Sisters-Only Swimming: What is the Proper Swim Attire to Wear Around Others?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: We have sisters-only swimming here and I am wondering what is best to wear. What do women need to cover around other women in the Shafi`i school?  I am aware that the awrah (nakedness) is from the navel to the knee, but I have seen some fatwas (religious edict) that state that we should be more shy than this and cover more.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and their followers.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and strong faith.

According to the Shafi’i school, a woman’s awrah around other Muslim women is from her navel to her knee. The fact that the breasts are not considered awrah around other Muslim women is particularly helpful for women who are breastfeeding.

As for women who are not nursing, the general rule is that modesty is preferred, given that one of the innate characteristics of Islam, as mentioned by our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is modesty.

You have a number of options for swimwear, including the “burkini,” or a simple one-piece swimsuit worn with leggings.

I’m happy to hear the sisters are getting some exercise!

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

August 18, 2010/Ramadan 7, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq is a wife and mother residing in the southeastern United States. She graduated from Abu Nour University’s precollege program in 2000 and has remained active in teaching and studying sacred knowledge through SunniPath and SeekersGuidance. She holds undergraduate degrees in history and Middle Eastern Studies and is a certified public speaker.

Does Growing Hair on the Chin Meet the Criteria of a Beard in the Shafi`i School?

Answered by Shaykh Faiz Qureshy

Question: What is the ruling on a man shaving his beard except his chin, i.e. that which remains on the chin in a typical Western goatee – does this meet the criteria of a “beard”? I am concerned with the Shafi’i position.

Answer: BismiLlah.

In relation to the question, firstly it is important to remember that the pure sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is to keep a full length beard, as is established is many prophetic traditions. From them the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) said, ‘Trim the moustache, and leave the beard to grow.’ [Muslim]. The beard is a hallmark of the religion, and Allah states, ‘Whosoever exalts the hallmarks of God, this is indeed from the piety of hearts.’ [Hajj: 32]

When Bādhān (the viceroy to Chosroes in the Yemen) sent two emissaries to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in Medina, they had long mustaches and shaved beards. This sight was abhorrent to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who said, ‘My Lord bids me to grow the beard and trim the mustache.’  Thus it is known that the full length beard is unequivocally a sunna, and attempting to exemplify the best of creation can only lead to good in both abodes.


Bearing in mind the above, the position in the school of al-Shāfi’ī, is known in that the beard (Ar. al-lihya) is defined as the ‘hair that grows on the chin.’ ]Fath al-Mubīn 1.66]. To trim, or pluck the beard is unconditionally disliked (makrūh) [al-Ramlī, Nihāya 8.149]. Attention here should be paid to the word chin (Ar. dhaqan), in that in your question you mention the ‘typical western goatee’. Removal of hair from the chin (either by trimming or plucking) is disliked hence the western style goatee is somewhat at odds with this.

The Shāfi’ī law books go to lengths in defining other facial hair and in doing so discern it from the beard (lihya). Al-Ramlī goes on to say that it is also disliked to shorten the idhā’rayn. [Nihāya 8.149]. This is the hair ]below the temples and above the jawbones. It is also defined as the [hair to] the sides of the beard [Qāmūs al-Muhīt, 436]

It should also be mentioned that some Shāfi’ī scholars hold that it is only disliked to remove the hair from the chin, and these diverse positions are a blessing, in that there is leeway, and Allah knows best.

Lastly it should be mentioned that if one wishes to alter the facial hair to turn away from the pure sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), or in order to imitate non-believing people, then this would be deemed sinful behaviour.

May Allah protect us all, and allow us to emulate the best of creation, outwardly and inwardly, amin.

The Ribat Institute

Faiz Qureshy, BSc (Hons) completed a degree in Management Systems in 1997. He subsequently worked in IT, including as a network analyst for the Dell Corporation, before changing direction to study various Islamic disciplines abroad for the better part of 8 years. He studied in the University of Damascus, Syria, and also in Dar al-Mustafa, Yemen. He has taught for the Greensville Trust and Crawley Education Institute, and has carried out pastoral work for the Prison Service. He worked for almost three years with long-term sufferers of mental health illnesses, and is currently employed to undertake spiritual and pastoral care in Broadmoor High Security Hospital. He lives in woking with his wife and three children.

Some Distinctive Traits of Sunni Islam

Answered by Ustadh Faraz A. Khan

Question: A friend recently asked me: Why am I Sunni? He was Shia himself. So his question was from the sense of why not any other sect within Islam? I didnt know the answer to this, meaning I didnt know what was distinctive about Sunni beliefs upon which we claim to be right. Any help would be much appreciated.

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this reaches you in the best of health and faith.

With respect to your question, I would first suggest reading any basic text on Sunni creed. By the grace of Allah, a few have been translated into English, such as the excellent rendition of Imam Tahawi’s creed by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.

