The Sunni practice of washing the feet in Wudu(ablution) in the light of Quran and authentic ahadeeth

The Sunni practice of washing the feet in Wudu(ablution) in the light of Quran and authentic ahadeeth.

Bismillah –

All praises due to Allah.

May His mercy and blessings be upon Muhammad, his family and companions.

The main difference between Sunni and Shia wudu is washing or wiping the feet. This is a refutation of Shi’i contentions with regards to the act of washing the feet in Wudu. Shia say this is an innovation and against the command of Allah in Quran which is to wipe the feet.

This writing will be a refutation of all the arguments provided by Shi’ites including that by Shia scholar Abdul Husain Sharafuddin al-Musawi, the author of famous forged conversation “al-Muraja’at”, who has written against  the Sunni viewpoint in his book “al-Masaail al-Fiqhiyyah” which is translated in English as “Juristic Questions”.

This refutation is broadly divided into two sections:

  1. Section I – Quranic Verse of Wudu(ablution) and its interpretation.
  2. Section II: Discussion of narrations related to washing and wiping of feet.


Section I – Quranic Verse of Wudu(ablution) and its interpretation.

Here our discussion is particularly on the portion of the verse which speaks of wiping or washing of feet.

Shia Scholar Abdul Husain said:

The evidence of the Shia for this matter was the Quranic verse (O you who believe! when you rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows and wipe your heads and your feet to the (two) ankles. 5:6)

Imam ar-Razi sufficed us in showing the point of the argument in this verse when he declared: “The evidence of those, who thought that wiping the feet was obligatory, was based upon the two kinds of reciting the phrase (and your feet) mentioned in the verse of wudu’. Ibn Katheer, Hamza, Abu Amr an Aasim recited the phrase in genitive and Nafi’, ibn Aamir and Aasim recited it in accusative. Reciting it in genitive determined that (your feet) was coupled to (your heads) and then as it was obligatory to wipe the head it would be obligatory to wipe the feet. As for reciting it in accusative, it also determined that it was obligatory to wipe the feet because the saying (and wipe your heads) made (your heads) as object and (your feet) was coupled to (your heads) so both of them were objects of the verb (wipe)”

I say: Even though Fakhruddin Ar-Razi said it but he is not the only person to be looked at in matters of Quranic interpretations. In fact, wiping is not necessitated in case of any of the two recitation; with Jar or with Nasb. Basically there are three types of recitation of the phrase “wa arjulakum” two of which are Mutawatir and the third one is shaadh (odd/unreliable):

  1. With Nasb I.e. Wa arjulakum. This is the recitation of Nafe, Ibn Amir, Hafs, Kisai and Yaqoob among the famous reciters of Quran.
  2. With Jarr I.e. wa arjulikum. This is the recitation of Ibn Katheer, Abu Amr, Hamza and Abu Bakr from Aasim.
  3. With Damma I.e. wa arjulukum. This is attributed to Hasan. This is unreliable.


This is the most prevalent recitation as it is the recitation of Hafs who has narrated it from Aasim. The implication derived from this recitation is that the object ((your feet)) is linked with the command of washing as the I’arab it has is the I’irab of the body parts which are to be washed mentioned in the verse. This differs with the I’irab of portion asked to be wiped. Therefore, Reciting it with Nasb as: ‘Wa Arjulakum’ with a Fat-ha on the laam, links it in meaning to ‘Wa Wujoohakum’ (i.e, ‘and your faces’), i.e. wash the feet.

Hence, apparently this is a command for washing the feet. This is how early exegetes(mufassireen) have interpreted it. For example:

عَنْ مَعْمَرٍ، عَنْ قَتَادَةَ، أَنَّ ابْنَ مَسْعُودٍ قَالَ‏:‏ رَجَعَ إِلَى غَسْلِ الْقَدَمَيْنِ فِي قَوْلِهِ‏:‏ ‏{‏وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ‏}‏‏.‏

Maʿmar from Qatada that Ibn Masʿood said: He returned to the washing of the feet in His saying {“and your feet up to the ankles.( Quran 5:6)}” [Musannaf ʿAbd al-Razzaq].

عَنْ مَعْمَرٍ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ عُرْوَةَ، أَنَّ أَبَاهُ قَالَ‏:‏ إِنَّ الْمَسْحَ عَلَى الرِّجْلَيْنِ رَجَعَ إِلَى الْغَسْلِ فِي قَوْلِهِ‏:‏ ‏{‏وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ‏}‏‏.‏

Maʿmar from Hisham bin ʿUrwa that his father said: The wiping upon the feet returned to the washing in His saying {“and your feet up to the ankles.(Quran 5:6)}” [Musannaf ʿAbd al-Razzaq].

حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ مُبَارَكٍ، عَنْ خَالِدٍ، عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، أَنَّهُ قَرَأَ‏:‏ ‏{‏وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ‏}‏، يَعْنِي رَجَعَ الأَمْرُ إلَى الْغَسْلِ‏.

Ibn al-Mubarak narrated to us from Khalid from ʿIkrima from Ibn ʿAbbas that he recited “and your feet” (wa arjulakum) – meaning the command returned to the washing. [Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba]

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، أنَّهُ كَانَ يَقْرَأُ‏:‏ ‏{‏فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُؤُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ‏}‏، يَقُولُ‏:‏ رَجَعَ الأَمْرُ إلَى الْغَسْلِ‏.‏

Abū Muʿawiya narrated to us from Hisham bin ʿUrwa from his father that he would recite “so wash your faces and your arms up to the elbows and wipe your heads and your feet” (5:6) saying: The command returned to the washing. [Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba]

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ بْنُ إدْرِيسَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ حَمَّادٍ، عَنْ إبْرَاهِيمَ، قَالَ‏:‏ عَادَ الأَمْرُ إلَى الْغَسْلِ‏.

Abdullah bin Idris narrated to us from his father from Ḥammad from Ibrahim. He said: The commanded returned back to the washing. [Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba]

However, some of the scholars, excluding Shia scholars, have claimed that even this recitation supports wiping because there cannot occur a third phrase between ma’toof and ma’toof alaih. This was the opinion of Ar-Razi and Ibn Hazm. However, this is not supported by facts as we shall see. Some examples of occurrence of a phrase between ma’toof and ma’toof alaih:

(1) Allah the Exalted says:

وَصَدٌّ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَكُفْرٌ بِهِ وَالْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَام

“ but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram” [2:217]

Comment: Here “al-Masjid al-Haram” is ma’toof and “averting from the way of Allah” is ma’toof ‘alaihi and between them is the phrase “and disbelief in him”.

(2) Allah says:

فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ حِينَ تُمْسُونَ وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُونَ * وَلَهُ

الْحَمْدُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَعَشِيًّا وَحِينَ


“So exalted is Allah when you reach the evening and when you reach the morning. And to Him is [due all] praise throughout the heavens and the earth. And [exalted is He] at night and when you are at noon.” [Surat Ar-Room 17 – 18]

Comment: Here the portion “And to him due all praise throughout the heavens and the earth” occurs between ma’toof and ma’toof alaih and this is acknowledged in the Tafsir Kabeer (25/88).

There are many other examples mentioned by scholars like Mahmud al-Aalusi. It is also illogical to raise objection on this interpretation as early companions and Tab’een have interpreted it as such and they were the people of this language.

Here is the list of those scholars from Sahaba and Taba’een who have interpreted it as such, as opposed to the unreliable claims of Ibn Hazm and Ar-Razi:

  1. Abdullah b. Mas’ud
  2. Ibn ‘Abbas, but there are also narrations stating otherwise
  3. Urwah b. Zubair, one of the great seven Fuqaha among Taba’een
  4. Mujahid, the great mufassir of Qur’an
  5. As-Suddi
  6. Ibrahim An-Nakha’i, the jurist of Kufa
  7. Dahhak etc.

These scholars were masters of Arabic and Quran but they did not see any problem when a phrase exists between ma’toof and ma’toof ‘alaih. Besides them a huge number of early commentators of Quran also did not see it problematic. In conclusion, the objection raised on this interpretation is unreliable and that is why most of the scholars did not pay any attention towards it.


The second mutawatir way of reciting it is with the Kasra on Laam I.e. wa arjulikum. Based on this recitation many scholars have interpreted it to mean wiping of the feet. The most apparent conclusion drawn from this recitation is that the feet should be wiped because the Arabic for feet takes the I’arab of the head and also coming in succession to it which is commanded to be wiped. Even though it is the first possibility with this recitation but it is not the only possibility with this recitation. We have to interpret a verse by looking at the practice and command of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam).

Reason for interpreting the particular reading against the most apparent meaning :

Both the recitations are Mutawatir and hence they can only interpret and cannot overrule each other, therefore interpreting one with washing and another with wiping in the same condition is not possible. Hence what we have to do is to look into traditions and which of the two interpretations are correct in light of the actions and sayings of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). As Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) states in Quran:

وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ

إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“ And We revealed to you the message that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might give thought.”[Surat An-Nahl 44]

Hence it was the duty of the Prophet (sallahu alahi wa sallam) to interpret the Quran for us. So when we look at his actions and sayings we see that he always washed his feet and commanded to do so. Narrations of washing are so many that Tawatur can easily be claimed regarding it. On the other hand there is not a single authentic narration which shows wiping of the feet by Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). [Authenticity of  narrations usually quoted by Shiites will be discussed in the next section]

Since we are now sure about the interpretation given by the Prophet (sallahu alaihi wa sallam), hence we need to interpret the verse in light of it. We see that the recitation with Nasb and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) both clearly supports washing, so the problem remains with the other recitation which is with Kasra. We now look at the possibility of interpreting it in light of other clear evidence. We find the following answers to the problem which are in line with language, logic and textual evidence:

  1. The Kasra is due to its proximity with the nearby word. Or,
  2. The “MasH” mentioned with regards to feet is light washing of them.
  3. The wudu method, in this particular recitation, is regarding travelers and therefore wiping is prescribed over socks in this verse.

