B i s m i l l a a h i r   R a h m a a n i r   R a h e e m


Alhamduli'Allaahi Rabbil-'Aalameen wa-ssalaatu wa-ssalaamu 'alaa Ashrafil-Anbiyaa-e-wal-Mursaleen, wa ba'd.

Assalaamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuhu

Unveiling the Islamic Dress Code

(Part 1)

by Ayub A. Hamid



Islam as a way of life abhors any sexual act or any behaviour having sexual overtones that is not between duly wedded spouses -- forbidding absolutely any kind of sexual act, overtures or flirtation. It is extremely sensitive about this issue and greatly emphasizes maintenance of purity by Muslims in their character, behaviour, gaze, words and thoughts.


To help Muslims in this regard, Islam provides rules and regulations; the observation of which will ensure an environment that facilitates the desired level of purity as well as protects believers from sinful activities. Segregation of males and females and use of hijaab, jilbaab and khimaar are part of those provisions.

This is a topic that is frequently debated, about which opinions differ significantly and on which much confusion seems to exist. The confusions mostly arise when the teachings of the Qur-aan and Sunnah are not taken in their proper context; when differences in categories of people and venues of their interaction are not appropriately considered; or, when people try to make Islam conform to non-Islamic lifestyles. The booklet attempts to describe those rules and regulations in a clear, concise manner to facilitate formulation of a balanced opinion on the subject and encourage appropriate practice.

Segregation and Reduced Interaction

In the pre-Islamic Arab society, “era of ignorance”, although some women of noble families wore jilbaab[1] over their dress in public, the average citizens were similar to today’s Western society in terms of the free mixing of the sexes and lack of modesty in dress. Nudity, though not commonly appreciated, was not a matter of major concern. In fact, performing rites of worship in the Holy Ka’bah naked was considered better for all non-Quraish people than performing them clothed in their “worldly” clothes. A person who wanted to inform his tribe of an impending danger would remove his clothes to wave them while calling for his people’s attention. Obviously that kind of environment neither was, nor is it now, helpful in maintaining the purity of thoughts and behaviour that Islam requires from its adherents.


Allaah SWT is so merciful to believers that to save them from falling into a major sin for which He has warned of severe punishments, He has provided rules and regulations closing those channels that may provide opportunity to sin or tempt towards it. To save people from the dire consequences of zinaa[2] in any shape or form, He has decreed a dress code to cover defined parts of the body that cannot be exposed, and has decreed Muslims’ social practices such that non-mahram[3] males and females are segregated and their interaction is reduced to a minimum. However, the decreed rules about dress, segregation and interaction are not uniform for all males and females. They vary according to gender, the closeness of relationship of the people involved, the venue and their needs for interaction in the normal course of day-to-day life.


It should be remembered that Islamic civilization took its ideal shape through a process of evolution, though in a very short time frame. In a mere 23 years, the ignorant culture, traditions and lifestyle of Arabs were completely revolutionized and replaced with Islamic civilization through this evolutionary process. The rules and regulations concerning the topic under discussion were also implemented through this evolutionary process.

The Initial Basic Requirement – Covering (Satar) of ‘Owrah[4]

At first, the Holy Qur-aan built upon the natural human urge to cover one’s private parts. It reminded people of this aspect of human nature with the example of Adam and Hawwa and how they rushed to cover themselves with leaves of the Garden once their private parts were exposed as a result of their disobedience to Allaah SWT at the incitement of Shaytaan. It explained that although this shyness from nakedness (hayaa) is part of human nature, it is the first target of Shaytaan’s machinations against human beings. Hence, people are inclined to expose themselves only due to the relentless incitement of Shaytaan. After making these points, it commanded that:


O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment and protection.  But the raiment of Taqwa - that is the best. This is of the revelations of Allaah that they may be mindful. O children of Adam! Let not the Shaytaan seduce you as he got your (first) parents out of the Jannah (Garden), stripping them of their clothing to expose their shame. He surely sees you, he as well as his gang, from whence you cannot see them; surely We have made the Shayaateen to be the companions of those who do not believe.” Al-A’raaf 7:26-27


Through this admonition, people were told that the purpose of dress is twofold:

·         Modesty and decency; and,

·         Adornment and protection from weather

People should not let Shaytaan misguide them into losing sight of the first objective while concentrating on the adornment aspect. To help achieve the first objective despite the incitement of Shaytaan, satar guidelines were provided for believers to cover their ‘owrah.


Satar or ‘Owrah represents the minimum parts of the body that must be covered from everyone with loosely fitting clothes that do not show details of the physical figure and through which neither skin and/or its tone are visible. It is also the minimum that must be covered for a person’s Salaah to be valid, even if the person is praying alone at home.


Islam’s most basic step to keep minds pure and to prevent immodesty in the society is its very strict requirement for Muslims not to expose their satar or ‘owrah to anyone other than a duly wedded spouse[5].Owrah part of a person’s body must be protected from anyone’s sight or touch, male or female. It should be kept covered even if no one is around.


The Prophet also said, “Protect your ‘owrah except from your wife or what your right hand owns.” When asked about the situation where no one is around, he said, “Allaah is most deserving to be felt shy from.” Tirmidzee, Aboo Dawood and Ibn Maajah.


In another report he said, “Avoid nakedness. There are those with you (angels) who do not part company with you except when you go for a call of nature or to your spouse. So feel shy of them and respect them.” Tirmidzee


From very early childhood, the children must be sensitized to maintaining their satar and keeping their ‘owrah covered so that as they grow up, their natural discomfort with exposing satar continues to be reinforced, against the incitements from Shaytaan.


The ‘owrah for males is the part of the body from navel’s height to the knees. Thus, Muslim males cannot wear shorts that expose any part of their thighs. This also means that it is forbidden for Muslims to expose their satar in common showers/change rooms or remove their clothes in the presence of others.


The ‘owrah or satar of man is what is between navel and knees.” Reported by Darqutni and Baihaqi.


The Messenger of Allaah, upon whom be peace, passed by Ma'mar while his thighs were uncovered. He said, to him, “O Ma’mar, cover your thighs, for they are (part of the) ‘owrah.”  Reported from Muhammad Jahsh by Ahmad, Haakim and Bukhaari.


Jarhad Aslami reported that once his thigh was exposed, the Prophet said, “Do you not know that thigh is ‘owrah.” Reported by Tirmidzee, Muattaa and Aboo Dawood.


Ali reported that the Prophet said, “Do not expose your thigh.” Aboo Dawood and Ibn Maajah


A woman’s ‘owrah is her whole body except her head-face-neck, hands and feet. General scholarly opinion is that the minimum part of the body that has to be exposed to perform daily chores and functions of life is not included in satar. That is why even if some portions of forearms close to wrist or of calves close to ankles are exposed during performing tasks, it is considered acceptable.


Aaishah reported that when the Prophet saw her sister Asmaa wearing clothes of very thin cloth, He said, “When a woman reaches puberty, it is not proper for her to show any parts of her body except this and this (He pointed to hands and face).” Aboo Dawood


She also reported that the Prophet said about her niece, “When a woman comes of age, it is not allowed for her to expose anything except her face and except this -- and he held his forearm in his hand such that there was a palm’s width gap between the place he was holding and his wrist.” Ibn Jareer


Although feet were not mentioned in these narrations; but in view of the rule of necessity, feet are not considered satar. This view is corroborated by the following:


Ummu Salamah asked the Prophet, “Can a woman pray in a long shirt (like a night shirt) and head-covering without a loincloth?” He said, “If the shirt is long and flowing and covers the top of her feet.” Reported by Aboo Dawood


A notable point is that although Asmaa was wearing clothes, she was advised to cover up because they were not thick enough to conceal the body properly.


[1] A big sheet of cloth used as an outer-garment.

[2] Any extra-marital sexual activity.

[3] Those people who are generally allowed to marry each other.

[4] The words satar and ‘owrah are used for the same thing, the difference being only semantic: Satar connotes covering, indicating that parts

      of the body that should be covered; ‘owrah connotes shame or shyness, indicating the parts of the body; exposure of which should cause


[5] Medical needs are excepted.


 Hijaab and Jilbaab

Part one of my booklet on "Unveiling the Islamic Dress Code" dealt on the topic of Satar or 'Owrah (the minimum that must be covered from everyone except a spouse). The following is the second part that describes the concepts of Hijaab and Jilbaab.

The First Major Reform


Although Islamic values of modesty, purity of character, shyness (hayaa) from nakedness, segregation in the masjid, avoidance of indecency and refraining from extra-marital relations were inculcated in believers’ minds from the very beginning, the first set of major commands about social segregation and dress code were given in the fifth year after Hijrah with the revelation of soorah Al-Ahzaab. In this soorah, women were encouraged to stay at home and were instructed about how to communicate with men and how to dress when they needed to leave home.

Segregation by Hijaab


Hijaab means curtain. As generally misunderstood, hijaab in itself does not define how a woman should dress herself. No part of a Muslim woman’s dress has ever been termed hijaab in the Qur-aan. The Holy Qur-aan has used the term hijaab in its common meaning, i.e. curtain, whether real or proverbial[1][1][1].  However, because a curtain covers and conceals, it was commonly used as a verb for a woman covering herself to avoid being seen by unauthorized males.


For the purposes of defining rules of segregation and interaction between the women of a household and outsider men, the Holy Qur-aan commanded Muslims that if they needed to ask wives of the Prophet anything, they should do so from behind a hijaab – a curtain:


O believers … and when you ask (his wives) for something, ask them from behind a hijaab. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts.Al-Ahzaab 33:53


On revelation of this verse, curtains were put on the doors of the apartments of the wives of the Prophet. Following this model, Muslims also put curtains on their doors. The curtain provided a means of privacy so that when there was a need for an outsider male to communicate with a female of the house they could communicate without having to see, or be seen directly by each other. This was the first step to ensure purity of hearts.


Accordingly, the general rule is that when there is a need to talk, non-related males and females should ensure that something is blocking their view from each other.

Watching one’s Speaking Style and Tone


About the tone and manner of speech, the wives of the Prophet, and by their example, all women, were told:


“If you have Taqwa, do not be soft of speech lest a person with a diseased heart is moved with desire, and speak in a straightforward manner.” Al-Ahzaab 33:32


Accordingly, women should not speak in a deliberately softened, mellowed voice or flirting tone so that a listener may not be tempted to harbour sexual desires or develop hopes and courage to contemplate making advances. This applies to telephone calls or any other means of communication also. Adopting such a careful attitude in speaking is a sign of Taqwa, and carelessness in this regard indicates absence of an appropriate level of Taqwa in a woman.


This command about tone of voice and those related to khimaar and jilbaab detailed in subsequent sections are for women only; and are prescribed for their own purity, safety, mental comfort and protection from sin and harassment. However, the rest of the Islamic teachings that apply to all Muslim males and females prohibit any communication (chat, correspondence, emails etc.) where the text or tone carries any sexual overtones or which is conducted with any motive of sexual nature. They should not even fantasize or lustfully think about a person. Any activity carrying sexual motive is Zinaa of one sort or the other, and must be avoided. The Messenger SAAW said:


"Eyes fornicate and their fornication is the look, ears' fornication is listening, tongue's fornication is talking, hands' fornication is touching and feet's fornication is walking. The heart lusts and desires and the private parts either confirm it or deny it." (Muslim)


In addition, Muslims have been forbidden from engaging in secret friendships.[2][2][2]


Dressing for Outdoors


To avoid victimization from harassment and mischief of unscrupulous men, women were encouraged to stay inside as much as possible:


“And stay in your houses and do not display your finery (tabarruj) like the displaying of the former time of ignorance (pre-Islamic lifestyle); and establish Salaah, and pay Zakaah, and obey Allaah and His Messenger. Allaah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House, and to purify you a (thorough) purifying.” Al-Ahzaab 33:33


Tabarruj is derived from baraja. It means being conspicuous, prominent or elevated. Tabarruj in case of women will, then, be a coquettish display of her figure and fineries, which is a culture of ignorance (whether pre-Islamic or Western), not behoving or becoming of Muslim women. Instead, Muslim women should prefer to stay at home and avoid undue attention from outsiders.


