Niyyah for Wudu in English: Is It Permissible?

“Pronouncing Niyyah for wudu in English”. Maybe that sounds funny or even unnecessary to discuss. But it will be one important thing that you have to explain if you meet a Muslim who doesn't speak Arabic—or maybe you are one and you're looking for an explanation about that.

Whatever your reason for opening this article, I am sure you are looking for an explanation of the Niyyah for wudu in English. And don't worry! If that is your goal, you will get a good explanation of it if you read this article to the end. Therefore, you must read this article to the end!

Why Is Niyyah for Wudu Important?

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Hi! Do you understand why Niyyah for wudu is important? That is what I will explain now before I explain the Niyyah for wudu in English which is the main topic in this discussion.

In general, you can find explanations of why Niyyah in general (or Niyyah for wudu in the context of this discussion) is important in the hadith below:

عَنْ عُمَرَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهم عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّةِ وَلِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوِ امْرَأَةٍ يَتَزَوَّجُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ

From Umar radliyallahu anhu, that the Messenger of Allah (Prophet Muhammad) sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, "Action depends on his intention (Niyyah), and a person only gets something according to his intention. Whoever emigrated to Allah and His Messenger, then his emigration was to Allah and His Messenger, and whoever emigrated for the sake of the world or because of the woman he wanted to marry, then his emigration was according to where he migrated."

In the hadith above, the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam explained that Niyyah has an important role in one's work. Niyyah becomes a barometer to determine whether a person's work is good or not because Niyyah is the main purpose of the work he does. Likewise, wudu.

As we know, wudu is washing and wiping several parts of the body in a certain way. Wudu is done using holy water that can be used for wudu. The main goal is to remove small hadas and as one of worship to Allah. So, without Niyyah, all the washing and rubbing that is done is normal washing and rubbing that cannot remove minor hadas and cannot be called worship to Allah.

So, if you ask, "Why is Niyyah for wudu important?", the answer is "Because Niyyah is a barometer for determining our purpose for washing and wiping certain parts of our body in wudu."

Can You Say Niyyat for Wudu in English?

Now I will explain the main topic in this discussion: Niyyah for wudu in English. Is that Permissible? And can you say that? I really hope that you understand the explanation below very well so that there are no more questions in your mind about it.

To be honest, if we read some Islamic legal literature on Niyyah in general, we will find no explanation that requires us to say Niyyah in a particular language, or in Arabic in the context of this discussion. As for some Islamic legal literacy, they explain Niyyah in Arabic (such as Niyyah for fasting and so on) because the main source of Islamic scholarship is the Koran and hadith, which incidentally are in Arabic.

Please note! I'm not talking about advocating absolute adherence to sunnah, such as saying the Niyyah for prayer in Arabic. Now, in general, I'm on the legality of saying Niyyah for general things in a particular language. It will be a big problem if we force someone to say something in a language he doesn't understand because it will cause him to not understand his purpose.

So, the scenario is that now we have someone asking about the legality of saying Niyyah for wudu in English or in any language other than Arabic—or maybe we are them: we want to say Niyyah for wudu but we don't speak Arabic. If we are faced with facts like that, what should be a priority is that the person understands the meaning and purpose of what he said.

Before I explain the answer to that question (can you say Niyyah for wudu in English?), I want to explain once again, that the purpose of wudu is to eliminate major hadas as an obligation and worship to Allah. All Muslims who perform wudu must understand that. These must all be included in the Niyyah for wudu.

Now, taking into account some of the above, I think that you can pronounce Niyyah for wudu in English because the most important thing is that you understand the meaning and purpose of the Niyyah for wudu you say.

Niyyah for Wudu in Arabic or English: What's More Important?

Now I will explain the last thing that is still related to the main topic in this discussion: what's more important, saying Niyyah for wudu in Arabic or English? I want you to understand that at the end of this discussion because it is a logical question if someone is able to say the Niyyah for wudu in both languages.

Once again, if we read several Islamic legal literatures, we will not find a statement that specifically explains that pronouncing Niyyah for wudu in one particular language is more important. For this reason, we would find it difficult to conclude with certainty which language is the more primary one to use to pronounce the Niyyah for wudu.

So, what is the answer to the question.

For me, if I am faced with that question, I prefer to say Niyyah for wudu in Arabic. My reason is because Prophet Muhammad said Niyyah for wudu in Arabic. In Islam, all the prayers and dhikr (Niyyah for wudu is one of them) that he taught or that he once said are more reassuring if they are said in Arabic. Of course, this is a personal sensation. Also, I feel more satisfied if I can say things in worship in Arabic.

Of course, what I said in the paragraph above is my personal opinion. If you have another opinion, that's your right.

You have a question? Please write in the comment column!

Akhmad Syafiuddin
Akhmad Syafiuddin Muslim. Graduate of Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.

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