Question: Is there any encompassing rule to determine whether something is Tashabbuh bil Kuffaar (emulating the kuffaar wal fussaaq) or not, especially with regards to clothes, eating, etc.?
There is no comprehensive principle regarding Tashabbuh Bil Kuffaar. The times and norms play a prominent role. Also, the wijdaan and baseerat of the Aalim of Haqq is important for determining this issue.
To correctly understand the mas’alah of Tashabbuh, there are three essentials: Ilm, Ikhlaas and Baseerat. Baseerat is the effect of Taqwa. Minus Taqwa, one’s ikhlaas will be contaminated. This contamination will eliminate Baseerat. The importance of Baserat could be understood from Imaam Abu Hanifah’s fatwa on the impurity of Maa-e-Musta’mal (used water). With his Baseerat he observed the spiritual filth in maa-e-musta’mal, hence his view is the strongest on this issue.
Without Ikhlaas and Baseerat, the view on an issue will be the emotion of the mufti maajin (a moron ‘mufti’ whose ‘fatwas’ are the products of his bestial nafs). Consider the example of western clothes. To which extent does Tashabbuh apply? The mufti maajin who himself may be wearing western fashionable dress styles will argue that the dress has become universal (aam) and there is no longer any religious connotation attached to it, e.g. the tie, hence it is permissible to wear shirt, pants, jeans, skippers, ties and all the miserable artefacts of shaitaan and his western progeny. Just imagine the level of jahaalat and mental convolution of even Ulama who argue that the satanic bermuda pants monstrosity is permissible simply because it is below the knees.
The baatini corrosion has blighted the intellectual perception so thoroughly that the mufti maajin fails to realize that a dress such as the bermuda pants is a pure western kuffaar fashionable dress item just recently introduced. Even prior to it assuming the decrepit and apodalic attribute of being aam, the maajin character proclaims it permissible simply on just one count, namely, the covering of the knees. Well, your wife’s ijaar and her burqah offer greater concealment of satr than the bermuda pants, and at the same time it is Tashabbuh bil Muslimah (emulation of a Muslim female), which rationally is better than Tashabbuh bil Kuffaar. Notwithstanding this fact, Tashabbuh bil Muslimah is also mal-oon (accursed). Thus, to a greater degree will a male who adopts kuffaar dress be mal-oon because of Tashabbuh bil Kuffaar.
However, the Mufti who focuses on the Aakhirat and who understands the maqsood (objective) of life on earth, ruminates with his Baatini (Spiritual) Heart and asks: Why does a Muslim want to wear shirt, pants, jacket, jeans, T-shirts and ties and strut about with a bared head, when Islamic dress is available, and when millions of Muslims are wearing such dress by which one can recognize from a mile away that the person is a Muslim? Careful reflection will convince one that there is the thief, shaitaan lurking in his nafs or it is the deception of his nafs which constrains him to proffer the ‘aam’ argument.
Since his nafs craves to don kuffaar garments because it is stylish and appealing to the desire, and it blends suitably with the kuffaar environment in which we live, he presents spurious arguments to justify such kuffaar dress. Little does he realize that in so doing he is according preference to kuffaar dress over and above Islamic dress which is easily available to him. This attitude thus confirms the element of Tashabbuh in kuffaar dress.
Someone may raise the argument that items such as jerseys, socks, shoes, raincoars and other necessary items of dress which all of us wear, are also of western origin. Does Tashabbuh apply here too? The response to this ishkaal (conundrum) is as follows:
Yes and no! At times it will be Tashabbuh and at times it will not be. In our environment and the circumstances in which Muslims work and live, these items are necessary. There is no suitable Islamic substitute for these items of dress. The idea of Tashabbuh is furthest from the mind. In this scenario the argument of the dress being universal is valid. Nevertheless, this still precludes such of these items which have entered society as the latest fashions. It also precludes footwear on whch appears logos and the like.
But, in a different setting such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, they are perfectly at home with a chaadar (shawl) thrown around the shoulders. They are comfortable in it and it does not interfere with their activities. Thus, for Muslims in those lands the element of Tashabbuh will be even in jerseys, and to a degree even in the type of shoes which we wear in the western world. The type of jooties worn in India and Pakistan suit them well although it is unsuitable for us here due to the flimsiness of the shoes and due to the feminine appearance.
A daleel for us is the amal of Imaam Abu Yusuf (rahmatullah alayh). After he became the Qaadhi and he had to do considerable walking, he changed his style of shoes and adopted the style of the Ajam. When someone objected, he explained that because of the toughness of these shoes he has adopted them.
In conclusion: In our environment, shirts, suits, ties, jeans, T-shirts and the like are Tashabbuh bil Kuffaar without the least doubt, and furthermore it borders on kufr because it is preferred over Islamic dress which is readily available. Preferring a kuffaar style over an Islamic style is a major sin of kufr proportions.
Regarding the practice of eating from tables and eating with knives and forks, the element of Tashabbuh is too glaring for the need to cudgel brains for the determination of the Shar’i Hukm. The argument of its ‘permissibility’ on the basis of this practice having become universal is contemptuously baatil. Abandonment of the Sunnah is haraam whether it is abandoned by a few or by the entire population. After fourteen centuries of the Ummah eating on the floor, suddenly the table and chair practice becomes ‘halaal’ on the decrepit and deceptive basis of ‘universality’. If this has to be accepted as a standard ‘principle’ for abrogation of Shar’i and Sunnah practices, the same fate which has destroyed the Shariats of Nabi Musaa (alayhis salaam) and Nabi Isaa (allayhis salaam) will mangle and mutilate the Sunnah which this Ummah of Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has followed since the inception of Islam.
Those who have adopted tables and chairs for eating, after abandoning their original Sunnah practice, are hovering on the brink of kufr for having preferred a kuffaar practice over and above the Sunnah practice. Those who have been eating in western style since birth, whilst not perpetrating haraam as the former group, nevertheless, are under Waajib obligation to abandon the kuffaar style and to adopt the Sunnah style. If, after having been made aware of this essentiality, they refuse, then they will be guilty of the haraam practice of Tashabbuh bil Kuffaar. And, Allah knows best.