Broadly speaking (based on the hadith literature) there are two styles of tying the turban:
- Tahannuk: Allowing the ends of the turban to drop down and even wrapping it around the chin.
- Tabiqiyah: Layering it on the head without letting the ends fall down (i.e. tucking the ends in without doing the Tahannuk).
Tahannuk is emphasized in every hadith, whereas Tabiqiyah is termed as the turban of Iblees.
Please refer to our article History of the Turban for details on the origin of the turban in Islamic history, its merits, its use in society and its evolution in the Shia culture.
Hadith on Tabiqiyah
It is narrated that al-Tabiqiyah (a layered turban without Tahannak), is the turban of Iblees, may Allah’s curse be upon him.
[Al Kafi V6 Ch 15 – The book of outfits and beautification]
Below are all the hadith from Al Kafi and Faqih on how to wear turbans. Note that each hadith encourages the Tahannuk.
Abu Abdullah (as) said: The one who wears a turban and does not Tahannak it (lets one end hang in front and the other at the back), so an illness strikes him and there is no cure for it, so he should not blame anyone except for himself.
Abu Al-Hassan (as) said: The turbans which Rasool-Allah (s) wore, so he (s) let it loose from in front of him (s), and from behind him (s), and Jibraeel (as) wore it letting it loose from in front of him (as) and from behind him (as).
Abu Abdullah (as) said: Rasool-Allah (s) put on the turban on Ali (as) by his (s) hand, so he (s) let it hang from in front of him, and shortened it from behind him of the measurement of four fingers, then said: Turn around. So he (as) turned. Then he (s) said: Face me (s). So he (as) faced. Then he (s) said: This is how the Angels are crowned.
Abu Abdullah (as) said: The one who goes out from his house wearing a turban (passing the ends) beneath his chin, intending a journey, would neither be hit during his journey by theft, nor by burning, nor by abhorrence.
Abu Abdullah (as) said: The one who wears a turban, so he does not circle it beneath his chin , and a sickness hits him for which there is no cure for it, so he should not blame anyone except for himself.
[Source: Al Kafi V6 Ch 15 – The book of outfits and beautification]
And I (Shaikh Sadooq) heard from our blessed mashaikh (senior teachers) saying: “Not valid is the prayer in Tabqiyah and not valid is it for the amaama wearer to pray unless he does Tahannuk (drop an end of the turban between the shoulders).
(Tabiqiyah: Amaama (turban) without hanak (end of the turban dropping down between shoulders).
The Holy Prophet (s) said: The difference between muslims and mushriks (polytheists) is hanaks (dropping an end of turban down) in turbans.
[Man la yahdhuruhul Faqih]
Turban of the Usuli Clerics
Despite numerous hadith on the importance of Tahannuk the Usuli clerics have abandoned this practice since at least the last 300 years and favored the layering style of Tabiqiyah. According to them Tahannuk (in these times) draws attention (to oneself) and therefore becomes a libaas-e-shuraa (dress of fame) which therefore should be avoided. This is a “rational” excuse that goes against the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (s) and teachings of the Ahlulbayt (as). Such reasoning is not surprising as the very foundation of Usulism rests on “rational” (man-made) principles that are liberally used to modify the Shariat. Even the constitution of Iran takes up ijtihad and recasts it as a principle of legal and political dynamism by declaring that government and values are to be based on the “continuous ijtihad of a fully qualified jurists.” The clause suggests that shariah may be changed or expanded to fit new circumstances. [Section 1, article 6, Constitution of Iran]
The argument that Tahannuk is a libaas-e-shura is not very convincing. First of all in Arabic language the Turban is not part of a person’s libaas. Libaas refers exclusively to his clothes and garments. That is why although wearing black clothes (libaas) is not allowed at all times, wearing a black turban is acceptible, since a turban is not considered as part of the libaas. See our article Wearing Black Clothes for more details on the prohibition of wearing black.
Secondly, the whole purpose of a clerical attire is to draw attention and is primarily used to differentiate the clergy from the layman. This is true across all religions. Consider the usuli clerical attire in its full combination – it consists of the Tabiqiyah turban, ankle length Cassock (most likely adapted from christian clergy), a tunic (jhubba) with a chinese collar and a cloak. This dress (like other clerical attire) draws attention and therefore most clerics wear it only in the religious gatherings (where drawing attention is intentional), and they avoid it in their day-to-day non-religious activities.
In our other article History of the Turban we provide a detailed account of how the Tahannuk is emphasized in both shia and sunni hadith literature. It also mentions one other reason why in all probability the Usuli clerics abandaned Tahannuk – to differentiate themselves from the Akhbaris who were their nemesis a few hundred years ago. The Akhbaris, true to their claim, practiced seriously the akhbar (hadith) of Ahlulbayt (as) and observed Tahannuk.