Muhammad and The Wearing of Silk Garments

Sam Shamoun

The Quran states that the dwellers of Paradise will be given silk garments to wear:

those -- theirs shall be Gardens of Eden, underneath which rivers flow; therein they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold, and they shall be robed in green garments of silk and brocade, therein reclining upon couches -- O, how excellent a reward! And O, how fair a resting-place! S. 18:31

God shall surely admit those who believe and do righteous deeds into gardens underneath which rivers flow; therein they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and with pearls, and their apparel there shall be of silk; S. 22:23

Gardens of Eden they shall enter; therein they shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and with pearls, and their apparel there shall be of silk. S. 35:33

Surely the godfearing shall be in a station secure among gardens and fountains, robed in silk and brocade, set face to face. S. 44:51-53

and recompensed them for their patience with a Garden, and silk… Upon them shall be green garments of silk and brocade; they are S. 76:12, 21

Obviously, this presupposes that silk clothing is good and that it is not wrong to wear silk. In fact, the Quran nowhere prohibits silk outfits. Furthermore, there are specific narrations where Muhammad permitted certain companions and women to wear silk:

Narrated Anas:
Abdur Rahman bin 'Auf and Az-Zubair complained to the Prophet, i.e. about the lice (that caused itching) so he allowed them to wear silken clothes. I saw them wearing such clothes in a holy battle. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 170)

Narrated Anas:
The Prophet allowed ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Auf and Az-Zubair bin Al-'Awwam to wear silk. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 171)

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
that he had seen Um Kulthum, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle, wearing a red silk garment. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 733)

Muhammad also said that Gabriel came to him in a dream with a silk item that had Aisha’s picture on it:

Narrated ‘Aisha:
That the Prophet said to her, "You have been shown to me twice in my dream. I saw you pictured on a piece of silk and someone said (to me). ‘This is your wife.’ When I uncovered the picture, I saw that it was yours. I said, ‘If this is from Allah, it will be done.’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 235)

Narrated Aisha
Gabriel brought a picture of her on a piece of green silk to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and said, "This is your wife in this world and the next." Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1644, Alim CD-ROM Version)

As a side note it is interesting that Allah would allow for Aisha’s picture or image to be drawn on silk when such images are expressly prohibited for Muslims. Does this, therefore, imply that Muslims are allowed to make images or pictures of women? Or should we assume that Allah made that picture since he can do so, but humans are not allowed to make such pictures?

Returning to the issue at hand there are other hadiths that have Muhammad expressly forbidding men from wearing silk clothes:

Narrated Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari:
that he heard the Prophet saying, "From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, ‘Return to us tomorrow.’ Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 69, Number 494v)


'Abd al-Rahmin b. Abu Laili reported that Hudhaifa asked for water and a Magian gave him water in a silver vessel, whereupon he said: I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not wear silk or brocade and do not drink from vessels of gold and silver, and do not eat in the dishes made of them (i. e. gold and silver), for these are for them (the non-believers) in this world. (Sahih Muslim, Book 024, Number 5140)

A Muslim should have no problem seeing that these prohibitions are general in their application, and not specific to men, i.e. men and women are forbidden from engaging in illegal sexual intercourse, drinking alcohol, using vessels and dishes of gold, silver, and musical instruments etc. Hence, unless a Muslim wants to say that these prohibitions are specific to men alone it is clear that Muhammad was forbidding women from wearing silk as well.


Narrated Al-Bara' bin 'Azib:
Allah’s Apostle ordered us to do seven things and forbade us from seven. He ordered us to visit the sick, to follow funeral processions, (to say) to a sneezer, (May Allah bestow His Mercy on you, if he says, Praise be to Allah), to accept invitations, to greet (everybody), to help the oppressed and to help others to fulfill their oaths. He forbade us to wear gold rings, to drink in silver (utensils), to use Mayathir (silken carpets placed on saddles), to wear Al-Qissi (a kind of silken cloth), to wear silk, Dibaj or Istabraq (two kinds of silk). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 69, Number 539)

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab:
Allah’s Apostle said, "None wears silk in this world, but he who will have no share in the Hereafter." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 726)

In this hadith the prohibition, i.e. "None wears silk in this world, but he who will have no share in the Hereafter" is entirely inclusive. It does not specify that this refers to men only, but that women on the other hand are not affected by wearing silk.

Lest we be accused of misunderstanding or distorting Muhammad’s statements notice how the following Muslim interpreted Muhammad's prohibition:

Khalifa b. Ka'b Abi Dhubyan reported: I heard 'Abdullah b. Zubair addressing the people and saying: Behold! do not dress your women with silk clothes for I heard 'Umar b. Khattab as saying that he had heard Allah's messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not wear silk, for one who wear it in this world will not wear it in the Hereafter. (Sahih Muslim, Book 024, Number 5150)

Hence, even a companion of Muhammad believed that the prohibition of silk applied equally to women.

Yet this contradicts the following narratives:

Narrated AbuMusa al-Ash'ari
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Gold and silk are permitted to the females among my people but prohibited to the males."
Tirmidhi and Nasa'i transmitted it, Tirmidhi saying this is a hasan sahih tradition. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1152, Alim CD-ROM Version)

So we now have a contradiction since the reports from al-Bukhari and Muslim do not exclude women from the general prohibition of wearing silk. There is even one specific narration from Sahih Muslim which expressly forbids women from wearing such clothing. So why are there are narratives that allow women to wear silk, while prohibiting it for men?

To top it off Muhammad even sent silk items to some of his companions and gave them permission to sell it in order to benefit monetarily!

Narrated Ali bin Abi Talib:
The Prophet gave me a silk suit. I went out wearing it, but seeing the signs of anger on his face, I tore it and distributed it among my wives. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 731)

Muhammad gave Ali a silk suit but then got angry when he wore it!

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:
‘Umar bin Al-Khattab saw a silken dress (cloak) being sold at the gate of the Mosque and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Would that you buy it and wear it on Fridays and when the delegates come to you!" Allah’s Apostle said, "This is worn by the one who will have no share in the Hereafter." Later on some silk dresses were brought and Allah's Apostle sent one of them to ‘Umar. ‘Umar said, "How do you give me this to wear while you said what you said about the dress of ‘Utarid?" Allah's Apostle said, "I have not given it to you to wear." So, ‘Umar gave it to a pagan brother of his in Mecca. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 782)

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:
‘Umar saw a silk suit being sold, so he said, "O Allah’s Apostle! Why don’t you buy it so that you may wear it when delegates come to you, and also on Fridays?" The Prophet said, "This is worn only by him who has no share in the Hereafter." Afterwards the Prophet sent to ‘Umar a silk suit suitable for wearing. ‘Umar said to the Prophet, "You have given it to me to wear, yet I have heard you saying about it what you said?" The Prophet said, "I sent it to you so that you might either sell it or give it to somebody else to wear." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 732)

Narrated ‘Abdullah:
'Umar saw a silken cloak over a man (for sale) so he took it to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Buy this and wear it when the delegate come to you.’ He said, ‘The silk is worn by one who will have no share (in the Here-after).’ Some time passed after this event, and then the Prophet sent a (similar) cloak to him. ‘Umar brought that cloak back to the Prophet and said, ‘You have sent this to me, and you said about a similar one what you said?’ The Prophet said, ‘I have sent it to you so that you may get money by selling it.’ Because of this, Ibn ‘Umar used to hate the silken markings on the garments. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 104)

Notice Muhammad’s glaring inconsistency at this point. Muhammad rebukes Umar for having silk, but allows him to sell it and even sends him a silk item to benefit from its sale! To see how inconsistent this truly is picture Muhammad allowing someone to sell alcohol and benefit from the sale money, and how wrong that would be. After all, if something is prohibited because it is immoral then shouldn’t the selling of it be just as immoral, if not more so, since the person would essentially be damning not only himself but also the buyer to hell?

And what kind of message was Muhammad sending when he gave Umar a silk garment so that he may give it to somebody else? Also, did Umar want to make sure his pagan brother ended up in hell, but pretended to be friendly to him by giving him a silk garment?

Let us summarize the problems we have seen thus far:

  1. The Quran in many places claims that the raiment of believers in Paradise will be silk.
  2. Unlike wine which is expressly prohibited here on earth but permitted in Paradise, the Quran nowhere prohibits the wearing of silk.
  3. Muhammad is reported to have allowed certain men, because of their itching disease, and all women to wear silk.
  4. At the same time, Muhammad disallowed the rest of the men from wearing silk.
  5. Moreover, Muhammad allowed the men to sell silk, even though he asserted that those having such items would end up in hell! Seeing that wearing silk can send a person to hell, isn’t giving a silk garment to somebody just about the worst kind of gift that you can give? It is comparable to handing someone poison.
  6. Finally, Muhammad may have even contributed to women being the majority of those sent to hell for permitting them to wear silk!

Here are some of the hadith reports regarding women in hell:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301)

Imran b. Husain reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Amongst the inmates of Paradise THE WOMEN WOULD FORM A MINORITY. (Sahih Muslim, Book 036, Number 6600)

Thus, Muhammad caused the women to add another sin to those listed above which landed them in eternal damnation. Muhammad basically increased a woman’s chance of ending up in hell by permitting her to wear something which he expressly said causes someone to lose their share in Paradise!

At the very least, by allowing women to wear silk in this life Muhammad robbed them of wearing such clothing in the hereafter since this is what he is reported to have said:

Narrated Thabit:
I heard Ibn Az-Zubair delivering a sermon, saying, "Muhammad said, ‘Whoever wears silk in this world, shall not wear it in the Hereafter.’" Volume 7, Book 72, Number 724)

Narrated Ibn Az-Zubair:
I heard ‘Umar saying, "The Prophet said, ‘Whoever wears silk in this world, shall not wear it in the Hereafter.’" Volume 7, Book 72, Number 725)

Is this fair to Muslim women? Robbing them of the chance of ever wearing silk garments in paradise by allowing them to wear them on earth, something expressly forbidden by Allah?

Muhammad's Inconsistency
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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