Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani
What are the guidelines regarding dressing in Islam?
The Islamic teachings encompass within its orbit every branch of life. It is concerned with every part of social living and social activities without any exception. The dress is also an important aspect of human life. That is why it finds a detailed account in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah.
The Islamic Shariah has been very moderate in the matter of dress-style. It has not prescribed any specific form and style to be adopted by all Muslims. It would be against Islam to disregard the prescribed pattern of dress. Being a Deen of nature, Islam does recognize that styles of dress worn by the people may differ from place to place, according to the conditions, climates, seasons, customs and the needs of different regions. Islam has, however, prescribed only some basic principles of dress which must be understood well and adhered to strictly.
Four basic principles of dress for Muslims
Mentioning the four basic principles of dress Almighty Allah has said in the Holy Quran:
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ قَدْ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْآتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَىٰ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ
This means: O children of Adam! We have revealed to you raiment to conceal your shame and (have also revealed) splendid vesture, but the raiment of righteousness that is better. (7.26)
Almighty Allah has endowed these three sentences with a world of meanings.
(1) First principle of dressing up is to cover your coverable parts completely
The first basic principle as revealed in the verse is that the dress should conceal your hidden, private parts. The Arabic word سواٰۃ means that part of the body by showing or talking about which a man feels a sense of shame. (the concealable part) is meant here. Thus, the basic aim of the dress is to conceal this سواٰۃ Allah has described some parts of men and women as سواٰۃ that which must be kept concealed from view. This concealable part of a man is what lies between the navel and the knees. It is not lawful to bare this part, except when it becomes unavoidable to bare it before a physician for medical treatment. As regards a woman her entire body is ستر (concealable), except the face and the hands up to the wrists. It is not lawful to open any part of this concealable part of a woman.
The basic aim of a dress is to cover the parts which the Shariah has enjoined to be covered. A dress that does not meet this requirement is not recognized by the Shariah as a dress. Indeed it is no dress at all.
(2) The second principle of dressing up is adornment and beauty
Almighty Allah has mentioned the second principle of dress by using the word ریشا (vesture), a sort of decoration and decency for you. A man’s beauty lies in his dress. A dress should, therefore, be well designed and sewn so that the man wearing it should feel ease and happiness. It should not be ill-designed nor ill-fitting to disgust the people. It should be decent and attractive in some degree.
Is expensive dress included in extravagance?
Sometimes a man finds himself in a state of doubt about the dress he should put on. If he wears a costly dress it may be prodigality. If he chooses an ordinary dress, how ordinary should it be? The learned saint Hazrat Thanavi (R.A) has advised us about a dress that should fully cover the r (concealable parts) and should at the same time provide some comfort to the body. There is no harm in wearing such a dress. For example, it is quite lawful to put on a dress made of thin cloth for the sake of comfort. In the same way, a man purchases a garment at the: rate of Rs 15/- per yard instead of Rs 10/- per yard because the COst is within his means and he thinks that in addition to being comfortable it also pleases his heart. This comes neither within the definition of prodigality nor is it a sin. It is quite lawful to wear such a dress.
A rich man should wear a decent dress
It is not good for a wealthy man to wear a very lowly and third-grade dress. It occurs in a Hadith that a man called on the Holy Prophet ﷺ who was in a very shabby worn-out and unsightly dress. He ﷺ asked him, saying:
ألک مال ؟ قال نعم ، قال : من ای المال؟قال: قد اتانی اللہ من الابل والغنم والخیل والرقیق ، قال :فإذا أتاک اللہ مالا فلیر اثر نعمۃ اللہ علیک وکرامتہ (ابوداود ، کتاب اللباس)۔
Have you got some property? He replied: Yes. The Holy Prophet ﷺ asked him: What kind of property is it? He replied: Allah has granted me all sorts of properties out of camels, goats, horses, and slaves. The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: When Allah has granted you property, the effect of this grant should appear from your dress also. In other words, it should not happen that a man enjoying Allah’s gifts should appear as a pauper and beggar. In a way, it is showing ingratitude towards the favors of Allah. Thus, it is no sin, but quite lawful to purchase a dress out of Allah’s grant which should provide comfort and please the heart of the person wearing it.
Ostentation and show are not lawful
It may be the intention by acquiring and putting on a costly dress to display to the people that the man is putting on such a costly dress and he is a very rich man and is superior to others. He may do this to impose his greatness and superiority on others. All these trends come within the definition of “Ostentation and show” and are totally forbidden and are unlawful.
