The Dress Code in the Quran for women


Before presenting the Quranic rules for women's dress, it is essential to be reminded of the following:

1- The Quran is the only source of law authorised by God (6:114).

2- The Quran is complete and fully detailed (6:38, 6:114, 6:89 and 12:111).

3- God calls on His true believers to make sure not to fall in the trap of shirk by following the words of the scholars instead of the words of God (9:31).

4- God condemns those who prohibit what He has not prohibited (5:87, 6:140, 6:150, 7:32, 10:59, and 16:116).

5- Those who invent laws that were never authorised by God, and also those who follow such laws, are guilty of committing shirk:

Or do they have partners who legislate for them of the religion what God did not authorise? If it were not for a decisive Word, judgment would have already been passed on them. Indeed, the transgressors shall have a painful punishment. 42:21

The words 'shuraka' (partners) indicate that those who commit such sins are in fact setting partners with God in His exclusive right of lawmaking.

The command to follow the Quran alone is spelt out clearly in the Quran, see: Why Quran alone

The following are the Quranic guidelines for women's dress:

First Rule : The Best Garment

O Children of Adam, We have brought down to you garments to cover your private parts, as well as for adornment, yet the garment of reverence is the best. These are some of God's signs. Hopefully they may remember. 7:26

Revering God is the most important guideline for women when they choose their dress. The righteous reverent woman will know that God is always watching her, she will therefore dress modestly and in line with God's requirements for decency and morality. Any woman knows full well what clothes are considered decent and what clothes are revealing, she will not need to be told. This is why God set the rule of reverence as the first rule.

Second Rule : Cover your Cleavage

The second rule can be found in 24:31. God commanded women to cover their cleavage. Before reviewing 24:31, it is necessary to address some key Quranic words which have been subject to manipulation by those who enforce non Quranic dress rules on women. The two words in question in 24:31 'hijab' and 'khimar'.

The word 'hijab' in Islamic practice vs its use in the Quran

Hijab is the term used by many Muslim women today to describe their head cover. The Arabic word 'hijab' literally means barrier or veil. Other meanings for the word 'hijab' include, screen, cover(ing), mantle, curtain, drapes, partition, division, divider, barrier.

The word 'hijab' is used in 7 Quranic verses. The verses are: 7:46, 33:53, 38:32, 41:5, 42:51, 17:45 and 19:17.

None of these occurrences of the word 'hijab' mean a head cover for women.

God knows that there would come a time when Muslims will use the word 'hijab' to invent a dress code that God Himself never authorised. God used the word 'hijab' ahead of them just as He used the word 'hadith' ahead of them (45:6).

Historical Background:

While many Muslims call 'hijab' an Islamic dress code, they are in fact oblivious of the fact that the concept of 'hijab' has nothing to do with Islam, nor with the Quran.

In fact, the 'hijab' is an old Jewish tradition that infiltrated the hadith books like many innovations that contaminated Islam through the hadith. Any student of Jewish traditions would know that the head cover for the Jewish woman is encouraged by the rabbis and religious leaders.
Religious Jewish women still cover their heads most of the time, especially in the synagogues, at weddings and religious festivities. This Jewish tradition is a cultural not a religious one. Hijab was observed by women of the civilisations that preceded the Jews and was passed down to the Jewish culture.

Some Christian women cover their heads on many religious occasions while the nuns cover their heads all the time. The tradition of covering the head was practiced thousands of years before Muslim scholars claimed the 'hijab' as a Muslim dress code.

The traditional Arabs, of all religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims used to wear 'hijab', not because of Islam, but because of tradition. In Saudi Arabia for example, all men cover their heads, not because of Islam but because of tradition.

North Africa is known for its Tribe (Tuareg) that have the Muslim men wearing 'hijab' instead of women. Here the tradition has the 'hijab' in reverse. If wearing 'hijab' is the sign of the pious and righteous Muslim woman, Mother Teresa would have been the first woman to be counted.

In brief, 'hijab' is a traditional dress and has nothing to do with Islam or religion. In certain areas of the world, men are the ones who wear the 'hijab' while in others the women do.

Mixing religion with tradition is a form of idol-worship since it implies setting up other sources of religious laws besides the law of God.

The word 'khimar' in the Quran:

The word 'khimar' can be found in the Quran in 24:31. While the first basic rule of Dress Code for the Muslim women can be found in 7:26, the second rule of the dress code for women can be found in 24:31. Some Muslims quote verse 31 of sura 24 as containing the 'hijab', or head cover, by pointing to the word, khumoorihinna, (their khimars), forgetting that God already used the word 'hijab', several times in the Quran, but none to mean head cover. Those who are not shackled by pre-conceptions will easily see that there is no command in 24:31 for women to cover their heads. The word 'khimar' does not mean 'hijab' nor head cover. Those who quote this verse usually add the words "head cover" or the word "veil" after the word 'khumoorihinna', usually between brackets. These additions are their own words not the words of God and they are clearly added to the text to imply a meaning not found in God's words. The words of 24:31 are:

And say to the believing women to lower their gaze and to guard their private parts and not to show their beauty spots except that of it which is normally shown. They shall also cover their cleavage with their 'khimars'. They shall not show their beauty spots except in the presence of 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, what their right hands possess, the male attendants who have no sexual desire and the children who are yet to attain awareness of women's nakedness. They shall not strike their feet so as to reveal details of their hidden beauty spots. You shall repent to God, all of you, O believers, so that you may succeed. 24:31

The Arabic word khimar means cover. Any cover can be called a khimar, such as a curtain, a dress. A table cloth that covers the top of a table is a khimar. A blanket can be called a khimar, and so on. The word 'khamr', is used in the Quran for intoxicants. It is a derivative of the word khimar. Both words mean: that which covers. The khimar covers a window, a body, a table and so on, while khamr is that which covers the mind. Traditional translators, obviously influenced by hadith and culture, claim that khimar in 24:31 has only one meaning, and that is the head cover. Thus, they mislead women into believing that 24:31 commands them to cover their hair!
In 24:31 God instructs women to use their khimar (cover/garment) to cover their cleavage. Covering the chest can be done by a dress, coat, shawl, shirt, blouse, a scarf and so on.

Third Rule: Not to reveal their beauty spots

The third rule can also be found in 24:31. Here God commands women not to reveal their beauty spots except what is normally apparent such as the head (face and hair), arms, lower legs, etc.

Not to show their beauty spots except that of it which is normally shown.

This expression may sound vague to many because they have not understood the mercy of God. God used the general phrase "what is normally shown" in order to allow women the freedom to decide, at different occasions, what is shown of her body. Righteous women will always make the correct decision so as to conform to the general code of morality, and also according to the time, place and occasion.

The great wisdom of God in granting women this flexible concession can be witnessed every day and in every place. The following example demonstrates the application of this concession:

A woman attending the masjid for prayers, or attending a funeral would wish to wear fairly conservative clothes, but a woman playing sports for example, would wish to wear simple light clothes that do not hinder movement. If God did not grant this merciful concession in 24:31, it would mean that all women would have to wear identical clothes at all occasions!

The word 'zeenatahunna' (beauty spots) in this verse refers to the woman's beauty spots which carry a sexual connotation, examples are: thighs, breasts, back side. At the end of the verse, God tells the women not to strike with their feet to show their 'zeenatahunna'. The way a woman strikes her feet while walking can expose the outlines of certain parts of the body.

For a more detailed analysis of 24:31 please go to: Corruption of 24:31

Fourth Rule : Lengthen your Garments

O you prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to lower their garments. This is better so that they will be recognised and not harmed. God is Forgiver, Merciful. 33:59

When we reflect on the above words, we would understand the great wisdom of God. In this verse, God, deliberately said that women should lower their garments, but did not say any precise details of how much to lower. God could have said to lower their garments to their ankles or to their mid-calf or to their knees, but He did not. God knows that we will be living in different communities and have different cultures. Thus God left the exact amount of lowering of a woman's dress left for women to decide for themselves, as long as righteousness is always maintained.

Some scholars have claimed that the Quran commands women to cover all their bodies and not just lower their garments, for the details please see: Manipulation of 33:59.

Relaxing the Dress Code:

Within a family setting, God put no hardship on women, permitting them to relax their dress code. This is apparent from the words of 24:31 (above). In addition, elderly women who no longer expect to get married can also relax their dress code:

Regarding the elderly post-menstrual women who no longer seek marriage, there is no blame upon them for relaxing their clothes, provided they do not flaunt their beauty spots. Indeed, to maintain morality is better for them. God is Hearer, Knowledgeable. 24:60

Reply to those who claim that a Muslim woman should be covered except for her face:

Many Muslim scholars have invented extreme rules for women's dress which are not found in the Quran. Some say that women should be totally covered except for her face, while others who are even more extreme, say that all women must be covered from head to toe except for two holes for the eyes to see!

1- There are no words anywhere in the Quran which command women to cover all their bodies. Those who preach such un-Quranic rules cannot find words in the Quran to justify this extremity, so they manipulate various words in 24:31 and 33:59 to justify the falsehood.

2- The fact that God says in 24:31 to specifically cover the bosom indicates clearly that there are other parts of the woman’s body that do not have to be covered. To elaborate on the indication of the words in 24:31, let us ponder on the following example:

Think of your house and in it you have a garden. You have a gardener who comes to look after your garden. One day you tell the gardener: please water the area under the big tree and also water the back of the garden.

What does this example tell us?
It tell us that since you specified only areas to be watered, then this is a clear indication that there will be other areas in the garden that are not to be watered. If you wanted the gardener to water the whole garden you would have said: Please water the whole garden.

When we apply this example to the issue of women’s dress code in the Quran, the same principle applies. If God wanted the whole body of the woman to be covered, God would not have specified the chest to be covered, but would have issued a command for all the body to be covered. But since God specifies certain parts of the woman’s body to be covered, then there are other parts that do not have to be covered, as long as they are not beauty spots of a sexual connotation and as long as righteousness in dress is maintained.

3- The command to "lower their garment" also proves that the woman is not commanded to be covered from head to toe. For if that was the case and women must be covered down to their toes, there would be no meaning to "lower their garments". How can a woman lower a garment that is already down to the ground?

Related Subjects:

- What is the Awrah of women?

- What is meant by "normally shown" in 24:31?

- The Corruption of 24:31