What are dreadlocks? Are they only for Rastafarians? Is it true that you can only grow them by never washing your hair?
Can Muslims wear their hair in locks?
This question is all over the internet. The answer focuses on four established sharee’a issues:
- Combing & Unbraiding Hair
- Imitating Other Religions
This post doesn’t claim to have the answers. All we’ve done here is present our research into the Qur-aan, ahaadeeth, and statements of the scholars. Your comments and contributions are welcome.
Appearance of Locks
Yahya related to me from Malik from Zayd ibn Aslam that Ata ibn Yasar told him that the Messenger of Allah (sAaws) was in the mosque when a man came in with dishevelled hair and beard. The Messenger of Allah motioned with his hand that he should be sent out to groom his hair and beard. The man did so and then returned. The Messenger of Allah said, “Isn’t this better than that one of you should come with his head dishevelled, as if he were a shaytan?” (Hadith Muwatta 51.7)
Dreadlocks can be divided into 3 categories. You have probably had very little, if any, interaction with two of these types of dreadlocks.
1. The dreadlocks of the past that many remember from the 70’s are those started by neglecting the hair. These are often unsanitary and can range from messy to downright scary. …
The other two types are natural dreadlocks and chemically assisted dreadlocks. Both of these are started purposefully, either at home or in a salon. The real difference between the two is in the products chosen to create them.
2. Natural dreads are started without perming or processing the hair. The hair is usually combed backwards to start knots and then products can be used to create an environment that helps the knots tighten into attractive dreads.
3. Chemically assisted dreads are permed using a perming solution before or after the initial knots are created.
Both of these types of dreads are maintained regularly and the end goal is to have groomed, mature, dreadlocks.
Al-Qãhırıï : So locks can be, and often are clean and orderly.
Umm Islaam: Although water can reach the scalp, dirt and debris for the most part will never come out of the lock. Many people who have kempt locks attest to the fact that dirt and debris are the very things that hold the lock together. Keeping dirt and debris in the hair is completely against the sunnah.
Cleanliness is essential to locks:
Al-Qãhırıï: It seems that residues prevent the hair from locking, rather than being essential to locking. Typical African hair types, and very curly hair types will lock even when completely clean with the help of gel and/or wax.
I actually have locks now. I can assure that the hair and scalp are very clean because I shampoo regularly, followed by an immediate, thorough drying. In my case, it is the hair texture, assisted by manual twisting, in the absence of dirt and debris, that causes the locking of the hair.
Umm Islaam: The hair will lock without debris? Firsthand info lol… But dirt and debris hold the hair moreso than if it is left without product. When I used to braid people’s hair with extensions, dirt and lint collected at the base of the braid, whether hair was added or if it was a client’s own hair. This caused the hair to be almost impossible to take out. In many cases it had to be cut out. But this isn’t the case for hair that is braided on its own without continually adding product.
Necessity of Combing and Unbraiding Hair
Umm Islaam: The fact that the hair can’t be taken out to be combed- which is a sunna- is one reason why they have been called impermissible.
Narrated Umm Salamah (rAa): I said: Messenger of Allah (sAaws), I am a woman who has closely plaited hair on my head; should I undo it for taking a bath, because of sexual intercourse? He (the Prophet) said: No, it is enough for you to throw three handfuls of water on your head and then pour water over yourself, and you shall be purified. (Saheeh Muslim)
Ibn Abbas (rAa) saw Abdullah ibn al-Harith (rAa) observing the prayer and (his hair) was plaited behind his head. He (Abdullah ibn Abbas) stood up and unfolded them. While going back (from the prayer) he met Ibn Abbas and said to him: why is it that you touched my head? He (Ibn Abbas) replied: (The man who observes prayer with plaited hair) is like one who prays with his hands tied behind. (Saheeh Muslim)
Narrated Abdullah ibn Mughaffal (rAa): The Apostle of Allah forbade combing the hair except every second day. (Sunan Abuu Dawuud)
I am looking for a fatwa on women having dreadlocks. Dreadlocks can be neat and clean. They can be wet daily for wudu and lathered with shampoo for ghusl, the parts are neat so that water can reach the scalp at all times. The only difference is that each lock cannot be combed out although they can be washed like unlocked strands of hair, so in essence each lock functions as a strait of hair. I am asking what the Islamic ruling on having them is, is it okay since I can wash them with water and shampoo after my menses or janaba, and what about at the time of my janaza (funeral) they can be washed then also, even though each lock is taken out and the locks can be braided into three braids.
In a situation of Wudu there is no need to unlock the dreads and blocks of hair. All that is required is that you wipe over the hairs of the dread locks. But in the case of Ghusul (process of purifying the entire body via a bath) from Janabah and Menses, the hairs need to be done and washed so that all of the hairs are completely wet and the water reached your skull. The same goes for Ghusl of Janaza (funeral). If these conditions can be met, then having dreadlocks is not Haram (a sin)”
– Dr. Yusuf Ziya Kavakci, Sunni Islamic lawyer- Turkiye, Libya and Saudi Arabia
Al-Qãhırıï: Obviously, in regards to Ghusl, the hairs in a lock can become completely wet, as well as the scalp (I think the scholar intended “scalp” when he wrote “skull”).
IF locks are equal to braids, legally speaking, it would seem that a time-limit for how long once can wear braids would have to be established by the Qur-aan, Sunna, or ijtihaad of ulamaa. But I haven’t seen that:
- locks are definitely equivalent to braids in the sharee’a, or that
- there is a limit for how long braids can be worn.
I look forward to finding more definitive information on these two points, in shaa-a-llaah.
