Muslim Women's Dress in Accordance with the Qur'an and Sunnah

based on Hijabul Mar'atil Muslimah by Ash-Sheik Muhammad Nassirud-Deen Al-Albani
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 piety.

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 wear.

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 and hands.

Surat an-Noor, 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.

Qurtubi, an 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.

Similarly, she 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.

Fudalah Ibn '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.

'Abdullah ibn 'Umar said:
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.

Proper covering cannot be achieved by wearing tight or transparent apparel.

The Prophet (saws) said:

"There will be, in the last days of my Ummah (nation), women who are dressed and undressed. Curse them: they are accursed."


Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet (saws) referred to:

...women who 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.

At Tabarani

The "dressed 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.

The Prophet (saws) said:

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.

Abu Hurairah said that:

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 mosque.

5. The clothes of Muslim women should not resemble men's clothes.

Abu Hurairah said that:

The Messenger 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."

Al Hakim

Abdullah Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet (saws) said:

Three people 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.


Ad-dayooth is 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 hard.

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.

Abu Dawud

By following 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.

Asma related that:

A woman asked the Prophet (saws):

"Messenger 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."

Abdullah said 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 it

Qur'an 69: 7

This Hadeeth 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 (swt).

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

The Prophet (saws) said:

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.

Zeenah means 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.).

Since nail polish prevents the water of wudu from reaching the nails, its use should really be altogether discouraged.

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