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Purification by ghusl is required in the case of certain forms of defilement collectively known as al-Hadath al-Akbar (Major Defilement). The following are the acts and incidents, which cause major defilement.
- Sexual Intercourse
Whenever a m an and a woman have sexual intercourse, they enter a state of sexual defilement called janaabah which requires them to take ghusl in order to purify themselves for formal prayer. Aboo Hurayah quoted the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) as saying, "Whenever a man lies between a woman's four limbs and has sexual intercourse with her, ghusl becomes obligatory." (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1, p.175 no. 290 & Sahih Muslim vol. 1, p.195-6 no. 682) Whether orgasm occurs or not, ghusl becomes obligatory once sexual intercourse has begun. (The hadeeth of Ubayy ibn Ka'b in which he asked the Prophet about a man who has sexual intercourse without having an orgasm and the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, "He should wash the parts of his genitals which were in contact with the woman's genitals, take wudoo and make formal prayer." (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1, p.176 no. 292 & Sahih Muslim vol. 1, p.195 no. 677), was abrogated by Abu Hurayrah's hadeeth.) Aboo Moosa asked ‘Aa'ishah, "What makes a ghusl obl igatory for a person?" She replied, "You have come across one who is well informed. The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, "When a man lies between the four limbs of a woman and the circumcised parts make contact, ghusl becomes obligatory." (Sahih Muslim vol. 1, p.196 no. 684).
 Wet Dreams                     
If a person has an orgasm in a dream, ghusl is obligatory to attain the state of taharaah. Anas ibn Maalik reported that Umm Sulaym came to the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) while he was with ‘Aa'ishah and asked him," O Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam), when a woman sees and experiences in a dream what a man does, what should she do?" ‘Aa'ishah remarked, "O Umm Sulaym, you have humiliated women, may your right hand be covered in dust" {An old Arabic expression of disapproval} The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam)said to ‘Aa'ishah, "May your right hand be covered in dust." He then said to Umm Sulaym, " O Umm Sulaym, she should take a ghusl if she sees any discharge." (Sahih Muslim vol. 1, p.180 no. 612)
- Menstruation
Women are also required to purify themselves by taking a ghusl in order to resume prayer after their menses has ended. Umm Habeebah asked Allaah's Messenger (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam) about prolonged blood-flow and he said, "Stop praying for as long as your menses used to prevent you from prayer, then take a ghusl and begin formal prayers." (Sahih Muslim vol. 1, p.190 no. 658)
- Post-Natal Bleeding
The bleeding following child-birth breaks the state of taharaah in the same way that menses does and requires that women take a ghusl whenever the bleeding stops to retain the state of purity necessary for formal prayer ( as long as it does not exceed forty days)


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