Nevertheless, perhaps the following points can serve as a concise summary of the foundational principles of Sunni orthodoxy:

1. As per the name of the Sunnis in Arabic (Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama`a), we adhere to the way of the Noble Prophetic Sunna, as understood by our rightly-guided scholars and imams over history, that is, the majority of the Umma.

2. The righteous scholars of the early generations of Muslims, as well as those after them who follow their path—among the people of excellence and tradition, and those of jurisprudence and erudition—are not to be mentioned except in a beautiful manner. Whoever makes mention of them in an unbecoming manner has deviated from the straight path.

3. We love all of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, yet we are not excessive in our love for any one of them, that is, such that it would lead to disdain of others. We do not disassociate ourselves from any of them [implying that they were guilty of a wrongdoing], and we do not speak of them except in a goodly manner (may Allah be pleased with them all).

4. Speaking ill of any of the Companions is impermissible. We remain silent regarding the  conflicts that erupted among them, since those conflicts were based on earnest attempts at legal independent judgment (ijtihad) by them, and according to our religion, one who exercises legal independent judgment receives one reward if his judgment is incorrect and two rewards if correct. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to venerate the Companions, without exception, and to have full conviction in the moral integrity of them all.

4. Whoever speaks well of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah; his wives, the mothers of the believers; and his children, has proven free from hypocrisy.

5. We believe that Abu Bakr al-Siddiq is the best of people after the prophets, followed by ʿUmar ibn al-Khattab. All of the Companions were in agreement regarding the caliphate of them both. They are followed [in merit] by ʿUthman, the Possessor of Two Lights; and then ʿAli Ibn Abi Talib, cousin of the Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). These four, then, are the rightly-guided caliphs and upright imams (may Allah be pleased with them all).

6.It is a perfectly balanced religion, one that is between extremism and laxity; between likening Allah to His creation and denial of His divine attributes; between the negation of free will and the assertion that the servant creates his own actions; and between feeling secure from Allah’s wrath and despairing in His mercy. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi ‘l-Sa`adat (Ascent to Felicity); `Ala al-Dinb ibn `Abidin, Hadiyya Ala`iyya; Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid]

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Faraz A. Khan has lived in Amman, Jordan, for several years studying and teaching traditional Islamic sciences, with a focus on Hanafi jurisprudence, hadith studies, theology, logic, and Arabic grammar. He translated and annotated the classical Hanafi primer “Ascent to Felicity” (Maraqi ‘l-Sa`adat) by Imam Shurunbulali, recently published by White Thread Press

The Path of Taqwa: Avoiding Differences of Opinion

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Is there any benefit in trying to avoid differences of other schools? Why, and what are the limits?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, most Merciful

“The way of the spiritual traveler is to avoid differences of opinion, and to stick to that which is agreed upon.” – Imam al-Barkawi

Imam al-Haskafi said in his al-Durr al-Mukhtar, arguably the most important commentary in the late Hanafi school for details of legal rulings:

(And) wudu is (not) broken (by touching the penis) though it is recommended to wash one’s hands (or by touching a woman) … however, it is it recommended [to renew one’s wudu] to avoid the difference on this issue, especially for the Imam. It is a condition, though, [when seeking to avoid difference of opinion] that it not entail doing something disliked in one’s own madhhab.

Ibn Abidin commented on this in his Radd al-Muhtar (also famous as, al-Hashiya, and al-Shami), considered the most important authority for the definitive positions of the Hanafi school:

“(His saying, “It is recommended…”)

It is stated [by Umar ibn Nujaym] in al-Nahr: However, the degrees of recommendedness differ according to the strength or weakness of the evidence of the other school.

(His saying, “It is a condition, though…”)

… Does [avoiding something] disliked [in one’s own school] include something slightly disliked? … It seems evident that it does, such as praying fajr when the sky is still dark (taghlīs), which is a sunna in the Shafi`i school, but the best in our school is to pray when there is light in the sky (isfār), and it is not recommended [per se] to avoid the difference of opinion in it….” [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Muhtar, Bab Sunan al-Wudu’]

Imam al-Suyuti said in his al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir, in Shafi`i fiqh,

“The Twelfth Principle: Avoiding differences of opinion is recommended…

There are conditions to this:

One, that avoiding a difference of opinion not lead to falling into another difference…

Second, that the difference of opinion not go against an established sunna [F: that is, it should not lead to leaving something recommended or doing something disliked in one’s school]

Third, that its evidence have some basis, such that it is not considered a mistake. This is why it is best to fast even while traveling for one able to do so without hardship, and the difference of Dawud [al-Zahiri, the Literalist] is not considered, because it is baseless.

