الحمد لله، الحمد لله الذي حفظ دينه بالعلماء، وأمرهم أن يبلغ علمهم للناس والجهلاء، وحذرهم من ثياب الشهرة والخُيَلاء، نحمده تعالى ونستعينه، ونشكره تعالى ونستغفره ونستغيثه، نعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا، من يهد الله فهو المهتد ومن يضلل فلن تجد له وليا مرشدا، ونشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له، له الملك و له الحمد، يحيي ويميت، بيده الخير، وهو على كل شيء قدير،  ونشهد أن سيدنا و مولانا محمداً عبده ورسوله، وحبيبه وصفيه، بلغ الرسالة وأدٌى الأمانة ونصح الأمة، النبي الأمي الذي أرسله الله بالهدى والدين الحق، بشيرا ونذيرا بين يدي الساعة، صلى الله عليه وسلم وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين. أما بعد! فيا عباد الله اتقوا الله حق تقاته ولا تموتن إلا وأنتم مسلمون. يأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله وقولوا قولا سديدا يصلح لكم أعمالكم ويغفر لكم ذنوبكم. ومن يطع الله ورسوله فقد فاز فوزا عظيما. اتقوا الله فيما أمر وانتهوا عما نها عنه وزجر. قال الله تعالى في كتابة الكريم إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الْإِسْلَامُ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِآَيَاتِ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ فَإِنْ حَاجُّوكَ فَقُلْ أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّهِ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِ

 

Allah says in His Noble Book, the translation of which is, “The only deen with Allah is Islam. Those given the Book only differed after the knowledge had come to them, envying one another. As for those who reject Allah’s Signs, Allah is swift at reckoning. If they argue with you, say, ‘I have submitted myself completely to Allah, and so have all who follow me.’” In this context, Islam is belief in and submission to the Creator, as is shown by the following ayat – “Say, ‘I have submitted myself fully – aslamtu wajhiya – to Allah.”

A deen is not a religion in the modern sense of the word – i.e. it is not limited to a particular form of faith or a series of rites and rituals. A deen is how you give form and structure to your life – how you plot your path through life. And there is but one acceptable way to do that – Islam – submitting yourself utterly to what you were created for, to your basic form – to the essence of what a human being is. Islam is the blueprint for how to live your life. And we need it because, unlike every other animal or creation, we took on the amāna, which was accompanied by the capacity to forget. All other creatures know who they are and how to be – rocks remain rocks, cows remain cows, but not man. He needs constant reminders, otherwise he forgets and loses contact with what makes him a man and becomes something else. Allah says,

أُوْلَائِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمُ أَضَلُّ

 

the translation of which is, “They are just like cattle – indeed, they are even more astray.” They are even further away from knowing who they are and acting accordingly. Hence, the Messengers bringing with them knowledge. Hence, the Sunna.

This legacy we have inherited is not a religion – it is not something you do or even something you believe – its purpose is to change who you are. To bring you back to your true form. But, today, we treat Islam as a religion and we view it in that light. We talk about religious observances, Islamic practices, what ‘Islam’ says about this or that. We judge people according to the presence or lack of outward religious symbology. We have turned Islam into an institution just like the Church. We have separated Islam from many of our day-to-day affairs, and use it simply as a guiding principle rather as a practical guide. We have separated education into religious and conventional, and we have established our own priesthood, with an implicit hierarchy of religiosity. But, in reality, our deen, has no imposed hierarchy – we have no priesthood, we have no rabbi class, we do not have brahmans or monks and nuns. No one is raised up in the eyes of Allah – or above his fellow men – simply by a title that is bestowed upon him or a function that he is performing. The only distinctions that are made are: on the basis of belief – the believer is not the same as the unbeliever; on the basis of taqwa – the greater a person’s taqwa, the more honour Allah confers upon him; on the basis of knowledge – those who know are not the same as those who do not know, and the greater a person’s knowledge, the higher his rank with Allah; and finally as a result of contracts and words and promises given – the upper hand is better than the lower hand, and you owe the leader your obedience because of your pledge to him.

The first of these, belief – imān, simply means that Muslims are afforded more rights than non-Muslims. They are at the top of the hierarchy in any healthy society. The second, taqwa, has no bearing on a person’s position in society as it is purely between him and Allah, and the only one who knows the contents of a person’s heart is He.

As for the third, knowledge, there is no doubt that it is a means to achieve status in this world as well as the Next, for it is only with knowledge that any society can hope to thrive and hope to survive. Can hope to achieve cooperation and unity. As Allah says in the aya we quoted above, “It was only after the knowledge had come that they differed” – i.e. after it had come and they had forgotten or perverted it.