We will expand these answers one by one, Insha Allah!

Jarr ‘ala al-Jiwar

This means a word accepts Kasra or Jarr of the nearby word even if technically it should not have been Majroor (affected by Jarr). Many of the scholars have admitted its possibility in Arabic language while some have objected to it. Those who pointed out its possibility include the grammarian al-Akhfash and Abu Ubaidah. Besides them other scholars who have pointed out its possibility include As-Samarqandi, AlBaghwi, al-Bayhaqi, An-Nasafi, Ath-Tha’albi, Jalal al-Muhalli, Ibn Jawzi, Ibn Katheer, Al-Aalusi, Ash-Shinqiti etc. [Refer to their Tafaseer under the commentary of the verse of wudu]

Ar-Razi was one of those who totally denied any existence of it in Qur’an and so he was quoted by the Shi’as like Abdul Husain. Following are the objections of Ar-Razi:

  1. Such usage in Arabic is considered Lahn (weakness in speech).
  2. It is done only when there is no possibility of confusion for readers.
  3. It occurs without ‘Atf. (I.e. waw)
  4. Interruption between ma’toof and ma’toof alaih by a non-relevant phrase or sentence is disliked even in common speech.

Scholars like Mahmud al-Aalusi and Muhammad Amin Ash-Shinqiti have answered these claims in detail. I’ll be presenting the summary of their response here point by point, Insha Allah.

  1. The great grammarians like Al-Akhfash, Abul Baqa and all the specialists of Arabic language have approved of the existence of it and no one denied it except Az-Zajjaj. His denial after his affirmation of the existence of Jarr ala al-Jiwar in their speeches indicates the lack of research from his side.
  2. To claim that it is from the condition of Jarr ’ala al-Jiwar that the matter is not confused, is not accepted as the grammarians have not mentioned any such rule. Yes, some of them have mentioned it as a condition for the beauty in Kalam (speech) with the condition which is fulfilled here, and that is this portion which is asked to be wiped is limited with the ankles and wiping do not occur with limit in Arabic speech.
  3. Scholars have pointed out its occurrence even with Atf. See the Tafsir Ruh al-Ma’ani by the Mufti of Baghdad Allama Mahmud al-Aalusi and Adwa alBayan by Allama Shinqiti for examples of such usage in Arabic.
  4. It causes effect only when the interpolated portion is totally irrelevant which is not the case here is. Besides, examples have already been given of such usage while discussing the recitation with Nasb.


MasH here means washing

Another answer which many of the commentators of Quran have pointed out that مسح in reference to feet means (a little) washing. This was pointed out by Abu Zaid al-Ansari and Abu Hatim As-Sijistani among the scholars of Arabic language.

If it is said that how could a single word in a sentence have two meanings? How مسح for head is wiping and for feet is washing in the same verse? The answer is, it is possible that real meaning of a word and its metaphorical meaning be combined in a single sentence. Quran mentions:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنْتُمْ

سُكَارَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَعْلَمُوا مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلَا جُنُبًا إِلَّا

عَابِرِي سَبِيلٍ حَتَّىٰ تَغْتَسِلُوا

“ O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer]…” [Surat An-Nisa 43]

In the above verse, a same word الصلاة (salaah) is used once for prayer and secondly for Masjid.

It is also to be noted that the verse of Wudu was revealed years after the Wudu was prescribed, and hence there was no possibility for confusion. Besides the limit prescribed in the verse for the feet which is till ankles, supports this view as in Arabic limits are not given for wiping. See Tafaseer mentioned earlier.


The wiping is over socks

Many scholars have mentioned this. This is very much plausible considering the fact that a verse when comes with different mutawatir readings then both readings, by rule, are separately taken as two different verse while deriving the rulings. Hence, with Nasb it is for person under normal condition while with Kasra it is for those traveling while wearing socks.

If it is said, what is the basis for this, the answer would be: The basis is all those narrations which mention washing for normal condition and wiping over socks, which are explicit and they are not singular reports which could be rejected by calling them mistakes or forgeries.

Also, the basis is the verse itself where if the المسح is taken in general then it will contradict the other proven recitation. And Allah knows best.


Section II: Discussion of narrations related to washing and wiping of feet.

