Wudu’ 101 and wiping over khuff
O you who have believed, when you stand up to pray, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of janabah, then purify yourselves. But if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it. Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favour upon you that you may be grateful. (5:6)
Wudu is a prerequisite of salah
Wudu is an essential practical and spiritual component of worship. An act of worship in its own right, which earns huge reward. Symbolic of inner purity and outer cleanliness, it is the preparation for us to seek Allah Almighty’s mercy, blessings, forgiveness, support and guidance through salah.
There is no salah without Wudu’.
The salah is the key to Jannah. The key to salah is Wudu’. (Tirmidhi)
How was the obligation of wudu’ revealed?
Jibril taught the Prophet (peace be on him) how to make wudu and perform salah.
In a sahih hadith, on the authority of Zaid bin Harithah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Jibril came to him first thing after the revelation and taught him wudu’ and salah. (Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Daraqutni).
The Prophet (peace be on him) received the gift of salah during his ascent to heaven (mi’raj) and was trained by Jibril how to perform the salah, its timings etc. He then taught the companions through physical demonstrations in front of a crowd. Ali and Uthman and many other companions (may Allah be pleased with them) also did this.
The Prophet (peace be on him) used a vessel called a mudd (which is around 600ml) for wudu and a vessel known as a sa’ for ghusl, around 6 litres.
Do you have to renew your wudu before each prayer?
The ayah regarding wudu from Surah Maidah tells us to wash before we pray. Does this mean you have to do wudu every time you are about to pray, even if your wudu is not broken? The ayah did not specify this, however we know from the sunnah that it is preferred but not compulsory to repeat your wudu before salah if you still have it on.
In practice the Prophet (peace be on him) would renew his wudu before salah. However on some occasions, like when he conquered Makkah, he prayed 4 salah with one wudu. Scholars commented this was not the norm, but the reason was to show the permissibility of praying with one wudu more than one salah. And that it is not compulsory to keep renewing wudu.
The hadith which people narrate often is that wudu ala wudu nur ala nur. (Wudu on top of wudu is light upon light). But this is not a hadith.
Staying in wudu
Keeping your wudu is a sign of imaan.
It was narrated that Thawban said that the Messenger of Allah said:
Adhere to righteousness even though you will not be able to do all acts of virtue. Know that the best of your deeds is Salat (prayer) and that no one maintains his Wudu’ ablution except a believer. (Ibn Majah).
Though it is good to remain in wudu, it is not a good idea to delay going to the bathroom because you are trying to remain in state of wudu. This is harmful. If you need to go to the loo, then go. Don’t strain yourself to keep your wudu. And don’t pray in this state, it is makruh (very disliked). Naivety can cause us to make decisions which are harmful. Though the intention is to do good, if you are not wise, you can cause harm.
What are the obligatory elements of wudu?
Allah Almighty has defined four obligations of wudu in Surah Maidah: the face, arms, head and feet. We wash every single bit of our skin.
- Wash the face – the whole face, from your hairline down to your chin and from one ear to the other. (This does not include the nose and mouth in the Shafi school, but is obligatory in the Hanafi school)
- Wash hands and then arms including the elbows. Between fingers etc.
- Then wipe the head. There is some discussion on how much of the head has to be wiped – the minimum is part of head/hair.
- Washing feet up to and including the ankles, between toes.
The rest of the wudu is sunnah. E.g washing three times is sunnah, (except the head which is wiped only once). The ears are sunnah, and the back of neck is weak.
Therefore if you have limited water and you want to do wudu do only the faraid (the obligations). Otherwise do all the sunnah as you are rewarded for it.
Certainty overrides doubt
If you have doubt (shakk) about your wudu, you have to kill the doubt. Do shakk (stab) to your shakk (doubt). How? Using the certainty principle. Certainty overrides doubt. If you are certain you made wudu, but you are uncertain whether you broke it, you act based on your certainty that you have wudu.
Do not renew your wudu just to be on the safe side. Otherwise shaytan plays you and you spend your time renewing your wudu due to endless doubts which pop into your head. For example, if you made wudu, then travelled, then can’t remember if you went to the loo or not, do not renew your wudu to be on the safe side. This is wrong. This is why scholars have a fiqh maxim:
Al yaqeenu la yazulu bi shakk – doubt does not override certainty.
Don’t break yaqeen (certainty) with shakk (doubt).
What if you are unsure if you passed wind
If you are unsure that you have wudu, maybe you do, maybe you don’t, your wudu is not broken by uncertainty.
Wind only breaks your salah if it is perceptible – either you heard the sound of it or smelt it. Otherwise it does not break your wudu.
Narrated `Abbad bin Tamim:
My uncle said: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “One should not leave his prayer unless he hears sound or smells something.” (Bukhari).
You remember that you didn’t have wudu
If you perform your salah and then recall that you did not have wudu, then repeat your salah.
People with special circumstances – Problems of incontinence, wind and bleeding
Those with continuous wind problem or bleeding outside menstruation are treated as an exception. If they are unable to maintain their wudu due to problems of incontinence, wind or prolonged menstrual bleeding they may pray after performing wudu even if their wudu is then broken by this condition.