In fact, Imam al-Haramayn [al-Juwayni] said regarding this issue,

“The scholars of discernment do not place any weight to the difference of opinion of the Literalists (Ahl al-Zahir).” [al-Suyuti, al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir, p. 137]

Imam al-Barkawi said in al-Tariqa al-Muhamadiyya, a manual on how to operationalize taqwa:

“The way of the spiritual traveler is to avoid differences of opinion, and to stick to that which is agreed upon.”

Imam al-Khadimi commented on this in his al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya: [2: 286-287]

“… It is clear that the difference of other than the Hanafi imams is not of consideration [f: for a Hanafi] in terms of the legal ruling (fatwa). Rather, it is sought in terms of taqwa.,

The author pointed to this when he said,

(The way of the spiritual traveler) to Allah (is to avoid differences of opinion). This is because they consider the differences of opinion of all Imams… because though [according to the methodology of the school one follows] he considers them mistaken in their opinion, it is possible that they are right. This is because of what we hold that the madhhab of Abu Hanifa is correct with the possibility of being wrong, and the madhhabs of others are wrong with the possibility of being right. Thus, the cautious God-fearing person avoids this possibility as much as possible…

(and to stick to that which is agreed upon). Al-Bistami said in Hall al-Rumuz, “It is incumbent on the sufi to acquire enough knowledge to make his actions in accordance to the Sacred Law according to all four madhhabs. This is because if the sufi is Hanafi, for example, it is binding on him to exercise caution in the matters relating to his ritual ablutions (wudu’) and prayer and other acts of worship such that they are also in accordance with the madhhabs of Shafi`i, Malik, and Ahmad , because the way (madhhab) of the sufis is to join between the positions of the fuqaha. When this is not possible, they act on that which is religiously most precautious and most appropriate. This is because a Shafi`i would not question you why you did not perform ritual ablutions with two qullas (216 litres) or more of water [f: if filth fell in it, whereas this is not allowed for Hanafis], and a Hanafi would not question you as to why you performed ritual ablutions upon touching your private parts or a person of the opposite sex.

And it is incumbent on the sufi to love the follower of the four madhhabs, and to make dua for the good for all of them, and not to be fanatical at all.

As for dispensations, it is binding that he leave them at all cost.” (end of the quote from al-Bistami)

This is in terms of taqwa, because acting on dispensations is permitted according to the fuqaha (ahl al-fatwa)…” [al-Khadimi, al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya:, 2: 286-287]

It should be noted, however, that this is a noble perfection. The first step towards it is to learn one’s own madhhab properly, and to do one’s best to apply its rulings in one’s life without exception, in all aspects of one’s life, being most careful about that which relates to the rights of others and to the halal and haram.

And Allah alone gives success.


Faraz Rabbani.

MMVIII © Faraz Rabbani and SunniPath.

Dealing with Death: Inward & Outward Manners

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: My grandmother is about to die, it seems. How does one deal with death? What can I do for her?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,


1. Patience,

2. Submission to the Divine Will,

3. Reflection on the fleetingness of live,

4. Taking admonition for one’s own situation.

Shaddad ibn Aws reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The intelligent is one who controls his lower self and works for that which comes after death. The stupid is one who follows his caprice and vainly hopes that his desires will be fulfilled by Allah.” [al-Tirmidhi, Sunan]

Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Race to good deeds! What do you await but delayed poverty, overbearing wealth, debilitating illness, senility, unexpected death or the Dajjal? Or are you waiting for unseen evil, or the Final Hour? And the Final Hour will be bitter indeed and terrible.” [ibid]


1. Making sure the dead person’s estate is correctly divided according to the Shariah AFTER all debts have been cleared.

2. If the person is expected to have missed fard fasts or prayers, their family (or friends) should make expiatory payments (fidya) to compensate for this, according to the rules of fiqh. [Can be explained upon request.]

3. Reciting a lot of Qur’an oneself (and family and friends) and donating the reward to the deceased. One may not pay Qur’an reciters for this; it would be sinful and without reward.

4. Making a lot of dua for them.

There is agreement among the 4 Sunni schools that one may donate the reward of some or all one’s actions to some or all believers, living or dead. [Ibn al-Humam, Fath al-Qadir]

Malik ibn Rabi’a al-Sa`idi said, “Once as we sat with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man from the Bani Salama came and asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, is there any goodness I can show my parents after they die?’ He said, ‘Yes . Praying for them, seeking forgiveness for them, fulfilling the pledges they made, keeping ties with their relatives, and honouring their friends.” [Abu Dawud, Sunan]

Finally, we should learn the manners and ways of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) and live them:

Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessing & peace) said, “My entire community will enter Janna except those who refuse.”

He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who are those who refuse?

He said, “Those who obey me will enter the Garden and those who disobey me refuse.” [al-Bukhari, Sahih]

Faraz Rabbani

The Braids of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace)

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Recently in our weekly study circle I learnt that at one point the hair of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him) was braided. Is there any more detail on how this was and when it is permissable to do?  At work my hair goes all over the place and because it is thick it will not stay in one place very easy. JazakAllah Khair.

Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

May Allah Most High accept your intention to emulate the sunnah of His beloved Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him.

When the hair of the Prophet (peace be upon him) grew long, on occasion, it would be plaited into four braids. This was done mainly for the journeys from Madina to Mecca, when it was difficult to wash and maintain one’s hair. This was common for men in that time, place and culture.

A man can have any hairstyle as long as it is not:

(a) imitating women in style or length, or
(b) imitating non-Muslims in a style that is specifically attributed to them, or
(c) imitating a hairstyle that is immediately understood to be characteristic of sinful people.

However, beyond mere permissibility, one should look towards the customs and culture of the land they live in to see how braids are seen by the society, specifically in the opinion of the socially-aware scholars and respectable people. Also, braids must be undone at the time of the ritual bath (ghusl).

For work (and da’wah), I would suggest that if someone’s longer hair looks unkempt, simply cutting it to a neater, manageable length would be praiseworthy, still in accordance with the Prophetic command (see below), and reflect better on one’s overall implementation of the Sunnah.  Some details on braids follow below for those interested in learning more.

Braids in Light of the Sunna

Imam al-Tirmidhi relates in his book, the Shama’il (the Characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him), from Umm Hani that she said:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) arrived at Mecca on one of his visits having four braids [in his hair].” [Tirmidhi, Shamail; Sunan]

Imam al-Bayjuri comments that this arrival was for the Conquest of Mecca, one of the four visits the Prophet (peace be upon him) made to Mecca after the Hijra. The wording implies that the narrator, the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) cousin, did not see him with braided hair most of the time. The braids in this version were simply plaited strands of hair. [al-Bayjuri, Sharh al-Shamail]

Later, Imam Tirmidhi narrates another narration from Umm Hani that she saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) with four locks, either the same or another time, but the word used in this version implies that the braids were actually glazed with a resin or glue which would cause them to become stuck together, and Allah knows best.

Another narration in the collection of al-Bukhari occurs in a chapter specifically entitled “Braids”. It recounts the narration of Ibn ‘Abbas; in his childhood, the Prophet (peace be upon him) once moved him during prayer by pulling at the two braids in his hair. Ibn Hajr comments that, “in this act, there is indeed a tacit approval by the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) for the making of braids.” Ibn Abbas was a young boy, and not in a state of travel at the time. [Ibn Hajr, Fath al-Bari]

The Style of the Braids

It is rare to find any description of how those four braids were made on the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) blessed head. It obviously goes to show that the braids were not commonly made. However, al-Bayhaqi does say in his book, Dala’il al-Nubuwwah (the Indicators of Prophethood):

“[The Messenger], peace and blessings be upon him, would sometimes make his hair into four braids, the right ear coming out from between two braids that were surrounding it, and the left ear coming out from between two braids which were surrounding it. And the two ears would come forth with their whiteness from between these braids as if they were two brilliant stars lit up from amidst the blackness of his hair.” [al-Bayhaqi, Dala’il]

Imam al-Ghazali mentions that the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) hair could have been shoulder-length at these times, but most likely it was to the bottom of the ears, and that he would either let each ear show between two braids on either side, or put his locks behind his ears such that the earlobes would show forth like shining pearls.

May Allah Most High be praised for making His Messenger (peace be upon him) of such beauty!

Ibn Hajr mentions that each braid was made of 3 strands interwoven into each other, and also that they were said to be broad plaits, and not thin tresses. [Ibn Hajr, Fath al-Bari] Imam Anwar Shah Kashmiri even related the opinion that these were two conditions for braiding the hair according to the sunna.

Kashmiri also mentions that it was not a habit of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to braid his hair, and that perhaps the narrator who reported the details of the braids may have somehow seen under the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) turban on that occasion. This also shows that braiding or lengthening the hair does not imply that one’s head should be uncovered to show the braids (unless one is in ihram), as covering the head is a consistent sunna. [Kashmiri, al-`Urf al-Shadhi Sharh al-Tirmidhi]

The Reason for Braiding the Hair

It was quite clear that the braiding of the hair was done during long journeys, to protect against the build-up of dirt, when hair was difficult to maintain.

Imam Ibn Hajr says, “The upshot of the narration is that his hair (peace be upon him) grew until it became locks, so he braided it into four tresses, and this is interpreted to be in a state in which a long time passes without being able to care for his hair. This is in the state of being busy with travel and the such, and Allah knows best.” [Ibn Hajar, Fath al Bari]

The author of a commentary on Ibn Majah states: “Perhaps he (peace be upon him) did that to protect [his hair] against dust.” [al-Suyuti, Hashiya on Ibn Majah]

Glazing and permanently sticking together the hair’s tresses with gum, glue or resin was done during the pilgrimage journey (called “talbeed”) to prevent lice infestation and dirt build-up, requiring the head to be shaved completely upon completion.  This sunna has been reported by Bukhari in his Sahih, though the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) hair was always pure from lice.

