Monday, November 02, 2009

The Muslim Woman’s Dress in Public

Lately, the Islamic rulings related to the affairs of Muslim women have seen a lot of interest from the enemies of Islam who are bent on separating Muslims from their Deen. One such ruling under attack is the dress of the Muslim woman in public life. It is incumbent on all Muslims, both men and women, to defend Islam from such attacks. The best way to do so is through the Adila (evidences) that relate to the women’s dress in public life.

Sha’r (Islamic law) has imposed a dress code on the Muslim woman that is specific to public life – she is obligated to wear distinct attire known as the “Jilbaab”. In public life it is not enough for a Muslim woman to cover her Awrah, which is defined by Shar’ as all of her body except the face and the hands. The Jilbaab covers the Awrah and fulfills other re-quirements defined by Shar’ for public life.

Jilbaab: an obligation prescribed by Allah (swt)

Wearing the Jilbaab is not an obligation required by the tra-dition of our forefathers, or a social custom or a right granted to the husband or the father. It is also not a matter of personal choice for the woman, or an expression of modesty. Rather, it is an order from Allah (swt), similar to the order of prayer and the order of fasting. Allah (swt) has revealed:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا

“O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their Jalabib (plural of Jilbaab) close around them; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiv-ing, Gentle.”[TMQ 33:59]

Thus, the Muslimah wears the Jilbaab in submission to Allah (swt), seeking His pleasure and fearing His punishment:

وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَنْ يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُبِينًا

“It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah or His messenger, to have any option about their decision; if anyone disobeys Allah and His messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong path.”[TMQ 33:36]

Wearing the Jilbaab is therefore a Hukm Shari (legal injunc-tion) associated with reward and punishment that is sup-ported by evidences from the Quran and the Sunnah. If the Muslim woman appears in public life without a Jilbaab over her normal clothes, she will be sinful for abandoning an obli-gation from Allah (swt).

What the Islamic attire in public life is not

A variety of common clothing arrangements are often con-fused with the correct Islamic attire for public life because of the misconception that simply covering the Awrah is sufficient in a public place. In truth, these arrangements are not substi-tutes for the Jilbaab and therefore do not absolve the Muslim woman of her obligation to dress correctly in public life. For instance, some women may wear the Khimaar with a long dress or pants, while others may wear the Shalwar Kameez (traditional attire worn as an everyday dress in South Asia). However, both the Khimaar and the Shalwar Kameez are not substitutes for the Jilbaab since they fall short of satisfying the requirements for the Islamic public attire as defined by the Sha’r.

The Jilbaab in the Quran and the Sunnah

The Jilbaab is a loose outer garment which covers the whole body. The authority on the requirement for women to wear the Jilbaab is the Quran itself. In Surat al-Ahzaab the follow-ing verse instructs the Messenger (saw):

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا

“O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daugh-ters and the women of the faithful to draw their Jalabib (plural of Jilbaab) close around them; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle.”[TMQ 33:59]

In his Tafseer, Al-Qurtubi explained:

“Jalabeeb is the plural of Jilbaab, and it is a garment larger than a Khimaar (headscarf). It has been narrated by Ibn ‘Ab-bas and Ibn Masud that it is a ridaa (large sheet of cloth). It is said that it is a qina’/veil but the correct view is that it is a garment which covers the whole body. It has been reported in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Umm ‘Atiyyah who asked; ‘O Messenger of Allah! What about one who does not have a Jilbaab?’ He said, ‘Let her borrow the Jilbaab of her compan-ion.’”

Also, In Surat An-Nur, Allah (swt) has commanded the Mus-lim woman to wear the Khimaar:

وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ
“Let them draw their Khumur (plural of Khimaar) over their necks and bosoms (Juyub). And let them not display (more of) their charms to any but their husbands...”[TMQ 24:31]

The Ayat is instructing women to drape their head-coverings (i.e. Khumur) over their necks and bosoms.

