When performing wudu, one begins with the right hand before the left and the right foot before the left.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ loved to begin with the right side in all his affairs: when performing wudu and ghusl, when putting on his sandals and when combing his hair.
You should begin any affair which is worthy of being honoured with the right. You enter your house or the mosque with your right foot and you go out with your left foot. When you enter the toilet you enter with your left foot and go out with your right foot, because it is a place in which there is filth, and is thus not worthy of being honoured.
In doing this, the believer is connected to his Lord in all his affairs. The Sacred Law teaches him not to act randomly but rather gives him principles to live by. If the pious saw their children entering the house with their left foot they would tell them to go out and come back in again with the right foot first.
You see heedless Muslims holding the cup in their left hands and drinking from it. In doing so they resemble the Devil, who eats and drinks with his left hand. The Prophet ﷺ once passed an arrogant man who was eating with his left hand. The Prophet told him to eat with his right hand, but out of arrogance the man said he could not, even though he was able to do so.
“You are not able to,” said the Prophet, and from that moment the man’s right arm froze and he was never again able to raise his hand to his mouth. Allah thus taught him a lesson due to his disobeying the order of the Prophet.
When dressing you begin with the right sleeve or the right leg and when you are undressing you begin with the left arm or the left leg.
Habib Ibrahim bin Aqil was sick and one of his grandchildren was helping him to make wudu. When he rolled up Habib Ibrahim’s right sleeve before his left in order to wash his right arm, Habib Ibrahim reminded him that the Sunnah when removing clothing is to begin with the left and not the right. This was an example of his concern for following the Sunnah down to the smallest detail in spite of his illness and old age.
Extracts from Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz‘s classes on the rulings and etiquettes of purification from Habib Abdullah bin Husayn Balfaqih’s “Kifayat al-Raghib” in Shafi fiqh.