However, there are always some legitimate reasons for women to go out. In that case, they were told[3][3][3]:


“O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they bring down upon them a part of their jalabeeb (outer garments); this is more suitable so that they will be known, and thus not be given trouble; and ever is Allaah Forgiving, Merciful.” Al-Ahzaab 33:59


The context of the verse is that: Immediately before this verse, there was condemnation of the behaviour of the hypocrites and troublemakers who were abusing Muslim women by their sexual harassment practices, false rumours and undue accusations. They were warned of the severe punishment in the Hereafter for their depraved behaviour. Then, in this verse, the Muslim women were told that, in order to avoid harassment, they should give a clear signal by their Islamic attire that they are chaste, Allaah-fearing Muslim women. Immediately after this verse, the perpetrators of harassment were warned of dire consequences at the hands of the Prophet and his companions. In other words, the culprits were condemned and warned both from the punishment in this world and in the Hereafter to ensure that they dare not harass Muslim women; while at the same time, Muslim women were commanded to take their own precautions. In this way, it is an example of Islam’s solving a problem by attacking its causes from every perspective, instead of superficially addressing some of the symptoms of the issue.


But what does the command imply?


Jalaabeeb is plural of jilbaab, which used to be a big sheet of cloth (chaader) that was wrapped around the body as an outer garment. Arab ladies of noble families used to wear jilbaab when leaving their homes. It was defined as “the big sheet over khimaar” (huwar-ridaa fowqal-khimaar)[4][4][4].


What should women do with this jilbaab or wrapping sheet?  Some people translate the verse as if it just means that they should “wrap their jilbaab around themselves” or “draw their cloaks close around them”, but that is not correct for two reasons.


If the intent was to advise the women that they should just wrap the jilbaab around their bodies, the wording for that purpose would have been yudneena ilayhinna jalaabeebihinna; but instead, the Qur-aan has used yudneenaAlayhinna min jalaabeebihinna. The verse is talking about only a part of the jilbaab, not the whole jilbaab; and it uses the preposition ‘alaa which gives the meaning of “over”, instead of preposition ilaa to indicate wrapping around. Thus, the correct meaning of the verse is that they should take a part of their wrapping sheet (jilbaab) and hang it over themselves or bring down a part of it over themselves. 


The function of the sheet to be wrapped around the body was already known and understood, but now, in addition to wrapping around the body, they should bring down or hang a part of it over them. Thus, in addition to covering their whole body with her wrapping sheet (jilbaab), a Muslim woman should pull a part over her face to cover it in such a way that she still can see the path for safe walking or driving. This meaning has been reported by early Mufassireen[5][5][5] and scholars like IbnAbbaas, Qataadah and Suddee.[6][6][6]  When asked by Ibn Sireen about the intent of this verse, ‘Ubaidah As-Salmaani demonstrated it by wrapping a sheet and covering most of his face by a part of that sheet – just like Ghonghat that women in villages of Pakistan do with their chaader. At the time of the Prophet, after the revelation of this verse, that was how jilbaab (wrapping sheet or chaader) was used by women companions to cover their body from head to ankles as well as the substantial part of the face only keeping enough opening to see the way.


The purpose mentioned for this covering up is that they would be recognized and not harassed. This is to give a clear indication to the public at large that this woman is a Muslim woman who is serious about her modesty and purity and who is not comfortable with allowing anyone to glance/see her face, figure and finery, much less anything else. Considering the stated purpose, it is obvious that this extent of covering up is from the general public, not from one’s close social circle – relatives and very close family friends.


Accordingly, when an Allaah-fearing Muslim woman steps out of her house for outdoor needs, she must cover all her body with a big sheet of cloth and substantially cover her face so that only a small opening remains through which she can see her way. Or, they should use some sort of loose outer garments that fulfill the same purpose of covering her whole body and a substantial part of the face.

[7][7][1] See Al-A’raaf 7:46, Al-Israa 17:45, Saad 38:32, Haa Meem Sajdah 41:5, Ash-Shoora 42:51.

[8][8][2] An-Nisaa 4:25 and Al-Maaidah 5:5

[9][9][3] Ummul Mu’mineen Sowdah reported that the Prophet said, “Allaah has allowed you to go out for your needs.” Bukhaari

[10][10][4] Ameen A. Islaahi’s Taddabbarul Qur-aan vol. 6, explanatory note, page 269

[11][11][5] Commentators of the Qur-aan.

[12][12][6] For details, please see Abul A’laa Maudoodi’s Tafheemul Qur-aan, volume 4, Tafseer of Al-Ahzaab, explanatory note #110.


Khimaar and lowering of the gaze

This is the third part that clarifies the concept of Khimaar. Some readers have asked questions relative to the first two parts, Inshaa Allaah, those will be answered after the series is finished. In fact, some of the questions may automatically be answered by the subsequent installments

The Second Major Reform


Although Muslims by now had been well trained in Islamic values of modesty, decency and avoiding any sexual interactions between non-spouses, some more refinement was needed to ensure optimal purity and to eliminate any opportunity that may put people into tempting or testing situations. The second major pronouncement in this regard came in the 6th year of Hijrah in soorah Noor:


ôTell the believing men that they should lower some of their gazes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed Allaah is well aware of what they do.


And say to the believing women that they should lower some of their gazes and guard their private parts; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their head-coverings over their bosoms and not display their beauty and ornaments except to their husbands, their fathers[1], their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or feeble dependents having no need (of women), or children who did not have any exposure to what is hidden of women; and that they should not stamp their feet so that their hidden adornments are not known.


And O you Believers! Turn all together towards Allaah, so that you may be successful.╜ (An-Noor 24:30-31)


The context of this verse is the following:


At the very outset, the soorah declares sexual activity between non-spouses (zinaa), a publicly indictable offence that must be prosecuted by the state even if it is by mutual consent of the parties or no party affected by the behaviour presses charges. It takes similar severe measures against accusations of bad conduct. Then, it gives instructions about the etiquette of visiting one╝s friends and relatives. In that context, it gives the instructions contained in the above-quoted verses. These verses are then followed by instruction for the unmarried people to get married; thus completing the comprehensive solution for eradication of zinaa and indecency in the society[2].


According to the context, these verses provide a code of conduct to be adopted by relatives and close family friends when they are visiting each other╝s residence and the dress code to be observed by women inside the house in their presence; as compared to the instructions given in soorah Ahzaab for dealing with outsiders and strangers, and dressing for outdoors.

Lowering the Gaze

Both Muslim men and women have been commanded to lower their gaze. It is general command to apply whenever and wherever males and females come across each other. But it is also made specific by the context indicating that when visiting each other╝s homes, lower your gaze.


Lowering the gaze does not mean that Muslims should always keep their head down and should not look up. Actually, the words used are ôthey should lower some of their looks╜, indicating that only certain type of looks are being talked about. It means that they should not look intently at someone of an opposite sex, stare, exchange lustful eye contact or look intentionally after an initial inadvertent look. People are not accountable for the first, inadvertent look, but the second look is sinful. The look becomes ôsecond╜ as soon as the person makes it intentional instead of inadvertent, starts assessing the attractiveness of the subject or starts enjoying the look.


Following are some of the teachings in this respect:

"O Ali! Do not follow up with another look after the (inadvertent) first look. The first is forgiven but not the second." (Ahmad, Tirmidzee, Aboo Dawood).

The Prophet was asked about a sudden, unintentional glance. He said, "Move your glance away."  (Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidzee, Aboo Dawood)

"The fornication of the eyes is the sight (to gaze at a person of opposite sex), the fornication of the tongue is the talk, and the heart (inner self) lusts and desires and the private parts testify all this or deny it." (Aboo Hurayrah, Bukhaari)

"Eyes fornicate and their fornication is the look, ears' fornication is listening, tongue's fornication is talking, hands' fornication is touching and feet's fornication is walking (for that purpose). The heart lusts and desires and the private parts either confirm it or deny it."  (Muslim)

The Messenger SAAWS quoted Allaah SWT saying, ôThe look is one of the poisonous arrows of Iblees. Who removes it because of My fear, I will give him such a faith, the sweetness of which he will find in his heart.╜ (Tabaraani from ╗Abdullah bin Mas╝ood)

ôIf a Muslim encounters a glimpse of the attractions of a woman but removes his glance, Allaah makes his subsequent ╗Ibaadah such that he enjoys its sweetness.╜ (Aboo Umaamah in Musnad Ahmad)

This Qur-aanic command of being careful with one╝s sight also applies to looking at the private parts of other people of one╝s own sex:

ôNo man should cast an eye on the private parts of a man and no woman should cast an eye on the private parts of a woman.╜ (Reported by Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidzee and Aboo Dawood)

ôDo not look at the thigh of a living person or dead.╜ (Reported by ╗Ali in Aboo Dawood and Ibn Maajah)


Guarding oneself from committing fornication of gaze is extremely important for the purity of heart and mind of people. In fact, almost all bad ideas, fantasies, affairs and relationships start with a look. Those who control their sight are rewarded by sweetness in their worship.


