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pare_nails.pdf Pare Your Nails: A Study of an Early Tradition The Islamic injunction that one should pare one's nails is usually given in the sources as belonging to the set of practices observed by the prophets before Muhammad, enjoined by them for their people and thus known as one of the practices of the fitra.1 These practices were followed by the Prophet and prescribed for his community. A widely current tradition, reported on the authority of the Prophet, recommended paring the nails by stressing that the Devil takes up his abode in the dirt originating between the nail and the flesh.2 It is evident that the believer has to be alert to the dangers associated with the presence of the Devil; negligence or heedlessness in paring one's I See, e.g., al-Bayhaqi. al-Sunan al-kubra, (Hyderabad 1344). I. '149: idem. Ma'njat al-sunan wa-Iathar. ed. A\lmad :;>aqr(Cairo 1390/1970). I. 390-91: al-Shaukanf. Nayl al-au(ar (Cairo 1372/1953). I, 130-33: ai-Muttaqi I-Hindf. Kanz al-'ummal (Hyderabad 1377/1958). VI. 371-74, nos. 2648-52, 2654, 2672-75: al-'Ayni, 'Umdat al-qarr. (Cairo reprint). XXII. 44-46 (and see the definition ofthejilra on p. 45: al-ji(ra khamsun. ay khamsatu ashya'a. wa-arada bi-l-ji(rati al-sunnata l-qadTma lIatT khtaraha 1anbiya'u 'alayhim ai-salam wa-llafaqat 'alayhi I-shara'i .. JUc...,...l.JI~..l.> • r)W1 L"J..,rJ1 [J JU] ....."...Is ....1J1 J."...; .10 .~ r--L" I.; l..r r-l L-.". l.j U J.>...,rJ1 ~ .:r J L-.". 0 L5 .11 .~~..l.>1 Professor Abbott did not translate the document. In her comments' she merely states that "the tradition has no parallel in the standard collections" and adduces a considerable number of references to demonstrate the preoccupation of the Prophet and of his contemporaries with dreams and their interpretation. Professor Abbott is indeed right in stating that this tradition has no parallel in the standard collections. Furthermore, because of the damaged state of the papyrus, serious difficulties have been incurred in deciphering the text of this tradition; some minor misreadings made a correct reading almost impossible to achieve and blurred the meaning of the tradition. It is evident from the text as it was read that the tradition is based on an implied contrast between dirty nails and dreams. The thread can be grasped in a tradition recorded by Ibn Abr Hatim al-Razr: Abo Hatim marks this tradition as munkar.t the reason for this being that al-Fadl b. al- bi-sharhi asrari il}ya'i -..) .11 1..)1-,"", ~ L..".J..;-11.y [J'-" uL5] <..r""" I~.J u[.J]r.J u[.J]r ~ o..:;...JL.b .»-1 .~ ..l...S 1""'"..) UbI ~ 1..r9 JL..I...j ->--.J 4-l>..l.J .12 ~ • r5..)UbI The Prophet used to ask [his Companions) about their dreams, and they would respond. Then [when) they [once) camel2 he asked them several times but none of them gave him any information (about his dreams - K.); then the Prophet noticed that their nails had lengthened and that dirt had penetrated them. "How will you see (dreams - K.) or be shown (dreams _K.)ll whilel4 this (i.e., the dirt) is underneath your nails," asked the Prophet. 6 See the negative opinions on him: Ibn Abr Hatim, 391 (ai)adflhuhu munkara, yuhaddithu bi-l-abattt): Bijawr (Cairo, 1382/1963). III, 358-59, no. 6750; no. 1374. 7 On the distinction between true and false dreams. ft ta'btri l-manam (Cairo, 1384), I, 3-4. 8 The".J" missing in text. 9 In text: ..;-11 al-Jarh wa-l-ra' dil (Hyderabad, 1361), 111/11,69. no. al-Dhahabi. Mizan al-i-tidal, ed. 'Air Muhammad alIbn Hajar. Lisan al-mizan (Hyderabad, 1330), IV, 449. see. e.g .. 