But what people think today is ‘ilm – knowledge is not the same thing that it was – it is better called academia. The doorway to knowledge is and must be open to everyone, and you do not become part of a club or enter into a special stratum of society by achieving some arbitrary minimum level of knowledge or by completing some specified course. The university graduate may, in fact, have less knowledge that the one who has studied in his village and sat at the feet of his local teachers. The true extent of a person’s knowledge is difficult to determine or measure, and so to raise one person above another on its basis is no easy thing.

The problem we have today is that, too often, it is those scholars themselves – or their groupies – who seek to raise themselves up and who put themselves forward, whether through publicly proclaiming their grasp of knowledge or choosing to don a garb that differentiates them from the common folk. Knowledge is measured in words, not deeds, appearance and not substance. We have come to know our ulama by their appearance, by their flowing robes, luxuriant beards and Azhari turbans. It is those symbols that we look for and those symbols that we have come to trust, but in truth those symbols do little more than create a barrier between us and them and create a de facto priesthood in a deen that has never had one. And that priesthood increasingly comes to see knowledge as their exclusive domain and their purview and starts to look down upon the masses as as uneducated, inferior and ignorant. They close ranks and become isolated, and the more they do that, the less benefit they bring the people.

And anything, and I must repeat that, anything that takes knowledge away from the main body of the Muslims and makes it the plaything of the few is to be avoided. ‘Ulama – and I hate to use this term as if to categorise them as some special and separate category of people when in fact they are simply those amongst us to whom Allah has granted a degree of learning and understanding – ‘ulama should not take any steps, even if it is just wearing different clothes, if it takes them away from the people and causes them to become less accessible. Look at our uswa/ our model and example – the Messenger of Allah did not dress any differently to his Companions. Indeed, when a stranger entered the Mosque of the Prophet, and looked upon those present, he could not distinguish the Messenger from his Sahaba, so he was obliged to ask, “Which of you is Muhammad?” This was because there were no outward signs, no symbol, differentiating the Messenger from his Companions. Or look at ‘Umar when he made his famous trip to Jerusalem – no stranger who saw him on the road could tell him apart from his slave – they dressed the same.

And this continued to be the way among the people of knowledge of the past. The Maliki ulama made it a rule that they dress in the customary garb of their land and not differentiate themselves by their clothing from the people of their locale. To do so, they concluded, was to set themselves apart from the people and therefore to do something reprehensible and blameworthy. Ibn Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah said,

 

من لبس ثوب شهرة في الدنيا ألبسه الله ثوب مذلة يوم القيامة

 

“Anyone who wears clothes of fame in this world, Allah will make him wear clothes of humiliation on the Day of Rising.” When explaining what was meant by ‘thawb shuhra’ – clothes of fame, Ibn al-Athīr said,

 

المراد أن ثوبه يُشتهَر بين الناس لمخالفته لونه لألوان ثيابهم فيرفع الناسُ إليه أبصارَهم

 

“It means that his clothing is such that it becomes well-known among the people on account of its being different in colour or type from theirs, thereby drawing people’s gazes to them.” When the famous Maliki scholar, al-Ḥārith ibn Miskīn was appointed qadi of Egypt in 237 AH, and was instructed to wear the black robes of state by the khalif al-Mutawakkil, he refused to do so, not wanting to wear something that set him apart from the people. Even when the khalif threatened to whip him in public if he did not comply, he said, “No, I do not want to start such a precedent.” He recognised the inherent danger in such a step, and that danger is that people start to associate the clothes with the office and so cease to look beyond the clothes, automatically trusting whoever is wearing those clothes without knowing anything more about them and whether they actually possess knowledge or not. The outward symbols of knowledge become more important than the knowledge itself.

And when that clothing represents an entire institution, such as the Azhari cap, then it removes personal responsibility and corporatises knowledge, and makes the issuing of fatwas no longer the heavy weight on a scholar’s shoulders that it once was, forcing to examine the issue thoroughly and from all directions, but something much easier given that it is not your name primarily associated with the fatwa but that of the institution you represent. So, instead of hearing of such-and-such a fatwa from such-and-such a scholar, we now hear of fatwas issued by the Azhar or the MJC or or the Jamiat al-Ulama or the Muslim council of Britain or this organisation or that, much like we used to hear of edicts passed by the church.

This issue of clothing is not one that is limited to the ulama – it has become symptomatic of many of our Muslim men and women that they feel obliged to wear what has come to be termed as ‘Islamic garb’, and feel that doing so is somehow incumbent on them. And so you see young Muslim men – and even sometimes young children – walking through the streets of London wearing a thawb and white cap, or young Muslim women traversing the thoroughfares of Washington in black niqab , thereby drawing the gaze of every passerby towards them. They set themselves apart from the societies in which they live, and say by their appearance to those around them, “Look at me, I am Muslim.” They segregate themselves and cause the peoples of those lands to view Islam as something foreign and alien.

