Unveiling the Islamic Dress Code
Clarifications, Concluding Comments & Summary
By Ayub A. Hamid
Previous three parts explained the meanings and application of Satar, Hijaab, Jilbaab and Khimaar, today clarifications and concluding comments are presented.
Towards the end of the Soorah, Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala addresses concerns of some people and clarifies two points relating to the provisions mentioned above:
- An exception has been given from these strict requirements to those women who are at an age when neither do they desire marriage or nor do they attract attention for that purpose. They are absolved from covering themselves with khimaar, provided they are not tempted to show off their attractions and adornments.
And (as for) women advanced in years who do not hope for a marriage, it is no sin for them if they put off their (outer) garments in such a way as not to show adornment; but to refrain is better for them; and Allaah is Hearing, Knowing. (An-Noor 24:60)
By the same token and with the same proviso, they are exempted from jilbaab as well.
- These provisions are not meant to stifle the socialization among relatives and friends. While observing etiquette commanded in this Soorah An-Noor (lowering gaze, using khimaar, etc.) and saying Islamic salutation with sincerity, people should visit each other, host each other and feel free to share food with each other including handicapped people who need support of the society, relatives and close friends:
There is no constraint on the blind man, nor is there constraint on the lame, nor is there constraint on the sick, nor on yourselves that you eat from your houses, or your fathers’ houses or your mothers’ houses, or your brothers’ houses, or your sisters’ houses, or your paternal uncles’ houses, or your paternal aunts’ houses, or your maternal uncles’ houses, or your maternal aunts’ houses, or from houses of which the keys are in your possession, or your close friends’ (houses). There is no blame on you that you eat together or separately. But when you enter houses, greet your people with a salutation from Allaah, blessed (and) good; thus does Allaah explain to you the revelations that you may understand.
It should be remembered that the commandments of Soorah Al-Ahzaab regarding jilbaab or talking from behind the curtain do not apply to the visitation of these people.
- It should also be noted that these teachings of Soorah An-Noor that apply to female dress code for houses of Muslims when non-Mahram males are present also apply to women’s attendance in the houses of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala, the masaajid. If women are wearing proper dress and khimaar without wearing any makeup or perfume and they stay at the back of the masjid behind men’s rows, no body has any right to exclude them from the masjid or to insist on putting a partition or curtain before them.
As for not allowing them to come to masjid, the Messenger himself, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam has granted permission to women to attend masjid:
“Do not prevent the female slaves of Allaah from masaajid.” (Muslim and Aboo Dawood)
“If a wife of any of you seeks permission to attend masjid, do not stop her.” (Bukhaaree)
“Allow women to come to masjid at night” (Reported by Aboo Dawood)
“On many occasions I start the prayer with the intention of prolonging it and then shorten it on hearing the crying of a baby for fear of keeping his mother away from attending to him.” (Reported from ‘Abdullaah Ibn Abee Qataadah in Bukhaaree)
He also said, “Do not prevent your women from masaajid, though their houses are better for them.” (Ahmad and Aboo Dawood)
Although the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam indicated that their houses are better for them, it should not be overextended to mean that their attendance is undesirable. The Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam was not shy of telling the truth in Sharee’ah. Had it been undesirable, he would have clearly said it so and not repeatedly commanded his companions not to stop them. The parallel is that the Qur-aan regards secret Sadaqah better than revealing it, but it still regards open Sadaqah as good action. The disclosure of Sadaqah does not negate its goodness or reward, unless it is done merely to show off, is used to cause hurt or is given to impress favour upon the recipient. Similarly, although a woman’s prayer at home is better, the prayer in the masjid is good. The only factor which will make her attendance at the masjid undesirable is if there is some other ulterior motive behind attending, or if her responsibilities to her children suffer as a consequence.
As per the report from ‘Aaishah radhiallahu`anha, women wore only khimaar and did not have their faces covered within the masjid. Neither Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala nor His Messenger, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam commanded that a partition or curtain be put up in the masjid. They were just commanded to maintain separation without any partition or curtain:
“Women lines used to be behind men’s lines. After salaam at the completion of Salaah, the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam would give some time for women to leave before men do so.” (Ummi Salamah in Ahmad and Bukhaaree)
“The best lines for men are the front ones and the worst are the back ones. The worst lines for females are the front ones and the best are the back ones…” (Muslim, Aboo Dawood, Tirmidzee, Nasaaee, Ahmad)
The Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam had dedicated one door of his masjid for women by saying one day, “If we could only leave this door for the ladies!” (Aboo Dawood)
When the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam saw men and women mixing up on their way home from masjid, he said to women, “Wait, it is not proper for you to walk in the middle of the street. You should walk on the side.” (Aboo Dawood)
The excuse used to disallow women from coming to masjid and for closing them up behind partitions is that the times are not good like the time of the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam hence it is dangerous to keep it the way it was at the time of the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam. This is not a new argument; people started using this argument soon after the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam. Ibn ‘Umar told his son, “I heard the Messenger of Allaah, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam say, “Do not prevent your women from (going to) the Mosques if they seek your permission to do so.” His son Bilal said, “Surely we will stop them.” Ibn ‘Umar radhiallahu`anhu turned to his son, rebuking him in a way he was never heard before and said, “I tell you the saying of the Prophet and you say you will stop them.”
The fact is that the predecessors as well as the successors of Ummah are equal in matters of lawful and unlawful things. Islamic teachings are for all times and no one has authority to overrule the word of the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam.
The irony is that the same people who want to close them out of masjid, allow their women to go to markets, to high schools and to universities where the environment is at its worst. The place where only God-fearing people show up, they are banned from; but the places where all the troubles take place, they are allowed freely and they themselves go happily. If anything, the changed times require us to bring them more often to the masjid so that the remembrance of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and Islamic reminders help them cope with the bad situation rather than depriving them of those opportunities of reminders and letting them fall victims to Shaytaan in markets, schools and universities. For them to benefit from their attendance in masjid, they should have the same kind of welcoming environment in the masjid as it was at the time of the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam and his Khulafaa. They should be able to see the Imam or the speaker, raise questions and discuss issues, as they were able to do during the golden times of Islam.
According to these commands, wearing proper dress and khimaar and without wearing makeup, women can come in front of all relatives and close family friends who come to visit the family in their homes. The prime example is from the Hadeeth quoted earlier where the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam had told that it was all right for women to leave hands and face uncovered. Other examples indicate that Allaah-fearing members of one’s community or close friends can also be entertained by the woman of the house:
On walimah of Aboo Usaid As-Saa’idiyy, his wife prepared the food and served to guests. (Reported by Sahl bin Sa’d in Bukhaari and Muslim)
The Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam asked Faatimah bint Qais to spend her ‘Iddah at Umm Shareek’s house, but then retracted saying, “She is a woman whom many of my companions visit (are invited for meals).”
According to the second Hadeeth, it was acceptable for Umm Shareek to host those people, but at the same time, it was not appropriate for Faatimah to be there in their presence. This indicates that the level of care depends on the circumstances of a person, thus one must be cautious in this respect.
It should also be noted that this permission does not imply that males and females from friendly families, cousins and in-laws can all sit together to gossip and joke around as they like. They must still respect the general directions relating to males/female interaction given to Muslims such as:
- There must be a Mahram present when any male family friends or relatives are visiting someone’s house. Also, two persons who are non-Mahram to each other should never meet privately:
“Avoid visiting women (when the husband or a Mahram is not at home). A person asked, “what about in-laws?” He (the Messenger, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam) said, “In-laws are deadly.” (In other words, unhindered socialization of males with female in-laws can create serious problems).
