum”, translated here as ‘contact’ is touching by the hand. Imām Ash-Shāfi’ī stated in Al-Umm, “Lams (touching/contact) is done by the hand.” Their opponents disagree and argue that it is reference to coitus.  What is their proof that “lamastum – contact” means with the hand? Firstly, the Shafi’is recite this without the elongation of the Alif after the lam. So it is recited as: لمستم (lamastum). The literal meaning alludes to the touch that is less than coitus. Both recitations are reported authentically. This is the method of recitation transmitted from the Prophet Muhammad through  Hamzah and Al-Kisa’i.

Imam Al-Mawardi states in his Nukt Wal-’Uyun in commenting upon (4:43):

أَوْ لاَمَسْتُمُ النِّسَآءَ

Or the “Laamastum An-Nisa’ (contact/touching of women)”

فيه قراءتان:

إحداهما: { لَمَسْتُمُ } بغير ألف، قرأ بها حمزة والكسائي.

والأخرى: { لاَمَسْتُمُ } ، وهي قراءة الباقين.

Regarding the recitation of this verse there are two modes:

1) Lamastum (without the elongation of the alif أ) this was the recitation of Hamzah and Al-Kasa’i.

2) Laamastum, with the elongation of the alif, and this is the recitation of the rest.”1

This was also stated by the great Shafi’i Mufassir and Faqih, Imam Al-Baydawi in his Anwar At-Tanzil wa Israr At-Ta’wil2, Imam Fakhr-ud-Din Ar-Razi in Mafatih Al-Ghayb – or also known as Tafsir al-Kabir and others.3

Download: The recitation of Khalaf from Hamzah of Surat An-Nisa’ by Shaykh Abdur-Rashid Sufi. [68.5 Megabytes] Forward the audio to minute 21 which will be near verse 43.

The Shafi’i use as supporting proof the authentic statement of Ibn ‘Umar that is reported by Imām Ash-Shāfi’ī in his “Al-Umm” that states,

أَخْبَرَنَا مَالِكٌ عَنْ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ عَنْ سَالِمِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ عَنْ أَبِيهِ قَالَ قُبْلَةُ الرَّجُلِ امْرَأَتَهُ وَجَسُّهَا بِيَدِهِ مِنْ الْمُلَامَسَةِ فَمَنْ قَبَّلَ امْرَأَتَهُ أَوْ جَسَّهَا بِيَدِهِ فَعَلَيْهِ الْوُضُوءُ

Imām Ash-Shāfi’ī reports the following narration: Mālik reported from Ibn Shihāb from Sālim ibn Abdullah ibn Umar from his father (Abdullah ibn Umar) that he said,

    “The man kissing his wife or touching her (note: the word is jass. ‘Aisha Bewley translates it as “fondles”. Indeed that is a probable meaning, but the Qāmūs also says “touch” is synonymous wallahu ‘alim) with his hand is from “the one who touches (lams), and so whoever kisses or touches his woman with his hand then upon him is wudhu’.”4

Imām Al-Bayhaqi states after this report, “In the report of Ibn Bukayr it states,

    فَقَدْ وَجَبَ عَلَيْهِ الْوُضُوءُ

    “…Then wudhu’ is obligatory upon him…”5

Imām Al-Bayhaqī reports in his Sunan Al-Kubrā the report from Abdullah Ibn Mas’ūd (radiya Allahu ‘anhu) that he said,

    القبلة من اللمس وفيها الوضوء، واللمس ما دون الجماع

    “Kissing is from touching (lams), and regarding it is wudhu’. And Lams (touching) is whatever is less than sexual intercourse.”6

In another narration:

    أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الْحَافِظُ وَأَبُو سَعِيدِ بْنُ أَبِى عَمْرٍو قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْعَبَّاسِ : مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَعْقُوبَ حَدَّثَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ مَرْزُوقٍ حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ عُمَرَ عَنْ شُعْبَةَ عَنْ مُخَارِقٍ عَنْ طَارِقِ بْنِ شِهَابٍ أَنَّ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ يَعْنِى ابْنَ مَسْعُودٍ قَالَ فِى قَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى (أَوْ لاَمَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ) قَوْلاً مَعْنَاهُ مَا دُونَ الْجِمَاعِ

    “Ibn Mas’ūd said regarding the words of Allah “…Or coming into contact with women…” ‘It is what is less than sexual intercourse.’”7

Imām Al-Bayhaqī used as proof the hadīth of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) that is found in Sahīh Muslim,

    اليد زناها اللمس

    “The hands zinā (fornication) is touching.”

    [The entire hadīth is: Abu Hurairah (radhiya allāhu ‘anhu) said: The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) said, “Allah has written the very portion of Zina which a man will indulge in. There will be no escape from it. The Zina of the eye is the (lustful) look, the Zina of the ears is the listening (to voluptuous songs or talk), the Zina of the tongue is (the licentious) speech, the Zina of the hand is the touch, the Zina of the feet is the walking (to the place where he intends to commit Zina), the heart yearns and desires and the private parts approve all that or disapprove it.” (Bukhārī and Muslim)]

The proof is that sexual intercourse is actually distinguished from the “lams / touching” of the hand. Therefore the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) made a distinction between intercourse and ‘touching’ of the hands.

