22 Ramadan 1441
Pre-pandemic times, I found making wudu challenging.
Over the years, I identified a few spots on campus and around the city where I know I can comfortably make wudu.
I said that to a Muslim man once, and he was like, And where is that?
And I said, Go find your own spot.
For those of you not familiar with the term wudu, someone a long time ago translated it as ablution. Since then, no one has decided to introduce a new English translation–although if I was a betting man–I’d say you most likely have never used the word in casual conversation.
And yet wudu is something I do a few times a day, every day. I do it far more than, say, think about how to take over the world.
According to different schools of thought, there are differences in the details of the ritual but the basic idea is that a person washes up—their hands, feet, face, head—before they carry out another ritual like prayer or reading Qur’an or sleeping.
When I was an undergrad at the University of Miami, one of my friends invited me to lead a session with students who lived in the same residential hall. She organized a weekly event in which people of different faiths shared ONE ritual. She reached out to me and suggested, as the Muslim rep, that it might be fun to teach wudu. I was like–well THAT’s easy. I felt relieved that all I was being asked to do, as a Muslim rep, was demonstrate a ritual. I even knew a Wudu Song. (Hit me up if you want to hear it.)
After a very brief introduction for the undergrads who showed up, I said, Let’s try it?
So we walked over to a sink in a professor’s apartment. Everyone lined up. And one by one, I showed each person how to make wudu.
And when everyone made wudu, we reflected on what happened and the comment that has stuck with me to this day was from one of the guys who said, “So you wash your feet like this everyday?”
I answered, Yes.
And he said, Wow. Who knew? You all must have really clean feet. I don’t remember the last time I washed mine.
Side story, I’m pretty sure the real reason why I’m ritually Hanafi is that like me, my ancestors liked the idea that all you need in order to fulfill the rites of both wudu and ghusl (i.e., a bath, not to be confused with ablution) is to completely cover yourself in water once. THAT’S IT. You don’t even have to think about it. Like, someone could push you in a swimming pool—or pond—and as long as you fell in with your mouth open, which most likely you did because you didn’t know you were about to be pushed into a pool, you’re good. And you got your ghusl and wudu. ALL in one go.
This is why, when I used to have a long commute home from Miami and get stuck in traffic, I often thought to myself, well, if I can’t find a place to make wudu or ghusl, I can just head east, go to the beach, and jump in the water. THAT’S IT. RITUAL COMPLETE. GHUSL AND WUDU ACTIVATED. ALHAMDULILLAH FOR BEACHES.
And no, I don’t know why my mind works the way it does, but it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.