Quranic Reflection No 572. Āyat 7:31 – Adorn your prayers in Ramadan


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يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ 

Yā banī ādama khudhū zīnatakum ‘inda kulli masjid

O Children of Adam! Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer.

(Sūrat al-A‘rāf, No 7, Āyat 31)

This verse tells believers to adorn themselves when they worship Allah ‘azza wajall. According to renowned Quranic exegete, ‘Allāmah SMH Tabātabā’ī, the word ‘masjid’ here denotes a place and time of worship, which can include any form of Allah’s remembrance. Worship and remembrance of Allah must be done after beautifying and adorning oneself. This is to make the self worthy of being presented to the Almighty. Specific mention has been made in hadith about adornment on the day of Friday, and on the two Eids.

Islam taught its followers a certain dress code. This verse advised those who came to the mosque with clothes that were dirty from the work they had been doing, or who did not bother to change from what they would be wearing at home. It was also a warning to those who during the age of ignorance would come to Masjid al-Harām and perform the tawāf with no clothes on at all. ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in al-Mīzān quotes the following, ‘Commanding the people to put on their adornment may seem rather obvious and redundant. However, to appreciate its value, one should only study the history of various tribes and nations . . . Men and women in these societies were completely bare of all clothing. When Islam reached them, it taught them to put on garments by making it religiously incumbent’.

There are different understandings of the word ‘zinat’ in this verse.

  1. Physical adornment – This could include brushing the teeth, wearing good clothes, combing the hair, putting on perfume. In general, all those things which would be considered as adorning the self.
  2. Spiritual adornment – having beautiful qualities of the soul and heart such as sincerity, piety, etc.
  3. According to Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (a), the adornment here refers to: 
  1. a) The Infallible Imams – belief in their wilāyah adds to the beauty of the prayer.
  2. b) The Imam of the congregational prayer – It is recommended to choose righteous people who are known for their piety to lead the prayer. These leaders adorn the prayer for the followers.

Many historical narrations tell us about those who loved to adorn themselves for Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā  and used this verse to explain why they did so. Ibn Abbās, the cousin of the Prophet (s) and a governor appointed by Imam Ali (a), says that once he was wearing a soft shirt and an elegant cloak and was rebuked by the Kharijites for wearing them. He replied, ‘This shall be my argument against you, God says . . .  Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer’.

Imam Hasan Al-Mujtabā (a) used to wear his best clothes when he went to pray. ‘O son of the Messenger of Allah’ he was asked. ‘Why do you wear your best clothes?’ He explained:  Indeed, Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. So, I beautify myself for my Lord. Allah says: Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer. That is why I wear my best clothes’.

As we worship Allah (swt) in this holy month let us remember this verse and adorn ourselves for worship. Imam al-Hasan, whose birthday we will be celebrating soon, loved to do so. It would be a fitting gift to him if we adopt the habit of adornment for worship when it is possible for us. It would enhance our prayer, improve our concentration, and please the Almighty. That is the message of this verse.

Source: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh