The Sunnah is that the male assumes Ihraam in two sandals.  This is because it has been related from the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that he said:

“Each of you should assume Ihraam in a waist garment, an upper garment and two sandals.”[1]

Therefore, it is better to assume Ihraam in sandals so that he can be protected from thorns, the hot ground and things that are cold.  If the person does not assume Ihraam in sandals, there is no harm in that. If he cannot find sandals, it is permissible for him to assume Ihraam in leather socks.  Should he cut them or not?  There is a difference of opinion among the people of knowledge concerning this.  It has been confirmed from the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that he said: “Whoever cannot find two sandals, then let him wear two leather socks, and let him cut them off below the ankles.”[2]

 It has been related from him in his sermon that he gave during the Farewell Hajj at `Arafah that he ordered to wear two sandals and he did not command that they be cut.  Thus, the scholars differ concerning that.  Some of them say that the first matter was abrogated, so the person may wear leather socks without cutting them.  Others say that it was abrogated, however it is recommended and not obligatory due to the Prophet’s (sal-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) silence about it at `Arafah. The most correct view, if Allaah wills, is that cutting them is abrogated.  This is because the Prophet (sal-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) gave a sermon to the people of `Arafah and a large group of people were present for his sermon from the city dwellers and the desert dwellers.  Some of them were not present for his sermon in Al-Madeenah during which he commanded that the leather socks be cut.  So, if cutting them was obligatory or legislated, he would have clarified that for his Ummah.  Since he was silent about that at `Arafah, this proves that it was abrogated and that Allaah pardoned and allowed his servants not to cut them due to what it contained of damaging the leather socks.  And Allaah knows best.

[Answered by Shaykh Ibn Baaz, Fatawa Islamiyah, Darussalam]

[1] Talkhis Al-Habair no. 2:237.

[2] Al-Bukhaari no. 1842 and Muslim no. 1177.