This was not the example of the Messenger of Allah and his Companions. He did not discard the clothing of the people of Makka and create his own clothing style. He did not tell people when they became Muslim that they had to change their clothes and don a particular uniform. The only way that the clothing of his community differed from those about him was that they were more careful to maintain their modesty and avoid arrogance. As an example of this, let us look at the famous hadith always quoted to us by those young men who talk a lot about bid’a. Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet said,

من جر ثوبه خيَلاءَ لم ينظرِ الله إليه يوم القيامة.

 

“Whoever lets his clothes drag on the floor out of arrogance, Allah will not look at him on the Day of Rising.” This is always understood by them to mean that it is categorically forbidden for a man to wear any garment that extends beyond his ankles, but the length of the garment is not the point of the hadith, the arrogance is. It is forbidden when it is done deliberately to show off to other people and broadcast the message that you can afford to ruin your clothes in that way because you are so wealthy, you can simply discard it and put on another one. This is proven by the continuation of the hadith.

 

فقال أبو بكر: إن أحد شَقَّيْ إزاري يسترخِي إلا أن أتعاهدَ ذلك منه. فقال: إنك لست ممن يفعل ذلك خيَلاء

 

“Abu Bakr said, ‘One of the two edges of my izār sometimes drags along the ground without my noticing.’ So the Prophet said, ‘But you are not one of those who does it out of arrogance.’” The rule regarding how clothing was to be worn was simply to avoid arrogance. Similarly, the rule regarding the hijab is simply to maintain modesty and ensure that the full awra/the full private area of a person is covered. It does not require a person to wear a particular shape of head scarf or a particular colour.

Similarly, clothing should avoid attracting undue attention, because then you are encouraging others to wrong action, for it makes it all the more difficult for them to avert their gaze. So, whatever clothing has the opposite effect should be avoided on that basis. And there is no doubt that overtly so-called Islamic garb in lands that have their own form of dress has that effect, and attracts the gaze of both men and women. It causes fitna and arouses feelings of anger and resentment in the local non-Muslim population. It is antagonistic. You wouldn’t walk with your wallet and mobile phone out and in full view of everyone while you are in a dangerous neighbourhood full of thieves and cutpurses, so why do that with your clothes. It creates an us-and-them mentality that brings only harm on the Muslim community, not benefit. So we must avoid that, and avoid differentiating ourselves on such a basis from those in the societies in which we live. We want to attract them to Allah, not repel them. We only differentiate ourselves by our character and our adherence to the Commands of Allah, not by meaningless symbology. So don the libāsu-t-taqwa, clothe yourself in fearful awareness of Him, clothe yourself in belief in Allah and His Messenger, and adherence to His Commands and prohibitions. That is the clothing that will be of benefit to you in this world and the Next.

 

أقول قولي هذا وأستغفر الله لي ولكم ولسائر المسلمين من كل ذنب فاستغفروه إنه هو الغفور الرَّحيم.

 

الحمد لله الحمد لله رب العالمين، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وأشهد أن محمداً عبده ورسوله، صلى الله وسلم وبارك عليه وعلى آله وصحبه، والتابعين وتابعي التابعين ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين. أما بعد! فيأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا الله ما استطعتم واسمعوا وأطيعوا وأنفقوا خيرا لأنفسكم. يا عباد الله أوصيكم وإياي بتقوى الله وطاعته وأحذركم وإياي عن معصيته ومخالفته.

 

The other great outward symbol of religiosity is the beard. Often, the longer the beard, the more religious a man is seen to be, and woe betide any Muslim man who does not have one. Such men are considered in certain circles to be beyond the pale. Sometimes people attach such importance to the beard that their entire first judgement as to the worth of a man is determined by its length. They see a clean-shaven person and immediately dismiss him as having any level of deen, but they see a long flowing beard and say, “Mashallah, what a great man of Allah.” All other considerations – good character, noble bearing etc. – are thrown by the wayside. An example of this happened in this very mosque a few years back when the imam came in to the mosque before the customary time for the iqāma – as you know the iqama is usually called ten minutes after the adhan – to find someone who he had never before seen in the mosque had taken his place as imam and already completed the prayer. The prayer was completed before the time of the iqama. So he went up to the man to asked him, “By what right did you take the prayer?” The man, who happened to have a long beard and be wearing a thawb, replied that , “I asked one of the men present and he gave me permission. And anyway, you are not fit to be imam because your beard is not long enough!” Then, he turned to one of the congregation and exclaimed in a loud voice, “Who looks more like an imam? Me or him?”.

