In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
Islam allows Muslims to wipe over their footwear in ablution instead of washing the feet, whether they are leather socks (al-khuffayn), non-leather socks (al-jawrabayn), clean shoes, or clean sandals. It is also permissible to wipe over headgear that is difficult to remove. These are concessions to make the performance of daily ablution easier.
Permission to wipe over leather socks is one of the most widely reported practices in Islam.
Hasan Al-Basri said:
حَدَّثَنِي سَبْعُونَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَسَحَ عَلَى الْخُفَّيْنِ
Seventy companions of the Prophet narrated to me that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, wiped over his leather socks.
Source: al-Mughnī 1/174
Wiping over footwear has some conditions for its validity, which include being in a state of purification before wearing them, covering the entire feet and ankles, and wearing footwear durable enough to walk in.
Abu Shuja’a writes:
والمسح على الخفين جائز بثلاثة شرائط أن يبتدئ لبسهما بعد كمال الطهارة وأن يكونا ساترين لمحل غسل الفرض من القدمين وأن يكونا مما يمكن تتابع المشي عليهما
Wiping over the leather socks is permissible with three conditions: that one began to wear them after completing purification, that they cover the entire area which are required to wash, and that they can be walked upon.
Source: al-Ghāyah wal-Taqrīb 1/5
Travelers may wipe over their footwear for three days and nights, while residents may wipe for only one day and night.
Ali ibn Abi Talib reported:
جَعَلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ (الْمَسْحِ عَلَى الْخُفَّيْنِ) ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ وَلَيَالِيَهُنَّ لِلْمُسَافِرِ وَيَوْمًا وَلَيْلَةً لِلْمُقِيمِ
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, permitted wiping over leather socks for three day and nights for the traveler, and one day and night for the resident.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 276, Grade: Sahih
Footwear must be worn after having renewed ritual purification through ablution (wudu’) or a ritual bath (ghusl).
Al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah reported: I was with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, on a journey and I reached out to take off his leather socks. The Prophet said:
دَعْهُمَا فَإِنِّي أَدْخَلْتُهُمَا طَاهِرَتَيْنِ
Leave them, for I have worn them in a state of purity.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 203, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
The wiping of the socks is done over their upper parts and not the bottom parts.
Abdi Khayr reported: Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
لَوْ كَانَ الدِّينُ بِالرَّأْيِ لَكَانَ أَسْفَلُ الْخُفِّ أَوْلَى بِالْمَسْحِ مِنْ أَعْلَاهُ وَقَدْ رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَمْسَحُ عَلَى ظَاهِرِ خُفَّيْهِ
If the religion were based upon one’s opinion, one might expect the bottom of the leather sock to be wiped instead of the top, yet I have seen the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, wiping over the upper part of his leather socks.
Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 162, Grade: Sahih
It is permissible to pray in shoes or sandals if there is no impurity (najas) on them. They should be wiped over for ablution in the same way as leather socks. Of course, shoes or sandals should not be worn in a mosque or a place in which it is customary to remove them.
Sa’eed ibn Yazeed reported: I asked Anas ibn Malik, “Did the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, pray in his sandals?” Anas said:
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 555, Grade: Sahih
In addition to wiping over shoes or sandals, it is permissible to wipe over non-leather socks made from cotton, wool, or another common material.
Al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah reported:
تَوَضَّأَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَمَسَحَ عَلَى الْجَوْرَبَيْنِ وَالنَّعْلَيْنِ
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, performed ablution by wiping over non-leather socks and sandals.
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 99, Grade: Sahih
Some scholars stipulated that the non-leather socks may only be wiped over if they are thick or non-transparent.
