Islamic Dress Code

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

We thank and praise Allah SWT, the Compassionate, the Wise. We bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah — Who has prescribed for mankind a complete and easy way of life and provided the means to live that life.

We bear witness that our Nabi Muhammad SAWS is the true Messenger of Allah, whom Allah has guided to see the beauty in man and the rest of His creation. O Allah, shower Thy choicest blessings on him, his friends and relatives, all those who strove their entire lives to beautify their personalities not only with material adornments but spiritual beauty, with Taqwa. Allah SWT reminds us in the Holy Qur’an:

“O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness, — that is best. Such are among the Signs of Allah that they may receive admonition.” (Q.VII: 26)

My dear Brothers and Sisters

On your way to the masjid today, did you pass a garden and pause for awhile to admire the beautiful flowers? Or did you perhaps admire someone’s beautiful thaub? How often did you not wait to watch the sun setting like a fiery red ball into the red-blue sea? How often did you not listen to the beautiful voice of a Qaari reciting from the Holy Qur’an and express your satisfaction? When you appreciate the beauty of nature, and, indeed the beauty all around us, think on it for awhile: Why did Allah create everything so beautiful around us ? Was it by accident ? or is this part of Allah’s Divine Design ? Allah’s Plan for mankind.

Allah wants us to beautify all our actions in life and often the same word (gasanah) is used in the Qur’an to mean beauty AND good. Thus, when Allah says:

“Wa quloo lin-naasi gasanaa” “Speak to people employing beauty (and goodness) in your speech.” or in another ayah “And if anyone earns any good, We shall give him an increase in beauty (and good) in respect thereof.” (Q. XLII: 23)

In the first ayah I have quoted, Allah reminds us in respect of dress to cover our shame, but also as a means of beautifying ourselves. This is, of course not done out of vanity or to impress others, but for personal satisfaction. In the same ayah Allah clarifies that the clothes of Piety (our ‘Ibaadah) are the best. In other words, our mode of dress can be beautiful, but must subscribe to the prescriptions of the Shari’ah.

No limitations are placed upon the form or quality of clothing, either in the Qur’an or Hadith, except that it must be clean and good ( good, once again, according to the Shari’ah. Our Nabi Muhammad SAWS said:

“Eat and drink and wear clothes and be charitable, not being extravagant or self-conceited.” (Bukhari).

Ibn Abbas said: “Eat what you like and wear what you like, so long as you avoid two things, extravagance and vanity.” Thus Islam does not prescribe a particular style of dress or quality of material. A simple sheet of material wrapped around a man’s body (like the Igraam) or a pair of trousers, a shirt or a coat would serve the same purpose so long as it covers the aurah. The aurah is the part or parts of the person which is indecent to expose, and while we cannot enter into the finer details of the Law, we can generalise by saying that in a man it is what is between the navel and the knees; and in the woman all the person except the face and the hands.

If we speak of Muslim dress, it is not a style or mode of clothing, but any clothing that conforms to the requirements of the Shari’ah. If we are Chinese and wear the Chinese style or the Kaftan in North Africa or the punjabi in India — it does not make us less of a Muslim as one who wears an Arab abaya. We enter Islam with our distinctive cultures. You don’t need to become an Indian or an Iranian to become a good Muslim. The values of Islam are so powerful, so dynamic that it can penetrate and permeate any culture on earth and transform that culture and its people. Our own culture with its rich basis of Islamic values can be enriched far more if we emulate rather than ape. It is far more beneficial to me if I recognise and incorporate values of a person into my personality than merely imitating his walk or the way he dresses or wears his beard. If Western culture has something to offer, such as their technology in computer science or medical science, then we take the technology without aping their mode of dressing or other aspects of their lifestyle. The minute we ape them, then we lose our values and our identity, those values for which our forefathers sacrificed so much over the past few centuries.

