The Prophet's prohibition of men's silk clothing can create problems for neckties.
The Prophet's prohibition of men's silk clothing can create problems for neckties.

Islamic law regarding the proper attire for women has received a considerable amount of attention in the Western media. However, men's attire also raises legal questions for followers of the Islamic faith. One such issue is whether wearing a silk tie is forbidden, or haraam. Sayings attributed to Muhammad indicate that wearing silk is prohibited for men, but the applicability of this rule to neckties has been the subject of debate.

Muhammad on Men's Attire

Islamic Hadith, which recount sayings and incidents from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, contain both prohibitions and positive commands pertaining to men's attire. On the one hand, Muhammad reportedly advised believers blessed with wealth not to wear cheap clothes but to display Allah's favor in what they wear. As Near Eastern historian Yedida Stillman notes in her book, "Arab Dress," the Prophet is even quoted as saying that believers will be rewarded with silk garments in paradise. Nonetheless, the Hadith also state that Muhammad did not allow men to wear silk clothes, except for ornamental silken embroidery not be greater than two to four fingers in width.

Silk

According to Stillman, the reason for the ban on silk clothing for men was that it constitutes an extravagance, or israf. While silken attire is, according to the Hadith, appropriate for women, for men it signifies a weakness of character not only within the individual, but also within society as a whole. For instance, Islamic philosopher al-Ghazali criticized the sale of men's silk clothes in bazaars, while social theorist ibn Khaldun mentions silk-wearing as a trait of an indulgent civilization heading for collapse.

Silk Tie Problems

Questions about the propriety of wearing silk tiles have arisen with interactions between Islamic culture and Western fashion, especially in the context of job interviews, corporate employment or school dress codes. Issues raised when debating the application of Islamic law to neckties include not only specific hadith regarding silk as a luxury, but whether wearing a silk tie violates gender boundaries and improperly conforms to the culture of unbelievers. Moreover, some interpreters of the law believe that a tie symbolizes the Christian cross. The propriety of wearing a necktie has direct implications for Islamic faith, such as the validity of prayers made while wearing a tie during the workday.

Silk Tie Solutions

Islamic legal opinions differ on how to resolve the necktie question. Some conclude that wearing any kind of necktie violates Islamic standards of holiness and is thus haraam. Other rulings are more flexible, allowing non-silk ties, ties that fall within the Hadith's allowance for silk adornment of a limited width, or ties consisting of a less-than-50-percent silk blend. In this regard, a Sunni fatwa has concluded that prayers made without knowledge of a tie's improper ingredients are indeed valid. To be certain that their neckties are permitted, or halal, some men buy non-silk ties.