Manners of Clothing   


How should a muslim dress? What should a muslim pay attention to in his attire? What is the muslim dress?

“…But the raiment of righteousness- that is the best…”

(Al-A’raf 7; 26)

Wearing nice clothes and having a nice appearance among people is just as important as the necessity of eating and drinking. A body can only be protected from the harmful effects of the environment and saved from shames through clothes and thus achieve the perfection of his/her beauty.

Indeed covering is a natural reality for everything in this universe. The atmosphere around the world, barks of the trees and peels of the fruits, skins and feathers of the animals, the placenta around the fetus are all types of clothing which protect them against the outer world and beautify their appearance. These facts are mentioned in following verses:

“O Children of Adam! We have revealed unto you raiment to conceal your shame, and splendid vesture, but the raiment of fear of Allah, that is best…” (Al-A’raf 7; 26)

“…He (Allah) made you garments to protect you from heat (and cold)…” (al-Nahl 16; 81)

The feeling of being protected from the effects of environment and climate exist not only in humans but also in animals. The distinguishing difference between them is that human beings have the ability to use their intellect consciously and protect their decency and respect. Furthermore, this is only possible by covering the parts of body which are considered private. The phrase “the raiment of piety” both draws our attention to this matter and also shows that attaining the state of piety protects believers from spiritual disasters. Haja Muhammad Lutfi says that:

Clothes which are against the object imposed by Allah the Almighty and worn against piety cannot be considered Islamic. When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) saw Aisha’s sister Asma (r. anha) wearing a thin and transparent dress, he turned his head and told her:

“O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.” (Abu Dawud, Libas, 31)

Again the Prophet (pbuh) says about this matter the following statement:

“Two are the types amongst the denizens of Hell, the one possessing whips like the tail of an ox and they flog people with their help. (The second one) the women who would be naked in spite of their being dressed, who are seduced (to wrong paths) and seduce others with their hair high like humps. These women would not get into Paradise and they would not perceive the odor of Paradise, although its fragrance can be perceived from such and such distance (from great distance).” (Muslim, Janna, 52)

The real object of wearing clothes is to cover the body properly and attain a decent appearance. When the Prophet (pbuh) wore a new clothe, he would pray saying:

“All praises are due to Allah who lets me wear this clothe covering my private parts and makes me look good in my life.” And then he would say: “Those who wear a new clothe and say these praises and give the old clothes as charity will be under the protection of Allah the Almighty in their life and after their death.” (Tirmidhi, Daawat, 107)

Women should be more careful in clothing. One day Hafsa bint Abd ar-Rahman visited Aisha (r. anhuma) and Hafsa was wearing a long thin head scarf Aisha took it and replaced it with a thick one for her.” (Muwatta, Libas, 6)

According to Qur’an, teachings of the Prophet, and the consensus of the Muslim scholars, it is obligatory for Muslim women to cover their head and neck, and wear clothes which would not show the lines of their body or silhouettes. It is commanded in the following verse:

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms …” (al-Nur 24; 31)

In this verse believing women are asked:

  1. To protect their gaze from the unlawful.
  2. To protect their chastity.
  3. To not display their beauty and ornaments except the ones that appear ordinarily.
  4. To lower their veils down to their necks, throat, etc.

Then the verse continues and says before whom women are allowed to show their beauty to.

The Arabic word humur is the plural form of himar which means “something with which a woman covers her head or head-cover. Humur is the traditional headscarf of the women in the Arabian Peninsula both before and after the advent of Islam. Before Islam, the headscarf was usually worn as an ornament and it was worn so the ends of the scarf would hang at the back of the body. It was the fashion of those days that women would leave the front part of their clothes open and thus their breasts would not get covered. (Qurtubi, XII, 153; Elmalılı, V, 3506) Islam bans the uncovering of certain parts of the body and obligates to veil oneself. Therefore, it is required for Muslim women to cover their heads, hair, ears, neck, throat, and breasts. According to Aisha’s (r.anha) report, when the verse “That they should draw their veils over their bosoms” was revealed, women from Ansar and Muhajirun tore their thick outer garments and curtains and then made veils from them. (Bukhari, Tafsir, 24/13; Abu Dawud, Libas, 31-33)

In another narration, hiding the lines of the body is stated as another basic characteristic of Islamic dress code. (Haythami, V, 137)[1]

Transparent apparels are also disapproved by Islam. It is necessary to wear another piece of clothing either under or over transparent ones. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:

