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Gold and pure silk are haram for men

Beautification and elegance are not merely permitted but are required by Islam, and in general it repudiates any attempts to prohibit them. Allah (swt) said: “Say, who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good things of His providing?” (Qur’an 7: 32).

Islam has, however, prohibited two kinds of adornment for men, while permitting them to women. These are, first, gold ornaments and, second, clothing made of pure silk. Ali reported that the Prophet (saw) took some silk in his right hand and some gold in his left, declaring: “These two are haram for the males among my followers.” (Ahmad). Umar reported that he heard the Prophet (saw) saying:” Do not wear silk, for those who wear it in this life shall not wear it in the Hereafter.” (Bukhari) 

On another occasion, referring to a silken garment, he said:” This is the dress of a man who has no character.” (Bukhari). The Prophet (saw) once saw a gold ring on a man’s hand. He immediately took it from him and threw it down saying:” Does a person pick up a piece of burning coal and hold it in his hand?” After the Prophet (saw) had left the place, someone asked the man: Why do you not pick it up and benefit from it?” He replied:” No, by Allah! I shall not pick it up and benefit after the Messenger of Allah has thrown it away.” (Muslim)

The same prohibition which applies to the gold ring likewise applies what we observe among conspicuous spenders, i.e., the gold pen, gold watch, gold cigarette case and lighter, gold teeth, etc.

The Prophet (saw), however, permitted men to wear silver rings. On the authority of Ibn Umar, Al-Bukhari reported the former saying:” The Messenger of Allah (saw) wore a silver ring. After him, Abu Bakr and then Umar and Uthman wore it, until it fell off his finger into the well of Arees.” (Bukhari). As for other metal such as iron, there are no sound texts prohibiting them. On the contrary, in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari we find that the Messenger of Allah (saw) advised a man who wanted to marry a woman to: “Present her with a gift, even if it be ring made of iron.” On the basis of this hadith Al-Bukhari inferred the permissibility of iron rings

The Prophet (saw) made concessions in the wearing of silken garments for medical reasons, as he gave Abdul Rahman bin Auf and Zubair bin Al-Awwam, both of whom suffered from scabies, permission to wear silk. (Bukhari).

The wisdom of these two prohibitions concerning men

By means of these two prohibitions which concern men, Islam’s aim is to achieve certain noble educational and moral objectives.

Since it is the religion of striving and strength, Islam must safeguard the manly qualities of men from any show of weakness, passivity, and lethargy. Allah has made the physique of the man different from that of the woman, and it does not befit a man to wear clothes made of fine material or to adorn his body with costly ornaments.

There is, however, a social aim underlying these prohibitions. The prohibition of gold and silk to males is part of a broader Islamic program of combating luxuriousness in living. From the Qur’anic point of view, luxurious living leads to weakness among nations and to their eventual downfall; the existence of luxury is also an expression of social injustice, as only a few can afford luxurious items at the expense of the deprived masses of people. 

In addition to this, luxurious living is an enemy of every call towards truth, justice, and social reform. The Qur’an says:” And when We intend that We should destroy a township, we permit its luxury-loving people to commit wickedness therein. Then the word is proved true against it, and We then destroy it utterly.” (17: 16)

In keeping with the spirit of the Qur’an, the Prophet (saw) forbade Muslims any indulgence in conspicuous consumption. He not only forbade the use of gold and silk to men but also forbade men and women alike the use of gold and silver utensils.

Finally, economic considerations also carry some weight here. Since gold is universal medium of exchange, using it to make household utensils or ornaments for men does not make sense in economic terms.

 (To be continued)

Prof. Dr. Yusuf Al-Qardhawi