Ablution and the wiping of socks

Q9 :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?

A9 : 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. You may avail yourself of this concession for 24 hours at a time, provided you do not take off your socks. If you take them off, after having used this concession, you need to have full ablution, including washing your feet, before using this concession again. Many people find this concession very useful 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.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )