It is well-known that many Hanbali scholars today allow wiping over modern non-leather socks. As examples, you can view this link and this link for more information. Sh. Kareem Helmy al-Hanbali even wrote a detailed research paper defending the opinion. Sh. Abdul Wahid al-Hanbali also allows it.
However, not all Hanbali scholars today believe that wiping over modern non-leather socks is allowed. Examples include the Hanbali scholar at Al-Azhar University Sh. Muhammad Sayyid al-Hanbali and Sh. Faris Falih. The latter recently wrote a piece in Arabic on his Facebook page briefly explaining why he believes that it is not permissible to wipe over modern socks according to the Hanbali school. I have not come across a Hanbali defending this position in the English language, therefore, I decided to provide a translation of his post below.
Ruling on Wiping Over Modern Socks in the Hanbali School
By Sh. Faris Falih
There are two specific words and their features to consider in this discussion: khuff (الخف) and jawrab (الجورب). This is because the features of a jawrab and its rulings are based on the features of a khuff and its rulings. So let’s define them.
Khuff: It is whatever covers [the feet] up to the ankles. Most of it is made up of leather or something similarly thick like it.
Jawrab: It is whatever is worn on the feet in the form of khuff but is made from something other than leather. Its covering is made up of wool and is used to keep warmth.
Imam Ahmed required certain conditions for it to be considered valid to wipe over the khuff. The right of the jawrab to be wiped on is based on the rulings related to the khuff, because the Hanablis compare the former to the latter in ruling and description.
There are two conditions that we need to focus on:
Condition 1 – The socks must be thick enough and completely cover the feet so that nothing from them can be seen
What does it mean to be ‘thick’? It means that the socks are firm and evidently infused thickly in their weaving.
Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmed, said, “I asked my father about the khuff without a heel.” He replied, “It is not permitted to wipe over it if anything from the foot shows. He doesn’t wipe over them unless they are these thick jawrab that are worn with shoes and they remain standing firm on the leg.” Abdullah then asked, “What if they do not stand firm on the leg?” Imam Ahmed replied, “They are not wiped over unless they are like khuff.” [Masa’il Abdullah 125]
Notice how Imam Ahmed described the jawrab with the attribute of thickness. There is no doubt that modern socks are not thick enough nor is their weaving thick enough.
Certainly, when it came to wiping, the Prophet (pbuh) associated the jawrab with a jurmooq, a type of overshoe worn over the khuff to protect it from mud and the like. All of these words [jawrab, khuff, jurmooq] had the same meaning as that of a khuff [for them]. However, if we compared the modern leather khuff with the modern sock, then we would certainly see a huge difference between the two. Therefore, it is more appropriate [to consider that] the khuff in their times was thicker and the jawrab was related to it [in its similarity].
Condition 2 – It is possible to walk continuously in them
The companions of Imam Ahmed (Ashaab) required the possibility of walking in them as a condition even if they are the type not usually worn, for example, socks made up of glass, wood, iron, etc. They also included felt, which is [thickly] woven using wool and [animal] hair. The strongest inference that can be derived from this stipulation is that due to the clarity of the thin glass, there is no harm if the foot can be described. Based on this, some have understood that the Ashaab did not intend thickness [by mentioning glass] but transparency. However, this does not mean that they allowed the glass to be thin.
Wiping is only permitted when one is able to walk in them according to custom, because [this shows] it is possible to do so due to the [thick] nature of its weaving. Qadhi Abu Ya’la said, “Analogical deduction (qiyaas) of the school allows wiping over them [the jawrab] because the khuff [similarly] covers and one is able to walk in them. It resembles leather.”
I say: Anything that resembles leather, then one is able to wipe over it. Modern socks, however, do not resemble leather in terms of thickness at all.
What does it mean to be possible to walk in them?
It is said in the Hanbali fiqhi text الرعاية الكبرى that, “It is possible to walk in them as much as a traveler who would repeatedly use them [while traveling] due to need. If he is unable to continuously walk in them, then you cannot call it a need, thus, it would not be related to [the rulings of] concession.”
It is not possible to walk repeatedly while wearing modern socks according to custom except in the house or mostly on carpets. If a person was required to continuously walk in them while on travel due to need on other surfaces, it would not work.
Imam Ahmad said, “The wiping of the people over the jawrab is only due to the position of khuff with them. It takes the status of a khuff on a person’s foot. He goes and comes while wearing it.” Imam Ahmed here explicitly says that they take ‘the position of khuff‘ and then describes the walking as ‘he goes and comes.’
Extracted Issues From the Above Discussion
Absence of the permissibility of wiping over modern socks due to the following two reasons:
1 – They do not resemble the khuff in any way especially with regards to their thickness. We have explicit text [from the school] that indicates that the jawrab must be similar to the khuff in meaning and status.
2 – It is not possible to continuously walk in them according to custom due to their thinness.
It should be noted, however, that Ibn Taymiyyah did not require the socks to be thick. He permitted wiping over thin jawrab. It is a [valid] ijtihadi issue.
We have presented the Hanbali school’s position on the modern sock and we do not make it binding on anyone.