12. Clothing, Decorations, General Behavior, Greetings, Magic, Poetry, Visions, Dreams
The twenty-second book pertains to clothing and decorations (KitAb al-LibAs wa’l-ZInah). The book begins with ahAdIs which forbid the use of gold and silver vessels (5126-5140). “He who drinks in the vessel of silver in fact drinks down in his belly the fire of Hell” (5126).
Silk is also forbidden. “Do not wear silk, for one who wears it in the world will not wear it in the Hereafter” (5150).
It is also not permissible for a man to wear clothes of yellow color (5173-5178), for “these are the clothes usually worn by the non-believers” (5173). A man was wearing clothes dyed in saffron; finding that the Prophet disapproved of them, he promised to wash them. But Muhammad said: “Burn them” (5175).
The mantles of Yemen, on the other hand, were considered excellent (5179-5180). These were striped and made of coarse cloth.
It is permissible to use carpets (5188-5189).
Sandals are recommended. JAbir reports that “during an expedition in which we all participated,” the Prophet said: “Make a general practice of wearing sandals, for a man is riding as it were when he wears sandals” (5230).
Not only clothes, but the hair too should not be dyed in saffron (5241).
On the day of the conquest of Mecca, AbU QuhAfA, the father of AbU Bakr, a veteran old man of one hundred years, met the Prophet to pledge his loyalty to him. His head and his beard were white like hyssop. The Prophet said: “Change it with something but avoid black” (5244).
But why this change or dyeing at all? The Prophet gives the reason: “The Jews and Christians do not dye their hair, so oppose them” (5245).
Many ahAdIs tell us that “angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog” (5246-5251). In fact, Gabriel himself told this to the Prophet. The angel had promised a rendezvous with Muhammad but did not turn up because meanwhile a puppy had gotten into his house and was sitting under a cot. “Then on that very morning, he [Muhammad] commanded the killing of the dogs until he announced that the dog kept for the orchards should also be killed, but he spared the dog meant for the protection of extensive fields [or big gardens],” reports MaimUna, one of the wives of the Prophet (5248).
PICTURES AND STATUES
The same is true of statues and pictures in any form, whether of birds or animals or men. They effectively keep out the angels. ’Aisha tells us: “We had a curtain which had portraits of birds upon it.... The Messenger of Allah said to me: Change them, [they bring] to my mind [the pleasures on the worldly life” (5255).
On seeing portraits on a curtain, he told ’Aisha: “The most grievous torment from the Hand of Allah on the Day of Resurrection would be for those who imitate Allah in the act of His creation” (5261). On that day Allah would ask these imitators: “Breathe soul into what you have created” (5268).
FALSE HAIR AND FACIAL CULTURE
Some of Muhammad’s prohibitions relate to practices which are surprisingly modern. He forbade women to add false hair to their head, or to pluck their eyebrows (5295-5309). The Prophet “cursed the woman who adds false hair and the woman who asks for it” (5298).
We are also told that “Allah has cursed those women who tattooed and who have themselves been tattooed, those who pluck hair from their faces and those who make spaces between their teeth for beautification changing what God has created” (5301). ’Abdullah, the son of ’Umar, tells us that if he found any of these things in his wife, he “would have never slept with her in the bed.”
Muhammad tells us also of women wearing see-through dresses: “women who would be dressed but appear to be naked will not enter paradise” (5310).
Muhammad also disapproved of qaza, i.e., having a part of a boy’s head shaved and leaving a part unshaven. This may have been an old ritualistic practice or a thoughtless current fashion (5289-5292).
GENERAL BEHAVIOR AND SALUTATIONS
The twenty-third and twenty-fourth books are the “Book of General Behavior” (al-AdAb) and the “Book on Salutations and Greetings” (as-Salam).
Curiously, the book on AdAb starts with personal names. Muhammad took great interest in this matter. He said that ugly personal names should be replaced with good ones (5332-5334). He changed the name of ’Umar’s daughter ’Asiya (“disobedient”) to JamIla (“good and handsome”) (5332). But he also changed the name of one of his wives from Barra to JuwairIya (5334). Barra means “pious,” and it is a perfectly good name.
Muhammad said that the dearest names to Allah are SubhAn Allah (“Hallowed be Allah”), and al-Hamidulillah (“praise be to Allah”) (5329). But he forbade giving the following four names to servants: Aflah (“successful”), RabAh (“profit”), YasAr (“wealth”), and NAfi (“beneficial”) (5327).