Although this command is for both sexes, the severest warnings are for men because the looking of men at women is far more serious than looking of women at men. Because of this difference in nature and the applicability of command, women are required to cover when stepping out, but men are not. While the men are not allowed a second look at all, women are allowed to look at men in normal affairs of life as long as the look remains pure and does not carry any intent of a sexual nature. They can also watch men╝s sport activities or skill demonstrations, as the Prophet facilitated the sight for ╗Aaishah in watching a men╝s show on the occasion of an Eed. Relaxed rules for a woman looking at a man are not only needed for day to day matters but may also be needed for some special circumstances. An example of special circumstances was the situation of Faatimah bint Qais who did not have a place to spend her ╗Iddah[3] and the Prophet suggested that she spend it at the house of Ibn Maktoom who was blind.

Protecting Private Parts

Protecting private parts not only implies protecting them from zinaa[4], but it also means protecting them from others╝ view and sight. This protection goes beyond the sex organs and extends to ╗owrah or satar, as described in the beginning. The protection of the private parts in every sense of these words can never be overemphasized because it is a critical mean for the Islamic goal of purity of character and behaviour.


With satar covered, men can appear in front of others. Similarly, if satar is covered, a woman can appear in front of her mahrams, her female friends or relatives, those feeble dependent males who do not have any sexual inclinations, and children who do not have exposure to sexual matters. She can do so even if she is wearing her adornments, make up, fragrance and jewellery, as long as satar or ╗owrah is appropriately covered except for hands, feet and head-face-neck.


Mahrams are the relatives who cannot marry a woman: Her fathers including grandfathers and uncles, fathers of the husband, her own or her husband╝s sons, her brothers, and her nephews (sons of sisters and brothers).

Hiding the Zeenah

The first two commands (lowering of gaze and protection of private parts) were common for all Muslims û males and females. The third command is especially for women requiring them to hide their zeenah from everyone except for the people mentioned in the previous section û her fathers including grandfathers and uncles, fathers of the husband, her own or her husband╝s sons, her brothers, and her nephews (sons of sisters and brothers), her female friends or relatives, those feeble dependent males who do not have any sexual inclinations, and children who do not have exposure to sexual matters. She must hide her zeenah from everyone else.


Zeenah includes natural physical beauty of a woman as well as all beautification aids and adornments used to increase her attractiveness such as hairstyle, make-up and jewellery. To hide it, they must wear Khimaar in such a way that it covers their chests as well as adornments. Because Khimaar does not cover the face, to avoid displaying their beautification (zeenah), she must not wear any facial makeup if there are any males at home who are not in the list of the people to whom zeenah can be shown.


Khimaar (also called dopatta) is a cloth to be worn or wrapped that must be big enough to cover head, neck and upper body and must not be sheer so that it can truly cover up or hide Zeenah. Obviously, hanging a piece of cloth or dopatta on one╝s shoulder does not fulfill this command nor does using a small scarf that just covers head and neck, leaving chest or bosom covered by shirt or blouse only. Similarly, using a cloth which is not thick enough to hide zeenah[5] will not be in compliance with this command.


It should not be construed that women are not allowed to use makeup at all. In fact, women are encouraged to use makeup and beautification within ôreasonable[6] limits to beautify themselves for enjoying themselves with their spouses in married life. That is why the verse does not order them to avoid zeenah, but commands them to hide it from others than those mentioned.


In addition to covering themselves with khimaar, they should walk and move around gracefully without stamping their feet lest they attract attention of people because of the sounds produced by such walking and by jingle or clink of jewellery.


In addition to khimaar, it must be remembered that, the rest of the clothes must also be thick and loose to hide the body and its figure properly:


 ôThere will be women in the Fire who remain naked despite wearing clothes, are inclined towards men and attract men to themselves. They will not go to the Jannah and will not even smell its scent, though its scent will be experienced from great distances.╜ Reported from Aboo Hurayrah by Tabaraani and Muattaa


If these precautions are carefully taken, women are absolved of the responsibility for any zeenah that cannot be covered such as:

  • Jewellery like bangles and rings;
  • Khimaar and clothes themselves; or,
  • Zeenah that is accidentally exposed.

Aaishah reported that when these verses were revealed, every believing woman found some thick cloth and started using it as their khimaar. The next morning every woman who came for Fajr Salaah to the masjid was covered with a khimaar[7].