(3) The third principle of dressing up is to avoid imitation
The third principle mentioned by the Islamic Shariah concerning dress is that it should not resemble the dresses of other nations and communities. This practice has been called in the Shariah تشبہ (imitation). It is a great sin to put on a dress with the intention of imitating the member of another nation, irrespective of that the dress put on is good or bad, likable or unlikeable. The Holy Prophet ﷺ has expressed in a Hadith a great warning on those who put on a dress for the only purpose of imitating some other community:
من تشبہ بقوم فھو منھم (ابو داود، کتاب اللباس، باب فی لبس الشھرۃ)۔
It means that a man who puts on the dress of another community with the express intention of mimicking that community is one of them as if he is not from among the Muslim community. (chap: Garments, Abu Dawood).
This act of imitating another community in dress etc. is an indirect way of expressing love for it. Such a man will be raised up in the Hereafter with the community he imitated. How terrible! May Allah save us all from this! Aameen.
The reality of تشبہ (lmitation)
It should be understood well when this (Imitation) comes into play and when it is forbidden. Firstly imitation is forbidden (Haram) in an act which is in itself a vice and against the principles of the Shariah. Secondly, the act in itself is not unlawful, but it is permissible. A man is, however, doing that act with the intention of imitating the member of that alien community and to appear as one of them. In a situation like this even permissible act becomes unlawful.
If an act is in itself lawful and permissible, but it is done to mimic a non-Muslim community it comes within the definition of تشبہ (imitation) and becomes unlawful and forbidden.
The difference between تشبہ (imitation) and مشابھت (resemblance)
These are two different acts quite distinct from each other تشبہ (imitation) means that a man intentionally tries to imitate some other community to become like them. This is entirely forbidden. As for مشابھت (resemblance), the act of resemblance is not deliberate but it takes place spontaneously. This is not forbidden. The Holy Prophet ﷺ has, however, advised against (resemblance) when it is not at all necessary. He ﷺ has advised his Ummah to keep themselves distinguished from the other nations, as far as possible. There should be a distinctive mark of the Muslim nation so that there may be no doubt in recognizing a Muslim from a non-Muslim. It is not permissible to change one’s identity so that it may become difficult to recognize whether the person is a Muslim or a non-Muslim and whether to bid him the Islamic (salute) or not.
Refrain from تشبہ (imitation) and مشابھت (resemblance) both
I have already mentioned the injunction of the Shariah that تشبہ (imitation) is unlawful and sin because it is practiced deliberately. As regards مشابھت (resemblance), if this intention is not involved, but some similarity occurs spontaneously without intention and attempt. It is neither a sin nor unlawful, yet it is not free from disgust and repulsion. However, it is totally against honor and self-respect. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid both as far as possible.
(4) The fourth principle of dressing up is to avoid arrogance and overbearing pride.
It is unlawful to put on a dress by which a feeling of pride and superiority is born, even if that dress may have been prepared from jute-cloth. For example, a man wears such a rough and coarse dress with the intention that such a dress will make him look in the sight of the people like a great saint and Sufi, then this may create a sense of greatness and superiority and lead him to look down upon others. In this condition that jute-cloth dress also becomes a cause of pride and arrogance and is, therefore, unlawful. Hazrat Sufyan Sauri (R.A) has said that pride is not created by a dress; it is born by looking down upon others. Sometimes a man thinks that he is putting on a humble and ordinary dress, yet his heart is full of pride.
Anyway, these are the four principles of “Dress”:
- (1) It should cover the entire coverable parts of the body
- (2) It should be a means of decorating the body, within the limits of the Shariah.
- (3) It should not resemble the dress of a non-Muslim.
- (4) It should not indicate pride and arrogance.
Three defects in a dress
There are three aspects in which a dress does not fulfill the basic principle concerning “dress”:
- 1) It is so short that it leaves some of the concealable parts bared.
- 2) The dress is large enough to cover two concealable parts, yet it is so thin that the concealed parts are reflected through it.
- 3) The dress is so tight-fitting that the depressions and projections of the body can be easily viewed. This also violates the rules of covering the ستر.
It is, therefore, necessary to cover the body with such a thick cloth that does not reflect the concealed parts. It should not be of tight-fitting but of loose-fitting to conceal fully the internal parts. The same three principles are applicable to the female dress also.
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