In this section, we shall analyze the narrations regarding washing and wiping the feet. This will be done in following steps:

  1. Authenticity and Tawatur of narrations about washing of feet.
  2. Scrutinizing the Narrations which indicates wiping of feet.
  3. View of Ali b. Abi Talib
  4. Some Shi’ee reports regarding washing of feet.
  5. Logical conclusion


Authenticity and Tawattur of Narrations about washing of feet:-

Narrations of washing feet (which is a portion from detailed description of Wudu) are so many that it can easily be termed Mutawatir. Following is the list of companions who have reported this from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). I have avoided severely weak or rejected narrations even though some slightly weak narrations may have been included.

Umar b. Khattab : Muslim

Uthman b. Affan : Agreed upon[Bukhari and Muslim]

Ali b. Abi Talib : Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai

Abu Hurairah : Agreed upon[Bukhari and Muslim]

Aisha Umm al-Mumineen : Muslim

Mustawrid b. Shaddad : Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Tahawi.

Abu Jubair al-Kindi : Ibn Hibban, Tahawi

Abdullah b. Harith b. Jaz’ : Ahmad, Ibn Khuzaima

Jabir b. Abdullah : Ibn Majah, Ahmad

Abdullah b. ‘Amr b. ‘Aas : Agreed upon[Bukhari and Muslim]

Ibn Abbas : Bukhari

Mu’awiyah b. Abi Sufyan : Abu Dawud

Abu Rafe’ : Tahawi

Rubayyi’ bint Mu’awwidh : Abu Dawud

Abdullah b. Zaid b. Aasim : Agreed upon

Amr b. ‘Absah : Ibn Khuzaima, Hakim, Tahawi.

Abu Malik al-Ash’ari : Ahmad, Ibn Abi Shaibah

Abu Bakrah Ath-Thaqafi : Bazzar

Anas b. Malik : Abu Dawud, Ibn Khuzaimah

Bara b. Azib : Ahmad.


Scrutinizing Narrations used in support of wiping the feet:-

(1). Abu Dawud (858), Nasai (1136) and Ibn Majah (460) narrate through Hammam from Ishaq b. Abdullah b. Abi Talha from Ali b. Yahya b. Khallad from his father from Rifa’ah b. Rafi’ that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said to the person who was constantly offering his salaah in wrong manner, “Indeed the prayer of any of you will not be accepted until he completes his Wudu as it is prescribed by Allah; hence he washes his face and hands till elbow, and wipes over his head and his feet till ankles…” And then he mentioned full description.

The narrators of this narration are reliable and hence the isnad of this is apparently authentic. However when we give it a closer look we see that the portion describing the method of Wudu has been reported from Ishaq b. Abdullah b. Abu Talha only by Hammam.

Let us compare the Asaneed (chains) of this tradition. This narration is narrated through Ali b. Yahya b. Khallad from his father from Rifa’ah b. Rafi’ from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). From Ali b. Yahya this was narrated by the following:

  • Muhammad b. Ajlaan: Ahmad (18997), Nasai (1313), Ibn Hibban (1787)
  • Dawud b. Qais: Musannaf Abdur-Razzaq (3739), Nasai (1314), Tabrani (4520).
  • Muhammad b. Ishaq: Abu Dawud (860)
  • Muhammad b. Amr b. Alqamah: Ahmad (18995), Abu Dawud (859), Ibn Hibban (1787).
  • Shareek b. Abi Nimr:
  • Yahya b. Ali b. Yahya: Musnad Tayalisi (1469), Abu Dawud (861), Tirmidhi (302), Nasai (667).
  • Ishaq b. Abdullah b. Abu Talha

None of the above narrators narrates it with the wording commanding to wipe the feet except for Ishaq b. Abdullah b. Abu Talha. Even from Ishaq only Hammam mentions it while Hammad b. Salmah do not mention it as it is reported by Abu Dawud (857) and others.

Now if look at the narration of Hammam then it appears that some narrator have included the verse of Qur’an after the statement “Do Wudu as commanded by Allah…”. This addition is not part of the hadith but rather someone (either Hammam or Ishaq himself) has included the modified form of the Quranic verse as an interpretation of the statement of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam).


(2). Tahawi (1/35) through Shareek from As-Suddi from Abd Khair from Ali regarding wiping.

Even though Shareek is weak but still this narration doesn’t support wiping over feet in Wudu. The complete version of this has been narrated by Ahmad in Musnad (943) through the same chain of Shareek but it mentions that “This is the Wudu of the person who is still the state of purity (Wudu)”.

This is how it was also narrated by Sufyan Thawri from As-Suddi with the same meaning. Imam Ahmad narrated it in Musnad (970), Ibn Khuzaimah in his Sahih (200). Tahawi narrated the short version which caused the confusion.


