Imitating Non-Muslim Dress: Is It Always Impermissible?

salamu `alaykumHave you ever seen a brother walking around with a t-shirt on? Someone wearing a tie? Dress pants? A sister wearing jeans, modestly covered by a lengthy upper-garment? If you have, then you have also probably seen someone mentioning the impermissiblity of doing so due to it being an imitation of the non-Muslims, something the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) emphatically forbade.

It is narrated in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (#4032) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم

“He who imitates a nation is from them.”

He (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) also said, as narrated by Imam Tirmidhi in his Sunan :

“He is not from us who resembles other than us.”

Similarly, there are many other narrations from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that command the Muslims to avoid imitating specific groups. For the sake of brevity these narrations will not be mentioned.

From this, one may conclude that imitating the non-Muslims in any way, shape, or form is interdicted by the shari`ah. This, however, is not the case as the scholars of the religion make clear in their expositions.

The Linguistic Meaning of “Shabbaha”

The word is derived from the root sh-ba-ha and indicates “likeness, similitude, assimiliation, parable, resemblance”. For example, it is said:

شبہه به

“He made it to be like it”

It also comes in the meaning of مثله , as in Urdu we say “mithal ke tor pe“, to mean “comparison” or “likeness”. Thus, one states:

شبہت الشىء بالشىء

“I placed the thing [in place] of the other thing.”

What is signified by this is a common attribute shared by the two “things”. So, here it comes in the meaning of, for example, “The brightness is like this brightness” or “The hardness is like this hardness” or “`Ali is like a lion” and so forth. Another eample of this is:

ومنه : أشبه الولد أباه : إذا شاركه في صفة من صفاته

“The son resembled his father, when he shared in an attribute from his attributes.”

The Legal Definition & Conditions Of Impermissibility

The Mawsu`at al Fiqhiyya states that the scholars of law did not stray from this linguistic usage of “shabbaha”. This is because the linguistic meaning of a word is taken into consideration when formulating the legal meanings of expressions. Thus, for example, the reason why the Hanafi scholars consider intention to be an obligatory condition for the validity of one’s tayammum is because the word “tayammum” – in its linguistic sense – carries the meaning of “directing oneself” (qasd). This is mentioned by Imam Zayla`i in his Tabiyin al Haqa’iq:

التيمم في اللغة القصد قال الله تعالى { ولا تيمموا الخبيث } أي لا تقصدو

Defining “imitation”, Mufti Taqi `Usmani states in his Taqrire Tirmidhi (Vol 2, Pg: 331):

“‘Imitation’ (tashabbah) is (a word) used for one who directs himself (qasd), of his own accord, to a specific group in order to imitate them and be like them.”

It is important here to note the stipulation of “directing oneself” or “resolving” to imitate the disbelievers as a condition for impermissible “imitation”. This condition was also mentioned by Ibn `Abidin in his Radd al Muhtar and Imam Haskafi in his Durr al Mukhtar. Imam Haskafi stated:

وجوزه الشافعي بلا كراهة وهما بها للتشبه بأهل الكتاب : أي إن قصده ؛ فإن التشبه بهم لا يكره في كل شيء ، بل في المذموم وفيما يقصد به التشبه ، كما في البحر .

“(s: Regarding reading from the mushaf in salah) And it was permitted by Shafi`i, without dislike, and the two companions (s: of Abu Hanifa) considered it disliked because it was an imitation of the People of the Book i.e. with the intent/resolve to do so. Indeed, imitation of them is not disliked in all things, but (only) in (the imitation) of the unlawful and in imitation with the resolve to be like them.”

Ibn `Abidin states in his commentary:

قال هشام : رأيت على أبي يوسف نعلين مخصوفين بمسامير ، فقلت : أترى بهذا الحديد بأسا ؟ قال لا قلت : سفيان وثور بن يزيد كرها ذلك لأن فيه تشبها بالرهبان ؛ فقال { كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يلبس النعال التي لها شعر } وإنها من لباس الرهبان . فقد أشار إلى أن صورة المشابهة فيما تعلق به صلاح العباد لا يضر ، فإن الأرض مما لا يمكن قطع المسافة البعيدة فيها إلا بهذا النوع . ا هـ وفيه إشارة أيضا إلى أن المراد بالتشبه أصل الفعل : أي صورة المشابهة بلا قصد .

“Hisham said: ‘I saw on Abu Yusuf two sandals with crampons and said, ‘Do you wear this out of distress?’ He replied, ‘No’. I said, ‘Sufyan and Thawr ibn Yazid disliked it because it resembles the monks’. He stated, ‘The Prophet wore sandals which had hairs on it.” (Ibn `Abidin states) Indeed, it (such sandals) are from the dress of the monks. Verily this points to the fact that such appearance of imitation linked to the righteous servants was not harmful… and in it is also an indication regarding the basis of such imitative action – it was an appearance of imitation without resolve (s: to be like them).”

In the Mawsu`at it states:

والتشبه في غير المذموم وفيما لم يقصد به التشبه لا بأس به

“And imitation in other than the unlawful and in what one does not resolve to imitate (the non-Muslims in), then there is no harm in it.”

Mufti Taqi `Usmani further says:

“Imitation, without resolve or intent (s: to imitate the non-Muslims) is not prohibited even though one resembles the non-Muslims due to it.”

Another aspect that falls into impermissible “imitation” is something that is specifically a sign of the non-Muslims, such as wearing a cross, a yamaka, and its like – such that an onlooker would consider that person from among such people. This is prohibited.

أن يكون التشبه في الوقت الذي يكون اللباس المعين شعارا للكفار ، وقد أورد ابن حجر حديث أنس رضي الله عنه أنه رأى قوما عليهم الطيالسة ، فقال : كأنهم يهود خيبر ثم قال ابن حجر : وإنما يصلح الاستدلال بقصة اليهود في الوقت الذي تكون الطيالسة من شعارهم ، وقد ارتفع ذلك فيما بعد ، فصار داخلا في عموم المباح ا

Therefore, it can be stated that “Prohibition of Imitation” of the non-Muslims comes into effect in one of two ways:

(1) Either through one’s directing oneself in imitating them, of his own accord, with the intention of being like them, or

(2) Through imitation of something religiously or otherwise unique to them, in a way that would allow an onlooker to consider one as “one of them”.

Interpreting the Narration “He who imitates a nation…”

From what has preceded, it can be seen that the narration prohibiting imitation can be interpreted in two ways:

(1) If “imitation” here is taken in its linguistic capacity to mean “general likeness” then the the general usage of the word “imitation” will be considered as an application of “the universal used in terms of the speicifc” (`aam makhsus). This is easily gleaned from the fact that specific aspects such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and so forth are precluded – by default – since imitation in them cannot be avoided. Imam Ibn `Abidin states in his work:

مطلب في التشبه بأهل الكتاب ( قوله لأن التشبه بهم لا يكره في كل شيء ) فإنا نأكل ونشرب كما يفعلون بحر عن شرح الجامع الصغير لقاضي خان

“(imitation of them is not disliked in all things) such as our eating and drinking…”

(2) If “imitation” is taken in its legal sense then the narration is specific from the very get go to mean what was mentioned earlier. Thus, what is meant is that imitation of the non-Muslims is only prohibited if one of the two conditions previously mentioned above are met.

The Role of Custom (`Urf) In Defining “Imitative” Aspects

Despite the fact that the conditions for prohibited imitation are fundamentally twofold, some people may still argue that these conditions are actually effectively met by wearing the clothes of the “westerners”.

The fallacy of such an argument is, firstly, that no Muslim in the west wakes up in the morning and intends to wear jeans to imitate the non-Muslims, or T-Shirts, or Calvin Klein dress shoes, or Nike. Even if specific people do, this is not a sufficient criteria for a general ruling or prohibition.

Secondly, the “west” as a “nation” includes both Muslims and non-Muslims and it can no longer be said that the western dress is an exclusively “non-Muslim” one. Thus, such clothing is *not* a distinct and unique sign of non-Muslims. The principle here is, as Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanawi and others mention, that if something becomes customary and general in a land then the prohibition of imitation is lifted.

Maulana Thanawi states in his Tuhfat al `Ulema (Vol 2, Pg 130):

“If wearing coats and pants became customary here (in India)… then it will not be prohibited to wear.”

Similarly, he stated (Ibid, Pg: 131):

“It was asked whether it is permitted for women to wear cuffs on the sleeves of their upper-garments? The reply was that wherever it is considered an imitation of men it is forbidden and wherever it is not then it is permitted.”

(Note here that the same conditions apply for women imitating men and vice versa as stipulated previously)

He also said (Ibid, Pg: 130; Imdad al fatawa, Vol 3):

“A person inquired that if a Muslim is residing in London and dresses in a shirt and pants does this count as imitiation of the non-Muslims? It was replied that this is not considered imitation because there, in London, such dress is not thought of as something extrinsic to the land. Rather, everyone wears such clothing. If over here (the subcontinent) coats and pants become customary then it would not be forbidden here also.”

Mufti Taqi `Usmani On The Principles Of Dress

Mufti Muhammad Taqi `Usmani, one of the elading scholars of the Hanafi school in our times, said (Taqrir):

“The law has given much flexibility as it relates to the fiqh of dress, and has not made necessary on the ummah any specific form of dress whose opposing would be impermitted. Rather, Islam has laid down general principles related to dress and has made permissible for people to wear any type of clothing as long as it conforms to these guidelines. “

These principles are, in summary:

(1) The covering of the `awra, which for men is from just below the navel upto and including the knee and, for women, all of her body except her hands, face, and feet.

(2) The total avoidance of imitating the opposite sex.

(3) The total avoidance of imitating the non-Muslims.

(4) The total avoidance of wearing dress for the purpose of displaying arrogance and not being excessive.

(5) The total avoidance of wearing that which has been interdicted, such as silk (for men), dragging the garment out of pride (for men), and so forth.

An Answer On Women’s Clothing: Ustadha Shazia Ahmed

Q. Must a teenager wear a jilbaab once she reaches puberty? If her clothes are not tight fitting, does it not suffi

In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate.

Once a woman reaches the age of puberty (and a little before it, too), she must in front of marriageable men:

a) cover her body with clothing that is

1) loose; tight-fitting clothes are unlawful

2) thick enough such that the color of the skin does not show through

3) and long enough to cover the body;

She should also try not to wear clothing that attracts attention according to the culture of the area where she lives. For example, bright colors are perfectly normal in some parts of Africa, whereas they would turn heads in some parts of Canada.

As long as she fulfills these conditions, she is not obliged to wear the Arab style jilbab or abaya.

More importantly though, is modesty in her character. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said that modesty is a branch of faith and in another hadith, he said that it only brings good. Modesty is lacking in today’s times, so whoever is blessed with this characteristic, has indeed been given a beautiful quality.

And Allah knows best.


Further, for men, somewhat tight clothing that does not clearly define their `awra is slightly disliked. Tight clothing that fully defines the shape and form of the `awra would be prohibitively disliked and sinful.


This was a general summary of the issue. Simply, wearing the everyday clothes most of us wear is perfectly fine. One should, though, try to avoid modern day fashion brands that are signs of the corrupt – as wearing such clothes does have spiritually negative effects regardless of whether we “feel” it or not.

However, one should equally strive to emulate the prophetic sunna. It is highly recommended to follow the sunnas of dress, which are general principles one should follow not limited to any specific type of clothing. The prophetic message was for all mankind and not merely a specific group. Thus, we see in the sunna these general principles that are applicable everywhere.

Among the sunna actions of dress are:

(a) Keeping the pants above the ankles,

(b) For women to keep their garments lengthy, such that one’s `awra does not become uncovered when doing everyday actions,

(c) Being moderate i.e. neither too lavish nor too tattered. Imam Sarkhasi said that the way of moderation in dress is sometimes wearing ones best clothes (even when alone to test one’s intention for Allah, not only doing so in front of people), usually wearing moderate clothes, and sometimes wearing old and worn-out clothes. The latter is for the purpose of realizing one’s blessings and being thankful.

(d) Wearing white (sign of purity) and black (sign of majesty) are both from the sunna,

(e) For men to cover their heads,

(f) Being generally modest, and

(g) Not causing undue attention, and striking a balance between following the sunna and this.

Further, one should also avoid pride, arrogance, and forgetting the Divine favors bestowed upon one. One should be wary of ulterior motives.

Like food and drink, clothing is a blessing from Allah. It is like a gift and the least that is expected of one is to not use such a gift in disobeying or doing anything against the giver of the gift. This is the lowest level of thankfulness (shukr).

It is pertinent to note here that the blessings bestowed upon us by Allah are aspects which we have done nothing to earn. Rather, it is out of Allah’s generous nature that we are able to attain these blessings. These blessings should become indicators pointing to the greatest blessings bestowed upon us, which are that of life and faith. Take these small things as aspects reminding you of Allah. This is the state of the “knower” for he sees the signs of God in everything for “Verily in these are signs for people of understanding.” (20:128)

Be thankful to Allah, since thankfulness is the key to increase of one’s love, faith, and general good, turn to Him in true submission and humble yourself.






Filed under Fiqh/Law

54 responses to “Imitating Non-Muslim Dress: Is It Always Impermissible?

  1. Muhammad 'Abdur-Rahman

    As-salamu ‘alaykum,

    Your posts are so well written, benificial and important. More of this please.

    May Allah Ta’ala bless the author of this much needed clarification.

  2. Beautiful.

    JazakAllah for starting this blog.

    Keep it up!

  3. Asalamualaikum wa Rahmatullah

    In my opinion one should still be able to differ, if someone is a Muslim or non-Muslim. Wearing for example Shalwar Kameez is a clear sign for everyone, that this person is a Muslim (in the non-muslim countries at least). I think it’s sad, that Muslims try to avoid to be recognized as a Muslim. We dress like non-Muslims, shave our face, don’t cover our head… what stays of our identity as the Ummah of Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam?! At the same time we claim to have a clean heart and real love for our Prophet… but not for his Sunnah.

    Of course I can’t debate with you, because of my lack of knowledge. But I’m convinced that the remedy of the Ummah’s illnesses and problems can only be attained through the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam.

    Well, this comment maybe a little confusing, but I still hope you get my point.


  4. Z L

    True Life, I have to say I disagree with your following comment ;

    ‘Wearing for example Shalwar Kameez is a clear sign for everyone, that this person is a Muslim (in the non-muslim countries at least). ‘

    Hindus and Sikhs also wear shalwar kameez. There are asian Christains too in Indo/Pak.

  5. as-salamu ‘alaikum sidi



  6. Tazkiyyah


    I always used to think shalwar kamiz was important.

    That article shook me enormously

  7. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi True Life: The purpose of fiqh is to layout legal parameters, not necessarily preferences. The fatwa position is that it is permitted, in itself, to wear western clothing that is customarily worn in our lands. This has been made clear by leading scholars of our times.

    As I mentioned in my conclusion, the prophetic sunna does not merely relate to specifics but also to generalities. You cannot blame Muslims growing up in China all their lives for wearing their traditional dress instead of the “shalwar kameez”. Rather, one can wear such clothing whilst implementing these general guidelines – of modesty, humility, looking dignified, and so forth.

    Lastly, Ibn `Abidin makes clear that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) himself wore the clothes of people who were considered “external” to Islam. This is enough proof, from the sunna, for the legality of wearing such dress.


  8. anonymous

    It is a common mistake to think that the Prophet (Allah bless and give hime peace) wore “cultural” clothes – even if his fashion sense coincides with that of any particular culture. And Allah is not unmindful of coincidences: “You have in the Messenger of Allah the Best Example….”.

    From his moral attitudes to his food preferences, you have in the Messenger of Allah the Best Example.

    True.. it may not be always impermissible to imitate other than the “Best”, but that may just be a reflection of the way we have become.

    Now,… to move futher from that and then give a seal of approval to the permissible way that you and I have become is probably one serious error.

    But beware that…. to affirm that the way of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless and give him peace) is the exclusive Best is not necessarily a call to carbon emulative action; for such action is physically intrinsically impossible since the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) has come and gone in a particular place and time …and you shall not be able to repeat that. Wal Asr…

    Rather, what is required of us is simply to bear witness or give the testimony (in the face of this alluring modernity) that la ilaha ila Allah Muhammad Rasululah, that Sayyidina Muhammad (Allah bless and give him peace) in the Universal and the Particular is our exemplar …then we try to follow him as close as genuinely possible (such as wearing the kind of clothes that he wore – where possible).

    And this testimony or witnessing is probably the beginning of “Being” him, if not like him (salallahu ‘aleihi wa salam).

    Allah knows best.

  9. Tazkiyyah

    We are often told the the kamiz is from the sunnat al aadaat

    is that true..and if so is there merit in it?

