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Last Updated: 2010/07/17
Summary of question
Are there any guidelines in the Islamic sources about fashion and clothing?
question
Salamun alaikum, I have done bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing and I am thinking of what we can do practically to reduce the penchant and tendency towards Western fashions. Meanwhile, I would like to have some Islamic evidence or facts to rely upon when introducing our own Islamic clothing design and fashion to the young generation. I want them to adopt the Islamic clothing consciously and with knowledge of their religious teachings and values. Are there any guidelines in the Islamic sources about fashion and clothing? Can you provide me with some thematic information (relevant traditions) in this regard?
Concise answer

Although Islam lays great emphasis on spiritual modesty of human beings (clothing of piety), the outward clothing is also a bounty which God, the Exalted, has bestowed exclusively upon human beings out of various beings. For this reason, Islam attaches significant importance to it and it deals with it in elaborate manner. The religion of Islam has made various recommendations about clothing some of which we shall mention as under:

Taking the spiritual aspects into consideration in regards to clothing, moderate beauty, cleanness and tidiness, custom-based design without crossing the Shari’ah limits, not using fashions or designs which are somehow symbolically anti-religious,  not using clothes which are used by the enemies of God or dress of fame (which attract the attention and cause others to look at him/her contemptuously), diversity in the clothes and their being happy in order to use them for legal and permissible happy occasions, avoiding wastefulness in the cycle of production and consumption etc.

Detailed Answer

First of all, we will read and analyze the Quranic verses about clothing. Addressing human beings, the Quran says:

"يا بَني‏ آدَمَ قَدْ أَنْزَلْنا عَلَيْكُمْ لِباساً يُواري سَوْآتِكُمْ وَ ريشاً وَ لِباسُ التَّقْوى‏ ذلِكَ خَيْر"[1]

“O' children of Adam ! We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shameful parts, and (for) adornment, and the raiment of piety; that is the best."

Following this phrase, which refers to the outward clothing of people, the Qur'an stretches the discussion to the spiritual clothing. As the manner of the Qur'an is in many other instances, it combines these two aspects together, and says that the clothing of piety is better than that clothing.

Imam Baqir, peace be upon him, has interpreted ‘raiment of piety’ as modesty and shamefacedness. He underscores the importance of modesty as such: “A modest individual will guard his/her modesty even if he/she remains unclothed but one who is not modest, he/she will behave like the naked ones even if he/she has the outward clothing on.”[2]

Imam Sadiq, peace be upon him, has also interpreted the above verses as such: “The best adornment for a believing individual is the ‘raiment of divine piety’ and the most blessed clothing is the clothing of faith (iman).  As for this material clothing, (although it is not as important as the raiment of piety, it is) a bounty from God so that man’s shame and the vices of his body may be covered. It is a bounty which God has bestowed exclusively on mankind out of all other creatures. The believers also use the outward clothing as a means for promoting their spiritual causes. For this reason, the best covering is the clothing which does not distance you from God but it helps you remember, thank and obey him. Your clothing should not be of such a design or fashion as to make you take pride over others, or act hypocritically or show off to others and consider yourself better and superior over them because these are the qualities which deviate a person from the religion and make him stone-hearted. Thus, when you wear your clothes, remember God who concealed your sins through His mercy…”[3]

Based on the above, it can be said that what is more important than the clothing is the individual himself who dons it; it is his personality that is much crucial than the kind of dress he wears. However, despite that we should not become heedless of the type of dress we wear. Hence, based on what we said above and also on the verses and narrations existing in our sources, we will make mention of some of the qualities that suitable clothing should bear:

1. To remind us of God:

For instance, if it is found out that a particular type of dress has been worn by the Prophet (S) or the Infallible Imams (A.S.), we can wear such type of dresses to follow and remember them. Since remembering the Infallibles reminds us of the Lord, we can, therefore, remember God following this way. The narrations which prescribe a special kind of dresses can be evaluated in line with the same objective. Here is a narration from the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (A.S.) who said: “Wear cotton clothes because cotton was the Prophet’s dress and it is also a dress which we (the Ahlul-Bayt) use.”[4]

The fashion and clothe designers play an effective role in this regard. They can use their skill to design such clothes that would help maintain man’s spiritual relationship.  Of course, one should make sure that the use of religious symbols should not lead to desecration of those symbols.

2. The dress should be beautiful:

There is no objection to a dress being beautiful. There is no problem in using ornaments per se. God, the Almighty, says that one of the benefits of the seas or oceans is that you can extract ornaments such as pearls from them which you can use as ornaments on your clothes:

"وَ هُوَ الَّذي سَخَّرَ الْبَحْرَ لِتَأْكُلُوا مِنْهُ لَحْماً طَرِيًّا وَ تَسْتَخْرِجُوا مِنْهُ حِلْيَةً تَلْبَسُونَها"[5]

“And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear.”

In this regard, Imam Sadiq (A.S.) says: “Wear a dress and let it be a beautiful one, because God is Beautiful and He Loves beauty and make sure that your dress is made of halal money.”[6]

However, one should note that the tendency towards beauty which is a natural feeling with man should not make him go to extremes in the sense that he should not take pride over others, nor should he become arrogant. This aspect is in connection more or less with the personality features of the consumer rather than the producers of clothes but the clothe designers can help promote behavioral adjustment of the consumers by taking appropriate measures.

