Dress Code for women in Islam
The Truth is Unveiled
God Almighty reminds in the Quran that He has placed no hardship on us, men and women both, in practicing our religion:
"You shall strive for the cause of God as you should strive for His cause. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in practicing your religion – the religion of your father Abraham…" (22:78)
The Quran gives us a clue that women, during the Prophet’s time, were not placed in hardship and were not veiled (hijab):
"Beyond the categories described to you, you are enjoined from marrying any other women, nor can you substitute a new wife (from the prohibited categories), no matter how much you admire their beauty. You must be content with those already made lawful to you. God is watchful over all things." (33:52)
Clearly, you cannot admire their beauty if they were veiled.
According to the Quran, the best garment is the "garment of righteousness" and not the "veil" (hijab) as we understand from the following verse:
O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of God’s signs, that they may take heed." (7:26)
Obviously, the “Islamic scholars” do not take heed from the Quran. They consider "hijab" as the best garment even though we will show, God willing, later in this article that the word "hijab" has nothing to do with the dress code for women.
Women shal cover their chest (bosom) and not the face or hair based on verse 24:31 in the Quran:
"And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover (khimar in Arabic) their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to God, O you believers, that you may succeed." (24:31)
The Arabic word "Khimar" (not Hijab) in the above verse 24:31 means any “cover.” Most of the traditional translations are obviously influenced by so called hadith attributed to the prophet and take the word "Khimar" as "Hijab" (veil)! One of the popular English translations of the Quran used by the traditional Muslims is by A. Yusuf Ali, Mr. Yusuf Ali translated the above verse of 24:31 as "…they should draw their "veils" over their bosoms…". The distortion is obvious; the Arabic word for veil" is hijab" and not "khimar"!
According to the Quran, women shall lengthen their garments:
"O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized and avoid being insulted. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful." (33:59)
A woman may relax her dress code in the following situations:
"The women may relax (their dress code) around their fathers, their sons, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, the other women, and their servants. They shall reverence God. God witnesses all things." (33:55)
Please note that in case of a male servant we need to refer to the Quran 24:31 mentioned earlier. Elderly women may also relax their dress code under certain conditions (24:60).
It is clear from the above verses that the dress code for the Muslim women according to the Quran is righteousness and modesty and not the veil (hijab)!
The Arabic word "hijab" in the following seven verses of the Quran refers to something other than the dress code for women:
A barrier separates them (Wa bayna-humaa hijaab), while the Purgatory is occupied by people who recognize each side by their looks. They will call dwellers of paradise:"Peace be upon you." They did not enter (paradise) through wishful thinking." (7:46)
"When you read the Quran, we place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter an invisible barrier (hijaabam-mastuu-raa)." (17:45)
"While a barrier separated her from them (Fattakhazat min duunihim hijaabaa), we sent to her our Spirit. He went to her in the form of a human being." (19:17)
"O you who believe, do not enter the prophet’s homes unless you are given permission to eat, nor shall you force
such an invitation in any manner. If you are invited, you may enter. When you finish eating, you shall leave; do not engage him in lengthy conversations. This used to hurt the prophet, and he was too shy to tell you. But God does not shy away from the truth. If you have to ask his wives for something, ask them from behind a barrier (Wa izaa saaltumuu-hunna mataa-an fasaluuhunna minw-waraaa-i hijaab). This is purer for your hearts and their hearts. You are not to hurt the messenger of God. You shall not marry his wives after him, for this would be a gross offense in the sight of God." (33:53)
"He then said, "I enjoyed the material things more than I enjoyed worshiping my Lord, until the sun was gone (hatta tawaarat bilhijaab)." (38:32)
"They said, "Our minds are made up, our ears are deaf to your message, and a barrier separates us from you (wa baynika hijaabun-fa-mal innanaa aamiluun). Do what you want, and so will we." (41:5)
"No human being can communicate with God except through inspiration, or from behind a barrier (aw minw-waraaai hijaabin), or by sending a messenger through whom He reveals what He wills. He is the Most High, Most Wise." (42:51)
The Quran imposes the responsibility on both men and women to subdue their eyes, and definitely, not to veil the woman (hijab) as we understand from the following verse:
"Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes, and to maintain their chastity. This is purer for them. God is fully Cognizant of everything they do. And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity…." (24:30-31)
In conclusion, the veiling of women in some Islamic countries is tradition-based religious innovation to oppress women. It has nothing to do with God’s laws in the Quran.
Female Dress Code and Common Errors in Translation
Analysis of the Quranic Verses
The following is an attempt to shed light on the misconceptions regarding the dress code of women in Islam, many of which find root in the vocabulary used in the verses themselves. The meaning of the words put to use in the Quran has been effectively manipulated in order to contort the true meaning of God’s words and justify the practices of Islamic tradition.
Over the expanse of many years, numerous people with extensive backgrounds in the Arabic language have contributed to the explanations that have been collected and, finally, presented here. Therefore, the formulation of these definitions cannot be solely credited to me.
God has given us three basic rules regarding the dress code of women:
(1) the best garment is the garment of righteousness,
(2) whenever we dress, we should cover our chest (bosoms), and
(3) to lengthen our garment.
While these three simple rules may not be adequate for those who do not trust the wisdom of God’s words, the true believers know that God’s decree is absolutely enough.
Though it is within God’s full power to provide mankind with more rules regarding dress code (even to the point of graphs, designs or defining color limitations), He instead lends humanity simple terms for guidance and leaves the rest for us to decide. And ingeniously enough, these three guidelines are perfectly sufficient in giving every woman an awareness of proper decorum while protecting her right to choose her dress freely. Any addition to these basic Quranic rules may be viewed as a blatant attempt to correct God or improve on His merciful design.
Despite this, translators have deliberately added their own corrupted opinions in the verse that are based on the man-made books of Hadith and Sunna. In all likelihood, elements of their conclusions have also been derived from the traditional dress of Arab women in the days of Muhammad. As a result, these interpretations of the Quran totally differ from God’s commandments.
Yet, the greatest degree of controversy surrounds a select number of words. I will address those presently, and then continue to explain other terms prey to misinterpretation.
Misinterpreted Arabic Words In Verses Which Deals With Women Dress Code
“And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to God, O you believers, that you may succeed.” 24:31
Verses 24:31 and 33:59 teach us what we need to know: If you look at the Arabic word Yudnina (which means lengthening), Alaihinna (which means on their / over their), Min- jaloabiibhinna (which means dress or garment), these are the only terms used in that verse to specify the teachings of our dress code. And even more notably, Arabic words describing head, hair, eyes or veil are nowhere to be found.
Khimar / khomoorehenna
The traditional meaning has always been a cover, NOT a head cover; however, the latest innovation in translation defines it as head cover. Khimar was intentionally MADE to mean “head cover” by scholars who wished to enforce their personal understandings which, ironically, contradict God in the Quran. They passed this corrupted meaning to one another, including the scholars who re-wrote the Arabic dictionaries.
The word “khimar” comes from the root word khamara which means “to cover,” so anything that covers anything is a khimar. Wine in Arabic is called “khamra”, because it covers the brain and makes one lose his or her ability to think correctly. A curtain is a khimar because it covers a window, a tablecloth is a khimar because it covers a table, a dress is a khimar because it covers the body (any dress is considered a khimar; khimar is not limited to a head cover). A blanket can be used as a khimar, a shawl is a khimar, etc. Most of the translators, influenced by Hadith translate the word as VEIL and thus mislead most people to believe that this verse is advocating the covering of the head.
In 24:31 God is asking the women to use their cover ‘khimar’ (being a dress, a coat, a shawl, a shirt, a blouse, a scarf etc.) to cover their chest / bosoms, not their heads or their hair. If God so willed to order the women to cover their heads or their hair, nothing would have prevented Him from doing so, but God did not order the women to cover their heads or their hair.
The Arabic word for chest, “jaib” is in the verse (24:31), but the Arabic words for head, “raas” or hair, “shaar” are NOT in the verse.
The last part of the verse (24:31) translates as, “They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies.” The details of the body can be revealed or not revealed by the dress you wear, not by your head cover.
Notice also the expression in 24:31, “They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary.”
This expression may sound confusing to many, simply because they have yet to understand the mercy of God. Again, God uses an extremely general term to give people the freedom to decide upon proper definitions of “what is necessary” in accordance with their own circumstances, respectively.
It is not up to a scholar or any particular person to define this term. Instead, God places an intentional ambiguity in the verse’s terminology in order to grant each woman a proper choice and judgment regarding her personal mode of dress. Women who act righteously will have no problem making the right decision in revealing only that “which is necessary.”
The word “zeenatahunna” in 24:31 refers to female body parts (beauty) that can be accentuated with the exaggerated movement of the body while walking, NOT the artificial ornaments and decorations which some translators would claim the term refers to. At the end of the verse, God told the women not to strike their feet to show their “zeenatahunna.”