  10. One thing. Salman, from what Shaykh Hamzah said at RIS this year, the turban itself is a sunnah rather than a ‘general guideline’. It is a sunnah in its specific form.

    Am I understanding this correctly?

  11. salamu `alaykum

    It is a specifically recommended sunna (mustahab) – not a confirmed sunna (mu’akkada) – that fulfills the sunna of covering the head.


  12. @Salman: You’re probably right and you’ve as well proven with quotes of eminent Ulama, who I respect. I’m sorry for my comment, maybe my sadness about the negligence of Sunnah came through too much.

    But then why do 90% of Ulama-e-Haq and Akabir wear dresses, which the general public labels as Sunnah (like shalwar kameez, jalaby etc.)? This is not to provoke and I’ve understood your part fully (and actually was aware of it even before), but I just wanna know if there’s maybe some more behind it then just a cultural dress.

    Jazak’Allah khairan in advance.

    Was Salam

  13. sunnilink

    assalamu ‘alaykum,

    Your article mentioned “dressing modestly” but fails to go in to the specifics of what it entails to dress modestly. What are guidelines from dressing modestly? How loose should our clothing be? Can women wear tight jeans and a long shirt up to their knees without a jilbab or something similar?



  14. sunnilink

    Just to add to my earlier comment, I think it’s pretty important to emphasize on the point that while it’s ok to wear “Western clothing” or whatever one may call it, one should definitely make an effort to conform it with the principles of modesty. Now, I haven’t personally done any research on what exactly dressing modestly entails for men and women (and how loose exactly the clothing should be), this is just something I’ve seen our Ulamah point to and practice here in the west. For e.g., I’ve seen male scholars wear long shirts well below their waists in contrast to the normal size of the shirts which is usually a little below the waist.

  15. Very nice masha’Allah. I think it might be interesting to note that some scholars considered it disliked for Arabs to wear non-Arab clothing. Allah knows best.

  16. salamu `alaykum

    I have added two additional sections.


  17. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi True Life: I have added the opinion of Mufti Taqi `Usmani on the general allowance of wearing any type of clothing, as long as it conforms to the principles of the shari`ah.

    From it one can glean:

    (a) There is a specific sunna, which includes the clothing the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) wore – such as a black turban, a long persian shirt, thobe, and so forth.

    (b) There is a general sunna that is derived from the specific, and additional stipulations from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), regarding dress such as it being loose, modest, best colors, and so forth.

    Thus, one can wear a shalwar kameez with the intention and implementation of these general guidelines and it will be considered to have fulfilled the sunna.

    This is like the case of group dhikr, which is not a “specific” sunna but is entailed by the general purport of the sunna. Doing so fulfills the sunna of dhikr.


  18. sunnilink

    You said: “Further, for men, somewhat tight clothing that does not clearly define their `awra is slightly disliked. Tight clothing that fully defines the shape and form of the `awra would be prohibitively disliked and sinful.”

    Can you give a few examples? JazakAllah Khayr.

  19. @Brother Salman: Jazak’Allah khairan for clearing so many things up. Although I was aware that wearing not shalwar kameez, jalabya etc. wasn’t impermissible. I dunno what made me forget about when commenting. May Allah forgive me – and you too.

    “(3) The total avoidance of imitating the non-Muslims.” ~ I thought your whole post was about refusing this statement. This confuses me know a little. Care to clear up again?

  20. Imkhan

    How are those jeans fitting Sallu?

  21. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi True Life: “Imitation” will only be effective when the conditions of it are met, which have been clarified in the article. Otherwise, it is not considered “imitation” in the prohibited sense. Mufti Taqi differntiates between “tashabbah” and “mushabihat” – the latter being permitted, the former impermissible. I have mentioned this in my article when I quoted Mufti Sahib stating:

    – “Imitation, without resolve or intent (s: to imitate the non-Muslims) is not prohibited even though one resembles the non-Muslims due to it.”

    So, what is meant by “total avoidance of imitation” is imitation that meets one of the two conditions. Otherwise, there is no harm even if there is resemblance.

    Hope that helps.


  22. mujahid7ia

    Jazak Allahu khayr for the post.

  23. what about wearing soccer jerseys of ur favorite soccer players. Isnt that specificially imitating kafir atheletes? 😛

  24. MashaAllah, great post.

  25. Jazak’Allah khairan, Sidi Salman. Sometimes I get confused too easy, but you were still anwsering my ‘stupid’ questions in a mannered way. Really respect that.

  26. anonymous

    As-salamu’alaykum brother Salman,

    “Imitation, without resolve or intent (s: to imitate the non-Muslims) is not prohibited even though one resembles the non-Muslims due to it.”

    My probably naive question is this: why does it have to get to that point.

    There are already a lot of things we could be busy formulating our resolve and intention to imitate in the sunnah so as to resemble the “Best of Creation”. So, it would seem to me that there is something wrong whenever we “just happen” to find our selves resembling other than the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu aleihi wa salam).

    To resemble other than the Prophet (saw) is not so much the problem, but to believe that there is nothing wrong with that or not to be open to the fact that that there is something in his sunnah better than what we are currently doing/wearing- seems to be the problem. What do you think?

    And this kind of essay may unintentionally complicate that problem?

  27. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi True Life: “miftah al `ulum al su’aal” i.e.”the key of knowledge is questioning.”

    Dear Anonymous: Cultural dress and its manifestation on those who have been molded by that culture is not “wrong”. The religion of Islam took into account the diversity of people and, therefore, made certain rules generalzied in their application – and conditioned by customary practice (`urf). Dress is not a solitary exception.

    The wisdom behind this is clear.