“The vilest name in Allah’s sight is Malik al-AmlAk (king of kings).” So is the appellation ShahinshAh, having the same meaning (5338).
NAMING INFANTS AFTER MUHAMMAD
People who wanted to name their sons after Muhammad were only allowed to use his personal name (Muhammad), but not his kunya (a name descriptive of some quality or attribute), QAsim. JAbir narrates that a man named his newborn babe Muhammad. When other Muslims objected, he went to Muhammad for clarification. Muhammad said: “Give him my name but do not give him my kunya, for I am QAsim in the sense that I distribute [the spoils of war] and the dues of ZakAt amongst you” (5316).
TahnIk is the practice of blessing a newborn infant with religious piety. AzAn and IqAma are recited in its right and left cars, and some chewed dates are rubbed over its palate. AsmA, the daughter of AbU Bakr, gave birth to a baby. The baby was taken to Muhammad. Muhammad called for some dates, “chewed them and then put his saliva in his [the infant’s] mouth. The first thing that entered his stomach was the saliva of Allah’s Messenger.... He then rubbed him and blessed him and gave him the name of ’Abdullah. He [’Abdullah] went to him [the Holy Prophet] when he had attained the age of seven or eight years in order to pledge allegiance to Allah’s Messenger” (5344).
ASKING PERMISSION BEFORE ENTERING A HOUSE
One should not enter anybody’s house without his permission. When a man seeks permission three times, and it is not granted, “he should come back” (5354).
DON’T PEEP INTO ANOTHER MAN’S HOUSE
It is forbidden to peep into the house of another person. A man peeped through a hole in the door at Allah’s Messenger, who was using a pointed object of some kind to arrange the hair on his head. Allah’s Messenger said to him: “If I were to know that you had been peeping, I would have thrust it into your eyes” (5367). Then Muhammad pronounced: “He who peeped into the house of people without their consent, it is permissible for them to put out his eyes” (5370).
SALUTATIONS AND GREETINGS
“Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim ... When you meet him, offer him greetings; when he invites you to a feast accept it; when he seeks your counsel give him; and when he sneezes and says: ‘All praise to Allah,’ you say, ‘May Allah show mercy to you’; and when he falls ill visit him; and when he dies follow his bier” (5379).
When the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) offer you salutations, you should say: “The same to you” (5380). Some Jews once made a pun and greeted Muslims by saying as-sAm-u-’alaikum (“death be upon you”) instead of the usual as-salAm-u-alaikum (“peace be upon you”). Muhammad teaches his followers to respond by saying: “Let it be upon you” (5380-5388). The Prophet himself followed this practice.
“The rider should first greet the pedestrian, and the pedestrian the one who is seated” (5374). And all should greet the children (5391-5392). Muhammad also taught his followers to “avoid sitting on the paths”; or if that cannot be helped, then “give the path its due right” (5375-5377).
But it is different with the People of the Book. “Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it” (5389).
’Umar wanted Muhammad to ask his women to wear the veil, but Muhammad did not respond. One day, when the Prophet’s wife SaudA, who was tall in stature, went out to the fields in the dark to ease herself, ’Umar called out: “SaudA, we recognize you.” He did so “with the hope that the verses pertaining to veil would be revealed.” His hope was fulfilled. “Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, then revealed the verses pertaining to veil,” says ’Aisha (5397).
Also, “beware of getting into the houses and meeting women.” “But what about the husband’s brother,” an ansAr asked. “Husband’s brother is like death,” the Prophet replied (5400).
MAGIC AND SPELLS
With rather slovenly classification, the “Book of Salutations and Greetings” also contains many ahAdIs on magic, spells, medicine, poisons, and incantations.
The Prophet believed that “the influence of an evil eye is a fact.” A bath is prescribed as its remedy. “When you are asked to take a bath from the influence of an evil eye, you should take a bath” (5427).
Muhammad also believed in witchcraft. In fact, he believed that he himself had once been put under a spell by a Jew and his daughters. During this period, he lost his appetite and even became impotent; or, in the language of Ibn IshAq, “could not come at his wives.” And under the influence of the charm, he also felt “that he had been doing something whereas in fact he had not been doing that.” But two angels came and revealed everything: the nature of the sickness, those who had brought it about, and the way they did it. The angels told Muhammad that “the spell has affected him,” and that “it was LabId b. A’sam [who cast the spell].” The angels explained that hairs combed from the head of the Prophet had been stolen, tied in eleven knots around a palm branch, and deposited at the bottom of a well. The effect of the charm was transmitted “by the comb and by the hair stuck to the comb and the spathe of the date-palm—[and that it was] in the well of Zi ArwAn.” Muhammad sent his men there and they found it at the very spot revealed by the angels. Muhammad told ’Aisha: “ ’Aisha, by Allah, its [the well’s] water was yellow like henna and its trees [i.e., the trees around the well] were like heads of the devils” (5428).
As the knots were untied, the Prophet got well. He sought “refuge with the Lord of the Dawn from the mischief of women who blow on knots [i.e., practice the secret art of casting spells]” (QurAn SUra 113).
In the same SUra, the Prophet also seeks refuge “from the mischief of darkness as it overspreads.” Has this prayer to do with his fear of darkness? His biographers say he was afraid of the dark and would not sit in a dark room unless a lamp was brought for him.1
On another occasion, a Jewish woman gave Muhammad poisoned mutton, but, of course, it had no power over him (5430). The Jewish woman was none other than the unfortunate victim who had seen her father and husband killed in the Prophet’s raid on Khaibar and whom he was now contemplating to marry. She poisoned the mutton she was asked to cook for Muhammad. He had just taken a morsel and finding the taste unusual spat it out. This saved him for the time being, but the poison had a delayed effect, and according to some traditions, it caused his last illness.
CURES BY INCANTATION
Muhammad used to “cure” people with the help of incantations (5442-5457). Among others, he treated cases of “evil eye” and snakebite. He even granted the sanction of treating snakebite with incantation to a family of ansArs (5443).2
’Aisha reports: “When any person fell ill with a disease or he had any ailment or he had any injury, the Apostle of Allah placed his forefinger upon the ground and then lifted it by reciting the name of Allah and said: ‘The dust of our ground with the saliva of any one of us would serve as a means whereby our illness would be cured with the sanction of Allah’ ” (5444).
The translator extends the area from the Prophet’s four walls and household to the whole of Medina. He says that according to some Muslim scholars, the word “dust” in the hadIs “refers to the sacred dust of Medina on which had fallen the saliva of the pious Muslims” (note 2579).
On another occasion, a Companion of the Prophet cured a man bitten by a poisonous scorpion with the help of SUra al-FAtiha, reinforced by the application of his saliva (5459).3
NO EVIL OMEN, NO HAMA. NO INFECTION
Muhammad said that there are “no ill omens, no ghouls,” and “no star promising rain.” There is also no hAma (5507-5516). According to the Arab belief of that time, the soul of a slain man took the form of a bird known as hAma, which kept crying for the blood of the slayer until the slayer was killed.
Muhammad also taught that there is no infection, no epidemic disease. About the plague he said: “When you hear that it has broken out in a land, don’t go to it, and when it has broken out in the land where you are, don’t run out of it” (5493). The fever is due to “the intense heat of the Hell. Cool it down with water,” Muhammad says (5484).
Don’t mix with lepers. A delegation that included a leper once came to pay homage to Muhammad. The Prophet would not meet the leper but sent him a message: “We have accepted your allegiance, so you may go” (5541).
Though Muhammad did not believe in divination, he believed in good omens and luck. “There is no transitive [i.e., epidemic] disease, no divination, but good omens please me,” he says (5519).
About luck he says: “If a bad luck is a fact, then it is in a horse, the woman and the house” (5526). According to the translator, “the unluckiness of a horse is that the horse is used not for JihAd but for evil designs” (note 2602).
Muhammad was against kAhins, i.e., augurs, soothsayers, and fortune-tellers. The reason for this opposition was personal as well as ideological; personal because he himself was accused of being no better than a kAhin but wanted to be known as a prophet. Allah had assured him that “by the favour of the Lord, thou art neither a soothsayer [kAhin], nor one possessed or mad [majnUn]” (QurAn 52:29).
His other ground of opposition was of a more general nature. Muhammad believed that Gabriel was the true source of the knowledge of the unseen world now contained in the QurAn and the Sunnah. But the source of the knowledge of a kAhin is the jinn, a knowledge which he steals from heaven but mixes up with lies. ’Aisha puts it to Muhammad: “Messenger of Allah! they [kAhins] at times tell us things which we find true.” Muhammad replies: “That is a word pertaining to truth which a jinn snatches away and then cackles into the ear of his friend [the kAhin] as the hen does. And then they [the jinns] mix in it more than one hundred lies” (5536). For pure and unadulterated knowledge of the occult world, the QurAn and the Sunnah are the source. “All other avenues of knowledge of the unseen world are limited and thus not fully authentic and reliable,” the translator assures us (note 2603).