Umm Islaam: I don’t see locks as equal to braids. Braids CAN be taken loose without much difficulty, but it requires some time. Locks can NOT be taken out without much difficulty and more time, making it the case that most people who wear them do NOT take them out periodically.
Allaahu A’lam, but it seems like nail polish, which CAN be worn, (no prohibition from doing so) but it’s not likely that women will remove it 5 times a day in order to pray. The same with make-up in some cases.
And as far as sunnah is concerned, I’ve heard that Prophet Muhammad pbuh did not wear braids for that long. He wore them after putting a paste into his hair to keep it together. But it wasn’t meant as a hairstyle to my understanding, but instead because it was convenient for whatever he was doing at the time. Also they weren’t little braids all over: they were few braids & ALLAHU ALIM.
Imitation of Non-Muslims
Umm Islam: The shuyukh said locks were impermissible because of being presented with evidence from the students of knowledge who asked that it is the hairstyle of the Rastafarians. Although in reality the hairstyle existed far before Rastafarians appeared on the scene.
“Imitation of non-Muslims comes into effect in one of two ways:
- One performs an action with the resolve to be like the non-Muslims, or
- One performs an action that is directly linked to their religion or is uniquely from among their signs.
Therefore, to keep a hairstyle with the intention of being like the non-Muslims, or a hairstyle which is uniquely a distinguishing feature of them – such that an onlooker would consider you from among them – is impermissible.
However, to keep a hairstyle that is general and widespread, without it falling into “imitation”, is not interdicted.
Locks have existed long before the Rastafarians
“The first known examples of dreadlocks date back to East Africa and some parts of North Africa. Maasai men found in the regions of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya have been wearing dreadlocks for as long as they have survived. There hasn’t been official date of the “start” of Maasai dreadlocks, but it is a tradition that has been going on for thousands of years.”
“Baye Fall is a sub Sufi order from the Qadiriyya Sufi School. The Baye Fall Sufi movement was born in Senegal in the later 1800’s. The founder of the Baye Fall movement was Cheikh Ibrahima Fall. Cheikh Ibrahima taught his students that Islamic religious obligations were not enough to reform and sublimate ones soul. Instead one also needed to do work with in his community. It is from this tradition the Baye Fall have come to be known for their various communal endeavors such as groundnut and peanut cultivation as well as garment manufacturing. Generally the proceeds from these works go back into helping the community at large for which they serve. Another characteristic they are known for is their long Dread Locks which is called ndiange or ‘strong hair’ in the Wolof language. According to them ndiange symbolizes modesty and a conscious reservation from the material world. …
…It is important to note that while the Baye Fall have their roots in the later part of the 1800’s, the Rastafarian movement didn’t start to take shape until the 1930’s.”
Locks are not specific to any religion or ethnicity.
There are many reasons among various cultures for wearing locks. Locks can be an expression of deep religious or spiritual convictions, a manifestation of ethnic pride, a political statement, or be simply a fashion preference.
Dreadlocks aren’t always worn for religious or cultural reasons. People may wear them just for “style” which is primarily popular among the youth.
Al-Qãhırıï: In my obervation, locks are “general and widespread” these days. They are not seen as being particular to any religion, culture or ethnicity, as people of all walks of life have them..
As locks are not specific to a religious group or ethnicity, people don’t generally identify dreadlocks as belonging to one religion or ethnicity when they see them. It is a hairstyle.
Only when those locks are combined with religious insignia, such as pictures of the Lion of Judah, or Ras Tafari/Haile Selassie- in the case of Rastafarianism- or orange robes, nakedness, and certain face-paint- in the case of of sadhu Hinduisim- would they be taken as identifiers of a certain religion. So, it is really the clothes
and accessories, not the hair, which identifies one as a follower of this or that.
Obviously, if someone dons locks intending to imitate, that’s a different story, but that’s often not the case, as the research showed.
Umm Islaam: My thoughts are that because of the unique nature of black hair in its natural state that if locks are kept clean it would be nice to have that option as a hairstyle. But…. my opinion is obviously less than the people who know. So like you, until more info can be had from the senior scholars as to whether or not new info about locks makes the ruling on them different than what we already have I’ll have to take the evidence from the scholars and avoid telling people it’s allowed.
Al-Qãhırıï: I have read fataawaa from different ‘ulamaa’ about this matter, but I personally saw that they dealt with:
1. Unsightly hair, but many locks are well-groomed, and their attractiveness may be a question of culture,
2. Unclean hair, which can easily be avoided,
3. Combing, but I have yet to see an aaya, hadeeth, or fatwaa that necessitates combing as a part of tihaara (wuduu/ghusl), or in general, and/or
4. Unbraiding the hair, but locks have not been established as identical to braids in the sharee’a, and even then, I have not seen where unbraiding is a necessary element of tihaara (wuduu/ghusl) in the Qur-aan, ahaadeeth, or fataawaa.
So in my own personal investigation of daleel (evidence) and fataawaa (rulings), I don’t see how clean, kempt locks are impermissible. (I do see how unclean, unkempt locks are.) This is only what I’ve found. I don’t recommend taking my opinion as binding.
Umm Islaam: I suppose it falls under the ruling about doubtful things. And whoever guards against falling into doubtful things safegaurds their religion. May ALLAH guides us all o clarity.
al-Qãhırıï: Right, I may be (relatively or sufficiently) convinced about a given matter based on my own research of the Qur-aan, Sunna, and statements of ulamaa, but that only means I’m going to tell others to do the same thing: do their research, check their heart, and decide. I’m not going to tell them to be like me, though I gotta say: me works…