“Do not go to visit those women whose husbands are out of town. Shaytaan runs in any of you like blood.” (Reported by Jaabir bin ‘Abdullaah in Tirmidzee)
“Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last day, he should not be alone with a woman without the presence of a Mahram. Otherwise, the third with them will be Shaytaan.” (Ahmad)Ibn ‘Abbaas related that the Messenger of Allaah, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said, “None of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a Mahram”. (Bukhaaree, Muslim)
‘Umar radhiallahu`anhu reported that Rasoolullaah, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said, “When a man is alone with a woman, the Shaytaan becomes the third.” (Tirmidzee)
- Physical contact such as shaking hands between all non-Mahrams should be avoided:
“It is better for anyone of you to be poked in your head with an iron needle than to touch a woman who is not Halaal (to touch).” (Reported by Ma’qal bin Yasaar in Tabaraani and Baihaqi)
While taking oath of allegiance, the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam used to take men’s hands in his hand but took only verbal oath from women without ever taking a woman’s hand. (Reported by ‘Aaishah radhiallahu`anha in Aboo Dawood)
Umaymah bint Ruqayqa said, “I went to the Messenger of Allaah, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam with the women who gave an oath of adherence to him. They said, ‘Messenger of Allaah! We pledge not to associate anything with Allaah, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to kill our children, nor to produce any lie that we have devised between our hands and feet, and not to disobey you in what is good.’ The Messenger of Allaah, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said, ‘In what you can do and are able.’ Umaymah continued, “They said, ‘Allaah and His Messenger are more merciful to us than ourselves. Come, let us give our hands to you, O Messenger of Allaah!’ He said, ‘I do not shake hands with women. My word to a hundred women is like my word to one woman.’”
- It is not even conceivable in a Muslim society that there will be such free interaction between males and females that will give them any opportunity to make fun of each other. Subtly underscoring that attribute of Muslim society, Soorah Al-Hujuraat commanded men not to make fun of men and women not of women, instead of just saying, “People should not make fun of each other.”
- Considering the care and caution expected of Muslims in ensuring segregation and avoiding free mixing, when these relatives and friends are visiting, the best practice is to seat male and females in different rooms, if possible. This will allow both genders to socialize freely without maintaining the quiet, reserve and constrained environment that is called for when they are in the same room.
Parallel and Differentiation
Just as a believing woman was commanded in Al-Ahzaab to cover her body including most of her face with jilbaab when outdoors and not to display her figure and finery, in An-Noor, she has been asked to cover herself with khimaar and not to display her zeenah. For both at home and outdoors, the theme of coverage is consistent but the extent of coverage is different.
Many people who do not keep the context of both of these Soorahs in view, confuse the teachings of the two and fail to recognize the difference in the applicability of the commands contained in them. Some go to one extreme, and apply the teachings of Al-Ahzaab of covering the face even within one’s home even from one’s relatives. Others go to the other extreme and claim that even for outdoors, khimaar’s coverage is enough and women do not need to pull their jilbaab over their faces. Even the concept of khimaar in their minds is limited to a headscarf.
An argument they present against the women’s use of jilbaab to cover themselves including their faces is that the command to lower the gaze would have been unnecessary if covering up of women would have been an Islamic requirement. This line of argument conveniently overlooks that, despite Al-Ahzaab’s commandment for covering up with jilbaab, lowering of the gaze is still important for all Muslims for multiple reasons. First of all, even if everyone is covered up properly, both men and women would still need to lower their gaze because the physique/aura of the opposite sex has its own attraction. In addition, for women, it is obviously important because men are not required to remain out of sight. For men, these instructions are very important because women from their own families and friends are not required to cover their faces and the non-Muslim women will always continue to display their beauty.
The opinion against substantially covering faces when outside is also invalid on the basis of historical evidence:
Talking about her being left behind and being seen by Safwan Bin Mu’attal, ‘Aaishah radhiallahu`anha said, “He recognized me because he had seen me before the commandment of hijaab. I woke up by his recitation of inaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji’oon which woke me up. So I covered my face with my jilbaab.” (Reported by Bukhaaree, Muslim, Ahmad and Ibn Jareer)
Ummi Khallaad came to the Prophet, Ŝall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam to find out about her son’s martyrdom, and her face was covered. Some people wondered about her being so careful even at the death of her son. She responded, “I have lost my son, not my Hayaa (modesty).” (Reported by Aboo Dawood from Thaabit Bin Qais)
- Islam as a way of life decrees Muslims to maintain an extremely high level of modesty, decency and purity in their character, behaviour, gaze, words and thoughts.
- It absolutely forbids any kind of sexual act, overtures or flirtation or any behaviour having sexual overtones that is not between duly wedded spouses.