'Abd al-Ghanr al-Nabulusr, Ta'lfr al-anam t"' Al-Kharqushr, al-Bishara wa-l-nidhara, Ms. Br. Mus .. Or. 6262. fol. 6a. Ps. Ibn Srrrn, Tafstru l-ahlami l-kabtr (Cairo, 1382/1963).23. Miss Abbott's reading I..".... I. "they refused". seems to be unbased. Cf. this expression about dreams: al-Suynp, ai-Durr al-manthur, III, 311"':12 tyaraha l-mutminau tura lahu); al-Raghib al-Isfahant Mui)aqaratal-udaM' (Beirut, 1961), I, 149 (yaraha I-rajul au tura lahu); al-Zurqaru, SharI) al-mawahib al-ladunniyya (Cairo, 1328), VII, 163. 14 This ".J " omitted in the reading of Miss Abbott blurred, of course. the meaning of the tradition. 10 II 12 13 66 The intent of the tradition is obvious: believers with long nails" are barred from seeing true, veridical dreams. The dirt under the nails of the believers was even more harmful for the religious practices of the Prophet himself, as pointed out in another tradition. The Prophet was once heedless and committed an error in his prayer; he explained his error by the fact that some people attending the prayer had not cleaned their nails." Another serious event, which might have endangered the continuity of the prophetic revelation, is connected, according to one tradition, with the injunction to pare one's nails. When the angel Jibrrl had ceased for a period to convey the revelation to the Prophet, he explained to his worried believers that this was a result of the fact that they were not careful in paring their nails, trimming their moustaches, and cleaning their finger-joints. 17 This, however, is a fragmentary tradition in which no details about the time of the event and its circumstances are given. The current reports concerning the pause in the revelation usually refer to Sora XVIII, 24-25: "And do not say, regarding anything, 'I am going to do that tomorrow', but only 'If God will'; and mention thy Lord when thou forgettest. .. "; or to Sara XCIII, 3: "Thy Lord has neither forsaken thee nor hates thee ... "; and differ in their setting and details. The reason for the suspension of the revelation was, according to one of the reports, an illness of the Prophet lasting two or three nights. A woman then came and derided him by saying that God had forsaken him. Some traditions name the woman: she was Umm Jamfl, the wife of Abo Lahab. A version of this tradition links the story of Umm Jamfl and the verses of SOra CXI about her (. . ." and his wife, the carrier of the firewood ... ") with the verses of SOra XCIII: the revelation was delayed after a short time after her talk with the Prophet, in which the latter asserted that the verses about her were revealed by God. When the revelation was suspended, she came to the Prophet and mocked him, stating that his Devil had left him. Then the verses of SOra XCIII were revealed. Another tradition presents an opposing point of view: when the pause in the revelation occurred, it was Khadfja who IS Some Shr'f compendia draw a clear line between men and women: while men were enjoined to pare their nails, women were ordered to let their nails grow because "'it is nicer for them." See al-Bahranr, alHadariq al-nadira, V, 571 ult.-572, I. I: qala rasulu llahi (s) li-I-rijali: qussu azfarakum, wa-li-l-nisari: trukna, fa-innahu azyanu lakunna; al-Tabarst, Makarim al-akhlaq, 26, I. I (but curiously: wa-qala li-Inisari: III tatrukna min az aftrikunna. which seems to be an error). 16 See Thabit b. Abr Thabit, Khalqu l-insan, ed. shows the importance attached to the paring of nails in the early period of Islam; negligence on the part of the believers could endanger the continuity of the revelation granted to the Prophet by God. Mujahid (d. 104 H) comments on SOra XIX, 64: "We come not down save at the commandment of thy Lord" that the revelation was suspended and that it was Jibnl who explained to the Prophet that the reason was that the believers were careless in paring their nails, trimming their moustaches, cleansing their teeth (with a siwakr and cleaning their finger-joints." 