This might be amusing if it were not so commonplace. This mindset that gives priority to symbol over substance, that focuses on the superficial and ignores the true core of the deen, is today almost everywhere. So, it is of little wonder that the mu‘āmalāt of the deen have been left on the shelf and zakat has been abandoned as a pillar when our focus and energy is devoted on such non-issues.

The truth of the matter is that the presence of the beard and the length of the beard are not as important as has been made out. It is more a question of ‘urf, of custom, than anything else. The original purpose was to differentiate Muslim men from Persian fire-worshippers who all wore their facial hair in one particular way and differentiate them from women. The Messenger of Allah said,

 

جزوا الشوارب وأرخوا اللِّحَى وخالفوا المجوس

 

“Trim your moustache and let your beard grow – be different to the Magians.” And it is reported that,

 

لعن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المتشبهين من الرجال بالنساء، والمتشبهات من النساء بالرجال‏

 

“The Messenger of Allah said that men who make themselves look like women and women who make themselves look like men are cursed.” Let men be men, and women be women, not a confusing mix of both. The beard was the best way to achieve this, for women cannot – generally-speaking – grow them.

As for length, the best length was determined by what was seen as the norm in that society for a well-groomed man. While the Prophet was sitting in the mosque, a man came in with wildly disheveled hair and unkempt beard, so the Prophet commanded that man to leave and tidy himself up. When he came back looking well-groomed, the Prophet said,

 

أليس هذا خيرا من أن يأتيَ أحدُكم ثائر الرأس كأنه شيطان

 

“Is this not better than one of you coming with his head – i.e. hair and beard – wild and disheveled, looking like a Shaytan?” On this basis, the ulama of the madhhab of Malik preferred shorter well-groomed beards to longer ones that look untidy. The important thing is to look well and not repel others by your appearance, and the matter has nothing to do with the degree of your taqwa. It is not your clothes and beard that you will be questioned about when you go before your Lord, but your heart and your action. As the Prophet said in the famous hadith,

 

إن الله لا ينظر الى أجسامكم ولا إلى صوركم ولكن ينظر إلى قلوبكم وأعمالكم

 

“Allah does not look at your bodies nor your forms but rather at your hearts and your actions.” We ask Allah to make us people of substance and not superficiality, and make us Muslim in the truest sense of the word.

 

إِنَّ اللهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ، يَا أَيُهَا الذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً.

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ وَبَارِكْ عَلَيْهِ وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ  أَجْمَعِينَ. وَارْضَ اللَّهُمَّ عَنِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ وَعُثْمَانَ وَعَلِيٍّ، وعن أم المومنين عائشة التي أمرنا الله في سورة النور أن ندافع عنها، وَعَنْ سَائِرِ الصَّحَابَةِ أَجْمَعِينَ، خُصُوصاً اِلأَنْصَارَ مِنْهُمْ وَالمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَعَنِ التَّابِعِينَ وَتَابِعِي التَّابِعِينَ وَمَنْ تَبِعَهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ إِلَى يَوْمِ الدِّينِ. اللَّهُمَّ اهْدِ وُلَاةَ أُمُورِ المُسْلِمِينَ لِمَا يُرْضِيكَ وَلِاتِّبَاعِ سُنَّةِ نَبِيِّكَ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَهُمْ عَلَى الصِّرَاطِ المُسْتَقِيمِ، وَأَصْلِحْهُمْ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ. اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى شَيْخِنَا، وَعَلَى أَمِيرِنَا، وَعَلَى جَمِيعِ أُمَرَاءِ وَزُعَمَاءِ المُسْلِمِينَ. اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى المُسْلِمِينَ فِي هَذِهِ المَدِينَةِ، وَوَفِّقْهُمْ لِمَا تُحِبُّهُ وَتَرْضَاهُ يَا أَكْرَمَ الأَكْرَمِينَ. اللَّهُمَّ أَعِزَّ الإِسْلَامَ وَالمُسِْلمِينَ، وَاخْذُلِ الْكُفْرَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ، وَانْصُرِ المُجَاهِدِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ. وَاجْعَلْ كَلِمََتَكَ هِيَ العُلْيَا وَكَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ هِيَ السُّفْلَى. رَبَّنَا ءَاتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقَِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ. إِنَّ اللهَ يَامُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَى، وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ، يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَّكَّرُونَ، وَلَذِكْرُ اللهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ. وَقُومُواْ إِلَى صَلاتِكُمْ يَرْحَمُكُمُ اللهُ