How do they know they qualify for special circumstances?
If they make wudu and it breaks before they start their salah, and they keep repeating their wudu but they keep failing to maintain it long enough to pray, till it is close (around 15 minutes) to the end of the salah time, they qualify for special exemption. They can make wudu, and though it has technically broken due to their condition, they may perform their salah in this condition.
They should clean themselves, repeat their Wudu before each salah and their salah is valid even though they could not physically retain their wudu.
When they can go from wudu to salah without it breaking and maintain wudu for the entire time between one salah and the next, they no longer have an exemption.
This is an exceptional scenario.
According to the Hanafi school, if a woman’s menstrual bleeding exceeds 10 days, she should do ghusl and carry on as normal. The Shafi school have a different opinion.
Does wudu require an intention
Do you need to make intention before you make wudu?
The Hanafi school says you can perform wudu without the intention eg if you were thrown into a swimming pool, you didn’t have the intention of making wudu, but you have become clean, you have wudu, but you missed the reward for the intention. Similarly if you take a shower you have automatic wudu.
Does ghusl require an intention
Ghusl doesn’t require an intention. The fact you going to take a shower means that you are already intending to clean yourself.
Is taking a bath sufficient for ghusl
Is taking a bath sufficient to be pure? If you cleaned any filth from yourself beforehand and then soak in a bath tub that is ok. Or after your bath, finish with a shower, as you require running water to wash off major impurity. The water has to be flowing.
Ease – when you cannot do wudu
Allah Almighty created roaming for us. We are always connected to Him. Our connection is not broken by illness or travelling.
The barriers to prayer such as intimate relations (major impurity), travel, sickness, broken wudu (minor) while having no water are overcome by tayammum.
You can do tayammum for minor and major impurity, including having a wet dream or intimate relations. It is valid for both when water is not available.
In Surah Nisa we have a detailed ayah on tayammum – making wudu with dust instead of water. (Tayammum comes from from yummama which linguistically means ‘to intend’ (qasada) e.g. I intend to go to Makkah.)
We do not cover all parts of the body with dust as we do with water. Certainly not our noses or mouths!
O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer], until you have washed [your whole body]. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving.4:43.
Tayammum has to be performed using sa’idan tayyiban-anything from the earth: soil, sand or rocks such as marble. Not wood, or plastic or glass. It has to be from dust.
One of the characteristics of our ummah is that we have been granted ease – no nation was given tayammum except us.
Is tayammum two strikes or one?
We have different narrations on tayammum. In Bukhari we are told tayammum requires one strike. However in the narration in Daraqutni it mentions two strikes.
‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:
Tayammum is two strikes (of the earth): one strike for the face and one strike for the hands up to the elbows. (Sunan al-Daraqutni)
Accordingly based on these two narrations we have two methods of tayammum:
- Strike the sand once, tap your hands sideways, then wipe your face completely, then wipe your hands up to the wrists.
- Strike the sand once and then wipe the face. Strike the hand again on the sand again and wipe the hands to the elbows.
Tayammum not permissible if water is available
You can’t do tayammum when water is available and you can use it e.g. you may not do tayammum in your car when you could have stopped at a petrol station to get water.
If you are sick or have an injury, and water is available but will harm you, then you are also permitted to do tayammum.
Permissibility for tayammum before Eid and janaza prayer when time is short
In addition if water is available but accessing it means you will miss your Eid salah or a janaza prayer, you may do tayammum in the Hanafi school.
If you do tayammum and pray Eid or janaza salah, because you did not have time to access water which had been available, you should not repay this salah later.
Wudu with socks
Al Mughirah bin Shubah said: I was with the Prophet (peace be on him). He started to perform ablution and I was about to remove his leather socks (the khuff), when he said:
Leave them, for I put them on while I was in a state of purity. (Bukhari and Muslim).
Once wudu has been performed and khuff put on, when the wudu is renewed it is permissible to renew the wudu by doing masah. Masah is the act of wiping the feet with wet hands to cleanse them instead of pouring water all over them.
You wipe over the surface (not the bottom) of the khuff with three fingers (not one) from the tips of the toes to the ankles. Use the right hand for the right foot and left hand for the left foot. Do this only once. The socks must be on when you pray, otherwise the wudu is invalid.
There is a special chapter in fiqh on what is a khuff, there are many details.
If you do masah over your socks, and then need to put your hand inside your socks to massage your foot the wudu is still in tact.
What is the khuff
Khuffs is a foot covering. The khuff in those days is just like the sock of today, it is worn and then a shoe was worn over it. They never walked around in their khuff only.
What is the definition of khuff?
- Must cover the ankles without moving or being forced to cover the ankles
- Should not have holes – three small toes exposed is okay not more than that, small holes are okay, more than that it is not valid to wipe over it
- If accidentally comes off, can no longer wipe over it, you need to wash your feet then
Let us start with the agreed opinion; anything that is similar to the leather socks, that is, thick and does not absorb water – it is okay to wipe over it. Sports socks are on the margin of this opinion, some teachers say these would have has to be double thickness. But the majority opinion says it is enough to have thick socks with the same conditions as above – covering the ankles and no large holes.