3. Tidiness and cleanness of clothes must be taken into consideration:

The Holy Prophet of Islam (S) said that every individual should think of the clothes which he has at his disposal.[7]

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) says in this regard: “A tidy cloth will seal the mouth of the enemy.”[8]

Although this is largely a consumer-related aspect goes,  the designer should present clothes whose beauty, exquisiteness and liveliness are not damaged by washing and cleaning.

4. Clothes should be designed in accordance with Shari’ah standards and society norms:

Hammad bin Uthman narrates: “I was in the company of Imam Sadiq (A.S.), and I saw a man addressing the Imam as such: “May Allah protect you, you yourself told us that Imam Ali (A.S) was wearing coarse and cheap clothes. Now, I  am seeing you wearing an expensive garment.?! The Imam replied: “When Ali (A.S.) was wearing those clothes at that time, no one would look at him with surprise, but today wearing those types of clothing would attract the attention (and cause others to look at you with contempt). Therefore, (as a general criterion), the best clothing for a period of time is the clothing which is in harmony with the norms of society and economic situation of people in that period.”[9]

5. It should not be an imitation of enemy clothes:

Ismail bin Muslim narrates from the sixth Imam (A.S.) that he said: “God revealed to one His prophets to tell the faithful not to wear the dress of His Enemy, or eat food in their way or follow their manner of living because otherwise the believers have, like my enemies, risen up against Me.”[10]

Of course, when it comes to distinguishing which kind of clothes is the symbol of the enemies, it depends on the time and custom. For instance, there was a time when black clothes were considered to be the clothes of the enemy but they are no longer considered as such. Now they are clothes worn for mourning their martyrdom. Another example is the coat and trouser (or pant suit) which is now being used all over the world and it is no longer considered a symbol of non-Muslims. For this reason, it can be concluded that there is no objection to wearing black clothes or pant suit which were prohibited in the past. On the contrary, now-a-days, there might be some other types of clothing or adornments which, if worn, would amount to following the enemies of Islam.

6. The design must not consist of bold designs which attract attention:

The tendency to look weird and odd emanates from an internal complex due to which a person cannot present himself through his knowledge, skill and proficiency. For this reason, he endeavors to attract others’ attention by displaying his outfits, machine, house etc. whereas there is no doubt that such a method severs only to degrade his moral personality in public eye. The sixth Imam, peace be upon him, says in this regard: “It would be enough for a person to show his weak personality, if he wears a dress or rides something which makes him look bold or odd”[11]

For example, the act of men using women’s dress or vice-versa is a kind of making oneself bold which the religious leaders have denounced.

Imam Sadiq (a.s.) was asked about an individual who while walking along the way dragged on his lap like bridegrooms. The Imam said: “I do not like to see a man making himself look like woman.”[12]

Of course, if there is something which is used by both man and woman (e.g. a black umbrella), there is no objection to both of them using it.

7. To use happy clothes for happy occasions:

Zurarah narrates that he saw Imam Baqir (A.S.) wearing a colored garment. The Imam said that he was wearing such a dress because of his marriage.[13]

8. One should avoid wastefulness in production and consumption:

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) does not consider having several sets of clothes as an act of wastefulness because in this case the clothes take long time to wear out.[14] But he considers an expensive dress (which one should wear on occasions) worn as everyday wear or for work clothe as an act of wastefulness.[15]

It is easy for human beings to distinguish the manifestations of wastefulness or thriftlessness which is imprudent or excessive expenditure or the waste of resources.

For example, when one wants to choose clothing from a wide range of clothes, he should choose clothes which are of good quality, fast color and durable. Perhaps, you can find other qualities of good clothing, if you go through Islamic sources. May Allah grant you success.

 

 


[1] - Al-A’raf, 26

[2] - Ali bin Ibrahim, Tafsir Al-Qommi, vol.1, p. 225 – 226, Dar al-Kitab Institute, Qom, 1404 A.H.

[3] -  Muhaddith Noori, Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol.3, p. 324 -325, hadith 3697, Aalulbayt Institute, Qom, 1408 A.H.

[4] - Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, Al-Kafi, vol.6, p. 446, hadith 4, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1365 (1986).

[5] - Nahl, 14

[6] - Al-Kafi, vol.6, p. 442, hadith 7.

[7] - Ibid, vol.6, p. 441, hadith 3.

[8] - Ibid, vol.6, p. 441, hadtih 1.

[9] - Ibid, vol.1, p. 411, hadith 4.

[10] - Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin Al-Hasan, Wasail al-Shi’ah, vol.4, hadith 5468, Aalul-Bayt Institute, Qom, 1409 A.H.

[11] - Al-Kafi, vol.6, p. 445, hadith 2.

[12] - Ibid, vol.6, p. 458, hadith 12.

[13] - Ibid, vo.6, p. 447, hadith 3.

[14] - Ibid, vol.6, p. 443, hadith 11.

[15] - bid, vol.6, p. 443, hadith 4

 

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