Fatwa: # 46132
Category: Basic Tenets of Faith
Country: African Country
Date: 10th September 2020


Is wearing face masks an act of imitating the Kuffar?


Muhtaram Mufti Sahib


I heard a voice clip of an Alim who spoke at a Hifz jalsa in Pietermaritzburg last weekend. He said the face mask is the practice of fire worshippers. He said it is harmful for health. He also said; people in hospitals die more than people out of hospital despite the sanitizers etc. People in informal settlements are not infected despite no precaution. People go to malls and taxis and they don’t practice social distancing and face mask.

So, I am confused. I and others wear the face mask purely as a matter of precaution. We do not do that because of the practice of fire worshippers. Infact, we don't even know fire worshippers cover their face and mouth. We don't even see fire worshippers around us. Yes, during salah, I don’t wear the mask.

If wearing face mask is completely prohibited even out of salah because it is imitating them, then what about wearing shirt and pants. Is that also prohibited because we are imitating non muslims? 

Should we continue wearing the mask to exercise precaution?

I see many senior Muftis and Ulama wearing masks.

We also get lots of information about what certain ulama did during covid 19. For example, they closed the mosques and puppets of the government. Recently, I saw a post referring to senior Ulama as Abraha and elephants. Please advise.



Tashabbuh bil kuffaar (Imitating the disbelievers) is prohibited. Allah says in the Quran:


وَلَا تَرْكَنُوا إِلَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا فَتَمَسَّكُمُ النَّارُ وَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَوْلِيَاءَ ثُمَّ لَا تُنْصَرُونَ[سورة هود :١١٣]


“And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest you be touched by the Fire, and you would not have other than Allah any protectors; then you would not be helped.” (Surah Hud: 113)


Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi Rahimahullah explains that when mere inclination to the disbelievers is prohibited, then to imitate the disbelievers is prohibited to a greater extent. This is also understood from the Hadith of Rasullullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam:


من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم [سنن أبي داؤد، كتاب اللباس]


“That person who imitates a nation is among them.”[Abu Dawood: Kitab ul Libas]


Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi Rahimahullah explains four categories of imitating the disbelievers:


  1. One is, imitating the kuffaar in Aqeedah and acts of Ibadat. That is kufr and clearly Haram.


  1. The second is, imitating the kuffaar in social practices and their salient features. That is Makruh-e-Tahreemi.


  1. The third is imitating the kuffaar in things that are not specific to their acts of Ibadat or to their social practices although such things are invented by them, for example, wearing a watch or using a cellphone manufactured by disbelievers. It is permissible to use such items. That will not be imitating the kuffaar.


  1. The fourth is imitating a transgressor and innovator. That is not permissible.


Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi Rahimahullah explains that if a social act becomes so common that no one regards that act as specific to a particular nation, now that act will not be regarded as Tashabbuh and it will not be prohibited.[1]

He cites the example of shirts and pants in London at that time when it was not common to wear shirts and pants in other places. He stated:

"وہاں تشبہ نہیں ہوگا کیونکہ وہاں یہ نہیں سمجھا جاتا ہے کہ یہ غیر قوم کا لباس ہے. وہاں تو سب کا لباس یہی ہے کوئی امتیاز نہیں. اگر یہاں پر بھی کوٹ پتلوں عام ہو جائے کہ ذہن سے خصوصیت جاتی رہے تو ممنوع نہ ہوگا "

He further explains the signs when Tashabbuh ends:

"پہچان یہ ہے کہ ان چیزوں کے دیکھنے سے عام لوگوں کے ذہن میں یہ کھٹک نہ ہو کہ یہ وضع تو فلانے لوگوں کی ہے "


When people look at practice, it does not appear to them that it is an exclusive practice of the disbelievers.


He further explains that Tashabbuh is considered according to places and times.

If in one time or place, something is regarded as imitating the kuffaar, when the time changes or people do not regard it as a practice of the kuffaar, that won't be prohibited. Likewise, if in one era people practice something, but that practice changes in another era, that practice won't be prohibited.


The whole world understands that the face mask worn during Covid-19 is due to medical reasons. It is not worn as a practice of fire worshippers.

