Question # 468: What is the Sunnah way of Clipping nails?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Clipping the nails is one of the Sunan al-Fitrah and it is mustahabb (recommended) to start with the right hand, then the left, then the right foot then the left. However, there is nothing narrated in the Sunnah which indicates that a particular order has to be followed.

Long Answer: Clipping the nails is one of the Sunan al-Fitrah, as is indicated by the sahih ahadith, and it is mustahabb to start on the right because it is proven in Saheeh al-Bukhari (163) that ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنهما) said: “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to like to start on the right when putting on shoes, combing his hair, purifying himself and in all his affairs.”

This hadith indicates that it is recommended to start with the right side in these actions and their like. There is nothing narrated in the Sunnah, as far as we know, indicating that it is recommended to start with the right and then move completely to the left; rather, some scholars said that it is recommended to move gradually from the right to what follows on the left and that doing this is part of Tayammun as well. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  wrote about the manner of cutting the nails: “Trimming the fingernails should be done in conformity with the [above] hadith of ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنهما) who said, ‘The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to like Tayammun in wearing his shoes, combing his hair, performing ablution and bathing, and in all his affairs.’ So the person starts with the fingers of the right hand: the right little finger, then the ring finger, then the middle finger, then the index finger, then the thumb; then the fingers of the left hand: the left thumb, then the index finger, then the middle finger, then the ring finger, then the little finger. It should be noted that this order may be difficult to follow.”

Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’: “There is scholarly consensus that clipping the nails is Sunnah, and that applies equally to men and women, and the hands and feet. It is mustahabb to start with the right hand, then the left, then the right foot then the left.”

And he said in Sharh Saheeh Muslim: “It is mustahabb to start with the hands before the feet, and to start with the forefinger of the right hand, then the middle finger, then the ring finger, then the pinkie finger, then the thumbs, then to move to the left hand and start with the pinkie finger, then the ring finger, until all the fingers are done, then to move to the right foot and start with the smallest toe on the right foot and end with the smallest toe on the left foot. And Allaah knows best.”

The Hanbalis mentioned a different sequence of fingers when clipping the nails, but no sahih report has been narrated from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) concerning this matter.

According to Matn al-Iqnaa (a name of the book) of Hanbali school, it is desirable for a person who clips his/her nails to do that in the following order: “The little finger of the right hand, the middle finger, thumb, ring finger and finally the index finger. Then, one clips nails of one’s left as follows: The thumb of the left hand, its middle finger, the little finger, the index finger, and finally the ring finger.”

According to al-Shafi’e school, clipping one’s nails has to be started with one’s index finger of the right hand, since it is more honorable due to being used to attest Shahadah of Tawhid, then the middle finger, the little finger, the ring finger and finally the thumb. Then, the little finger of the left hand, the ring finger, the middle finger, the index finger, and finally the thumb. After that, one is advised to clip one’s little toe of his/her right foot, and then, in turn, one by one to be ended with the little toe of the left foot (Quoted freely from Mughni al-Muhtaj).

Al-‘Iraaqi said in Tarh al-Tathreeb: “There is no proven hadith which may be followed with regard to how to clip the nails.”

Ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Bari: “There is no proven hadith about the order of fingers when cutting the nails. … Ibn Daqeeq al-Eid rejected the order mentioned by al-Ghazali and those who followed him, and he said: There is no basis for any of that, and to suggest that it is mustahabb when there is no evidence for that is abhorrent in my view. If anyone were to suggest that it is mustahabb to start with the right forefinger because of its honorable status, there is no basis for the rest of this sequence. Yes, there is a basis for starting with the right hand and the right foot, which is “he liked to start on the right.””

(The above reply is based on the following resources:

  • Answer provided by Islam Q&A on similar topics
  • Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam