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Bismillah. Alhamdulillahi rabbil-'alamin. Was-Salatu was-Salam 'ala Ashraful Anbiya Sayyidina Muhammad wa 'ala 'Alihi Muhammad.


My question is about Wudu prescribed in ayah 5:6.

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According to this ayah, do we "wash our feet" or "wipe our feet" ?

Similar question has been asked before - Which one is the correct translation for Ayah 5:6?

But, I could't accept it to have been answered, because the user (@beautiful mind), who asked the question, gave the answer himself and marked it as accepted, and is inactive since long time ago to comment to him to clarify some issues.

Second reason I could't accept it to have been answered because of this video (The Sunni And Shia Sect CORRUPTED WUDU In The Qur’aan) which gives detailed analysis of the ayah (5:6) concluding that sects in both sunni and shia have corrupted the method of doing Wudu prescribed in the ayah. Arguments given in the video are strong, at least it effected me.

The problem I am facing concerns to the last part of the Arabic text from ayah 5:6 I gave above.

Does it say "wash your feet" or "wipe your feet"? This is my question.

The text from the ayah, given above, is very simple Arabic sentence, saying with terminology of Quran it is Ayah Muhkama, which means the ayah is plain and simple to understand. My problem is that I am not Arab, nor do I speak Arabic. I can only rely on translations which are many in number and contradicting with each other thus confusing.

Sahih International translation says,

...wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles...

that is wash your feet. So this translation explicitly stating that feet must be washed, not wiped, whereas translation of Muhsin Khan says,

...wash you faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and lightly rub your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles...

that is the word wash is given in brackets which is wierd. Translations like Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Shakir and Dr. Ghali are the same as that of Muhsin Khan - the word wash is given in brackets.

I have a feeling that they (the translators) are giving the word wash in brackets because of the certain sect or madhab they belong to. We know that each sect or madhab has its own rule - procedure of doing Wudu, some with small variations while some have larger differences and this is reflecting in the translations done by the translators, that they want the rule their sect or madhab dictates to be in the translated text but in order to remain honest they are giving it in brackets. If it is true then it will still remain dishonest translation and that means that the ayah actually saying that the feet must be wiped.

So, a non Arab like me can choose based on the number of translations favoring certain interpretation, but yet I might still be wrong due to missing something, something specific to Arabic language, thus it cannot be correct to do so all the time.

So my request is to Arabs in our community, and not simply an Arab but an expert to some level in Arabic language, grammar, please, for Allah's sake, explain what is going on here.

Do we "wash our feet" or "wipe our feet" according to the ayah?

What I am expecting is not a view of a Madhab but precise and accurate translation of the Arabic text above into English.

Do we "wash our feet" or "wipe our feet" according to the ayah?

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  • 1
    Also, your youtube video seems to be by Quranists...
    – The Z
    Jan 7 at 14:31
  • Yeah in correct Wudu they demonstrated the man is washing his feet. But I need to understand what does the ayah say. If it says "wipe feet" then this correct Wudu they showed will also be wrong
    – Muslim
    Jan 7 at 14:34
  • @The Z, Do we "wash our feet" or "wipe our feet"?
    – Muslim
    Jan 7 at 14:45
  • 5
    Does this answer your question? Quran originally without vowel marks?
    – Sassir
    Jan 7 at 21:00

1 Answer 1

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The verse can be translated either way, especially depending on the recitation (أَرْجُلَكُمْ vs أَرْجُلِكُمْ). And even after choosing one recitation it can be interpreted either way, as the connection can technically be made to the neighbor of a its connecting word as Jassas and Baghawi have written in their Tafsirs, citing the examples of 11:26 and 56:17 and 22 etc.

There are 4 madhabs about whether it is obligatory to wash the feet or whether wiping them is enough:

  • Washing is obligatory. This is the madhab of the majority of the Salaf and the Ahl al-Sunnah, it is adopted by the Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi'is and Hanbalis.

    This relies on the recitation of Nafi', Ibn 'Amir, Kisa'i, Ya'qub and Hafs as their recitation of the verse is وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ This connects to washing. The order of the words is not significant, there is a concept of تقديم والتأخير in the Quranic sciences and there are several examples of that within the Quran.

    This is also supported by mutawatir ahadith that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to wash his feet in wudu:

    ثم غسل رجله اليمنى ثلاثا، ثم اليسرى ثلاثا، ثم قال رأيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم توضأ نحو وضوئي

    (Uthman) washed his right foot thrice, and then his left foot thrice and said, "I saw Allah's Apostle performing ablution similar to my present ablution"

    Bukhari

    رأيت عليا توضأ فغسل قدميه إلى الكعبين ثم قال أردت أن أريكم طهور نبيكم ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم

    I saw 'Ali performing ablution and he washed his feet up to the ankles, then he said: 'I wanted to show you how your Prophet ﷺ purified himself.'"

    Ibn Majah

    ثم غسل رجليه، فقال هكذا رأيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يتوضأ‏

    (Abdullah bin Zaid) then washed his feet and said, "I saw the Prophet (ﷺ) performing ablution in that way."

    Bukhari

    Further the Prophet ﷺ said that Allah has commanded washing the feet:

    ثم يغسل قدميه إلى الكعبين كما أمره الله عز وجل

    Then he washed his feet until the ankles like Allah has commanded

    Musnad Ahmad

    And he condemned anyone who did not wash the feet in wudu:

    ثم غسل رجليه ثلاثا ثلاثا ثم قال هكذا الوضوء فمن زاد على هذا أو نقص فقد أساء وظلم

    Then he washed his feet thrice, and said: "This is the Wudu. So whoever increases in this, or decreases, has indeed done wrong and injustice."

    Abu Dawud

    And he warned the people of punishment when they only wiped their feet:

    ونمسح على أرجلنا، فنادى بأعلى صوته ‏ ويل للأعقاب من النار مرتين أو ثلاثا‏

    We were just passing wet hands over our feet (not washing them thoroughly) so he (The Messenger of Allah ) addressed us in a loud voice saying twice , "Save your heels from the fire."

    Bukhari

    Condemnation and warnings are indicators of obligation, since they don't occur on a matter which is optional.

    Further the proponents of this madhab argue that even if the other recitation is taken, what it means is washing, since in Arabic usage مسح may also at times use be used to mean washing (ref. to Qurtubi's Tafsir). And also because washing is inclusive of wiping and not without it, so washing will satisfy both interpretations, and it is also the cautionary approach.

  • Washing is not obligatory, rather only wiping the feet is obligatory. This is the madhab of the Imami Shias. It is also reported from some of the salaf such as Ali ibn Abi Talib, Ibn Abbas, Anas bin Malik (the opposite opinion is also narrated from them so it is possible that they retracted it).

    Their evidence is the alternate recitation (Ibn Kathir, Abu 'Amr and Hamza) of the verse: وَأَرْجُلِكُمْ and connecting it to wiping the head.

  • Both wiping and washing are obligatory. This is the madhab of some of the Zahiris. Their evidence is that both recitations exist and so are equal to two separate verses. Hence both must be acted upon since it is possible to do it.

  • A person has a choice between wiping and washing. This is said to be the madhab of Tabari.


References: Mawsoo‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah , Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu , Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Tafsir al-Jassas, Tafsir al-Baghawy

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