(3). Al-A’amash narrates from Abu Ishaq from Abd Khair from Ali. But Hafs b. Ghiyath narrates it from al-A’amash, and Hafs was one of the most reliable person while narrating from him, with the wording “If the religion was based on analogy then the upper side of the socks were more worthy to be wiped than the bottom of it.” Yazeed b. Abdul Aziz also narrates it in similar fashion.

But Wakee’ narrates it without mentioning “socks” although he did interpret it to mean “over the socks”. See Sunan Abu Dawud (no. 162-164)

What we conclude from above is that there is a huge conflict (Idhtirab orإضطراب ) in the apparent wording of this version of hadith. The hadith is normally rejected when there is significant conflict in the wording or Isnad of hadith and if we literally take this narration then this has to be rejected as well. But when the reconciliation is possible between different wordings then the hadith is not classified as weak. Here, in the above version in which wiping over feet is mentioned, reconciliation is possible as scholars, including wakee’ b. Jarrah, have pointed out. They say it means the feet when it is covered by socks. This is the most plausible explanation in light of the famous opinion of Ali b. Abu Talib (which shall be discussed soon).

The scholar of Hadith, Imam Daarqutni said after discussing differences in the wording and Isnad of this particular narration:

وَالصَّحِيحُ مِنْ ذَلِكَ قَوْلُ مَنْ قَالَ: كُنْتُ أَرَى أَنَّ بَاطِنَ الْخُفَّيْنِ أَحَقُّ بِالْمَسْحِ مِنْ أَعْلَاهُمَا.

وَكَذَلِكَ قَالَ حَكِيمُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَبِي إسحاق

“The correct version from all these is that which has the wording “I used to consider the bottom of the socks more worthy to be washed than the top of it…” And this is how Hakeem b. Zaid narrate it from Abu Ishaq.”

He further said:

وَمِمَّا يُقَوِّي مَا ذَكَرْنَاهُ، مَا رَوَاهُ خَالِدُ بْنُ عَلْقَمَةَ، وَعَبْدُ الْمَلِكِ بْنُ سَلْعٍ، وَالْحَسَنُ بن عقبة أبو كيران، وَغَيْرُهُمْ، عَنْ عَبْدِ خَيْرٍ أَنَّ عَلِيًّا غَسَلَ قَدَمَيْهِ ثَلَاثًا، وَقَالَ: هَكَذَا رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَفْعَلُ

“This view is supported by the narration reported by Khalid b. Alqama, Abdul Malik b. Sala’, Hasan b. Uqbah Abu Kairan and others from Abd Khair that Ali washed his feet thrice and said, “This is how I saw the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) doing”.” See Al-‘Ilal by Ad-Daarqutni (4/45-46).


(4). Tahawi (1/35) reports through Ibn Abi Fudaik from Ibn Abi Dhi’b from Nafi’ from Ibn Umar:

أَنَّهُ كَانَ إِذَا تَوَضَّأَ وَنَعْلَاهُ فِي قَدَمَيْهِ , مَسَحَ ظُهُورَ قَدَمَيْهِ بِيَدَيْهِ , وَيَقُولُ: «كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَصْنَعُ هَكَذَا»

“While performing Wudu, with his shoe covering his feet, he would wipe over the back of his feet with his hands. He used to say, ‘The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) used to do it in this way’.”

Ibn Khuzaimah (199) narrated it with a different chain.

Apparently this is authentic as all of its narrators are reliable. Scholars have different explanation regarding it. According to Imam At-Tahawi it was abrogated later on. Al-Bazzar said that this is for person renewing his Wudu.

In any case, there is no evidence in it to support wiping over feet as this narration is for wiping over shoe. Scholars such as Ibn Khuzaimah interpret that all of the narration which mentions wiping over feet with shoe are regarding that person who already has his Wudu. This is the most plausible explanation in light of authentic narrations quoted earlier which explicitly mentions that Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) wiped over his shoe when he was in state of purity. Allah knows best.

Besides all these, there is evidence that Ibn Umar himself used to wash his feet during Wudu as it has been reported by Tahawi (1/41-42) through Abu Awana and Shu’bah both of who narrate it from Abu Bishr from Mujahid from Ibn Umar. Similarly, Tahawi narrates it through Ibn Majishoon from Abdullah b. Dinar from Ibn Umar. So it is illogical that Ibn Umar publically attributed something to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and then goes against it.


(5). Tahawi (1/35) narrates through Ibn Lahee’ah from Abul Aswad from Abbad b. Tamim from his uncle regarding wiping. Ibn Khuzaimah (201) has narrated it with another chain.

Here the uncle of Abbad b. Tamim is Abdullah b. Zaid. His description of Wudu is well famous and agreed upon by all scholars and it mentions washing of feet. (See the list of companions who have narrated the washing of feet)

So this particular and short version, if it is authentic, has to be understood and interpreted in the light of agreed upon and detailed version of Abdullah’s hadith.


