The Muslim Woman’s Dress Code

The Muslim Woman’s Dress Code

by | May 2, 2014 | Women's Issues | 0 comments


Summarised from:  al-Albānī, Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn (2002) Jilbāb al-Marʾah al-Muslimah fī al-Kitāb wa al-Sunnah, NP: Dār al-Salām.

All praise is due to Allāh the Master of everything that exists, may the praise of Allāh and His security be upon the most superior of His Prophets, the Seal of His Prophets and upon his family, his Companions, his brothers;[1] those who grasp tenaciously to his Sunnah and are guided by his guidance until the Day of Recompense.

To proceed:

This is a summary of the conditions a Muslim woman is required to adhere to in her dress when being in the presence of a non-maḥram [any male she could legally marry]. I have summarised the conditions from the seminal work of the great ḥadīth scholar of our age, the Imām of the People of Ḥadīth of our time, Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī, may Allāh have mercy upon him.

The Shaykh, may Allāh have mercy upon him, mentions 8 conditions that need to be fulfilled for a Muslim woman’s dress when she is in the presence of any man she can legally marry due to a lack of proximity in blood relation [known as non-maḥram]. In an age when a woman’s body image is being sold for the price of a toothpaste and regrettably, many Muslim women rushing to follow the condemned footsteps of the non-Muslims in their immodest dress, it has become rare to find a Muslimah adorning herself with the dress of a believer in accordance with the Sunnah.

For those Muslim women who want to free themselves from being slaves of the shayāṭīn who seek to sell them for peanuts in the name of liberty and freedom, this article is essential in helping them become the honoured slaves of Allāh.

Remember, freedom and honour lies in obedience to Allāh and His Messenger and enslavement and dishonour lies in disobedience to Allāh and His Messenger.


Covering the Whole Body Apart from the Exceptions

The Muslimah is obligated to cover her whole body from head to toe. She is allowed, however, to uncover her face and hands.

The evidence for covering the whole body lies in the statement of the Most Exalted in Sūrah al-Nūr: 31:

{Tell the believing women to lower their gaze and preserve their private parts and not to show their adornments except for what is apparent from it, and let them cast their scarves over their chests and not reveal their adornments except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers, their brother’s sons, their sister’s sons, their women or what their right hands possess or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not strike their legs so as to make known what they have hidden of their adornments and all of you repent to Allāh O believers so that you may be successful}

And the Most Exalted’s in Sūrah al-Aḥzāb: 59:

{Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their jilbābs over themselves that is closer to them being known and not harmed and Allāh is the Oft-Pardoning and Most Merciful}

The first āyah contains a declaration of the obligation of covering all of the adornments and not showing anything of it in front of unrelated males other than what is unintentionally apparent: meaning her face and hands. This is the view adopted by al-Ṭabarī, al-Qurṭubī and others.


Not an Adornment in and of Itself

This is due to His saying in the preceding verse from Sūrah al-Nūr, “and not expose their adornment” [al-Nūr: 31], in its general sense it includes the apparent clothing if it is beautified to which the eyes of men turn. What also testifies to that is His saying in al-Aḥzāb: 33:

{And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance}

And his [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] saying:

“Do not ask about three[2]: a man who splits from the Community and disobeys its leader and dies in disobedience, the slave man or woman who absconds and dies and a woman whose husband is absent from her and has provided her with all her material needs yet she exposes her beauty after him, so do not ask about them.”[3]

The objective of the command to adorn the jilbāb is to cover the beauty of the woman thus it makes no sense for the jilbāb to be an adornment in and of itself. This, as you have seen is clear and unambiguous for which reason Imām al-Dhahabī stated in Kitāb al-Kabāʾir p. 131:

“And from the actions for which a woman is cursed is displaying the adornment, gold and pearls under her niqāb and perfuming and scenting herself with musk and fragrance when going out and wearing short dyed silky clothing and outer garments along with lengthening clothing, widening the sleeves and making them long. All of that is part of tabarruj [flagrant exposure one’s adornments which should be hidden] which Allāh hates and its doer in the dunyā and the ākhirah. It is due to these actions which have overcome most women the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said about them, “I looked closely at the Fire and saw most of its inhabitant were women.”

