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Thursday, September 24, 2009

SAFETY & HEALTH: Wearing the shoes standing

I remember the day we had an excursion to Konsortium Abbas Sdn Bhd (http://www.abass.com.my/) to see their Safety & Health practices, Dr. Rafe (UPM) showed us a picture which bewildered us. He said that this tool is related to a Safety & Health issue! Of course, looking at a picture at a distance, none of us could guess what it was. Here is a picture of the tool similar to what was shown by Dr. Rafe: Long slender tool! And here's a picture of the tool being used in its primary function: Yes, it is a shoe horn. This tool is available in the market, although not widely used. It facilitates the wearing of a shoe by keeping the shoe open and by providing a smooth surface for the foot and particularly the heel to move, without crushing the shoe's counter (the vertical portion of the shoe that wraps around the back of the foot), in this way acting as a first class lever. It is very useful especially for the kind of shoes without laces, although people do use them for shoes with laces, perhaps due to "resistance to change", or shall I say it plainly, laziness to untie the shoelaces. The use of shoehorn has facilitated users to wear their shoes while standing. And this was the point Dr. Rafe was getting at, that is, it contributes in the ergonomics of wearing shoes. This benefit will not be available for the shorter versions of shoe horn. This brings me to a prohibition specified in Islam. Yes, Islam talks about how to wear your shoes too! This is the beauty of Islam, referred to as a way of life. It provides guidance in all aspects of life, whether in detail, or in general principles. And in this case, as detailed as how to, or rather, how not to wear your shoes or sandals.

عَنْ جَابِرٍ قَالَ نَهَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنْ يَنْتَعِلَ الرَّجُلُ قَائِمًا

Jabir (RA) said: "The Messenger of Allah (SAW) forbade a person to put on his sandal / shoe while standing."
[Sahih - Abu Daud ]

Commentary: Al-Hafiz al-'Iraqi said: The narrators of this hadith are trustworthy. Imam an-Nawawi said: The chain of narrators is hasan (good). Al-Albani said: This hadith, after considering all its chains of narrators, is sahih (authentic), without doubt. This hadith clearly prohibits trying to put on a sandal or shoe while standing. The question that arises here is: What is the rationale behind the prohibition? What is the wisdom? The scholars have explained this hadith over the years.

قال الخطابي: إنما نهى عن لبس النعل قائماً لأن لبسها قاعداً أسهل عليه وأمكن له وربما كان ذلك سبباً لانقلابه إذا لبسها قائماً. فأمر بالقعود له والاستعانة باليد فيه ليأمن غائلته

Imam al-Khattabi said:
"He only prohibited from putting on the sandals while standing because putting it on while sitting is easier and steadier for him, and perhaps it may be the reason for him to topple over when putting on the sandals while standing. So (the prophet) ordered to sit for this purpose and to help out with the hand so that he is safe from its danger."
[Tuhfat ul-Ahwazhi (hadith no. 1834)and 'Awn al-Ma'bud (hadith no. 4129)]

قال الشيخ ابن عثيمين: أما حديث جابر رضي الله عنه الذي رواه أبو داود أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم نهى أن ينتعل الرجل قائما فهذا في نعل يحتاج إلى معالجة في إدخاله في الرجل لأن الإنسان لو انتعل قائما والنعل يحتاج إلى معالجة فربما يسقط إذا رفع رجله ليصلح النعل أما النعال المعروفة الآن فلا بأس أن ينتعل الإنسان وهو قائم ولا يدخل ذلك في النهي لأن نعالنا الموجودة يسهل خلعها ولبسها والله الموفق

Shaikh Ibn Uthaimeen said:
As for the hadith of Jabir (RA) that was reported by Abu Daud: "The prophet (SAW) prohibited that a man puts on his sandals while standing", this is regarding the sandal that require handling (ie. to tie the shoelaces, etc.) to put it on his foot, because if he puts it on while standing and the sandal needs to be handled he may fall when he raises his foot to handle it. As for the sandals that are known nowadays, then there is no problem in putting them on while standing, and the prohibition does not apply in this case, because the sandals available now is easy to take off and put on, and Allah is the One Who grants tawfiq.
[Sharh Riyadh as-Saliheen (hadith no. 1651)]

Notice, the scholars mentioned the wisdom as a safety concern. And to add to this, as Dr. Rafe pointed out correctly, that there is also ergonomics concern. The awkward posture to put on the shoe or sandal while standing, and the difficulty to get the heel into the shoe's counter that wraps around the back of the foot, at the same time, preventing the shoe from damage. Especially for those who are nursing a back pain, then ergonomics is surely a major concern to prevent further aggravation of the back condition.

A shoe horn, or to be more precise, a long-handled shoe horn is the best solution!

Dr. Tuchinsky's book Back Pain: It's All in Your Neck, wrote:
Perhaps the most practical advice that a health care professional can give is what you can do on your own to ease your back pain. Since most of the healing process goes on outside a doctor's office, it only stands to reason that treating an injured back should lie mostly with the patient at home. This process speaks to the heart of spinal adjustment theory by allowing the body's inborn healing ability to work for the patient. Once this mechanism can operate freely, the patient must ensure that no further damage comes to the spine. In this vulnerable stage, there are some important things to keep in mind to help speed the healing process:
  • Do not apply heat unless instructed by your doctor.
  • Smoking and the use of caffeine may aggravate your problem.
  • Do not take hot tub baths without first consulting your doctor.
  • Do not walk up or down stairs unless absolutely necessary.
  • Do not sleep on your stomach.
  • Avoid carrying unbalanced loads.
  • Always turn and face toward the object you want to lift.
  • Use a bed board under your mattress for firmness.
  • When sleeping on your side, keep a pillow between your legs. This will ease lower back pain and sciatica. If lying on your back, put the pillow under your knees.
  • If you are fatigued or in pain during activity, rest.
  • When moving about, do so in a deliberate and gentle way. Quick movements can put additional strain on your neck or back.
  • Try to become active again as soon as the improvement of your symptoms will allow, or if your doctor recommends it. This will help keep your muscles strong.
  • Do not lift heavy things.
  • Use a long-handled shoehorn to put on your shoes.
  • Eat out or have someone else cook. Cooking requires bending, lifting and twisting, all motions that will aggravate an injured back.
  • Try eating from a countertop, as it is higher and doesn't require bending over.
[End of quote]

The points in red has been dealt with in my previous article, see:

The point in yellow supports the use of long-handled shoe horn to put on one's shoes.

So, considering what the scholars have said to be the wisdom of the prohibition, and coupled with the ergonomics concern, the use of long-handled shoe horn would surely eliminate the concerns related to putting on a shoe while standing. Hence, in this case, the prohibition of the prophet would be dropped, and the ruling would be changed to mubah (permissible).

In short, the prohibition by the prophet is a safety & health concern, and if the concerns can be eliminated, then the prohibition will be lifted. So, Islam does care about Safety & Health!

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