Wudu of the person with Wudu:

If a person is in state of Wudu and want to renew it then as per the view of Ali b. Abu Talib he just need to wipe on his parts of wudu instead of washing them. This has been reported by Sufyan Thawri and Shareek al-Qadhi from Ismail As-Suddi from Abd Khair from Ali as mentioned d earlier. It was also narrated by Abdul Malik b. Maisirah from Nazzaal b. Saburah from Ali as in Musnad Ahmad (583, 1005, 1173), Sunan Nasai (130), Sahih Ibn Khuzaima (16, 202), Sahih Ibn Hibban (1057, 1340, 1341, 5326) and others.

However in Sahih Bukhari this narration is recorded with incomplete wording which caused ignorants like the author of shiapen to claim that this was done for hiding the truth. The complete version does say that the method mentioned in this hadith is for those who are in state of purity (with Wudu). However in their ignorance they have also quoted the Musnad Tayalisi (141) which does mention the portion:

هَذَا وُضُوءُ مَنْ لَمْ يُحْدِثْ»

“This is the ablution of those who have their Wudu”


View of Ali b. Abi Talib

There is no doubt that Ali b. Abi Talib used to wash his feet. Among his companions following people reported to have seen him washing his feet during wudu:

Husain b. Ali (ra)

Ibn Abbas

Zirr b. Hubaish

Abd khair

Abu Huyyah al-Kharifi

(i). The narration of Husain (ra) Imam Nasai records in Sunan (95) :

أَخْبَرَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ الْحَسَنِ الْمِقْسَمِيُّ قَالَ: أَنْبَأَنَا حَجَّاجٌ قَالَ: قَالَ ابْنُ جُرَيْجٍ، حَدَّثَنِي شَيْبَةُ، أَنَّ مُحَمَّدَ بْنَ عَلِيٍّ أَخْبَرَهُ قَالَ: أَخْبَرَنِي أَبِي عَلِيٌّ، أَنَّ الْحُسَيْنَ بْنَ عَلِيٍّ قَالَ: دَعَانِي أَبِي عَلِيٌّ بِوَضُوءٍ، فَقَرَّبْتُهُ لَهُ ” فَبَدَأَ فَغَسَلَ كَفَّيْهِ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُدْخِلَهُمَا فِي وَضُوئِهِ، ثُمَّ مَضْمَضَ ثَلَاثًا، وَاسْتَنْثَرَ ثَلَاثًا، ثُمَّ غَسَلَ وَجْهَهُ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ، ثُمَّ غَسَلَ يَدَهُ الْيُمْنَى إِلَى الْمِرْفَقِ ثَلَاثًا، ثُمَّ الْيُسْرَى كَذَلِكَ، ثُمَّ مَسَحَ بِرَأْسِهِ مَسْحَةً وَاحِدَةً، ثُمَّ غَسَلَ رِجْلَهُ الْيُمْنَى إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ ثَلَاثًا، ثُمَّ الْيُسْرَى كَذَلِكَ، ثُمَّ قَامَ قَائِمًا، فَقَالَ: نَاوِلْنِي. فَنَاوَلْتُهُ الْإِنَاءَ الَّذِي فِيهِ فَضْلُ وَضُوئِهِ فَشَرِبَ مِنْ فَضْلِ وَضُوئِهِ قَائِمًا “. فَعَجِبْتُ فَلَمَّا رَآنِي قَالَ: «لَا تَعْجَبْ؛ فَإِنِّي رَأَيْتُ أَبَاكَ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَصْنَعُ مِثْلَ مَا رَأَيْتَنِي صَنَعْتُ يَقُولُ لِوُضُوئِهِ هَذَا وَشَرِبِ فَضْلِ وَضُوئِهِ قَائِمًا»

Ibn Juraij narrates that he heard from Shaiba from Abu Jafar al-Baqir from Ali b. Husain from his father Husain that his father Ali b. Abi Talib called him with the vessel having water for ablution…until the end of hadith which describe the ablution including the washing of feet. Finally he stood and drank the remaining water of the vessel. At the end Ali (ra) said to Husain, “Do not be astonished, for I have seen your father (the Messenger of Allah) doing just as you have seen me doing…”

This chain is authentic and it was judged so by Shaikh Nasiruddin al-Albani in his rulings on Nasai. Here is a brief analysis of its narrators:

Ibn Juraij was Thiqah, Faqih and Virtuous. He would do Tadlees but in the above narration he has clearly pointed out his hearing through the term “Haddathani”.

