Wearing clean and tidy clothes is the Sunna of the Prophet. It should be kept in mind that dressing in such a way is not a display of vanity or arrogance for a person who has the means to dress well. In fact, God has made it clear that a person has the right to wear clothing that is befitting to the wealth they have been blessed with.
Awf ibn Malik relates from his father, “One day I came to God’s Messenger wearing a coarse, cheap garment. He said to me, ‘Have you no wealth?’ I said, ‘Yes, I have.’ He asked, ‘What kind of wealth?’ I said, ‘God has given me every kind of wealth: camels, cattle, flocks, horses, slaves.’ He said, ‘Then let the abundance of God’s blessings be apparent on your person!’”80 From other hadith we know that the Prophet wore his best clothing. He also had his Companions do likewise. The following narration not only men- tions this, but also teaches that those with the responsibility of act- ing as representatives must dress particularly well. Ibn Abbas con- veyed the following hadith: “It was when the Haruriyya (a branch of Khawarij) revolted. I went to Caliph Ali. He told me, ‘Go to those people.’ So I went and put on the best Yemeni garment. Then I came to them and they said, ‘Welcome to you, Ibn Abbas! Why are you so dressed up?’ I said, ‘How could I be otherwise? I saw God’s Messenger wearing the best clothing he has!’”81
It is also good adab to say a prayer the first time a new gar- ment is worn, for the protection of God on the wearer. Abu Umama remembers, “Ibn Umar put on a new garment and prayed thus, ‘Praise be to God, Who has given me clothing to cover my body and bring beauty to my life.’ Then he added, ‘I heard God’s Messenger say, ‘Whoever wears a new piece of clothing, and prays thus, will be under the protection and preservation of God both while he lives and after he dies.’”82
The Prophet also forbade Muslim men to wear silk clothing. Ali ibn Abu Talib explained, “One day God’s Messenger took some silk in his right hand, and some gold in his left hand, and said, ‘These two things are prohibited for my male followers.’” According to a similar hadith from Tirmidhi and Nasai, Abu Musa quoted him as saying, “Silk clothing and gold are forbidden for the men in my community, but allowed for the women.”83
On the matter of outward appearance it is better to avoid broad generalizations concerning the issue of cutting hair so as not to cause any misunderstanding. It is best to mention the relevant hadith and comment on them briefly. Some reported sayings of the Prophet are as follows:
Anas ibn Malik reported that God’s Messenger said, “He who has hair should honor it.”84 We honor our hair by combing it and keeping it tidy. The Prophet disliked disheveled hair. One should ei- ther comb the hair or have a short haircut which does not require much adornment. Ibn Umar narrated, “God’s Messenger saw a boy whose head had been partly shaven. He forbade people to do this, saying, “Shave it all or leave it all.”85 Again, Ibn Umar tells us that God’s Messenger prohibited believers from shaving part of the head and leaving the rest unshaven.86
The Prophet used to look after children’s hair. As narrated by ‘Abdullah, the son of Ja’far, God’s Messenger came to visit them three days after the death of Ja’far; during this time Jaf’ar’s wife had been unable to look after their hair. “The Prophet said, ‘Do not weep over my brother after this day,’ and he said, ‘Call the children of my brother to me.’ We were herded before him. He said, ‘Call a barber.’ He then ordered that our hair should be cut short.”87
Concerning general appearance, the contemporary Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen provides us with a clear understanding:
As is reported in many books about the life of the Prophet, most Companions of God’s Messenger had long, braided hair.
Some of them would gather it in a knot. In Bukhari’s Al-Sahih, the following incident is narrated: Seeing a man who had knot- ted his hair during the Hajj, the Prophet advised him to untie his hair so that his hair, also, got the benefit from sajda, or pros- tration. God’s Messenger did not order Abu Bakr, or Umar, or Uthman, all of whom had long hair, to cut their hair.
After the conquest of Mecca, the hearts of many people were softened and warmed towards Islam, and most of them embraced Islam. They wore garments in the style of nonbeliev- ers and the turban of the unbelievers on their heads. The Prophet did not ask them to remove even these. Indeed, this would be formalism and he was far beyond formalism. He did not give any orders that could be interpreted as formalism.
In fact, outer appearance is not something essential in Islam, but rather, it is something of secondary importance. So, we should not be too concerned with outer appearance or formal- ism. The Prophet may have warned those who had cut some of their hair and left other parts, just as some young people do today, as it distorts the natural appearance and it would have been imitating non-Muslims. It is mentioned in the sections of hadith books that are concerned with garments and physical appearance, mainly in Tirmidhi, that the Prophet used to comb his hair according to the customs of the time in Mecca, so as not to resemble non-Muslims. After he emigrated to Medina and saw that Christians and Jews there combed their hair over their forehead (as in the historical pictures and films about Romans), he changed the way he combed his hair again and parted it in the middle and combed it to the right and to the left. Most likely, some people used to shave part of the head like the Christians and Jews. Therefore, the Prophet behaved
in accordance with the hadith, “He who imitates a people is one of them.”88
The human body is perfectly formed. It is formed with such subtle rules of geometry and mathematics that it is impossible not to appreciate its design. Therefore, it would probably not be correct to change something that has been created in such a perfect manner. In a hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says, “God wants to see the signs of His bless- ings on His servants.”89 Therefore, it would not be incorrect to say that hair should be cut in a way that is suitable to its natural form.
But today, needless interference may have negative effects, even on devoted believers. Therefore, nobody should take the place of the Prophet and make negative comments on appear- ance, saying, “Cut your hair, tidy your clothes.” This is not the way it should be said. If you say such things, those people will go away and never return to your world of thought.90
Gulcu, Dr. Musa Kazim. “Good Character” Tughra Books Press. February 2009.
- November 13, 2013
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