Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: What is the ruling of wiping over footgear? Is it disliked to do so if one can wash his feet? Which of the two acts is more preferable?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon His Messenger Muhammad, his folk, companions, and followers.
The position of the vast majority of Islamic scholarship is that it is permitted without any dislike to wipe over footgear. [Kasani, Bada’i` al-Sana’i`; Nawawi, al-Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni.]
Ibn al-Mundhir actually states that, “There is no difference of opinion that wiping over footgear (khuffs) is permitted.” [Quoted by Ibn Qudama; this indicates that positions to the contrary, such as those of the Shi`a, are considered aberrancies.]
It is also the position of the majority of scholars that, while wiping on footgear is permitted without dislike, washing the feet carries more reward. [Nawawi, al-Majmu`; Marhinani, al-Hidaya; Ibn al-Humam, Fath al-Qadir]
The Hanbalis, however, disagreed with this and considered wiping on footgear superior to washing one’s feet. [Buhuti, Kashshaf al-Qina`] Their reasoning for this was:
a) the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his noble Companions (Allah be pleased with them) always sought to do that which was best, and they wiped over their footgear;
b) wiping over footgear is an act that constitutes being distinct from the people of innovation;
c) Allah has placed dispensations in the religion and love for them to be taken and practiced. [ibid.]
The answer of the majority of scholars to the above is that:
a) There is no denying that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions wiped on their footgear. However, washing the feet was what they practiced most of the time, which demonstrates that it is the best.
b)Being distinct from the people of innovation is achieved by wiping over the footgear sometimes or doing so in their presence.
c) While Allah loves that His dispensations be taken, the very same hadiths tell us that Allah also loves that His resolutions (`aza’im) be followed. Thus, dispensations are to be taken when there is some need or hardship, otherwise one follows the way of resolution.
Three: Situations When Wiping is Better
At the same time, in certain circumstances it is better to wipe over the footgear as the shcolars have mentioned, which include:
a) When the aspect of the permissibility or non-dislikedness of wiping over the footgear is doubted by a person,
b) When the situation is one wherein there is genuine need or hardship.
c) When one seeks to demonstrate the permissibility of wiping – such as in the presence of innovators or the ignorant (if there is benefit in doing so).
d) When wiping over the footgear is a means to dispel baseless misgivings.
e) When one has very limited amounts of water, and wiping on footgear will enable one and others to perform ablutions rather than having to resort to dry ablution (tayammum).
And Allah alone gives success.