Nobody looks at a person wearing a face mask during this Covid-19 and associate him with a fire worshipper. So wearing a face mask during Covid-19, does not fall in the category of imitating the fire worshippers. This is according to the standards and principles explained by Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi Rahimahullah. [Tuhfatul Ulamaa, Ashrafiyyah - Volume: 2/127-132]


The face mask is also used by fire extinguishers to avoid inhaling smoke. During Haj, many people use the face mask to avoid inhaling fumes of the buses due to health reasons. Furthermore, the face mask is not an act of worship of the Zoroastrians. It is a means to avoid the breath polluting the fire which they regard as pure. The Zoroastrians also use a face veil to achieve that. That does not mean that the face veil [niqab] worn by women to cover their faces and to avoid fitna should be removed because it is used by Zoroastrians.[2]

The differences in the medical fraternity is a different issue. That is not our domain. It is unprincipled to comment on something out of our domain. Leave that to the medical fraternity. They too have differences of opinions on the face mask issue.

Furthermore, the practice in the malls and taxis is also not a Shari justification in the matter.


There are differences of opinion among the Ulama on many issues of Covid-19. There are academic differences. Nobody can say that his view is 100% correct. 

In differences of opinion my Sheikh Hazrat Mufti Ahmed Khaanpoori Sahib Mudda Zilluhu advised:

نہ ان پر وحی نازل ہوئی نہ مجھ پر وحی آئی

"Neither wahi was revealed upon him nor on me”


It is unacademic to adopt a dogmatic approach in academic issues.

I have also previously presented the fatwa of Darul Uloom Deoband on many issues of Covid-19 including the face masks. Darul Uloom Deoband is our mother institute. The fatwa of Darul Uloom Deoband is signed by 5 prominent Muftis. You can practice on that fatwa and practice social distancing and wear face mask or follow the fatwa of a Mufti you have confidence in. If you have confidence in the voice clip referred to, you may practice on that.

No Mufti can say my view is 100% correct. Adopt a tolerant view like our Fuqaha. They state:


مَذْهَبُنَا صَوَابٌ يَحْتَمِلُ الْخَطَأَ وَمَذْهَبُ مُخَالِفِنَا خَطَأٌ يَحْتَمِلُ الصَّوَابَ

الدر المختار وحاشية ابن عابدين (رد المحتار) (1/ 48)

 “My opinion is correct but it may be incorrect and the opinion of the other is incorrect but may be correct.”


This attitude of suspecting one’s view as being wrong is also good for our Nafs and Islah (reformation).

Whilst we strive to practice on Deen to the best of our ability, we should not violate other laws of Shariah. Our advice is:


  1. Don’t have evil thoughts about other Ulama’s opinion. It is stated in a hadith:

حسن الظن من حسن العبادة[3]

“Good thought (of others) is from good worship.” (Abu Dawood-The chapter of Husnus Dan]

  1. Don’t call Ulama with different views Munafiqeen and question their Imaan. Don’t refer to them as Abraha and the elephants [أستغفر الله] as circulated on social media. Don’t say, I have a doubt on their Imaan as stated in some gathering.
  2. If you heard anything about the actions of Ulama during Coivd-19, closing the masajid etc, meet the Ulama personally and seek clarity from them directly. Do not rely on second source information. Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا

‘O you who believe, if a faasiq comes to you with any news, investigate it fully (and ascertain the truth)’. [49:6]


  1. If you rely on second source of information, that would be misleading and when you come to know the reality of the matter, you will regret that you have committed acts of Fisq.

 فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَى مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ 

“Then become regretful for what you have done”. [49:6]

  1. Let us be responsible and follow guidelines shown to us by the Shariah and to understand issues properly and to contextualize issues.
  2. Everyone should fear Allah and be conscious of accountability in the court of Allah. Do not do anything that will risk our Aakhirat. Allah save us and protect us from such irresponsible actions.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Mufti Ebrahim Desai. 

[1] تشبہ کا بیان [تحفة العلماء :١٢٧-١٣٢]

[3] 4993 حدثنا موسى بن إسمعيل حدثنا حماد ح و حدثنا نصر بن علي عن مهنا أبي شبل قال أبو داود ولم أفهمه منه جيدا عن حماد بن سلمة عن محمد بن واسع عن شتير قال نصر ابن نهار عن أبي هريرة قال نصر عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال حسن الظن من حسن العبادة 

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