Muhammad did not believe in a star promising rain, but that does not make him a rationalist as we understand the word today. The two worlds—the world of Muhammad and that of the modern rationalist—are very different. There is an interesting hadIs on shooting stars which tells us what Muhammad believed about the world, nature, and the law of causality, and incidentally about how the jinns steal their knowledge of the heavens.
The pre-Muslim Arabs believed that meteors symbolized the death or birth of a great man, a belief found in the lore of many countries, including India. Muhammad corrected this belief and provided another explanation. His view is a little complicated but worth quoting. It seems that Muhammad believed in the hierarchy of angels. First in rank are the “supporters of the Throne”; next come the “dwellers of the heaven”; the third group lives in the “heaven of the world.” When these different orders communicate with each other, the jinn has his chance. Muhammad explains: “Allah, the Exalted and the Glorious, issues Command when He decides to do a thing. Then the angels supporting the Throne sing His glory, then sing dwellers of the heaven who are near to them until this glory of God reaches them who are in this heaven of the world. Then those who are near the supporters of the Throne ask those supporters of the Throne: What has your Lord said? And they accordingly inform them what He says. Then the dwellers of heaven of the world seek information from them until this information reaches the heaven of the world. In this process of transmission the jinn snatches what he manages to overhear and he carries it to his friends. And when the angels see the jinn they attack them with meteors. If they narrate which they manage to snatch that is correct, but they alloy it with lies and make additions to it” (5538).
The snatching of the heavenly news by the jinn is referred to in several places in the QurAn. The interested reader may look up the SUras Hijr (15:16-18), SAffAt (37:7-10), Mulk (67:5), and Jinn (72:8-10).
WINDS AND CLOUDS
The fact is that the world of Muhammad is as weird and full of imps and jinns as the world of the kAhins and has little in common with the world as moderns understand it. As we have already seen in the chapter on salAt (see page 31) Muhammad’s approach even to phenomena so close to home as clouds and rain and wind was neither scientific nor even poetic but magical and superstitious. Their sight filled him with fear. ’Aisha tells us that when he “saw dark clouds or wind, the signs of fear were depicted on his face.” She asked him: “I find people being happy when they see the dark cloud in the hope that it would bring rain, but I find that when you see that [the cloud] there is an anxiety on your face.” He replied: “ ’Aisha, I am afraid that there may be a calamity in it, for it may be like the people of ’Ad who saw a cloud formation and thought ‘It is a cloud which would give us rain,’ but were destroyed by it” (QurAn 46:24; hadIs 1963).
SNAKES, ANTS, CATS
’Aisha reports that the Prophet “commanded the killing of a snake having stripes over it, for it affects eyesight and miscarries pregnancy” (5542). Like snakes, dogs too “cause miscarriage and affect the eyesight adversely.” So they too should be killed (5545).
Ants fared better, but this was due to the intervention of Allah Himself. “An ant had bitten a prophet ... he ordered that the colony of the ants should be burnt. And Allah revealed to him: Because of an ant’s bite you have burnt a community from amongst the communities which sing My praise” (5567).
The book ends on a compassionate note. It is forbidden to kill a cat (5570-5576). It is also meritorious to supply water to thirsty animals (5577-5579).
CORRECT WORDS, POETRY, VISIONS
The next three books are very small. One relates to the use of correct words; another is on poetry (kitAb al-shi’r); and the third is on visions (kitAb al-rUyA).
At a place known as ’Arj, Muhammad once saw a poet reciting a poem. “Catch the Satan,” Muhammad commanded. “Filling the belly of a person with pus is better than stuffing his brain with poetry,” the Messenger of Allah added (5611).
This is only a part of the story and does not represent the positive side of the Prophet’s attitude toward poets. True, he did not think highly of them. He himself was described by some as a poet but declined the honor because it detracted from the dignity of apostleship, the only status he cared to claim. “This is the speech of an honoured Apostle; it is not the speech of a poet nor of a soothsayer,” he vehemently insisted (QurAn 69:40-42).