وَهُوَ قَوْلُ غَيْرِ وَاحِدٍ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْعِلْمِ وَبِهِ يَقُولُ سُفْيَانُ الثَّوْرِيُّ وَابْنُ الْمُبَارَكِ وَالشَّافِعِيُّ وَأَحْمَدُ وَإِسْحَقُ قَالُوا يَمْسَحُ عَلَى الْجَوْرَبَيْنِ وَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ نَعْلَيْنِ إِذَا كَانَا ثَخِينَيْنِ
It is the view of more than one of the scholars, as is said by Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Ibn Al-Mubarak, Ash-Shafi’ee, Ahmad, and Ishaq. They said one may wipe over non-leather socks, even though they are not sandals, if they are thick.
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 99
It is best for the footwear to be thick. However, other scholars narrated that some of the companions allowed wiping over thin non-leather socks or they permitted wiping over non-leather socks.
وَحَكَى أَصْحَابُنَا عَنْ عُمَرَ وَعَلِيٍّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا جَوَازَ الْمَسْحِ عَلَى الْجَوْرَبِ وَإِنْ كَانَ رَقِيقًا
Our scholars related from Umar and Ali, may Allah be pleased with them, permission to wipe over non-leather socks even if they are thin.
Source: al-Majmū’ Sharḥ al-Muhadhab 1/500
Ibn Hazm writes:
وَالْمَسْحُ عَلَى كُلِّ مَا لُبِسَ فِي الرِّجْلَيْنِ مِمَّا يَحِلُّ لِبَاسُهُ مِمَّا يَبْلُغُ فَوْقَ الْكَعْبَيْنِ سُنَّةٌ سَوَاءٌ كَانَا خُفَّيْنِ مِنْ جُلُودٍ أَوْ لُبُودٍ أَوْ عُودٍ أَوْ حَلْفَاءَ أَوْ جَوْرَبَيْنِ مِنْ كَتَّانٍ أَوْ صُوفٍ أَوْ قُطْنٍ أَوْ وَبَرٍ أَوْ شَعْرٍ كَانَ عَلَيْهِمَا جِلْدٌ أَوْ لَمْ يَكُنْ أَوْ جُرْمُوقَيْنِ أَوْ خُفَّيْنِ عَلَى خُفَّيْنِ أَوْ جَوْرَبَيْنِ عَلَى جَوْرَبَيْنِ أَوْ مَا كَثُرَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ
Wiping over anything worn on the feet of permissible clothing, which reaches above the ankles, is a prophetic tradition (sunnah), whether they are socks of leather, felt, stalk, or grass, or stockings of linen, wool, cotton, fur, or hair, with leather over them or not, or whether over shoes, leather socks over leather socks, or stockings over stockings, and whatever else of that.
Source: al-Muḥallá 1/321
Some scholars stipulate other conditions, such as the footwear not having large holes or tears. However, these additional conditions have been put forth on the basis of independent legal reasoning (ijtihad) and not evidences from the Sunnah.
Ibn Taymiyyah writes:
فَلَمَّا أَطْلَقَ الرَّسُولُ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْأَمْرَ بِالْمَسْحِ عَلَى الْخِفَافِ مَعَ عِلْمِهِ بِمَا هِيَ عَلَيْهِ فِي الْعَادَةِ وَلَمْ يُشْتَرَطْ أَنْ تَكُونَ سَلِيمَةً مِنْ الْعُيُوبِ وَجَبَ حَمْلُ أَمْرِهِ عَلَى الْإِطْلَاقِ وَلَمْ يَجُزْ أَنْ يُقَيَّدَ كَلَامُهُ إلَّا بِدَلِيلِ شَرْعِيٍّ وَكَانَ مُقْتَضَى لَفْظِهِ أَنَّ كُلَّ خُفٍّ يَلْبَسُهُ النَّاسُ وَيَمْشُونَ فِيهِ فَلَهُمْ أَنْ يَمْسَحُوا عَلَيْهِ وَإِنْ كَانَ مَفْتُوقًا أَوْ مَخْرُوقًا مِنْ غَيْرِ تَحْدِيدٍ لِمِقْدَارِ ذَلِكَ فَإِنَّ التَّحْدِيدَ لَا بُدَّ لَهُ مِنْ دَلِيلٍ
When the Prophet commanded wiping over the socks, he knew what was the normal state of affairs and he did not make it an obligation that the socks should be whole and free of any faults. His command should be taken as general in meaning and it should not be restricted unless there is a legal evidence for doing so. What is implied by the wording is that any socks that people wear and walk about in may be wiped over, even if they have holes or are worn out, without defining the acceptable extent for these holes and tears, because even such a definition would require evidence.
