In the Name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful…
The Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) allowed residents to wipe over their footwear when performing wudhoo’ (instead of washing the feet) for a period of one day. Travelers are allowed to do so for three entire days. This is founded upon clear evidences from the Quran and the authentic Sunnah.
From the important issues of this gracious concession is that once the footwear is removed for any reason, the period of wiping over it ends, and a person may only wipe over it again once he puts the footwear back on in a state of purity (having already made wudhoo’).
One of our visitors asked about when there is a need to uncover only a small part of the foot just under the ankle, like to rub it, is that considered “removal” of the footwear or not?
The great scholar, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen [d.1421] – may Allaah have Mercy on him – was asked:
ما حكم خلع الشراب أو بعض منها ليحك بعض قدمه أو يزيل شيئاً في رجله كحجر صغير ونحوه؟
What is the ruling on removing the footwear or part of it in order to scratch part of the foot or remove something like a small pebble or anything similar (from inside of the footwear)?
The shaykh replied by saying:
إذا أدخل يديه من تحت الشراب (الجوارب) فلا بأس في ذلك ولا حرج ، أما إن خلعها فينظر إن خلع جزءاً يسيراً فلا يضر ، وإن خلع شيئاً كثيراً بحيث يظهر أكثر القدم فإنه يبطل المسح عليهما في المستقبل.
If he reaches in under the footwear with his hand, there is no problem with that, nothing wrong at all. However, if he removes it (the footwear), then we need to understand: If he only removed a small part of it, there is no harm (i.e. he may continue to wipe over it). If he removed a large part of it, exposing most of his foot, then his (period of) wiping ends at that time.
Source: Question #17 of his book, Fataawaa fil-Mas-h ‘alal-Khuffayn, as found on the official website of his charitable foundation (here).
Based on this fatwaa from Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have Mercy on him), a person may continue wiping over his footwear after uncovering a small part of the foot under the ankle, as mentioned in the original question, and Allaah knows best.
Written by: Moosaa Richardson