Hadith of Isbaal (Wearing garments below the ankles).

“Do not stand for prayer within it – ever. A mosque founded on righteousness from the first day is more worthy for you to stand in. Within it are men who love to purify themselves; and Allah loves those who purify themselves.” (Holy Qur’an 9:108)

“And they ask you about menstruation. Say, “It is harm, so keep away from wives during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.” (Holy Qur’an 2:222)

Allah (swt) mentions that he loves those who purify themselves. As Muslims we will do what we can to be among those whom Allah (swt) loves. This means to purify ourselves both inwardly and outwardly.

The verse above says not to approach women during menstruation until they are pure. It is not that the menstruation in and of itself makes a woman impure. Who ever comes away from the text with this understanding has absolutely misunderstood the text. It is what issues forth from the woman during menses.

Just like if a man or woman has discharge from the anus they become ritually impure. They (the man or woman) themselves are not impure but the discharge has rendered them ritually impure.

It is the blood and bacteria that renders the woman ritually impure, and unable to engage in sexual intercourse. It does not make the woman in and of herself impure.

It was important to discuss this point when dealing looking at the hadith on isbaal.

“There are three (kinds) of persons to whom Allah will neither speak on the Day of Judgment, nor will He look at them nor purify them, and they will have a painful Punishment. He (Abu Darr) said: “Allah’s Messenger repeated it three times. Abu Dharr remarked: “They failed and they lost; who are these persons, O Messenger of Allah? He (saw) replied: “The one who wears a trailing robe, the one who takes account of what he gives, and the seller of goods by false oaths.”  Source: ( ‘Sahih’ Muslim Volume 1 hadith #192 & 193)  

According to this hadith this ‘major sin‘ -according to the Sunni Muslims will put one in hellfire forever. If you die with your robe trailing there is no way for you to be purified. So for Sunni Muslims than sin is on the same level of shirk -for if you do not repent of shirk or repent of trailing your garments (by wearing something else) you will be in hell fire forever.

This hadith in a sense does talk about those who drag their garments below the ankle but in reality it doesn’t mention that. It talks about those who trail their robes! This hadith is not a proof for those who say putting the garment below the ankle is in the hellfire!

Many people (usually royalty) drag their garments as a form or riya-showing off, pride, vanity, in a way to be ostentatious. In fact does one think that early poor Christians, people who were simple farmers had weddings in the way people do today? Notice it is the woman who has a long flowing garment usually carried by two young girls. It is a nice feeling for a woman to feel like a queen for that day.

In reality rather someone has given permission to trail a garment on the ground someone should dislike to do this for a number of reasons.

  1. To show thankfulness to Allah (swt) for allowing you to afford nice clothing.
  2. The chance of coming in contact with najis (impurities).
  3. To not rub it in the face of the indigent, the poor who are unable to afford your level of clothing.

Before we proceed further we also need to ask: What actually is the ankle?

What actually is the ankle?

The area where the Talus, Fibula and Tibia are all pointing is a part of the ankle. Of course a doctor can comment and contradict this claim. Notice all the hadiths those who make an issue of the clothing BELOW the ankle not AT the ankle.

Yet, if you observe the Muslims who obsess over this particular issue they will usually have their pants or juba cut off at the tibia or the fibula (at various points on it).

Most advocates of the position not to have garments below the ankle actually cut their garments on various points of the fibula or tibia bone.

Now if they want to argue linguistically that what is meant by the isbaal is the fibula or tibia than the advocates of this position, every single one of them are in violation of it! That is because it is basically advocating for Muslim men to wear Scottish Kilts, Very short Bengali Loongi’s or Very short Malay Surongs! One wonders how this fits the description for modesty and shyness.

“The Messenger of Allah (saw) took hold of the muscle of my calf (or his calf) and said, ‘This is where the izar should stop; if you insist, it may be lower, but it should not reach the ankles.’” Source: (Al-Tirmidhi hadith no. 1783)

So look at this narration. So should the izaar (garment) stop at the beginning of the calf muscles or where the calf muscles end? Not this hadith is in direction contradiction to hadith that says the garments should not go below the ankles this one says they shouldn’t even reach the ankles!

Also notice that the Blessed Messenger (saw) is reported to have said; “if you insist” -which shows leniency.

So which is it? What language gymanstics are we going to play to reconcile this?

It certainly is a flat contradiction of the following hadith:

“The Prophet (saw) is reported to have said: “Whatever of the izaar (lower garment) is below the ankles is in the Fire.” Source: (‘Sahih’ Al Bukhari hadith no. 5787)

  1. should not reach the ankles.
  2. what ever is below the ankles.

Abu Bakr is reported to have said to the Blessed Prophet (saw) “My Izar falls unless I take care (to hold it up).” The Prophet (saw) said to him, “You are not one of those who does it out of arrogance.” Source: (‘Sahih Bukhari hadith no. 5784 and Abu Dawud hadith no. 4085)

Notice that the Blessed Messenger is reported to have said to Abu Bakr that, “you are not one of those who does it out of arrogance.”

Now there are some interesting observations to make about this hadith.

If this was such an issue as the Blessed Messenger (saw) is apparently relaying this on authority from Allah (swt). Why didn’t simply ask Abu Bakr to cut his garment?