Scholars’ Advice on Men Keeping Braids

Al-Bayjuri says in his commentary on the Shama’il:

“From the aforementioned hadeeth [of four braids], we can ascertain the permissibility of braiding the hair, even for men; it is not specifically for women only, even if that has become the culture in most countries in these times to specify it for women. Because there is no consideration given to that [restriction].” {al-Bayjuri, Sharh Shamail]

From this, we understand that saying the braids are only permissible for women, due to cultural preferences is not valid in light of the fact that it is proven from the sunna and thus cannot be made absolutely impermissible for men – as long as there is no imitation of women. However, culture and custom do play into whether it would be recommended or not for one to keep braids. We can see this cultural consideration in the statement of Ibn `Abdul Barr when he said:

“It has become in our times that our people have stopped tying up their hair [into plaits and locks], except for the soldiers who have shoulder-length or ear-lobe length hair. The people of righteousness and modesty and knowledge have turned away from this [braiding], to the point where the [avoidance of keeping locks] has become a distinguishing feature from amongst the features they are known by.

Shoulder-length hairstyles have almost become- in our times and in our culture (m: the author lived in Islamic Spain in the 5th century hijri) – a distinguishing mark of the foolish.  Indeed, it has been related from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that he said, ‘Whosever specifically imitates a certain group of people, then he is one of them, or he is gathered with them [on Judgement Day]…

… So that should be enough for you, and it is implicitly [exhorting one] to follow the guidance of the righteous people, in whatever state they are upon. Neither maintaining hair nor shaving it off will suffice you on the Day of Judgment one bit, and ones rewards are only based on intentions and actions. How many a man with a shaved-head is better than one with hair, and how many a person with hair is an upright man!…

…[however, there is] proof that the binding of long hair is better than shaving one’s head, because an act that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) actually did himself is better than an act that the people were doing without his forbidding them to do so. This is because he is, in every state specific to him, on the best of affairs, and the most perfect and most lofty of them, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.” [Ibn `Abdul Barr, al-Tamhid]

In other times and cultures, longer hair and braids have only been worn by distinguished religious groups within a society, such as the righteous descendants of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or those who devote themselves to Islamic spirituality, and thus, that a layman imitates them such that he would be confused for one them had been disliked by the scholars of that time since the person would be giving a false impression about their level of religious learning, devotion or lineage.  [Ashraf `Ali Tahanawi, Laws of Hair in Islam]

Hence the ruling regarding braids for men changes across cultures and times. It depends on who is doing it, their background, their job, their intention, the purpose, the connotation and the message it sends. Braiding can also be considered customary for one ethnic group, and not another, even in the same land, as some Hanafi fiqh texts indicate [Ibn Nujaym, Bahr al-Raiq]. All of these elements factor into whether braiding one’s hair is recommended or not for a particular individual, especially if the intention is to achieve the sunna.

It is Best to Keep a Neat Hairstyle

It is related from Wa’il ibn Hujr (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: “I came to the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) while I had long hair, and he (peace be upon him) said, ‘What misfortune!’ So I quickly left, and clipped off [my long hair]; then I went back to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Then he remarked, ‘I didn’t mean [that expression to be directed at] you, but in any case, this is best.” [Abu Dawud, Sunan]

Imam Tahawi comments on this narration by saying: “And in this narration of the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), there is something that indicates that keeping the hair trimmed is better than growing it out long, because whatever the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) considered to be “the best”, then nothing can be better than that. It is a must to stick closely to that “best” and to leave what opposes it… since he was the foremost in all beautiful characteristics put together above all of mankind, even if he adopted this [view] only after his saying this was “the best”, leaving anything which he was upon before to the contrary.  And from Allah do we seek success.” [al-Tahawi, Mushkil al-Athar]

Thus, it is not praiseworthy to intend the sunna of keeping longer hair while one’s hair cannot be maintained to look presentable or neat. For this reason, in societies where neatness of hair and dress is what one’s message can be judged upon, perhaps it would be better to practice the other Sunnah hair-lengths which are shorter and neater, especially for the sake of da’wah.

However, if one does decide to keep longer hair, one should not pray with his hair tied into a ponytail, but rather he should release it so his locks can prostrate with him. He should also comb, maintain and wash it regularly to follow the command of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Whoever has hair, then let him honor it.” [Abu Dawud, Sunan]


Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Sidi Abdullah Misra was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He converted to Islam in 2001 and completed a degree in Business Administration. In 2005, he left Canada to pursue Islamic studies. He now lives in Amman, Jordan with his wife and two daughters, where he studies various Islamic sciences and concurrently serves as the Study Abroad Director at the Qasid Institute.