    No one has denied that imitating the Best of Creation in his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) specifics is the most praiseworthy and recommended thing to do, as it relates to the topic at hand – rather any aspect of life. At the same time, one has to keep into account that the prophetic sunna does not merely revolve around specifics. Fulfilling the general sunna comamnds and guidelines *is* following the sunna and one will be rewarded for doing so.

    The reality is that there is nothing wrong with not resembling the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in the specifics of dress, although it is wrong and interdicted to shun away the general guidelines he laid down for us. It is no different than us speaking in English or Guatamalan as opposed to Arabic. Is one held accountable for this? No. Rather, the guidelines as it pertains to speech are also general, regardless of the type of language… do not lie, do not slander, and you know the rest.

    As for what is “best”, that is known. Law, though, does not necessarily deal with that. The conclusion of this article was clear in stressing the importance of the sunna.

    Lastly, this article was clear (in my opinion) of presenting the fact that the general guidelines laid out by the sunna must be followed.As such I do not believe it is complicating the situation but is (1) seeing the reality of diversity and (2) encouraging the implementation of the general sunna principles. Everyone is not ready to put on a thobe, turban, and sandals. However, it would be great to see people wearing their own cultural dress in an islamically acceptable manner. The prophetic sayings on facilitating ease in the religion also apply here.

    With prayers

  28. Another great post, thanks. I think that it is necessary to distinguish ones dress from the non believers but unfortunately, the thobe and turban are looked upon in some circles as the dress deserving only of a scholar. This is the feeling I get when I am around such people and it is very sad. I simply wish to wear it to look like the Holy Prophet (saw) but I get a very funny reaction sometimes- even disapproving looks and comments. Its an issue of perception i think.

  29. anonymous

    As-salamu’alaykum brother Salman,

    May Allah reward you for your response. Thanks for bearing with my waffle….including this.

    I pray that this is a fruitful discussion we are having here and not a debate. Especially in this month that we are contemplating the birth of the Prophet (saw).

    My personal worry is conveyed in what Hamza Isa said above:

    “……I simply wish to wear it to look like the Holy Prophet (saw) but I get a very funny reaction sometimes – even disapproving looks and comments….”.

    Sadly, this is the mentality that most of us carry, especially those of us living in the West, and even in the East. In as much as I agree with your points, I also feel that we (I, speaking for myself) are sometimes reluctant to consider the specific idiosyncracies of the Prophet (saw) as being “oula” (Arabic word) to our cultural or “modern equivalents”. It may be due to fiqhi positions which is not what I am contesting, although I still have reservations about that. But it may also be due to the notion of cultural relativity – which is what I am tempted to contest – but I know I can’t win…because fiqh is not on my side. Hence, I have no point. But I still feel like saying few things, inshallah, Allah make it useful and not confusing:

    You mentioned that: “Cultural dress and its manifestation on those who have been molded by that culture is not “wrong””.

    Of course not….this is not wrong. One of beauties of Islam is that many cultures and races and even ideologies are able to find their feet in the Limitless Ocean of Allah’s Oneness which resonates clearly in the Religion of Islam. This is indeed a feat! ….Limitless Oneness.

    Without this permissibility of doing other than what the Prophet (saw) did, no one will be able to find their feet in the religion. And this is something some muslim sects don’t understand when they chant “quran and sunna”.

    However, there is another dimension to this ( hopefully to complement your point and not to disagree with you); that is, once we find our feet in this Limitless Ocean …, i.e. Allah ‘coming’ to us and accepting us the way we are, perhaps we should reciprocate and flee to Him in Ihsan, in the way He is (or at least the way we think He is) – His Oneness.

    And this way is what the Prophets (saw) showed us how to do….in his every motion and rest, clothing and shelter, food and drink, he was fleeing to Allah.
    This is the reason in the first place for the world to exist. That Allah created it because there is someone there who reminds Him 247 of Himself, otherwise what does Allah, the Rich, Self-Sufficient, need from other than Himself even for an instant… Having said that, His Mercy also prevails….

    Anyhow, it is certain (especially in these times) that most of us are never going to be able to imbibe those detailed and specific aspects of the Prophet (saw)’s characteristics, just as most of us are never going to make miraj in our bodies. First, because as we already mentioned above, it is not possible to “be” like the Prophet (saw) 100%, or even 0%; primarily not because of cultural differences, or preferences, or any of those sorts. Rather, because it is existentially impossible. If someone is the “Best”, that means no one else can match them. There is no competition here. There is no second, third, fourth position. You get me?
    To begin with, we cannot occupy the same time and space in which he occupied….and so on.

    And secondly and most importantly!!, because we are believing that it is impossible/impractical/unwarranted (and fiqh is our side here) to “be” exactly like the Prophet (saw) – we are not doing so because of the first reason above, but rather because of the weight we give to conventional realities and cultural preferences (which is not a wrong consideration yet its implications will hold and prove true somehow not in our favour – especially where we have no reservations about those weights). And to add that even if we were believing that it is impossible/impractical/unwarranted (and fiqh being on our side here) to “be” exactly like the Prophet (saw) because of the first existential reason above, we are still required to do the best we can in terms of following the Prophet (saw).

    Sorry, I don’t write too well.

    Jazakallahu khairan for your post, I learnt from it.

    With prayers

  30. Asalamualaikum wa Rahmatullah

    It may be a little off topic and has nothing to do with any Fiqhi Masa’il, but I want to share something I experienced on the issue of dressing: First off all you need to know that I wear shalwar kameez or jalaby all the time and did so as well at the company I was working at last summer. The company was like a family business by Afghani brothers, Truck Import and Export across the whole globe and there was this chacha (who as well spent some time of his life in Karachi and Dehli) who was a mechanic and as well the cook. Well, this chacha once told me that all my Ibadaah won’t be accepted by Allah Ta’ala. Why? Because I was going against the laws and orders of this country (Germany). How that? Because I wear this not typical western clothes. All mannered attempts of explaining that wearing shalwar kameez doesn’t go against the law of Germany were in vain and at the end I just gave up.

