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The Arabic verse says :

يا أيها الذين آمنوا إذا قمتم إلى الصلاة فاغسلوا وجوهكم وأيديكم إلى المرافق وامسحوا برءوسكم وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إلى الكعبين

But we have 2 types of English translation:

  • O you who believe! When you intend to offer As-Salat (the prayer), wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and wash your feet up to ankles.( Muhsin Khan )

  • O you who believe! When you rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles.( Shakir )

One say washing feet and one say wiping feet; while the root of word "وامسحوا" is "مسح" And means wiping.

Then, why are there 2 different types of translation and which one is correct?

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If we just go through this verse, we find that this verse contains three parts. In the first part the believers have been addressed that when they stand up for prayers, the second part states about the body parts that have to washed and the third part states about the parts which need anointment or rubbing.

After addressing the believers, the body parts which are to be washed, have been mentioned after “FAGHSULU” and the parts which need ablution have been mentioned after “WAMSAHU”. This is an extremely clear verse and really easy to understand.

The Shi’a-Sunni disagreement on Wudhu, is over the last part of this verse. The Shi’a belief it clearly stipulates two body parts that are ordered to be washed during Wudhu, have to be washed, and the two body parts that are ordered to be wiped, that are the head and feet. But Sunni commentators often add the word ‘washing’ in brackets in order to prove their belief that feet should be washed.

The Ahl’ul Sunnah try to relate the word “Faghsalu” with “Arjalikum” by claiming that there is an under-stressor in the later word, hence they come out with the translation that the feet should be washed, ignoring the fact that the word “Faghsalu” is at the beginning of the verse and that is only concerned with the washing of the face and the hands.

Also The Ahl’ul Sunnah argument is that Allah (swt) has said “Wamsahu Baraosekum” in the Holy Qur’an, which indicates that the whole head should be wiped.

If this was indeed the case then what was the point in placing “Ba” before “Raosekum”? They try to escape by saying that this addition is necessary in order to ensure compliance with the Arabic grammar, but then we would like to ask that can “Masah” not be used without the word “Ba”?

In addition, pay attention that Sahabah used to wipe their feet during Wudhu instead of washing.

We read in Sunan Ibn Majah,page 39, Kitab al Wudhu and in Tafseer ibn Katheer page 25, Chapter of Wudhu:

Ibn Abbas said: ‘For Wudhu, two parts should be washed and two parts should be wiped’.

Anas bin Malik said: ‘The Quran gave an order to wipe the feet’.

We read in Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1 page 957, Kitab al Wudhu:

“Ibn Abbas said For Wudhu two parts should be washed and two parts should be wiped. Allah (swt) gave the order to wipe and people in opposition to Allah (swt) began to wash”.

Same reference can be read in Musnaf Abi Sheybah Vol 1 as well:

حدثنا ابن علية عن روح بن القاسم عن عبد الله بن محمد بن عقيل عن الربيع ابنة معوذ ابن عفراء قالت: أتاني ابن عباس فسألني عن هذا الحديث تعني حديثها الذي ذكرت أنها {رأت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم توضأ وأنه غسل رجليه} قالت : فقال ابن عباس أبى الناس إلا الغسل ولا أجد في كتاب الله إلا المسح.

“Rabyya narrated: Ibn Abbas came to me & asked me about that hadith which I narrate that I saw the holy prophet wash his feet, so Ibn Abbas said: “The people insist to wash and I didn’t find in the book of Allah except wiping”

For more details, see: al-islam

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