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Adab 13: The Proprieties of Clothing and Dress

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of clothing and dress.

 

Allah Most High says, “The garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.26) True clothing is that which leaves a spiritual imprint in our hearts whereby we recognise the Lordship of our All-Seeing Lord, and strive to work righteous deeds, remain distant from wrong and busy the heart with remembrance so that it may be moulded into something that shields us instantly from the unlawful. Taqwa, linguistically speaking, is the central focus of garments, protecting and shielding us from the weather and from unwanted gazes, and it is metaphysical taqwa that we seek to adorn ourselves with so that we may be hopeful to find Allah Most High’s Aid and Divine Care in this life before the next. 

1. Defining Nakedness and the Duty to Cover

Allah Most High says, “…Their nakedness became exposed to them when they had eaten from the tree: they began to put together leaves from the Garden to cover themselves.” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.22) And also, “O children of Adam! We have provided for you clothing to cover your nakedness and as an adornment.” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.26) From these and other verses, the jurists derived the obligation to cover one’s nakedness. In the context of covering, what is sought is opaque clothing which actually covers the area without displaying whatever is underneath and its colour. In doing so, we intend to fulfil a religious obligation and to guard our private parts from the unlawful and sin because “Actions are but by intentions.” (Bukhari)

The nakedness (‘awra) of men is from just below the navel till the bottom of the knee. For women in front of the opposite gender, it includes their entire bodies except face, hands and feet. In front of an unmarriageable kin (mahram), it is from navel to knee, and also the stomach and back; and in front of other women, it is from the navel to knee alone. When in seclusion, however, both men and women should strive to keep their minimal nakedness — navel to knee — covered as an expression of their modesty and humility before their Lord, unless there is a need to uncover such as when using the restroom or the like. 

With respect to children, there is some detail and some of the specifics may differ depending on how big or small any particular child looks. Generally, a very young child up to the age of about three or four has no nakedness of religious consequence. Then from four to seven, their nakedness is their private parts. From seven till ten, it gradually increases from just the private parts up to the navel and down to the knee; and then at age ten, their nakedness is akin to that of an adult. Having said all of that, it is important for caregivers and parents to ensure that children remain covered, within reason, and are taught about their nakedness and that the only person who can touch or uncover them in those sensitive areas is their mother. We live in difficult times and we are duty-bound to protect our children from harm and trauma. 

 

2. The Central Sunna of Looseness and Modesty

One of the central sunnas related to clothing and dress is that of looseness which is a result of preferring modesty. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Modesty is from faith.” (Bukhari) Praiseworthy modesty is a character trait which drives one to uphold the limits of the Sacred Law (shari‘a) in one’s life. Clothing is supposed to cover one’s nakedness and when it is tight, it is effectively akin to showing whatever is beneath it. This is why we need to be careful to ensure that the clothing we choose to wear is indicative of our values, namely, that covering well and fully forms the basis of how we present ourselves before those who are not permitted to see our bodies. 

Accordingly, both men and women should avoid form-fitting tightness, or simply tightness which sufficiently defines the size or shape of a limb between the navel and knee. Ladies should additionally be careful to avoid clothing which hugs the body, particularly in the chest area, but also generally around the rest of her nakedness. As an aside, praying in form-fitting, tight clothing is considered to be valid, yet prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) and seriously reprehensible because it is not the kind of covering that was sought in the prayer. Tightness is of degrees and the degree of blameworthiness would be in accordance with its extent.

3. General Sunnas in Dressing

There are a number of sunnas to keep in mind when dressing oneself, or even undressing! Given that clothing is a favour and blessing from Allah Most High, it only befits us that we begin to wear it from the right, as the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to “prefer the right in everything.” (Muslim) Similarly, we undress with the left first, allowing the right side to remain clothed for a lengthier period of time as doing this would be a form of honouring it. The same would apply to footwear which, incidentally, should be worn whilst seated, if required, like all clothing worn beneath the navel. There are two wisdoms in this: (1) you will generally be more covered whilst seated, and (2) you are less likely to have an undignified fall! 

Another sunna to be aware of is supplication in undressing which Imam Nawawi records from Ibn al-Sunni, “In the Name of Allah, the one who there is no deity save He (bismi Llahi ‘lladhi la ilaha illa Hu).” In the same vein, whenever the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, wore something new, he would supplicate saying: “All praise belongs to God who clothed me in this and provided me with it without any power from me nor might (alhamdu li Llahi ‘lladhi kasani hadha wa razaqanihi min ghayri hawlin minni wa la quwwa).” (Abu Dawud) Moreover, he would often choose Fridays for wearing a new garment for the first time because Friday is a blessed occasion, the ‘Eid of the week, and deserving of being honoured. 

