|The Jurist differed about the method of purification required for feet. A group of jurists, and these are the majority, said that their purity is attained by washing. The other group said that the obligation in their case is wiping. And yet another group said that their purity is achieved through either way; it depends upon the choice of the worshiper.|
The reason for disagreement is based upon two well-known readings of the verse of wudu, that is, the reading of those who read the word "feet" as the object of washing with a nasb (accusative; final vowel a) in conjunction with limbs washed, and those who read it with a khafd (final vowel i) in conjunction with parts wiped. The reading with a nasb clearly indicates washing, while reading it with a khafd evidently indicates wiping. Those who held that the obligation is specifically for one of these two types of purity, determined as washing or wiping, preferred one reading over the other, disposing of, by interpretation, the meaning of the other reading in favour of the reading that is preferable for them. Those who believed that the obvious implications of both readings were equal, and that one of these did not have a stronger indication than the other, rendered it as a wajib mukhayyar (obligation with choice), like expiation for breaking an oath. This was the opinion of al-Tabari and Dawud. The majority, however, have numerous ways of interpreting away the reading with a khafd, and the best of these is that the conjunction here relates to the pronounced form of the word, which is found in Arab usage.
The other party, and they are those who made wiping obligatory, interpreted the nasb reading as being a conjunction related to the position of the immediately preceding word introduced by the genitive particle, which is like the direct object of the verb. The majority preferred this reading of theirs (in the accusative case) on the basis of reports established from the Prophet (saw) when he said about people who did not wash their feet, "Woe to the heels in the fire". They said that this indicates that washing of the feet is an obligation, as an obligation is that t; which punishment is linked for non-observance. There is, however, no legal force in this; the warning was issued here about the people who chose to wash their feet but not their heels. There is no doubt that those who made washing obligatory, made it so for the feet in their entirety, while those who made wiping obligatory, did so for the feet in their entirety, as did those who granted a choice in the two obligations. This may also be supported by what is related in a tradition, also recorded by Muslim, where it is said that "We began wiping our feet, when he [the Prophet] proclaimed, 'Woe to the heels in the fire'". This tradition, though it has been the practice to argue through it for the denial of wiping, is stronger in the indication of its permissibility rather than its prohibition, as the warning was issued for the neglect of completion and not for the type of tahara; in fact, it is silent as to the type, which indicate^ their permissibility. The permissibility of wiping is also related from some of the Companions and the Tabi'un, but by way of implication.
Washing is more suitable for the feet than is wiping, just as wiping is more suitable for the head than is washing, as the dirt on the feet is usually no: eliminated except by washing, while the dirt on the head is usually removed by wiping. Rational interests (masalih) are probably not applicable as causes for obligatory acts of worship, and the law has, therefore, recognized both meanings in them: a meaning securing an interest and an 'ibadi (ritual meaning requiring obedience. I mean by maslahi that which relates to the senses, and I mean by 'ibadi that which pertains to the purification of the self (nafs).
Likewise, those jurists, who permitted wiping, differed about whether ankles are to be included in wiping or washing. The disagreement stems from the equivocality of the preposition 'ila (up to), that is, in the words of the Exalted, "up to the ankles". The discussion of the equivocality found in this word has preceded in the discussion of the words of the Exalted, "up to the elbows". The equivocality there was from two aspects, because of the word yadd and the word 'ila while here it is due to the equivocality of the wore 'ila alone.
They disagreed about the connotation of the term ka'b, because of the equivocality of the word ka'b and the disagreement of language experts about its connotation. It is said that they are the two bones at the knot of the straps of the sandals, while it is also said that they are the two protruding bones at the sides of the (lower) calf. There is no dispute, as far as I know, about their inclusion in washing, according to those who maintain that they are the bones at the knot of the straps, for they are indeed parts of the foot.