Women's Dress in Accordance with the Qur'an and Sunnah
based on Hijabul Mar'atil Muslimah by Ash-Sheik Muhammad Nassirud-Deen
Translated and Abridged by Mahmoud Murad
Praise be to
Allah and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger and upon his
honorable companions and those who have followed his example with
This paper has
been prepared in response to a deterioration in the condition of
Muslim women of this day and age, which is a consequence of the
misconception that how a woman dresses is of little importance,
as long as she performs her obligatory acts of worship. This misconception
is not restricted to Muslim women in the West, but unfortunately
is shared by many of their sisters in the East.
In the Glorious
Qur'an we are told:
And let there
arise out of you a nation inviting to what is good, enjoining what
is right and forbidding what is wrong. Those are the ones who are
successful. Qur'an 3:104
Abu S'aed al-Khudri
relates that he heard the Prophet (saws) say:
He of you who
sees something wrong should correct it with his hand; if he is unable
to do that he should condemn it with his tongue; if he is unable
to do that he should at least resent it in his heart, and this is
the lowest degree of faith.Muslim
It is clear
that we must draw the attention of our Muslim sisters to the importance
of wearing Islamic dress. This is not imposed upon us by the mere
opinion of a scholar or a sheik. It is a Divine Command, and is
necessarily in the best interest of the society of every age and
place. In this we stand opposed to the opinion of some "modernists",
who maintain that those living in a western society are justified
in adapting to its norms and morals.
We believe that
our religion is that which has been transmitted to us through the
Prophet Mohammed (saws), his companions and our pious predecessors.
A careful study of relevant Qur'anic ayat (verses) and Hadith (Prophetic
traditions), along with the works of our pious predecessors, will
reveal a strict emphasis on the need for women to observe modesty
in their dress when they appear in public, by covering all of their
bodies and any ornaments or other means of beautification they might
Allah the Exalted
says in Surat an-Noor, ayah 31:
And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their
private parts and not show of their adornment except only that which
is apparent, and draw their veils over their (necks and) bosoms
and not reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers,
their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their
brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their
women, or their slaves, or male servants who lack vigor, or small
children who have no knowledge of women's private parts. And let
them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their
adornment. And turn you all to Allah in repentance, O believers,
that you may be successful.
And He says
in Surat al-Ahzab, ayah 59:
Oh Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of
the believers to draw their outer garments close around them. That
will be better, that they may be known and so not be bothered. And
Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful.
From these two
ayat of the Noble Qur'an and from the authentic sources of guidance
provided for us, we can derive the following principles of proper
dress and adornment for Muslim women:
1. The outer
garment worn in public must cover all of the body except the face
ayah 31 (quoted above) contains a clear command that a woman's natural
beauty and her adornment are to be concealed from strangers, except
that which might show unintentionally (i.e. parts of the dress or
ornaments) or which show as a matter of course because it is not
prohibited that they be shown (i.e. the face and the hands).
Abu Dawud narrated
that 'A'ishah said:
Asma came to see the Messenger of Allah (saws). She was wearing
a thin dress; the Prophet (saws) turned away from her and said to
her: "O Asma, once a woman reaches the age of puberty no part
of her body should be uncovered except her face and hands."
It should be noted that the Arabic word khumur (plural of khimaar)
which has been translated above in the ayah from Surat an-Noor as
veils, means head covers, not face veils, as may mistakenly be supposed.
It refers to a cloth which covers all of the hair. Furthermore,
the word juyoob (plural of jaib), also found in the ayah of Surat
an-Noor, refers not only to the bosom, as is commonly thought, but
also to the neck.
eminent mufassir (Qur'an commentator), stated:
Women in those
days used to cover their heads with the khimaar, throwing its ends
on their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest
bare, along with the ears, in the manner of the Christians. Then
Allah commanded them to cover those parts with the khimaar.
"And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they
hide of their adornment."
Women in the time of the Prophet (saws) used to wear anklets, which
they could employ to attract attention by stamping their feet, making
the anklets tinkle together. This practice was now forbidden, but
even more important for us, these words make it absolutely clear
that the legs and ankles are to be covered.
Bin 'Umar narrated
Let them lower their gaze Prophet (saws) said: "On the Day
of Judgment Allah will not look upon one who trails his garment
along out of pride." Um Salamah then asked: "What should
women do with their garments?" The Prophet (saws) said: "They
may lower them a hand span." She said: "Their feet would
still be uncovered." The Prophet (saws) said: then lower them
a forearm's length, but no more."
