[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Stanger Masjid, South Africa on Jul 12, 2015]
[Audio is available here]
وَٱلَّذِينَ جَـٰهَدُواْ فِينَا لَنَہۡدِيَنَّہُمۡ سُبُلَنَاۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَمَعَ ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ
As for those who strive in Our way, We will certainly take them onto Our paths, and indeed Allah is with those who are good in deeds. [29:69]
It is a wonder of Allah swt that in just 5 days of sitting in i’tikaf together, we are beginning to feel like a family. May Allah swt accept this from us.
We have talked about it’tiba e sunnat, kathrat e dhikr and last night we have also spoken a lot about Shaykh. There are a couple of other things that I want to tell you today. One is specifically about it’tiba e sunnah. A lot of people ask this question, so tonight I want to more openly talk about this topic than perhaps other mashaikh do.
Q. Now that I am bayah, do I have to wear a particular type of clothing? Do I have to wear the exact same clothes and turban that my Shaykh wears?
First thing to remember is that there are levels of Sunnah. One is the Sunnah that jurists talk about: Sunnah Mu’qaddah and Sunnah Ghair Mu’qaddah. Sunnah mu’qaddah in Hanafi Fiqh was the Sunnah that was so regularly practised by Nabi sws that it is frowned upon if you leave it. Sunnah Ghair Mu’qaddah was that Sunnah which was not regularly practised. Therefore if a person wants they can do it, and if a person wants they can leave it.
On the path of tasawwuf, especially our Mashaikh e Naqshband, place a lot of focus on Sunnah Mu’qaddah. You have to understand here that our Mashaikh have a lot experience in training people in coming close to Allah swt. They have experienced that when a person has Sunnah Ghair Mu’qaddah, that also gives them a lot of qurb of Allah swt. Now the discussion is out of Fiqh.
Like in an exam you have an extra credit question. One way to look at it is that it is extra credit (optional). Another way to look at it is that I will get some points. So Sunnah Ghair Mu’qaddah, nafl these are all extra credit. But the saalik, person on the path of tasawwuf, says that I need points. The whole purpose of tasawwuf is to get more points for qurb of Allah swt. It does not make it fard. This is the reason you will find that many of the people of tasawwuf have these extra things.
On Outer Aspects of Sunnah Dressing
Let’s start with dress specifically of men.
Double Covering of Satr. The definition of satr brings about the concept dressing. First is what I call the double covering of your satr i.e. navel to knee. There is an upper and lower garment, they both cover the satr. You don’t just want to cover the skin but the shape also.
Imagine if tomorrow I come out for the bayan with a skin tight shirt till navel and a skin tight lower from navel till feet, how will you feel? Awkward, right? So we want the shape to be covered.
The double covering criteria can be fulfilled in different ways. Some people go for baggy clothes. If you are a doctor, you can wear a long lab coat. It is just double covering. You don’t want to show up in pants and shirt in the masjid, from saalik’s perspective, why would you do it?
When you come home, when you go to work, you can easily follow the Sunnah dressing. There is an over obsession with the western clothes. They even tuck the shirt in if it is a bit long. It is like they are going against Sunnah. A few of you might work corporate jobs, or in labs, yes you may have an official dress code to follow. But the rest of you who have your own businesses, or are students, then there is no excuse for you to not wear the sunnah dress. I am not giving you a fatwah. As a fatwah that’s 100% jaiz.
You have double covering because that will bring you closer to Allah swt. You should think that I want the clothes that bring me close to Allah swt. You eat with your right hand, even though it is is jaiz to eat with your left hand. But you will not leave eating from right hand. Similarly, saying Alhamdulillah after sneezing is Sunnah Ghair Mu’qaddah, but you do say it when you sneeze. All the duas are Ghair mu’qaddah.
If you come up with a philosophy that I will not do whatever is Ghair mu’qaddah, then so much of deen will be lost, you will not even recognize deen anymore. The same way you do all of these other Ghair mu’qaddah, then we only put as much importance on ghair m’uqaddah dressing as other things.
If you have to do the corporate dressing, then from tasawwuf I will allow you, but you should see it as a uniform. You should wear Sunnah clothing all the other time. You have to show Allah swt that I do want it, I just did the corporate dressing to the extent it was necessary.
