The sequence (tartib) in wudu
The Imamis have agreed - in following the Imams of the pure family - in imposing the sequence of acts in the wudu in the manner which has been described in the noble verse.
The Malikis, Hanafis, Sufyan al-Thawri and Dawud have ruled that it is not a condition nor is it obligatory, they have considered it to be recommended. If it is opposed, the ablution is not invalidated. They say that if the one performing wudu was to begin by washing his left foot and to end by washing his face, contrary to the verse in all his acts, then his wudu is [still] correct.
Our proofs are the book and the sunna. As for the book, the sequence is obvious from it even though the conjunction [of the acts] as described in the verse is by [the Arabic letter] waw not by then (thumma) or by fa. This is because waw is used frequently as a conjunction of sequential things, it is not used in a metaphorical sense. This is proven by a study of the speech of Arabs, there is no doubt in it for anyone. Therefore the Kufi grammarians have stated that it (waw) is proper especially for [describing acts of] sequence and succession even though [the conjunctions] thumma and fa are more clear than it.
As for the sunna, it is [according] to his saying in a famous authentic tradition: "The form of the ablution is the same whether it is for one of the five obligatory prayers or other obligatory or recommended acts." During his lifetime, the Prophet (S.A.W.) would be in a pure state by performing the ritual ablution properly. Anytime it poke, he would renew the wudu properly. Sometimes he would say: "It is light upon light." The umma has agreed that he (S.A.W.) never did wudu except that it was in sequence. If the sequence was not a condition and an obligation in wudu, he would have opposed it at least once or would have proclaimed that it's opposite was [also] allowed, thus explaining the ruling as was his practise. Since he did not oppose the sequence and did not announce that its opposite is allowed, we know that it is not permissible. Moreover, the practical principles (asl al-'amali - established in usul al-fiqh) require, with regards to doubtful acts, that we be cautious when we are not sure the conditions [attached to the act] are fulfilled. Moreover, the ritual impurity of a thing continues to exist as long as one is not sure that it's opposite (removal of the impurity) has not occurred (called the principle of istishab).
Adapted from the book: "Questions on Jurisprudence" by: "Abdul Hussein Shareefaldin Al-Musawi"
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