Praying in shoes inside mosques
I saw some Muslims praying in their shoes inside mosques. What is the permissibility of this?
It is important for Muslims worldwide to know that fatwas differ according to different times, places, people and circumstances. This means that rulings that have been appropriate under certain circumstances, times and conditions cannot be applied to other contexts.
As for the issue in question, generally speaking, praying in shoes is something that Islamic law permits. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions used to pray in their shoes due to the nature of mosques back then. Praying in shoes inside the mosque was acceptable at that time because the floors were nothing but sand and pebbles. In this context, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commanded his Companions to check their shoes before entering the mosque lest they have dirt on them.
It was reported in the Prophetic tradition that once while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was leading the Companions in prayer, he took off his shoes and placed them to his left. When the people saw this, they followed suit. When the Messenger of God ended the prayer, he asked, “What made you take off your shoes?” They replied, “We saw you take off your shoes, so we followed suit.” The Messenger said, “Jibreel (peace be upon him) came and told me that there was some dirt on my shoes.” He continued, “When one of you comes to the mosque, let him check his shoes, and if he sees any dirt on them, let him wipe it and pray in them.”
Based on the above Prophetic tradition, praying in shoes inside the mosque is allowed in and of itself under the following conditions:
- The footwear must cover the anklebone, otherwise, it is necessary to remove them before prayers. So, it is impermissible to pray in flat shoes, slippers, sandals etc.
- A Muslim must wear footwear while in a state of complete purity. This means that it is necessary to first perform ablution, and then wear the socks, if any, followed by the shoes.
- One should not take off one’s shoes for any interval during the day.
Nowadays, mosques are carpeted and entering with shoes on may lead to soiling them with dirt. If every Muslim were allowed to pray in their shoes in mosques, we would need dozens of workers to clean the mosques after every prayer, not just every day. We do not think that anyone who accepts this would like to pray on a dusty or dirty carpet.
Based on this, it is better not to pray in mosques while wearing shoes. The exception is only for individuals who find it difficult to take off their shoes for a legitimate reason. In this case, it is permissible for them to pray in their shoes after making sure that they are clean and that they will not annoy other worshippers. It is also necessary that they meet the above-mentioned conditions. However, if this will lead to argument and resentment, or will put others off, then it is better for them to take off their shoes for the sake of maintaining peace and harmony among Muslims and avoiding enmity and hatred. Muslims can observe the Sunnah and obey the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) by praying in their shoes when this will not lead to any trouble, such as when praying in their house, street, praying on uncarpeted ground and so on.
And God Almighty knows best.