Compiled, Translated & Annotated
Abu Hibban & Abu Khuzaimah Ansari
Many people have authored articles and treatise with regards to this issue, namely of Isbal ie letting one’s garments fall below the ankles. Without the need the address the intricacies of the issue and the overwhelming clarity in the prohibition and unlawfulness of Isbal, we thought it was perhaps important to look at the most common argument often presented in defence of this prohibited action.
Some people claim it is mustahab ie recommended to raise the garments below the ankle and therefore it is permissible and lawful to let the garments dangle below the ankles, since it is only mustahab. This notion is often pushed by the neo-madhabists and all those on the ‘difference of opinion’ thinking which is later extended to the all inclusive Manhaj, more so in latter times. We are not referring to the view of early scholars who are generally agreed in its prohibition. This needs to be restricted to those who deliberately drag their garments out of sheer arrogance.
This accommodation offered by some of the people of the madhabs and they often retort with the words this is the view of the majority in letting the garment fall below the ankles. We must remember, we are referring to this issue with the condition of without arrogance, for even they are agreed with arrogance is prohibited and unlawful, this is unanimous agreed upon by all quarters.
We share three hadith which rebut the claim; it is lawful to let garments fall below the ankles if done without conceit or arrogance. It must be noted the hadith of Abu Hurairah RadhiAllahu Anhu in which he narrates the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
“Whatever of the garment falls below the ankles is in the fire.” (Bukhari no.5787)
Is general and can only be restricted with clear authentic texts, this restriction has to be real or at least be a limiting factor. Some people claim the hadith which are general ie the hadith quoted above and the numerous other ahadith which talk about punishment and allude to prohibition, which do not mention the condition of arrogance ie Khuyala in letting the garments fall below the ankle are general and therefore should be specified and restricted by the hadith which do mention the condition of arrogance. This has been mentioned by Imam Ibn Abdul Barr and Imam Nawawi as well as others. (al-Tamhid (3:244), Sharh Sahih Muslim (1:71)
Imam Ibn al-Arabi answers this notion and says,
“It is not permissible for a person to let his garments fall below his ankles and say, “I do not have arrogance (in this ie when I let my garment below my ankles I do not do it out of arrogance) as the prohibition incorporates the generality of the wording as well as the reason (ie arrogance). So when such a word incorporates a command or ruling, it is impermissible for a person to say It does not refer to me because the reason does not apply to me (ie I am not arrogant). This opposes the Shari’ah while the claim is unacceptable. Rather is it is exactly due to his arrogance that he lets his clothes and lower garment fall below his ankles and hence his lying is established (ie his claim without arrogance).” (A’ridah al-Ahwadhi (7:238)
Hafiz Ibn Hajr expands on this and further said that isbal (letting garments fall below the ankles) necessitates dragging clothes and dragging clothes necessitates arrogance despite the one wearing the garment does not intend arrogance. (Fath al-Bari (1:264)
Abu Juri Jabir bin Sulaym RadhiAllahu Anhu said the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
“Lift your lower garment to the middle of your shin and if you are unable to do so, then at least to your ankles (ie just above). Beware and be warned from lowering your garment (below your ankles) for verily this is arrogance and Allah does not love/like arrogance.” (Abu Dawud (no.4084), al-Tirmidhi (no.2722) who graded the hadith Hasan-Sahih, al-Sunan al-Kubra (10:236) of Imam al-Baihaqi, al-Mu’ajam al-Kabir (no.6386) of Imam al-Tabarani, Shaikh al-Albani graded it Sahih in Sahih Abu Dawud (2:515-516) and Sahih Sunan al-Tirmidhi (3:88-89), Imam al-Hakim in his al-Mustadrak (4:186) who graded it Sahih and Imam al-Dhahabi concurred.
The wording of another hadith is,
“Beware and be warned from lowering your garment (below the ankles), for verily it is arrogance (/conceit) and Allah does not love/like arrogance.” (Musnad Ahmad (5:63), Sahih Ibn Hibban (1: 364-365 no.511, 1:369 no.522), Mu’ajam al-Shuyukh (no.1491) of Imam Ibn Asakir who said the hadith is Hasan-Gharib)
The authentic variations of this hadith clearly show lowering one’s garments below the ankles is in of itself arrogance and therefore the false notion of whether one does it out of pride or arrogance is dismissed. It is in fact a futile thought based on the words of this clear authentic hadith.
The claim, one can lower his garment below the ankles if done without arrogance, pride or conceit is permissible and the understanding and line of argument of the prohibition, unlawfulness and punishment is only applicable when done out of arrogance and pride is therefore clearly rebutted. This leads onto the view of having the garments above the ankle as being mustahab or recommended, to be null and void but rather is is mandatory and obligatory as the scholars have explained.
THE SECOND HADITH
Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar narrates,
“I happened to pass before Allah’s Messenger ﷺ with my lower garment trailing (upon the ground). He said: ‘Abdullah, tug up your lower garment, I tugged it up, and he again said: Tug it still further, and I tugged it still further and I went on tugging it afterward, whereupon some of the people said: To what extent? Thereupon he said: To the middle of the shanks.” (Muslim (no.2086)
In another narration the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saw Abdullah ibn Umar RadhiAllahu Anhuma and said,
“Who is this? I said I Abdullah. He replied and said, “If you are Abdullah then lift your lower garment.” (Musnad Ahmad (2:147), Musnad Abu Ya’la (5644) of Qadi Abu Ya’la, Shu’bal Iman (no.6119) of Imam al-Baihaqi)
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not ask Abdullah ibn Umar RadhiAllahu Anhuma his intention or reason with him, he did not ask him if he had lowered his garment due to pride or arrogance or just naturally. Rather he ordered him to raise his garment irrespective of his intent or whether it was done out of arrogance or conceit
Husn al-Dhan indicates this illustrious companions Abdullah ibn Umar RadhiAllahu Anhuma would have always had his garments above his ankles. He was known for his fervor in following the Sunnah. Another possible explanation offered by the scholars is that Abdullah ibn Umar RadhiAllahu Anhuma had his garment above his ankles anyway but it was just above the ankles and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ considered this to be dragging and thus asked him to raise his garments further, up to the middle of his shin. Nonetheless the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had love for his companions and knew them like no one else, while being the most aware about them, ie he would have known if his companions had arrogance. Despite knowing Abdullah ibn Umar RadhiAllahu Anhuma and Husn al-Dhan dictates that he did not have arrogance, despite this he was commanded to raise his garment.
Furthermore, Abdullah ibn Umar RadhiAllahu Anhuma would issue legal edicts to people who dragged their garments based on this, he would narrate the hadith from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. He includes the words due to arrogance, see (Sahih Muslim (no.2085).
However, in the main hadith he himself had his garment low, as the text of the hadith indicates, hence the Messenger of Allah ﷺ asked him to raise it.
In the hadith of Abu Bakr, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to Abu Bakr you are not from the people who has arrogance, but despite this Abu Bakr RadhiAllahu anhu would position his garments above his ankles as the wording of the hadith indicates and it would only drop if he did not take care. (Bukhari no.5784)
None of the Sahabah had their garments below their ankles, the ones who did, had a reason but despite this they still raised their garments. The evidence is the report of Shuraid bin Suwaid when the Thaqafi man was ordered to raise his garment by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and the Thaqafi man had his garments above his ankles until his death. (Musnad al-Humaidi (no.810), Musnad Ahmad (no.19494)
Also Umar bin al-Khattab advised a young companion to raise his garments while he was dying with an open wound on his abdomen (Bukhari (no.3700)
The successor ie Tabi’i, Abu Ishaq al-Sabi’i said he saw many companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ who would have their lower garments to the middle of their calves and he mentions, Usamah bin Zayd, Ibn Umar, Zayd bin Arqam and Bara ibn A’zib. (Musannaf Ibn Abi shaybah (8:392-393)
Muhammad bin Sirin mentions from the companions he saw; they would all have their garments to the middle of their calves. (Musannaf ibn Abi Shaybah (8:389)
THE THIRD HADITH
Abu Hurairah narrates
“While a man was praying letting his lower garment trail, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to him: Go and perform ablution. He, therefore, went and performed ablution and then returned. He (the prophet) again said: Go and perform ablution. He again went, performed ablution and returned. A man said to him (the prophet): Messenger of Allah, why did you order him to perform ablution? He said: he was praying with lower garment trailing, and does not accept the prayer of a man who lets his lower garment trail.” (Abu Dawud no’s 638, 4086, It is also transmitted by Imam Nasa’i in al-Sunan al-Kubra (no.9703), Sunan al-Kubra (2:241) of Imam al-Baihaqi, Sahih Ibn Hibban (2406), Musnad Ahmad (4:67), Riyadh al-Salihin (no.797).
Shaikh al-Albani does grade this hadith to be weak in Da’if Sunan Abi Dawud (p.53 and p.331). Shaikh Salim al-Hilali mentions the reason as Abu Ja’afar, who is in this particular chain of Abu Dawud is unknown ie majhul. (Bahjah al-Nazirin (1:619)
Shaikh Zubair Ali Za’i graded the hadith as having a Hasan Chain and said it is transmitted by Ahmad (4:67), Abu Ja’afar al-Madani is Hasan (al-Hadith) according to Tirmidhi (no.3448), Ibn Hibban authenticated him in his Sahih (no.2406), Hafiz Ibn Hajr strengthened him in his Takhrij al-Azkar, as did Imam Nawawi in Riyadh al-Salihin, who authenticated his hadith (his words are to follow), Yahya bin Abi Kathir narrates it from Abu Ja’afar and he would only narrate from trustworthy people as Abu Hatim said. (Sunan Abi Dawud (1:496)
Shaikh Zubair Ali Za’i also indicated its authenticity by not including it in his Anwar al-Sahifah Fil Ahadith al-Da’ifah Min al-Sunan al-Arb’a.
The statement of Imam Abu Hatim can be found in al-Jarh wa’t Ta’dil (9:142) and he adds the words, “Imam.”
Imam al-Dhahabi agreed with this grading as can be seen from his al-Kaba’ir (p.179).
Hafiz al-Haithami went onto say,
“Ahmad transmitted it and its narrators are the narrators of the Sahih.” (MAjma’a al-Zawa’id (5:125)
The same people who present Imam Nawawi’s statement that letting the garments below the ankles is makruh if done without conceit or arrogance forget that he authenticated this hadith. Essentially the people who put forward these arguments all agree themselves in the severe punishment as well as the general rule to have the garments above the ankle but at times due to this expansive manhaj and accommodating some of the views of the madhabs say it is only makruh and not prohibited if done for any other reason.
The point being, despite the fact that the grading of this hadith is disputed, where some have authenticated it based on the different variations of the chain while others have authenticated it. The detractors and hanbali madhab sympathisers present the statement of Imam Nawawi as mentioned above but he himself authenticates the aforementioned hadith, more specifically the chain in his Riyadh al-Salihin (no.797) where he says,
“Transmitted by Abu Dawud with an authentic-Sahih chain on according to the conditions set forth by Imam Muslim.”
The Shafi’i Asharite Muhammad bin E’lan al-Siddiqi said,
“The prayer of the person who lovers his garment below his ankle is not accepted and he should seek forgiveness and repent.” (Dalil al-Falihin (3:232)
However, some of the scholars have said the meaning is authentic as it is supported by another hadith as transmitted by Abdullah ibn Mas’ud RadhiAllahu Anhu which states,
“I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: He who lets his garment trail during prayer out of pride, Allah, the Almighty, has nothing to do with pardoning him and protecting him from Hell.” (Sunan Abu Dawud no.637), al-Kubra (no.9680) of Imam al-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi (no.351), Shaikh al-Albani graded it Sahih in Sahih Sunan Abu Dawud (p.189-190)
This shows, Allah will not accept the prayer of the Musbil ie the one who lowers his garment below his ankles, Allah will not pardon him or protect him from Hell Let us assume for arguments sake, the people who claim it is acceptable if done without arrogance or conceit, then we ask why do they roll up their lower garments or trousers when they pray? Surely the conscious state of not being arrogant and conceited remains within and outside of the prayer!
It they say this last hadith again mentions pride, we say the hadith mentions trailing in prayer however we know no one walks and prays, so the trailing here is understood as general isbal. This means letting your garments fall below your ankles is considered trailing.
This view of the prayer not being accepted was also the view held by the pious ancestors. Mujahid the Tabi’i said,
“It would be said (indicated the general majority view) the salah is not accepted of the one who lets his lower garment touch his ankles.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah (8:388)
Hussain bin Abdur Rahman, also a Tabi’i said
“I heard Dharr bin Abdullah al-Hamdani say, “The Salah is not accepted of the one whose lower garment touches the ground.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah (8:388)
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim said while explaining this hadith that
“Allah knows best that lowering the garment below the ankles is a sin and whoever commits a sin, he will be ordered to perform wudu and pray because wudu extinguishes the fire of the sin.” (Tahdhib Ala Sunan Abi Dawud (6:50).
Hafiz Ibn al-Arabi and Shaikh al-Taybi have also mentioned something similar in their respective books. In fact, Hafiz ibn al-Arabi said only the arrogant and conceited person lowers his garment below his ankle whereas when a person prays he is in a state of humility and thus both states are conflicting and contradictory. (A’ridah al-Ahwadhi (7:238) and Sharh al-Taybi (2:268)
Dear readers these ahadith especially the last one, of the prayer of the musbil not being accepted is a serious warning to all those who claim the permissibility of letting the garments fall below the ankles if done without arrogance and conceit. Also the severe warning that Allah will not pardon the musbil, how much more severe can it be for us to realise and pretend it is the majority view, which is often just limited to some out of context statements of the later scholars, and even they alluded to the clear cut prohibition of Isbal.
There are numerous other ahadith which make the heart tremble in the depravity of letting the garments fall below the ankles, the believer is reminded to be humble and lock away his alter ego while garbing himself with the fallacious notion that he is free from arrogance and conceit.
Therefore, based on the numerous ahadith and the severe punishment which they mention as well as the dire consequences, one should always try to be safe and abstain from views, which are not only unsafe but also lack textual evidence, except some views. For example, there is not a single clear authentic hadith or report which mentions the permissibility of letting the garments fall below the ankles.
Dear readers do not be naive and fall the opt-repeated notion of majority view, whereas we have shown the pious ancestors ie the Salaf us-Salah, ie the companions, successors and their successors were unanimous in wearing their garments above their ankles. The earlier statements from the Tabi’in indicate all of the companions were upon this way. If this is the case where has this mustahab view come from and why follow unclear statements which talk about if done without arrogance or conceit.
Lastly let any person claim he is free from arrogance and conceit! Anyone, of course not, then why all the gurgle? This issue is as clear as the sun, except those who want to open the doors to this all inclusive manhaj-difference of opinion approach and also in the blind ignorant defence of the position of the madhabs, especially the modern neo-Hanbali Madhabists, who are far away from the methods and way of the great Hanbali scholars. Allahs Aid and refuge is sought. Amin