The disagreement is regarding thin socks, for example those used by sisters, if you put a drop of water on it you feel it. One cannot say this is allowed. There are some scholars who say this is okay to wipe on this, but how can this be called a sock similar to a khuff?
It is agreed that if one can feel the water through the sock, one cannot use this dispensation for ease. Removing tights can cause difficulty because of the need to remove them to wash the feet.
One possible solution is to wash the foot and ankle with the tights still on as the water passes through them easily. Then dry the feet with the hand dryer.
Regarding the socks which are in-between:
Socks which are closer to thick ones are much more in line with the sunnah
Socks which are closer to the thin ones, be careful. You have to use your judgement.
Sometimes what you choose depends on the scenario – if you are in an environment where it is difficult to put foot in sink, you can wipe over socks. If you are in an environment where you can take your socks off without problem then do so.
Wiping over socks at work
Can you wipe over your (thick) socks on a daily basis, at work for example, or in an environment where it causes difficulty to remove the sock?
Yes, this goes with the concept of ease.
What was the concept of khuff in those days?
In Syria, there is a special type of shoe wear that is used for the khuff , kalosh, made from wellington boot material worn over khuff. It covers to the top of the khuff. If you want to wipe over the kalosh, you can but you have to keep the khalosh on when you pray.
It is permissible to pray in shoes. The shoes must be pure. Differentiate between purity and cleanliness. Impurity (najasah) nullifies the prayer, for example having excrement, urine, blood or alcohol on your shoe, but cleanliness is not an issue, for example the presence of mud does not nullify the prayer.
The bottom has to be free of najasah. If there is najasah on the boot it must be cleaned off if the intention is to wipe over the boot and then pray wearing them.
If you walk in a park are your shoes pure?
If you walk through a muddy park, though your shoes maybe muddy they are not impure unless you stepped in excrement for example. If this happened you wipe the bottom of your shoes and they become pure. You assume the park is pure unless proven otherwise.
If on the other hand, you enter a public toilet you assume is it dirty and wash the bottom of your shoes.
If you are in a state of wudu, and then you put on your shoes and socks, you can wipe over the shoes as you would with khuff- as long as the shoes cover your ankles.
Note that if you wipe over the boots, you cannot take them off to pray. You have to keep them on, or take them off and wash your feet.
Similarly with socks, you cannot wipe over them and then take them off to pray. If you do remove the socks, you don’t need to redo your whole wudu, just wash your feet in this case.
Regarding trendy socks, those which are currently made to sit below the ankle, these socks cannot be wiped over as one condition is that the sock has to be able to remain over ankle by itself. Similarly, if the sock or khuff drops below the ankles accidentally you cannot wipe over them.
Ghusl with khuffs
If one is in a state of janabah have to take the khuff off and do ghusl.
Does a prosthetic limb need to be washed or wiped during wudu?
The ruling does not apply as there is no foot for example. One does not have to wash or wipe it.
Should you seek a separate bathroom on a daily basis in order to have the privacy needed to take off socks for wudu?
Where there is some difficulty involved in seeking an alternative bathroom apply the concept of ease. It’s okay to wipe over your socks in this case on a daily basis whilst at work.
Washing feet in public bathrooms
Be mindful of the shared space; keep the washroom clean, this is part of having good message as Muslims.
How many days can you wear a pair of khuffs without washing your feet?
Another hadith confirming leaving the khuff on for three days and three nights for the traveller or one day and one night for none traveller from the beginning of the wiping not the beginning of wearing it.
There are some other narrations with some weakness in it of more than three days, in some cases this may be something that can be considered.
Wiping over the hijab
The Prophet (peace be on him) sent out an expedition and he commanded them to wipe over the ‘imama turban and khuff .
Some scholars say it is more likely that some hair was showing when they wore and wiped the ‘imama.
Others say no hair is mentioned, so they say to the sisters there is no need to wipe the hair, they can wipe over their hijab.
It is better to stay out of disagreement and wipe under hijab a few hairs at least.
Benefits of Wudu
The wudu is often an obstacle to salah- many people don’t perform their salah because they find it difficult to perform wudu. Yet wudu is instrumental overcoming the nafs (lower self) and defeating the workings of Shaytan.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
When any one of you sleeps, Satan ties three knots at the back of his neck. He recites this incantation at every knot: ‘You have a long night, so sleep.’ If he awakes and remembers Allah, one knot is loosened. If he performs Wudu’, the (second) knot is loosened; and if he performs prayer, (all) knots are loosened. He begins his morning in a happy and refreshed mood; otherwise, he gets up in bad spirits and sluggish state. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim on 24th November 2019 at the Watford Circle and the Ladies Tafseer Class of 22nd January
Transcribed by Zahira Mohamed and Ayesha Khan
September 22, 2023
September 21, 2023