Praying With Shoes In The Masjid
by Sh. G. F. Haddad

I happened to come across this article tonight:

Praying with Shoes in the Masjid www.al-ibaanah.com, x L 20120706

It reminded me of my Salafi days when some of these "Qur'an and Sunnah" brothers would wear shoes into the carpeted masjid, since removing one's shoes when going indoors was considered a bid'a. Also, once while visiting an Arab friend of mine on 'Eid Day, an Arab "Salafi" showed up for a visit as well and came into his house with his shoes on. I was more embarrassed than shocked, since an uncomfortable feeling hung over the entire room...

So what should one say to them in regards to their evidence for this? What's a strong response for those who follow Qur'an, Sunnah and Ijma' as passed down to us through the mujtahid Imams? What's the Arabic word that they're translating as "shoe"? Your response will be appreciated, insha'llah.

Niʿal, the plural of naʿl (dual naʿlaan, naʿlayn) is the word used originally in the texts, which means sandals.

I had written the following in 2004 in reply to a question involving a specific person:

My family and I do not wear shoes in the house, leaving them at the porch, in order to avoid bringing any impurities into our home. Most of our friends and relatives respect this and follow suit, however, some of our older relatives refuse to take them off, instead citing that shoes need only be taken off when entering the masjid. They are aware that we pray in the house.

I have often stated that this was a sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Upon Him), having (I believe) read this a long time ago.

1. Is there any evidence from the Qur''an or Hadith to support this this claim?

2. Should I insist on visitors following this? Note, I currently do not insist on this with the elderly as it would be difficult for them to do so.

It would be like tyranny to insist that elderly take off their shoes before entering the home even if their refusal to do so is discourtesy on their part. Would they not take their shoes off if they visited a Japanese home? Yet, as long as there is no strong reason to believe there is or could be impurities attached to their soles (based on the fact that they walk in public places where people or dogs may have urinated such as in New York City for example) then it would be permissible for them to keep their shoes on even in the mosque if they must, were it not that modern mosques use rugs that are easily soiled. Still, the latter does not constitute [ritual] impurity and Allah knows best.


However, as a debate on the website such as the one cited above, the issue is a golden example of the danger of "Qur'an and hadith devoid of understanding". By understanding we mean, not the lexical understanding of the Arabic language (for these misinterpreters are Arabs), but the Fiqh without which even great hafiz Imams like Ibn Wahb said they would have gone astray. Of course, those modern-day re-interpreters would not even be considered students of hadith (let alone huffaz), hence Dr. al-Buti's title "La-madhhabiyya is the greatest bidʿa threatening Islamic Law" is no exaggeration.

In the nineties I wrote the following reply,
which was integrated into the _Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine_:

Q. Should Muslims sometimes pray with their shoes on as Albani said that the Prophet encouraged us to do?

A. Al-hamdu lillah, this is yet another case of "Salafi" confusion between concepts: here, permissibility and praiseworthiness. This is the passage in question in Albani's book of errors entitled The Prophet's Prayer which has been propagated far and wide by his financial supporters:

5.3 Prayer Wearing Shoes and the Command to do so

"He used to stand (in prayer) bare-footed sometimes and wearing shoes sometimes."

He allowed this for his ummah, saying: When one of you prays, he should wear his shoes or take them off and put them between his feet, and not harm others with them.

He encouraged prayer wearing them sometimes, saying: Be different from the Jews, for they do not pray in their shoes nor in their khuffs (leather socks).

Occasionally he would remove them from his feet while in prayer and then continue his prayer, as Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri has said:

"The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ʿalaihi wa sallam) prayed with us one day. Whilst he was engaged in the prayer he took off his shoes and placed them on his left. When the people saw this, they took off their shoes. When he finished his prayer he said, Why did you take your shoes off? They said, ʿWe saw you taking your shoes off, so we took our shoes off.' He said, Verily Jibreel came to me and informed me that there was dirt - or he said: something harmful - (in another narration: filth) on my shoes, so I took them off. Therefore, when one of you goes to the mosque, he should look at his shoes: if he sees in them dirt - or he said: something harmful - (in another narration: filth) he should wipe them and pray in them.