    I just thought this would fit the topic of the post.

    Was Salam

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  32. salamu `alaykum

    Than you all for your comments.

    Anonymous: I agree with the general purport of your comments. May Allah allow us to reach such a rank.


  33. ali

    if only we would strive towards the purification required to imitate the spiritual dress of our Prophet. where i come from wearing the turban is an honor that not all can take, for it is a sign of a spiritual and intellectual inheritance from the Prophet. at times the issue of outer dress becomes an issue of arrogance and pride. Why the need to be seen?

    may God teach us all the humility and spirituality that are part of the essence of the Muhammadan message.


  34. Pingback: Mujahideen Ryder’s Blog - Not the average Muslim blog… » Wearing Jeans, Ties, Dress pants, T-Shirts, and other non-traditional Muslim clothing

  35. May Allah (swt) all give us hidaya and make all sisters good muslim and give them tawfiq to wear hijab maeen!

  36. Ahmad

    There are bigger issues in this Ummah than the clothes we wear.
    I think what this article is missing is the idea of intention. If a Muslim wears a big fashion brand and wears it for the sake of comfort and enjoyment – then it is OK. However, if a Muslim does it to fit in or be apart of a secular group (the West) then I believe that is forbidden.
    If a Muslim wants to wear an Abercrombie shirt with jeans and Nike shoes, don’t assume he’s sided with the Kufaar just because he wears those clothes. I think the idea of judging other Muslims based on the clothes they wear is what the attitude of this article is going to lead to.

  37. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi Ahmad: Thank you for your comments and criticisms.

    However, I dont think you have read the article carefully enough and this is clearly gleaned from your statements, such as the article “missing… the idea of intention” and “the idea of judging other Muslims based on the clothes they wear is what the attitude of this article is going to lead to”, which are clearly incorrect. I discussed both these aspects explicitly.

    I would sincerely advise you to read the article again, thoroughly. If again you see something wrong with it then do advise me and I will try to rectify it.


  38. Salams

    Beautifully written and relevant post =) thanks … I’ll be keeping track of your blog in the future inshaAllah


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  40. Vat? Vat?

    I cannot accept this post until I get a fatwa from Sidi Hamzah Yusuf Hanson on this matter. Until Sidi Saab himself gives a ruling…I cannot this.

    No. Never. Kabi Nahi!

  41. Umm Layth

    //Can women wear tight jeans and a long shirt up to their knees without a jilbab or something similar?//

    I don’t know any scholars who would allow this because any part of the body should not be displayed – and clearly, when you wear tight jeans and a long shirt up to your knees, you still display the shape.

    Also, about the Jilbaab – Allaah clearly commanded it in the Qur’aan [Surah al ahzab], so getting as close to its possible meaning, would be the right thing to do, instead of just discarding it as if it never was commanded.

    A good book to read would be the book Hijab by shaykh Mohammed Isma’il Memon Madani.

  42. Muslim brother

    Assalamu alaykum,

    Although the points made by Br.Salman are valid and substantiated with the books of fiqh and opinions of the fuqaha, I think it is extremely important to take into consideration fiqh ul-ma’aal (understanding the outcome of one’s statements).

    On one occasion, one of my teachers (a reputed and expert mufti) did not allow one of the students in his ifta class to issue a legal ruling deeming a certain act to be permissible, even though strictly speaking, the act was permissible in light of the fiqh texts. Why? Because the repercussions of declaring it permissible would lead to people misconstruing the fatwa, despite it being explicit. At the same time, he did not class it as haram or impermissible but was very careful in his choice of words.

    Before posting anything on here, utmost thought must be given as to whether there is a dire need to post such a topic and if so, what is the outcome going to be. This is what is referred to as “Haadhaa mimma yu’lam u wa laa yuftaa bihi” – what is known but according to which, fatwa is not issued.

    This is where the need for being under the wing of an erudite, pious scholar or shaykh becomes even more evident, whose experience and foresight will ensure one does not slip and fall due to one’s own “tunnel vision”.

  43. tazkiyyah


    Perhaps you assumed that salman doesnt study under shuyookh?
    Whatever happened to husn-e-dhann.

    Just because the conclusion may differ with what your teachers teach…that doesnt eliminate all the other ulema who exist worldwide..who are not ulema-e-“soo”

  44. Muslim brother

    As I said in my post, I am not contending the actual rulings and opinions stated by Br.Salman; I am just seriously worried about the need to post such issues to the general public.

    A while back there was a totally pointless discussion posted on people looking down on those who wear their trousers below the ankles and only Allah knows best what impelled someone to write such a discussion.

    Why do people feel the need to approach such issues “from the backdoor”? Can one not explain the importance of adopting the sunnah in one’s dress and similarly, the grave sin of wearing one’s trousers below one’s ankles and then give the other opinion, rather than explaining the permissibility of the issue and then briefly mentioning the sunnah aspect?

    People read the main point being conveyed and dont pay any attention to the sharaa’it or conditions stipulated, especially when there is a bare minimum amount of content stressing the importance of sunnah.

    I dont understand what possesses people to feel so passionate about these issues that they have to come out and provide convenient loopholes for people to do away with the sunnah?

    If I made it sound as if Br.Salman does not study under shuyukh or that only my teachers are the one’s with knowledge, I apologise for this. I did not think this though. And whatever the case, I still have the right to my opinion and to think that the stance of my teachers is more correct.

