What is the masla on covering the feet?
There are two aspects of this masla. One is with respect to covering the feet in Salaat and the other is with respect to outside of Salaat. With respect to that which is evident from authentic it has been stated by many great jurists of the past, that it is not essential for a woman to cover her feet.
While indicating to this Imam Bukhari has mentioned the Hadith of Aisha (RA) in his compilation which states that she said,’ The messenger of Allah (SAW) used to perform the Fajr Salaah and the women would come for the Salaah covered in their sheets, no one could recognize them’. (Bukhari – Chapter on ‘In how many pieces of clothing should a woman perform Salaat’.) This shows that the woman used to wrap themselves with a sheet of cloth while coming for Salaat. It is further explained in the traditions of Ibn Majah and Muslim that no one could recognize the women coming for Salaat at fajr time due to the darkness which preceeded the day break. In the above tradition Imam Bukhari establishes that if a woman covered herself in one sheet of cloth then it is permissible. As such he mentioned in the same chapter, the famous statement of Ikramah, (the freed slave as well as the devout student of Abdullah bin Abas (RA) as saying ‘If a woman covers her body with one garment then it is permissible’.
This statement of Ikramah shows that covering the feet is not essential for a woman, since by using one garment for Salaat, the feet would definitely become visible at some time in Salaat.
Ibn Abi Shaiba has also narrated the riwayah from Abu Usama from Jariri that Ikramah said, ‘A woman would perform Salaat in a loose dress and a head cover’. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba).
It is narrated from Maimoona (R.A.), the wife of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.S.) that she performed Salat in a coat and a head cover and in another authentic tradition it is evident that she performed Salat in a large coat alone and placed part of it on her head. (Umdatul Qaari, commentary of Sahih Al Bukhari).
It is also narrated from Makhool that Aisha (R.A.) and Ali (R.A.) said, ‘A woman should perform Salaat in a loose fitted dress and a head cover’.
In light of these as well as other sources the great Imams, Abu Hanifa (A.R.) and Sufyan Thawri (A.R.) have stated that it is not essential upon a woman to cover her feet in salaat since it is not awrah. Imam Shafi and Malik have stated that she must cover them, since according to both of them her feet is considered to be awrah.
While discussing this issue of covering the feet, Hafiz Ibn Taimiyah (A.R.) has explained that, ‘Ordering women to cover their hands in prayer is far fetched. When a woman kneels down in prostration, she kneels down with her face and her hands as well. In the days when the Prophet (S.A.S.) lived women used to wear garments and work in them. Thus, a woman would show her hands when grinding seeds, kneading bread and baking it. Had covering the hands been a must in prayer, the Prophet would have stated so. The same thing applies to the feet. However, a woman is only ordered to wear a veil together with the garment. (Fatawa – Ibn Taimiyah Lin-Nisaa).
In another passage he writes, ‘It has also been narrated that the Prophet (S.A.S.) said that if the woman had no appropriate garment to wear, she is to stay home. Muslim women used to pray at home, yet the Prophet (S.A.S.) said, ‘Do not stop Allah’s female slaves from going to His Mosques yet it is better for them to pray at home”. However, the women was not ordered to cover her feet with slippers or with socks. Nor was she ordered to cover her hands with gloves or anything of the sort. This, in turn proves that neither her feet nor her hands are to be covered in prayer unless there are strange men around’. (Fatawa Ibn Taimiyah Lin-Nisaa).
With respect to this issue, our ruling is that it is not essential for a woman to cover her feet forSalaat.
Further to this is the question of covering the feet as part of the essential dress of a muslim woman.
On this topic many of the early Jurists of Islam have explained that the same need/necessity for which the hands were exempted from being part of the awrah, is the same need which exempts the feet from being awrah. As such, just the hands are allowed to be exposed so too the feet are allowed to be exposed. In this respect the established position of Imam Abu Hanifa (A.R.) and many other Jurists is of the opinion that it is not essential for a woman to cover her feet since it is not awrah. However, in cases where there is a fear of fitna, such as being in front of strange men, a woman is asked to cover her feet.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan
This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.