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You are here: Home > Myths and Misconception > Women in Islam > Headcovers and Islamic Dress Code

Headcovers and Islamic Clothing Requirement

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SUMMARY

Upon careful study of God’s proven scripture (math proof link) the Quran, we find that God does not require women to cover their hair, arms, legs, hands, or face- these clothing restrictions are not God’s religious regulations.  Instead, hijab (headcover) and Burka (full body cover) should be considered cultural or regionally traditional.  The dress code for the believers is addressed in the Quran and upon a study of the related verses; we can come to an understanding of what the dress code is for God’s worshippers.

Click a link below to "jump" to a specific section:

Introduction
The Simple Rules of a Muslim Dress Code
What is Hijab?
History of the Veil
Dress Code in the Mosque
The Line Between Immodesty and What’s Necessary to Reveal
Relaxing the Dress Code
The Greater the Suffering, the Greater the Rewards?
The Best Garment

Introduction

God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, reminds us in the Quran that He has placed no hardship on us in practicing our religion:

 
[22:78] 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…

Since God makes it clear that His Scripture is fully detailed, and we should not make religious rules or follow laws not imposed by Him – we can learn the complete details of the Muslim (Submitter in English) Woman’s dress code through the Quran:


[10:37] This Quran could not possibly be authored by other than GOD. It confirms all previous messages, and provides a fully detailed scripture…
[6:114] Shall I seek other than GOD as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed...
[5:87] O you who believe, do not prohibit good things that are made lawful by GOD, and do not aggress; GOD dislikes the aggressors.
[42:21] They follow idols who decree for them religious laws never authorized by GOD. If it were not for the predetermined decision, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, the transgressors have incurred a painful retribution.

The Simple Rules of a Muslim Dress Code

The believers, both men and women, pay the most attention to the first and best garment, the garment of righteousness:

 
[7:26] 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.

[24:30] Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes (and not stare at the women), and to maintain their chastity. This is purer for them. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything they do.
[24:31] And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity…

Dress modestly and do not draw attention to yourself;
Cover your bosom;
Reveal only what’s necessary:


[24:31] 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.

Lengthen your garment:
[33:59] O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized (as righteous women) and avoid being insulted. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

What is Hijab?

Hijab is the term used to describe a Muslim woman’s head cover and may include covering their face and veiling their eyes. The word Hijab translates in English to veil, barrier, divider, or cover.  The word "Hijab" appears in 7 verses of the Quran: these are 7:46, 33:53, 38:32, 41:3-5, 42:51, 17:45 & 19:17.
 
Verse 33:53 is abused by some "Muslim" countries to dictate a woman’s personal space through the misuse of the word hijab.  She is made to stay home and not leave the house. The restrictions have come about because of the misunderstanding of the following verse:


[33:53] 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. This is purer for your hearts and their hearts…

In this verse, God made the wives lives easier while they were relaxing at home by commanding the men to speak to them from behind a barrier (hijab). Some "Muslim" scholars have interpreted this to mean that a man could only communicate with the prophet’s wives from outside walls. They then assumed from the same verse that the prophet’s wives never left home. Then they wrongly concluded that their wives too must stay at home. That these conclusions are off base becomes even more clear when we realize that the Arabic word for walls in the Quran is "al hujrat" not hijab

.
[49:4]"As for those who call on you (Muhammad) from outside the walls (al hujrat), most of them do not understand".

Also there would not have been a need for commandments concerning women’s dress code if women were supposed to stay home all the time.

When we look at the above mentioned Quran verses, we can see that none of them make reference to what the Muslim leaders call Hijab as a dress code or as a modesty zone for the Muslim woman.  The word Hijab within the Quran has nothing to do with the Muslim women dress code.

Muslims use verse 24:31 to say that God requires Hijab (head cover) for the women, when the actual word used is “khomoorehenna” from the root “Khimar”. Those who quote this verse usually add head cover or veil after the word Khomoorehenna, and usually between parentheses, because it is their addition to the verse not God's. God informs us:


[24:31] 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 (with their Khimar), 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.

"Khimar" is an Arabic word that means, cover; any cover.  God used the word Khamra for intoxicant (or cover of the mind) in the verses 2:219, 5:90 and 5:91 which has the same root word as Khimar, because both are covers.  The word Khimar is never exclusive to one particular type of clothing such as a headcover.  In 24:31 The Arabic word for bosom, Gayb is in the verse, but the Arabic words for head- Raas or hair- Shaar are NOT in the verse.  God is asking the women to use their clothes to cover their 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. GOD is not limited on words nor does GOD forget. God did not order the women to cover their heads or their hair and He did not order them to cover their bosoms with a headcover.
 
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. The word "zeenatahunna" in this verse refers to the woman's body parts (beauty) that can be exaggerated by their movement and not to the artificial ornaments and decorations as some people translate it. At the end of the verse, God told the women not to strike with their feet in order to reveal their "zeenatahunna."  Striking the feet while walking can improperly emphasize certain parts of the body. It is important to remember that this movement does not have an effect on the head, hair or face; they are not part of what God calls in this verse the hidden zeena.

History of the Veil

The Hijab can be traced back to early civilizations.  Although the veil itself predates Islam by many centuries, it can currently be observed in modern day dress of Christian sects (Catholic nuns, Amish community), Jewish traditional dress (Tzeniut regulations), as well as some Middle Eastern Muslim sects. In the Near East, Assyrian kings first introduced both the seclusion of women and the veil.