I [al-Albānī] say: it is a sound ḥadīth sourced by the two Shaykhs [al-Bukhārī and Muslim] and others from the ḥadīth of ʿImrān b. Ḥuṣayn and others.


Thick and Non-Transparent

This is because one cannot achieve the covering that Allāh has demanded from a woman except by the dress being thick and non-transparent.

Transparent dresses increase the woman in fitnah and beauty regarding which the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said:

“There will be women in my Ummah who are dressed but naked, on their heads will be [what looks] like the humps of camels, curse them for indeed they are cursed.”[4]

He added in another ḥadīth,

“They will not enter Paradise nor will they find its fragrance even though its scent can be found from such and such distance.”[5]

Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr stated,

“The Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] intended by this those women who wear clothes something light which describes [the body] and does not cover so they are dressed in name but naked in reality.”

ʿAbd Allāh b. Abī Salamah reported:

“ʿUmar b. Al-Khaṭṭāb clothed the people with al-Qubāṭiyy[6] and then said, ‘Do not clothe your women with it.’ A man said, ‘O Commander of the Believers, I dressed my wife with it and walked around the house and did not see it to be transparent.’ ʿUmar replied, ‘Even though it is not transparent it still describes [the body].’[7]


Loose and Baggy and Not Tight-Fitted Thereby Describing the Contours of the Body

This is because the goal of the clothing is only to remove fitnah and this is not achieved except with loose and baggy clothing. As for narrow clothing, if it covers the colour of the skin it still reveals the size of her limbs or part of it and is depicted in the eyes of men and in that there is corruption and inciting to what is not hidden, thus it is obligatory that it be loose. Usāmah b. Zayd had said,

“The Messenger of Allāh gave me a thick Coptic garment from what he received as gifts from …. so I gave it to my wife to wear. He asked me, ‘Why did you not wear the Coptic [garment]?’ I replied, ‘I let my wife wear it.’ He said, ‘Tell her to wear a gown underneath it for indeed I fear it will reveal the size of her limbs.’[8]

He [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] commanded that the woman wear under her qibṭiyyah a gown worn underneath the clothing to prevent her body being described. The command indicates obligation as established in uṣūl which is why al-Shawkānī states in his explanation of the ḥādīth (2/97),

“The ḥādīth indicates the obligation upon the woman to cover her body with clothing which does not describe it and this is a condition for the covering of the private parts. He only ordered clothing [to be worn] under it because the qabāṭī is a thin clothing which does not conceal the skin from the sight of onlookers, rather it reveals it.”



This is due to many aḥādīth forbidding women from using scents when leaving their houses; we will now mention the sound ones from amongst them:

Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī said the Messenger of Allāh [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said:

“Whichever woman perfumes herself and passes by people so they may smell her fragrance is a fornicator.”

Reported by al-Nasāʾī, Abū Dāwūd and others.

The reason for the prohibition is clear which is due to what it contains in inciting the desires. This is why the scholars also add to it the wearing of apparent attractive clothing and jewellery and mixing with men.

I [al-Albānī] say: If it is forbidden for the woman going to the masjid then what would be the ruling for the woman intending to go to the market and streets? Without doubt that is even more forbidden and greater in sin. Al-Haythamī mentioned in al-Zawājir that a woman going out of her home perfumed and beautified is from the major sins even if her husband permits her.


      Dissimilar to Men’s Clothing

This is because of the fact there are numerous sound aḥādīth regarding the cursing of women who imitate men in their dress.

Abū Hurayrah said,

“The Messenger of Allāh cursed men who wear women’s clothing and women who wear men’s clothing.”[9]

ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr said, “I heard the Messenger of Allāh [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] say,

‘Not from amongst us are the women who imitate men and the men who imitate women.’[10]


Dissimilar to the Clothing of Non-Muslim Women

This is based on the fundamental established principle in the Sharīʿah which is that it is impermissible for Muslims, both men and women, to imitate the disbelievers in their worship, festivals and garments that are specific to them. This is a fundamental Islāmic Sharīʿah principle which, regrettably, many Muslims, even those concerned with the matters of the Dīn and propagation have failed to uphold. They have done this out of ignorance of their Dīn or in following their desires or being carried away with the trends of the current times and customs of the disbelieving Europeans, to the extent that it has become one of the reasons for our humiliation and weakness and falling under the power of foreigners and their colonising: {Indeed, Allāh will not change the condition of a people until they change themselves} [al-Raʿd: 11] if they but knew.

