Wudu is a very important aspect of the Islamic faith. It is a religious ritual that involves the washing of one's hands, face (mouth and nostrils included), forearms and feet. This washing process is performed prior to saying the obligatory daily prayers, and it is a means of showing respect for Allah by entering into a ritual state of purity before praying to him.
Interestingly, during the Old Testament era of the Holy Bible, that is, the time that preceded the coming of Jesus, God required something similar of the Jews.
They were to wash themselves before approaching His presence in the tabernacle or temple. For example, in Exodus 30:19-21 God required that whenever the priests approach the altar or enter the tabernacle, they must first wash their hands and feet with water. A special bronze washbasin was built for this purpose and placed in the temple courtyard. So important was the ritual washing that took place at this washbasin that any priest who failed to cleanse himself in this way before approaching God would be put to death by God. God also expected all Israelites to perform similar ritual washings at certain times.
The question is: Why would God require this kind of ritual washing? Is it because God cannot stand the sight of dirt on a farmer's hands while he is praying? Or because God cannot tolerate paint on a painter's hands before he prays? Or because God cannot stand the sight and smell of food residue on the hands of a cook when she talks to God? No! God can look past this. However, God required these ritual washings because it was His way of teaching His people something about themselves and about Himself. It was a physical routine that taught a spiritual truth. And what is the truth it taught?
Ritual washings taught people that just as their physical body gets dirty from various physical activities, so their souls get dirty from sinful thoughts, words and actions, making them morally and spiritually dirty. These washings also taught that God, who is morally pure and perfect, cannot tolerate any such dirt on our souls. None whatsoever. It must be removed before we can enter into God's presence. Since to pray or to enter the tabernacle or temple was to enter into God's presence, God required that His people acknowledge their spiritual and moral dirtiness and their need to have their souls cleansed before approaching Him. These ritual washings were a way of confessing, “I'm morally and spiritually dirty before God.”
But the central question is this: Could this physical washing of the body with water do anything to cleanse a person's soul of the dirt of selfish thoughts, self-centred actions? Can physical water applied to the physical body cleanse the soul of all the guilt accumulated from disobeying God?
No! There is a limit to what these ritual washings can do for us. They can clean the body, yes indeed. (Actually, we can make ourselves smell really good on the outside if we use the right scented body wash or apply a fragrant perfume or cologne.) But the reality is, we cannot cleanse our heart or soul.
Recognizing this reality is critical to our spiritual health. If we wash only our body but not our heart, it's like washing only the outside of a cup that held chocolate milk. The outside might be clean and shiny, but the inside is still filthy dirty. Jesus spoke of about this in Matthew 23:18 when He said to a group of proud, outwardly pious people, “On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Of course we can wash the inside of a cup; but can we wash the inside of ourself? Can we wash our heart and cleanse it of the dirt of sin? Of course not! But there is someone who can. His name is Jesus Christ. Before going to the cross, Jesus took upon Himself all the dirt of all the sins of all who believe on Him, and was punished instead of us. By taking the dirt of our sin to Himself, He cleanses us.
Did you know that He can do the same for you today? Through His blood shed on the cross, He continues to wash the dirty hearts of all sinners who believe in Him, cleansing their souls and freeing their consciences of guilt (Heb.9:14; 10:22).
On one occasion, after committing adultery and murder, King David recognized his sin. Sensing the dirtiness of his soul, he prayed to God: “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.... Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:2, 7).
Do you recognize the dirtiness of your heart? Do you feel guilt in your soul because you have disobeyed God? Jesus offers a wudu that can clean you up on the inside. He offers wudu for your heart and soul.
It is our inside—our hearts or souls—that matter most. Believe in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. God promises that your sins will then be washed away and your heart and soul will be whiter than snow, yes whiter than wool (Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 7:14)!