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Question: I’ve a question about Islamic dress code. The broader guidelines by Albalagh article are really helpful   . But I’ve often have had debates with people specifically on so called western dress code. I mean jeans/dress pants/pajamas and Bermuda shorts (below knee). My friends tell me these dresses are non-Islamic and they base it on the fact that they are worn more in non-Muslim countries. It so happens that there are 6 billion non Muslims in the world and the 1 billion Muslims also do not wear kurta/kamiz/tope as their common dress. Clearly dress pants/jeans is the natural dress for Muslims living in American continents, Europe/North Asia and Australia who were born there. What is our sufficient proof that these dresses are ‘characteristic’ of ‘Christians, Jews, Hindus, Zen, Buddhists’ etc etc. In short why do we put non-Muslims and ‘followers of other religion’ into one category and consequently label the Muslims living in these continents to be liberals/modernists and not true believers as they do not wear the ‘middle eastern or south Asian’ dress code of shalwar/kurta/kamiz/tope?

Can you please clarify it for me why is my dress un-Islamic if i wear business casual dress without show off and my dress is not even tight and revealing?

Answer:

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

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

We have gone through the article and concur with the broader guidelines mentioned therein.

As for your concern about the modality of the clothing to fulfill these broader guidelines, we assert what Br. Khalid Baig mentions at the end of his article. “Islam has not prescribed a particular dress style, giving us ample room to accommodate our needs, circumstances and tastes. … Any garment that accommodates these principles will be Islamic dress.”

If all these guidelines were to be represented by one word, it would be “hayā’ ” (shame and modesty). Islam gives prime importance to hayā’. Hence, whichever style and modality of dressing one adopts, it has to conform with hayā’. Although this representation of an Islamic dress code is very comprehensive, it presents an ambiguity for someone selecting his wardrobe. What is the yard stick for hayā’? Who represents hayā’? etc.

As a rule of thumb, the ideals are governed by the actions of Sulahā’ Mashayikh (pious elders) and ‘Ulamā’ of the ummah of Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasallam. Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasallam has mentioned,

“…Indeed ‘Ulamā’ are the inheritors of the prophets…” (Sunan Tirmidhī) [1]

The hadīth clarifies further that the inheritance referred to is the knowledge which is given to ‘Ulamā’. ‘Ilm which is referred here is not mere information, rather a spiritual nūr which descends into the hearts of these ‘ulamā’ through practicing on that knowledge. It is this spirituality that instills the hayā’. In the above hadīth when we are being commanded to follow our ‘ulamā’, we are being shown our role models.

When addressing our wardrobe too, we must look up to these pious ‘ulamā’ to learn how they dress themselves. Their practice shows us the practical application of the theories of hayā’ and modesty. With this rule of thumb, it will become easier to understand what the parameters of hayā’ are.

In some areas we may find ‘Ulamā’ wearing spacious dress pants and loose shirts, while in other places they may wear long robes. In Pakistan and India most ‘ulamā’ wear the shalwar and kameez while in Middle Eastern countries they wear long jubba/thobes. All these types of clothing are permissible.

At the same time we must keep in mind that while the ‘ulamā’ are our role-models, some of us would still opt for less than the ideal. If this is the case then we must avoid such clothing which would associate us with another religion. What is meant here is that if a dress is such that an onlooker associates that modality to some other religion or cult etc. then such dressing will not be permissible. An example would be adorning all black clothes, painting fingernails and lips with black paint like Goths. Similarly, adorning a Buddhist monk’s robe or adorning a Jewish yarmulke. All these items are salient features of other religion, hence impermissible.[2]

An item of clothing being associated to another religion may change due to place or time. By way of example, at one point in time in the Indian Subcontinent, pants and shirts were iconic of the British colonists. But in our times, if some person wears a dress pant or shirt, it does not cross an onlooker’s mind that this person is a non-Muslim or holds his allegiance to non Muslims. At the same time, while these dress pants and shirts will be permissible they would not be the ideal. This is because if an onlooker sees someone wearing pants and shirts, then although he will not think of the person as non-Muslim, at the same time he will never think of him to be an ‘Alim or an Ahl Allah. The perception of the common onlooker establishes that the dress is not those of Sulahā’ and ‘Ulamā’.

Hazrat Maulāna Ashraf Ali Thanvi rahimahullah mentions that this concept of Tashabbuh (emulating someone else) is very powerful and can be easily demonstrated. He then gives an example of an ‘Alim. He says that if tashabbuh does not hold much merit, then let the ‘Alim go home and adorn himself with his wife’s clothing, wear some lipstick, some makeup foundation and beautify himself with some jewellery and return to the pulpit to give a sermon. Maulana Thanvi rahimahullah asserts that not a single congregation that has an ounce of hayā’ would make him their Imam and a source of religious discourse. This just shows that the perception of the onlooker plays great deal on the spirituality and status of the person. The ‘Alim who is now dressed like a woman is still a man but no one wishes to engage with him.[3]

Another contemporary example would be our current cultures and norms. The emerging trends among the teens are bizarre to say the least. We have people wearing torn jeans, dropped down to shows one’s boxers, topped with a baggy t-shirt with a symbol of some heavy metal musical band on it and covering the head with a bandana. While technically one could find millions of people dressed like this, imagine if you go for your next Jummah Salah and your Imam ascends his pulpit dressed like above. Would we be able to justify his outlook saying that millions of Muslims and billion others non-Muslims are dressing like that? Of course we would not. There is a certain perception we attached to these modalities. It is that perception which will decide whether these cloths are outright impermissible, undesirable, permissible or desirable.

On the flip side, emulating the Sulahā’ and pious people will attain the barakah from Allah. Maulana Thanvi rahimahullah mentions that emulating the Sulahā’, whether in actions or in dressing, is desirable according to the Ahl Allah, even if one does so out of riyā’. The rational given by Maulana rahimahullah is that the action shows an inherent azmat (honor) for the actions of the Sulahā’ and ‘Ulamā’. So it is hopeful that such a person will be counted among the hadīth of Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasallam that, “He who emulates a group of people will be from among them”.[4]

The same guidelines will apply to women as well. It should be kept in mind that this whole discussion is on those clothes which are permissible. If any clothing of a woman violates the awrah, it will not be permissible. At the same time, the hallmark of hayā’ indicates that a woman’s clothing is embodiment of decency and not a magnet for attraction. Any form of adornment which attracts undue attention, whether through application of eye liner or through beautification of ones abaya/jalabiya, will be impermissible.

If we cannot expect our role models in a certain dress, then we can reflect on our own dressing to find the optimum dress code for ourselves. Insha’Allah, with pure intention of pleasing only Allah Ta‘ala we should choose a clothing style that will invite the divine mercy and pleasure of Allah.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Mawlana Faisal bin Abdul Hameed,
Student Darul Iftaa
Montréal, Canada

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.


[1]  “… إن العلماء ورثة الأنبياء، إن الأنبياء لم يورثوا دينارا ولا درهما إنما ورثوا العلم، فمن أخذ به أخذ بحظ وافر…”( سنن الترمذي ت شاكر (5/ 49) – شركة مكتبة ومطبعة مصطفى البابي الحلبي)

[2]  عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ» (سنن أبي داود 4/ 44 المكتبة العصرية)

[3] Malfuzāt Hakīmul Ummah Vol. 26 Pg 136.

[4] Ibid.

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