Being Clean and Neat in Appearance
In al-Muwatta, Imam Malik reports a hadith with a mursal isnad from ‘Ata’ ibn Yassar, who said:
“The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) was in the mosque, when a man with unkempt hair and an untidy beard came in. The Prophet (S.A.W.) pointed to him, as if indicating to him that he should tidy up his hair and beard. The man went and did so, then returned. The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, ‘Is this not better than that any one of you should come with unkempt hair, looking like the Shaytan?”
Islam lays great emphasis on having a clean and neat appearance at all times. The Prophet (SAW) always took note of people’s appearance. Whenever he saw a man that was badly dressed or had untidy hair, he would criticize him. Essentially what our Prophet (SAW) was implying is that we should not neglect ourselves. Imam Ahmad and al-Nisa’i report that Jabir (R.A.A.) said: “The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) came to visit us, and he saw an unkempt man whose hair was going in all directions, so he said, ‘Could he not find anything with which to calm his head?’”
Here I took special note of the Prophet (SAW) that he should ‘CALM’ his head -:). The likening of a man to Shaytan by our Prophet shows that Islam gives the utmost importance to being neat, clean and sharp at all times! We have all seen Muslims with unkempt hair and scruffy over-sized clothes.
People have and will continue to judge you by your appearance. The harsh reality is that we make decisions about people within the first 3 seconds of meeting them; we then spend the next 90 seconds trying to confirm our first impressions. This means that before you even open your mouth you’ve been sized up and profiled. Knowing this, a Muslim should always dress neatly, professionally, and appropriately. The fact is you never know who you are going to meet; at anytime you may run into a potential convert, a client, a future employer, or for those singles out there, the love of your life. And like it or not, they are going to form their initial impression of you based on how you look. Made within a few seconds, first impressions are powerful and should not be taken lightly. We often observe a person before we speak with them. Human beings by nature look to make sense of what our eyes are showing us. Using our personal experiences, we categorize individuals; we pick-up on a key feature that has meaning to us, and then associate that person with it. If what you are wearing is doing all the talking for you, make sure it is sending the message you want. I think this message is for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a white, blue, or green collar worker. At work you should be the best dressed in your field. At one point in my life, I was a blue-collar worker. My uniform shirt was always ironed and pressed and I wore a nice pair of khaki slacks to work everyday.
Here is another favorite episode in Muslim history of mines. Imam Abu Hanifah (R.A.) always took care to dress well and to ensure that he smelled clean and fresh, and urged others to do likewise. One day he met a man who used to attend his circle, who was dressed in scruffy clothes. He took him to one side and offered him one thousand dirhams with which to smarten himself up. The man told him, “I have money, I do not need this.” Abu Hanifah admonished him: “Have you not heard the hadith, ‘Allah (S.W.T.) loves to see the signs of His gifts on His servant’? So you have to change yourself, and not appear offensive to your friend.”
So here it is; we have the great Imam Abu Hanifah (R.A.) being a fashion consultant. Imam Malik (RA), the inspiration for the Maliki school of thought also dressed well starting as a young man. His mother was particular about his appearance and would dress him in his best attire to go out and learn fiqh and hadith. Imam Malik (RA) would continue this habit later in life. Whenever he would go out and teach hadith and fiqh, he would dress in his best clothes and then go out and teach the people. Ibu Muslim Al Khuzai wrote that: When Imam Malik would intend to read, write or give class on Hadith, he would first make Wudu, would put on his best clothes, would then wear perfume, and would comb his beard. Imam Malik dressed and prepared himself for his profession. Dressing professionally and taking care of the essentials like personal hygiene improves your discipline. One of the powers of clothing and excellent hygiene is that it can transform an individual’s state of mind. The transformative effective is powerful.