On the Etiquettes of Dress and Grooming

Do not look Clumsy or Awkward

(1) Narrates Jabir: “(One day), as the Apostle of God visited me, he saw an uncouth person whose hair was dishevelled. The Apostle of God remarked: ‘Could he not find anything to dress his hair?’ On the same occasion, he saw another person who was wearing very dirty clothes and, upon it, he remarked: ‘Could he not find anything to wash his clothes?’” ~ Musnad Ahmad and Nisai

(2) ‘Ata bin Yassar relates: “(One day), as the Apostle of God was sitting in the Mosque, a person came whose hair (both) of the head and the beard were most untidy and disarranged. The Apostle of God, (there upon), made a sign to him with his hand, indicating that he should go and have the hair of his head and beard trimmed. The man did as told, and when he returned, the Apostle of God observed: ‘Was it not better for you (that you went out and had the hair made neat and orderly) than that anyone of you came with his hair disheveled and looking (wild), as if he was the Devil?’” ~ Muwatta


These Traditions candidly refute the notion that is quite popular among some of the ascetics that earnest bondmen of the Lord should pay little attention to their appearance, and to be neat and properly dressed was a sign of worldliness. Such people, are sadly uninformed, and they know nothing of the true spirit and reality of the teachings

of the holy Prophet and the Shariat he brought. While excessive care for one’s dress or appearance, of course, is undesirable, the substance of the Prophet’s precepts and instructions in this, as in all the other fields, is that moderation should be the rule, and abnormal behaviour, both by way of excess or deficiency, should be avoided. The above mentioned Traditions, obviously, were for people who fell short of the normal standards of tidiness and kept themselves dirty and dishevelled. On the other hand, those who attach an undue importance to dress and outward appearance should take guidance from the narratives we are now going to discuss.

Ostentation in Dress

(3) It is related by Abdullah bin Abbas that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever will wear a dress for display or fame in the world, God will make him wear the dress of ignominy in the Hereafter.” ~ Abu Dawood, Musnad Ahmad and Ibn Majah


The phrase, Sooba-Shohrat, used in the original, denotes an apparel that may be worn to make an impression on others by exhibiting one’s wealth or superiority. It naturally applies also to people who wear headgears or robes that are peculiar to theologians or spiritual mentors and try to show themselves off as men of piety and learning. Ithe final analysis, it all depends on the intention, and if a person attires himself with the object of making a display of his wealth or importance, it will be sinful and the above Tradition will be applicable to him, while if the same garment is used by him without such an aim or purpose, it will not only not be unlawful, but, also, a means of earning the countenance of the Lord, in certain situations. Besides, as we do not know what lies in the hearts, it will be wrong for us to criticize anyone on the assumption that his clothes are intended for ostentatious display. What is more important, however, is that we keep an eye on our own intention and on the clothing we use, and, this, indeed, is the main object of the warning contained in the above narrative.

Men should not Dress like Women, nor Women like Men

(4) Narrates Abdullah bin Abbas: “The Apostle of God cursed men who effect a likeness with women (in dress, manners, deportment etc.), and women who effect a likeness with men.” ~ Bukhari


In it, dress has not been mentioned specifically, and likeness, as a whole, has been condemned. The most obvious form of it, however, is that men dressed themselves up as women, and women as men, and, thus, made a mockery of their sex.


White clothes are preferable for men

(5) It is related by Samurah that the Apostle of God said: “Wear white clothes: these are neat, clean and good; and clothe your dead with a white sheet (for burial).” ~ Tirmizi, Nissai, Musnad Ahmad and Ibn Majah

(6) Abu Darda related to us, saying that the Apostle of God said: “The best colour for meeting the Lord in your graves and in your mosques is pure white.” ~ lbn Majah


What it denotes is that it was better that when a person appeared before the Almighty, in his grave, he was covered with a white shroud, and when he appeared before Him in the mosque, he was dressed in white clothes. According to many other reports, however, the Prophet, sometimes, wore clothes of different colours, such as, green, light blue and yellow. He, also, used to put on a sheet with red stripes, and a black tiara. The aforementioned observation, thus, is by way of an advice and not a command. It also is meant only for men while coloured garments have been preferred for women as is evident from the practice of the pious wives of the holy Prophet as well.

