A view on the traditions of washing the feet
The traditions on washing [the feet] are of two types, there are those which do not indicate it, like the tradition of 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Amr b. 'As. He says - as reported in the two Sahihs that: "We lagged behind the Prophet on a journey we travelled with him. We caught up when the time for the 'asr prayer had set in. So we started wiping on our feet and he said: "Woe to the heels from the fire of hell"."
If this [tradition] is correct it would lead to the wiping since he (P) did not forbid it (the wiping) rather, he emphasized it for them as you see. He merely rebuked them for the filthiness of their heels, no wonder, amongst them were Arabs who were completely ignorant; they were urinating on their heels especially when travelling. He threatened them with the fire so that they would not pray with their impure heels.
Amongst these traditions are those which indicate the [obligation of] washing like the tradition of Humran, the client of 'Uthman b. 'Affan. He said: "I saw 'Uthman pouring out [the water] on his hands from his vessel and he washed them three times. Then he put his right hand for the wudu then he rinsed, inhaled then he went away." It has been reported in it that he then washed every foot three times and he said: "I saw the Prophet performing the ablution just like my ablution." Similar to this is the tradition of 'Abd Allah b. Zayd b. 'Asim al-Ansari and it was said to him: "Perform the wudu for us like the wudu of the Prophet of God." So he asked for a vessel and he turned it over his hand and, at the end of the tradition, it states: "then he washed his two feet up to the anklebones." Then he said: "This was the wudu of the Prophet of God" and other traditions reported along these lines. There are objections for many reasons: 1) They are contrary to the book of God, the Almighty and Glorious, and [contrary] to what the Imams from the pure family have agreed on. The book and the family are the two weighty things of the Prophet of God which will never ever separate and the community will not go astray if they stick to the two, so whatever contradicts them should be discarded.
What is reported from the savant of the umma and the receptacle of the book and the sunna, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas is sufficient to refute the [act of] washing and the weak traditions [on washing]. He was arguing for the wiping and would say "Allah has imposed two washings and two wipings, don't you see that when He mentioned the tayammum, He imposed two wipings instead of the two washings and he left the two wipings of the wudu [as they were]?"
He used to say that the wudu consists of two washings and two wipings and when he learnt that al-Rabi', the daughter of Ma'udh b. 'Afra al-Ansariyya, claims that the Prophet used to do the wudu at her place and he would wash his feet, he came to her and asked her about it. When she related it to him he said - not verifying but repudiating and arguing - "the people refused [everything] but the washing whereas I do not find in the book of God anything but the wiping."
Secondly, if this (obligation of washing in the ablution) was true, it would have been successively transmitted because the need to know about the purification of the feet in the wudu is a general need for the men and women of the community, for those who are free and those who are slaves. It is a basic need for them every day and night. If [the command] "do not wipe" was understood by the ruling of the verse those who follow the shari'a (mukallafun) would have known it at the time of the Prophecy and after it. It would have been a certain thing between them; these traditions would have been successively transmitted from the Prophet (P) at all times and in all cities and there would have been no opportunity to refute or doubt them. Since this is not so, the weakness of those invalid and baseless traditions becomes clear to us.
Thirdly, the traditions on the type of purification of the two feet are contradictory. Some of them require the washing like the traditions of Humran and Ibn 'Asim, and, as you have read, some of them indicate the wiping like the hadith which al-Bukhari reported in his Sahih. All of this has been reported by Ahmad, Ibn Abi Shayba, Ibn Abi 'Umar, al-Baghawi, al-Tapani and al-Mawardi, all of them with a chain of reliable transmitters. From Abu'l-Aswad and 'Ibad b. Tamim on the authority of his father who said: "I saw the Prophet of God performing the ablution and wiping on his feet."
Similarly, Shaykh (Tusi) has reported an authenticated tradition from Zurara and Bukayr, the two sons of A'yan, from al-Baqir (A.S.) that he narrated the wudu' of the Prophet of God. He wiped his head and his feet to the anklebones with his palm and he did not take fresh water. It is reported from Ibn 'Abbas that he narrated the wudu of the Prophet of God (P) and he wiped - as reported in Majma' al-Bayan - on his feet. When the traditions contradict each other, the source of reference is the book of God, the Almighty and Glorious, we cannot deviate from it.
Adapted from: "Questions on Jurisprudence" by: "Abdul Hussein Shareefaldin Al-Musawi"
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