Facing the Qiblah during Excretion

This is the fifth lesson in our explanation of Jaami' al-Tirmidhi

The Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ is like a lot of other things in the sense that, you don’t know where the barakah in your life will come from—and like the du’aa that we don’t see answered, it may be helping us in ways we don’t realize. All of the Sunnah, when followed properly and whole-heartedly for Allah, contains barakah. The more conscious you are of it, the greater your reward with Allah. This is why we study the Sunnah again and again, one or two narrations at a time.

Actions done in private like these, for the sake of Allah, unlike teaching or charity, so often done publicly where our intention niyyahis really put to the test. THIS is where we begin work on our niyyah. In the bathroom, believe it or not. This is the easiest place to begin, because no one else is monitoring us alhamdulillah.

Further, learning like this, in small steps, is the way the Prophet ﷺ taught, and it is how the Ummah received the Quran

6 – باب فِي النَّهْىِ عَنِ اسْتِقْبَالِ الْقِبْلَةِ، بِغَائِطٍ أَوْ بَوْلٍ

Chapter: Regarding the Prohibition of Facing the Qiblah When Defecating and Urinating

حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ الْمَخْزُومِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ بْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ، عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ يَزِيدَ اللَّيْثِيِّ،

Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari narrated that :

Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “When you go to the dow, then let none of you face the Qiblah while defecating, nor while urinating. And do not have your back towards it, but have it east of you or west of you.” (Abu Ayyub said): When we came to Syria, we found that the toilets already built there were facing the qiblah, we turned away from it and sought Allah’s forgiveness. [Bukhari & Muslim]

عَنْ أَبِي أَيُّوبَ الأَنْصَارِيِّ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ﷺ ‏”إِذَا أَتَيْتُمُ الْغَائِطَ فَلاَ تَسْتَقْبِلُوا الْقِبْلَةَ بِغَائِطٍ وَلاَ بَوْلٍ وَلاَ تَسْتَدْبِرُوهَا وَلَكِنْ شَرِّقُوا أَوْ غَرِّبُوا‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ أَبُو أَيُّوبَ فَقَدِمْنَا الشَّأْمَ فَوَجَدْنَا مَرَاحِيضَ قَدْ بُنِيَتْ مُسْتَقْبَلَ الْقِبْلَةِ فَنَنْحَرِفُ عَنْهَا وَنَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ

قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى وَفِي الْبَابِ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الْحَارِثِ بْنِ جَزْءٍ الزُّبَيْدِيِّ وَمَعْقِلِ بْنِ أَبِي الْهَيْثَمِ وَيُقَالُ مَعْقِلُ بْنُ أَبِي مَعْقِلٍ وَأَبِي أُمَامَةَ وَأَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ وَسَهْلِ بْنِ حُنَيْفٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى حَدِيثُ أَبِي أَيُّوبَ أَحْسَنُ شَيْءٍ فِي هَذَا الْبَابِ وَأَصَحُّ ‏.‏ وَأَبُو أَيُّوبَ اسْمُهُ خَالِدُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ ‏.‏ وَالزُّهْرِيُّ اسْمُهُ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُسْلِمِ بْنِ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ شِهَابٍ الزُّهْرِيُّ وَكُنْيَتُهُ أَبُو بَكْرٍ ‏.‏

 

قَالَ أَبُو الْوَلِيدِ الْمَكِّيُّ قَالَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِدْرِيسَ الشَّافِعِيُّ إِنَّمَا مَعْنَى قَوْلِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ ‏”‏لاَ تَسْتَقْبِلُوا الْقِبْلَةَ بِغَائِطٍ وَلاَ بِبَوْلٍ وَلاَ تَسْتَدْبِرُوهَا”‏‏.‏ إِنَّمَا هَذَا فِي الْفَيَافِي وَأَمَّا فِي الْكُنُفِ الْمَبْنِيَّةِ لَهُ رُخْصَةٌ فِي أَنْ يَسْتَقْبِلَهَا ‏.‏ وَهَكَذَا قَالَ إِسْحَاقُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ.‏ وَقَالَ أَحْمَدُ بْنُ حَنْبَلٍ رَحِمَهُ اللَّهُ إِنَّمَا الرُّخْصَةُ مِنَ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ فِي اسْتِدْبَارِ الْقِبْلَةِ بِغَائِطٍ أَوْ بَوْلٍ وَأَمَّا اسْتِقْبَالُ الْقِبْلَةِ فَلاَ يَسْتَقْبِلُهَا.‏ كَأَنَّهُ لَمْ يَرَ فِي الصَّحْرَاءِ وَلاَ فِي الْكُنُفِ أَنْ يَسْتَقْبِلَ الْقِبْلَةَ ‏.