Men are also encouraged in the sunna to wear white. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Wear white clothes.” (Tirmidhi) The reason for the prophetic preference and encouragement to wear white was due to the fact that you can easily see any dirt or the like which has affected it, it is indicative of simplicity and humility, and it is also distant from particular types of ancient, natural dyes that were deemed problematic for men to wear. Despite this, the Blessed Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would often wear other than white to indicate either permissibility or due to the absence of white. But on the two ‘Eids, the recommendation is to wear one’s best clothes, even if they are other than white, which was also the practice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. 

4. Restrictions: Jewellery and Certain Forms of Dress

Jewellery is permitted for women, yet not for men. The only exception to this is a silver ring which may be worn occasionally, unless somebody has a need for wearing one. In our times, this could be understood in the context of a wedding band which serves a strong societal purpose and is customary in many places. Otherwise, it is only considered to be a sunna for a man to wear a ring on the days of ‘Eid because they are days of dressing up much more than usual. The specific reason for this is that jewellery is considered to be from adornment and beautification (zina), something that is considered particular to women. Men may seek to be presentable or well put-together (tajammul), yet not excessively so that it becomes beautification. 

Similarly, there are some types of dress which are interdicted for men. For instance, silk is only exclusively permitted for women. Generally, a pure silk blend item of clothing may not be worn by a man unless the quantity of silk therein is less than roughly fifty percent. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also interdicted the wearing yellow or saffron for men, either because they were deemed feminine or because of the dye and subsequent smell which omitted from them. However, given the lack of ancient methods of dyeing and a change in cultures, any item of clothing that isn’t exclusive to the opposite gender would be acceptable. Finally, clothing containing sizeable pictures of animate life is something that needs to be avoided.  

5. The Dress of Notoriety

It is reported that the Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever wears a garment of fame in this life, Allah will clothe him in a garment of humiliation on the Final Day.” (Abu Dawud) The scholars point out to us that this includes many different types of impermissible clothing, such as silk for men, and clothing worn with ill intentions. Examples of the latter include wearing clothing with a desire to look down on others, to feel proud or conceited about the quality or worth of one’s clothes or even to wear that which is either very costly or too cheap, assuming that the quality indicates this. Of course, this is in relation to a particular segment of society, and not necessarily those of limited means, and it is also conditioned by social attitudes and standards. The hallmark is a believer is humility and the sign of sincerity is that one’s heart is the same before and after wearing the clothing in question. 

Another issue of note is dressing contrary to the customary clothing of the land. Many jurists extrapolated this from the aforementioned tradition (hadith) and affirmed its offensiveness (karaha) because of the shared meaning, namely, that it will be a cause for others to look and point at one and perhaps even lead them to slander. Perhaps in multicultural societies it can be less of an issue as most are used to seeing different styles of dress, but this isn’t universally applicable, especially if the dress isn’t representative of normative culture. Similarly, there are matters related to calling people to Allah (da‘wa) which need to be kept in mind as appearance can have an effect and perhaps even become a stumbling block to accepting the message; yet, undoubtedly, the opposite can also be true. So one has to exercise wisdom and act in accordance with what the other person may be drawn to. 

But it is also important not to make claims with one’s clothing, such as by wearing a large turban, especially when a person is not living up to such high standards. Otherwise it could be interpreted as a form of hypocrisy by professing love, but acting in clear contradiction to prophetic guidance. This is also perhaps the reason why previous societies had unspoken rules of dressing so that distinctions between classes of people were clear, namely, so and so can be clearly identified as a scholar, so and so is clearly from Ahl al-Bayt, and so on. Conformance in dress is praiseworthy out of an expression of love, but there are many religious duties that we may be unaware of, and correcting and giving attention to those deserves far more attention because Allah looks not to your bodies and wealth, but to “your hearts and actions.” (Muslim)

6. Imitating Disbelievers

An important issue which needs clarification is the idea of imitating the disbelievers. In a tradition reported by Imam Muslim, the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Whosoever imitates a people is from amongst them.” (Abu Dawud) What counts as imitation? Fortunately, the jurists clarified this for us, and the entirety of the discussion may be summarised in the following points. Firstly, the matter at hand must be a distinguishing characteristic of people of another faith tradition, of the faithless, of the opposite gender, or even of morally and religiously corrupt believers. What this means is that if we take the example of a particular type of hat, wearing it would be a signifier that “I’m with them.”