Beyond the Near East, the practice of hiding one's face and largely living in seclusion appeared in classical Greece, in the Byzantine Christian world, in Persia, and in India among upper caste Rajput women. Muslims in their first century at first were relaxed about female dress. As Islam reached other lands, regional practices, including the covering of women, were adopted by the early Muslims. Yet it was only in the second Islamic century that the veil became common, first used among the powerful and rich as a status symbol. During the Middle Ages, the veil did not appear as a common rule to be followed until around the tenth century.  In some Middle Ages periods, such as under the Mamluks in Egypt, decrees were issued urging strictness in veiling (-an excerpt from Women in the Muslim World: Personalities and Perspectives from the Past, 1998, Lyn Reese.)


In brief, hijab is a traditional dress and has nothing to do with Islam or religion. When tradition supersedes God's commandment, the true religion takes a second place.

Dress Code in the Mosque

[7:31] O children of Adam, you shall be clean and dress nicely when you go to the masjid. And eat and drink moderately; Surely, He does not love the gluttons.

The Line Between Immodesty and What’s Necessary to Reveal

God instructs us regarding women’s dress in 24:31, "They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary."

  
At first, this expression may seem vague.  But in this instruction, God used such general terms to give us the freedom to decide the definition of “what is necessary" according to our own circumstances.   It is not up to a scholar or to any particular person to define this term; rather it is the situation and individual circumstance that dictates this. God wants to leave it personal for every woman and no one can take that away from her. Women who follow the basic rule number one i.e. righteousness, will have no problem making the right decision to reveal only that which is necessary.
 
Women who wear Hijab because of tradition or because they like it for personal reasons commit no sin, as long as they know that it is not a requirement of God’s religion. Those who are wearing it because they think God ordered it are attributing laws of their religious leaders to God (3:78).

 
The following Quranic verse reinforces a Muslim woman’s modest dress:  [33:59] O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized (as righteous women) and avoid being insulted. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

The description applies to wives of the believers and applies to current times.  In this verse, God deliberately said, tell them to lengthen their garments and did not provide a specific length. God could have said tell them to lengthen their garments to their ankles or to their mid-calf or to their knees, but HE DID NOT.  God, the Omniscient 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 to decide for themselves. God knows that this modesty will be understood differently in different communities and that is why He left it open to us to decide for ourselves.  This difference in the way we perceive modesty is well known to God, He created us, and He put NO hardship on us in this great religion. He left it to us to decide what modesty would be.  God left it open for us and no-one has the authority to restrict it, it has to stay open, for to put restrictions is equivalent of saying that person making the rule knows better than God (4:60).

Relaxing the Dress Code

God put no hardship on the women, so in the family setting He permitted them to relax their dress code. If you reflect on the verses, 33:35 and 24:60, you will see that God did not give details of what this relaxation is, because every situation is different.


[33:55] 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 (female) servants. They shall reverence GOD. GOD witnesses all things.

[24:60]  The elderly women who do not expect to get married commit nothing wrong by relaxing their dress code, provided they do not reveal too much of their bodies. To maintain modesty is better for them. GOD is Hearer, Knower.

The Greater the Suffering, the Greater the Rewards?

Some Muslim women who wear encumbering clothes in the heat of the desert, without free movement, and causing an obstruction for their ablution may believe that this suffering is going to be rewarded by bringing them closer to God.  But to the contrary, God informs us that those who look to other sources for guidance outside of His just laws are rejecting His Scripture and they will suffer because of this choice (2:168, 4:60, 5:87, 5:41, and 13:31).

God never put any hardship on the people, but the scholars did, they invented their own laws in defiance of God, to regulate everything including the type and length of garment that women should wear. Those who believe God when He informs us that His book is complete, perfect, and fully detailed (6:114-115, 11:1), will have everything easy for them as God promised,

    
[10:62] Absolutely, GOD's allies have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
[10:63] They are those who believe and lead a righteous life.
[10:64] For them, joy and happiness in this world, as well as in the Hereafter. This is GOD's unchangeable law. Such is the greatest triumph.

…while those who refuse to believe God and have been seeking other sources than the Quran will have all the hardship of this life and the life to come.


[6:22] On the day when we summon them all, we will ask the idol worshipers, "Where are the idols you set up?"
[6:23] Their disastrous response will be, "By GOD our Lord, we never were idol worshipers."
[6:24] Note how they lied to themselves, and how the idols they had invented have abandoned them.

The Best Garment

God, the Most Merciful, gave us a few basic rules for the Dress Code for Women in Islam (Submission).  God could have given us more details to the point of having graphs, designs and color rules, but God, the Most Merciful, chose to give us very basic rules and leave the rest up to the individual. When following the first regulation of the dress code, that the Best garment is the garment of righteousness then the individual woman will know what to do for the rest of the outfit.  After the basic rules every woman is more aware of her circumstances and can adjust her dress for her situation. Any addition to these basic Quranic rules is an attempt to correct God or improve on His merciful design.  Innovations and fabrications that added thousands of rules to the women dress code are nothing but a rejection of God’s simple system and should be refused.

References

The Authorized English translation of the Quran by Dr. Rashad Khalifa
Women in the Muslim World;  http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/toc-13.html.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzeniut

 

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