Source: Majmūʻ al-Fatāwá 21/174
This is not to say the additional rules are invalid, but rather that they are speculative in nature. One may choose to follow them or not.
It is also permissible to wipe over a turban or other firmly wrapped headgear if it is difficult to remove.
فَمَسَحَ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِنَاصِيَتِهِ وَعَلَى الْعِمَامَةِ وَعَلَى الْخُفَّيْنِ
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, wiped over his forehead, his turban, and his leather socks.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 274, Grade: Sahih
And Bilal reported:
أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَسَحَ عَلَى الْخُفَّيْنِ وَالْخِمَارِ يعني في الوضوء
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, wiped over leather socks and head coverings (in ablution).
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 275, Grade: Sahih
Some scholars said permission to wipe over headgear applies only to men, but other scholars said the permission extends to the veils of women.
Ibn Taymiyyah said:
وَلِأَنَّ الرَّأْسَ يَجُوزُ لِلرَّجُلِ الْمَسْحُ عَلَى لِبَاسِهِ فَجَازَ لِلْمَرْأَةِ كَالرَّجُلِ وَلِأَنَّهُ لِبَاسٌ يُبَاحُ عَلَى الرَّأْسِ يَشُقُّ نَزْعُهُ غَالِبًا فَأَشْبَهَ عِمَامَةَ الرَّجُلِ وَأَوْلَى لِأَنَّ خِمَارَهَا يَسْتُرُ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ عِمَامَةِ الرَّجُلِ وَيَشُقُّ خَلْعُهُ أَكْثَرَ وَحَاجَتُهَا إِلَيْهِ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْخُفَّيْنِ
Since it is permitted for men to wipe over clothing on the head, so is it permissible for women as it is for men. As it is permissible clothing for the head, which is usually difficult to remove, it is similar to the turban of men. Moreover, her veil covers more than the turban of men, it is more difficult to take off, and her need of (the concession) is greater than leather socks.
Source: Sharḥ ‘Umdat al-Fiqh 1/266
The concession of wiping over footwear is invalidated if the shoes or socks are removed, the permitted time period has passed, or if one is required to perform a ritual bath. In these cases, the footwear must be removed and put back on in a state of renewed purification for the concession of wiping to be valid again.
Safwan ibn Assal reported:
كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَأْمُرُنَا إِذَا كُنَّا مُسَافِرِينَ أَنْ نَمْسَحَ عَلَى خِفَافِنَا وَلَا نَنْزِعَهَا ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ مِنْ غَائِطٍ وَبَوْلٍ وَنَوْمٍ إِلَّا مِنْ جَنَابَةٍ
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, commanded us when we were travelers to wipe over our leather socks and to not remove them for three days due to defecating, urinating, or sleeping, except (to remove them) in the case of greater ritual impurity (janabah).
Source: Sunan al-Nasā’ī 127, Grade: Hasan
And Abu Shuja’a writes:
ويبطل المسح بثلاثة أشياء بخلعهما وانقضاء المدة وما يوجب الغسل
Wiping is invalidated by three things: by removing the socks, by completing the time period, and by whatever requires a ritual bath.
Source: al-Ghāyah wal-Taqrīb 1/5
In sum, Muslims may pray in their shoes, sandals, leather and non-leather socks, and perform ablution by wiping over the top of them in place of washing the feet. They may also wipe over headgear that is difficult to remove, whether for men or women. Travelers may wipe over footwear for three complete days and residents for one complete day. Footwear for wiping should be thick, although some scholars allowed wiping over thin footwear. When the concession of wiping is invalidated by one of its conditions, purification must be renewed and the footwear put on in a state of purification for the concession to be valid again.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.