Abu Sa'id al-Khudri relates the Messenger of Allah said, "The izar (lower garment) of a Muslim is to the middle of the shin and there is no sin if it comes halfway between that and his ankles, but what comes lower than the ankles is in the Hellfire. On the Day of Resurrection Allah will not look at a man who drags his izar out of arrogance." [Abu Dawud. An-Nawawi declared it sahih]
Izar is defined in Arabic to be any lower garment tied to the waist covering the lower half of the body. It includes shalwar, pants, dhuti, pajamas, thawb, etc. In this hadith the Prophet divided the length of the izar into four categories:
- the sunnah is upto half of the shins;
- the rukhsa (concession) is below half the shins till the ankles;
- the haram and a kabirah sin is letting it go below the ankles without arrogance since the Prophet mentioned its punishment (" … is in the Hellfire"); and
- even stronger in prohibition and punishment is dragging or trailing below the ankles out of arrogance (" … Allah will not look at a man … ").
Whether the izar goes below the ankles out of arrogance or without it is a kabirah sin according to the majority of scholars based on this and other explicit hadith of the Prophet. Note the Prophet mentioned different punishments when it is done with and without arrogance. This is further confirmed by two other hadith reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah:
"Allah will not look at a man on the Day of Judgment who drages his izar out of arrogance."
"Whatever is below the ankles will be in the Hellfire."
In both these hadith the Prophet made a distinction between the izar going below the ankles out of arrogance and without arrogance by mentioning different punishments. The scholars also mention the following hadith of Abu Juray Jabir bin Sulaym who was instructed by the Prophet:
"Have your izar halfway down to your shin, if you can not do it, have it upto the ankles. Beware of hanging down the izar for it is makhilah (arrogance), and Allah does not like arrogance." [Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi who declared it hasan sahih]
In this authentic hadith the Prophet made a clear order to Jabir to keep his izar above his ankles, and as Allamah Shams ul-Haqq al-Adhimabadi writes in al-'Awn al-Ma'bud that dragging one's garment below the ankles intentionally is makhilah (arrogance). One may understand it in this way - if a person buys his own clothes and chooses garments that hang below the ankle, that means he chooses to disregard the Prophet's instructions due to his preference. That is makhilah. Abu Umamah relates that 'Amr ibn Zurarah al-Ansari entered a gathering (majlis) with his izar going down below his ankles, the Prophet held him by the side of his clothes and said with full humility of Allah ("wa yatawadih lillahi azawajal"), "I am Your slave, son of Your slave, and son of Your female slave," (for having seen an act of sinfulness), till 'Amr heard it and said apologetically, "O Messenger of Allah, I have very skinny shins." The Prophet replied, "O 'Amr certainly Allah has perfected everything he created, verily Allah does not love a person who drags his garment below his ankles." [At-Tabarani. Sahih according to ash-Shawkani])
This is another explicit hadith that letting the izar going going below the ankles without arrogance and perhaps even with some excuse like having skinny shins is forbidden as the Prophet told 'Amr that Allah does not love such a person.
A man was praying with his izar hanging down. The Messenger of Allah said to him, "Go and perform wudu'." He went and performed wudu'. He came back and the Prophet said, "Go and perform wudu'." A man asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what is the matter with you that you commanded him to perform wudu' and then you kept silent?" He replied, "He was praying while hanging down his izar, and Allah does not accept the prayer of a man who hangs down his izar." [Abu Dawud, an-Nisa'i, at-Tabarani. An-Nawawi declared its isnad to be sahih on the conditions of Imam Muslim and adh-Dhahabi agreed with him in his Al-Kaba'ir. Shams ul-Haqq al-Adimabadi declared it to be hasan]
The purpose of the Prophet making him perform wudu' as explained by the 'ulama was to remind him trailing his izar down was a sin and to purify him of that sin, not because it broke his wudu'.
The following two incidents should settle out hearts on this issue:
- 'Ubayd ibn Khalid reports, "Once I was going somewhere in Madinah, I heard a person behind me saying, 'Raise your izar because it is more fearful of Allah (fa innahu 'atqa)'. I said, 'O Messenger of Allah, it is only a chequered coverlet (i.e. what pride can one take in it?)!" He responded, 'At least it conforms with my uswa (example).' I saw him, his izar was half way to his shin." [At-Tirmidhi in his Ash-Shama'il al-Muhammadiyyah]
- 'Umar was stabbed while he was leading the prayer. He was the Amir al-Mu'minin, the Muslims were worried about him and who would be his successor. A young man came to his deathbed to show his compassion and praise his caliphate. 'Umar saw the young man's izar going below his ankles to the groud, 'Umar called him and said, "O nephew, raise your izar, it will be cleaner for your clothing and more fearful of your Lord." [Al-Bukhari]
Ibn Abi Sahaybah reports with a sound chain that 'Umar's son, Abdullah, would say about this incident, "'Umar's affair was really amazing! Once he saw Allah's right on him to order the right and forbid the wrong, his situation did not stop him from saying it."
Lastly, let us discuss two common misunderstandings. First is a rational argument that it was a custom of pagan Arabs in those days to let the garment hang below the ankles as a symbol of pride. Hence, it was discouraged by the Prophet. Since nowadays it is no longer considered to be a symbol of pride, there is no harm in doing so. The response to this is there is no shred of evidence that suggests that it was a custom among pagan Arabs to hang their izar below their ankles to indicate pride. There is no hadith, no statement of the earlier scholars, or any piece of jahili poetry that we know of to indicate that. This is nothing but mere conjecture. On the contrary, reading the statements of the muhaddithin who have commented on these hadith indicate otherwise.
Secondly, an oft misunderstood hadith is quoted, "The one who drags his garment out of arrogance, Allah will not look at him on the Day of Judgment." On hearing this Abu Bakr said, "O Messenger of Allah, my izar falls down unless I take extreme care of it." The Prophet said, "You are not of those who do it out of arrogance."
Based on this hadith some people think it is permissible to extend their izar below their ankles as long as it is not done as a sign of arrogance. Such an understanding is not correct due to the following reasons:
- This incident shows that Abu Bakr had heard the Prophet instruct them about their izar earlier. Now, evidently Abu Bakr did not gather from those earlier statements that he was allowed to let his izar hang down if done without arrogance, that is why he would keep his izar above his ankles, but since doing so continously became hard for him, he inquired the Prophet about his special case. In other words, nothing in the earlier statements of the Prophet indicated to Abu Bakr that he was allowed to let his izar hang down, rather he would wear it above his ankles or else why would he ask the question?
- The reason his izar would slip down was because he was thin (as mentioned by al-Hafidh ibn Hajr in Al-Fath).
- The Prophet did not tell him or anyone else at any point, " ... it is permissible to wear the izar below the ankles if it not done out of arrogance."
- Not only that, but at no point did the Prophet himself wear his izar below his ankles to at least show its permissibility. Now, everyone agrees that the Prophet was free of any sort of arrogance, yet he himself was never seen with his izar below his ankles! If letting it down without arrogance were allowed, the Prophet would have done it because he was more free of pride than any human being to walk on this earth! On the contrary, the Prophet would wear his izar above his ankle, and repeatedly encourage the sahabah to do so by mentioning the punishment as well as ordering them to do so at different occasions.
- All the Prophet told Abu Bakr was that he is not an arrogant person and his izar going down was not done out of arrogance. At no point before this incident did Abu Bakr claim freedom from arrogance even though the Prophet testified to it. How can someone else not testified to by the Prophet claim it for themselves?
- The explicit meaning ('ibarah an-nass) of the authentic hadith that mention different punishments when it is done with and without arrogance take precedence over and are stronger in their dalalah (textual implication) than the alluded meaning (isharah an-nass) of this hadith which is perhaps why it never occurred to Abu Bakr or any other sahabi to let it hang down.
- There is no evidence that Abu Bakr would hang his izar down from that time onward. Not only him, we do not know of any sahabi doing so. On the contrary, the Prophet instructed several sahabah to wear their izar above their ankles and we do not know of a single sahabi who claimed freedom from arrogance for themselves and wore it below their ankles. Quite the contrary, the practice of the sahabah can be seen in the incident of 'Umar and in Abu Ishaq's report as collected by at-Tabarani, "I saw Usamah, Zayd bin Arqam, Bara' ibn Azib, and Ibn 'Umar all wearing their izar's below their ankles." Now if those people "who do not hang it down out of arrogance" does not include the Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and many other sahabah, can it possibly be people of less piety who were born centuries after them? Whoever thinks so is deluded.