By Hasanain Sabri (5th Year ʿĀlim Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
Often when reading through a fiqh book’s various chapters, one will come across a passage that may seem unusual to a novice. Some may even consider it insignificant, and consequently, pay little attention as to why the author mentioned it. It may seem as if he is stating something obvious and that he could have sufficed without it. I experienced this when I came across a text stating that one’s ablution is not nullified by consuming something cooked by fire.
This is found in the sections dealing with that which nullifies ablution, which are in the chapters of purification. When I first read this, I was surprised. My initial thought was that no one would think that eating lunch or dinner would be a cause that nullifies one’s ablution, and that this passage is stating the obvious. In fiqh, authors may mention legal issues that seem obvious as they discuss legal rulings generally inclusive of all situations. They will even discuss hypothetical scenarios that are infrequent as per their application. However, to assume that a masʾalah is baseless or that there is no significant purpose behind why it is mentioned is an error. In fact, this masʾalah (ما مسّت/غيّرت من النار) is pertinent. In the ḥadīth works, there are chapters dedicated to it and the discussions surrounding are important to know.
My first exposure to it was in the first volume of Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ. There are ten narrations that mention it, spread out over three sections of the chapter. There are four narrations in the first section, two in the second, and four in the third; these are found in the chapter “Mā Yūjibu al-Wuḍūʾ.” For anyone unfamiliar with Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ, it is a secondary source. Secondary sources, in the field of ḥadīth studies, include books in which the sanad is not presented in full. In other words, the author does not include his sanad for each narration but suffices with citing where the narration is by mentioning the primary sources. Another example of this is Imām Nawawī’s Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn. Mishkāt’s author, Imām Khaṭīb al-Tibrīzī, based his work on Imām Baghawī’s Maṣābīḥ al-Sunnah.
From the narrations in the first section, two are sourced to Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim. The second section includes narrations from the other four canonical books. The third is an addendum that Tibrīzī added; it includes relevant narrations that are found in other works, including Mālik’s Muwaṭṭaʾ, Aḥmad’s Musnad, Shāfiʿī’s Musnad, and Bayhaqī and Razīn’s works. As well, it contains statements from the Companions and narrations that Baghawī did not mention. He also added to the work by mentioning the narrators, be they Companions or Followers. Additionally, he selected the most preferred wordings, in instances where that is differed on, cited sources, and reorganized the sequential placement of some narrations.
Before reviewing the narrations, one should know that the four schools of thought agree that consuming something cooked by fire does not nullify one’s ablution.
The first narration in the chapter is related on Abū Hurayrah’s authority. He said he heard the Prophet (upon him be peace) say:
توضّؤوا ممّا مسّت النار
“Make ablution [after eating] from that which fire touched.”
Imām Muslim transmitted this report. Tibrīzī stated that, according to Baghawī, this was abrogated by Ibn ʿAbbās’ narration that both Bukhārī and Muslim related:
إن رسول الله أكل كتف شاة ثم صلى ولم يتوضأ
“Allāh’s Messenger ate a sheep’s shoulder; he then prayed; he did not perform ablution.”
Still, some scholars argued that Abū Hurayrah’s report was not necessarily abrogated. Rather, they considered it better to interpret it so that both are accepted. This process is termed “tawfīq,” and the Ḥanafī jurists and others regularly apply it in their juristic reasoning. The scholars are meticulous when considering whether a narration was abrogated. Frequently, it is difficult to determine the chronological order of narrations, which is vital when determining cases of abrogation. One can claim that Ibn ʿAbbās was still young when the Prophet (upon him be peace) passed. Thus, one may deduce that he narrates what historically happened towards the end of the Prophet’s life; and therefore, his narration abrogated Abū Hurayrah’s.
