Question: Some people say, “Performing salat in a short-sleeved shirt is not Shar’i [Islamically] makruh, but ‘urfi [according to local customs] makruh. That is, if every man in a particular society performs salat in a long-sleeved shirt and if it stands out when a man performs it in a short-sleeved one, it will be ‘urfi makruh. There is nothing wrong with this if he is not odd-looking in his short-sleeved garment.”
Then if all men in a coastal town wear shorts and perform salat in them, will they be considered to be committing ‘urfi haram? That is, isn’t there anything wrong with it?
Common practice cannot legitimize a wrong custom. In Islam, there is a term called tab’an makruh, but there is not a term called ‘urfi makruh or ‘urfi haram. Tab’an makruh means that which is repugnant to human nature like the smell of an onion or garlic.
Wearing short trousers that expose the region above the knees is Shar’i haram. Performing salat in a short-sleeved shirt is Shar’i makruh [for men]. A salat that is performed in short trousers, e.g., in shorts, is in no way valid. People’s style of dressing in coastal towns does not make something haramhalal, and obeying the majority of people cannot save a person from disaster. Now let us refer to the Qur’an al-karim:
(If you follow the majority of people, they will lead you astray from the path of Allah.) [Al-An’am 116]
The conduct of the majority of people is not evidence in our religion. The criterion is what our religion declared, not the actions and statements of the majority of people. Everybody tries to fabricate evidence in order to eliminate this makruh act. For example, a reformer says, “As it was improper in the past to come into the presence of a ruler bareheaded, it was makruh to perform salat bareheaded then. Now there is no longer a need for this. Performing salat in a short-sleeved shirt is not makruh because it is the usual garment of a man.”
It is written in reliable books:
1. It is written in the book Ni’mat-i Islam in its section dealing with the 11th of the makruh acts of salat, “[It is makruh] for a man to perform salat with bare arms.” It is written in its footnote that it is makruh, too, to gather skirts and to expose the legs. (p. 564)
2. Performing salat with bare arms by rolling the sleeves is makruh. The same ruling is written in Fatawa-i Qadihan, too. (Fatawa-i Hindiyya)
[It is stated herein that what is makruh is not to roll the sleeves but to expose the skin because it is further stated in the same book, “It is makruh to perform salat without wearing a shirt, though one has one.” The same ruling is written in Khulasa as well.” It is makruh to perform salat with one shoulder naked, too. (Fatawa-i Hindiyya)]
3. It is makruh to pull up the front and the back of an izaar lest it get dusty. It is makruh, too, to perform salat with the sleeves and izaar rolled up. (Halabi)
[Izaar is a piece of clothing that covers the lower half of the body like a skirt or a waist-wrap. When the skirt is pulled up, it reveals the legs. What is makruh is not to roll it up but to expose the legs. Pulling it up lest it get dusty is makruh, too, because it makes the legs visible. If there is long underwear beneath that prevents the legs from being exposed, it will not be makruh. It is further stated in the same book, “It is declared in a hadith-i sharif that performing salat wearing only an izaar is makruh [because the upper part of the body is naked]. However, it is not makruh if he does not have any other garment. (Halabi)]
4. It is written in Durr-ul-mukhtar:
“Just as it is makruh to roll sleeves and the lower parts of a garment as protection against dust and soil during salat, so it is makruh to gather, that is, to pull up a dress.”
Hadrat Ibn Abidin explains these statements as follows:
It is makruh, too, to lift his dress up while he is going down for sajda. The author of the book Bahr says: “It is still makruh to pull it up a little because the phrase togather dress includes all of these acts.”
5. It is written “for men to expose their arms” in the 10th of the makruh acts of salat in the book Hadiyyat-ul ‘alaiyya written by Muhammad ‘Ala ad-Din, the son of Hadrat Ibn Abidin. In the 16th of the makruh acts of salat, the phrase “pull up their izaars” is written. When it is pulled up, the legs are revealed. It is inferred that what is makruh is not to pull an izaar up but to reveal the skin.
6. Hadrat Ibrahim Hakki Erzurumi states:
“It is makruh to perform salat with bare shoulders and arms” (Ma’rifatnama, p. 268).
7. The hadith-i sharif written in the commentary on the book Shir’a says, “A salat performed with the collars closed is 70 times more rewarding [thawab] than a salat performed with the collars open.)
For this reason, men should not expose their skin in salat by opening their collars.
It is said that short-sleeved shirts are a man’s usual clothes. Similarly, a man may wear shorts, and they may be his usual clothes, but fiqh books say:
“If a garment one wears customarily renders one’s salat invalid or makruh, one must not wear it for salat” (Durar).
Therefore, even though wearing short trousers and short-sleeved shirts is common, it is in no way permissible to perform salat in short trousers. As for wearing a short-sleeved shirt for salat, it renders a man’s salatmakruh.