Q: I wanted to know the permissibility of Nike. Firstly, Nike has an option to put text on their shoes and they have banned words like Allah for respect, but have allowed words like Quran. Also from a Muslim consumer complaint they allowed the words Muslim/Islam as well to show that they are not excluding the words because if they did exclude these words it would give connotation that these are bad words and cant be put on shoes. However putting some of these words on shoes is still disrespectful like Quran, however text on the shoe is an option and not obligatory and of course most people don’t use these words to disrespect Muslims. Obviously my shoes that are Nike don’t have this bad text. Secondly, Nike unintentionally put a flame on a show resembling Allah in Arabic, but it isn’t really that close and they removed the shoe and it was clear it was unintentional. Thirdly, Nike does represent a Greek god, but I don’t believe in it and am sure almost all people don’t believe in it either and people buy the shoes for style not the logo’s meaning. Finally, I am wearing these shoes on my feet so I am disrespecting the thought that Nike is a high God by putting them on my feet to show that I don’t care for the fake God. If after all this, it is still seen as haram could I deface the logo in order to wear the shoes?
A: Before addressing the issue in question, it is necessary for you to understand the parameters and limits of Shari’ah in regard to the topic of preserving one’s Islamic identity as a believer and refraining from imitating the ways of the kuffaar. Below we will present the details which govern this mas’alah.
In Shari’ah we are commanded to refrain from imitating the ways of the kuffaar and adopting their lifestyle. Imitating the ways of the kuffaar refers to one abandoning his Islamic identity and adopting the identity which is exclusive to the kuffaar. In other words, all those aspects of life (be it religious or worldly related) through which a believer is identified with and clearly distinguished from a disbeliever, for a muslim to abandon that and to adopt the ways of the kuffaar amounts to imitating the ways of the kuffaar. Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar (Radiyallahu Anhuma) reports that Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:
عن ابن عمر قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم (سنن أبي داود رقم 4033)
The one who imitates a people will be counted among them (in the court of Allah Ta’ala)
Imitating the kuffaar is of different levels.
1. Imitating the kuffaar in their religious beliefs is haraam and amounts to kufr, e.g. for a Muslim to subscribe to the belief that Isa (Alaihi salaam) was crucified on the cross.
2. Imitating those signs or symbols that identify with kufr is haraam and amounts to kufr, such as wearing a cross.
3. Imitating the kuffaar in their religious ceremonies, celebrations or festivals is haraam, e.g. for a Muslim to celebrate Diwali, Christmas, New year, Easter etc.
4. Imitating the kuffaar in their religious attire is makrooh-e-tahreemi, e.g. for a Muslim to wear an attire that is exclusive to a religious cult (e.g. wearing a saari in our country).
5. Imitating the kuffaar in their culture and lifestyle is also impermissible, e.g. imitating them in their tight-fitting and revealing clothing, women wearing men’s clothing and vice versa, men wearing ear-rings, celebrating birthdays, tattooing, women and men freely intermingling, etc.
Wearing such clothes that are not exclusive to the kuffaar, but are instead used by all and sundry e.g. wearing jackets, socks, men wearing formal clothes and women wearing unrevealing dresses is permissible and does not amount to imitating the kuffaar.
Similarly carrying out those actions or using those items which are not exclusive to the kuffaar; instead they are commonly used by all, e.g. driving cars, eating and drinking in cups and plates, etc. does not amount to imitating the kuffaar. However one should refrain from drinking in wine tumblers as this is exclusive to the kuffaar.
As far as the clothing that a Muslim should wear, it is preferable that he wears such clothing which have some type of Islamic connotation or are known to be clothing exclusive to Muslims, i.e. the clothing of the pious and respectable Muslims.
As far as the issue of nike is concerned, you should ask yourself whether any Muslim will wear a garment which has the cross emblazoned on it? A Muslim will never wear a garment which has a cross on it whether on his clothing or on his shoes. The reason why a Muslim will not wear a cross is that he understands that the cross is a sign of kufr and it is exclusive to a particular creed (i.e. Christianity). The cross identifies the one who wears it as being part of the same creed.