7 – باب مَا جَاءَ مِنَ الرُّخْصَةِ فِي ذَلِكَ

Chapter: What Has Been Related About The Permission for That

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَشَّارٍ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْمُثَنَّى، قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا وَهْبُ بْنُ جَرِيرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبِي، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ إِسْحَاقَ، عَنْ أَبَانَ بْنِ صَالِحٍ، عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ،

Jabir bin Abdullah said:

“The Prophet prohibited us from facing the Qiblah while urinating. Then I saw him facing it a year before he died.”

عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ نَهَى النَّبِيُّ ﷺ أَنْ نَسْتَقْبِلَ الْقِبْلَةَ بِبَوْلٍ فَرَأَيْتُهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُقْبَضَ بِعَامٍ يَسْتَقْبِلُهَا ‏.

وَفِي الْبَابِ عَنْ أَبِي قَتَادَةَ وَعَائِشَةَ وَعَمَّارِ بْنِ يَاسِرٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى حَدِيثُ جَابِرٍ فِي هَذَا الْبَابِ حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ‏.

Abu Qatadah narrated that

he saw the Prophet urinating while facing the Qiblah. Qutaibah narrated that to us, he said: “Ibn Lahi’ah informed us.” Jabir’s about the Prophet is more correct than the hadeeth of Ibn Lahi’ah. Ibn Lahi’ah is weak according to the scholars of Hadith. He was graded weak by Yahya bin Sa’eed Al-Qattan, and others, due to his memorization.

 

وَقَدْ رَوَى هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ ابْنُ لَهِيعَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي الزُّبَيْرِ، عَنْ جَابِرٍ، عَنْ أَبِي قَتَادَةَ، أَنَّهُ رَأَى النَّبِيَّ ﷺ يَبُولُ مُسْتَقْبِلَ الْقِبْلَةِ ‏.‏ حَدَّثَنَا بِذَلِكَ قُتَيْبَةُ حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ لَهِيعَةَ ‏.‏ وَحَدِيثُ جَابِرٍ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ أَصَحُّ مِنْ حَدِيثِ ابْنِ لَهِيعَةَ ‏.‏ وَابْنُ لَهِيعَةَ ضَعِيفٌ عِنْدَ أَهْلِ الْحَدِيثِ ضَعَّفَهُ يَحْيَى بْنُ سَعِيدٍ الْقَطَّانُ وَغَيْرُهُ مِنْ قِبَلِ حِفْظِهِ ‏.

حَدَّثَنَا هَنَّادٌ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدَةُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ يَحْيَى بْنِ حَبَّانَ، عَنْ عَمِّهِ، وَاسِعِ بْنِ حَبَّانَ،

Ibn ‘Umar said:

“One day I climbed on Hafsah’s house, and I saw the Prophet relieving himself while facing Ash-Sham, with his back toward the Ka’bah.” [Muslim] ibn Maajah added that ibn Umar told this after saying, “Some people say don’t face the Qiblah when sitting for excretion, but one day I…”

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ رَقِيتُ يَوْمًا عَلَى بَيْتِ حَفْصَةَ فَرَأَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ ﷺ عَلَى حَاجَتِهِ مُسْتَقْبِلَ الشَّأْمِ مُسْتَدْبِرَ الْكَعْبَةِ.

قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ ‏.

These are four narrations from two chapters, back-to-back. Al-Tirmidhi points us to the rest, to see all the evidence for the topic and therefore discern the proper rulings.

Muhammad ibn Ishaq, in the chain of Jabir’s hadeeth is one of the most controversial narrators. While the vast majority considered him thiqah, there’s an athar from Malik that suggests the exact opposite, however it is of doubtful attribution to Malik, while other narrations exist suggesting Malik made up with ibn Ishaq from their personal differences.

Vocabulary [شرح الغريب]

Qiblah [القِبْلة] – literally facing or in front, and so named because of where we should be facing for the most important act of our faith, the daily prayer.

Ġā’iṭ [الغائط] – originally used by Arabs to refer to a low spot of ground, where they might squat for defecation, but then the word became used for actual human feces.

Mirḥāḍ [مِرْحاض] – lit. wash room or wash closet, and derivatives are used for washing, wash pail, water hose, rinsing. Often used to refer to stall or toilet.

On topic

Al-Nasa’I also recorded from Abu Ayyoub that when in Egypt he said, “By Allah! I don’t know how to deal with these lavatories.”

وَاللَّهِ مَا أَدْرِي كَيْفَ أَصْنَعُ بِهَذِهِ الْكَرَايِيسِ

Both Abu Dāwūd and ibn Maajah recorded from Ma`qil ibn Abi Ma`qil al-Asadi that the Prophet ﷺ forbade facing [either of] the two qiblahs while defecating or urinating – graded munkar by al-Albani.

Imam Muslim collected the hadeeth from Salmaan

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ، وَوَكِيعٌ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، ح وَحَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ يَحْيَى، – وَاللَّفْظُ لَهُ – أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ يَزِيدَ، عَنْ سَلْمَانَ، قَالَ قِيلَ لَهُ قَدْ عَلَّمَكُمْ نَبِيُّكُمْ ﷺ كُلَّ شَىْءٍ حَتَّى الْخِرَاءَةَ.‏ قَالَ فَقَالَ أَجَلْ لَقَدْ نَهَانَا أَنْ نَسْتَقْبِلَ الْقِبْلَةَ لِغَائِطٍ أَوْ بَوْلٍ أَوْ أَنْ نَسْتَنْجِيَ بِالْيَمِينِ أَوْ أَنْ نَسْتَنْجِيَ بِأَقَلَّ مِنْ ثَلاَثَةِ أَحْجَارٍ أَوْ أَنْ نَسْتَنْجِيَ بِرَجِيعٍ أَوْ بِعَظْمٍ ‏.

Your Apostle (ﷺ) teaches you about everything, even about excrement? He replied: Indeed! he has forbidden us to face the Qibla at the time of excretion or urination, or cleansing with right hand or with less than three rocks, or with dung or bone.

And Abu Dawud collected from Marwan al-Asfar

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى بْنِ فَارِسٍ، حَدَّثَنَا صَفْوَانُ بْنُ عِيسَى، عَنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ ذَكْوَانَ، عَنْ مَرْوَانَ الأَصْفَرِ، قَالَ رَأَيْتُ ابْنَ عُمَرَ أَنَاخَ رَاحِلَتَهُ مُسْتَقْبِلَ الْقِبْلَةِ ثُمَّ جَلَسَ يَبُولُ إِلَيْهَا فَقُلْتُ يَا أَبَا عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ أَلَيْسَ قَدْ نُهِيَ عَنْ هَذَا قَالَ بَلَى إِنَّمَا نُهِيَ عَنْ ذَلِكَ فِي الْفَضَاءِ فَإِذَا كَانَ بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الْقِبْلَةِ شَىْءٌ يَسْتُرُكَ فَلاَ بَأْسَ‏.

I saw Ibn Umar make his camel kneel down facing the qiblah, then he sat down urinating in its direction. So I said: Abu AbdurRahman, has this not been forbidden? He replied: Why not, that was forbidden only in open country; but when there is something between you and the qiblah that conceals you, then there is no harm.

There’s a similar narration ibn Maajah collected from Jaabir who narrated it from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri, who said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ forbade me from drinking while standing and from urinating while facing the Qiblah.”

Al-Tabarani collected a weak narration from `Ammaar ibn Yaasir that he saw the Prophet ﷺ facing the qiblah after the prohibition from facing it while defecating or urinating. But Ja`far ibn al-Zubair is in the chain and he is unanimously agreed to be a weak narrator.