"When he removed them, he would place them on his left"32 and he would also say: When one of you prays, he should not place his shoes on his right nor on his left, where they will be on someone else's right, except if there is no one on his left, but he should place them between his feet.

Praise belongs to Allah. Blessings and Peace on His Messenger. The actual signification of these hadiths lies in the permission, not the praiseworthiness, of praying while wearing one's shoes, which is far from clear in the excerpts quoted by Albani, and Allah knows best why that person did not make this clearer. It must be known to everyone who wishes to follow the principles of Ahl al-Sunna in this and every matter that Nasir al-Din al-Albani is neither an authority on fiqh (law) nor an authority in any of the recognized four Sunni madhahib (schools of law). In this matter as in many others, especially regarding the Pillar of Salat, he departs from the correct view of all four schools, misinterprets the evidence he quotes, and ends up confusing people with strange advice: first suggesting (in the chapter title) that the Prophet commanded people to pray wearing shoes unconditionally, second, saying "he allowed this for his ummah," third, "he encouraged prayer wearing them sometimes," and last, that the Prophet "occasionally would remove them from his feet while in prayer."

These are partial, misleading, and wrong inferences that may lead to serious consequences for those who follow them. To begin with, it is never advisable for Muslims to follow or propagate the opinions of scholars who have singled themselves out in their opinions.

The inference of the legal status of human actions in Islam resides in the authoritative interpretation of the Qur'an and hadith according to the established understanding and practice of the community of scholars, foremost among them the Companions of the Prophet. The books of fiqh are replete with the expressions: "The majority of scholars say..." "The scholars unanimously say..." "Some scholars say..." "The greater number of the scholars say..." "Those of this school say, while those of that school say..." This careful, comprehensive method has upon it the seal of Allah's support and the Prophet's approval, as stated in many verses and hadiths regarding ijmaʿ (consensus). Indeed ijmaʿ is the third source for the derivation of the entire shariʿa (Islamic system of law). The opinion of a single scholar which departs from ijmaʿ, even if it should claim a basis in Qur'an and hadith, constitutes shudhudh -- dissent and deviation -- as in the opinion of Imam Ahmad which we have quoted in the section on ijmaʿ. [Rawdat al-Nazir 2:143.]

The following are the established positions of the scholars on the question of praying while wearing shoes.

1. Entering the masjid or place of prayer wearing shoes with impurities on them is permitted in case of need (yajuz lil-haja), however, it is imperative to take precautions so as not to defile the masjid with what may fall from the shoes. This is the ruling of the Maliki and Shafiʿi schools. The Hanafis say: Everything which entails bringing something impure into the masjid is disliked to the point of being forbidden (yukrahu tahriman). The Hanbalis say: If bringing something filthy into the masjid leads to the falling of an impurity inside (or onto) the masjid, then it is forbidden (haram) to bring it inside, otherwise it is not forbidden.

Source: ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Jaziri, al-Fiqh ʿala al-Madhahib al-Arbaʿa [Islamic Law According to the Four Schools], Book of Prayer, Heading: Naqsh al-masjid wa idkhal shay'in najisin fih [Engraving the Place of Prayer and Bringing Something Impure Into It].

2. Saʿid ibn Yazid relates: I said to Anas ibn Malik: "Did Allah's Messenger use to pray while wearing sandals?" He said: "Yes." Sahih Bukhari: Book of salat, Chapter entitled: "Prayer While Wearing Sandals" and Sahih Muslim: Book of Mosques and Places of Prayers, Chapter entitled: "The Permissibility of Praying While Wearing Sandals."

2.a Imam Nawawi said: There is in this hadith the permission to pray wearing sandals and leather socks provided one has ascertained that there is no impurity on them. As to whether, when the sole of the socks (or sandals) are soiled with some impurity and the wearer rubs them on the ground, his prayer as he wears them is valid: There are two sayings of Shafiʿi's, Allah be well pleased with him. The sounder of the two is that it is invalid.

Source: Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim [Commentary on Sahih Muslim], Kitab 5, Bab 14, Hadith 60/555.

