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Wearing Black Clothes

There is no doubt that wearing black clothes, especially during recitation of prayers, is widely considered as disapproved [makruh]. Muslim scholars have unanimous agreement on this verdict. The question here is whether or not this aversion to black is inherent? In other words, are black clothes disapproved just because they are black in themselves or are they disapproved for a specific reason, such as because they were the banner of the tyrannical caliphs of Bani ‘Abbas33 or because they are the clothes of the people dwelling in hell?34

Shi‘ah traditions

1. On his authentic chain of transmission, Barqi recounts that Imam al-Baqir (as) said, “When my forefather al-Husayn was killed, the women of Bani Hashim wore black clothes while mourning him. They did not change this practice whether in the hot summer or in the cold winter. My father ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn prepared their food during this period of mourning.”35

2. On his authentic chain of transmission, Ibn Quluyah recounts that an angel from heaven landed on the sea and spread its wings. Then, she yelled and cried out aloud, “O inhabitants of the sea! Wear morning clothes, because the child of the Prophet of Allah has been killed (today). Then, he took some of the holy soil from Karbala, and took it with himself to heaven. Every angel it passed by stopped it in order to smell the holy soil. Spiritual effects and graces derived from it remained on them.”36

Sunni traditions

1. Ibn Abi al-Hadid quotes Mada’ini saying, “When ‘Ali (as) passed away, ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib came to the people and said, ‘Verily, Amir al-Mu’minin (as) has passed away. He has left someone to succeed him. If you endorse him, he will come to meet you. If you are displeased with him, you will not be coerced to accept his leadership.’ The people broke down crying and said, ‘Let him come to meet us because we endorse him.’ Al-Hasan (as) came to meet the people and gave a sermon while wearing black clothes’.”37

2. Abi Mukhnaf recounts that Nu‘man ibn Bashir communicated the news of Imam al-Husayn’s martyrdom to the people of Medina… All the women of Medina came out of their houses wearing black clothes and started mourning.38

3. ‘Imad al-Din Idris Qurashi quotes Abi Na‘im Isfahani recounting on his authentic chain of transmission that when the news of Imam al-Husayn’s death reached Umm Salamah, she made a black tent in the Prophet’s Mosque and wore black clothes.39

4. Ibn Abi al-Hadid recounts that Asbagh ibn Nabatah said, “After the martyrdom of Amir al-Mu’minin (Imam ‘Ali) (as), I entered the Mosque of Kufah. I saw al-Hasan and al-Husayn wearing black clothes.40


33. Man la Yahdaruhu al-Faqih, vol. 2, p. 252.

34. Wasa’il al-Shi‘ah, vol. 3, p. 281, section [bab] 20 from among the sections on clothing of one reciting prayer [libas musalla], hadith 3.

35. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p. 188; Wasa’il al-Shi‘ah, vol. 2, p. 890.

36. Kamil al-Ziyarat, pp. 67-68; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, pp. 221-222.

37. Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 16, p. 22.

38. Abi Mukhnaf, Maqtal, pp. 222-223.

39. ‘Uyun al-Akbar wa Funun al-Athar, p. 109.

40. Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah.

Adapted from: "The Uprising of Ashura and Responses to Doubts" by: "‘Ali Asghar Ridwani"