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Is hanging trousers below the ankle imperssible due to pride?

By Mufti Mohammed Sajjad

Q) Is having it below the ankle in today�s society that bad especially since wearing trousers/jeans (which go below the ankles) is normal? The ahadith prohibit wearing it with pride as doing anything with pride is haram. The majority of the fuqaha (including al-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar and the Hanafi jurists) have said to have it below the ankle without pride is makruh tanzihi/permissible with slight distaste.

Only a few scholars have said otherwise e.g. Ibn Arabi al-Mailiki. This is from my reading anyway. So in this society when people wear it below the ankle is it convenient or even legally substantiated to condemn people for doing it?


The idea that if a person does not have pride he can lower his garments below the ankles is incorrect. The truth is, with this ruling, regardless of whether a person has pride or not he must keep his garments above the ankles. Though, if accidentally and unintentionally they were to fall below the ankles there would be no sin upon the person (which also explains the hadith of Abu Bakr r.a.).

However the ruling cannot be made to revolve around a person�s own view about whether he has pride. This is because pride is a surreptitious thing. A person who is afflicted with this evil spiritual disease will, not only  will never acknowledge he has pride, in fact in many cases, he will not even  know. It is simply silly to think an individual will be able to assert about himself that: Yes I am free of pride thus I can keep the garments below the ankles. Yet this is the bizarre consequence of holding this view.

The reality is that the ruling about having the garment above the ankles is one in which the Sabbab (apparent cause) has been treated like the Illah (real underlying cause). Just as in travel, the dispensation to shorten the prayer was obviously given due to hardship. However, because it is difficult to always say when hardship is being met by the traveller, the cause for this ruling to shorten was not made the basis of this ruling, such that if a person did not find hardship, even when travelling a thousand miles, he could not shorten. Rather the apparent cause was made the cause for the ruling, namely travel. Thus wherever travel (48 miles) is found this ruling applies regardless of the extent of the hardship. (See Shaikh Taqi Uthmani�s Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, p122, vol.4)

Similarly, in the case of the ruling of having garments above the ankles, because it is highly difficult to tell if a person has pride in this act, its apparent cause (garments above the ankles) was made the ruling�s cause- rather than the real underlying cause (pride). Thus, it will be sinful every time a person intentionally lets his garments go below the ankles.

The very act of Isbal being outlawed in this manner also tells us that this act in itself is a cause of creating pride. Imam Ibn Hajr, in Fath al-Bari, Kitab al-Libas, p324 vol.10, writes: �Lowering the garments below the ankles must bring dragging the garment and dragging the garment must bring with it pride even if the wearer does not intend pride (Khuyula). This meaning is supported by the hadith narrated by Ahmad bin Manee`�.The Messenger of Allah , peace and blessings upon him,) said: �Beware of dragging the garment, for indeed this is from pride.�

Ibn Hajr then narrates the following hadith that emphatically show this ruling is not restricted to when this act is done in pride: [1] In a hadith from Imam Tabarani, whose chain is sound, which is emphatic in this ruling not being restricted to when this act is done in pride. Namely, �The Messenger of Allah , peace and blessings upon him, struck four fingers of his hand below the knee (on the shin) and said: �O Amar (bin Zurarah)! this is the place of the garment.� After citing this hadith, Imam Ibn Hajr writes: �It is obvious the aforementioned Amar did not intend pride in lowering his garment.�

[2] Also narrated by Tabarani, the Prophet �peace and blessing upon him- saw a man whose garments were below the ankles, he ordered him: �Raise your waist-wrap!� The man said: �I have an ailment in my legs; my knees collide with each other.� He peace be upon him, replied: �Raise your garment because all of the creation of Allah is beautiful.� Again, it is clear in this hadith this man was not doing this due to pride yet still he was ordered to raise his garments.

[3] Ibn Majah, Nasai and Ibn Hibban narrate with a sound chain that: Mughirah ibn Shubah said: �I saw the Messenger of Allah , peace and blessings upon him, seized the wrap of Sufyan ibn Suhail, saying: �O Sufyan do not lower garments below the ankles, verily Allah detests those who lower their garments below the ankles (Laa Tusbil fa-inna-allaha laa yuhibbu-l-Musbileen). All three hadith are recorded in Fath al-Bari.