The evidences establishing this great principle are many from the Qurʿān generally and more specifically from the Sunnah which explains the Qurʿān.

Allāh says in Sūrah al-Jāthiyah: 16-18:

{And indeed We gave the Children of Israel the Scripture, and the understanding of the Scripture and its laws, and the Prophethood; and provided them with good things, and preferred them above the ʿĀlamīn.

And gave them clear proofs in matters. And they differed not until after the knowledge came to them, through envy among themselves. Verily, Your Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection about that wherein they used to differ.

Then We have put you [O Muḥammad] on a plain way of [Our] commandment. So follow you that and follow not the desires of those who know not}.

[An evidence from the Sunnah is when the Prophet [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them” as reported in Sunan Abī Dāwūd]


Not Clothing of Fame

This refers to every clothing by which one intends fame and renown amongst people whether the clothing be costly thus being worn to boast about the dunyā and its beauty or lowly thus wearing it to display asceticism and showing off. Al-Shawkānī states in Nayl al-Awṭār (2/94):

Ibn al-Athīr said,

al-Shuhrah is the display of something, the intent being that its clothing be famous amongst people due to its different colour to their colours thereby causing people to lift their eyes up to him and he swaggers over them with self-amazement and arrogance.”

This is due to the ḥādīth of Ibn ʿUmar who said that the Messenger of Allāh [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said:

“Whoever wears the clothing of fame in this life, Allāh will make him wear clothing of humiliation on the Day of Standing and then set fire to him.”[11]

In Summary

1.   It has to completely cover her body except for her face and hands based on the previously mentioned details,

2.   that it not be adornment in and of itself,

3.   not transparent,

4.   not tight so as to reveal the contours of the body,

5.   not perfumed,

6.   not similar to men’s clothing

7.   nor that of the disbelievers and

8.   not to be clothing of fame.

So it is obligatory upon every Muslim to fulfil all of these conditions in regards to his wife’s clothing and everyone who is under his guardianship due to his [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] saying:

“All of you are shepherds and all of you will be asked about his flock”

And Allāh the Mighty and Exalted says in Sūrah al-Taḥrīm: 6:

{You who believe: save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is men and stones upon which there are stern and severe angels who do not disobey Allāh with what He has commanded them and they do as they are commanded}

I ask Allāh the Exalted to grant us success in following His commands and avoiding His prohibitions.

You are far removed from all imperfections O Allāh, with Your praise, I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except You, I seek Your forgiveness and I repent to You.



[1] He [ṣallAllāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam] said, “I would have loved for us to have seen our brothers”. They said, “Are we not your brothers Messenger of Allāh?” He replied, “You are my Companions, our brothers are those who have yet to come.” Reported by Muslim from Abū Hurayrah and others with the wording, “My brothers are those who have believed in me and did not see me”, it is sourced in al-Ṣaḥīḥah (2927).

[2] Al-Albānī says: “Meaning: because they are from the destroyed”, p. 119, fn.1

[3] Al-Ḥākim and Aḥmad.

[4] Al-Ṭabarānī in al-Muʿjam al-Ṣaghīr.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Plural of al-Qibṭiyyah; a type of clothing from Egypt which is thin and white, p. 127, fn. 3

[7] Ibn Saʿd (8/184).

[8] Al-Ḍiyāʿ al-Maqdisī in al-Aḥādīth al-Mukhtārah (1/441).

[9] Abū Dāwūd, Ibn Mājah, al-Ḥākim and Aḥmad.

[10] Reported by Aḥmad.

[11] Abū Dāwūd reported it (2/172), Ibn Mājah (2/278-9), via Abū ʿAwānah from ʿUthmān b. Al-Mughīrah from al-Muhājir from him.

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