However, such an assumption may be found invalid because it cannot be confirmed with certainty. It is established that Abū Hurayrah took the Prophet’s company in his later years, approximately two and a half years before the Prophet passed. Those who claim that his narration was abrogated support their position with an explicit text. Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ discussed this. However, he refers to Jābir’s report, which Abū Dāwūd transmitted. It clearly mentions that the Prophet abrogated the ruling:
كان آخر الأمرين من رسول الله ترك الوضوء مما غيرت النّار
“The last of two matters from the Prophet (upon him be peace) was not performing ablution [after eating] from that which fire changed (i.e. cooked).”
Others claimed that it is abrogated because the narration in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, along with others, indicate that ablution is necessary after eating that which has been cooked by fire. But then, Imām Muslim immediately follows the narration with narrations that indicate that ablution is not required. In doing so, he demonstrated that he believes the report was abrogated. The ḥadīth scholars will often mention in their collections a narration that was abrogated and then follow it by mentioning the one that abrogated it. Imām Nawawī entitled the chapter on this issue as “Bāb Naskh al-Wuḍūʾ mimmā Massat al-Nār” to further emphasize this.
Another piece of evidence that supports the view of abrogation is a statement from Muhlab:
“The Companions were familiar with the lack of cleanliness in the Era of Ignorance, and for this reason, they were commanded to make ablution after eating food cooked by fire. Then, after Islām legislated laws dealing with purification, purification became prevalent and the ruling was abrogated.”
The second opinion, regarding this issue, interprets the narrations. One interpretation that has been suggested is that the “wuḍūʾ” mentioned does not refer to the ablution one makes for prayer but rather to the word’s lexical meaning. In Arabic, the literal meaning of “wuḍūʾ” is washing one’s hands and other limbs. When the ruling for the five daily prayers was revealed, the meaning was reassigned to the legal meaning, which is the prerequisite for the prayer. And the ablution performed after eating is known as “wuḍūʾ al-ṭaʿām.”
This is supported by the fact that most food cooked over fire will be greasy, especially meats. Thus, the Prophet (upon him be peace) would wash his hands and mouth to get rid of any odor and residue before praying. As we will see in subsequent narrations, sometimes he did not perform ablution, but he prayed immediately after eating. Perhaps, in such instances, the meal that he ate was not greasy despite being cooked on a fire. By taking this interpretation, one does not have to discard any narrations through understanding them to be abrogated. Another report that adds strength to this is the narration where the Prophet (upon him be peace) drank some milk and thereafter requested for water to rinse his mouth because the milk had fat in it.
From what I mentioned above, there are two reports in Mishkāt. One indicates that ablution is necessary and the other seems to abrogate that ruling. The remaining eight all support the opinion that ablution is not necessary for this reason. And some of them seem to support the that lexical meaning of the word “wuḍūʾ” is found in the ḥadīth corpus.
These eight narrations will now be presented with short explanations where required.
On the authority of Jābir b. Samurah:
“A man asked the Prophet (upon him be peace) if one should make ablution after eating the meat of goats and sheep. He replied by saying: ‘If you want to you can. And if you do not want to, then it is not necessary.’ The man then asked about camel meat. The Prophet (upon him be peace) did not give him an option; he said that ablution should be made…”
This narration supports that the “wuḍūʾ” referred to is the lexical meaning. Thus, if one finds that their hands are oily after eating, they can wash them. And if they are not, then there is no need to do so. If the meaning is related to the state of spiritual purity (i.e. legal), then it would not be optional. One would either perform ablution because what he did invalidated his ablution; or he would not need to, because eating food cooked by fire does not invalidate it. Regarding camel meat, it is a separate but related matter.
Only Imām Aḥmad opined that eating camel meat nullifies one’s ablution. Other scholars understand this to be advisory as camel meat is greasy and has a strong odor. The rest of the ḥadīth discusses praying in the pens and stalls where goats and sheep are kept. As well, it covers praying in camel pastures. These issues are however not relevant to our discussion.
