What You Should Know About Tashabbuh: Imitating The Disbelievers.

Death, sadness and lingering debates among Muslims; only a few things are as certain as these.
In light of the recent hurry-scurry caused by some certain articles that made the rounds on the issue of birthdays and ‘imitating disbelivers’, here is a compendious list of a few things to know about the issue of Imitating disbelivers in Islam.

First: The hadith
Most important is knowing that the cornerstone of the arguments of those who are strictly against imitating disbelivers in any way is the hadith in which Ibn ‘Umar (RAA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“He who imitates any people (in their actions) is considered to be one of them.”
Related by Abu Dawud and Ibn Hibban graded it as Sahih.
(Book 16, Hadith 147, Bulugh Al Maram)

Second: The quick guidelines

Imitation of the Kuffaar is basically divided into two parts:

Firstly. Imitating disbelivers in acts they engage in as forms of worship or religious acts. (which they expect divine reward for)

An example of this is the cross which is used by Christians to show solidarity with a ‘god’ who was nailed to the cross; Apparently, this is not the place to discuss stupidity embedded in the belief.
Another example is the white flannel gown often worn by faithfuls of the Celestial church of (sighs) God to inform others of the religious circle they belong to.

In matters like these, which are not only associated to a group of disbelivers but to their beliefs and religions, then there is consensus among the scholars that the intention of one who imitates disbelivers in these matters, be his intention as pure as honey or as adulterated as, he will be held accountable for this.

Summarily: In matters which are associated to their religion or worship, we need not ask about the intention of one who imitates them before reprimanding him for that; and it does not matter whether or not this act has become so populrized that it no more can be said to be symbolic of the disbelivers.
For example, if the cross were to become so voguish – may Allah forbid – that it is no longer enough a symbol to determine a Christian, then it still would remain prohibited, because its origin is rooted deeply in their religious beliefs.

2. Imitating the disbelivers in acts which are not related to their religions, but which were started amongst people known to be predominantly non-Muslim

An example of this is eating on tables, wearing of fez caps, t-shirts, or the conventional schooling setup. In each of these cases, it should be noted that none of these had a religious origin, as none of these things were invented either to segregate themselves religiously or to appease or thank a certain god.

In cases like these, the general guideline depends on whether:

The act is still predominantly only done by these set of people, such that if one is randomly seen engaging in such acts, he is naturally classified as one of those who invented the act.

A good example of this is dying a small part of the hair and leaving the rest undyed; this is symbolic of – if you are in Lagos – those we know as ‘Awon omo wobey’. If you’re non Lagosian, please do with ‘area boys, or bad boys.’
This is so commonplace among them that if one were to enter a mosque with such hair, he would – depending on the mosque – either be bundled out, or given a warm embrace for making the time out of his busy schedule as an NURTW agent to pray.

These sorts of acts, although naturally untalked about in Islam, and non-religious, will still be categorized under tashabbuh bi- NURTW: imitating ‘Agbero’s’. As for whether it is wrong to imitate ‘Agbero’s’ that is not my place to discuss.
But it should be known, that were the ‘Agbero’ to be replaced by ‘disbelivers’ then certainly, the act would become prohibited.

As for acts – such as dying the beards in general- which are emphasized in Islam, even if disbelivers take after us in them, then there would still be no harm in it because Islam established it before them.

2: The matter has become so populrized that it can no longer be used as a means of identifying disbelivers.

A case of this is t-shirts nowadays; one can no longer assume, just by seeing someone put on a t-shirt, that such person is a believer. In a situation like this, it will be permissible, though not preferred, for muslims to engage in such acts too.

Something to note here though, is the fact that those who engaged in those acts before it became popularised enough to become Halal would not go unpunished; but for those who take to the acts after they have become popular enough to not be perceived as symbols through which disbelivers can be recognized, then those ones are not to be criticised.

*Imitation Varies From Place To Place

What could be termed ‘imitation of women’ or ‘imitation of Kuffaaar’ varies from place to place.
In Igbo states for example, where men are often known to ‘flaunt’ wrappers, then it would not be termed imitation of women; but for an American – apparently on a supplement of weed – to think it would be right for him too to decide to wear a wrapper around would be classified as imiatating women. So it is for imitating disbelivers too.

Finally, Quick links
Even if an act has become so populrized that it can no longer be used as a symbol for disbelivers, and it is yet, not a part of their religion, there are still some more guidelines to be wary of.

1.The imitation must not be with what has to do with their celebrations or felicities.
2. The imitation must not be in things which have been earlier prohibited in Islam; such as choosing a specific day to repeatedly celebrate a certain thing apart from the five days Allah has granted us for Eid.
3. Imitating them should be for a specific and reasonable purpose which should not be transgressed.
That is: it should not be done ‘just because they are doing it’.
For example: one may argue that putting on t-shirts makes one more free to roam about, especially for one who was raised in western circles. One may argue that fez caps have the advantage of protecting one’s identity over other caps.
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Lan Rey Hasan @ Knowislam.com.ng