In deciding on a mode of dress, let us be guided by Quranic values such as decency, simplicity, purity and goodness. If a woman over-exposes her body by wearing scanty clothing or displays her form through tight-fitting clothing, then it affects her sense of decency and self-respect. If she has so little regard for her self-worth, how much regard does she expect others to have for her ? On the other hand, wearing rolls upon rolls of gaudy, brightly coloured material, hanging like a train on the floor can hardly be called beautiful if the wearer’s motive is to attract attention. Our Nabi Muhammad SAWS censured those who wear long garments and trail the train of the garment, in order to be looked at or for vanity. (Buhkari). Simplicity has its own built-in beauty. In the Shari’ah certain forms of material such as silk are forbidden to men while women are permitted, but not really encouraged to wear. The reason is to encourage simplicity and the avoidance of extravagance and self-conceit.

This does not mean that we have to go around wearing a uniform form of dress. Allah SWT is Al-Khaaliq (The Creator) and we are enjoined to be creative in all our actions: in our thinking, in our behaviour, in our work, as long as we do not overstep the boundaries of the Shari’ah. If we assimilate this creativity as part of our personality, then we will do things our way. In other words, we will be original and creative in everything that we do, including the way we dress, the way we decorate our homes, our personal tastes in art, and so on. Let us remember the saying: “Allah SWT is Beauty and loves beautiful things”.

What has become very disturbing of late is the total disrespect shown for the sanctity of our masaajid by musallees both young and old in their mode of dress. We dress according to the occasion. Visiting the masjid to perform salaah or become involved in thikrullah cannot be compared with visiting a cricket match or going on a picnic. Yet, so often we see our musallees during Jumu’ah dressed in a jeans and T-shirt, a mode of dress appropriate to a picnic. I ask you, Brothers and Sisters, does Allah SWT deserve to be faced, to be approached in such an undignified manner ? Are we ashamed to wear our cleanliest, our best clothes or thaub (torp) for masjid? Let us bear in mind that tight-fitting clothes, displaying the body form are as prohibited for men as they are for women. Let us remind our younger people and parents that their T-shirts with pictures and emblems written all over it, are downright distracting to the person performing salaah in front of or next to them and a violation of the sanctity of the masjid.

Let those who are by the means, dress well without being vain and extravagant. Do not be stingy. Allah SWT warns us against being stingy or covetous in the Holy Qur’an:

“And let not those who covetously withhold of the gifts which Allah has given them of His Grace, think that it is good for them: Nay, it will be the worse for them: soon shall the things which they covetously withheld be tied to their necks like a twisted collar, on the Day of Judgment. To Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (Q.III: 180)

In a hadith of our Nabi Muhammad SAWS, Abul-Ahwas reported from his father who said: “I came to the Messenger of Allah while I wore a torn cloth.” He (The Messenger) asked: “Do you have wealth ? “Yes,” said I. He asked: “What wealth do you have ?” ” Every kind of wealth,” replied I. “Allah has given me camels, cows, sheep, horses and slaves.” The Messenger of Allah said: “When Allah has given you wealth, let the signs of the gifts of Allah and His generosity be shown upon your person.”

Once again, Brothers and Sisters, let us remember that the way we dress cannot be separated from the way we care for our bodies, the way we behave in our homes, in our work places and in public, the way we educate our children, the way we worship Allah in our daily beliefs and actions. The way we dress is part and parcel of our ‘Ibaadah and helps to develop that beautiful, that balanced and unique Muslim personality which functions in Taugheed. The choice is ours: let us go all the way. It is an easy and exciting way. Let us set the pattern of dressing that even our non-Muslim friends, and, indeed, the whole world will follow, Insha-Allah.

Our Holy Prophet Muhammad SAWS said:

“Verily, Allah hath made obligatory the employment of beauty in respect of everything.” (Saghigh al Muslim)

Ameen! Aqeemus salaah!

* This khutbah was delivered in Cape Town, South Africa.