Islamic Dress

What’s your view on Islamic dress?

How do you feel about Islamic dress? Are you very conservative? Do you believe women should wear long, concealing jilbabs with full niqab (veil) and gloves? Do you think men should wear their pants well above the ankles and only don traditional Islamic clothing?

Or are you very liberal? Do you think men and women should wear whatever they want to wear? Do you believe it’s better to fit in with Western society than stand out?

We all have our personal opinions. Sometimes these opinions are based on sound judgment and sometimes they’re just based on conjecture. Sometimes these opinions are based on our culture, and sometimes they’re based on a lack of understanding.

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The best way to understand Islamic dress is to look at it from the standpoint of the Quran and Sunnah. The only problem, of course, is how we choose to understand Quran and Sunnah.

Before we get into the specifics of Islamic dress, let’s focus on the basics.

The primary purpose of Islamic dress is to promote chastity and modesty within Muslims. Anyone who claims it is acceptable for men and women to wear revealing clothes that expose over 90% of the body is certainly on the wrong path. And anyone who says Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him) would have approved of such dress is just plain delusional or a hypocrite or a corrupt individual.

Now, let’s go over a few terms that will be useful in this discussion.

  • Mahram – These are people for whom marriage in Islam is forbidden. These people are generally one’s siblings, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, maternal and paternal uncles and aunts, and nephews and nieces.
  • Hijab – This commonly refers to the scarf or head covering many Muslim women wear. However, hijab comes from the Arabic word meaning “to cover” and actually means “full, modest covering.” This would include every aspect of a woman’s clothing that is seen by others, not just the head covering.
  • Khimaar – Head covering or scarf worn by Muslim women.
  • Jilbaab – Long, loose-fitting outer garment worn by Muslim women.
  • Awrah – The part of a person’s body that must be covered at all times while in front of others. For men, the awrah is from the navel to the knee. For women, it is the entire body except the hands and face.

It would be very unfair if we were ordered to be modest but not given an idea of what modesty is. If we were left on own to decide what is modest, there would be untold levels of confusion and disparity. Fortunately, we were given this information in the Quran and by Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).

Our primary source of information is of course, the Quran, and this is what Allah says in Surah Al-Ahzaab [33:59]:

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their jilbabs close round them. That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

And in Surah An-Nur [24:31]

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils (Khimar) over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.

It should be obvious that at the very least, Muslim women must cover themselves in a modest manner, and that proper hijab includes wearing the jilbab and khimar.

The difference of opinion comes with the phrase “only that which is apparent.” Some schools of thought state the only part which is “apparent” are the eyes. But most scholars agree that this means phrase means the hands and face. This is mostly based on the following hadith, or saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Narrated Aisha (the Prophet’s wife):

Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) turned his attention from her. He said: ‘O Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.

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