This is an authentic hadîth, related in Sahîh Muslim
Its Legal Implications
This hadîth states that the Earth's soil is "a purification for us" in the absence of eater. This raises a crucial question, about which scholars of Islamic Law have disagreed: Does tayammum – the use of soil for ritual purification – actually remove the state of ritual impurity or does it merely allow the person to engage in prayer?
The first opinion
is that tayammum does not remove the state of ritual impurity. It merely allows a person who is unable to use water for ritual purity to pray in his or her present state of ritual impurity.
This is the ruling adopted by the Shâfi`î school of law. It is one of the views narrated from Ahmad b. Hanbal.
Al-Nawawî, in al-Majmû`
(2/221) claims that it is the view of the majority of scholars.
They cite the following as evidence:
1. Imrân b. Husayn relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked a man accompanying him on a journey why he did not join the others in prayer. The man said that he was in a state of major ritual impurity (janâbah
) and there was no water for a bath. The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered the man to make tayammum. Thereafter, they arrived at water, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave the man a pitcher of water and said: "Go and pur this over yourself." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
(344) and Sâhîh Muslim
They argue hat this hadîth proves that the person who makes tayammum does not become ritually pure. If the person was ritually pure, there would be no need to take a bath as soon as water became available.
2. It is related from Abû Dharr that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Using clean soil for ablutions is a purification as long as water is not present, though it be for ten years. But when it becomes possible to use water, then use water on your skin." [Musnad al-Bazzâr
However, scholars of hadîth, including al-Dâraqutnî and Ibn Rajab have determined that this hadîth has a broken chain of transmission.
3. `Amr b. al-`As relates:
While on a journey, I had a wet dream one extremely cold night. I feared for his life if I were to take a full bath in that extreme cold. Instead, I made tayammum and then led my traveling companions in the morning prayer. When I returned from my journey, I informed the Prophet (peace be upon him) of what I had done. The Prophet said: "O `Amr, did you lead the people in prayer while you were in a state of major ritual impurity?"
I replied: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah, I had a wet dream on a bitterly cold night and feared for my life if I were to take a bath. I recalled that Allah says: 'And do not bring yourselves to destruction by your own hands.' So I made tayammum and prayed."
The Prophet (peace be upon him) laughed and said nothing more. [Musnad Ahmad (3/203) and Sunan Abî Dâwûd (334)]
The scholars who claim that tayammum does not remove a person from the state of ritual impurity cite where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "… did you lead the people in prayer while you were in a state of major ritual impurity?"
4. Finally, they argue that it is the consensus (ijmâ`
) of all the scholars that if a person who had made tayammum is then able to use water, he must do so and his previous tayammum is no longer valid.
The second opinion
is that tayammum removes the state of ritual impurity. This is the ruling adopted by the Hanafî and Mâlikî schools of law. It is also related as an opinion of Ahmad b. Hanbal, and Ibn Taymiyah has chosen it as his preferred opinion.
They cite the following as evidence:
1. Allah says: "O you who believe! When you prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your arms to the elbows; rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes from relieving yourself, or you have been in contact with women, and you find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. Allah does not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to purify you, and to complete His favor to you, that you may be grateful. " [Sûrah al-Mâ'idah
They argue that this verse asserts that pure soil purifies just like water purifies.
2. They cite the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him) says: "And the Earth was made for me a place of prayer and a purification." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
(335) and Sahîh Muslim
They argue that this hadîth establishes for a person unable to use water – either due to health reasons or water scarcity – that tayammum is a means of purification. Such a person is in a state of purity no different than the state of purity for one who uses water. However, ritual purification with soil is a substitute to use in the absence of water.
The stronger opinion
is the second one – that a person who makes tayammum in the absence of the ability to use water is in a state of purity.
Ibn Taymiyah argues: "Whoever says that soil does not purify has said something contrary to what the Qur'ân and Sunnah says. It follows that if it purifies a person, then that person can no longer be in a state of ritual impurity… However, tayammum is a purification of limited duration. Ritual purity from tayammum remains in effect until the person is able to use water for purification. This is because it is a substitute for water." [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ
Ibn Taymiyah also makes the astute observation: "Tayammum does not become nullified when the time for prayer comes to an end. Whether the person made tayammum before the time of prayer or during its time, he may pray as much as he likes of obligatory and voluntary prayers on the same tayammum. Likewise, if he performed tayammum with the intention of offering a voluntary prayer, he can go on and offer an obligatory prayer on the same tayammum." [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ
Therefore, tayammum remains in effect and the person remains in a state of purity unless the person does something to violate that state of impurity – for instance, by passing wind, going to the bathroom, or falling asleep – or water becomes possible to use.
And Allah knows best.