“O Prophet Tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments close round them (when they go abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, most Merciful.” (Al-Ahzab 33; 59)

In this verse, Muslim women are ordered to wear an outer garment when going outside and not to go out in the clothes, which they wear at home. All exegetes of the Qur’an have unanimously stated, though in different terms, that the word jilbab in the verse refers to an outer garment which should be worn over daily dress and which covers the entire body. Therefore, today it is necessary for Muslim women to put on an outer garment like a coat or cloak when going out. This verse not only expresses the necessity of covering the body but also describes the exact way of clothing. (Tabari, Tafsir, XXII, 33; Razi, XXV, 230; Abu Hayyan, VII, 250)[2]

The Muslim dress code must be observed at all times even when working or performing sports. Miswar b. Makhrama reported:

“I was carrying a heavy stone and my lower garment was loose, and it, therefore, slipped off so soon that I could not place the stone on the ground and so I carried it to its proper place. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Return to your cloth (lower garment), take it and tie it around your waist and do not walk naked.” (Muslim, Hayd, 78)

Resembling the opposite sex in clothing is also forbidden. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) informed us that those men who wear clothes like women and those women who wear clothes like men will be away from the Divine Mercy. (Abu Dawud, Libas, 28)

This warning of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) about those trying to resemble the opposite sex in appearance proves that attire of a person is not just a simple matter of appearance. It is also known that psychological anomalies of sexes begin with imitating the opposite sex. Unfortunately in the contemporary world serious and special efforts have been made to encourage resemblance between sexes. Supposedly to provide some economic conveniences companies produce clothes to be worn by both sexes and make great investments.[3] Such degeneration can be prevented only by taking the Prophet’s warnings seriously and following them.

On the other hand, apparels which do not serve the main objective of dressing and which are just worn for pride and to show-off are also forbidden. Some of the sayings of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in this context are as follows:

“Allah the Almighty will make those who wear garments of fame in this world wear garments of humiliation in the Hereafter.” (Ibn Majah, Libas, 24)

Allah’s Apostle said, “Allah will not look at the person who drags his garment (behind him) out of pride and arrogance.” (Bukhari, Libas, 1, 5)

The phrase “garments of fame” stated in the above mentioned traditions has been interpreted in two ways: a person’s fame among others for his/her clothes can be either because he/she wears luxurious and showy clothes or even because he/she wears shabby and poor looking clothes, and thus trying to manifest piety and righteousness.

In addition to negative behaviors, like patronizing others and bragging, extravagance in clothing needs to be avoided. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that: “Eat, drink, give in charity, and wear clothes provided that it is not wasting or bragging.” (Bukhari, Libas, 1) The great companion Ibn Abbas (r.a.) also narrates the Prophet (pbuh) saying : “As long as you do not fall into the mistakes of pride or waste, you may eat whatever you like and wear whatever you wish.” (Bukhari, Libas, 1)

Another extremism of clothing in the contemporary world is seen in the leather goods industry. Some animal species are under the danger of extinction as a result of uncontrolled hunting for their furs.[4]

Friends of Allah have explained the extravagance in clothing in three degrees: from the point of Shari’ah it means excessive clothing; from the point of tariqah it means wearing what is more than a necessity; and finally from the point of haqiqah it refers to showing excessive love for clothing.

On the other hand, if someone abstains from luxurious clothing out of piety despite having the financial means, he/she will be rewarded by Allah the Almighty and will be worn the best clothing of the Paradise. (Tirmidhi, Qiyama, 39) It is also normal to wear decent clothes in accordance with the financial means. It is narrated on the authority of Abdullah b. Mas’ud (r.a.) that the Apostle of Allah (pbuh), said that:

“He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.” A person amongst the people in the gathering said:

“Verily a person loves that his dress should be fine, and his shoes should be fine.” The Prophet (pbuh) remarked:

“Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride means disdaining the truth (out of self-conceit) and contempt for the people.” (Muslim, Iman, 147)

In another narration we see that the Prophet (pbuh) did not like shabby clothes. Malik b. Nadla, one of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) narrated: “One day I went to visit the Messenger of Allah with some poor clothes on me. When the Prophet (pbuh) saw me like that, he said (to me):

“Have you any property?” I replied:

“Yes, I have.”