Ibn Maajah and Ahmad ibn Hanbal collected a narration that multiple people transmitted to them and spread from this part of the chain (I’m pasting from the middle, the last solitary link):

قَالَ: خَالِدٌ الْحَذَّاءُ أَخْبَرَنِي، عَنْ خَالِدِ بْنِ أَبِي الصَّلْتِ، قَالَ: كُنْتُ عِنْدَ عُمَرَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ فِي خِلَافَتِهِ، قَالَ: وَعِنْدَهُ عِرَاكُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ، فَقَالَ عُمَرُ: مَا اسْتَقْبَلْتُ الْقِبْلَةَ وَلَا اسْتَدْبَرْتُهَا بِبَوْلٍ وَلَا غَائِطٍ مُنْذُ كَذَا وَكَذَا. فَقَالَ عِرَاكٌ: حَدَّثَتْنِي عَائِشَةُ، أَنّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ﷺ لَمَّا بَلَغَهُ، قَوْلُ النَّاسِ فِي ذَلِكَ “أَمَرَ بِمَقْعَدَتِهِ فَاسْتَقْبَلَ بِهَا الْقِبْلَةَ”

Umar ibn Abdil-Azeez was saying that he has not faced the qiblah when relieving himself ever since such-and-such. `Iraak ibn Maalik said to them: Aaishah told me that it reached the Prophet ﷺ that several people disliked relieving themselves while facing the qiblah. So he said, “They’re doing that? Turn my squatting place to face the qiblah.”

This narration has problems in the chain and the text. In the chain, there is disconnect inqiṭā’ between ibn Abi al-Salt and `Iraak, as al-Bukhari said that this link is mursal. Also, if true, the Prophet ﷺ either said this before or after he told the ummah to turn away from the qiblah. It is impossible to have been after, because there is no way the Prophet ﷺ, or any person, much less the Prophet ﷺ would tell this to multiple companions and make the message loud and clear, and then afterwards be surprised that they’re following the command(!!??) and even intentionally go out of his way to do the opposite(!?) So if this narration is true, then it happened before Jibreel told him what was more pleasing to Allah, and that Aaishah (and whoever was between her and `Iraak) did not know of the prohibition.

Supposedly, al-Bazzaar collected, (I was unable to find at all) a hadeeth with the wording,

من جلس لبول قبالة القبلة فذكر فانحرف عنها إجلالاً لها لم يقم من مجلس حتى يُغفر له

“whoever sits for urine while facing the qiblah, but then remembers and turns away, out of reverence for it, would not stand up from their spot until they are forgiven.”

 

Towards better understanding these narrations…

 

When the Prophet’s private action contradicts his public verbal command

 

The narrations of Jaabir and ibn `Umar, while undoubtedly authentic, present us with a quandary. The Prophet ﷺ performed an action in private that went against his command in public and his counsel to other Muslims in person. This could either be because the original prohibition was abrogated completely, or specified (to being out in the open as ibn Umar said), or because the Prophet’s action was allowed specifically for himself, and not for the Ummah.

The default of the Prophet’s actions is that what is good for him is good for the rest of the ummah, publicly and privately, and if something was specific for him alone, he would make sure there was no confusion or that we do not unduly burden ourselves. Also, by default, seemingly contradictory narrations should not mean abrogation. So it is most likely that the Prophet ﷺ simply did not intend facing or turning away from the qiblah when one is in an enclosed private space.

However, many scholars note that because actions do not have a “wording” it is difficult or impossible to completely understand them, their context and reasoning, and so it is impossible to generalize. Yet this was witnessed by enough companions who each believed that the Prophet’s actions were good enough for the Ummah.

 

Fiqh & Benefits

Imam al-Nawawi (3/154-156) recorded 4 opinions from the scholars on whether or not it’s permissible to directly face or turn one’s back to the Qiblah, and in what circumstances, based on these narrations.

  1. Maalik & al-Shaafi’I and the jumhūr: forbidden out in the open, but allowed in doors. This is the opinion of al-Abbaas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, Abdullah ibn `Umar, al-Sh`abi, Ishaq ibn Rahawih, and Ahmad. This validates all the evidences, using each without discarding any. The reason for the concession rukhṣah indoors is the difficulty mashaqqah of avoiding it.
  2. Ahmad: completely forbidden. Shared with Abu Ayyoub, Mujahid, Ibrahim al-Nakha`I, al-Thawry, Abu Thawr. Because the meaning of the prohibition, the wisdom behind it, is there no matter where you are. Even when out in the open, there are mountains, hills, forests, buildings, oceans, continents and countries and borders, etc., between you and the qiblah, so no difference. As for putting all the evidences in use, then there is no discard of any evidences here, but a realization that the Prophet’s private action was simply a khaṣīṣah for him alone and not the Ummah.
  3. Dāwūd al-Zahiri: Allowed forever. Shared with Urwah ibn al-Zubair, Rabee’ah al-Ra’yi.
  4. Abu Haneefah, Ahmad: One may turn away from the qiblah, indoors and outdoors, but never face it. This is based on the narration of Salman, forbidding facing the Qiblah only. These last two opinions, and Allah knows best, seem weakest, since most of the companions either forbade it or gave explanation.

