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N.B. Rulings are given in accordance with the Hanafi school of thought

Tashabbuh - Imitation

Q: Can you please explain what is imitation of the disbelievers - known as tashabbuh. How and when does imitation take place?

A: The Quran says, "And do not incline to (the ways of) those who have oppressed themselves, lest the fire touches you." (Surah Hud). The Hadith says, "Whoever imitates a nation will be considered and counted from amongst them." (Abu Dawood). In Islam a Muslim is prohibited to adopt the ways, mannerism and thinking of other faiths and creeds.

Tashabbuh/imitation could be understood as follows:

Basic definition and understanding

To abandon one’s principle identity, values, appearance, vision, direction and to adopt the values, appearance and ways of another creed or religion. Essentially it means to adopt a whole new way of thinking and living. When a person or nation makes tashabbuh of the disbelievers, then everything that the disbelievers hold important and regard close to them in terms of practice, lifestyle, behaviour etc. becomes important to those who are imitating.

When a Muslim makes tashabbuh of others it means that the Muslim forsakes his Islamic identity and pure way of Islam and gives preference to the practices and lifestyle of another creed or religion.

Islam is distinct in terms of what identity, values and lifestyle a Muslim should uphold. The way of Islam is regarded to be moderate,practical and most beneficial way for all humans. Other nations and creeds are based on man’s thinking and experimentation whilst Islam's way is divine and unique.

The prohibition of tashabbuh is not based on discrimination or undermining of others, rather it is based on self-respect and self-honour with a purpose and objective of maintaining the pure creed of Islam and its adherents. Therefore we will find that a practicing Muslim is easily identifiable from others and one Muslim can recognise another in any part of the world merely from his appearance.

Actions and ways of Tashabbuh/imitation of disbelievers

· To imitate and make tashabbuh of disbelievers in any of their beliefs and acts of worship is disbelief. One must be cautious and refrain from any act of worship that can be likened to disbelief.

· To imitate in religious customs such as wearing a cross, celebrating Christmas, Diwali, wearing a red band, putting a dot on the forehead. Imitation of this nature is haraam and dangerous for one’s faith. A person can easily slip and lose his faith with such practices. The reason for this is that to adopt the salient features and practices of the disbelievers is an indication of the heart being pleased with this.

· To imitate disbelievers in social habits, customs and heritage is Makrooh-e-Tahrimi (impermissible) - for example wearing a special dress of a particular nation/religious group that is specifically attributed to that nation, and the person wearing that dress is considered to be from that nation.

· Similarly to adopt any practice or mannerism of a disbeliever with passion, ardency, respect and adherence to that practice is undesirable and contrary to the grain of true belief where a Muslim should be pleased and proud to uphold the identity of a Muslim.

In terms of other aspects of life like machinery, technology, transport, weaponry etc. there is no imitation if one uses the common items that are available in the market as these are according to need and necessity and are not distinct to a particular religion or creed.

A Muslim should endeavour to uphold and Islamic identity, character and practices as this will attract people to the pure way of Islam.

Darul Ihsan Fatwa Dept.

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