Secondly, the matter at hand cannot be something of universal benefit, such as new computers, vehicles, medication or the like. Finally, the person must deliberately intend to do the thing in question because he wishes to be like the disbelievers. In fact, this is actually the crux of the matter. Just as the inward manifests on the outer body, the outer can have an impact on the inward, and when something is a manifest sign of those of other faiths and a person is doing it, there is a fear for their faith. For something to be religiously impermissible, then, based on the above, we are looking for a fulfilment of these three conditions. Otherwise, it may be blameworthy and wrong, yet not outright prohibited.

We ask Allah Most High to clothe us in godfearingness, to make us recognise the great blessings in our lives of clothing and covering, by His Generosity and Mercy, and to keep us on the path of the righteous, ever-grateful, until we breathe our last.  

And Allah alone gives success.


 

Clothes of The People of the Land

Shaykh Farid Dingle answers the question of wearing jeans as opposed to wearing jubbas in relation to modesty and prayer.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I wanted to know about wearing certain clothes, I am 18 years old and live in the UK, I wear a Jubba everyday and pray in it and find it comfortable compared to other clothes for prayer, however I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed wearing a jubba outside sometimes, I also study Islam, one of my friends and fellow student doesn’t like me always wearing a Jubba in a sense, he even said to me that if you want to be accessible to people, wear the clothes that they wear.

Now based on this, I would tend to wear jeans whenever wearing other clothes, I don’t particularly like other types of pants, what i find about jeans is that, even though they may not be like skin-tight jeans, when sitting down in the tashahhud position they do tighten up to the skin, I think from what I have read that this may be makruh, I think many jeans would be like this,

Could you please advise about what to do in my situation, I do feel embarrassed at times wearing a jubba and also i am not sure about wearing jeans (even if they are loose they may still tighten up), could you pleased tell me the ruling about wearing such clothes as well as the fact that I am young so I wouldn’t wear a suit pant style, like most older people tend to,

Is it best for me to carry on wearing my jubbas? Is it allowed for me to wear clothes like people around me, even if they can become tight in certain prayer positions?

Jazak Allah khayr.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Clothes fulfill a number Sharia countenanced goals which I shall try to detail as follows.

Covering Oneself

The first and foremost is covering your nakedness, which is an obligation, and part of this is the covering of shape and form of the area between your navel and your knee. Clothes that show the shape of this area (like tight emo trousers) are un-Islamic.

Avoiding Sin

Another almost equally important goal is reducing avoidable attraction from the opposite sex. Showing off one’s vanity muscles is forbidden, not just because it constitutes pride, but almost because it can be a temptation to some women. The is nothing wrong with sex or sexual attraction in Islam, but it just has its place and time, and that is not the street.

Self-expression

We all know the maxim “You are what you eat.” This is often true regarding clothes too.

What we choose to buy and wear is a form of self-expression: people dress like they are businessmen because they want to show that they are effective people who achieve; people also dress like they are ‘straight outta Compton’ or ‘too cool for school’, then that is exactly what they are feeling inside and what they want to be seen as.

For this reason, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Whosoever drags/wears anything out of pride, Allah will not so much as look at on the Day of Rising.” (Bukhari and Muslim) This applies to how you dress, what you drive, and how you carry yourself in general.

Message

What you wear is also a message, be it a good, bad, or neutral message. And this is very important. Wherever you are and in whichever setting you find yourself, the way you dress sends intended and unintended messages.

In the Middle East, for example, wearing a red hat with a white turban usually means, ‘I am a religious scholar so ask me questions.’ This will affect the behavior and reactions of those around such a person, and will affect how their words and actions are received.

This is true for a Muslim in the West, and for this reason we have to be careful about what exactly the messages are that we wish to convey. This is what you friend is talking about.

For example, are you trying to install awe in others, such that they see you as a ‘man of the cloth’, from a Christian perspective, or as ‘foreign and Eastern’? Are you trying to lead other Muslims to hold tighter to the ‘outward’ signs of religiosity, or are you trying to show them that you are more than they? These are all possibilities that you must think about with regards to your own intention, and with regards to what effect you might be having on other people, and no one can tell you the best thing to do but yourself.

The Upshot

Wear clean and smart clothes that are concealing of the area between your navel and knees, and then choose based on the above discussions whether you should dress Eastern or Western, or whether you should dress like a scholar or a average religious Muslim.

I am personally a big advocate of the wearing a Muslim-looking hat: I find that it almost a statement to oneself that one is a practicing Muslim, and it is also a way of giving emotional and religious support to sisters in the West who are having a hard time keeping the hijab.

And Allah knows best.

I pray this helps.

Farid

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


How Do I Clean Filth off Clothing? (Video)

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalamu alaykum

How do I clean filth off clothing?