While the cross is a very obvious sign, there are many other signs which though less obvious are also signs of kufr and identify the one who wears it as being part of the same creed. These symbols have significance for its followers and they are respected and honoured just as the cross is honoured by the Christians.
Among these religious symbols is the symbol of Nike. Encyclopedia Britannica describes Nike in the following words: “Nike, in Greek religion, is the goddess of victory.” It also states that in Rome “she was worshipped from the earliest times. She came to be regarded as the protecting goddess of the state.” The Nike symbol, the swoosh, embodies the spirit of the winged goddess who inspired the most courageous of warriors.
Not long ago, Nike Incorporated apologised in the face of severe protest for putting the name of Allah on sports shoes. First they put the name of Allah on a shoe so that it will be trampled and soiled. Imagine the name of Allah Ta’ala being trampled and kicked around (May Allah Ta’ala save us). Even before the shoe affair, Nike had once erected a billboard which depicted a basketball player. The picture was headlined with the words “They called him Allah.” It is naive to think that these occurrences are mere coincidences. Yet Muslims still feel proud to be associated with Nike and its products.
Why is a basketball player headlined “ALLAH”? Why the name of Allah on shoes? Is it a deliberate attempt to sacrilege and desecrate the name of Allah Ta’ala? The name of Allah Ta’ala on a shoe will surely be trampled, kicked, become soiled with mud or even filth. Allah Forbid! The Qur’an has long ago declared: “…The enmity has become apparent from their mouths, and what their hearts conceal is worse” (3: 118). Often the hatred of the Kuffaar for the Believers becomes manifest from their words and actions. However, we should consider to what extent we support the very people who openly desecrate the name of Allah Ta’ala. If our parents were greatly insulted by any person, will we still support him and add to his coffers? Then what about the name of Allah Ta’ala ? Would we give publicity to those who desecrate our name? Then what about the name of Allah Ta’ala?
And Allah Ta’ala (الله تعالى) knows best.
عن ابن عمر قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم. (سنن أبي داود رقم 4033)
أي من شبه نفسه بالكفار مثلا في اللباس وغيره أو بالفساق أو الفجار أو بأهل التصوف والصلحاء الأبرار فهو منهم أي في الإثم والخير قال الطيبي هذا عام في الخلق والخلق والشعار ولما كان الشعار أظهر في الشبه ذكر في هذا الباب (مرقاة شرح مشكاة 8/ 155)
يكفر بوضع قلنسوة المجوس على رأسه على الصحيح إلا لضرورة دفع الحر والبرد وبشد الزنار في وسطه إلا إذا فعل ذلك خديعة في الحرب وطليعة للمسلمين وبقوله المجوس خير مما أنا فيه يعني فعله … وبخروجه إلى نيروز المجوس لموافقته معهم فيما يفعلون في ذلك اليوم وبشرائه يوم النيروز شيئا لم يكن يشتريه قبل ذلك تعظيما للنيروز لا للأكل والشرب وبإهدائه ذلك اليوم للمشركين ولو بيضة تعظيما لذلك لا بإجابة دعوة مجوسي حلق رأس ولده وبتحسين أمر الكفار اتفاقا حتى قالوا لو قال ترك الكلام عند أكل الطعام حسن من المجوس أو ترك المضاجعة حالة الحيض منهم حسن فهو كافر كذا في البحر الرائق. (الفتاوى الهندية 2/ 276)
عن عمرو بن الحارث ، أن رجلا دعا عبد الله بن مسعود إلى وليمة ، فلما جاء ليدخل سمع لهوا ، فلم يدخل ، فقال : ما لك رجعت ؟ قال : إني سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول : من كثر سواد قوم فهو منهم ، ومن رضي عمل قوم كان شريكا في عملهم. (إتحاف الخيرة المهرة رقم 3297)
Mufti Zakaria Makada
Checked & Approved:
Mufti Ebrahim Salejee (Isipingo Beach)