18 See al-Tabarr, Tafsir (Bolaq) XXX. 148: al-Qurtubr, Tafsir, XX. 92-93: Ibn Kathrr, Tafsir (Beirut. 1385/1966), IV. 365-66. VII. 313: al- Wahidr, Asbab al-nuzut (Cairo. 1388/1968). 301-2: al-Suyutr, Lubab al-nuqul p asbabi l-nuzul (Cairo. 1373/1954). 144-45. 237-38: idem. al-Durr al-manthur, VI, 360-61: Ibn Hajar, al-Kafl l-shaJ ft takhriji ahadtth! l-k ashshaf, (Cairo. 1354). 102, no. 306: 185. nos. 325-26: alSarnarqandr, Tafsir, Ms. Chester Beatty 3668. II. 326a: al-Khazin, Tafsir iLubab al-tarwt! ft masant 1tanztl) (Cairo 1381), VII. 214-15: al-Razr, al- Tafsir al-kabtr (= Ma.JatflJ al-ghayb) (Cairo, 1357/1938), XXXI, 210-11: al-Naysabarr, Gharatib at-qurran, ed. Ibrahrrn 'A!wa 'Awac;l (Cairo, 1390/1970), XXX, 115-16. 19 Muqatil, Talsfr, Ms. Ahmet Ill, 74/11. fol. 242b. 20 See al-Qurtubt Tafsir, XX, 93 infra: al-Razr, al- Tafsir al-kabtr, XXXI; 211: al-Naysaburr, Ghararib at-qurran, XXX, I 15 infra. 21 See al-Wahidr. Asbab al-nuzul, 203: al-Qurtubr. Tafstr. XI, 127: al-Suyutr, al-Durr al-manthur, IV, 279, II. 9-14. 68 Muslim scholars, of course regarded it as necessary to classify the practice of paring one's nails, establishing its rank and position in relation to other practices bearing on cleanliness and purity, like trimming one's moustache, plucking out the hair of the armpits, and shaving the privates. It was necessary to decide whether the practice is obligatory and forms part of the sunna. The mandatory character of the practice was derived from a tradition quoted from the compilation of Ahmad b. Hanbal and attributed to the Prophet: "He who does not shave his privates, pare his nails, and trim his moustache is not of US."22 This tradition was, however, sharply criticized. Scholars pointed out that one of the transmitters, Ibn LahfCa,23 was considered unreliable and that another version of this tradition, recorded by al- Tirrnidhr.> does not include the paring of nails (it only mentions the trimming of the moustache). Even granted that the hadttb is trustworthy, the expressionJa-/aysa minna 'he is not one of us' merely denotes that the man does not follow the sunna of the Prophet. Al-Munawr concludes that the tradition does not establish the mandatory character of the practice. It is a commendable practice tmandubun nadban mu'akkadani, and failure to carry out the injunction of the hadttn can only be considered as neglect of the sunna.> However, there was a problem in connection with the paring of nails which caused division of opinions among the scholars: if the water of ablution (wuquC) does not reach the place blocked by the dirt, should one repeat the ablution or nOt.26 Al-Shafivr gives an unequivocal decision concerning one specific question: if someone performs the ablution and subsequently trims his beard and pares his nails, does he have to repeat the ablution? According to al-Shafl-r the answer is negative." Scholars were not unanimous about the period prescribed by the Prophet for performing the practices of the fitra (trimming the moustache, shaving the privates, paring the nails, and pulling out the hairs of the armpits). According to a current tradition it is enjoined every forty days." The problem under discussion was whether this was the prescribed period or whether it was a maximum which one should not exceed but which can be shortened according to need." The tradition recorded by alBukharr states that Ibn 'Umar used to pare his nails every two weeks.l? implying that the Prophet himself practiced it in this way. Another report says that the Prophet used to trim his moustache and pare his nails on Friday before going out to perform the Friday prayer." The latter tradition is contradicted by an opinion recorded in the 22 Murtada l-Zabrdr, Ithafu, II, 411,413; al-Munawr, Fayd al-qadtr, VI, 223, no. 9021: man lam yahliq -IOa (quoted from Risalat ahkam al-fitra 1islamiyya}. 33 Murtada.l-Zabrdr, It/}tifu. II, 399, 413 supra; Ibn Hajar, Fatb at-bart, X, 292 infra; al-Suyutr, al-Durr al-manthur, I, 113, II. 1-2; idem, al-Isfar, fol. 2a (and cf. ibid, fol. 3b, another schedule for the performance of these practices); al-Dhahabr, Mtzan al-i-tidal, 1,33, no. 95. 34 See, e. g., Murtada l-Zabrdr, Ithafu, 11,413-14; al-Suyutr, al-Zafar, fol. 370a-b. 35 AI-Wa~~abf,al-Baraka, 216; al-Suyutr, al-Zafar, fol. 369b supra. 36 Anonymous, Ms. Univ. of Istanbul 6258, fol. 9b. 37 Al-Suyutr, al-Zafar, fol. 369a; al-Tabarsf, Makarim al-akhlaq, 25. 38 Ibn Abf Shayba, Musannaf; ed. 'Abd al-Khaliq Afghanr (Hyderabad, 1387/1967). II, 159; Abo Talib al-Makkr, Qat al-qulub, I, 98; al-Jrlanr, al-Ghunya (Cairo, 1322), I, 17; al-Suyutr, al-Zafar, fol. 369b. But this very reward was promised the Saturday nail-parers; al-'Aynf, 'Umdat al-qan, XXII, 46 supra. 39 AI-Wa~~abf, al-Baraka, 216. 70 of the armpit, and shaving the privates on Thursday; on Friday the believer has to wash his body, to perfume himself, and .to wear nice clothes." The most liberal tradition is reported on the authority of Abu Hurayra. The Prophet gives a detailed account of the rewards which will be granted the believers who pare their nails on any day of the week; no special day for paring is singled OUt.41 Special importance is attached to the order of paring the nails." Scholars of hadttb stress that there is no sound tradition concerning the order of paring the nails," but there exist certain utterances of early scholars and some verse compositions serving as mnemonic devices for knowing the right order." There are scholarly disputes over the problem of how to dispose of the parings. The accepted opinion is that, according to the utterances of the Prophet, the parings should be buried. While there is nothing wrong in discarding them, to dispose of them in the privy or in the wash-house is reprehensible." The reason for the injunction to bury the parings was that it would not allow sorcerers to play with them. Ibn Hajar records another reason for burying: they are a part of the human body and have to be buried like the body itself." The verses of Sura LXXVII, 26-27 (a-lam naj-ali l-arda kifatan alJya)an wa-amwatan) "made we not the earth to be a housing for the living and for the dead?" refer to nail-parings and hair, according to one of the commentaries." Al-Hakrrn al- Tirmidhr records a tradition on the authority of (A)isha, stating that the Prophet ordered the burial of seven things from the human body: hair, parings, blood, menstruation .... , (fallen) teeth, prepuce, and placenta. The reverence for the body of the believer should be extended to the elements extracted from it.4H Though the paring of nails is commonly accepted as a commendable sunna it must be performed privately; the paring of nails in mosques is condemned." Abraham is said to have been the first person in humanity who pared his nails." This practice, one of the usages which belong to the observances of theji{ra, is carefully observed by believers until today. (ghus/) 40 Murtada I-Zabfdf, Itl}a!u, 11,414. 41 AI-'Aynf, 'Umdat al-qan, XXII, 46 supra; al-Suyutr, al-Zafar, fol. 370b-71 a; idem. al-Isfar, fol. 3a; al-Shaukanr, al-Fawatid al-majmu-a ft l-ahadtth' al-maudu-a, ed.