2.b Ibn Hajar said: Ibn Battal said: "Praying while wearing sandals presupposes that there is no impurity on them. This said, it is one of the "permitted things" (min al-rukhas), as Ibn Daqiq al-ʿId said, not one of the praiseworthy ones (la min al- mustahabbat), for to pray while wearing one's shoes does not enter into the desired intent of salat, and although shoes are among the garments that beautify ["Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer" (7:31)], nonetheless the fact that they are in contact with the ground where impurities abound may well make them fall short of that rank. and should attending to self-beautification conflict with seeing to the removal of impurities, the latter takes precedence because repelling corruption comes before pursuing benefits." Ibn Battal said: "Except if a proof-text be produced placing the removal of impurities after self-beautification in order of priority." Ibn Hajar comments: "Abu Dawud and Hakim relate from the narration of Shaddad ibn Aws from the Prophet: "Be different from the Jews, for they do not pray in their sandals nor in their leather socks," therefore the praiseworthiness of praying while wearing shoes is only for the purpose of the aforementioned difference."

Source: Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari bi-Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari [The Victory of the Creator: A Commentary on the Sahih of Bukhari] Book of salat, Bab 24, Hadith 386.

3. The Companion ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar disliked to pray while wearing his sandals.

Source: Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba 1:109b; Muhammad Rawwas Qalʿaji, Mawsuʿat Fiqh ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar [Encyclopedia of the jurisprudence of ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar] (Beirut: Dar al-nafa'is, 1986) p. 486 #3.

4. Of the acts disliked in a ritual prayer according to the Hanafi school is the performance of salat while "wearing clothes for daily use which are not always free from dirt." (Shoes most certainly enter into this category.)

Source: al-Shurunbalali, Nur al-Idah wa-Najat al-Qulub [The Light of Clarification and the Salvation of Hearts], trans. and expanded as Salvation of the Soul and Islamic Devotions by Muhammad Abu al-Qasim (London: Kegan Paul International, 1981) p. 119 #53.

5. Abu Saʿid al-Khudri, and Bakr ibn ʿAbd Allah relate in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (Book of salat, Chapter entitled: "On Praying in Sandals"): "While Allah's Messenger was leading his Companions in prayer he took off his sandals and laid them on his left side; so when the people saw this they removed their sandals. When he finished his prayer he asked: What made you remove your sandals? They replied: We saw you remove your sandals, so we removed ours. He said: Gabriel came to me and informed me that there was filth on them. When any of you comes to the mosque, he should look: if he finds filth on his sandals, he should wipe it off and then pray in them."

Baha' al-Din al-Maqdisi al-Hanbali (d. 624) said: "The face of the evidence in the hadith of Abu Dawud is that the Prophet had not been aware of the impurity mentioned until told about it, and then he resumed his prayer where he left it off. If the prayer had been invalidated (by the interruption) he would have repeated it from the beginning... The same holds when a person forgets (to check his sandals for filth): if he realizes there is filth while he is praying, and he is able to eliminate it without much effort, he eliminates it and resumes his prayer where he left it off as the Prophet did. Otherwise he starts the prayer over."

Source: al-ʿUdda Sharh al-ʿUmda [The Preparation: A Commentary on (Muwaffaq al-Din al-Maqdisi's) al-ʿUmda], Book of salat, Chapter entiled: "The Conditions Necessary For Salat."

and Allah knows best, and success is from Allah.


Here is the first page and a quarter of a treatise on this issue by Imam al-Kawthari (which also covers praying bare-headed), after which he goes over the proofs and their discussions in the Four Schools with a fine comb, for eleven pages. It shows how much apart Madhhabis and La-Madhhabis are. The latter, as we always warn, want you to pray less, make less dhikr, remember the Prophet less, upon him blessings and peace, and distrust our Ulema by default; now they also want you to endanger one of the preconditions of a valid Salat, defile mosques and homes with dirty shoes (whether ritually dirty or not!), and fan the flames of dis-harmony among the Muslim communities as is their specialty.

