Question Nbr: 4238

Question Date: 1/1/1995

Topic: Ablution and the wiping of socks:

I read in an Islamic monthly magazine that when a Muslim does his ablution, i.e. 'wudhu', he may pass his wet hand over his footwear, only if it is made of leather. Wiping of socks made of cloth is not permissible. The writer supports his opinion by saying that according to Arabic literature, the word "jawrab", which denotes socks, applies only to leather-made socks. Is this true?

What I find strange is the definition the writer uses for the word "jawrab". It is certainly not true that it denotes only leather-made socks. According to one of the best Arabic dictionaries, it means "feet wrapper". There is no hint that it must be made of any particular materials. Where the writer has probably got confused is the fact that the question of wiping feet covers is entered into books of fiqh, or Islamic rulings, under the use of the "khuff". This is traditionally made of leather, but is different from socks. It is similar to shoes, although it is without heels. That scholars agree that this concession meant to make it easier for people to have ablution, applies to all the types of footwear which cover the area which we normally wash when we have the ablution. That includes the whole feet up to the ankles. In operating this concession we rely on the Hadith which tells us that one of the Prophet's companions was helping him to do his ablution by pouring water for him. When that man got ready to pour water over the Prophet's feet, the Prophet motioned him that he did not need to have his feet washed, but wiping his socks was sufficient. He said: "I have put them in when they were pure." That meant that he wore his socks after having had ablution.
It is perhaps useful to mention the rule here that if you do your ablution in the morning, or indeed at any time during the day, then put on your socks or boots, you make the intention (not by words but by being conscious of what you intend to do) to avail yourself of this concession. If your ablution, or wudhu, gets invalidated afterward, you do not need to wash your feet anew when you have a new ablution. It is sufficient to wet your hand and pass your fingers over the top of your feet. To pass one wet finger over a small area of each foot is adequate. Many people find this concession very convenient if they spend a long time at their place of work, where ablution facilities may not be available. This applies particularly in countries where Muslims are a minority or an immigrant community.
Note: you may pray with your shoes on unless they come in contact with something impure (i.e. najasa- for e.g. blood, urine, and etc. Note: dust/mud is not considered najasa) where you would have to clean them to be able to pray with them. you are allowed to do so only in case the shoes cover your anklebones, otherwise, if the shoes don't cover the anklebones, then you have to take your shoes off. Please note the following rulingalso about the permission of wiping over socks in certain conditions: Wiping over socks is permitted according to some Islamic Scholars. However, wiping over socks has certain conditions: 1-they have to be thick (the skin can't be seen through them, unlike nylons from women), 2-they should hold on the feet (you don't tie them with a lace or a string), and 3-you should be able to walk wearing them without being hurt. A person has to wear them over his/her feet while in a state of ablution, and they have to cover the ankles (the two bones sticking out on the bottom of the leg). This means, you can not simply wear socks and then wipe over them. You should instead take a regular ablution (including washing the feet), then wear the sock. If later on in the day you lose the state of ablution, then, you may do a regular ablution but simply wipe over instead of wash the feet. Note: only the top of the sock (foot) should be wiped not the bottom where you walk on. This rule applies regardless if you are traveling or if you stay in the same town. As to the period of time, if you are traveling, you can keep them up to three days while if you are staying in the same town, you can do so only for a period of 24 hours after which you have to take them off to wash your feet again. This means, even if you intend to take them off in three hours and not to wear them for a whole day, you can still do the wiping off. There is no minimum time, but simply a maximum time.
Three things end the validity of Mash: 1) Taking off the shoes, 2) end of the Mash time mentioned above, and 3) anything that requires gusl (Major cleaning).

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