Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
Oneís wudu is perfectly valid if it is performed wearing shorts that fall above the knee.
However, there is one issue that needs to be considered here; whether one is making wudu in public or in private. The rule is that a manís nakedness in front of other men and a womanís nakedness in front of other Muslim women is what is between the navel and knee, not including the knees.
1) So if one was making his wudu in public, was wearing these shorts and exposed what is over and above his knee to other men, he would be committing something unlawful. The same goes for a woman who did this in front of other Muslim women.
2) If one was making wudu in private, and was wearing these shorts that exposed what is over and above the knee, it would be permissible if he were a man, but not so if it were a woman. This is because it is obligatory to cover oneís nakedness even when alone, according to scholarly consensus. According to al-Zarkashi, when alone, a man must cover his front and rear private parts, while a woman must still cover what is between her navel and knee, (Reliance of the Traveller, f5.0).
In summary, there are two scenarios. If the person is wearing shorts that expose his knees only, and none of the thigh, then he may perform wudu wearing these when alone, or in public.
If the person is wearing shorts that expose what is over and above the knees, then he may only wear these shorts when making wudu alone, otherwise, he will be committing something unlawful, though his wudu is valid.
As a note, one should be aware that following the sunna of our beloved Messenger, may Allahís peace and blessings be upon him, means that one does more than the minimal amount necessary. This applies practically in all aspects of the law, such as prayer, zakat, and spiritual deeds, so that one does not fall into doubtful areas and so that he can maintain caution and, in this case, his modesty.
And Allah knows best.
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