It would be incorrect to think that the majority of the scholars hold, as you mentioned, that it is fine to lower garments below the ankles if there is no pride in it. Similalry, it also wrong and misleading to suggest the ruling of Tahreem (unlawfulness) is peculiar to the Indian scholars.

Ibn Hajr, himself a prominent Shafi jurist, records that Imam Shafi�s position is that under all circumstances it will forbidden to allow the garment to go below the ankles; except that if it is with the absence of pride the sin gained will be less. However, there will be the sin of resembling women as their garments are to be below the ankles. Imam Hakim, with a sound chain narrates: �The Messenger of Allah , peace and blessings be upon him, cursed the man who wears women�s clothes,� (Op cit).

Similarly, the Maliki jurist Ibn al-Arabi, affirming the above explanation of the threat of pride, states:�It is not permitted for a man to allow his garment to go beyond his ankle saying: �I am not doing it in pride.� This is because the prohibition includes this by virtue of the wording. It is not permitted for a person who is being included in the ruling by the words (of a text) to say: �I will not follow it because that reason (Illah) is not found in me,� for it is an unacceptable claim- rather his lowering his garment tells of his pride,� (Op cit).

Thus it will always be forbidden (Makruh Tahrimi) to allow the garment to go below the ankles and the Salah of a person in this manner will have to be repeated in its time. Although Shaikh Faraz Rabbani cites Fataawa Hindiyya, for his view that it is Makruh tanzihi without pride, on the same page of this work, strong words are used against this practice. It says on p333 vol.5, that: ��lowering the waist wrap and the shirt below the ankles is a reprehensible innovation (Bidah). The garment should be above the ankles up to the middle of the shins.�
[After the initial reply that was given to the question of the prohibition for men of lowering their garments, many questions were received questioning this ruling. The reply below is a second reply to answer these objections]

The first point that was made was that this ruling is only so when done in pride. This point was actually answered in the first reply, nevertheless more proofs can be cited to leave no doubt that this ruling is not suspended on the existence of pride.

The basis of this objection is the hadith that forbid Isbal mention that it is blameworthy when done in pride. However, there are also many hadith that prohibit this act irrelevant of the reason, suggesting this is supposed to be the dress of the believer at all times. I will record below the many hadith that clearly tell us that this ruling was not restricted to pride:

i) The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), said: �There are three people Allah
will not speak to on the Day of Judgement, nor will He look at them or purify them of their sins. For them will be a painful chastisement�.The one who allows his garments to fall below the ankles, a person who recounts favours he has done to others and a person who sells his goods by a false oath.� (Muslim)
ii) The Messenger of Allah
, peace and blessings upon him, said: �Beware of lowering the garment for it is from pride and Allah detests pride�.� (Tirmidhi)
This hadith tells us that actually this act in itself brings pride in a person.
iii)The hadith in Sunnan Abu Daud, hadith no.638, Bab al-Isbal fi al-Salah: Abu Hurairah narrates that: �A man was praying with his garment below his ankles when the Messenger of Allah
, peace and blessings upon him, said: �Go and repeat your Wudu.� So the man went and did his Wudu and returned. The Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) again said: �Go and repeat your Wudu.� So the man went and repeated his Wudu and returned. The man asked: �O Messenger of Allah what is it that you told him to do Wudu (again) and then you did not say anything?� The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) said: �He was praying with his garment below his ankles, verily Allah (may His mention be magnified) does not accept the prayer of a man who lowers his garments.��
Some have challenged the authenticity of this hadith. The fact is the hadith is sound and has also been narrated by Imam Bayhaqi in his Sunnan, vol.2 p342, Kitab Karahiyyat Isbal al-Izar fi-Salah. Imam Nawawi in Riyad al-Salihin has confirmed that it is Sahih, hadith no.797.
iv) The Messenger of Allah
, peace and blessings upon him, said:
�The waist-wrap of the Muslim must be up to the middle of the shins; and there is no harm if it goes between there and the ankles�.� (Abu Daud)
Also note that the Sahaba never thought this ruling was restricted to if done in pride; they thought this was in fact the dress of the believing men. It is for this reason that, as Shaikh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya writes in Awjaz al-Masaalik, vol.14 p220, Umm Salamah r.a. brought up the issue with the Messenger of Allah
(peace and blessings upon him) having understood that the above hadith were not to be restricted to the case of pride, (i.e. this was the instructions for how dress in general should be) and as such applied to women as well. She asked the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings upon him) when he spoke about the lowering the garments, �What about the woman O Messenger of Allah ?� This clearly shows she understood the condemnation for lowering the garment was general (Mutlaq) irrespective of pride. But she asked because women also had the order to cover their Awrah. He (peace and blessings be upon him) then elaborated for her that they were exempt from this ruling.
v) Ibn Umar r.a. narrates that: �I passed by the Messenger of Allah
, peace and blessings be upon him, and my garment was loose, so he, peace and blessings upon him, said: �O Abdullah raise your garment,� so I raised it. Then he said, �more,� so I raised it more. Ever since then I have been vigilant regarding it.� (Muslim)