Striking the feet while walking can emphasize or shake certain parts of the body that do not need to be frivolously brought to attention. It is important to remember that though walking with exaggerated steps may entice targeted attention to certain curves of the body, the act does not augment the sexual appeal of the head, hair or face. They remain constant despite any unflattering movement and are not part of what God calls in this verse the hidden zeena. Furthermore, the Arabic words put to use in either verse have nothing to do with the hair, head, eyes or make-up.
In fact, there are two words in 33:59 that have been corrupted:
Regardless of the activity, the dress code described in the Quran is mandatory at all times. So whether you are at work, in the market, praying at home or at the mosque, the same commandment holds for all occasions. The veil, however, is not required in performing any Islamic ritual irrespective of time and place.
Yet, the Quran specifically recommends that one dress nicely when attending the Mosque in 7:31. There is no specific command concerning mode of dress while observing the contact prayer, however.
Traditional Muslims challenge these commands by forcing their women to cover their bodies form head to toe, just short of preventing them the ability to breathe. But if this were truly an Islamic ordinance, what need would there be for God to markedly tell women to “cover their beauty”? God could have just as simply ordered women to cover themselves from top to bottom. By incorrectly citing the word “beauty” in the verse, scholars expose the liberties that they take in skewing the true meaning of the Quran by lending their false translations to faulty logic. For by their account, it may be argued that unattractive and elderly women are to be exempt to from veiling themselves on grounds of the absence of beauty in such women. 24:31 teaches us what we need to know; there are only three words in the verse to specify female dress code.
This term is commonly translated as “cloth” but a blatant corruption is present in this interpretation. Cloth is only one kind of gilbab. A dress, a shirt, a skirt, a night gown, a coat —in short—any general piece of cloth may be classified as a gilbab. The meaning of the term disavows any link to gender as well; man or woman may wear a gilbab. To lead others to believe that the word carried any other meaning, unbound or restricted, is a conspiracy among the corrupters to dupe the innocent into a false opinion of the truth.
Min jaloabiibhinna talks about dress or garment in general. The key word is Yudinana. Before any explanation of this term, however, it is necessary to discuss the word “ala.”
The word ala in this verse takes on the meaning “to cover;” this becomes evident due to the particular spelling of the word, with the Arabic letter ain. In a common variation of the word, ala is spelled with the letter alif, which alters the definition of the term to mean “till.”
So, God is asking the women to use what ever garment it is to cover their chest. God is not saying to use a garment that covers you from top to chest.
This word originates from the term “Dana” which means “to draw near.” It can be easily understood to mean “draw near to the ground” (i.e. lengthen), but the precise measurement of length is nowhere implied. Such details are left to the individual to decide. Corruptors attempt to translate yudinana as grabbing your cloth and throwing it on top of yourself.
The Arabic words yudnina (lengthening), alaihinna (on their/over their), and min jaloabiibhinna (dress or garment), are the only terms used in the verse to specify the teachings of our dress code. In no place does one find any Arabic word describing the head, hair, eyes or veil for that matter.
In another verse relating to female dress code, interpretations of “lengthening one’s garment” fall into controversy. The failure of the clerics in providing the true meaning behind the word in the Quran, remains a chief factor in the discrepancy.
“O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall LENGTHEN their garments. Thus, they will be recognized and avoid being insulted. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.” (33:59)
Covering the chests with an independent piece of cloth is also veiling the bosom. Traditional Muslim women have innovated a style of dressing to cover the head without basis from Quran, namely the veil. Even though it is wrong to claim that as an Islamic dress, it is wrong even still to merge one into the other and claim that the head veil they wear must be extended to cover the bosom.
In 33:59, God sets the other regulation for the dress code for the Muslim women during the prophet’s life. In this verse, God said to the prophet to tell the women to lengthen their garments, and never said how long is the length. God could have said tell them to lengthen their garments to their ankles or to their mid-calf or to their knees, but GOD DID NOT. God knows that we will be living in different communities and have different cultures and insists that the minor details of this dress code will be left for the people of every community.
For any person, knowledgeable or not, drawing a line and making conclusions for God about the definition of modesty is merely to admit that he or she presumes to know better than God. God left it open for us (providing that they follow the three basic rules) and no one has the authority to restrict it. Additionally, the right mind can tell which attire is fitting enough to avoid insult. Only men harboring unclean perceptions of women will maintain their crude thoughts. While God commands “the believing men and women to subdue their eyes and maintain their chastity.”
Thus, the traditional Hijab is added by Sunnah, and it’s not detailed in the Quran. This make Sunnah a scripture ranked with the Quran. During the Prophet’s time, he followed only the Quran. By putting together the commands for women to dress as God intends them to, in addition to the instruction to look upon women with modesty and respect, there will be no problems afoot – God willing.