Muslims will understand the difficulty of praying outside the home all too well.
You need to find a quiet space if there isn’t an area dedicated to you, you have to perform wudhu (ablution) which requires getting your feet in the sink, and it also means sneaking away from your work several times in the day.
While you can usually speak to your managers to ensure they’re aware of your prayer schedule and need for personal space, washing your feet is one prayer requirement that can be pretty uncomfortable to do.
Social etiquette is an important pillar in professional working environments and having your foot in the sink can look a bit strange.
But there are provisions in place that allow Muslims to get their prayers done if it’s too difficult to use the washing facilities at work or away.
For example, it is permissible to wipe the feet over the socks as the final act when doing wudhu, instead of washing them fully.
While washing is the most preferred and authentic act, it’s not always possible to do so.
Imam Noor Hadi said: ‘Islam is a religion of ease, so where one is unable to perform the full ablution due to not having access to clean water or in any other case i.e where one is unwell and it would cause them further harm, the Islamic teachings are that they can simply offer “tayyamum”.
‘This is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an where you would place your hands over dust/sand/wall and wipe them over your hands and face and this would suffice for one to offer their prayers.’
There is also a certain type of socks mentioned in scripture – leather socks that can be used when wiping over the feet.
You can also use a material that has the qualities of leather but isn’t leather or thin cotton socks.
Abu Haqiqah, a hadith (sayings of the prophet) scholar explains: ‘The options for those who are unable to wash their feet may wipe over their leather socks (kuffayan) or regular cotton socks which cover one’s ankles.’
The wudhu, if performed with wiping instead of washing, is invalid in the same circumstances as its traditional counterpart; by going to the toilet or passing wind.
‘If the person in question has a cast or anything like that they wipe over the cast with wet fingers,’ says Abu. ‘If water is scarce or too cold or will cause the sickness to increase or it is fatal then dry ablution is required and it is sufficient as an alternative to wudhu.’
In certain situations where any kind of ablution is not possible, then intention counts as equally important.
Abu adds: ‘If the aforementioned are not available or the people are unable to do so, then they can have the intention in their hearts and to pray the prayer without wudhu or tayammum due to dire circumstances is allowed as a last resort.
‘And if they are unable to move then they can pray by way of indicating with their eyes.’
There are many schools of thought and information out there regarding what is allowed. Most agree, however, that washing is the best.