It is extremely sensitive about this issue and does not allow Muslims even to:
- Stare, exchange lustful eye contact or even look intentionally after an initial inadvertent look
- Communicate (chat, exchange correspondence, emails etc.) where the text or tone carries any sexual overtones or some sexual consideration is intended
- Spend time together just for fun
- Fantasize or lustfully think about a person
3. To ensure this level of purity and modesty, it has decreed certain social etiquette, rules of conduct and dress code that must be practiced
diligently by a believer. Those provisions are covered in the points 4-13 that follow.
- It decrees segregation among males and females and reduced interaction among them. As a general rule, Muslim males socialize only with males and females socialize with females. Similarly, women pray with women at the back of the masjid and men pray with men at the front.
- Both must protect their ‘Owrah or Satar from a look or touch of anyone except their spouse. They must also not cast a look at anyone else’s ‘Owrah or satar. No tight or revealing clothes for both and no shorts for men. Women can live with minimum clothing to cover their Satar in the presence of Mahrams, female friends, dependent feeble males who do not have sexual desires and children who are not yet exposed to any aspect of human sexuality.
- Both men and women must lower their gaze, removing their eyes from a subject before it becomes a look that is intent, imparts enjoyment, carries/conveys sexual feelings or starts assessing beauty.
- In the presence of any non-Mahram relative or close family friends, women should use Khimaar to cover their zeenah such as hairstyle, jewellery, chest, etc. and should not wear makeup. They should move around in a manner that avoids drawing attention.
- A man and woman who are not Mahram to each other should never spend any time alone.
- There should be no physical contact or shaking hands between females and those males from whom zeenah is to be hidden.
- Males and females who are not close family friends or relatives should talk, in case of need, to each other only from behind a partition or curtain.
- Women should not talk to any non-Mahram male in a soft voice that may incite or encourage him to harbour sexual desires, hope or courage for making advances.
- Women should not step out of the house with fragrance on.
- Women should not venture outdoors without wrapping themselves in jilbaab over their Khimaar and substantially covering their face. May Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala give us all courage, wisdom and fortitude to live by His commands in a balanced manner so that we apply them where they should be applied — without confusing them in their application, without compromising in their abidance and without self imposing the restriction which Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and His Messenger, Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa salaam did not impose. The continual perseverance in obedience to Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala, despite the pressures of dominating powers and cultures, is our most important daily jihaad. Those who persevere in their sincere obedience to Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala, are the real winners. They are not lonely, weak, or helpless, but rather they are well consoled, protected and supported — even if they do not appear that way to the general public. About them, the Qur-aan says:
(As for) those who say: Our Lord is Allaah, then persevere in the right way, the angels descend upon them, saying, “Fear not, nor grieve, and receive good news of the Garden which you have been promised. We are your protecting friends in the life of this world and in the Hereafter, and you shall have therein what your souls desire and you shall have therein what you ask for — as hospitality from one Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful!” (Fussilat 41:30-32)
 Women used to talk to, ask questions from and bring up their concerns before the Prophet in front of the congregation.
‘Umar radhiallahu`anhu was publicly confronted by a sahaabiyyah for his wrong pronouncement on Mahr.
 She was a rich, generous lady and used to feed many needy companions.
 A male relative of a woman, such as father, son, brother, uncle, nephew who cannot marry her is her mahram.
 Emergency rescue kind of situations are naturally excepted.
 A verbal oath of adherence by all women en mass is as valid as such a commitment by handshake one at a time.
 i.e. non-Mahram males.
Ustaadz Ayub A. Hamid’s booklet “Unveiling the Commands — The Truth About Hijaab, Khimaar and Jilbaab” can be purchased at: http://www.bayaanpublications.com/order.htm. This booklet provides complete, balanced and authentic Islamic teachings about the topic, free of any parochial, cultural, or extremist’s bias. It is a must read for those who want to get the perspective that the first generation of Muslims had on these topics. Close-minded extremists whether they are those who want to impose on women that was not imposed by Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and His Messenger, Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa salaam or those who want to remove from women what was obligated by Allaah and His Messenger, Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa salaam – both will be greatly disappointed. But this brief booklet will be greatly enjoyed by those who want to discover pure commands of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala and His Messenger, Sall Allaahu`alayhi wa salaam as they were intended to be.
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