How Did the Devil Tempt Adam & Hawa (Eve)?

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: If the Devil (shaytan) was cast out of Heaven after refusing to bow down to Adam and refusing to show him respect, how is it that he was able to tempt Adam in heaven into disobeying Allah?

Answer: Wa alaikum salam,

Thank you for your question.

Firstly, it was only with Allah Most High’s permission (though not approval) that the Devil (shaytan) was able to find a way to tempt Adam and Hawa (peace be upon them) after his expulsion. His expulsion from Paradise was not meant to make it impossible for him to reach them. This momentous incident in history, after all, is what brought about the fall from Paradise to this world, which is the reason why we are all here today. Clearly, this happened as part of the Divine plan and wisdom.

The exact nature of how Shaytan tempted Adam is differed upon. There is no conclusive evidence as to how this happened in the Islamic primary sources, only various speculations.

Imam al-Qurtubi mentions that the strongest opinion was that Shaytan tempted them with his voice only, saying this was the opinion of Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas and the majority of the scholars.

He also cites weaker opinions that closely followed the Genesis 3:1 account, or that Shaytan used his minions, along with the ability to whisper in the hearts. [al-Qurtubi, Tafsir]

The Old Testament of the Bible in Genesis 3:1 says that Iblis took the form of a snake and tempted Hawa in the Garden of Eden, however this cannot be relied upon.

Imam al-Baydawi mentions many opinions as well without choosing any one. Among the opinions are that Iblis was not allowed to enter Paradise with honor as he once did with the angels, but was able to enter in a humiliated state, or that he deceived the guards of Paradise. Or, he may have simply whispered from outside the gates. In the end, he says ,”the knowledge of it is with Allah Exalted and Most High.” [al-Baydawi, Tafsir: Anwar al-Tanzil]

Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Sidi Abdullah Misra was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He converted to Islam in 2001 and completed a degree in Business Administration. In 2005, he left Canada to pursue Islamic studies. He now lives in Amman, Jordan with his wife and two daughters, where he studies various Islamic sciences and concurrently serves as the Study Abroad Director at the Qasid Institute.

The First Prayer After the Night Journey: Why Was it Dhuhr and not Fajr?

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I was asked this question by a friend and don’t really know the answer. Why was the first prayer prayed after the Prophet’s ascent (mi`raj) Zuhr and not Fajr?

Answer: As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

We pray this reaches you in the best of health and imaan.

There is no clearly-stated reason in the primary sources of Islam as to why Dhuhr was the first official congregational prayer after the Night Journey, and not Fajr. However, scholars over the centuries have proposed various explanations as to the wisdom behind this.

A narration in the Musannaf of `Abdur Razzaq explicitly tells us that Gabriel (peace be upon him) visited the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the morning after the Night Journey in which the five daily prayers had been made an obligation. The Companions were gathered at Dhuhr, and Gabriel showed the Prophet (peace be upon him) the exact timings, postures, order and number of cycles of each prayer by praying with him, while the Prophet (peace be upon him) immediately taught the same to the Believers by leading them in prayer. This continued for each prayer over two days till the obligatory prayers were learned and established.

Does this mean that Fajr that morning was not prayed at all, and because of that, Dhuhr was the first prayer?

Allamah Binnori says in his commentary on Sunan al-Tirmidhi:

“Some claimed in regards to the descending of Gabriel (peace be upon him) during Dhuhr rather than for the Fajr prayer… that the Prophet (peace be upon him) slept through Fajr, and so Gabriel did not descend… this claim is a great mistake and the one who opined this got mixed up…

Our Shaykh said, ‘The reason for starting with Dhuhr, in my view, is that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) already used to pray Fajr and `Asr before the obligation to pray the five daily prayers, so it wasn’t as critical to start by teaching the Fajr prayer. Some scholars even opined that Fajr and ‘Asr had been obligatory even before the Night Journey, and many Qur’anic verses have indicated towards [the early emphasis on] these two prayers…” [Binnori, Ma’`rif al-Sunan]

Hence, this opinion tells us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not miss Fajr that morning, but that he prayed it in the way he was usually would, namely by himself, but since Dhuhr was being introduced for the first time to the Ummah, Gabriel was sent to demonstrate and enjoin it first out of the five obligatory prayers to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Muslims.

