Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim


More About Wiping Over Socks


An article concerning wiping over khuff and what takes their place was posted on the Hanbali group on Yahoo!. While the article was general enough to cover most cases, it is obvious that more needs to be said about the case of wiping over socks.



The Hanabli mathab is probably the most liberal when it comes to wiping over khuff and other barriers. Some examples of this include allowances for wiping over socks, a man's turban, or a woman's hijab-provided certain conditions are met.


The Basics

The basic conditions for barriers worn on the feet or head are that the barrier

(1)     be ritually pure

(2)     be lawful

(3)     cover the essential portion washed during ablution, including hiding the color of the skin beneath it

(4)     attach by itself

(5)     be worn after completing ablution

(6)     not be removed after meeting the above conditions and after entering a state of ritual impurity


There are additional conditions for the various things that can be wiped on. So, if the barrier is:

·         worn on the foot: that it be thick; and that it not impair or be destroyed by walking

·         a man's turban: that all of the head except for that which is typically exposed be covered, and that the turban have a wrap under the chin and/or have tails

·         a woman's hijab: that it cover the underside of the jaw and the neck


Clarification Of Two Questions

These are but a few conditions specific to the matter at hand; the article posed to the Hanbali group gives wider coverage of the rulings and more detail. With this said, there are two basic questions that come to mind when it comes to wiping on socks:

(1)     What is intended by thick?

(2)     Do the socks need to be water resistant or water repellent?



(1)   What is intended by thick?

A quick look through the literature indicates that what is intended by "thick" is that the material be thick enough that the color of the underlying skin not be discernable. Basically: thickness is a quality that is not sought in and of itself; thus it is neither sought in and of itself nor is it something quantitative. So what follows is that regardless of the "thickness" or the "thinness" of the material: as long as the color of the underlying skin is not discernable, then it is considered "thick" regarding this ruling.[1]


There are few things in the basic literature that strengthen the above. First of all: nowhere do we find it said that the material used for a man's turban or a woman's hijab be of a particular thickness. Regarding a woman's hijab, it need only be thick enough so that the hair and skin that it covers be indiscernible.


Secondly: when giving examples of what cannot be wiped over, a common example is that silken socks cannot be wiped over when worn by men. That the example is qualified by "when worn by men" is quite significant, since from this it is understood that if the silken socks are worn by a woman that there would be problem in wiping over them. The only problem with silk in and of itself is when it is worn by men, since it is unlawful for men to use something the majority of which is silk. As far as I know, silk is thin compared to most other materials, even synthetics. So if a woman can wipe over silk socks provided they meet the typical conditions for wiping over barriers, then it would follow that other materials similar to silk in thinness and rendering indiscernible the color of the skin underneath it would also be acceptable.


For the sake of completeness: there is a weak position in the mathab that making the underlying skin indiscernible is not a condition. But this is a weak position, and should only be used when necessary according to the shari`a.


(2)   Do the socks need to be water resistant or water repellent?

Another quick browse through the literature shows that most books say nothing at all about this. Since the default quality of material is that it not be water resistant, the implication is that water resistance is not a condition. But it is still better for us to find this explicitly stated where possible.


A few books, like Al-Furu` and Al-Insaf, indicate that there is a weak position in the mathab that water resistance is a condition. This lends support to the lack of mention being interpreted as it not being a condition.


In Nail Al-Ma'arib, a standard commentary on Dalil Al-Talib, it is explicitly stated that being water resistant is not a condition.


And looking at the allowances for wiping over a man's turban or a woman's hijab: while being water resistant may be a desirable quality, it certainly is not a condition for the material used.


Again, for the sake of completeness: given that there is a weak position in the mathab that the material should be water resistant and that water resistance is a condition in other mathabs, like the Shafi`i, it would be better that the material be water repellent. Better, but not obligatory.


Wrap Up

From what preceded, it is clear that what is intended by "thick" is that the material be such that the color of underlying skin not be discernable, and that it is not a condition that the material be waterproof. While I showed how the literature of the mathab supports these conclusions, they are also supported by living scholars of the mathab.


But this leaves us with two final issues:


What should someone do who wiped over socks that do not meet these conditions?

The general answer is that they should use as much taqwa as possible. Applied to this particular situations, it means making sure that future actions conform to the conditions mentioned here. (And these conditions, as far as I have found, are the most liberal of the four followed mathabs, so there is no point in shopping around.)


As for past actions, specifically making up prayers: if the socks would have been permissible to use according to the weaker opinions in the mathab (for example: thin enough to be transparent or translucent), one may use these weaker opinions if and only if they find some sort of legal necessity in doing so. Some factors in determining necessity include age, health, number of prayers to make up, and a host of other circumstances particular to each individual.


For people [may] have prayers to make up, I ask you to remember that the first thing each one of us will be asked about is our prayer, and that you need to look into your heart before taking one of the weaker positions, and always: to apply taqwa as much as possible. This is ultimately something between you and your Lord, and you'll need to be comfortable with your choice in front of Him.


What should I do if the imam wears socks that are either translucent or transparent, and are not water repellent?

Given that the socks violate the Hanbali mathab by being translucent or transparent and violate the Shafi`i mathab by allowed water to penetrate, you should not pray behind them. The imam may have some legally acceptable reason for wearing such a sock, but ignorance of the shari`a, following weak rulings, and claims of ijtihad or tarjih are not among them. [2]


But should one make up the prayers? See the above, with an additional point to keep in mind: unless you actually saw the imam wipe on the socks before a given prayer, you have no reason to believe that a specific prayer was prayed with wiped over socks. Since it's someone else's actions, there is a bit more leniency here.


In Closing

In sha Allah this has done a bit to shed light on the validity of wiping over thin socks provided they render the underlying skin indiscernible and meet the other conditions of the Hanbali mathab. I hope that instead of causing more careless accusations of invalid prayers that it will actually make people realize just how broad the shari`a really is.


Among the Hanbali lore there is a story to the effect that a man came to Imam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) and told him that he had just authored a book giving the positions of all of the scholars and that he had named the book "Kitab Al-Khilaf" (The Book Of Differences). Imam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) replied, saying that it was better to name it "Kitab Al-Tawasa`" (The Book Of Vastness).


This anecdote, in sha Allah, is something that we will all ponder and learn from. After all, it does come from the man who said "It is more beloved to me to leave a sunna than it is to cause a fitna".


Wa al-hamdu lillahi rabb il-`alamin.


[Printed sources: Al-Mughni, Al-Furu`, Al-Insaf, Sharh Al-Zirkashi, Al-Raudh Al-Murbi`, Nail Al-Ma'arib, Kashf Al-Mukhadarat]




[1] Confused? Qualities like "tall" and "short" are not totally distinct, rather there is an area where they must overlap. Even if we introduce a new category, like "medium", there will still be regions where "short" and "medium" overlap, and another region where "medium" and "tall" overlap. For a complete (and convincing) discussion on the matter, simply turn to the field of Fuzzy Logic.

[2] Actually: ignorance of the shari`a specific to prayer removes one from being qualified to lead the prayer. Following weak rulings without need is a form of playing with the shari`a, which is at best moral corruption, and according to the Hanbali mathab it is unlawful to follow a morally corrupt imam in prayer-except for a morally corrupt khalifa-and the follower's prayer is considered invalid. Bogus claims of being qualified to make ijtihad or tarjih also make someone unqualified to lead the prayer, since the one making the claim is ignorant, mentally immature, irrational, or insane.