He asked:

“What kind is it?” I said:

“Allah has given me camels, sheep, horses and slaves. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) then said:

“When Allah gives you property, let the mark of Allah’s favor and honor to you be seen.” (Abu Dawud, Libas, 14)

Again in a tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) known as the hadith of Jibril it is reported that when Gabriel come to the companions in a man’s form, he had black hair and was wearing a nice white garment. He had no signs of blemishes and untidiness on him. (Muslim, Iman, 1)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would prefer to wear white garments in the extent of his financial means. “Wear white clothes; for white clothes look cleaner and nicer. Shroud your dead in white, too.” (Tirmidhi, Adab, 46) Thus, he (pbuh) advised his followers to wear white to not only keep themselves clean and tidy but also to keep their dead clean and tidy, too.[5]

In this context the following advices of the Messenger of Allah to a group of his companions, who were setting about a journey, are very meaningful: “You are coming to your brethren; so tidy your mounts and tidy your dress, which is the sign of beauty. Allah does not like obscene words or deeds or do intentional committing of obscenity.” (Abu Dawud, Libas, 25)

As it can be seen, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asks that believers be clean and tidy in every course of their life. This attitude also gives an opinion about our respect and love towards others. This is why our clothes should be clean and tidy.

A person’s apparel gives clues about his/her personality. Of course this is not the only factor, but it is one of the significant measures. The wise saying: “people get welcomed in accordance with their cloth and seen hospitality in accordance with their talk” is a nice statement of this. A good looking garment makes a person look dignified and receive others’ respect. This is something desired in Islam. People want to be closer to a person in nice apparel and look for ways to socialize with him/her. Thus, hearts get warm towards each other faster and one can give the message that he/she wants to give to others more easily. However, we need to distinguish the clean and tidy clothes from the clothes which manifest pride and arrogance.

What we understand from the advices and orders of the Messenger of Allah is that the determining factor in choosing clothes should not be fashion or luxury but the principle of matching and befitting to the person. The natural and normal adornments, which are required by the sexual differentiation, should not be neglected.

The Prophet (pbuh) also asked his followers to take good care of their hair. The Prophet (pbuh) saw a boy with part of his head shaved and part left unshaven. He forbade them to do that, saying:

“Shave it all or leave it all.” (Abu Dawud, Tarajjul, 3)

Allah’s Apostle (pbuh), once, asked the gender of the owner of a hand, which was extending a letter from behind the curtains. When he was told that it was a lady’s hand, he said:

“If it were, she would apply henna to her finger nails.” (Nasai, Zinat, 18) In another instance when the Prophet (pbuh) saw that Ummu Salama (r. anha), mother of the believers, folded her veil twice, he (pbuh) warned her for her veil looked like male turban saying: “The Prophet (pbuh) came to visit her when she was veiled, and said: use one fold and not two.” (Abu Dawud, Libas, 35) Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) ordered believing women to wear lighter perfumes while believing men’s fragrances could be a little bit heavier. (Nasai, Zinat, 32)

Moreover, he did not allow men to wear silk and gold, but allowed them for women as ornaments and apparel. (Ibn Majah, Libas, 19)

The Prophet (pbuh) did not allow his ummah to wear garments with human or animal pictures on it. He stated that the angels do not enter a house which contains a picture and a dog, and asked the curtains with images to be removed from the houses. (Abu Dawud, Libas, 45)

Wearing garments made from raw hides of wild animals are also forbidden by Allah’s Messenger (pbuh). (Tirmidhi, Libas, 32; Darimi, Adahi, 19) Based upon the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh), Muslim scholars have agreed upon the permissibility to use tanned skins of all kinds of animals except pigs; for Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that: “All skins which are made usable by tanning are pure.” (Tirmidhi, Libas, 7)[6]

In addition to the dress code, there are some other Islamic regulations about the appearance of the believers. For instance, Muslim men are asked to keep their beards long and cut their moustaches short so as to do the opposite of what the pagans do. (Bukhari, Libas, 64) In some other narrations, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) is reported to disapprove believing men to wear clothes dyed in saffron; for these are the clothes usually worn by the non-believers and women and they may attract attention. (Muslim, Libas, 27-28)

Women are not allowed to shave their heads according to the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh). (Nasai, Zinat, 4) Removing facial hair and eyebrows, separating the teeth to look more beautiful, using false hair, and having tattoos done, thus changing the appearance created by Allah the Almighty, are all strongly forbidden by Islam. (Bukhari, 82-87)[7]

It is reported that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) tinged his eyes with kohl named “ismid” and advised using kohl to his followers for it would strengthen vision and nurture eyelashes. (Abu Dawud, Libas, 13)

In short, it is understood from the orders and recommendations related to clothing that one should avoid wearing clothes against the rule of covering certain parts of the body and should try to look as good as possible in the extent of financial means. In addition, men and women should stay away from clothes that are not appropriate for their creation and clothes which may lead to arrogance or extravagance.