He could have said, “The garment of paradise is better oh Abu Bakr as Allah (swt) has blessed you with means than use this means to enter paradise, there upon Abu Bakr went to have his garment cut. There upon Abu Bakr went and bought a new garment.”

The opponents are usually waiting for you to say something like, “I am not doing it out of arrogance.” If someone approaches you about the length of your clothing you can ignore them or offer them a polite, “Thank you brother. I am aware of the hadith.”

However, if you wanted to be more combative and/or use it as an opportunity to make the other person think you could say:

Mash’Allah a man who knows what is in my heart! If he is puzzled by this response you could respond by saying: “Oh I thought you could look into my heart and see arrogance and thus your warning brother!”

Never reply to them saying: “I am aware of this hadith but I am not doing this out of pride.” They are waiting for you to say that.

In fact all the scholars who have ever told them that this confirms your vanity by responding as such in turn are claiming to know what is the breast of men, the secrets of the heart and the ability to know the unseen!!!

Best option is the first one. Thank them for informing you and leave it at that.

Ahmad ibn Munayyi‘ via another isnad from Ibn ‘Umar in the hadith which he attributed to the Prophet (saw): “Beware of letting the izar drag, for letting the izar drag is a sign of pride.” Source: (Fatih al-Bari, 10/264)

Notice the hadith here says that it is a sign of pride not that it IS pride.

It is up to the one doing it to check the intentions of why they are doing it just like it is up to all of us to check every intention that we do even the seemingly good ones. I go to the mosque and drop 20 rakats in front of everyone. Was that for Allah (swt) or was it for the people?

The hadith also says that it is a sign of pride not that those who do it are prideful. That is why this hadith needs further specification which is provided by other hadith that elaborate by saying, ‘those who do it out of pride.’

These narrations raise particular problems when it comes to women…obviously. Thank Allah (swt) for the women!

It was narrated that Ibn ‘Umar said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Whoever allows his garment to drag out of pride, Allah will not look at him on the Day of Resurrection.” Umm Salamah said: “What should women do with their hems?” He (Ibn ‘Umar) said: “Lower it a handspan.” She said: “Then their feet will show.” He (Ibn ‘Umar) said: “Let them lower it a cubit, but no more than that.” 

Source: (al-Tirmidhi hadith # 1731 & Al Nasaa’i hadith #5336)

So notice that we don’t have any statement from the Blessed Messenger (saw) in regards to women on this issue. Also notice this possibly couldn’t have been a common practice ‘urf‘ -custom among the people or it would’t be necessary to spread knowledge on the matter. Which in and of itself is problem. Ibn ‘Umar is relating this information as if they salaaf were in ignorance about it. Such a big sin and something that relates to every day wear (clothing). It raises questions.

So obviously we don’t see Muslim women running around with garments up to their mid-calf do we?

Which means that the interpretation that people who wear garments below the ankles are doing it out of pride is soundly refuted. Are we going to say that women who do so are doing it out of pride? Obviously not! That and not withstanding that the Blessed Messenger (saw) told Abu Bakr that he was not like that, nor did he caution him to never do it again, cut his garment, go and buy a new garment.

The other good news for women is that at least none of them will have to fear eternal hell fire and that Allah (swt) will not purify their sins where as according to Ahl Sunnah -men who do so and die in such a state will be in eternal hellfire.

Lastly we need to think about practicality.

There are men who work with beehives. Are they expected to expose their legs to bee stings?

Surely the Blessed Messenger (saw) would know that Islam would be carried to the ends of the Earth. This would mean places with extremely cold temperatures. Are Muslim men expected to expose their legs in freezing cold temperatures?

There are literally thousands of various jobs that Muslim men perform day to day in which one would need to wear a hazmat and/or other types of suits.

In conclusion I believe that the real concern here is not necessarily pride but purity for prayers and other acts of worship.

There are bathrooms all over the world where the standard of cleanliness is really bad. Getting najis -filth, on our clothing should be avoided.

That being said I am personally 100% against the idea of letting any garment to drag on the ground. Those reasons I will post here again:

In reality rather someone has given permission to trail a garment on the ground someone should dislike to do this for a number of reasons.

  1. To show thankfulness to Allah (swt) for allowing you to afford nice clothing.
  2. The chance of coming in contact with najis (impurities).
  3. To not rub it in the face of the indigent, the poor who are unable to afford your level of clothing.

Ironically those people who wear their garments way above their ankles or even at the middle of their calf muscles often show quite allot of riya-themselves by showing off, thoughts of superiority over those who do not do the practice, a cause for division in places of worship.

If one wanted to take the hadith literally there would be even further lines of inquiry. What if the hadith only was in reference to one type of garment (izar) -the waist wrapper? As there could have been wording to indicate all types of clothing. That could have been made clear.

What do we make of the idea that the ‘below the ankle‘ will be in the fire? Where will the rest of the body be? Can it be said that from the ankle upwards will be enjoying the fruits of paradise while the below the ankle will be in the agony of the hellfire?

Or is it perhaps that the part of the garment that is below the ankle will be in the fire and not the person? If that’s the case than RIP garment.

Allah (swt) knows best and the help of Allah (swt) is sought.

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