Ablution rituals (al-Wudu') - The Disagreement
First, this is a practice that was performed at least 5 times a day before every prayer. Second, the prophet undoubtly and fully carried out his responsibility to make clear to all how the Wudu' was to be performed. Third, it is impossible for the prophet to have given the choice to either wipe or wash the feet for several reasons:
  1. There are no narrations supporting this claim, neither from the prophet nor from his companions;
  2. Those who washed would not have had a problem with those who wiped and vice-versa;
  3. The Quranic verse does not support such claim;
  4. This was not the view of the majority of the scholars (Sunnis or Shia'a), and in fact all four Sunni Imams (al-Shafi'i, Malik, Abu Hanifa and Ahmad ibn Hanbal) have all chosen the washing of the feet and rejected the wiping while the Shia'a imams have done the contrary. As you will see, there are a few who held that one can choose between the two actions or can combine them. However, this view was not based on the Sunnat of the prophet but it was based on their own Ijtihad.
Consequently, the prophet either washed or wiped and there was no choice between the two options. Therefore, all the companions must have been performing the Wudu' the same way the prophet did. It is therefore difficult to comprehend what caused them to differ about it after his demise!

The fact is you will find narrations supporting the washing of the feet and others supporting the wiping of the feet. Could they be both true? Did the prophet alternate between the wiping and wahing of the feet throughout his life? Or did one action cancel out and replaced the other at some point in time? What happened?

The general view of the Sunnis is to wash both feet. One group of scholars, however, have held the view that both, the wiping and washing, must be combined while another group held that any one of them (wiping or washing) will do. The Shia'a Imamiya have all agreed that one must wipe over their feet based on the sayings and practice of the Imams of Ahlul Bayt, the second of the Thaqalayn.

The fact is that the narrations from the companions are not consistent. A group of the companions have narrated the washing of the feet while others have narrated the wiping over the feet. It is mainly this difference that has caused those who followed the companions (al-Tabe'een) to differ about this practice and for the desagreement and confusion to deepen. So who is to be trusted among the companions when they differed among themselves about matters they agreed on during the lifetime of the prophet, while all the imams of Ahlul Bayt have all concurred?

The prophet had foretold that his companions would introduce innovations into Islam, that there will be great desagreement among themselves and they would turn their back to religion and cut each other's throats. It is for this reason that the prophet left us a beacon to hold fast to and follow to avoid straying off the right path. This beacon is none but Ahlul Bayt as clarified in hadith al-Thaqalayn:

The messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: "I am leaving for you two precious and weighty Symbols that if you adhere to BOTH of them you shall not go astray after me. They are, the Book of Allah, and my progeny, that is my Ahlul-Bayt. The Merciful has informed me that These two shall not separate from each other till they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise)."
حدثنا علي بن المنذر الكوفي أخبرنا محمد بن فضيل أخبرنا الأعمش عن عطيه عن أبي سعيد والأعمش عن حبيب ابن أبي ثابت عن زيد بن ارقم قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم:
"اني تارك فيكم ما إن تمسكتم به لن تضلوا بعدي؛ أحدهما أعظم من الآخر؛ كتاب الله حبل ممدود من السماء الى الأرض وعترتي أهل بيتي ولن يتفرقا حتى يردا على الحوض فانظروا كيف تخلفوني فيهما".

So on one hand, the companions desagreed among themselves regarding this practice while the Imams of Ahlul Bayt agreed. And on the other hand, one of the two groups of the companions did as the Imams of Ahlul Bayt. Based on this, who do you really follow?? Would you not follow what is in common between the companions and Ahlul Bayt? Based on the authentic hadith of al-Thaqalayn, the true wudu' of the prophet is the one performed by Ahlul Bayt because they will neither contradict the prophet nor the Quran.

Moreover, who will deny that Ali was the inheritor of the knowledge of the prophet? Who will deny that he was the most knowledgeable and the most worthy to follow after the prophet? Does not the Sunnah say:

I am the city of knowledge, and Ali is its gate.
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: أنا مدينة العلم وعلي بابها ، فمن أراد المدينة فليأتها من بابها

The most knowledgeable from among my Ummat is Ali ibn Abi Talib
أعلم أمتي من بعدي علي بن أبي طالب
(الديلمي - عن سلمان).

O Ali, you will make clear to my Ummat what they will differ about after me.
يا علي! أنت تبين لأمتي ما اختلفوا فيه من بعدي. (الديلمي - عن أنس).‏

Ali said: `O Messenger of Allah! My soul has expired, and my spine has been broken, having seen what you have done for your companions while leaving me alone. If this is a sign of your anger with me, then I complain only to you and beg your pardon.' The Messenger of Allah said: `I swear by the One Who sent me to convey the truth about Him, I have not spared you except for my own self. You are to me like Aaron to Moses, except there will be no Prophet after me. You are my Brother, heir and companion.' 'Ali (as) asked him: 'What shall I inherit from you?' He (pbuh) answered: `Whatever Prophets before me left for those who inherited them: the Book of their Lord, and the Sunnah of their Prophet. You will be my companion in my house in Paradise together with my daughter Fatima. You are my Brother and Companion.' Then he, peace be upon him and his progeny, recited the verse: `They are brethren seated conveniently facing each other'

Are not Ahlul Bayt like the ark of Noah?

"Behold! My Ahlul-Bayt are like the Ark of Noah. Whoever embarked in it was SAVED, and whoever turned away from it was PERISHED."
إن مثل أهل بيتي فيكم مثل سفينة نوح، من ركبها نجا ومن تخلف عنها هلك

The Messenger of Allah said: "The stars help prevent the inhabitants of the earth from being drowned, and my Ahlul-Bayt are the protectors of my community against disputes (in religious matters). Therefore, whichever groups among the Arabs opposes my Ahlul-Bayt, shall be split up by dissensions and will become (a party of) Satan."
قال رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم): " النجوم أمان لأهل الأرض من الغرق وأهل بيتي أمان لأمتي من الاختلاف، فإذا خالفتها قبيلة من العرب اختلفوا فصاروا حزب إبليس "

Would it not make sense to follow Ahlul Bayt not only because of hadith al-Thaqalayn but also because the companions provided conflicting reports regarding the wudu'? Is it not against the prophetic Sunnah to differ from the practices of Ahlul Bayt? So, who do we take the Sunnah from when we have conflicting reports? Only those who deny the virtues of Ahlul Bayt will diverge from them to follow others.

Simply put, if any member of ahlul bayt wiped his feet and a companion, whoever he may be, washed his feet during the wudu', one should follow the practice of ahlul bayt because they do not deviate from the authentic sunnah of the prophet. Just as differences among the companions were reported to the prophet for resolution, their differences must be reported to ahlul bayt after the demise of the prophet.

Based on hadith of al-Thaqalayn, the believers should adhere to the Quran and Ahlul bayt, both of which will never separate till the end of time. Having said this, how could the practices of Ahlul Bayt differ from the Sunnah of the prophet??? The fact is that their practices do not differ from that of the prophet, unlike the companions, which is why it is compulsory upon us to follow the practices of Ahlul Bayt and not those of the companions who differed on several basic issues.

My purpose is clear: I want to be as objective as possible to find the truth about the wudu ritual. The prophet performed the Wudu in one particular way and the companions did not differ during his lifetime time. However after his demise, something caused the alteration of this practice causing confusion. Some claim the prophet washed his feet while others claim he wiped over them. And both claim they are following the Sunnat of the prophet! Clearly something is wrong here. Clearly, someone is not following the Sunnat of the prophet. And certainly, the practices of Ahlul Bayt are the genuine practices of the prophet with no variations at all, which is why one must know the stance of Ahlul Bayt regarding this matter.