Ø Facing the qiblah indoors, if that’s our preferred opinion, is it disliked, with or without difficulty? Imam al-Nawawi simply said it is best practice to turn away when inside, if there’s no difficulty.

Ø Branching off this issue, scholars who allowed facing the qiblah indoors differed over the barrier between the individual. For example, some preferred that the barrier be close to him, within a few short feet, and so if someone was standing in the middle of a large room, then it was as if they were out in the open and facing the qiblah would be forbidden again. In other words, they only allowed it in tight spaces. Still others permitted it in any setting where there was a barrier between you and the qiblah, like the camel that laid down and ibn Umar went behind, facing the qiblah, creating his own tight space. They allowed the use of a tree, mountain, sand dune, or manmade structure or veil, whether a “johnny on the spot”, or towel hung in front or even a skyscraper.

Ø It’s disliked, but not forbidden, to face or turn one’s back to Bait al-Maqdis while excreting.

Ø While the vast majority of scholars from the four schools allowed intercourse facing the qiblah, ibn Habeeb of the Maliki school disliked it, probably due to the wording of some of the narrations, that specifically generalize facing the qiblah with private parts—which include more than simply answering the call of nature. However, this seems to be takalluf and extremism in the opinion, and a time where one thing is forbidden with a general wording, but a more specific instance is intended and mentioned specifically at other times, like how Allah forbade “blood” in some verses but clarified in others that the forbidden blood to eat is that which pours out during the actual slaughter.

Ø Likewise, while avoiding facing the qiblah while excreting, al-Nawawi said one may face the qiblah with one’s privates while cleaning.

This hadeeth provides added reason for saying “ghufraanak” upon exiting a restroom. So we have many things to consider when we say that: asking Allah’s forgiveness for putting ourselves in a place devoid of His remembrance, and forgiveness for our shortcomings as humans, and also for inescapably facing the qiblah. As for Abu Ayyoub’s istighfar, then it is likely for himself. Some scholars speculated that it could be for those who constructed the toilets, but that is unlikely, since they were probably disbelievers.

 

Glorifying the symbols of Islam & the sanctity of the Ka`bah – between extremes

Allah says:

{ذَٰلِكَ وَمَن يُعَظِّمْ حُرُمَاتِ اللَّـهِ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ عِندَ رَبِّهِ ۗ } ﴿٣٠﴾ سورة الحج

“Thus, and whoever magnifies the sacred things of Allah then that is better for him with his Lord.”

{ذَٰلِكَ وَمَن يُعَظِّمْ شَعَائِرَ اللَّـهِ فَإِنَّهَا مِن تَقْوَى الْقُلُوبِ} ﴿٣٢﴾ سورة الحج

Thus, and whoever magnifies the symbols of Allah, then that is from the piety of the hearts.

The rulings here provide a clear example of how Islam is balanced in veneration of the sacred, between extremes. Muslims are not asked to be in constant fear and worry over looking the wrong way at the qiblah direction or have to walk and live in such a way as to avoid it, but only respectful during some moments of privacy.

Islam is thus balanced in many arenas. These ayat in Surah al-Hajj come immediately after mentioning the Ka’bah and the obligation of circumambulating the ancient house. The Ka’bah has some sacredness, as being the structure to which we pray towards but is less sacred to Allah than the blood of a Muslim.

Islam’s guidance is vast. Don’t underestimate what Islam might have a say in. These are opportunities to put more Islam in our lives and to give us an easy ground to build our practice. Opportunities for greater strength in deen and making us more conscious of Allah throughout our day and activities.

About Chris
Chris, aka AbdulHaqq, is from central Illinois and accepted Islam in 2001 at age 17. He studied Arabic and Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia from 2007-13 and most recently earned a master's in Islamic Law from Malaysia. He is married with children.

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