    I just find it disheartening to see these kinds of posts and find them to be unconducive rather than beneficial to the Muslim ummah. Just a change of approach with THE SAME FACTS AND OPINIONS is what is required.

  45. tazkiyyah

    I suppose such articles would have a place in an enviroment where muslims look down upon other muslims for not dressing in such a manner and do not understand the issues involved-
    So rather than trying to follow the sunnah themselves they become judges of peoples’ piety based on this basis

    If such circumstances werent commonplace amongst some(not all ) subcontinental muslims, I also would rap salman’s hands for writing such articles.- Alas, each illness has its medicine

  46. tazkiyyah

    But muslimbrother- i completely support your right to your opinion.
    We have a rich intellectual tradition. Alhamdulillah we are NOT fascists. You should vocally express your opinion and I should vocally express mine. We can have ikhtilaaf alhamdulillah
    Through this means we will revive the great intellectual vibrancy of islaam.

    We no longer live in an age where ulema are confined to single geographic locations.
    We have access like never before to the ulema of the whole planet, and this is a blessing Indeed.

    I look forward to the day that the ulema of Pakistam,Mauritania,Syria,Yemen,Tunisia etc engage in virtual exchange of ideas using real time computer technology to set up think tanks and have a huge explosion in the world of Ideas.

    The information age is here….May the strongest ideas win 🙂


  47. anonymous

    Muslim brother,

    Well said…. well said. I am sure that Salman appreciate that this is all in the spirit of frank and mutual discussion. No personal attacks or bad feelings, I hope. We are all brothers exchanging thoughts- I hope not wasting our time, Allah forgive us if so.

    Anyhow, I had similar thoughts as you -Muslim brother.
    Salman, even tho you thesis is technically fiqhly correct, it is still a bit fuzzy as to where the technical benefit lies vis-a-vis living the sunnah, particularly when the thesis is disseminated to a public audience. It also feels kinda odd when you consider the way the world is heading in terms of the currently celebrated monoculture. It is increasingly becoming weird even amongst muslims to want to wear anything other than the *type* of clothing that Prophets ….not just clothes by the way.

    Speaking for myself, I am scared to death with how cluttered my body and soul had become devoid of sunnah in the “phenomenal sense”. And to read this article makes me think….what? uhn?

    If I were Salman, honestly, I would put this article down and let people go their way and wear what they want or give credence to their apologetic thoughts, but not because of reading your article…

    Some people are talking here about dress, clothing, etc….but the issue is more than that. I am very sure Salman appreciates that…. I hope I am not patronising you, brother.

    I hope I am making sense. Sorry if I said anything wrong. No offense intended.

    with prayers.

    May Allah bless you all and forgive us all of our shortcomings.

  48. salmau `alaykum

    Jazakallah for all the sincere advice and criticism.

    At the same time though, I think many people are forgetting and overlooking crucial points of the article, among which are:

    (1) A specific dress has not been mandated by the Shari`ah,
    (2) Dress differs based on `urf, and
    (3) The encouragement to fulfill the general sunna of dress.

    Whereas most would object because im not saying “wear only the thobe and turban”, what most forget is that there is a general sunna in play, and general conditions, following which *IS* the sunna. To say otherwise may very well be innovation and dhalal.

    Thus, let us not overlook the articles encouragement to act according to this general sunna regardless of type of dress. From this, atleast one can feel comfortable wearing his customary dress whilst fulfilling all the required conditions and recommendations of modesty, loose”ness”, and so forth.

    Most people, sorry to say, simply will not start wearing thobes and turbans. The least one can do is guide them to implement these general guidelines found in the sunna. This is step one. In a society where sisters do not even wear hijab, brothers walk around with shorts above their knees, and so forth the way of wisdom is clear.

    Further, in a society where some of our brethren are adamant to look down and condemn everything, it is necessary to clarify these issues – and that is why the scholars have done so. This is also the reason why i placed the “pants and ankles” article. Our brother, Sidi Tazkiyyah, is a witness to how people look down upon anyone who does so, or even those who say it is not haram, or dont claim ijma` on the topic. It is something quote widespread in the Subcontinental community so much so that they would label one who does so a fasiq and condemn him. What of the principle that there is no condemnation on matters of difference? Such things need to be clarified, and have been. (Also note that i mentioned *both* opinion in that article and the articles purpose was to show merely the khilaf and demonstrate the incorrectness of condemning and nothing more)

    When Maulana Thanawi answered the question from London, he did so for a reason. The principle that Sidi Muslim Brother mentioned is sound but its application is unsound. Such verdicts are given in todays time by scholars, and were given in previous times also. Open the books of fatawa and you will see such verdicts clearly. It is not something that causes manifest harm in any way, shape, or form. When was encouraging a cultural community to abide by the general sunna causing harm? And when was the sunna minimized to a few specific pieces of dress? Never. But why stop here? There are hundreds of scholars around the globe who wear turbans, but not in the “specific” style the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) wore it, or loose clothing, but not the specific “kurta” the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) wore, and so forth.

    And if we want to get into principles then what about “making things easy for people and not difficult” and the plethora of qawa’id that deal with it, or the qawa’id related to `urf and rulings, and so forth.

    Further, as an individual in the west who has lived here all his life, I do not see putting this up as an issue and the responses I have gotten to this article shows that quite clearly, walhamdulilah. Rather, my own teachers were highly positive and praiseworthy regarding this article.


  49. anonymous

    Just one or two points…..

    Personally, sentimentally… I find that I tend to carry myself differently (i.e. islamically) whenever I am wearing “sunnah” type looking clothes…. cos I don’t want people to think that religious people are bad.