On the authority of Suwayd b. al-Nuʿmān, narrated by Imām Bukhārī, there is an incident where the Prophet (upon him be peace) and his Companions were traveling to Khaybar and when they reached a place nearby, they prayed the midafternoon prayer. Then, the Prophet requested that the provisions set for the journey be brought. All they had was a dish called “sawīq,” which is cooked on a fire. They ate from it, and then they performed the sunset prayer. The narrator specifically mentions that they only rinsed their mouths and did not perform ablution. This could once again suggest that the meaning related to this issue refers to the word’s lexical denotation.
On the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās, and transmitted by Imāms Abū Dāwūd and Ibn Mājah, the Prophet (upon him be peace) ate the shoulder meat of a sheep, wiped his hands with a towel, and then stood up to pray.
In this report, there is no mention of ablution. This suggests that he sufficed with washing his hands because his meal did not leave any traces of grease on them.
Umm Salamah related an incident in which she brought roasted ribs to the Prophet (upon him be peace). He ate it, prayed, and did not perform ablution.
Imām Aḥmad transmitted this. The Prophet’s wives were aware of the rulings regarding food, as they were often busy preparing and tending to the Prophet’s food.
Abū Rāfiʿ testified that he roasted a sheep’s stomach for the Prophet (upon him be peace). The Prophet ate it, prayed, and did not perform ablution.
Also related on Abū Rāfiʿ’s authority, and transmitted by Imām Aḥmad, Abū Rāfiʿ was gifted a sheep and placed it in a pot. The Prophet (upon him be peace) visited him, so he began to cook it. Once it was ready, he gave the Prophet a leg from it. After eating it, the Prophet asked for another, so he brought one for him. Then, after finishing it, the Prophet asked for another, but Abū Rāfiʿ responded by saying that a sheep only has two. The Prophet informed him that if he had not said anything, he would be presenting leg after leg. Then, he called for water, rinsed his mouth, and washed his hands. He then stood up and prayed. Afterwards, he returned to Abū Rāfiʿ and found the meat was cold but ate it anyways. Then, he entered the masjid and did not touch water.
The first part of the ḥadīth is one of the Prophet’s miracles. Allāh placed barakah in a small amount of food such that it would suffice a large group. The first time the Prophet (upon him be peace) asked for water was because the meat was juicy and greasy and the fat and grease had dripped on his hands. However, when he stopped to pray and the passage of time had caused it to go cold, and the meat’s fat most likely solidified, it no longer made his hands dirty.
This incident is most likely different than the one mentioned previously, but some did claim that it is a shortened version of the longer narration.
This is the same incident, but reported on the authority of Abū ʿAbīd, and transmitted by Dārimī with a slight variation in wording.
The final narration is an incident related on Anas’s authority. Anas was a young boy who was serving the Prophet. He was sitting in the company of two other companions, Ubayy and Abū Ṭalḥah. They ate some meat with bread, and then Anas asked for water to perform ablution. They asked him why. He responded that it was due to the food they had just eaten. They replied by asking if it is necessary to make ablution because of it. They then said that one does not make ablution because of eating food that was cooked on a fire, and they referenced this from the Prophet. Imām Aḥmad related it. It is known that Anas retracted his opinion based on what Ubayy and Abū Ṭalḥah said.
Regarding the narrations that are in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim regarding this issue, one can find them mentioned, in brief, in Kitāb al-Ḥayḍ. Abū Hurayrah’s report, mentioned previously, is the first in the chapter. However, Imām Muslim related it on Zayd b. Thābit’s authority. This is not an issue because all the Companions are reliable. And it is possible that Abū Hurayrah heard it from Zayd. It is important to keep in mind that when Imām Muslim compiled his book, he did not include chapter headings. Rather, he just gathered similar reports and placed them together.
Thus, effort must be made to determine his methodology and to navigate through the layout of his book. Imām Nawawī added appropriate chapter titles and headings throughout the book. If we only had the original copy to review, we would find three reports stating that ablution is necessary and six claiming otherwise. All the reports, considering that they are in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, are well-authenticated.
Furthermore, one will find more narrations in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and elsewhere stating that ablution is either necessary or not. This highlights an important point that is necessary for all students to keep in mind. One cannot take a single ḥadīth out of context, but he must understand it considering all the narrations. It is not enough to say that Bukhārī or Muslim related a certain ḥadīth while disregarding others. The issue that we are reviewing is just one example of a seeming contradiction between reports that one will encounter during their studies. The field of ḥadīth is vast, and it would be foolish to restrict it to the first few narrations one reads in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. Without the guidance of teachers and our pious predecessors, one can easily become lost. The ḥadīth scholars’ role is to present all their narrations and discuss the narrations’ chains. The jurists’ discourses are imperative for one to understand what the narrations mean.
This paper discussed food cooked on a fire and primarily focused on one primary source (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim) and one secondary source (Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ). In both, the issue was presented in brief. One can refer to the other ḥadīth works for more detail. A good start is Ibn Abī Shaybah’s Muṣannaf. He has a chapter dedicated to those who did not perform ablution after eating something cooked by fire and a chapter for those who did.
Due to an apparent clash in the primary source evidence, and the difficulty in determining if abrogation happened, some opined that it is necessary to look at the Companions’ actions and what the pious predecessors did to reach a conclusion. From the Companions who believed ablution was not necessary are Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, ʿUthmān, ʿAlī, Ibn Masʿūd, Abū al-Dardāʾ, Ibn ʿAbbās, Ibn ʿUmar, Anas, Jābir b. Samurah, Zayd b. Thābit, Abū Mūsā, Abū Hurayrah, Ubayy b. Kaʿb, Abū Ṭalḥah, ʿĀmir b. Rabīʿah, Abū Umāmah, and ʿĀʾishah. And from the pious predecessors are the four imāms, Isḥāq b. Rāḥawayh, Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā, Abū Thawr, and Abū Khaythamah.
A smaller group considered it necessary to perform ablution after eating cooked food. From them are ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, al-Zuhrī, Abū Qilābah, and Abū Mijlaz. Some explained that they inclined to this opinion erring on the side of caution. Imām Nawawī said that this difference of opinion only occurred amongst the first generation and afterwards the scholars agreed that ablution is not required for this reason. In his commentary on Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Muftī Taqī Uthmānī provided many evidences indicating that the ruling was abrogated. For instance, there is Jābir’s narration, a narration mentioning the rightly guided caliphs, and an incident in which Fāṭimah mentioned that the Prophet (upon him be peace) explained to her that the most pure food is that which has been cooked on a fire.
Another piece of evidence is based on juristic reasoning. There is an inherent difficulty that such a ruling would cause for the ummah. Food cooked on fire is common for people in all places and times. If one performed ablution every time they ate, it would be a difficult injunction to observe.
Some scholars mentioned why the ruling that ablution should be made was legislated. Shayṭān was made from fire, and water extinguishes fire. Thus, ablution is made to oppose Shayṭān, like how we are commanded to perform it when angry because anger is from him. Others mentioned that Allāh uses fire to punish those who transgress. It is a sign of His wrath and anger, so when we pray to Him, we want to be completely free from that.
In conclusion, most scholars who came after the first generation considered that ablution is not obligatory after eating food cooked by fire. Some explained that the Companions and Followers who maintained the opinion and practice of perform it did so to rectify their souls because they believed that it is one of the Prophet’s sunnahs, but not because they thought it was obligatory. Ablution because of food cooked by fire is not obligatory for of two reasons. (1) The ruling was abrogated. (2) The narrations mentioning it were interpreted. Muftī Taqī ʿUthmānī mentioned that he believes that the ruling is not abrogated but rather recommended.
And Allāh knows best.
 Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ, 1:77.
 Mirqāt al-Mafātīḥ, 2:29.
 Sunan Abī Dāwūd, 1:137.
 Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 4:57.
 Fatḥ al-Mulhim, 3:158.
 Manifestations of Truth Translation and Detailed Explanation of Mishkaat al-Masaabih, 1:242.
 Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ, 1:77.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, #351.
 Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, 1:88.
 Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 4:58.
 Fatḥ al-Mulhim, 3:156.