Length of the Upper Garment. Second Sunnah is how long should the upper garment be? It should be high enough so ankle is uncovered. Is it haram? No. Is it from makruhat tehreemi or tanzeehi? You can read great arguments on it.
Nabi sws says that do not lower your garment out of pride. Some people might say that I am not proud so it is okay if I lower the garment. But think about it. When Nabi sws said this hadith, all Sahaba ra except for Hadrat Abu Bakr ra were present and they raised their garments. Will you say they had pride?
Even if you say that they had pride, then how can you say you do not have it? Hadrat Abu Bakr ra did not know so he was extremely worried when he found out. Nabi sws consoled him that it is okay, you did not know so it was not out of pride. It means that once you know, and you still do not follow, that will be out of pride.
When the time of death of Syedna Umar ra was near, he made sure to raise his lower garment. Reverse motion is that you knew this is something that would bring you closer to Allah swt and you still don’t do it. Those who have to wear pants, they can wear matching socks of the pants’ colour and raise it 1 inch above the normal length. And in 99.9% corporate jobs, you will not be fired for doing this. In America, you can even sue for discrimination if they do so.
It is preferred that the upper garment reaches up till mid calf or after mid calf, but in any case it should stop before ankle. You should be vary of really long, flowy garments.
Colour of Dress. There is a hadith of Nabi sws that you should wear white and bury your people in white. I have never seen any shroud in any colour except white. Even though it is completely jaiz to bury people in another colour. It is amazing that there is just one hadith on both these matters, people are steadfast about the second part of it but not first.
It is 100% jaiz to wear other colours. But if you wear white because of Sunnah, then Allah swt will grant you more qurb. As Nabi sws has said in a hadith: verily actions are based on intentions.
If someone says I have so many sins and I want to get closer to Allah swt. This is the easiest way to get the closeness of Allah swt. What difference does it make to you what colour of clothes you are wearing? Once a person gave me white socks and white shoes, I said this is too much. Even I thought it was a lot. But I still kept it.
Some may have this confusion that we know for sure that Nabi sws wore clothes of colours other than white also, then which colour is Sunnah?
Nabi sws would sometimes, in different matters, deliberately do something differently than the usual way. This was done so that the ummah does not think it is fard. To make sure the ummah knows white is not fard, Nabi sws sometimes wore other colours as well. But to make sure the Ummah knew white is preferable, Nabi sws said so verbally, through the hadith. This is called qauli and faili hadith.
If you are worried that by wearing white you may also give the impression that other colours are not allowed, then you can always wear accessories of other colours over your clothes. When you stop wearing white accessories, it will show that clearly white is not required. Like I am wearing a sweater that is not white.
Colour of Shoes. If you want to know what colour of shoes would be closer to sunnah, they probably had natural leather back then so they would have been brown at that time. This is just my understanding.
Collar and Cuff. Beyond that sometimes people talk about collar and cuff. In India and Pakistan, ulema were against the collar, because before British there was no collar, and after British there was collar. So they are against it for that reason.
I cannot say if Nabi sws had a collar on his garments or not. Same thing about the cuff. If a person wants to avoid unnecessary embellishment then they can avoid these two. For example, fancy cufflinks on a white garment; white is giving the impressing of simplicity, so it does not go well together. I do not wear collar or cuff myself, it is just my personal preference so I cannot tell you what is required.
No. of buttons. Usually odd numbers are preferred so one may have odd number of buttons. Imam nawawi rah left 2 clothings and they were both one buttoned. Because of this reason some prefer to have one-buttoned garments. That is also fine. The important thing is the intention. If you go deep in it for the wrong reason – wrong reason is I wear one button, the one who wears more is wrong. Right intention is that I want to experience and check for myself.
Head covering. A simple head covering is called a cap or topi. There are books on it, and evidence that Nabi sws had his head covered almost all the time and you can see that this Sunnah has spread throughout the ummah. If you see something that is so widespread, it gives the impression that people adopted it as a Sunnah.
There is a hadith: The difference between our turban and that of Jews is that we wrap our turban around a cap and they do not do so. They just wear a cap now, but orthodox Jews leave the turban unwrapped, so they have left and right tails hanging, representing the things for imama of Musa as.
Nabi sws wore turban. This is clearly established. Our mashaikh are very firm on it because it is definitely a Sunnah. Like no. of buttons, collar/cuff we are not sure about, but this is absolutely sure. Our way of our silsila has it’teba e sunnah as one of the ways to come closer to Allah swt.
Colour of turban. Last phsysical aspect is the colour of turban. White and black are two colours for turban. Some ulema have different preferences. Ahsanal fatawah is a book written by my own teacher saying that it is Sunnah to wear white turban. Others have suggested brown and green colours as well. There are varying sayings on the length also; 3″ 5″ 7″ 11″ etc. Our mashaikhs’ way was that all of these lengths have a possibility of being sunnah so they would choose from amongst these, as opposed to taking any other length which did not have a possibility of being Sunnah.
Amount of clothing to have. There was a time of zuhd when people would have only 3 sets of clothing; one they wear when the second was dirty, and the third was as a backup. I do not practice that myself, and don’t encourage you to do so either. You can have as many sets as you wear. If you have 50 sets and you only wear 15 regularly, then it means you have extra. You can give them away. If you like to wear 10 different types of colours of sweaters then that is fine, avoid israf however.
Slits of kurta. This is a very touchy issue. Some say that with slits sometimes the double covering is finished, but not having slits gives a person double covering. Slits or not, this is not a qurb issue. I have told you the issues that are to do with qurb. I have told you about the things you can do in dressing that is preferable to Allah swt.
Prophet sws would wear sleepwear there are some ahadith about that.
Lower garment. The lower garment that Nabi sws wore was a wrap. For many people it is difficult to wear that. Some people might not tie it properly, and then they might get in a sticky situation. Nabi sws received a shalwar. He praised and accepted it. If someone wants to wear a lungi for it being closer to Sunnah more, then they will get qurb inshaAllah. One must make sure that navel till knee must be covered in every situation.
We have witnessed our mashaikh wear a romaal (scarf) on the shoulders, but I have not come across a hadith about this yet. But then again, I am not a hafidh of hadith.
Spirit of Sunnah Dressing
Never over exaggerate it. Do not make it required. Do not look down on people who have a practice of dressing different from you, whether it is Sunnah or not. You are doing this for your own closeness to Allah swt.
Imagine a shopkeeper and for days no one has come by his shop. And one day someone buys just one candy from his shop, he gets happy even on that because he is desperate. We are desperate like that shopkeeper.
All of sunnah following should be done for Allah swt. The major problem is not this one, but more prevalent problem is that we should not look down at others. Don’t look down on an alim if he wears a turban. For some of you it is very heavy and I do understand. But I’m speaking openly.
Some people out of love for Shaykh, just start copying the Shaykh. This is permissible. This can lead to a problem, however, again if the person falls in that superiority complex. If he starts comparing himself to other students and think of himself being better than them because of what he wears. If you do this then you are very astray. The only thing to be better in is that you do more dhikr, you lower gaze more etc. That’s the way to be better i.e. be a better Muslim.
There are cases where you are required to wear different clothing like in swimming. Definitely cover your satr in all cases and choose a big baggy thing to hide your shape. It is halal but again the etiquettes of haya means you should not want to show the shape. When Sahaba ra rode horses maybe they wore shorter tops wallahu aalam. If a worker thinks that if I wear baggy clothes, it will get stuck in machinery then you can accordingly temporarily change your clothing.
Generally deen prefers taharat. Especially when wearing sunnah you want to present clothes in a good way. If you have money then make new clothing, remove stains, make sure your clothes are unwrinkled. Once a person critiqued me saying he is not a real sufi because his clothes are not wrinkled.
This was just to answer why some Shaykh may wear a turban, why some don’t. Why mashaikh dress in a particular way and why some murids may also wear same clothes as mashaikh.
Explanation of Methodology of Naqshband Silsila
Four of them remain the same throughout life. In muraqaba there are different lessons. These lessons were designed by Hazrat Muhammad Bahauddin Shah Naqshband and till 35 by Imam Rabbani Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi rah. The first lessons involve focusing on Allah swt’s name. The first lesson is to make dhikr from your spiritual heart. There are 6 other ways of doing that. Lesson 8 and 9 are about doing dhikr of la ilaha illallah.
In our method of training of dhikr, you can do any of the Sunnah dua, except la ilaha illallah because we would prefer you do this dhikr after first 7 lessons. [One may do it as a tasbeeh before but not as a lesson]. Other Sunnah adhkar, you can do them all. We do not need to do so much to learn dhikr of the tongue, as much as of the heart. Shaykh has made 40 Sunnah adhkar and you can keep doing them for now so so you can spend more time on muraqaba.
From lesson 10 onwards all the way to 35, there is no dhikr of Allah’s name or of la ilaha. These lessons are called lessons of fikr, tafakkur. You do tafakkur on maybe on attributes of Allah swt; the way Allah swt interrelates with the creation; the way Allah swt sends down His mercy.
Also understand all 35 lessons are necessary for tazkiyah. Basic core tazkiyah takes place till lesson number 17. After that the person gets marafah; more love and more qurb of Allah swt. And doing all 35 lessons is very rare.
But however every salik should intend to do all of them. On an average, it takes 15-20 years. WHO said you have a life expectancy of 72 so you don’t have to worry! Those who have more Sunnah, taqwah, more ilm, more dawah can cover it much quickly. Those who have a lot of taqwah, for them it is a matter of a few years.
Some people think I’ll just do bayah and that’s it. No it is a path. It is a step by step training.
وَٱذۡكُر رَّبَّكَ فِى نَفۡسِكَ
Remember your Lord in your heart [7:206]
Remember Me inside your self. In one sense, self means nafs. But nafs also means your ownself. Like:
إِنَّكُمۡ ظَلَمۡتُمۡ أَنفُسَڪُم
You have wronged yourselves [2:54]
Zalamtum anfusakum does not mean you did zulm on nafs, you did zulm on your own self. Inside myself is my batin. Mashaikh said we will look in Qur’an and see what has Allah swt mentioned in Quran about batin. They found that Allah swt has used these words in Qur’an: qalb, ruh, nafs, sirr, akhfa.
They found that there is something in us called khafi and something called sirr. Sometimes a person may think I don’t have greed anymore; that I do not like shopping. One day he goes to the mall and starts looking, just window shopping. Even though he has done tawbah from tv, he checks them out at the store and thinks that let me go check what is new in the technologies. It means he still has some materialism. Where was it in him all this time? It was in his sirr; it was secret. Allah swt says:
أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَعۡلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ
Allah knows what they conceal [2:77]
He knows what they hide in their sirr. So if we have these things in our innerself, then we better purify that. It’s the same method of purifying with the dhikr of Allah swt’s name. As far as qalb goes, method is dhikr. There is a hadith that everything has a polish and the polish of heart is dhikr. We use same polish on every other part of ruh (through qiyas). Make dhikr of Allah swt’s name and focus on name so everything goes out of focus.
Second lesson is latifah ruh: intention is exactly the same that Allah swt I want to remember you such that I forget everything else. I want to go so deep in my ruh to remember you, you send noor and mercy on my ruh and my intention is that my ruh is calling your name. We just changed qalb’s name with ruh. Everything else is the same.
Second difference is in where these things are located. Spiritual heart is inside the physical heart, all men know where their heart is. Spiritual heart is on the outer left side. Where is ruh? Allah swt says in Qur’an:
أَلَمۡ نَشۡرَحۡ لَكَ صَدۡرَكَ
Have We not caused your bosom to be wide open for you? [94:1]
In Qur’an it is sadr that gets deen of islam. Allah swt expands the breast of the person for deen and they are on the noor. Angel Jibrael (as) took something out of the breast of Nabi sws before miraj. If someone was to lose their limbs they will still live because life is here in the breast.
Mashaikh, because they were great Awliyah Ullah and did hours upon hours of dhikr, they got idrak; experience. They became aware of dhikr of Allah’s name. When they made intention of dhikr of first lesson, they got awareness for the second lesson. From second lesson they had an awareness of the dhikr on the third lesson. When they focused there, it opened up even more.