Muhammad took a utilitarian view of poets. The more inconvenient ones he had eliminated, even by the method of assassination, as in the cases of ’AsmA, the daughter of MarwAn, the centenarian poet AbU ’Afak, and Ka’b ibn Ashraf. This taught many of the others to behave better. Muhammad also employed and honored some of the more pliable poets, among them Ka’b ibn MAlik, HassAn ibn SAbit, and Ka’b ibn Zuhair. The last-mentioned was the son of a famous poet of his times. At first Ka’b ibn Zuhair put himself under the ban by writing poems unfavorable to the Muslims. When Mecca was conquered, his brother, who was already a convert, warned him of the fate suffered by many other opponents of Islam and advised him to either submit or seek asylum somewhere else. He wrote Ka’b that the Apostle had killed some of the men in Mecca who had satirized him and that the Quraish poets who were left, like Ibn al-Ziba’rA and Hubayra b. AbU Wahb, had already fled in all directions. “If you have any use for your life then come quickly to the Apostle, for he does not kill anyone who comes to him in repentance. If you do not do that, then get to some safe place,” he advised, according to Ibn IshAq.4
Ka’b took his brother’s advice and one day appeared before Muhammad without revealing his identity. “O Apostle, Ka’b b. Zuhair has come to ask security from you as a repentant Muslim. Would you accept him as such if he came to you?” Ka’b inquired of the Prophet. Receiving an affirmative answer, he said, “I am Ka’b, the son of Zuhair.” Some of the people around Muhammad wanted his permission to kill him, but he was spared.
Then Ka’b sought the Prophet’s permission to recite a qasIda in his praise. The permission was readily given. He began reciting: “He surpassed all the prophets in constitution and disposition, / Nor did any approach him either in knowledge or nobleness.” But when he came to the lines, “Indeed, the Prophet is a Light providing guidance to the world / And a drawn sword from the armoury of Allah [suyUf Allah], ” the Prophet was so delighted that he took off his mantle and bestowed it on Ka’b. The poem came to be known in the Muslim world as the “Poem of the Mantle” (QasIdat-ul-Burda). The mantle became a precious heirloom of the poet’s family and was bought from one of his descendants by a future KhalIfa, Mu’awiyah, for 40,000 dirhams. The khirqai-sharIf (holy mantle) became successively the property of the Ummayads and then of the Abbasides. Some say it was burned when Baghdad was sacked by the Tartars; others believe that it passed into the hands of the Ottoman caliphate. Whether real or fake, the Ottoman mantle is taken out as a national standard in times of great emergency.
Playing chess is also forbidden. “He who played chess is like one who dyed his hand with the flesh and blood of a swine,” says Muhammad (5612).
The next book, again very small, is on visions and dreams. A bad dream is called hulm, an ordinary one manAm and al-rUyA is a heavenly vision.
Muhammad says that good dreams come from Allah and bad ones from Satan (5613). If one has a bad dream (hulm), he should do two things: “he should spit thrice on his left side” (5615-5616) and “not disclose it to any one” (5618). But a good dream one may reveal to his beloved friends (5618-5619).
Muhammad says that “the vision of a believer is the forty-sixth part of prophecy” (5622-5630); in other ahAdIs it becomes “the seventieth part” (5632-5634). The difference between the forty-sixth and the seventieth parts “depends upon the difference in the standard of piety” of the dreamer, as the translator explains (note 2618).
Here too is some bad news for professional psychoanalysts. “Do not narrate to the people the vain sporting of Satan with you in your sleep,” Muhammad advises his followers (5641).
Muhammad also makes a very self-satisfied statement: “He who saw me in a dream in fact saw me, for the satan does not appear in my form” (5635).
Muhammad also narrates some of his own dreams and gives their interpretations. Once in a dream, he was made to wear “two bangles” on his hands. At this he felt “a sort of burden” upon him (for a “bangle is the ornament of women,” the translator explains); Muhammad then was made to blow upon them and they both disappeared. “I interpreted the two bangles as the two great liars who would appear after me and the one amongst them was ’AnasI the inhabitant of San’a and the other one was Musailima the inhabitant of YamAma,” Muhammad says (5650).
Both of these men lived at the time of the Prophet. Both claimed prophethood; Musailima al-KazzAb (“the greater liar” as he is called by Muslim theologians) even claimed a joint share in the prophethood of Muhammad. ’AnasI and Musailima both led revolts and were killed.
2He saw “no harm in the incantation which does not smack of polytheism” (5457), i.e., which invoked the name of Al-lah but not of Al-lAt.
3Saliva exists in many modes and performs many functions. It has a sexual potential, as several ahAdIs show; it is a wonder drug; and it also has the power to confer great spiritual merit.
4SIrat RasUl Allah, p.597.