The ayah from
Surat an-Noor quoted above gives us specific and detailed information
about what a Muslim woman should be sure to cover when she is in
the company of strangers, and it gives a detailed list of those
with whom she is permitted to be less inhibited. The ayah quoted
from Surat al-Ahzab further directs Muslim women to put some outer
garment over their clothes, and to draw it close around them.
Abu Dawud related
that after this ayah was revealed the women of the Ansar appeared
like crows (because of the black cloaks which they wore).
Some outer garment,
whether a cloak or a coat, must be worn by a Muslim woman when she
is in public, and even when she is in her own house or that of a
close relative, if she is in the presence of strangers.
It was mentioned
above that the face need not be covered. If, however, the woman
is wearing make-up, she should cover her face, since the make-up
is adornment beyond what is permitted.
should cover her hands if she is wearing nail polish or some other
decoration or ornament. Furthermore, although it is permissible
to leave the face uncovered in the presence of strangers, it is
praiseworthy to cover it, as that was the practice of the wives
of the Prophet (saws) according to authentic Hadith.
2. The outer
garment must not be decorative itself or a means of beautification.
When Allah commands
women not to reveal their beauty, He means both the natural beauty,
with which He has endowed them, and all means which they might employ
to enhance that beauty. Clearly, the garment which is used to screen
the woman's beauty and her adornment from public view should not
itself be a thing of beauty.
'Ubaid reported that the Prophet (saws) said:
There are three people that you should not concern yourself about:
a man who parted from the Jama'ah and disobeyed his imam and died
in that state; a slave who ran away from his master and died without
returning; a woman whose husband departed from her after providing
for her worldly needs and who then beautified (tabarrajat) herself
in his absence. Do not worry about any of them."
The word tabarraja
means not only to beautify oneself, or to make oneself pretty, but
also to display oneself, to play up one's charms for the purpose
of exciting desire. Imam Adh-Dhahabi said in his book Kitaab al-Kabaair
(The Book of the Great Sins): "Of the deeds woman is cursed
for are displaying the ornaments which she is wearing, wearing perfume
when going out, and wearing colorful clothes and silky short cloaks."
The verb tabarraja
includes all of these actions. Tabarruj is so abhorrent that it
is associated with shirk, fornication, stealing, and other sins.
A woman came to the Messenger of Allah (saws) to give her pledge
for Islam. He said: "I accept your pledge that you will not
associate partners with Allah, nor steal, nor fornicate, nor kill
your child, nor commit a sin between your arms and legs, nor wail
over the dead, nor beautify and display yourself (tatabarraji) after
the fashion of the pre-Islamic days."
3. The outer
garment must be thick and opaque so as to conceal the clothes worn
under it, and loose so as to conceal the woman's form.
cannot be achieved by wearing tight or transparent apparel.
will be, in the last days of my Ummah (nation), women who are dressed
and undressed. Curse them: they are accursed."
related that the Prophet (saws) referred to:
are naked even though they are wearing clothes, go astray and make
others go astray, and they will not enter paradise nor smell its
fragrance, although it can be smelled from afar.
and yet undressed" women are those who wear transparent or
very tight clothes, or clothes which are cut in such a way that
they expose the body. Such clothes reveal more than they conceal.
Belief and the
sense of shame are tied together; if one is lost the other is lost."
It should be
noted that a woman should wear a loose over-garment for offering
prayer. It should cover her whole body (as far as going out) and
should be such that it conceals the shape of her arms and legs,
as well as that of the rest of her body.
4. Muslim women
are not to wear perfume in public.
Abu Musa narrated
that the Prophet (saws) said:
Any woman who
wears perfume and passes by some people who smell her perfume is
like one who commits fornication.
A woman passed
by him smelling strongly of scent. He called to her: "O slave
of the powerful, are you going to the mosque?" She said that
she was. He said: "Go back and wash it off. I heard the Messenger
of Allah (saws) say: 'Any woman who goes to the mosque wearing perfume
will not have her prayer accepted by Allah; first she should go
back home and have a bath [to wash it off].'"
It is inappropriate
for a woman to wear perfume in the mosque, where people are attending
to the worship of Allah (swt); how much more inappropriate it is
that she should wear scent elsewhere, where people are more liable
to distraction. Scent attracts attention to a woman and may thereby
stimulate sexual desires; this is improper in the marketplace and
5. The clothes
of Muslim women should not resemble men's clothes.
of Allah (saws) cursed the man who wears women's clothes and the
woman who wears men's clothes.