[1] Include grandfathers and uncles. The Prophet said, ôA person╝s uncle is in place of father.╜ Muslim

[2] For details on Islamic marriage please refer to the author╝s book ôMuslim Youth, Sex and marriage╜.

[3]Iddah is the period a woman has to wait before she can re-marry after a divorce or death of her husband.

[4] Any sexual activity with a non-spouse.

[5] Dihyah Kalby reported that the Prophet gave him some fine cotton cloth and said, ôMake yourself a shirt and give the rest to your wife to

     make her khimaar, but tell her to join another cloth underneath so that it does not show the body.╜ Reported by Aboo Dawood


Aaishah saw a bride who was wearing khimaar made of thin and transparent kind of cloth. She told her, ôAnyone who wears clothes like this, disbelieves soorah An-Noor.╜

[6] What are ôreasonable╜ limits of beautification in Islam is a separate topic.  As a general rule, no physical changes to the body are allowed

      for beautification.

[7] Tafheemul Qur-aan, vol. 3, page 386, with reference from Ibn Katheer.   


Clarifications and concluding comments

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'aalaa addresses concerns of some people and clarifies two points relating to the provisions mentioned above:


  1. An exception has been given from these strict requirements to those women who are at an age when they do not have any sexual desire or attractions. They are absolved from covering themselves with khimaar, provided they are not tempted to show off their attractions and adornments.


ôAnd (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.


  1. 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:


ôThere 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.╜ (An-Noor 24:61)


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.


  1. It should also be noted that these teachings of soorah 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, 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 has granted permission to women to attend masjid:


ôDo not prevent the female slaves of Allaah from masaajid.╜ (Muslim and Aboo Dawood)


ôIf a wife of any of you seeks permission to attend masjid, do not stop her.╜ (Bukhaari)


ôAllow women to come to masjid at night╜ (Reported by Aboo Dawood)


ôOn 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 Bin Abee Qataadah in Bukhaari)


He also said, ôDo not prevent your women from masaajid, though their houses are better for them.╜ (Ahmad and Aboo Dawood)


Although the Prophet indicated that their houses are better for them, it should not be overextended to mean that their attendance is undesirable. The Prophet 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, women wore only khimaar and did not have their faces covered within the masjid. Neither Allaah nor His Messenger commanded that a partition or curtain be put up in the masjid. They were just commanded to maintain separation without any partition or curtain:


 ôWomen lines used to be behind men╝s lines. After salaam at the completion of Salaah, the Prophet would give some time for women to leave before men do so.╜ (Ummi Salamah in Ahmad and Bukhaari)


"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 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 saw men and women mixing up on their way home from masjid, he said to women, ôWait, 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, hence it is dangerous to keep it the way it was at the time of the Prophet. This is not a new argument; people started using this argument soon after the Prophet. IbnUmar told his son, "I heard the Messenger of Allaah 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." IbnUmar 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.


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 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 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[13][1][1].




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 already quoted earlier where the Prophet had told Asmaa, his sister-in-law, that it was all right 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 asked Faatimah bint Qais to spend her ╗Iddah at Umm Shareek╝s house, but then retracted saying, ôShe is a woman whom many of my companions visit [14][2][2](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:


  1. 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:


ôAvoid visiting women (when the husband or a mahram is not at home). A person asked, ôwhat about in-laws?╜ He (the Messenger Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, ôIn-laws are deadly.╜ (In other words, unhindered socialization of males with female in-laws can create serious problems).


ôDo 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)


ôWhoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, he should not be alone with a woman without the presence of a mahram[15][3][3]. Otherwise, the third with them will be Shaytaan.╜ (Ahmad)


IbnAbbaas related that the messenger of Allaah said, ôNone of you should meet a woman alone unless she is accompanied by a mahram.╜(Bukhaari, Muslim)


Umar reported that Rasoolullaah said, ôWhen a man is alone with a woman, the Shaytaan becomes the third.╜ (Tirmidzee)


  1. Physical contact such as shaking hands between all non-mahrams should be avoided[16][4][4]:


ôIt 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 M╝aqal bin Yasaar in Tabaraani and Baihaqi)


While taking oath of allegiance, the Prophet 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 in Aboo Dawood)


