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Last Updated: 2006/08/04
Summary of question
What does the word "ila" "up to" in the Quranic verse on wudu (paying attention to the Sunni method of making wudu) mean? Can you please tell us of the Holy Prophet\'s demeanor regarding this subject?
question
What does the word "ila" "up to" in the Quranic verse referring to wudu "wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows" mean? Do the Sunnis define the word "ila" to mean "towards" and because of that wash their hands towards their elbows during wudu? Can you please tell us of the Holy Prophet\'s demeanor regarding this subject?
Concise answer
It should be said about the word "ila" in the Quranic verse on wudu that it is only for explaining the limit of washing and its amount, not the way and method of washing; meaning in the verse the limit and amount of the hands and arms that must be washed (during wudu) until the elbow has been determined. And "ila" means "ghoyat" limit or up to, but the limit of (Maghsool) hands that has been washed not (Ghasl) ablution. But for solving this difference of opinion when it was said to wash, the first thing that might be comes to mind is that enough to wash our hands up to the wrist area, it has been advised to wash until the elbow. Therefore, the Shia' jurists consider that washing the hands from the top to the bottom (up going downwards) to be obligatory. And the actions and traditions of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.) that were continued through the Ahl al-Bayt (the family of the Holy Prophet) and explained are the best testimony to this definition (of the proper way to perform wudu.) Although the Sunnis defined "ila" to mean "towards" (beh suyeh) and therefore they prefer washing in the direction of down to up as a superior better way to wash, but also they say that one authorized either to wash one's arms from down to up or the other way around (up to down). So they (the Sunnis) have not used the definition of the word "ila" to mean obligatory to wash from the tips of the fingers to the elbow too.
Detailed Answer:
Before engaging in the question it is required to mention about that The Shia' jurists believe that in order to properly carry out wudu washing the arms and hands from the top (elbow area) to the bottom (lower wrist area) to be obligatory. But the Sunnis all agree that: A person (has the option) to decide whether to wash ones arms (and hands) from the bottom to the top or the other way around, but washing from the bottom (from the tips of the fingertips) to the top (elbow area) is mustahab (recommended).[1]
The proofs of the Shia' jurists are traditions from the Holy Prophet (s.a.) explaining this issue like: The Messenger of Allah (s.a.) washed his arms from the top to the bottom[2] (Wasa'il Shia') and the authentic traditions (Rivayat Sahih) from the Infallible Imams (a.s.) in the Quranic interpretation (tafseer) of the verse related to wudu said[3]: The hands (and arms) must be washed from the top to the bottom.[4]
But concerning the word "ila" "to" in this honorable verse of the Quran: " O you who have faith! When you stand up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows." It must be said that this is only useful for explaining the (required) limit of washing (during wudu) and its amount not the way and method of washing.
The explanation of the blessed Quranic verse concerning the limit and amount of the arms and hands that must be washed during wudu up until the elbows[5] has been determined. When it is said that the arms and hands should be washed, perhaps the thought could enter ones mind that if one washes ones arms until the wrists, that is enough; since commonly (this is known to be) the amount that is washed (during wudu). In order to solve this difference of opinion it has been said: "Wash until the elbow."
In order to clarify what has been (previously) mentioned this example is useful; for example they say to the Servants (Caretakers) of the Mosques: "Sweep the Mosque from the door to the Mihrab (prayer niche)". The aim of the Speaker here is to explain the limit and amount that must be swept and does not want to say where to begin and where to end, especially in the Quranic verse where does not the word "min" "from" come from? So the word "ila" "to" in the Quranic verse above does not mean it is mustahab (preferable) to wash the arms from the tips of the fingers towards the elbow. The actions and traditions (sunnat) of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.) that were explained (later on) through the Ahl al-Bayt (s.a.) (family of the Prophet) are the best testimonies to this definition. [6]
So "ila" "to" can be defined with the word "ghoyat" (limit, furthest end) [7], but ghoyat; washing [8] not (to wash) and washed [9] and/or by the order words of Sheikh Tusi, the meaning is "min" [10] "from" or "with" [11]. [12]
 
 

[1] . Al-Fiqh according to the five schools of thought (Mazhoheb al-Khamsah, pg. 80;) Al-Fiqh 'ala Mazhoheb al-'Arbi'a, answer to question 1, pg.65, Mabhath bayon Adad Al-Sunan va ghayraha...;
[2] . Salat Al-Mu'min Al-Qahtony, answer to question 1, pgs. 41,42. 2)Return (refer) to: Wasa'il al-Shia', answer to question 1, pg. 387, Abwob Al-Wudu, Bob 15, Bobu Kayfeeyati Al-Wudu wa jumla min Ahkomihi (The door of the Quality of Wudu and some of it's laws
[3] . Ma'ida, 6.
[4] . Wasa'il al-Shia', answer to question 1, Abwob al-Wudu, Bob 19, answer 1.
[5] . "Elbow" plural "Elbows" which means elbow.
[6] . For further information refer to: 'Atoee Esfahani, on; why? why?; pgs. 19-27.
[7] . until.
[8] . Meaning the limit of the arms that must be washed until the elbow.
[9] . Meaning not only washing until the elbow and from this viewpoint it should be understood that the quality of washing should be in the direction of and towards the elbow.
[10] . from.
[11] . with.
[12] . Wasa'il al-Shia', answer to question 1, pg. 406.
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