The Etiquette of Appearance

door-_-mosaicBy Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah

Distinct Muslim Personality

Islam advocates this etiquette and stresses it so as to perfect the Muslim personality and to bring about harmony among people. There is no doubt that embodying such manners and virtues enhances personal style and qualities, refines personality, and brings us closer to the hearts and minds of others. The forthcoming manners and etiquette are central to Islam, its purposes and its aims. Calling it “etiquette” by no means implies that it is marginal to life and social behavior. It does not mean Muslims have the option of ignoring this code of behavior, or that it is merely preferable to adhere to it.

In pointing out that manners rank higher than deeds, Imam Al-Qarafi in his book Al-Furuq said, “Learn that a little etiquette is better than a lot of good actions.”

Ruwaim, the righteous scholar, told his son, “Oh my son, make your deeds salt, and your manners flour.”[1]

Many good manners with few good deeds are better than many good deeds with few good manners. Even if some of these rules appear to be simple common courtesy, it is important to highlight their significance. Many Muslims commit errors which blemish the Islamic personality, whose purpose is meant to be unique in its beauty, perfection, and traits.

Our master, the Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam directed the blessed Companions by saying: “You are on your way to meet your brothers, put on a nice dress and fix your riding so you appear distinct among people as a fleck [on a beautiful face]. Allah does not like roughness nor rough manners.”

When the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “No one will enter Paradise if they have at heart a grain of arrogance.”

A man asked: “A man may like his dress to be nice and his shoes nice.”

The Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam answered, “Allah is beautiful and likes beauty. Arrogance is to deny rights and look down at people.”

Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah said that the beauty that Allah likes includes nice clothes. Hence it could be said that Allah likes all nice things. Therefore, a Muslim ought to be recognized by neat dress, cleanliness, and graceful appearance.

Cleanliness And Washing

The Sunnah is to keep perfume and to use it regularly on oneself. Al-Bukhari narrated that Salman Al-Farsi said: the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Allah will forgive the sins of the past week for he who on Friday will take a bath, cleanse himself, put on his [regular] perfume or any perfume available in house. Then, he goes out [to Jumu’ah prayer] and does not try to separate two friends. Then he prays wherever he could and listens to the Imam.”

If the body became odorous a day or two before Friday, one should not wait till Friday to cleanse the body. We should wash our bodies as soon as it require washing to keep ourselves clean and fresh.

To take a bath on Friday is specifically required since a large number of people will be gathering at mosques. However, if our body became dirty or we sweat on a particular day, then, we should take a bath at the end of day or the next morning. This is indicated by a Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim that Abu Huraira said, the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, said, “It is the duty of every Muslim to have a bath once every week to wash his head and body.”

Arriving From A Journey

If you are traveling to visit someone or if you are about to receive guests, whether those in question are your parents, relatives, peers, or friends of a different age, make sure that your hands, feet, and socks are clean, and your appearance and clothing is neat. Never neglect or underestimate the importance of your look, for that would certainly mar the pleasure of the meeting, while dulling the enjoyment of those you meet. In this regard, the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam directed his Companions upon returning from a journey: “You are returning to your brethren, dress nicely, and sort out your rides so that you may become a beauty mark among people, for Allah does not like sloppiness or acting in a sloppy way.”

Try to bring some gifts to those receiving you, and likewise present your guests with a present. Always be prepared to reciprocate with a suitable gift. The subtle joy of seeing your beloved ones will be vividly remembered for many years. A gift, however symbolic, will greatly enhance the pleasure of such a meeting. The Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam as reported by Bukhari, said: “Exchange gifts; exchange love.”

Our Muslim predecessors used to leave their host with a present which could be as symbolic as an Arak stick.

Dress Properly With Family And Friends

Dress properly, even among friends and relatives. Dress properly when visiting your parents, a pious person, an elder, or even a relative or a friend. Your attire should be clean and elegant, not ugly or unsightly. We are attracted or repulsed by what we see. If you look good in clean clothes, smelling nice, you will be pleasant to look at and people will be attracted to you and enjoy your presence. If you were the opposite, people will look down on you even if you were a relative or friend. To look good while visiting or being visited is an instinctive trait in addition to being an Islamic manner. Do not ignore this aspect because you consider yourself to be close to your hosts or guests.

Imam Bukhari in his book, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad reported that the great follower Abi Al-’Alia Al-Riahi Al-Basri said, “Muslims were at their best when visiting each other.”

Al-Hafez Al-Haithami in Majmu’ Al-Zawa’id (1:169) reported that Thabet Al-Banani , the student of Imam Anas bin Malik said, “When I used to visit Anas , he would call for a perfume and run it along his cheeks.”

Accordingly, if you were visited at home while dressed very casually, as it sometimes happens, you should change for your visitor. This will enhance his respect for you and will complement your hospitality. It is, after all, the manners of the early Muslims.

Courtesy of



[1] Mawlana Muhammad ibn Haroon Abasoomar explains, “…referring to the fact that dough consists of more flour than salt, i.e. one should have more manners than deeds.


Note: This article was edited for spelling in addition to a new title.


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