Shaibah b. Nasaah was the Qadi of Madinah. Ibn Numair, Ibn Maeen, Ibn Hibban, Nasai, Ibn Saad have declared him Thiqah. [Tahdheeb al-Kamaal (12/609)]

All other narrators above them were reliable with agreement of scholars and they were from the Imams of Shia Imamis.

(ii). The hadith of Ibn Abbas from Ali is recorded by Abu Dawud (117) which mentions the washing of feet. There is some dispute regarding its isnad. Shaykh al-Albani considered it Hasan[Good].

(iii). The hadith of Zirr b. Hubaish is in Abu Dawud (114) through Rabi’ah al-Kinani from Minhal b. Amr from Zirr b. Hubaish from Ali b. Abi Talib. Its narrators are reliable and the hadith was declared sahih by Al-Albani and Shuaib Arnaut.

(iv). The hadith of Abd Khair is reported in Sunan and other books. Abu Dawud (111-113) and Nasai (92-94) report it through Khalid b. Alqamah from Abd Khair from Ali. Tirmidhi narrates it in Sunan (49) through Abu Ishaq from Abd Khair. This narration is authentic without any doubt.

(v). The hadith of Abu Hayya is also narrated in Sunan. Abu Dawud (116), Tirmidhi (49), Nasai (96,115) and Ibn Majah (456) through Abul Ahwas and others from Abu Ishaq from Abu Hayyah b. Qais from Ali (ra).

Abu Hayyah is disputed narrator. Al-Dhahabi said he was not known, while Ibn Hajar said he was maqbool which means his narrations are acceptable if backed by other narrators. On the other hand Ibn Hibban listed him among Thiqaat and Ibn Jarud quotes from Ibn Numair that he was Thiqah. Ahmad b. Hanbal called him “shaykh”. See Tahdheeb.

All these indicate that Abu Huyyah is a considerable narrator in light of other narrations.

After this there remains no doubt that the opinion of Ali(ra) was of washing the feet not wiping. And Allah knows best.


Some Shi’ee reports regarding washing of feet:-

(i). Shia muhadith al-Haj Mirza Hussain an-Noore Tabarsi in his (shia book)“Mustadrak al wasail” (1/305-306) narrated:
إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الثَّقَفِيُّ فِي كِتَابِ الْغَارَاتِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الْحَسَنِ عَنْ عَبَايَةَ قَالَ كَتَبَ عَلِيٌّ ( ع ) إِلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَ أَهْلِ مِصْرَ أَمَّا بَعْدُ إِلَى أَنْ قَالَ ( ع ) ثُمَّ الْوُضُوءُ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّلَاةِ اغْسِلْ كَفَّيْكَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ وَ تَمَضْمَضْ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ وَ اسْتَنْشِقْ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ وَ اغْسِلْ وَجْهَكَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ ثُمَّ يَدَكَ الْيُمْنَى ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ إِلَى الْمِرْفَقِ ثُمَّ يَدَكَ الشِّمَالَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ إِلَى الْمِرْفَقِ ثُمَّ امْسَحْ رَأْسَكَ ثُمَّ اغْسِلْ رِجْلَكَ الْيُمْنَى ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ ثُمَّ اغْسِلْ رِجْلَكَ الْيُسْرَى ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ فَإِنِّي رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ (ص) هَكَذَا كَانَ يَتَوَضَّأُ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ ( ص ) الْوُضُوءُ نِصْفُ الْإِيمَانِ
Ali ibn Abu Talib in his message to Mohammad (ibn Abu Bakr) and people of Egypt described them minor ablution in this way:
ثُمَّ الْوُضُوءُ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّلَاةِ
Then ablution it’s from perfectness of pray.
اغْسِلْ كَفَّيْكَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ
Wash your hands 3 times.
وَ تَمَضْمَضْ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ
Then make mazmazah 3 times
وَ اسْتَنْشِقْ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ
And make istinshaq 3 times.
وَ اغْسِلْ وَجْهَكَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ
And wash your face 3 times.
ثُمَّ يَدَكَ الْيُمْنَى ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ إِلَى الْمِرْفَقِ ثُمَّ يَدَكَ الشِّمَالَ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ إِلَى الْمِرْفَقِ
Then your right hand 3 times in the direction of elbow, and your left hand 3 times in the direction of elbow.
ثُمَّ امْسَحْ رَأْسَكَ
Then wipe your head
ثُمَّ اغْسِلْ رِجْلَكَ الْيُمْنَى ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ ثُمَّ اغْسِلْ رِجْلَكَ الْيُسْرَى ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ
Then wash your right leg 3 times, and then wash your left leg 3 times.
فَإِنِّي رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ (ص) هَكَذَا كَانَ يَتَوَضَّأُ
And I seen prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa ala alihi wa sallam) making ablution in this way.

