“What is the status of the hadith, “Wear white [clothing]. For, indeed, it is from the best of your garments.”and what is the ruling on wearing white?”
This hadith was related by Imam al-Shafi, Ahmed, Abu Dawod, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hiban, al-Hakim and al-Bayhaqi with a similar meaning from The son of ‘Abbas [may Allah be pleased with him and his father]. al-Tirmidhi stated about this hadith that it is “good and sound and the one preferred by the people of knowledge.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi vol. 4 pg. 110].
Imam al-Hakim related it with the following wording: “The best of your clothes are the white ones. So let your living wear it, and shroud your dead in it.” This hadith was considered sound by al-Qattan and was related by the companions of the Sunnan, save Abu Dawod, from Sumra . It was also related by Al-Tabarani in al-Kabir, Abu Hatim in his ‘Ilal and al-Bazzar in his Musnad.” Al-Hakim stated that this hadith was sound, met the criterion of al-Bukhari and Muslim and al-Dhahabi agreed.
Fiqh of the Hadith:
Imam al-Hatab writes in Muwaib al-Jalil, an explanation of the great text of Imam Khalil al-Maliki, that Imam al-Burzuli wrote, “Regarding garments and their colors, then the best is white.” [vol. 4 pg. 40]. Imam al-Baji, in his explanation of Malik’s Muwatta, mentions the statement of ‘Umar, “Indeed, I love to see the readers of Qu’ran wearing white.” He goes on to mention that ‘Umar loved this for two reasons:
- Because it was recommended for them to wear white based on the statement of the Prophet [may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him], “The best of your clothes are your white ones.”
- He did not hold it advisable for people engaged in worship to refrain from wearing nice clothes in exchange for uncouth clothing because [such dress] differed from societal norms and might serve as a means for the pious person to be defamed. When Imam Malik [may Allah have mercy upon him] was asked about wearing wool [everyday] he said, “There is no good in [seeking] fame.” [al-Muntaqa vol. 4 Pg. 302]
From the above it becomes clear that wearing white clothes is not an obligation, as noted by al-Shawkanki who said, regarding the hadith in question, “The order mentioned in this hadith is not an obligation” [Nayl al-Awtar vol. 3 pg. 65], but a recommended act. It should also be noted that the Prophet [may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him] wore different colors and different types of clothing. Imam al-Manawi stated this in Faydal al-Qadir [vol. 3 pg. 646] and Ibn al-Qayyim discussed this in Zad al-M’ad
An Important Point for the Muslim to Ponder:
Islam encourages one to look presentable. It is a grave mistake to think that a scholar, imam, or caller to Islam should dress in coarse clothing that is untidy. Ibn Mas’ud relates from the Prophet [May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him],”Indeed, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” Once Imam Malik was asked about the verse, “And don’t forget your share from this [worldly] life.” He stated, “That he should live, eat and drink without putting a burden upon himself [making things overly difficult]. [al-Muntaqa vol. 4 Pg. 302] I was told that al-’Allamah Muhammad al-Hassan al-Didoe al-Shanqiti said, “An Imam /Caller to Islam should set aside some money in order to buy nice clothing.” I have always respected Dr. ‘Ali Guma and the way he dresses. Once a friend of mine, who was living in Egypt, said to me after seeing Dr. ‘Ali, “He is regal.”
Things to Ponder:
Islam places great importance on being presentable and hygienic. Thus, if we are encouraged to dress in a presentable manner, then what can be said about our Islamic centers (trash and parking), homes, yards, cars and work places? The Muslim should insure that he presents a clean image in all aspects of his life.
Muslims who reside in places where the common dress is not that of Islamic culture should strongly consider wearing dress that is common and acceptable to their culture as long as it doesn’t constitute wearing something forbidden. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned in Iqtida Sirat al-Mustaqim that “Muslim residing in the lands of non-Muslims should wear clothing that is common to the people.” He based this on two important reasons:
- The Protection of one’s life and honor
- To avoid creating a feeling of alienation
It is recommended for the student of knowledge to wear white [when going to his/her studies] since Gabriel, when he came to the Prophet [May Allah's peace and blessing be upon him] was described as having “Extremely white clothing.”
The order to wear white clothing is not one of an obligatory nature. In fact, the Malikis hold that, while wearing white clothing is the best for the Friday prayer, the best for ‘Eid is a new dress “even if it is black” [see Sharh al-Saghir of Sheikh Dardir the chapter on the recommended acts for Friday Prayer as well as the explanation of Mukhtasar Khalil by al-Kharsi the chapter on Friday prayer and the chapter on the ‘Eid prayer.
And Allah knows best