Umaymah bint Ruqayqa said, ôI went to the Messenger of Allaah 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 said, ╗In what you can do and are able.╝ Umaymah continued, ôThey 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[17][5][5].╝╜


  1. 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, ôPeople should not make fun of each other.╜


  1. 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 said, ôHe 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 Bukhaari, Muslim, Ahmad and Ibn Jareer)


Ummi Khallaad came to the Prophet 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, ôI have lost my son, not my hayaa (modesty).╜ (Reported by Aboo Dawood from Thaabit Bin Qais)

[18][6][1] Women used to talk to, ask questions from and bring up their concerns before the Prophet in front of the congregation.  Umar was publicly

      confronted by a sahaabiyyah for his wrong pronouncement on Mahr.

[19][7][2] She was a rich, generous lady and used to feed many needy companions.

[20][8][3] A male relative of a woman, such as father, son, brother, uncle, nephew who cannot marry her is her mahram.

[21][9][4] Emergency rescue kind of situations are naturally excepted.

[22][10][5] A verbal oath of adherence by all women en mass is as valid as such a commitment by handshake one at a time. 



Summary and Conclusion

This is the conclusion of the series started a few weeks ago.


1.      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.


2.      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.


4.      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.


5.      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.


6.      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.


7.      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.


8.      A man and woman who are not mahram to each other should never spend any time alone.


9.      There should be no physical contact or shaking hands between females and those males from whom zeenah is to be hidden.


10.  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.


11.  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.


12.  Women should not step out of the house with fragrance on.


13.  Women should not venture outdoors without wrapping themselves in jilbaab over their Khimaar and substantially covering their face.



What should Sincere Muslims do?


The true slaves of Allaah -- those who have Taqwa and want to please Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aalaa have no choice but to abide by all of His commands. Abiding by this code of conduct is relatively easy for any Allaah-fearing Muslim, except for rule # 6, 9, 10 and 13, practice of which is more challenging. He or she can practise the rest of the rules on his or her own as they are personal matters for which general public’s cooperation or understanding is not needed. Of course there will be difficulties and of course the practising Muslims will be labelled with all kind of epithets by those who do not care to abide by Allaah’s rules, but it is fairly in one’s power to practice them properly living in any society. 


Despite the challenges, however, our success depends on abiding by the complete code of conduct decreed by our Master. Although #9 is difficult, we should learn and develop courage to refuse shaking hands with non-mahram people. The real challenge is in fulfilling code 6, 10 and 13, especially for those living in non-Muslim societies.  Rule # 6 is very challenging for men because of the naked beauty and attraction drawing their attention from all directions. This needs constant reminders and extreme vigilance to “lower some of one’s gaze”, to save oneself from “second” look and to fight the temptations of Shaytaan.  In parallel, the very challenging for women is Rule # 13. However, there are always means around for those who value obedience to Allaah. They can wear a loose, sewn jilbaab as marketed nowadays ensuring that their khimaar is big enough to be drawn forward to cover a substantial part of their face. They also have the option of using sunglasses to their benefit as part of their outer attire. 


The toughest for both men and women is #10. The extent of their difficulty depends on the type of studies or job a person is engaged in. We frequently find ourselves in situations where in our study, job or business situations, we need to talk to people of the opposite sex, face to face on a daily basis. Looking constantly away will be extremely impolite, so what do we do? We can do whatever is in our power currently, fearing Allaah and seeking his forgiveness all the time. But to deserve Allaah’s forgiveness and to justify our living in the kind of society where full practice of our Deen is not possible, we must be actively spending time to perform Islamic Da’wah so that a majority of people embraces the truth of Islam and the society democratically moves towards the Islamic ideals.


If we keep working to improve the society of our residence, and in the meantime, continue endeavouring to minimize such encounters while continually seeking Allaah’s forgiveness, hopefully, our Merciful Lord and Master will forgive us and reward us according to the best of our actions. However, those who simply disregard Islamic teachings should worry about having to justify to Allaah on the Day of Judgment their carefree attitude towards His commands in this life. What would they have to say?


May Allaah 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 and His Messenger did not impose. The continual perseverance in obedience to Allaah, despite the pressures of dominating powers and cultures, is our most important daily jihaad. Those who persevere in their sincere obedience to Allaah, their Master, 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!"  (41:30-32)


Copyright ©2003, Ayub A. Hamid

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