(ii). Kulayni narrated in Shia book “Kafi” (3/35) that imam Abu Abdullah said:
إِنْ نَسِيتَ مَسْحَ رَأْسِكَ حَتَّى تَغْسِلَ رِجْلَيْكَ فَامْسَحْ رَأْسَكَ ثُمَّ اغْسِلْ رِجْلَيْكَ .
“If you forgot to wipe your head, and washed your feets, then wipe your head and wash your feet(again)”.

Bahbude said narration is authentic. Majlisi said it’s muwathaq(reliable).

فأما ما رواه محمد بن احمد بن يحيى عن احمد بن الحسن بن علي بن فضال عن عمرو ابن سعيد المدايني عن مصدق بن صدقة عن عمار بن موسى عن أبي عبدالله عليه السلام في الرجل يتوضأ الوضوء كله الا رجليه ثم يخوض الماء بهما خوضا؟ قال: اجزأه ذلك۔ الاستبصار 65/1 ، تهذيب الاحكام 66/1۔
Meaning: Imam Jafar was asked about a person’s Wudhu (ablution), who have done all Wudhu (and at the last) then dipped his feet in water (for washing feet). Imam said: Its legitimate for him. [Al Istibsar, 1/65 – Tahdhib-ul-Ahkaam, 1/66].

فاما ما رواه محمد بن الحسن الصفار عن عبد الله بن المنبه عن الحسين بن علوان عن عمرو بن خالد عن زيد بن علي عن آبائه عن علي عليهم السلام قال: جلست أتوضأ واقبل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله حين ابتدأت في الوضوء فقال لي: تمضمض واستنشق واستن ثم غسلت وجهي ثلاثا فقال: قد يجزيك من ذلك المرتان قال فغسلت ذراعي ومسحت برأسي مرتين فقال: قد يجزيك من ذلك المرة وغسلت قدمي فقال: لي يا علي خلل ما بين الأصابع لا تخلل بالنار۔ الاستبصار 66/1 ، تهذيب الاحكام 93/1۔
Meaning: Ali [ra] said: …. I sat for Wudhu (ablution) in front of Prophet [saww]…. and (when) I washed my feet, Prophet [saww] said to me: O Ali! do khalaal (i.e. wash inside) within the fingers, so that the fire (i.e. hell-fire) could not do khalaal. [Al Istibsar, 1/66 – Tahdhib-ul-Ahkaam, 1/93]

Shia scholar Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi reported in his book “Malathil akhyar” (1/376-377,  Sayyyed Mahdi ar-Raji) from Imam Abu Abdullah (alaihi salam), that he was teaching his companions proper way of ablution, and he said:
وَ إِنْ نَسِيتَ مَسْحَ رَأْسِكَ حَتَّى تَغْسِلَ رِجْلَيْكَ فَامْسَحْ رَأْسَكَ ثُمَّ اغْسِلْ رِجْلَيْك‏
If (during the minor ablution) you forgot to wipe your head till you have (already) WASHED YOUR LEGS, then in this case, wipe your head, and then WASH YOUR LEGS. [Grading of hadith by al-Majlisi: Al-Muwathaq. (Reliable)]


Logical conclusion:-

We have proved in the previous section that Quranic verse does not necessarily support the practice of wiping over the feet during ablution. One of the two famous recitations clearly supports washing of feet while the other recitation may or may not support washing. But based on other internal and external factors we can be sure that it doesn’t rule out washing. This has been proven in enough details in the first section.

When we look at the second source of Islamic laws then we see that washing was a prevalent practice during the time of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and after him. There are so many witnesses to it that it cannot be claimed that it was a false attribution on the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). Only selected narrations have been reported about wiping as a Sunnah but they have their defects which don’t qualify them to stand against a practice which was reported in Mutawatir form. We have clarified it in the second section.


Note: This article was taken from, here is the link to the original article:[Washing the feet in Wudu – Answering Shi’i Contentions]

2 thoughts on “The Sunni practice of washing the feet in Wudu(ablution) in the light of Quran and authentic ahadeeth

  1. Allah Almighty Says in the Quran (what means): “O you who believe! When you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles…” [Quran: 5:6]

    There are two correct ways of reciting the phrase ‘Wa Arjulakum’ (i.e., ‘and your feet’) having reached us from the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ):

    1) Reciting it as: ‘Wa Arjulakum’ with a Fat-ha on the laam, hence linking it in meaning to ‘Wa Wujoohakum’ (i.e, ‘and your faces’), i.e. wash the feet.

    2) Reciting it as: ‘Wa Arjulikum’ with a Kasrah on the laam, hence linking it in meaning to ‘Bi Ru’oosikum’ (your heads), i.e. wipe the feet.

    That which explains when to wipe the feet and when to wash them is the Sunnah, for the Messenger sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) would wash his feet when they were uncovered, and wipe over them when they were covered by Khuffs.

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