It is the holy month of Ramzan and even irregular worshippers hasten to mosques for prayers. But we need to pray right. Prayer without donning a cap is said to violate the traditions of the Prophet. “It is reprehensible not to cover the head in prayer as it is part of the excellence of adornment which Allah ordered,” wrote Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani in his Encyclopaedia of Islamic Doctrine .
Prophet Mohammed used to wear a turban while praying, a practice followed by successive generations. Turbans of ordinary dyed muslin cloth, mostly white or green, are used by scholars and Imams. The turban is not only an exquisite and fashionable headgear but also a symbol of dignity and honour.
The Arabs continue to wear amamah while toppee (made of wool and cotton fleece), a very popular brand from Turkey, has survived through the ages and is worn throughout the world. Of course, the Turks used to wear the fez hat (a felt headdress, short and cylindrical without a peak) calpack and a conical taqiyah called Taj.
Tunisian men cover their heads with the chechia hat (handmade from wool). Afghans have popularised the pakol caps. In the U.S. and the U.K., the caps are called kufis. The karakul cap is worn by African Muslims. Taqiyah is known as kopiah in Malaysia. Russian Muslims wear the doppa (rug cap). A truncated cone cap made of black or embroidered felt, cotton or velvet called peci or kopiah is the head dress widely used in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand.
A round brimless head cover soon came into prominence in the Indian sub-continent replacing the traditional Asli Velveti Rampuri, Lehariya, Himachali (pure khadi and fine wool), Lucknowi and Karakul caps. The fashionable round skullcaps ( taqiyah ) predominantly worn in the Asian countries are comfortable and convenient and don’t need to be maintained like the traditional caps. The hand embroidered cloth caps are less expensive too. “Leather caps generate heat and leather being an expensive commodity needs good craftsmen. The traditional artisans are a vanishing tribe. Cloth is available in running metres and priced less as it comes from yarn,” informs Khwaja Moinuddin.
“India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and other regions of South Asia have different types of topees such as the Sindhi Cap (This is circular/cylindrical except for a portion cut out in the front to expose the forehead. Some are embellished with mirrors too) and the crochet t opee . The Bangladesh cap called tupi is widely exported to middle east,” says a book on caps and head dress. Intricate geometrical designs are embroidered to cater to different tastes. The caps from Bangladesh, China and Thailand are exported to different countries.
Md. Ubaidur Rahman, President, Nalband Mosque, Triplicane, is against modern youth coming bareheaded to mosques. “Whenever possible we provide straw or plastic caps to those who come bareheaded so that they can pray according to the sunna tradition,” he says.
“Wearing cap is a sort of self adornment; it gives the worshipper a divine aura,” says Mohammed Munavar, a retired Law Officer and a student of Islamic jurisprudence.
According to Nafees Siddique, a Rampur-based historian, there is a Muslim touch to the Gandhi cap. “As Mahatma Gandhi could not find a suitable cap during his visit to Rampur in 1919, Abadi Begum, mother of the Ali brothers (who led the Khilafat movement), knitted a cap for Gandhi. And this Deobandi cap went on to become the famous Gandhi cap,” he says.
Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah used to wear a cap made from the fur of the Qaraqul breed of sheep. The popular Jinnah cap is also worn in Nepal, Balochistan and Khyber province. Amanullah Khan, King of Afghanistan in 1919, is believed to have used the folding qaraqul cap. The velvet version is called a Rampuri cap, and was worn by the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Sahibzada.
All India Muslim League’s Nawab Mohammed Ismail Khan used the Samoor cap in Lucknow during the 1930s. The former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Farooq Abdullah, always wears a Qarakul cap although it is not a native headgear of Kashmir.