The Tayammum (Dry Ablution) is quite an interesting phenomena. The literal meaning of Tayammum is ‘aim’ or ‘purpose’ while its jurisprudential meaning refers to the removal of the state of impurity via the usage of clean earth, in a scenario where water is not an option as a primary purifying agent.
From the Qur’an we understand that Allah sent down water as a purifying agent, and that water in itself is naturally pure and purifying. This same quality cannot be given directly to soil or earth. That is why Allah tells us in the Qur’an to seek ‘pure soil’ to perform Tayammum with.
Now the incident behind the Qur’anic legislation of Tayammum is testimony to the virtue and blessing in the family of Abu Bakr (RadiAllahu ‘ahu). The story is as follows:
The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) was on a journey, and they reached a place known as Baida. At this place, The mother of the Believers, Aisha (RadiAllahu ‘anha) noticed that a bracelet of hers had gone missing. Knowing the sentimental value it held to Aisha and her attachment to it, the Prophet decided that they shall camp here for a short period of time to try and locate the lost jewellery. If it wasn’t located soon, they would continue forth with their journey, since it was not the habit of the Prophet to camp for long periods at a place other than their place of destination.
So The Messenger of Allah and his companions began their search of this bracelet. As they continued to search, salah time began to draw nearer and nearer, and the problem was that there was no water available at this place, nor did anyone travel with water with them. There was slight confusion among the sahaba; as salah time crept in many of them began to pray without wudhu, whilst others decided not to pray. Perplexed, they decided to approach Abu Bakr (RadiAllahu ‘anhu) and reproach him for the actions of his daughter Aisha. They blamed her for putting them in this very difficult situation.
Abu Bakr decided to have a word with Aisha about this. He went to his daughter and poked her in her thigh for causing this distress and difficult upon the Muslims. Even though she was his daughter and the wife of The Messenger of Allah, he still had the interests and welfare of the believers at heart. He scolded his daughter for her behaviour . Aisha could not say anything back or move from her place, since the Prophet was sleeping on her lap. The Prophet was asleep at this time, so when he woke up he enquired about all this commotion he saw his companions in. His companions told him about the difficulties they were in due to Aisha’s lost jewellery. The Prophet informed them that Allah had just revealed verses to him pertaining to this very matter:
O you who believe! … If you are sick, or on a journey, or one of you has come from toilet, or you have `touched’ your women and you cannot find water, then you should do Tayammum on the pure earth by wiping a part of your face and your hands.” (4:43)
The exasperation and hostility towards Abu Bakr and his daughter had all of a sudden transformed to wonderment, admiration and delight. Many of those who had complained to Abu Bakr now returned to him saying ‘That was not the first blessing from the family of Abu Bakr.’ To make matters even better, as the Muslims began to continue with their journey, they had found that Mother Aisha’s bracelet had been under the camel she was sitting all this time!!!
It’s amazing how the actions of the household of Abu Bakr was a means of benefit for the Muslims, even till this day.
Asalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh