Women's Dress



Excerpt Taken from : 
The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam 
by Yusuf al-Qaradawi 
Why Gold and Silk are Permitted to Women 
Woman has been exempted from this prohibition out of consideration 
for her feminine nature, as the love of jewelry and ornaments is 
quite natural and becoming for a woman. However, she is not to use 
her adornments to attract men and arouse their sexual desires. 
According to a hadith, When a woman puts on perfume and goes among 
people so that its scent reaches them, she is an adulteress, and any 
eye which is attracted to her is that of an adulterer. (Reported by 
al-Nisai, and also by Ibn Khazimah and Ibn Hayyan in their respective 
And Allah Ta'ala warns women ...that they should not stamp their feet 
in order to make apparent what is hidden of their adornment.... 

The Dress of the Muslim Woman 
Islam makes it haram for women to wear clothes which fail to cover 
the body and which are transparent, revealing what is underneath. It 
is likewise haram to wear tightly fitting clothes which delineate the 
parts of the body, especially those parts which are sexually 
attractive. Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger, of Allah (peace 
be on him) said, I will not be a witness for two types of people who 
are destined for the Fire: people with whips, like the tails of cows, 
who beat the people (i.e., tyrannical rulers who are the enemies of 
their own people), and women who, although clothed, are yet naked, 
seducing and being seduced, their hair styled like the tilted humps 
of camels. These will not enter the Garden nor will its fragrance 
even reach them, although its fragrance reaches a very great 
distance. (Reported by Muslim.) 

The Prophet (peace be on him) described such women as being clothed, 
yet naked, since their clothing, being transparent and fine, does not 
do the job of conceling the body but is rather intended to reveal it; 
such is the dress of the women of our time. The Prophet (peace be on 
him) likened their hair-style to the hump of a special breed of camel 
(bakht) which has very large humps, because they put up their hair in 
a beehive shape from the middle of their heads. It is as if the 
Prophet (peace be on him) were looking beyond the centuries to the 
present age, when dressing the hair of women and styling it in 
variety of shapes has become a profession dominated by men who charge 
top prices for their work. And this is not all. Many women, not 
satisfied with what Allah gave them in the way of natural hair, buy 
wigs made of artificial hair to add to their own in order to increase 
its body, beauty, and luster, imagining that this renders them better 
looking and more sexually attractive. 

The astonishing thing about this hadith is the connection of 
political oppression with moral laxity. This connection is borne out 
by facts, since it is the way of rulers to keep people preoccupied 
with their personal desires and lusts so that they have no time to 
think about public affairs. 

Concerning Woman's Imitating Man and Vice Versa 
The Prophet (peace be on him) declared that a woman should not wear a 
man's clothing nor a man a woman's. He cursed men who imitate women 
and women who imitate men. (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.) 
Aspects of such imitation include the manner of speaking, walking, 
dressing, moving and so on. 

The evil of such conduct, which affects both the life of the 
individual and of society, is that it constitutes a rebellion against 
the natural ordering of things. According to this natural order, 
there are men and there are women, and each of the two sexes has its 
own distinctive characteristics. However, if men become effeminate 
and women masculinized, this natural order will be reversed and will 

Among those who are cursed by Allah and His angels, both in this 
world and in the Hereafter, the Prophet (peace be on him) has 
mentioned the man whom Allah has made a male but who becomes 
effeminate by imitating women, and a woman whom Allah has made a 
female but who becomes masculinized by imitating men. (Reported by al-

For this reason the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade men to wear 
fabric decorated with large, loud, or bold designs. In his Sahih, 
Muslim reported 'All as saying, The Messenger of Allah (peace be on 
him) forbade me the wearing of a gold ring, a silken garment, and 
clothing with bold designs. 
Muslim also reports a hadith from Ibn 'Umar, who said, "The Messenger 
of Allah (peace be on him) saw me wearing two garments having bold 
designs, and he said, "This is what unbelievers wear. Do not wear 
such things." 

Dressing for the Sake of Ostentation and Pride 
The general rule for the enjoyment of the good things of life, such 
as food, drink, and clothing, is that their use should be without 
extravagance or pride. 

Extravagance consists of exceeding the limits of what is beneficial 
in the use of the halal, while pride is something related to the 
intention and the heart rather than to what is apparent. Pride is the 
intention to look superior and above others, and Allah does not love 
any proud boaster. (57:23) The Prophet (peace be on him) said: "On 
the Day of Resurrection, Allah will not look at the person who trails 
his robe behind him out of pride." (Agreed upon by Bukhari and 

In order to avoid even the suspicion of pride, the Prophet (peace be 
on him) forbade Muslims to wear garments of "fame" that is, clothes 
which are worn in order to impress others and which generate 
competition in vain and idle pursuits. According to a hadith, On the 
Day of Resurrection, Allah will clothe the one who wears garments of 
fame with the garments of humiliation. (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, 
al-Nisai, and Ibn Majah.) 

A man asked Ibn 'Umar, "What kind of clothes shall I wear?" Ibn 'Umar 
replied, "Such as would neither invite the scorn of the weak-minded 
(because of their being cheap and ugly) nor the blame of the wise 
(because of their being immoderately expensive)." (Reported by al-

The Display of Women's Adornment: What Is and What Is Not 
Thus far we have discussed the subject of the lowering of the gaze, 
which is commanded for both menand women in the two verses cited. 
These verses also contain other divine instructions. Says Allah 
Subhanahu wa Ta'ala: That they should...not display their adornment, 
except that which is apparent of it. (24:31) 

The adornment of women includes both natural features such as the 
face, hair, and other attractive parts of the body, and artificial 
enhancement of beauty, such as the dress, ornaments, make-up, and the 
like. In this noble ayah Allah Ta'ala commands women not to show 
their adornment "except that which is apparent of it." 

There is some difference of opinion among scholars concerning the 
extent of this exception. Does it mean what is exposed by necessity 
and without intention, for example, if the wind exposes some part? Or 
does it mean what is customarily, or instinctively, or by its very 
nature exposed? 

The majority of the early Muslim jurists accept the latter meaning. 
Ibn 'Abbas interprets "except what is apparent of it" to mean kohl 
and a ring, and Anas has said something similar; the permissibility 
of showing the face and hands is implicit in the permissibility of 
showing kohl and a ring. Sa'id ibn Jubayr, 'Ata and al-Awzai have 
stated explicitly that the showing of the face and hands is 
permissible. 'Aishah, Qatadah, and others have added bracelets to 
what may be shown of the adornments; this interpretation implies that 
a part of the arm may also be shown. Various scholars have allowed 
the exposure of the lower part of the arm up to a length varying 
between about four inches to one-half of the arm. 

On the other hand, others such as 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, have 
restricted the application of "what is apparent" to what necessarily 
appears, such as the outer garment (abaya, jilbab, chaddor, burqa, 
and the like). My own preference lies with that group of the 
Companions and their immediate followers (This is the preferred 
opinion of al-Tabari, al-Qurtabi, al-Zamakhshari, al-Razi, and others 
from among the interpreters of the Qur'an, one may refer to their 
explanations of this verse of Surah al-Nun) who include the face, the 
hands, and their ordinary adornments, such as kohl and a ring in the 
application of the Qur'anic phrase, "except that which is apparent of 

This permissibility, however, excludes such cosmetics which women 
today use for their cheeks, lips and nails. We consider these 
cosmetics to be excessive, and they must not be used except within a 
woman's own home when non-mahrem men are present. The aim of women in 
using these cosmetics when going out of the house is obviously to 
attract the attention of men, which is haram. At the same time, 
however, the interpretation of "what is apparent" as being the outer 
garment or covering is not acceptable, for this is not something 
which can possibly be concealed so that an exemption must be made; 
similarly, what the wind blows cannot be controlled, whether an 
exemption is made or not. What strikes the mind is that the purpose 
of the exemption was to provide some concession for the believing 
woman by permitting her to show something which it is possible to 
conceal. Reason would indicate that it is the face and hands which 
are exempted from covering. 

Assuredly a woman is permitted to show her face and hands because 
covering them would be a hardship on her, especially if she must go 
out on some lawful business. For example, a widow may have to work to 
support her children, or a woman who is not well-off may have to help 
her husband in his work; had covering the face and hands been made 
obligatory, it would have occasioned such women hardship and 
distress. Al-Qurtabi says, 
It seems probable that, since the face and hands are customarily 
uncovered, and it is, moreover, required that they be uncovered 
during acts of worship such as salat and hajj, the exemption 
(referred to in the verses of Surah al-Nur) pertains to them. This 
conclusion is supported by what Abu Daoud has transmitted on the 
authority of 'Aishah. She said that 'Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr, 
once came to the Prophet (peace be on him) wearing transparent 
clothes. The Prophet (peace be on him) turned his face away from her 
and told her, 'Asma, when a woman begins to menstruate, nothing 
should be seen of her except this and this,' and he pointed to his 
face and hands. 

In addition to this, we may infer from Allah's words, "Tell the 
believing men that they should lower their gazes," that the faces of 
the women of the Prophet's time were not veiled. Had the entire body 
including the face been covered, it would have made no sense to 
command them to lower their gaze, since there would have been nothing 
to be seen. 

In spite of all this, however, because of the widespread immorality 
and laxity in obeying the Islamic injunctions in our time, the best 
thing for the Muslim woman is to conceal all her adornments including 
her face if she can. Obviously, more caution in this regard is 
necessary for a woman who is beautiful. Allah Ta'ala also 
says, ...That they should draw their head-coverings over their 
bosoms.... (24:31) 

It is obligatory for the Muslim woman to cover her head, breasts, and 
neck completely so that nothing of them can be seen by onlookers. In 
addition, Allah Ta'ala says, ...And not display their adornment 
except to their husbands or their fathers.... (24:31) 

This injunction prohibits women to show their concealed adornments, 
such as the ears, hair, neck, breasts, or ankles, to men who are 
outside the mahrem relationship, before whom they are permitted to 
expose only the face and hands (of "that which is apparent"). 

Twelve categories of persons are exempted from this prohibition: 

"Their husbands:" The husband and wife can see whatever they please 
of each other. A hadith states "Guard your nakedness ('awrah) except 
in front of your wife." 

"Their fathers," including the grandfathers from both mother's and 
father's sides as well. 

"Their husbands' fathers," for these are regarded as fathers to 

"Their sons," as likewise the grandsons from both sons and daughters. 

"Their husbands' sons (stepsons)," a necessity for normal 
interaction, since the woman is regarded as their mother. 

"Their brothers," including half - and step-brothers. 

"Their brothers' sons," since marriage is permanently prohibited 
between a man and his paternal aunt. 

"Their sisters' sons," since marriage is permanently prohibited 
between a man and his maternal aunt. 

"Their women," Meaning female relatives and sisters-in-faith, that 
is, other Muslim women. As for non-Muslim women, they are not allowed 
to see the Muslim woman's adornments other than what is allowed for 
non-mahrem men, and the correctness of this opinion is verified. 

"Those whom their right hands possess," refers to bondservants, 
because in Islam they are considered as members of the family. Some 
scholars restrict this permission to female bond-servants only. 

"Male servants who lack sexual desire," refers to hired hands or 
household servants who, because of some physical or mental condition, 
are devoid of sexual desire. This is applicable only under the 
following two conditions: that they are the servants of those into 
whose houses they are given entry and that they lack sexual desire. 

"Children who are not aware of women's nakedness." These are small 
children whose consciousness of sex is not yet developed. But if 
evidence of the sexual urge is noted among them, a woman should treat 
them like non-mahrem men even though they may not have reached 

This verse does not mention maternal and paternal uncles because they 
customarily occupy the same status as the father. A hadith 
states, "The man's uncle is like his father." (Reported by Muslim.) 

Women's 'Awrah 
Whatever of the woman's body is not allowed to be shown constitutes 
her 'awrah. It must be covered, for exposing it is haram. 

Consequently, with respect to non-mahrem men and non-Muslim women, a 
woman's 'awrah is her entire body with the exception of her face and 
hands, accordingto the interpretation we have preferred. We agree 
with al-Razi's argument that Islam has permitted her to expose those 
parts of the body, the face and hands, which need to be exposed in 
order to carry out daily busiand for giving and taking; it has 
commanded her to cover what it is not necessary to expose, and has 
forgiven her accidental, inadvertent exposures or such exposures as 
are required by necessity. All this is in accordance with the 
flexibility of Islam. Says al-Razi, "Since the showing of the face 
and hands is necessary, the jurists had no choice but to agree that 
they are not 'awrah, and since the showing of the feet is not 
necessary, they have differed concerning whether or not they 
are 'awrah.'' (Tafsir 'awrah.'' (Tafsir of Fakhr al-Deen al-Razi, 
vol. 20, pp. 205-206.) 

With respect to the above-mentioned twelve categories of mahrem 
relatives, a woman is permitted to expose her hair, ears, neck, upper 
part of the chest, arms, and legs. Other parts of her body, such as 
the back, abdomen, thighs and two private parts, are not to be 
exposed before anyone, man or woman, excepting her husband. 

The above interpretation of the ayah is closer to its intent than 
that of some other scholars who say that, with respect to her 
muharramah (Plural of mahrem. (Trans.)) and other Muslim women, the 
woman's 'awrah is the area between her navel and knee. Rather, the 
intent of the ayah seems to support the opinion of some scholars who 
say that with respect to her muharramah the woman's 'awrah is that 
part which is not exposed while she is doing her housework; that is, 
whatever is exposed during the course of her daily chores may be seen 
by men who are her muharramah. 

That is why Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala commands the believing women to 
cover themselves with a loose over-garment whenever they go out, for 
in this way they may be distinguished from non-believing and loose 
women. Allah Ta'ala commanded His Prophet (peace be on him) to convey 
to the whole ummah of Islam this divine message: O Prophet! Tell thy 
wives and daughters and the believing women that they should put on 
their outer garments (jalabeebihinna); (That is, whenever they are 
outside the home or inside it when non-mahrem men are present. 
(Trans.)) that is most convenient in order that they may be 
recognized (as Muslims) and not be molested.... (33:59) 

During the period of jahiliyyah some women used to go out with the 
attractive parts of their bodies, such as the neck, upper part of the 
breast and hair, exposed, and the loafers and lechers would follow 
them about. Accordingly, this noble ayah came down, commanding the 
believing woman to cover herself with her garment so that no 
provocative part of her body would be visible, because her appearance 
would make it clear to everyone that she is a chaste, believing 
woman, no lecher or hypocrite would dare to molest her. 

It is clear from this verse that the reason for this injunction is 
not the fear of women's misbehavior or mistrust of them, as some 
people claim, but the danger to them from lecherous and evil men; for 
the woman who decks herself out, walks seductively, or talks 
invitingly always attracts men who lust after her. This verifies the 
Qur'anic verse, ...Then do not be too pleasant of speech, lest one in 
whose heart there is a disease should feel desire (for you).... 
Accordingly, Islam insists that the Muslim woman cover, and so 
protect herself; no concession is made in this except to reduce it 
somewhat for old women. Says Allah Ta'ala: And the elderly among 
women who are past (the prospect) of marriage—there is no blame on 
them if they lay aside their (outer) garments without displaying 
their adornment; but it is better for them to be modest. And Allah is 
Hearing, Knowing. (24:60) 

By "the elderly among women" is meant such post-menopausal women as 
have no desire for marriage or sex, and to whom men are not 
attracted. Allah has made this concession for them so that they can 
put aside their covering garments, such as the chaddor, abaya, burqa, 
jilbab, and the like. However, the Qur'an makes the condition that 
this should not be for the purpose of displaying the* adornment but 
only for ease and comfort. Despite this concession, it is preferable 
and better for them to be more perfect in their dignity and far 
removed from any suspicion: "but it is better for them to be modest." 

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