(Chapter 25)

The distinguishing characteristics of the nation Islam

It is essential for Muslims to be distinguished from the followers of other religions and cultures. Muslims should be recognizable from their external appearances. External appearance is among the salient features of Islam. In such external appearance, the identity of the nation is maintained and Muslims are guarded against assimilation into other non-Muslim cultures. Islam thus stresses the importance of external appearances.

Islam prohibits unnecessary adoption of the ways and appearances of other nations. Certain acts which eliminate a Muslim’s identity are haraam even if they are not the special characteristics of other communities. Thus, shaving or cutting the beard, wearing shorts which expose part of the satr, etc., are completely forbidden. If a Muslim along with the adoption of such haraam ways despises or mocks at such Shari prohibitions, his act of transgression progresses from sin to kufr.

Then there are certain things which are not exclusive to any particular community. The adoption of such things will be permissible. If a form of dress is particular with a non-Muslim community, it will be sinful for Muslims to adopt such dress even if the Shari requirements in regard to satr concealment are fulfilled by such attire. Another example of prohibited imitation is to eat sitting at tables with knives and forks. This way of conduct in eating. Therefore, it will not be permissible to adopt the ways of non-Muslims in this regard even if such ways have no religious undertones. If the ways adopted from kufr are of religious import as well, then it will amount to kufr, e.g. wearing a cross, etc.

Then there are such things which are of neither religious nor cultural import. Such things are of real use and benefit. Even if such things are the inventions of the kuffaar, there will be noting wrong in adopting them. This applies to inventions of transport, communications, weapons and other items of benefit. However, in such matters, the layman should not determine to permissibility or prohibition of anything. He should obtain the advice and direction of the Ulama who will properly inform him.

It is also prohibited to adopt the ways and appearances of such Muslims who happen to be fussaaq and bid’atis. It is also prohibited for men to take on the attire and appearance of women and vice versa.

Some Qur’aanic aayaat and Ahadith on this subject will now be cited.

1. Allah Ta’ala says:

“Shaitaan said: ‘I will teach them to ruin the appearance made by Allah.” (Surah Nisaa)

Examples of ruining the appearances bestowed onto us by Allah Ta’ala are shaving the beard, tattooing, Certain changes pertain to adornment and are waajib (compulsory), e.g. clipping of the moustache, cutting nails, removal of the hairs below the naval and under the arms Other changes are permissible, e.g. for a man to shave the hair on his head, to cut the beard after it had exceeded a fist-length, etc. Such permissible ways of adornment are decided on by the Shariah and not by custom. Custom is not on par with Shariah. Furthermore, customs is subject to change with the times and attitudes of people, but not so the Shariah.

2. Allah Ta’ala says:

“Do not incline to the transgressors-for then the Fire will touch you.” (Surah Hood)

The Qur’aan prohibits Muslims from inclining (or adopting) to the ways, cultures and customs of the kuffaar. Inclining towards them is punishable by the Fire of Jahannum as is stated in the above aayaat. It is evident that if one adopts a culture or the ways of a particular people, it will be because of one’s pleasure for such ways and customs. The heart having inclined towards the aliens, adopts their ways which it finds pleasing and attractive. But, Islam forbids its followers to incline towards the transgressors and the kuffaar.

3. Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Amr Bin A’s (radiallahu anhu) narrates that once he had on him two garments which were dyed a saffron colour. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) commented:

“These are among the attire of the kuffaar. Do not wear these.” (Muslim)

Such bright coloured garments are not permissible for men.

4. Hadhrat Rukaanah (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“The turban tied on top of a topi is a differentiating factor between the mushrikeen and us.” (Tirmizi)

Wearing of turbans is common to both Muslims and non-Muslims The Islamic aversion for imitation of non-Muslims is so great that it considered it necessary to create a difference in the wearing of the turban even if such difference was not visibly discernable. Hence, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) ordered Muslims who donned the turban to have a topi on as well. The turban will be tied on top of the topi.

5 Hadhrat Ibn Umar (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Whoever imitates a nation (in its way and culture) becomes one of them,” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood)
If a Muslim adopts the appearance of the kaafir and faasiq, he will be associated with them in the sin.