The word lams لمس without the elongation of the alif, is also shown within the Qur’an to mean ‘touch’. Allah says,

وَلَوْ نَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ كِتَابًا فِي قِرْطَاسٍ فَلَمَسُوهُ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ لَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ

“And even if We had sent down to you,  a written scripture on a page and they touched it with their hands [fa-lamasuhu bi-aydihim], the disbelievers would say, “This is not but obvious magic.”8

Another proof used by Imām Al-Bayhaqī in his Al-Kubrā is the story of the companion Mā’iz ibn Mālik that fornicated and came to the Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) and told him that he committed adultery. The Prophet turned away from several times, and finally asked him,

    لَعَلَّكَ قَبَّلْتَ أَوْ لَمَسْتَ

    “Maybe you kissed her or just touched her (lams).”9

This is proof that lams (touching) is what is less than sexual intercourse.

Imām Al-Bayhaqī also quotes the following narration from ‘Umar ibn Al Khattāb (radhiya allāhu ‘anhu wa ‘alayhis salām):

    أَخْبَرَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الْحَافِظُ أَخْبَرَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ الْفَضْلِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ الشَّعْرَانِىُّ حَدَّثَنَا جَدِّى حَدَّثَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ حَمْزَةَ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْعَزِيزِ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ يَعْنِى ابْنَ عَمْرِو بْنِ عُثْمَانَ عَنِ الزُّهْرِىِّ عَنْ سَالِمٍ عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ أَنَّ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِىَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ : إِنَّ الْقُبْلَةَ مِنَ اللَّمْسِ فَتَوَضَّئُوا مِنْهَا

    From Abdullah ibn Umar that ‘Umar (radiya Allahu ‘anhuma) said, “Verily, kissing is from touching, so make wudhu’ from it.”10

So the tafsīr (Qur’anic exegesis) of Umar ibn Al-Khattāb, Abdullah ibn Mas’ūd and Abdullah ibn ‘Umar all point to the word ‘lams – contact or touch’ is in reference to the touching of the hand.

As for the reports of the Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) kissing or touching his wives then going to Salāh without making wudhu’ the Shāfi’īs deal with them in several ways:

A) They weaken them as did many major a’immah.
For example the hadīth found within the Sunan of Abū Dāwūd and An-Nasā’ī that states from Ibrāhīm At-Taimiy from Ā’ishah (radhiya allāhu ‘anhā) that she said that the “The Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) used to kiss his some from his wives then go and make Salāh without making wudhu’.”
Abū Dāwūd says after it, “It is Mursal. Ibrāhīm At-Taimiy did not hear from ‘Ā’ishah.” Imām An-Nasā’ī said, “There is nothing in this chapter (i.e. regarding the non-nullification of wudhu’) that is better than this hadīth, and it is mursal.” Imām At-Tirmithī reports from Imām Al-Bukhāri, “Muhammad ibn Ismā’īl Al-Bukhārī weakened this hadīth.” And many other major huffāth and scholars weaken similar reports.

B) The authentic narrations thereof, such as ‘Ā’ishah saying that the Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) touched her leg while He was making Salāh, then regarding these they say this narration is abrogated by the verse of the Qur’an. Ibn Hajr, in his Fat-hul-Bārī, brings two other arguments: a) That the Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam) touched her with a barrier, and if that is not the case b) it is specific for the Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa ‘alā Ālihi wa sallam). The first opinion definitely seems stronger. And Allah Knows Best.

Some statements of the Shafi’i A’immah:

Imam An-Nawawi states in his Minhaj,

“The third (nullifier of wudhu’) is the touching of skin by a man and a woman, except for the mahram (permanently unmarriageable persons; example – Mother) according to the strongest opinion. And the one touched is just like the one being touched according to the soundest opinion. A young child, hair, teeth, do not nullify wudhu’ according to the correct opinion (in the school).”11

Imam Ahmad ibn Naqib Al-Masri states nearly the same except that he adds “…a severed limb…”

May Allah bless our beloved Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those that followed them in righteousness, and Praise is to Allah!

[Last Edited on June 4th, 2010]

  1. See the following: []
  2. []
  3. []
  4. Mālik 1/43 (64) and Ash-Shāfi’ī in Al-Umm 1/15 as well as Al-Bayhaqī in his Sunan Al-Kubrā and others. []
  5. Kubrā 1/124 []
  6. Kubrā 1/124 []
  7. ibid []
  8. Surat Anfal verse 6 []
  9. Sunan Al-Kubrā 1/123-124 []
  10. ibid []
  11. Page 13 of Siraj Al-Wahhaj Sharh Al Minhaj []

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