Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
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 overwhelming majority of Islamic scholarship is that wiping over footgear (khuffs) is permitted without dislike. [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 khuffs is permitted." [Quoted by Ibn Qudama; it means that the contrary positions, such as that of the Shi`a, are considered aberrant (shadhdh).]
It is the position of the majority of scholars that, while wiping on footgear is permitted without dislike, washing the feet has more reward. [Nawawi, al-Majmu`; Marhinani, al-Hidaya; Ibn al-Humam, Fath al-Qadir]
The Hanbalis, however, disagreed and considered wiping on footgear superior to washing one's feet. [Buhuti, Kashshaf al-Qina`] The Hanbalis' reasoning for this is that:
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;
b) it constitutes being distinct from the people of innovation;
c) Allah loves that His dispensations be taken. [ibid.]
The answer of the majority of scholars is that:
a) We do not deny that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions wiped on their footgear. However, what they did most of the time was to wash, which shows that it is best.
b) Distinction from the people of innovation is achieved by wiping sometimes, or wiping 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, one takes the dispensations when there is need or hardship, and follows the way of resolution when there isn't.
Three: Situations When Wiping is Better
At the same time, the scholars mention it is better to wipe on footgear in certain circumstances, including:
a) When one has doubts about the permissibility or non-dislikedness of wiping over footgear.
b) When there is genuine hardship or harm feared in washing.
c) When one displays the permissibility of wiping--such as in the presence of innovators or the ignorant (if there is benefit in doing so).
d) When one is given to baseless misgivings, and wiping on footgear will be a means to dispel them.
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.
MMVIII © Faraz Rabbani and Qibla.
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