Others who did not necessarily hold that Fajr and ‘Asr were obligatory before the Night Journey have opined that although the five prayers had been announced as an obligation the night before, the Fajr of that day was not obligatory on the Muslims since the timing and the way of praying it had not been revealed to them, nor were most Muslims even aware of the obligation at that early hour in the morning right after the Night Journey, and so if the instruction had not been conveyed, there was no moral responsibility on them if they didn’t pray it. [al-Mubarakpuri, Sharh Mishkat]

Ibn Hajar in his commentary on al-Bukhari cites Qadi `Iyad’s view that the obligation of prayer on the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Muslims was indeed announced on the Night Journey, but since it was dependant on the news being publicized, the obligation on the entire Ummah only came into effect after the first group prayer was performed and everyone was made aware if it.  [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari tells us a fourth viewpoint, perhaps the most beautiful:

“Because there is a sense of secrecy or hiddeness at the time of Fajr [since most people were asleep], if the announcement had occurred at that time, there would be no sense of bold manifestation like there was in Dhuhr; with its symbolizing that the Prophet’s religion (peace be upon him) would likewise boldly manifest itself over all other religions, the time of Dhuhr is manifest and apparent [in broad daylight] over all the other prayer timings. But the obligation of performance is dependant on the knowledge of how to perform an act, and that couldn’t have happened except at Dhuhr [when everyone could be informed]…” [al-Qari, Sharh Mishkat]

Practically speaking, it would have been difficult to gather the Muslims at such an early hour and explain the significance of the previous night’s events, since Muslims could not worship very freely in those times and many were slaves or Muslims in secret. Also, in an age without lights and lamps, to teach the prayer by example in the dark would have been unduly challenging. This way also left Fajr to be taught last, as it is usually the most challenging to attend since one must sacrifice one’s sleep to stand before Allah.

Hence, as Imam Alusi said in his tasfir, the entire incident was commanded in the chapter on the Night Journey [al-Isra] in the Qur’an:

“And establish the prayer [O Prophet, peace be upon him] after the sun has fallen from its zenith [Dhuhr then ‘Asr], until the dusk of the night [Maghrib then ‘Isha], and [establish] the recitation at Fajr – indeed the Qur’an recited during Fajr is witnessed!” [17:78]

May Allah Ta’ala keep us firm on our daily prayers and accept them, Ameen!

-Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Allah Breathing His Spirit Into Jesus? The Possible Meanings of this Verse & The Approach of Sunni Islam Towards Ambiguous Texts

Answered by Ustadh Faraz Khan

Question: What is the meaning of the verse that states Allah blowing His spirit into Jesus?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

InshaAllah you are well.

The verse in question is, “So We breathed into him of Our spirit” (66:12)

What the Scholars of Exegesis Have Mentioned

According to works of Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir), the expression “Our spirit” means “a spirit created by Us.” Of course, every human’s spirit is created by Allah Most High. The spirit of our Master `Isa (peace be upon him), however, is singled out with this expression as a way of honoring him. This ascription of honor (idafat al-tashrif) is quite common in the language of the Qur’an, such as “the house of Allah,” “the she-camel of Allah,” etc. That is, a house or she-camel so incredibly honored and so very special, that it is ascribed to Allah, who is of course utterly transcendent above using a house or she-camel, may He be glorified and exalted. Similarly, the spirit that Allah created for our master `Isa (peace be upon him) is so honored and special, it is ascribed to Allah directly, who is utterly transcendent above having His own spirit.

Another explanation given is that such an ascription is used to indicate that Allah created that thing without any intermediary or “means.” So the she-camel of Allah was created directly by Him without a womb, and the spirit of ‘`sa (peace be upon him) was created directly by Him without any means that Allah normally uses in the act of creation.

With respect to the expression “We breathed,” most exegetes mention that it was actually the Archangel Jibril (peace be upon him) who breathed the spirit into `Isa (peace be upon him). The act is ascribed to Allah in the verse, however, since He Most High is the One who commanded Jibril to do so. Therefore, “We breathed” actually means “We sent Jibril, who breathed.” [Qurtubi, Nasafi, Biqa’i, Abu Suud]

Imam Razi, however, interprets it as metaphorical, stating that the nature of the spirit is such that, once it is created in the body, it spreads to every part of the body, just as air that is breathed into a vessel. Hence according to him, there was no literal “breathing” that took place. And Allah knows best.

Dealing with Ambiguous Verses

The verse in question is considered one of the ambiguous verses (mutashabihat). With such verses, the outward apparent meaning of it cannot be taken literally with respect to Allah Most High, who is well-exalted and transcendent above all things temporal. This is established in clear, unequivocal verses such as “There is nothing like unto Him” (42:11) and “And He has no equivalent” (112:4).

Classically, there were two historical approaches among Muslim scholars in dealing with such verses. The first was, after negating the outward literal meaning, to consign the matter completely to Allah Most High without any attempt to interpret the verse (tafwid); this was the approach of the first few generations (salaf).

