Sleep and Ablution

Adil Salahi, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Mon, 2007-04-02 03:00

Q.1. It is reported by Ibn Abbas that the Prophet (peace be upon him) woke up at night, performed ablution and then offered some voluntary prayer, then he slept and snored before rising again and offering prayer, without performing ablution anew. Does not sleep invalidate ablution? If so, how should we understand this Hadith?

Q.2. Is the sacrifice at the Eid Al-Adha applicable to every earning member of the family, men and woman, married or unmarried? Or is it sufficient if the head of the family makes the sacrifice on behalf of the family?

A. Gafoor

A.1. Sleep in itself does not invalidate ablution. If you sleep while sitting on a chair, your ablution remains valid, even though your sleep may take an hour or longer. This is because while seated, wind cannot be discharged. No other way of invalidating ablution takes place. Take the case of a person who lies down and gets to sleep, then wakes up later. If someone tells him that he was close to him throughout and he neither heard nor smelled any discharge of wind from him during his sleep, he can perform prayer without having a fresh ablution. He relies on the information of this person to make sure that his ablution was still valid. Some scholars, however, notably Ibn Hazm, maintain that any sleep invalidates ablution and we need to perform ablution after we wake up if we wish to pray.

The Hadith does not say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) snored, nor has it ever been reported that the Prophet snored when asleep. The Hadith mentions that the Prophet lied down, then blew out his breath, then rose and prayed without ablution. Ibn Abbas does not mention that the Prophet actually slept. The overall impression we get is that the Prophet had a few minutes of rest, and that his breathing was audible at the time. The fact that he went to prayer without performing ablution suggests one of two possibilities: either he was certain that he did not get to sleep, but merely relaxed so that his breathing was regular and audible, or he was informed by the angel Gabriel that his ablution remained valid.

A.2. The sacrifice at the Eid is a highly rewarding Sunnah. If one performs it once during one’s lifetime, that person is deemed to have performed the Sunnah. However, if it is performed every year, it earns more and more reward. It is recommended that one keeps one-third of the meat for one’s family, and gifts one-third to relatives and neighbors, and give to the poor one-third.

Like all religious requirements, it applies to every Muslim, married or unmarried, man or woman, provided that they can afford it. Thus, if a person earns an income but his income is hardly sufficient for his family’s needs, this Sunnah does not apply to him. Another person may be earning less, but he can afford the sacrifice because his commitments are much less than the first one. Such a person is strongly recommended to perform the sacrifice. The head of the family may intend his sacrifice to be on his own behalf and on behalf of his dependants. These are his wife and young children who are not yet able to earn their living.

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