    In contrast I somehow feel like I can get away with a lot of unislamic etiquettes when I wear other than “sunnah” type clothes.

    This is just my own personal disease, does anyone suffer from this too?

    This then reminds me of the famous anecdote (BTW not sure if this is a True story, perhaps a lot of you have heard it growing up…if you were fortunate to grow up in a story telling culture and not the ubiqutous “A is for Apple” that is now globally enforced). Anyway…… But for those who haven’t hear it, let’s recount it here….it is about one of the adversaries of Moses, Sayyiduna Musa (alehi salam).

    There was this man that used to make fun of Musa (alehi salam). He made so much jest of him by pretending to be him everywhere he went. He talked the way he talked, went around dressing like him, giving sermons to bani Israel (-talking with a stutter), holding a staff like Musa….pretending to turn his staff into a snake.. and so on. He even changed his name to Musa. He walked like him, grew a beard like him, etc. Basically imitating him in order to mock him. He derived a lot of satisfaction from doing this. He got so much into it that he found himself always doing whatever Musa was doind….both is repose and action. Eventually people started finding him to be the idiot, not Musa per se.

    Anyway…when this jester of a man passed away, and Musa passed away too. Musa saw him in the other world, apparently in such a beautiful state. Musa was so shocked, so much that he went to Allah to protest, to find out …what’s going on here.

    Musa asked Allah … how come? Is this how you treat one of my adversaries….and indeed your adversary too!

    Allah replied and said:
    Sorry Musa, …I couldn’t help it.
    As you know that I love you very much. We should all know that Allah loved Musa (alehi salam) an awful lot. Koran 20:39 “…..wa alqeitu aleika mahabatan miniy wa li tusna’ ‘ayniy.”

    When I saw this “adversary”, I couldn’t treat him as the description implied because he reminded me so much of you and because of the love between us, I couldn’t bring myself to chastise him. I am but only inclined to do with him whatever I would do with you.

    On hearing this, Musa was flabbergasted, just as he was with Khidr.

    Like this jester man, we can only hope to pretend to be like the Prophet (saw), literally to mock him. Even in our sunnahs, we have to “grief” that we come in no where close (the word “close” doesn’t even apply).

    The next worse stage after that is to become Phiroun (audhu billah) ….. to explicitly fight or interdict him.

    Aren’t we more of an adversary of the Prophetic Guidance (all the Prophets) ….especially in these times?

    Also, one thing we have to realise is that we cannot be more Merciful than the Prophet (saw). We have created our own modern batil world and are now finding ways to explain it away as a Mercy to us, which it is. But the more befitting adab – as I have learnt – is to have the utmost reservations about our ways….not to even measure it up. This is not the same as making it impermissible tho. Never. This is another mistake, often made by the “bida!” “bida!” chanters. They make dhikr of “bida” more than that of Allah. Anyway, another subject altogether.

    Consider creation…which was the first “bida”…
    Hasn’t there come upon man a time when he was nothing (even) mentioned. Likewise, these “not-impermissibles” shouldn’t be mentioned. You should say Alhamdulilah for them and move on. Don’t even look at them so as to consider it as anything…not because of the wrongness of doing so (no, it is not wrong to consider it), but because of the danger of measuring it up on a scale with the “unmentioned” (which is in effect a rejection of the latter’s uniquess and incomparability). Just as there is no comparison between Allah and creation, there is no comparison between the sunnah and other than it, …yet he hukumed the creation with closeness, farness, etc as if there was a comparison. But we have to always maintain that there is no comparison….until the hukums become identical with the “Facts”. This is the aqidah without which someone falls out of the fold… and with which people reach the Good (inspite of bad actions).

    Our attitude to the Sunnah should be somewhat similar. But when we start talking about all these “not-impermissibles” without dire need, we are going to get side tracked and lose a lot of ambition or energy.


  50. anonymous

    (1) A specific dress has not been mandated by the Shari`ah,

    True, but everything the Prophet (saw) did was “Oula”…whether the Shari’ah mandates it or not is a different issue.

    (2) Dress differs based on `urf, and
    True, and only a testimony to the permissibility of those ‘urf nothing to do with what is preferable.

    (3) The encouragement to fulfill the general sunna of dress.

    This should be the only point! Any attempt and should be streamlined to give a description of the specific dress sense of the Prophet (saw). If someone should then ask (i.e. only if Someone should ask), what about “this” and “that” type of dress, is it impermissible. The answer should be, no it is not impermissible, but it is better to do the “oula” as much as you can. And if you are unable to, then bear in mind that it is “oula”.

    As far as Religion is concerned cultures are enobled only because of their content that do not contradict Prophet Guidance.
    From that content, some things are more agreeing than others.
    And as far as Islam is concerned, those that do not crowd out (muzahama) the Guidance of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) are nobler than those that compete with it (and this can only be in the specifics – not in the general sense – because there is no crowding out when you are looking at generality) .

  51. tazkiyyah

    I am glad to hear that that dress affects your psyche in such a manner that it is conducive to islamic adab.
    I think reviewing your situation that you *should* wear it…as adab is the height of virtue..and if this has that effect of you..Then this is very good news.

    On a sadder note though, I have visited huge areas of pakistan where the apparent dress is worn in full, and yet it seems to have no impact on its wearers who engage in the heights of despicable adab ,corruption etc…….

    So it would seem that we cannot necessarily generalise from your state…although you raise some nice points

  52. Muslim Brother

    Assalamu alaykum,

    Br.Salman, I think you should specifically write about not viewing others with contempt and looking down upon others, because if for argument’s sake, one was to suppose wearing trousers below the ankles was 110% haram, that doesn’t make looking down upon someone who does so anymore justifiable if we take it only to be makruh tanzihi.

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