It was also wrongly argued that the Hanafi school actually does not hold that garments for men must be above the ankles always. Rather it was claimed, they say, if a person does not do this in pride then it is considered to be merely Makruh Tanzihi. The evidence they have cited for this is the view of Imam Badr al-Din al-Ayni and the same is also written in Fataawa Hindiyyah. The truth however is that in Umdat al-Qari, Imam Ayni, does not say this is the position of the Hanafi School. What can correctly be ascribed to Imam Al-Ayni are the following words explaining the heading in Sahih al-Bukhari: The Chapter of he who pulled his garment (below the ankles) without pride. Imam Ayni immediately after this wrote: �This chapter is to explain the ruling of that person who lowered his garment without the intention of pride, for there is no harm in it without any dislike�,� vol.21 p295, Kitab al-Libas. Under the above heading the famous hadith in which Abu Bakr complains of his garment going below the ankles is mentioned, and in which the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) says: You are not from those who do it out of pride.
As can be seen from the context all that Imam Ayni is saying, which we of course accept, is that if unintentionally the garment goes below the ankles one need not worry that he has committed the great sin that lies in Isbal. But, this does not mean, and nor could it mean if the context is kept in view, that: A person is permitted to lower his garment if he thinks he is not doing it in pride.

The second source some people have used to claim this erroneous view, that if a person does not do it in pride he is blameless, is Fataawa Hindiyyah. The text is also said to say without pride this act is Makruh Tanzihi.
However again it seems this is a misrepresentation of the facts. In this work the text does say: ��If it is not done in pride then it is Makruh Tanzihi�,� Ninth chapter on Clothing, vol.5 p333. Those who quote this however fail to mention that the very sentence before this said: �Raising up the garments is Sunna and lowering the garments below the ankles is a reprehensible innovation (Bidah). The garment should be above the ankles up to half way of the shins�.� This text is emphatic in stating the evil of this act and its being always impermissible. And, again one can clearly tell from the context, that the jurists mentioned the ruling of Tanzihi (which technically means there is no sin upon a person for doing that act), for that case when it is done unintentionally or for a need- to simply outline that there is no sin.

As mentioned earlier one may not lower his garment without a need. To do so claiming that one does not have pride is simply distorting the Shariah. For the best of generations, Sahaba, Tabeen and Tab` Tabeen, never ever played with the words of the hadith in this manner. Not one from them understood this ruling in this way such that a single one of them (though if anyone could be free of pride it was them) asserted, �I will keep my garments below the ankles as I am free of pride.� Had there been some leeway in this regard in the Shariah they would never have been so careful regarding it to the point that they would prevent others from doing it. Yet they appreciated more than us that one should have good opinions about others and not judge their intentions. In other words it was not just left to personal opinion about whether one had pride or not. We see Umar r.a., having been fatally wounded, on his death bed stop a young man who had his garment below the ankles and commanded him to raise it.

So how can this attitude be given any credence today? Especially, when we see many men today, not desiring to raise their garments above the ankles and looking down upon those who do. For them, it is obvious, the motivation in not raising their garments is shame, and the greater respect and prestige they feel in wearing the garments below the ankles, all of which is a symptom of that surreptitious disease called pride.

If the reason for this ruling was pride such that if it is done without it then there is no blame, then are we really saying our judgement about our internal state is better than that of the likes of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (r.a.) who all would keep their garments above their ankles?

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