Note that the illusion that we are attempting to persuade one another lives on, as shown by the intermittent protestations on this forum and elsewhere that "The Salafi will not find this convincing." We need to reiterate that the primary point is NOT to "convince the Salafi" or any sect for that matter, but to disseminate the Sunni proofs and reasoning that set the hearts of the common masses at peace in fulfillment of the obligations of nasiha and the prohibition of concealing knowledge.

Praying wearing sandals -
Excerpt By Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari (d. 1371)

Last Deputy Shaykh al-Islam in the Ottoman Caliphate Professor of the Qur'anic Sciences (Qur'an and Hadith) at the graduate institute of the Jamiʿa ʿUthmaniyya Professor of Fiqh and the History of Fiqh in the Shariʿa Department of the Jamiʿa ʿUthmaniyya Professor of Arabic at Dar al-Shafaqa al-Islamiyya (Maqalat, 1994 ed. p. 261-262)

"Salat while wearing sandals is valid as long as they are ritually pure and do not prevent placing the heads of one's toes on the ground, as the complete prostration demands, according to what al-Khattabi and others mentioned.

"The Prophet's mosque, upon him blessings and peace, was strewn with pebbles and the apartments of his wives were connected to the mosque, so there was not a probability that filth had reached his sandals as he had not trodden over filthy roads. Furthermore, al-Madina the Radiant's alleyways were clean of dung and filth as per the care taken by the Companions after the Prophet, upon him and them blessings and peace, had commanded them to pay especial attention to complete cleanliness in the houses and their porches, not to mention the houses of Allah. Hence, its pedestrians were able to guard themselves from stepping onto filth. Further, its soil was sandy and soft, so it was easy to avoid scattered filth (al-rashash), and when they wanted to pour water they went far from the alleways and dwellings looking for soft and sandy spots of earth far from the spray.

"Whenever the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, wanted to pass water, he went far to a place he could not be seen by anyone. He forbade the three causes of curses: [among them] he forbade one from doing one's need in the people's pathways or in the spots they use to shade themselves, as narrated by Abu Dawud and others.

"The above is in complete contrast to our streets and toilets today, where it is impossible to guard oneself from stepping into filth and preventing spray from getting on the sandals, because the toilets today have hard surfaces which definitely splash back, especially if a person urinates standing as one cannot use those European-designed urinals except standing up.

"It is authentically related that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, removed his sandals when he prayed during the conquest of Makka, so this would be the final one of the two scenarios, just as he removed them when Gibril informed him that there was something dirty on his sandals. It is the status of mere permissibility [of praying with sandals on], after verifying the purity of the sandals, which is the gist of the evidence among the verifying scholars. Whoever considers it desirable, together with the same condition [of verified purity], did so only insofar as it is desirable to do other than what the Jews do. However, the People of the Book today enter their places of worship and pray with their shoes on, so to do other than what they do would entail removing our shoes, not praying in them.

"As for the statement of Anas, may Allah be well-pleased with him, 'Yes' upon being asked if the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, prayed wearing his sandals, this reply does not denote habit. You will find this clarified in al-Nawawi's commentary on Muslim in the passage where he discusses the night prayer.

"Accordingly, the claim by some stray ['shudhdhadh' = devious, i.e., violating ijmaʿ] Hanbalis that "it is Sunna to wear sandals/shoes in Salat" has no standing proof. On the contrary, today, it is considered rude to enter a mosque with shoes on due to the reasons mentioned by al-Nawawi and al-Ubbi in their commentaries on Muslim, ʿAli al-Qari in Sharh al-Mirqat, [Ahmad ibn Muhammad] al-Muqri' [al-Maghribi al-Misri] (d. 1041) in Fath al-Mutaʿal [fi Mad-hi Khayri al-Niʿal, a book in praise of the Prophetic Sandals], al-Lacknawi in Ghayat al-Maqal, Ibn Abi Saʿid al-Sijistani in Munyat al-Mufti, and [al-Sayyid Ahmad] al-Hamawi in [Hawashi] al-Ashbah. Rather, they have predecessors [in voicing those reasons] in the Companions, Allah be well-pleased with them."

End of excerpt from al-Kawthari's article on praying while wearing shoes.

GF Haddad

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latest update: 2012-09-23


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