It is not Proper for the Well-to-do to Live Miserably

(7) It is related by Abul Ahwas Tab’ee, on the authority of his father, (Maalik bin Fazlah), who said: “(Once), as I went to the Apostle of God, I was wearing clothes of a very inferior quality. On seeing me, he enquired: ‘Do you possess some wealth?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘(God has been kind to me).’ ‘What sort of wealth do you have?’ the Apostle of God asked. ‘God has favoured me with every kind of wealth, I have camels; cows, bullocks, goats and sheep, and I have horses and slaves,’ I replied. The Apostle of God, thereupon, observed: ‘When God has bestowed wealth upon you, the effects of His benevolence should, also, be seen on you, i.e., from the way you live.’” ~ Musnad Ahmad and Nisai 

(8) Amr bin Shoeb related to us, saying his father, Shoeb, told him, on the authority of his grandfather, Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin el-Aas, that the Apostle of God said: “It is pleasing to God that if there is His favour on anyone, its effects be visible on him.” ~ Tirmizi


Just as some people wear expensive clothes for fashion’s sake, or to make a display of their wealth or superiority, some miserly persons live wretchedly out of stinginess or bad taste, though they are well off. The Traditions we have just seen contain the exhortation for these niggardly people that if there was the favour of the Lord on anyone, it should be reflected in his way of living. It, too, is a form of giving thanks to God.

Live well without being Vain and Wasteful

(9) Amr bin Shoeb related to us, saying his father, Shoeb, told him, on the authority of his grandfather, Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin el-Aas, that the Apostle of God said: “It is allowed: eat well, spend on others in charity, have clothes made for yourselves and wear them provided that there is no wastefulness and vanity in your heart.” ~ Musnad Ahmad, Nisai and Ibn Majah


There need be no misunderstanding about what has been said in it regarding food, dress etc. It is perfectly legitimate for a person to eat and drink what he likes and wear clothes of his choice, of course with the stipulation that it does not touch the limits of extravagance and self-conceit. Imam Bukhari, also, has quoted the following narrative of Hazrat Abdullah bin Abbas: “Eat what you like, and wear what you like provided that it is free from two things: extravagance and vainglory.”

Simplicity and Destitution, too, is an Aspect of Faith

(10) It is related by Abu Umama that “(once) the Apostle of God said: ‘Do you not listen (to me)? Do you not listen (to me)? (i.e., listen carefully, and remember): simplicity and destitution, too, is an aspect of Faith.’ The Apostle of God said it repeatedly.” ~ Abu Dawood


It shows that simplicity and preference for poverty also is produced by an inner spiritual feeling, and it, too, is a branch or colouring of Faith.

Reward for Simplicity in Dress

(11) It is related by Mu’ad bin Anas that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever is in a position to wear expensive clothes, but refrains from it, and uses a simple dress out of meekness and humility, God will call him (to Himself), before all the creatures, on the Day of Resurrection, and tell him to put on whatever raiment of Faith he likes.” ~ Tirmizi


The glad tidings are for the bondmen whom God has blessed with wealth and they can easily manage to wear good and costly clothes, but prefer not to do so out of regard for the feelings of the less fortunate brethren. It, indeed, is a most noble sentiment, and as this Tradition tells, the Almighty will appreciate it on the Day of Judgement and reward the bondsman by telling him to choose and wear the suit of clothes he liked from the dresses got ready for the dwellers of Heaven.

NOTE: Some persons may be inclined to feel that while in the narratives of Abul Ahwas and ‘Amr bin Shoeb, people are exhorted to live and dress well if it is easily within their means, in the above Tradition, the tidings of a magnificent reward in the Hereafter are given to those who wear simple clothes in spite of being well-off financially, and, again, in Abu Umama’s report, it is emphasized that to wear plain clothes and live simply is an aspect of Faith. But these Traditions appertain to different sets of circumstances and should not be supposed to contradict each other.

What has been said in the narratives of Abu Ahwas and ‘Amr bin Shoeb is intended for men who live poorly or are ill-clad owing to stinginess or want of good taste though they are well-to-do and can maintain a much better standard of living. It is for such people that the exhortation is that if there is the favour of the Lord on anyone, his clothing and manner of living ought to bear testimony to it. As for the narratives of Abu Umama and Mu’ad bin Anas, these are addressed to people who attach an undue importance to their clothes and appearance and are very particular about what they wear and how they look as if the worth and value of a man depended wholly on it.

Where training and instruction is concerned, it is essential that people are spoken to according to their states and circumstances. Whoever will not keep it in mind while studying the teachings of the reformers will, sometimes, find them confusing and self-contradictory.

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