Answer:  Wa alaykum  assalam,

Here is a video answer to this question by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani:

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a scholar and researcher of Islamic law and Executive Director of SeekersHub Global After ten years overseas, Shaykh Faraz returned to Canada in the Summer of 2007. In May 2008 he founded SeekersHub Global to deal with the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge—both online and on the ground—in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He has been repeatedly listed as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims (The Muslim500).

What Type of Clothing Can We Label as Sunna?

Answered by SeekersHub Answers Service

Question: Assalam’aleykum,

What type of clothing can we label as Sunna?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

The basis of clothing, for men and for women, is that it be modest, and that it cover one’s awra (nakedness) in a loose manner. This can be fulfilled by any clothing, Eastern or Western. What is impermissible is to seek to imitate ways of others (whether disbelievers or corrupt Muslims) that are considered to be symbols of disbelief, corruption, sin, or vice—because the Shariah came to promote their opposites.

Imam Zayn al-Din al-Razi (d. 666 AH), author of the famous dictionary Mukhtar al-Sahah, explained the essential rulings of dress in his beautiful work Tuhfat al-Muluk:

“The levels of clothing

Clothing has three levels:

1. Obligatory. This is covering one’s nakedness, and warding off the harms of heat and cold…

2. Recommended. This is wearing beautiful clothing, in order to look good and adorn oneself, displaying the blessings of Allah.

3. Prohibited. This is dressing out of haughtiness and arrogance.” [Zayn al-Din al-Razi, Tuhftat al-Muluk, 277, Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyya ed.]

Any clothing that fulfills the Islamic legal requirements for dress is minimally sufficient. Anything corresponding to the values recommended by the sunna, such as looseness, modesty, restraint, and dignity, would be considered ‘sunna dress’ in a general sense. Something identifiably ‘Islamic’ is in of itself superior, though other considerations may enter to this depending on one’s circumstances—for this, one should consult with reliable local scholars.

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam,
SeekersHub Answers Service

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo:
Sgt. Ken Scar

What is Modest Clothing for Men and Women?

A woman in a headscarf or face veil is one of the most, if not the most, commonly associated image with Islam but the concept of modesty in Islam is a fascinating, profound concept. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives a methodical and thorough explanation of how it relates to both men and women.

Modesty: Kohl, Jilbabs, and Allah

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Is it permissible for women to apply kohl/antimony to the eyes, as it is from the Sunnah and is beneficial, even when they go out in public quite often?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

If they can do this in a way that would not create undue attention, and not lead to people (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) looking unduly at them, it would be permitted. It is better to avoid in public, though, especially for young women, because of the mentioned considerations.

Would it be wrong for a sister who has been wearing Jilbabs/Abayas for some time now, to go back to wearing other types of clothing, such as Pakistani clothes or skirts and tops, provided they are loose and covering?

It is permitted to do so, but jilbabs are generally considered superior, as they are looser and more modest than most other types of clothing.

Above all, however, one must develop modesty in one’s heart, which inevitably manifests itself in one’s outward actions. This applies to all believers, male and female.

And the ultimate modesty is modesty towards Allah Most High, such that one feels shame if one even considers doing anything Allah dislikes.

This is why the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) said, “Allah is more worthy of one’s modesty.” [Abu Dawud and others]

Walaikum assalam,

Faraz Rabbani

Washing Filthy Clothing in the Washing Machine

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: What is the ruling of putting filthy clothes in the washing machine? If the clothing comes out clean and the substance of the filth (such as semen) has gone but a stain can still be seen, is the clothing considered clean? If not how many more times do i have to put it in the washing machine before it is excused?

Answer: Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

1. If one washes semen from body or clothes and the substance itself is removed, then traces that are hard to remove (namely, anything not removed by a regular washing) are excused.

2. While it is permitted to put ritually filthy clothing in washing machines, it is religiously superior to wash away the filth first under the tap to avoid differences of opinion. As the scholars say, “There is nothing like safety.”

3. If one puts filthy clothes in the washing machine, it is best to wash the clothes in three cycles of water.

And Allah alone gives success.

Wassalam,
Faraz Rabbani

Tightness of Clothes

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Tightness of Clothes

clothingAnswer: Tightness is, indeed difficult to specifically define. The tighter clothing is, the more disliked it would be–and when it is reasonably likely to attract undue looks as a result of the tightness, then it would become sinful as well.

Caution is best. This does include the legs with very high boots, though “regular” boots wouldn’t be considered disliked (as they are being worn for good reason, and aren’t typically considered “unduly attractive”).

The outer garment should be loose around the chest area, yes.

One should strive to hold oneself to the “higher” ways of greater modesty and decorum, while making excuses for others, and seeking whether we can gently and positively encourage them towards what is better.

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani