RESEMBLING NON-MUSLIMS IN HISTORY AND NEW YEAR'S EVE
Before receiving the revelation of prophethood, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to perform some of the acts of worship that previous prophets had informed about. He would perform the pilgrimage (Hajj), offer sacrifices, and pray. When he arrived in Medina, he observed the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura (10th day of Muharram).
Upon inquiring about the significance of this day, they informed him that it was the day when Prophet Moses (Musa, peace be upon him) fasted in gratitude for being saved from Pharaoh. Prophet Muhammad responded by saying, "We have more right to observe the fast on this day as a way of following the tradition of our brother Moses."
He observed the fast on Ashura and later, when fasting during the month of Ramadan became obligatory, the observance of Ashura became voluntary for Muslims. Some continued to fast on this day, while others did not. (Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood)
Nevertheless, Prophet Muhammad prohibited imitating Jews and Christians in certain religious practices. For example, he said, "When you stand for prayer, let all parts of your body be still; do not sway like the Jews."
He rejected announcing the prayer times by blowing a trumpet, as done by the Jews, and ringing a bell, as done by the Christians, considering it resembling their practices. Initially, when attending a funeral, people used to stand, but upon learning that Jews did the same, he instructed, "Oppose them; sit down until the funeral is buried." When he found out that Jews cut their nails in a specific order, he began cutting his nails in a different order.
In daily life and customs, Prophet Muhammad sometimes prohibited resembling non-Muslims and sometimes did not. There are hadiths such as "Do not resemble the polytheists; dye your beards" or "Oppose the Jews; have suhur (pre-dawn meal) for fasting" on this matter. However, no scholar has declared it makruh (disliked) to refrain from dyeing the beard or fasting without suhur without the intention of resembling others.
Regarding the practice derived from the hadith "Oppose the Magians; trim your mustaches, and grow your beards," scholars stated that it became a customary practice, and leaving it without a valid excuse is considered makruh. The meaning here is that if it ceases to be a customary practice, it would not be makruh. However, intentionally cutting the beard to resemble non-Muslims is likely considered makruh in any case.
The hadith "Whoever resembles a people is one of them" has been interpreted by scholars as resembling in beliefs and practices. From the Ottoman scholars, Nablusi (d. 1731) states in his book al-Hadiqa: "The Sunnah of the Prophet has two types: 1- Sunnah al-huda (Sunnah of guidance), like observing i'tikaf (secluding oneself) in the mosque, reciting the call to prayer and the call to establish prayer, performing prayers in congregation, and the Sunnah mu'akkadah (confirmed sunnahs) of the five daily prayers. 2- Sunnah al-zawaid (Sunnah of habits), which includes the Prophet's habits in clothing, eating, drinking, sitting, dwelling, sleeping, and walking, as well as his practice of starting good things with the right side and eating and drinking with the right hand."
To those who recommend dressing like in the time of Prophet Muhammad, the Indian scholar, judge, and Sufi Sanaullah Panipati (d. 1810) states in his commentary "Sharh al-Tafhimat": "During the time of Caliph Umar, it was the custom of the believers to wear a long shirt, headscarf, and sandals. Dressing like this did not lead to fame, being pointed at, or causing discord; now, however, it might. One should wear what is customary in their land. In a hadith, it is said, 'Being pointed at is a form of harm that reaches a person.'"
Seyyidalizade (d. 1524), an Ottoman scholar and judge, states the following in his commentary "al-Shir'a al-Islam": "Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet Muhammad, in matters for which no specific revelation had been sent down to him, would prefer to follow ahl al-kitab (the People of the Book, Jews and Christians). Considering the possibility that they did so because it was mentioned in their books, he would prefer to follow them rather than the polytheists. At that time, ahl al-kitab would let their hair hang down without parting it, while the polytheists would part their hair before letting it hang down. The Prophet and his companions would leave a lock of hair hanging down like ahl al-kitab. When they gained dominance over the polytheists, he saw no problem in parting their hair. Consequently, all Muslims started parting their hair."
The Prophet Muhammad wore a robe with tight sleeves, the type worn by the Byzantines (rumi) and taken from the Christians during the Tabuk expedition. He also wore shoes known as "sabtiyya," which were specific to priests. Additionally, he used to wear taylasan (hooded robe), which was reported from him to be exclusive to the Jews.
Resembling with Intention
Ottoman scholar Gümüşhanevi Ahmad Diya al-din (d. 1893) in Jami al-Mutun states: "Respecting non-Muslim holidays; doing things on these days that one wouldn't do on regular days; buying and eating things one wouldn't typically eat on other days; and giving a gift to someone adhering to that religion on their holidays is prohibited. Furthermore, imitating the religious symbols or attire of ahl al-kitab, even in a joking manner, is strongly prohibited. This includes wearing items like the religious garments (like a zunnar or a priest's hat) and using items that are symbolic in their religion (like the cross). These are the most strongly forbidden aspects of resembling ahl al-kitab, and scholars have considered them as signs of disbelief."
In Cairo, Hanafi mufti Tahtawi (d. 1816), in his commentary "Hashyat al-Tahtawi ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar," states: "There are degrees of resembling ahl al-kitab. Resembling them in harmless matters such as eating, drinking, and clothing customs is permissible. However, resembling them with the intention of imitation is prohibited. For example, eating at a table or wearing a tie just to resemble non-Muslims is not permissible; it is permissible if there is no such intention. Resembling ahl al-kitab in matters specific to their religions, which are symbols of their faith, becomes disbelief even if unintentional. Resembling in beneficial worldly matters is permissible. In everything, such as eating and drinking, resembling is not considered makruh (reprehensible)."
Ibn Abidin (d. 1836) states in his work "Radd al-Muhtar": "The actions of non-Muslims can be divided into two categories: one is worship, and the other is customs, meaning what each community and country customarily does. From these practices, doing what Islam does not prohibit and benefiting people is not problematic as long as one does not intend to imitate them. For example, wearing trousers, acquiring various shoes, using forks and spoons, eating meals at a table, placing dishes in front of everyone, slicing bread with a knife, and using various items and tools are all related to customs."
When a student of Imam Abu Yusuf saw him wearing iron-studded shoes and expressed that wearing such shoes, similar to those worn by priests, was problematic, Abu Yusuf responded, "The Prophet also used to wear shoes similar to those worn by priests. This is something that is beneficial for people. Walking long distances can only be possible with such shoes."
National Consciousness - Religious Dignity
In short, according to the Islamic scholars, resembling non-Muslims can be categorized in several ways. Resembling them in matters of faith is not permissible. In fact, showing respect for the symbols of other religions, such as intentionally wearing a cross, celebrating Christmas and Nowruz, believing in reincarnation, considering yoga as a form of worship, is considered disbelief.
Resembling in the application of worship, such as swaying during prayer or delaying iftar (fast breaking) until the stars are visible, is considered makruh in Islamic jurisprudence. In Islamic law, every follower of a religion has the freedom to believe and worship as they wish. However, it is natural for a religion to prohibit its followers from adhering to the rules of other religions in order to protect its integrity.
Resembling in daily customs, if it involves a technological invention like a shower or telephone, or a useful item like a traffic light, is permissible without the intent of imitation. If it pertains to something futile, such as New Year celebrations, Mother's Day, birthday candles, ties, or Western-style shirts, it is permissible without the intent of imitation, but it becomes makruh if there is an intent to imitate. In all cases, preserving national identity and religious dignity is necessary. However, it is noteworthy that boycotting New Year celebrations, cola, or Jewish products while not showing the same sensitivity to adhering to the clear commandments and prohibitions of the religion is surprising.
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