Is There an Islamic Code of Conduct Concerning Way of Dressing?

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There are no formal rules in Islam concerned with the way one wears one’s hair, the style of clothing or anything else related to external appearance. What is important in Islam is that followers must present an Islamic identity, interpret its spirituality, and represent in a good manner the beauty of Islam in their life. Rather than making rules on what should be worn, Islam teaches people how to be modest. For example, Islam concentrates on the fact that men should cover their private areas, i.e., men should not expose the area of their body from the navel to the knee. Islam makes no rules on men wearing turbans or robes (jellaba). For women, Islam stresses that they should not exhibit their intimate apparel to people not of their family and that they should avoid wearing tight or transparent clothing; a certain type or certain color of dress is not specified. If a Muslim covers their bodies as stipulated by Islam then no one should look down upon them or criticize them because of their way of dressing.

In the Prophet’s sayings cleanliness is often emphasized. He mentions that cleanliness is equal to half the faith; it is a major subject in Islam in both aspects, i.e. material and spiritual cleanliness. The cleanliness of heart means thinking positively about all people, cleaning any negative thoughts through repentance and acting on the way of God. In short, this means traveling on the emerald hills of the heart or traveling on the way of piety. Physical cleanliness means being free of dirt and smelling good.

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, followed the Arab traditions concerning clothing that were prevalent at his time, and he was careful about cleanliness. In fact, he was so clean that all were envious of his clothing.

There are many narrations (reports) concerning beards, and for this reason Hanafi scholars (experts on Islamic jurisdiction) have accepted that growing a beard is a sunna act and advise men to do so. According to Abu Zahra, one of the great scholars of Islam, the beard is a tradition of the Prophet and says that if someone grows a beard with the intention of following his tradition, he will be rewarded by God.

There are many more important issues, issues that every Muslim is aware of, such as striving to have a perfect faith, performing the daily prayers, fasting, almsgiving, and the holy pilgrimage; these are what constitute the essentials of Islam. To say that, “it is a sin not to wear a robe or shalvar (traditional loose pants worn in many Islamic countries) or it is a sin not to grow a beard” is incorrect; these things are not essential to being Muslim.

No Muslim would ever oppose someone growing a beard or wearing a loose robe. However, even if we were to evaluate these things as being symbolic of being close to the Prophet, they are not conditional for being a Muslim. We should not forget that every subject in Islam has a level of importance and that it should be interpreted at that level of importance.

There is another matter concerning external appearance. The Prophet styled his hair in different ways, in order not to resemble the pagans in outward appearance. So he combed his hair differently from the way they did. After he made his emigration to Madina, he saw that non-Muslim local people wore their hair so that covered their foreheads. Then he parted his hair in the middle. He stated that if someone tries to resemble a people, he is one of them. This is why he tried to look different.

Among his Companions were those with long hair, and others with short hair, while some even had braided hair. Such people tied up their hair while praying. Once the Prophet saw someone like that during the hajj and advised him to spread his hair on the prayer mat while praying, so that his hair would benefit from the prostration as well.

There is a weak narration concerning Abu Qatada, one of his Companions, whom the Prophet told to shorten his hair. Actually, such a request is not in accord with Islamic discipline, and this narration is not included in accredited hadith books. Even if he had asked such a thing from Abu Qatada, there must have been some reason for it. Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand why such well-known Companions as Abu Bakr and Umar had long hair which they were never requested to cut.

After Makka was conquered there were many people who newly converted to Islam. These people were accepted as Muslim, and their dress and hair style was accepted as being Islamic. There was no demand on them to change their apparel or even their names.

In conclusion, Muslims can follow the traditions of the Prophet, they can imitate his clothing and hair styles; they can imitate his eating and drinking habits. By doing this they can turn their daily life into worship. For example, it shows their fidelity when a Muslim combs their hair to resemble the Prophet in remembrance; such behavior causes divine remuneration. Also, wearing a robe while performing daily prayers would increase concentration and it is undeniable that it would be beneficial.

Definitely, it is very clear that following God’s Messenger in his every act from the heart and such a pleasant intention and thought is very well accepted but he always regarded the spirituality of Islam and kept away from such formalism.