The second approach was to attempt to interpret the verse in a matter befitting His majesty (ta’wil), yet without affirming it with certainty since other meanings could also be correct; this was the approach of scholars of later generations (khalaf), who were forced to do so in order to safeguard the understanding of Allah’s transcendence from the incorrect beliefs of various sects that arose in their time. [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid]

And Allah knows best.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Donating Reward to the Dead: A Detailed Answer

Answered by Ustadh Faraz Khan

Question: In a class I attended recently, we were told that reciting Surah Yaseen is a sunnah for the sick and dying (in their presence). However, it is not a sunnah not after a persons death. We were told this was a cultural practice and brings no benefit to the deceased. Is this true?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

Insha’Allah you are well.

The short answer to your question is that reciting the Qur’an, whether Surah Yasin or otherwise, is not merely a cultural practice but does indeed provide benefit to the deceased according to the majority of Sunni scholars. It falls under the more general ruling of donating reward to others.

The Legal Ruling of Donating Reward to Others

With respect to this discussion, actions can be divided into two categories: (1) actions with a monetary component such as charity or pilgrimage, and (2) solely physical actions such as praying, fasting, and reciting Qur’an.

There is scholarly consensus regarding the first type that one may donate its reward to the deceased, based on several clear hadith texts. For example, Imam Muslim actually titled a section of his Sahih Collection “The Reward of Charity on Behalf of the Deceased Reaches Him.” He relates in that section that a man told the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that his mother died a sudden death and did not have a chance to leave a bequest in her will, and that were she able to speak she would want to donate charity. He then asked if the reward of charity on behalf of his deceased mother would reach her, to which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Yes.”

With regards to the second type of actions, physical actions with no monetary component, the view of some scholars was that one could not donate the reward to the deceased. However the majority of scholars, especially later ones, affirmed that one can indeed perform physical voluntary acts and donate the reward of those acts to the deceased. This is established in all four canonical schools of law, as mentioned by major Imams of each school – such as Ibn Abidin of the Hanafi school, Hattab of the Maliki school, Nawawi of the Shafi`i school, and Ibn Qudama of the Hanbali school – all of whom give the example of specifically reciting Qur’an for the deceased, notwithstanding minor differences such as whether or not one must be at the physical grave-site for the deceased to benefit. [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Hattab, Mahawib al-Jalil; Nawawi, al-Minhaj; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni]

The Hanafis specifically mention that a person may designate the reward of any voluntary good deed to another person, whether the designated recipient is alive or deceased, without it decreasing from the performer’s reward whatsoever. Based on this ruling, some scholars even suggested that when a person gives voluntary charity [and by extension any voluntary work], he should intend it on behalf of all believing men and women, as the reward will reach them and take nothing away from his own personal reward. [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Evidence from the Sunnah

There is much evidence in the Sunnah for this position, a few examples of which will be presented here.

Imam Bukhari titled a section of his Sahih Collection, “Performing Hajj and Fulfilling Vows on Behalf of the Deceased,” and relates in that section that a woman asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) if she could perform hajj on behalf of her deceased mother, who had made a vow to do so, to which he replied, “Yes, perform the hajj on her behalf; if she had a debt, wouldn’t you pay it back for her? Pay off her debt to Allah, for He is more deserving of fulfilling obligations.”

Also, both Bukhari and Muslim relate in their Sahih Collections that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If someone dies while owing obligatory fasts, his relative can fast on his behalf.”

An Example from a Companion-Scholar, Whose Understanding Reflects the Sunnah

With regards to reciting Qur’an for the deceased, this was the practice of Ibn Umar himself (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the greatest Companions and a scholar among them, who was particularly well-known for being strict in his adherence to the Prophetic Sunnah.

Imam Abu Bakr al-Khallal, an eminent Imam of the Hanbali school, mentions in his work, “Commanding the Good and Forbidding the Evil,” that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal once entered a graveyard with some of his students and saw a blind man sit at a grave to recite Qur’an. Imam Ahmad told him to stop since he considered it a reprehensible innovation (bid`a). When they left the graveyard, one of his students narrated a hadith with a sound chain of narration that Ibn Umar himself left a bequest that someone should recite Qur’an at his grave after his demise. Upon hearing the narration, Imam Ahmad told the student to return and tell the blind man to go ahead and recite Qur’an. [Muhammad Awwama, Athar al-Hadith al-Sharif, citing Ibn Qayyim, Kitab al-Ruh]

To Summarize

As in all matters of difference of opinion, such issues should not be a source of dispute or animosity among Muslims. The issue is not a central tenet of faith, whereas the unity of Muslims is an obligation and of the utmost priority. One can appreciate that there is sufficient legal precedent to donate the reward of voluntary works to others, including that of solely physical actions like praying, fasting, or reciting Qur’an, and therefore those who wish to do so have every right to and should not be condemned or blamed. At the same time, if one prefers not to, that is his right and there is nothing wrong with that.

May Allah Most High unite our hearts for His sake, and make our entire community the coolness of our Beloved Messenger’s eyes, peace and blessings be upon him. Amin.

Faraz Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani