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Impact of Salaat (Namaz) on Health: Part 1: Wudu

Reference : WorldMuslimPedia

Impact of Salaat (Namaz) on Health: Part 1: Wudu

Excerpted from

Quranic Paradigms of Sciences & Society, Volume 1: Dynamic Paradigm of Health

By Dr. Javed Jamil




Islamic prayer (Salat) is preceded by Wudu (Ablution), a process by which the organs of the body are washed and rubbed (with a moistened hand) in a certain fashion. Qur’an says:


O believers! When you prepare for prayer, wash your faces and your hands to the elbows; and rub your heads and your feet to the ankles. If you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes from offices of nature, or you have been in contact with women, and you find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, God does not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, so that you may be grateful.” (Chapter 5, Verse 6)1


Qur’an only describes the general order. We are made aware of the details in the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). A very specific order of washing the organs is followed. First, (after washing the hands to ensure that no dirt goes along with the water) mouth is cleansed, taking water inside mouth and rinsing three times. Then some water is pushed into nostrils. After this the whole face is washed with both hands from the forehead to the chin. This is followed by washing of hands, from hand to elbow (hands, forearm and elbow). All these actions are preferably repeated thrice. After washing hands and forearm, one again returns to head, passing a moistened hand over the head (also behind ears and neck in Sunni school of thought)). Lastly, feet are either washed (Sunni school of thought) or rubbed with moist hands (Shiite school of thought)) three times.


This sequence is extremely significant. There are different regions in the brain, which have a map of the body on it. The body in this map appears to be highly distorted form of the body that our eyes see. Each area of the body is represented on a specific place in the brain. Sensory map is situated on a portion of the brain called postcentral gyrus. (See the anatomical diagram of the sensory area on the postcentral gyrus.)1


          Brain is the organ of the body that controls various functions of the body. Apart from performing functions such as thinking, learning etc, it receives different types of sensations such as cold, touch and warmth. It analyses them so that the body can be able to give a proper response to each one of them. Brain consists of several parts such as cerebellum, cerebrum, thalamus, medulla oblongata, pons etc. The brain substance consists of grey and white matters. Cerebral hemisphere is the seat of higher functions. It is also the final centre for the reception of all types of sensations and consists of frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobes. It has been found that the cerebrum has a peculiar cortical organisation. A specific bit of the substance of the brain receives sensations from a specific portion of the body. Using various techniques including electrical stimulation, the projection of the body surface has been mapped on the postcentral gyrus2, a portion of Cerebrum, and it has been seen that the projection is in the following order (from below upwards) (Note that the images are reverse in the brain.):



  • Intrabdominal

-     Throat and inside of mouth

  • Tongue
  • Teeth, gums and jaw
  • Lower lips, lips and upper lip
  • Nasal passage
  • Nose
  • Eye
  • Forehead
  • Cheek, ear, chin,
  • Thumb, and other fingers
  • Hands
  • Wrist
  • Forearm
  • Elbow
  • Arm
  • Shoulder
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Trunk
  • Hip
  • Leg, toes and foot


          The Scientists are of the opinion that this extensive coding system has a lot to do with the various sensations of the body. Loss or diminution of the function may cause degeneration of the part of the brain associated with that function, and vice versa. Some bands known as psychic bands surround the sensory, visual and auditory areas. Their lesions cause the inability to perceive the objects, so they are said to combine the sensory impression into significant patterns.



The researches on that map have now grown substantially. Now a term “Homunculus” 3 is being used to describe that map, and has become a topic of huge interest. Homunculus means a tiny and highly disfigured man within man, which controls him. (See the diagram3. It represents the mini-man on the map at postcentral gyrus corresponding to the relative sensitivity of different organs.) It can be seen that organs washed or rubbed in Wudu cover almost 80% of the total surface of the image in the brain.) It is important to note that


  1. The mapping is not in the order like head, face, trunk, hands, foot etc, but according to the spinal enervation. So is the order in the Wudu.


  1. Mouth is rinsed first and the face is washed later. This is exactly the sequence the homunculus shows.


  1. Again, instead of rubbing head along with the face, hands and forearms are washed first and then head is rubbed. This again is according to the sequence shown in the map.


  1. In Wudu, first, hands are washed followed by wrist, forearm and elbow. Homunculus again depicts the same sequence, not from elbow to hand.


  1. It is also highly significant that Homunculus, the mini man on the map, is a highly distorted image of man5-6. This is because the representation of different organs on the map is not in accordance with what the human image is but in accordance with the sensitiveness of different organs in the brain7. Thus the mini-man has massive lips and very big hands, face and feet. The portion from the neck to the legs occupies hardly 15-18 per cent of the mini-man. This means that by washing only certain portions in the Wudu, one activates almost the 80 percent of the mini-man inside the brain.


  1. There are very specific cortical paths8, which also explain why the face is washed simultaneously with both hands while other left and right extremities are washed one after another. This is because both the parts of the face, right and left, are represented in both portions of the brains. In contrast, extremities are only represented on the opposite side.


  1. The head and feet are extremely sensitive superficially, so mere rubbing of them would also serve the purpose of activating the brain.


  1. The homunculus plays an extremely significant role in temperature control mechanism of the body. In the events of the infarction of this area of the brain, there are huge temperature regulation failures on the corresponding sides of the body.
  1. The cortical area covered by the hands is one of the largest. If the more sensitive areas are stimulated first, they can immediately call the body to bring out proper responses. For example if the hands are put into cold water, the blood vessels may constrict resulting in decreased loss of heat from the body. Though in Wudu the first portion to be washed is mouth, hands are washed before that to ensure that the water does not become dirty. In doing so, the brain also gets acclimatised to the warmth of the water.


  1. As is seen in the picture of mini-man as mapped in the brain, hands and face occupy the largest portions and cover more than 70% of the total area. By rubbing these portions therefore, as in Tayammum, too, a very significant portion of the brain is activated. (In Tayammum, which is done in absence of water, hands and face are rubbed with sand or soil.)


  1. In Wudu, only those parts are washed or rubbed, which are normally exposed to atmosphere and are easy to wash. In ghusl (bathing), the whole body is washed, and Islamic ghusl again follows the pattern in the homunculus.