6. Hadhrat Abu Raihaanah (radiallahu anhu) narrates that once Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) prohibited ten things. Among these ten things prohibited was to line garments with silk in the style of the non-Muslims (of that time). (Abu awood, Nisaai)

7. Hadhrat Ibn Abbaas (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Allah curses those men who adopt the appearances of women and those women who adopt the appearances of men.” (Bukhari)

8. Hadhrat Ibn Abi Mulaikah (radiallahu anhu) narrates that it was said to Aishah (radiallahu anha) that a certain woman wears shoes which resemble the shoes of men. Hadhrat Aishah (radiallahu anha) commented:

“Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has cursed women who imitate men. (Abu Dawood)

Such imitation is greatly in vogue in our day. In such imitation is a double sin. One sin is the imitation of the opposite sex which in itself is prohibited. The other sin is the imitation of the kuffaar by adopting their styles and fashions of dress.

9. Hadhrat Hajjaj Bin Hassaan (radiallahu anhu) narrates:

“We went to meet Hadhrat Anas (the prominent Sahaabi; on this occasion Hajjaaj was a little boy). My sister Mugheera told me that at that time I was a little kid and I had two plaits on my head, Hadhrat Anas (radiallahu anhu) rubbed his hand over my head, made dua for barkat and said:

‘Cut off these plaits because this is the style of the Jews.’ (Abu Dawood)

10. Hadhrat Aamir Bin Sa’d (radiallahu anhu) narrating from his father says that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Maintain clean the are a infront of your houses and do not imitate the Jews.” (Tirmizi)

11. Hadhrat Ibn Umr (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Allah curses the woman who adorns the hair (of others by means of adding hair) and the one who desires such adornment of hair, those who tattoo and who are tattoed.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Adorning hair by the addition of hairs for women is mentioned in this hadith. If the hair added is human hair, such adornment will be haraam in all, cases. If the hair is artificial and has not been made from some haraam or impure substances, it will be permissible for a married woman to resort to such adornment with the permission of her husband and for the sake of her husband. But such adornment will not be permissible for unmarried women because in presenting an artificial appearance with long hair is deception. She will be deceiving others.

Tattooing is forbidden in all circumstances.

13. Hadhrat Ali (radiallahu anhu) narrates that once Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) had an Arabian cross-bow in his hand. On this occasion Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) saw a cross-bow of Persian origin in the hands of a Muslim. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) commented:

“Throw it (the Persian bow) away and take one like this (Arabian bow) ….” (Ibn Majah)

From this command of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) it is apparent that the objects-of use of other nations should not unnecessarily be adopted. This applies to weapons and all other items of use and benefit. If Muslims have their own equivalent, they should make use of their own products and not give preference to the products of the non-Muslims.

14. Hadhrat Huzaifah (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Recite the Qur’aan in Arabic style and tone (i.e. correct and with simplicity) and refrain from the style and tone of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians…..)” (Baihaqi)

Even in reciting, the ways of other nations and of people who do not follow the Shariah should not be imitated.

16. Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Amr Ibnul A’s (radiallahu anhu) narrates that he heard Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) say:

“A woman who imitates men and a man who imitates women are not of us.” (Targheeb)

It is very essential that Muslim adopt Islamic ways and methods in all their affairs, whether worldly or Deeni. There is great benefit in Muslims maintaining their Islamic identity in all their affairs and not only in matters pertaining to worship. The Qur’aan and the Hadith emphasise this. Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Umar (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“My Ummah will be split into seventy three sects of which all, save one, will be in the Fire.”

People enquired: “Which group will be saved (from fire)?

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied:

“That group which will be on my path and the path of my Sahaabah.” (Tirmizi)

‘Path’ in the context of this hadith refers to the way which has to be followed. Following a way in opposition to it leads to Jahannum. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) did not restrict his ‘Path’ to any specific department of the Shariah. This hadith covers both mundane and spiritual matters. Affairs pertaining to our worldly life as well as Deeni life are included in the Path of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and his Sahaabah. What actually constitutes the Path of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)? This is not a question which everyone can expound on the basis of his opinion. In this matter, the masses have no option other than enquiring from the Ulama who understand these issues. They have to follow the Ulama. Without following the direction given by the Ulama, the Deen of the masses is not safe.

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