The obligation of Jilbaab is also derived from the Sunnah of Rassulallah (saw):

Umm Atiyya (ra) narrated:
“We were ordered to bring out our menstruating women and screened women to the reli-gious gatherings and invocation of the Muslims on the two Eid festivals. These menstruating women were to keep away from the musalla. A woman asked, ‘O Messen-ger of Allah! What about one who does not have a Jil-baab?’ He said, ‘Let her borrow the Jilbaab of her com-panion.’"[Bukhari]

A report narrated by Umm Salama (ra):
“When the verse, ‘That they should draw their Jal-abib close around them’ was revealed, the women of Ansar (inhabitants of Madinah) came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing Jal-abib.”[Abu Dawud]

A report narrated by Aisha (ra):
“The wife of Rifa'a al-Qurazi came to Allah's Messenger while I was sitting...and she was showing the fringe of her Jilbaab.”[Bukhari]

As has been made amply clear by the cited evidences, the Muslim woman is obligated to wear a Jilbaab which conceals her normal clothes and drapes down until it covers her feet. This is in reference to the lower portion of the woman's clothes. As for the upper portion, she must wear a Khimaar, or something similar, that covers the entire head, the neck and the opening of the garment on the chest. In other words, it is Fard to wear these two pieces of clothes prior to leaving the house. This is because the command to wear these two pieces is general and it will remain so, since there is no evidence to make an exception to it.

It is also stipulated that the Jilbaab is draped down to the floor until it conceals the feet (i.e. they should drape their Jalabib down to the floor) because Allah (swt) says in the Ayah:

يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ
“…to draw their Jalabib close around them…”
[TMQ 33:59]
It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn Umar (ra):
“Rassu-lallah (saw) said: ‘On the Day of Judgement, Allah will not look with mercy towards the one that trails his garment behind him/herself in haughty pride.’ Umm Salama asked, ‘What are the women to do with the hems of their dresses?’ He answered, ‘Let them increase their hems the length of a hand span.’ She enquired, ‘Then their feet will be uncovered!’ He then replied, ‘Let them increase a fore arm’s length and no more.’”[Tirmidhi]

This clearly shows that the garment which is worn over the woman’s normal clothes should be draped down towards the floor until it covers the feet. If the feet are covered by wearing shoes or socks, the garment must come down to the floor but it will not be necessary for it to cover the feet. However, if the feet are not covered by shoes or socks – then the garment must be draped and it must cover the feet.
The Jilbaab must also not be semi-transparent to allow the normal clothes or any part of the Awrah to be seen from un-derneath. Furthermore, it must not become a form of Tabar-ruj (i.e. an attraction to men) and it must not resemble men’s clothing.
In summary, it is not enough for the woman to cover her Awrah in public life. She is obligated to have a wide and loose fitting, i.e. an opaque baggy garment that she wears over her normal clothes in order to appear in public life.

Muslim women steadfast in their Deen
Nowadays we sadly witness assaults on Islamic concepts from all corners, especially on the public symbols of Islamic observance such as the Islamic attire. Enormous pressure is being applied on Muslim women to abandon or compromise on the correct Islamic attire in public life. The Muslim women of today should take guidance from the Muslim women of the past who were praised by the Messenger (saw) and earned the pleasure of Allah (swt). When the verses for covering were revealed they responded immediately without delay by covering their Awrah with whatever material they could find. Safiyyah, daughter of Shaybah, said that Aisha (ra) had mentioned the women of Ansar, praised them and said good words about them. She then said,

When Surat an-Nur came down, they took the curtains, tore them and made head covers (veils) of them.”[Abu Dawud]

The Jilbaab: a matter of concern to Muslim husbands

Allah (swt) has clearly laid a responsibility on the husband to advise and teach the members of his household about the matters of their Deen. Allah (swt) has revealed:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا قُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَائِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَا أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ
“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are appointed angels stern and severe, who flinch not from executing the commands they receive from Allah, but do precisely what they are commanded.”[TMQ 66:6]

Therefore, the matter of the Islamic attire in public life and the obligation of wearing the Jilbaab must be conveyed by Muslim husbands to their wives and their daughters, and they must show them how to be righteous, so they may all receive the blessing of Allah (swt) and be rewarded, to-gether, with Jannah.



mohammed said...


Anonymous said...

As-sala-mu-alikum brother,
Is it necessary for Jilbab to be
one pice and shoilder to feet
long? Can't it be two pices and shoilder to feet?
Such as wearing a long coat
and a baggy trouser over the
home cloth?