Ibn Umar said
that he heard the Messenger of Allah (saws) say:
He is not of
us who imitates women nor is he of us who imitates men."
Umar reported that the Prophet (saws) said:
will not enter paradise, and Allah will not look at them on the
day of Judgment: the one who is disobedient to his parents, the
woman who imitates men and the ad-dayooth.
the man who permits women for whom he is responsible to engage in
illicit sexual relations, or to display their beauty to strange
men, thereby stimulating their sexual desires.
6. The clothes
of Muslim women should not resemble those of the disbelievers.
In Surat al-Hadeed,
ayah 16 we are told:
Has not the
time come for those who believe to submit their hearts to Allah's
reminder and to that which has been revealed of the truth, and not
become as those who received the scriptures before and for whom
the term was prolonged so their hearts grew hard? And many of them
are rebellious transgressors.
Those who refuse
to submit to Allah's commands are rebels against Him, and they are
permitted to continue in their rebellion until their hearts become
The ayah and
Hadeeth quoted above serve as a double warning to us: we must take
care to heed Allah's commands, revealed to us through the Qur'an
and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saws), lest we suffer the fate
of the recipients of previous revelations; we should also shun the
way of life of any believing people. If we adopt what is theirs,
we partake also of the quality of their hearts.
We pray to Allah
to safeguard us from that, lest we become like them.
Given the condition
of the disbeliever's' hearts, it is not surprising to find that
much of their clothing, particularly that of women, is unsuitable
for Muslims. It is designed to be attractive in itself and to enhance
and attract attention to women's natural beauty.
7. The clothing
of Muslim women should not be ostentatious.
Ibn Umar reported
that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said:
He who dresses
for ostentation in this world, Allah will dress him in a dress of
humiliation on the Day of Judgment and set it on fire.
the seven principles above, In'sh Allah a woman will satisfy all
the necessary requirements for proper Islamic dress. It should be
noted that some of these principles also apply to men's dress, and
clearly some would apply not only to what a woman wears in public,
but also to what she wears in the privacy of her own home or in
the homes of he relatives or her Muslim sisters.
There are, however,
some additional prohibitions regarding personal appearance of which
our Muslim sisters should be aware. These prohibitions have to do
with changes made to the appearance which are regarded as unacceptable
alterations to Allah's creation, namely wearing wigs, plucking facial
hair, filing teeth and getting tattoos.
A woman asked
the Prophet (saws):
of Allah, my daughter had smallpox, and as a result her hair fall
out. She has recently been married; can I get her a wig?" He
answered: " Allah has cursed the maker and wearer of a wig."
that Allah (swt) has cursed tattooers and those who are tattooed,
and those women who have their teeth filed for beauty and those
who have their hair plucked and thus alter Allah's creation.
A woman asked
him: "What is all this?" He replied: "Should I not
curse one whom Allah's Messenger has cursed? And it is in the Book
of Allah." She said: I read the Qur'an from cover to cover
but did not find that in it. "He said: If you had read it thoroughly
you would have found it. Allah says "Whatever Allah's Messenger
gives you, take it, and whatever he has forbidden, refrain from
Qur'an 69: 7
is particularly significant for us, because it not only informs
us of something which the Prophet (saws) found hateful, it also
makes it perfectly clear that, in matters of religion, the commands
of the Prophet (saws) are as binding on us as the commands of Allah
In obeying Allah
and his Messenger (saws) we can hope to be of those who are successful,
tasting of the fruits of Paradise. If however, we should disobey
Allah (swt) and do things prohibited by Him (and we seek refuge
with him from that) then we will taste His wrath; in the case of
a woman who does something forbidden by Allah (swt) or his Messenger
(saws), she and her husband or guardian who permitted her to do
the forbidden thing are cursed by Allah (swt). We are advised in
the Qur'an to:
".....ward off from yourselves and your families a fire whereof
the fuel is men and stones..."Qur'an 66:6
All of you are
guardians. The man is a guardian of and is responsible for his womenfolk
on the day of Judgment.
May Allah (swt)
open our hearts to guidance, strengthen us that we may be obedient
to Him and His Messenger (saws) and save us from the punishment
of hell fire.
Allah is most
Knowledgeable and all praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
literally adornment, but it should be understood in this context
as referring to both that with which women are adorned by Allah
(i.e. the features of their natural beauty) and that with which
they adorn themselves (i.e. their ornaments, make-up, etc.).
polish prevents the water of wudu from reaching the nails, its use
should really be altogether discouraged.