The Status of the Turban in Light of the Sunnah



By Shaykh Fadhl al-Rahman al-A’zami

One must affirm that there can be absolutely no doubt in the fact that each and every Sunnah of our beloved Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam is considered supreme and well worthy of emulation by a true believer and follower of his esteemed lifestyle. In fact a true lover of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam would be prepared to give his life for the practical preservation of even one Sunnah. A true [member of the Ummah] of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam is one who endeavors to emulate every Sunnah, whether it is connected to the Ibaadah (worship) of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam or his habit or lifestyle (the manner of his eating, walking, dressing, etc.).

Concerning the turban, Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhlawi has written in Khasa’il-e-Nabawi (commentary of Shama’il Tirmidhi):

“The tying of the turban is a Sunnah Mustamirrah (a practice perpetually adhered to by the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).  The Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam has enjoined the tying of the turban upon us. It has been reported, ‘Tie the turban. It will increase you in forbearance.’” (Fath al-Bari)

It is also reported that somebody enquired from Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Umar (R) whether the tying of the turban was a Sunnah or not. He replied in the affirmative.

It is reported in one hadith that the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, ”Wear the turban as it is a sign of Islam and it distinguishes between a Muslim and a Kafir.” (`Aynee)

Hadiths Pertaining to the Turban

Hadhrat Huraith (R) reports that the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam addressed the people while wearing a black turban. (Sahih Muslim, Vol.1 p.439)

In another narration it is reported: “I saw the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam wearing a black turban.” (Shama’il Tirmidhi p.8)

Hadhrat Jabir (R) reports that on the occasion of the conquest of Makkah, the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam entered Makkah Mukarramah while wearing a black turban. (Sahih Muslim, Vol.1 p.439)

Hadhrat Ibn Abbas (R) reports that during the illness just prior to his passing away, the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam addressed the Sahabah (R) while wearing a black turban. (Sahih Bukhari, Vol.1 p.536)

Hadhrat Anas (R) reports: “I saw the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam performing Wudu. He had on a Qitri turban…” (Abu Dawud, p.19)  (Qitri: a type of thick coarse cloth with an element of redness in it.)

The Sahabah (R) and the Turban

Hadhrat Abu Umar (R) reports that he saw Hadhrat Ibn Umar (R) purchasing such a turban which had designs on it. Thereafter he requested for a scissors and cut it off. (Ibn Majah, p.26)

A lengthy incident has been mentioned in Sahih Bukhari where Hadhrat Abdullah bin Ateek (R) says: “It was a moonlit night when I fell down breaking my calf. I used my turban to form a bandage around it and proceeded ahead.” (Vol.2  p.577)

Hadhrat Sulayman (R) says: “I saw those Sahabah who were from the Muhajirin Awwalin (those who were among the first to migrate to Madinah) wearing turbans of cotton material.” (Mussanaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Vol.8 p.241)

It is mentioned that on the day of the martyrdom of Hadhrat Uthman (R), Hadhrat Ali (R) had on a black turban. (Ibid, Vol.8 p.235)

Nafi’ says: “I saw Ibn Umar (R) wearing a turban the tail of which hung between the shoulders.” (Ibid, Vol.8 p.2)

The Scholars of Hadith and the Turban

It is mentioned concerning Imam Bukhari that when he prepared to travel towards Samarqand, he tied a turban and wore leather socks. (Muqaddamah Fath al-Bari, p.493)

It is also reported regarding Imam Muslim that once he placed his shawl on his turban in front of his teacher and left the class. (Ibid, p.491) This proves that Imam Muslim attended the lessons of Hadith wearing a turban.

Virtue of the Turban

The mere fact that the wearing of the turban is proven to be Sunnah is in itself a sufficient and complete appraisal of its virtue and should provide the necessary impetus towards its adoption. However, there exist a multitude of narrations expounding the virtue of the turban. Many of them are Da`eef (weak). However it is an accepted principle that a coupling of a multitude of weak narrations concerning the virtue of a specified act lends credence towards its practice and acceptability of the said virtue.

The Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said:

“Hold on to the turban as it is a sign of the angels. Also let the loose end hang from the back.” (Bayhaqi)

“Adopt the turban as it will increase your forbearance.” (Mustadrak of Hakim)

“Some of Allah Ta’ala’s angels stand at the door of the Masjid and seek repentance on behalf of those wearing white turbans.” (Al-Maqasid Al-Hasanah, p.466)

“The turban distinguishes the Muslims from the Mushriks (polytheists).” (Ibid)

“Allah Ta’ala causes his mercy to descend on the people wearing turbans on the day of Jumu’ah and his Angels make du’a for such people.” (Daylami)

“It is perhaps due to these very narrations that the Fuqaha (Jurists) have accepted the fact that the reward of the Salat performed while wearing a turban is greater than one performed without it.” (Fatawa Rashidia p.326; Fatawa Rahimia, Vol.4  p.359).

Hence despite the weakness of these narrations, their number lends credence to the opinion that such increase in reward is in fact promised.

The Length of the Turban

Allamah Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti  has written in Al-Haawi fi Al-Fatawa that there is no narration from which the length of the Prophet’s sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam turban can be proven. (Tuhfat al-Ahwazi Vol.1 Pg.49)

Shaykh al-Hadith Zakariyya al-Kandhlawi writes: “No mention can be found among the reliable traditions concerning the length of the turban of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam.” (Khasa’il-e-Nabawi, p.67)

The Loose End of the Turban

It is preferable that the turban be tied in such a manner as to allow either one or both ends of it to hang down in the form of a tail or loose end. The loose end may be allowed to hang in the back or the front. However most narrations mention the tail as being at the back. Some scholars have attested to the permissibility of tying the turban in such a manner that no loose end is left hanging at the back or the front. (Jam’ul Wasa’il, Vol.1  p.168)

The Color of the Turban

In the light of the Hadiths it is learnt that a white turban is the most preferable while black is also Sunnah. However the adoption of any color will be regarded as fulfilling of the Sunnah as long as some mention is found of it in the Hadiths.

The Turban and Salat

Imam Rashid Ahmed al-Gangohi has written the following in reply to a question:

“To lead the congregation without a turban is completely permissible without any degree of reprehensibility. However, there is no denying of the fact that with a turban, the reward is increased.” (Fatawa Rashidia, p.326)

Allamah Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri writes:

“From the juristic point of view we find that it is mustahab (preferable) that Salat be performed while wearing three items of clothing, one of them being the turban.” (Fayd al-Bari, Vol.2 Pg.8)

In conclusion, let us understand that complete success lies in following and emulating every aspect of the blessed lifestyle of our beloved Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. The Sahabah (R) understood this. Therefore, their emulation knew no bounds. The eating, drinking, sleeping, and dressing of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam became theirs. Let us also follow in their footsteps. May Allah Ta’ala grant the entire Ummah the ability to revive all the Sunnah practices of the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam.


Extracted from Turban, Kurta, and Topee by Shaykh Fadhl al-Rahman al-A’zami.

Note: This article was edited for spelling, grammar, and style in addition to a new title.

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