[1] Experts also express that wearing loose and comfortable garments is very important for human health. It is also known that because tight clothes, like jeans and tights, slows the blood stream and prevents the comfortable movement of the joints, they cause various health problems.

[2] Muslim scholars have interpreted the word zinat and the expression as “only that which is apparent (like hands and face)” in chapter Nur verse 31 and made the following observations:

Zinat” are the things, be it natural or artificial, which adorn and beautify a person in the eyes of the others. Thus, there is two kinds of zinat: 1. Gold, silver, etc. ornaments of women and 2. Parts of a woman’s body which attract male attention. According to interpreters of the Qur’an, the latter is the more appropriate meaning pointed out in the Qur’an.

What companions like Ali, Ibn Abbas, Ibn Umar, Anas (r. anhum), and scholars from the following generation, like Said b. Jubair, Ata, Mujahid, Dahhak; and mujtahid imams like Abu Hanifa, Malik, and Awzai and many others (may Allah have mercy on their souls) interpreted the expression “only that which is apparent” as the face and hands up to the wrists. Some companions, scholars from the following generations, and jurists, like Shafii, and Ahmad b. Hanbal interpreted this expression based on the special meaning of the verb zahara as the parts of the body which get uncovered by themselves. Thus, it is not possible for the “face and hands” to be understood for they can be covered and they cannot get naturally uncovered. Therefore, they should be the ornaments of a women which may get uncovered unintentionally, for instance by means of wind. Absence of exception in the second mentioning of the term zinat also supports this interpretation. Another interpretation is that this phrase means siyab or the outer garment which is impossible to be covered. (Tabari, Tafsir, XIII, 92-93; Jassas, V, 172)

[3] Clothes have also effects on formation of human psychology. For instance, behavioral changes are observed in people who, for some reason, wear opposite sex’s apparels.

[4] For some types of fur unbelievable methods are used and very high prices are paid. For instance, mink and astrakhan are among the most expensive ones. Mink is used for producing expensive leather ornaments. Whereas, astrakhan is a type of fur which is produced by killing the young lambs and kids while they are still in their mothers’ womb. In order to produce one fur coat at least eight to ten animals have to be killed. Since wasting and bragging are forbidden by the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh), it is most suitable to be careful about them for the happiness in the Hereafter. The following incident which occurred between Suleiman the Magnificent and Sheikh al-Islam Abussuud presents a nice measure for sensitive believers who are concerned with the judgment in the Hereafter. One day Sultan Suleiman asked Abussuud’s legal opinion about killing the ants which were harmful to the pear trees through the following lines:

Dırahta ger ziyân etse karınca

Zararı var mıdır ânı kırınca!?

“Is there any problem to kill ants when they harm the trees?” Abusuud replied to the Sultan’s legal opinion request with the following lines:

Yarın Hakk’ın dîvânına varınca

Süleyman’dan hakkın alur karınca!

“When ants go to the presence of the Lord, they will get their rights from Suleiman.”

[5] Researches prove that colors have effects on human psychology. For instance, it is known that white inspires feelings of purification, cleanliness, and refinement; whereas, red awakens anger and temper.

[6] Muslim scholars have reached various conclusions as a result of their evaluations of this and similar traditions of the Prophet (pbuh). Abu Hanifa (may Allah have mercy on his soul) considered that all animal skins except pig skins become clean by tanning. According to Imam Shafii (may Allah have mercy on his soul), other than the skins of pigs, dogs, and their youngsters, all animal skins can be purified by tanning and are allowed to be used for both dry and wet works like using as water-skins. (Mubarakfuri, V, 400-401; Kâmil Mîras, Tecrîd-i Sarîh Tercümesi, V, 301)

[7] Wearing wigs just to look better and coming into the sight of foreign males are prohibited by Islam. However, wearing wig in the presence of relative males because of some health reasons, like hair loss, is permitted. For other than health reasons, wearing false hairs is not allowed on the basis of the general maxim: “lawful objects cannot be achieved by unlawful means.”

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

The Human Reality