The Faithful’s Footwear

by Zoe Pollock


Over the years, religions have sent mixed messages regarding shoes:

One tradition holds that the prophet Muhammad initially encouraged his followers to pray with shoes on, because that was in contrast with Jewish practices of the day. He was then angelically inspired to tell his followers to remove their footwear. Since then, Jews in many parts of the world have been praying with shoes on; indeed an early form of Jewish morning prayer includes special supplications to be said when donning one’s footwear: the right shoe first and then the left. But in Arab countries and further east, there is much evidence of Jewish barefootedness. In some cases, Jews were compelled to remove their shoes, at least when treading near a mosque; such rules existed in Morocco and Yemen. In Islamic theocracies, regulations governing clothing and footwear were often used to mark Christians and Jews as monotheists of a lower status.

(Photo by Edwin Lee)