God has created men and women with different qualities (4:32) and has made them spiritually equal (33:35), which means both men and women are required to understand God’s teachings and laws for their appropriate beliefs and perfect practices of religious rites given by God to nourish their soul to become successful in the Hereafter. There are many practices which have been inserted into the Islamic societies for women based on cultural or traditional customs, and dress code is one of them. In the dress code practice, the wearing of head cover, hijab or burqu are made religious ritual for them to be recognized as righteous in the Muslim societies for receiving reward from God, which can be verified from the valid source of Islam to eliminate any confusion and misconception about this practice as well as to avoid any obvious sin for violation of God’s teaching.
Dress code for the women in the Quran
Let us know what Quran teaches us about the women’s dress code so that they can understand it to avoid any obvious sin. Here are the 7 verses in the Quran that deal with the dress code of the believing women even referring to their certain behavior:
[7:26] O Children of Adam, we have given you clothing to cover your shame as well as for luxury. But the best clothing is the righteousness. That is from God’s signs so that they may take heed.
Note: Clothing is required for both men and women to cover their bodies as well as their adornment but the best clothing is the righteousness.
[7:31] O Children of Adam, you shall dress up nicely every time to the masjid. And eat and drink but do not be immoderate. Indeed, He does not love the immoderate ones.
Note: Here is an indication for both men and women to dress up nicely when they go to the masjid.
[24:31] And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal their body parts except what is needed. They shall place covers over their chests and shall not expose except to 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 no knowledge of private body parts of the women. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal any private parts of their bodies. You all shall repent to God, O you believers so that you may succeed.
Note1: This verse has detailed out the dress code for women including the situation of its adjustment.
Note2: They can show off their body parts what are necessary while they shall cover their chests except in presence of their family members.
Note3: They shall not reveal their body parts when they make movements that we see on the runway in the fashion show.
Note4: This verse is also the root cause of misconception about the dress code of women. The words, “Yadribna” comes from a multiple meaning root word “Daraba” (verb) meaning to beat, strike, cover, set up, travel, take away, give, get out, draw over, separate etc. and “Khumurihinna” comes from the root word “Khimar” (noun) means cover or any cover along with a prefixed “Bi” means in, with or by in the verse. The interpretation of ‘khimar’ to head cover is a misinterpretation while there are no Arabic words, “Raas” meaning head and “Shaar” meaning hair in the verse.
Note5: The Arabic word, zeenatahunna or zeenatihinna comes from the root word, “zeena” meaning women body parts has three instances but its translation in the context to ornaments or adornment is a misinterpretation while the Arabic counter part of ornament is “zukhruf”.
Note6: God told the women not to strike with their feet to show their “zeenatahunna“. Striking the feet while walking can emphasize, exaggerate or shake certain parts of the body that do not need to be emphasized. It is important to remember that striking the feet while walking does not have this effect on the head, hair or face, they are not part of what God calls in this verse the hidden zeena.
Note7: The body parts that can be revealed are not specified but can be the ones which are frequently used, especially the face and hands to wash, and head and feet to wipe for observing salat 5 times a day.
[24:60] And the past child-bearing women who do not expect to get married have no sin upon them if they have their exposed clothing without showing off too much of their body, and it is better for them to maintain modesty. God is Hearer, Knower.
Note: The elderly women may have exposed clothing but they shall maintain their modesty without showing off too much of their body parts.
[33:35] The submitting men and the submitting women, the believing men and the believing women, the obedient men and the obedient women, the truthful men and the truthful women, the steadfast men and the steadfast women, the reverent men and the reverent women, the charitable men and the charitable women, the fasting men and the fasting women, the chaste men and the chaste women, and the men who commemorate God frequently and the commemorating women; God has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.
Note: it does not matter which gender we belong to, i.e., whether we are men or women but it does matter if we can be the ones to be qualified for God’s forgiveness through righteousness to receive recompense from Him.
[33:55] There is no sin upon them around their fathers, their sons, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women and their servants. And be aware of God as God is witness over all things.
Note: The dress code that the women need to follow in presence of their closely related family members is as usual dress, i.e., covering their bodies that they need to cover what we see in 7:26 and 24:31
[33:59] O Prophet, say to your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers to cover themselves of their garments in an appropriate way that they can be recognized and are not harmed. God is Forgiving, Merciful.
Note: The word, “prophet” (Nabi) in the Quran consistently refers to Muhammad when he was alive, and this verse addresses the clothing of the Muslim women at his life including his wives. The word, yud’nina (plural feminine verb form) is closely related to the word, “danaa” meaning approach and the word, “adna” meaning suitable, and the word, “jalabibihinna” (plural feminine noun form) closely related to the word, “ajlib” meaning assault are in the verse.
The Quran has provided the following guidelines for the believing women to cover their bodies in an appropriate way:
- Clothing has been given to cover our shame as well as for luxury (7:26).
- Best clothing is the righteousness (7:26).
- Dressing up nicely for going to masjids (7:31).
- Revealing no body parts except which are necessary (24:31).
- Covering the chests or bosoms with any cover (24:31).
- Covering of the believing women including prophet’s wives in an appropriate way at prophet’s life (33:59).
- Wearing usual dress at the family settings (24:31, 33:55).
- Maintaining modesty for the elderly women (24:60).
- Guarding chastity (24:31, 33:35).
It is noteworthy that the verses, 7:26, 7:31 and 33:35 deal with the dress code for both men and women while the verses, 24:31, 24:60, 33:55 and 33:59 exclusively deal with the dress code for the women.
There are 7 verses in the Quran across 3 suras that have described the dress code for the believing women, and if the relevant sura and verse numbers are added, the total is a multiple of 19 => 361 = 19 x 19, is shown in the table below:
Note: The association of 33:35 with the dress code for the women based on the total righteousness required for God’s forgiveness and a recompense from Him as the best clothing is the righteousness as defined in 7:26.
Hijab in the Quran
“Hijab” is the term used by many Muslim women to describe their head cover that may or may not include covering their face except their eyes, and sometimes covering also one eye. The Arabic word “Hijab” can be translated into veil or yashmak. The other meanings for the word “Hijab” include, screen, cover(ing), mantle, curtain, drapes, partition, division, divider. The word “Hijab” has appeared in the Quran 8 times but none of these instances of “Hijab” are used in the Quran in reference to what the traditional Muslims call today as a dress code (Hijab) for the Muslim woman that can be confirmed from the relevant verses of the Quran as mentioned below:
[7:46] And there will be a partition between them; and the people on the elevated platform will recognize all by their marks. And they will call the dwellers of Paradise: “Peace be upon you!” They have not yet entered it, but they are hoping.
[17:45] And when you read the Quran, we place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter an invisible barrier.
[19:17] When she took a separation from them, then we sent our Spirit to her, and he appeared to her just like a human being.
[33:53] O you who believe, do not enter the prophet’s homes except that you are invited for a meal, without awaiting its preparation. But when you are invited, you may enter, and when you finish eating, you shall leave, without staying for a conversation. This used to hurt the prophet, and he was shy of you. But God is not shy of the truth. And when you are to ask them for anything, then ask them from behind a barrier. This is purer for your hearts and their hearts. And it is not for you to annoy the messenger of God, nor that you should marry his wives after him. That, indeed would be a gross offense in the sight of God.
[38:32] Then he (Solomon) said, “I preferred material thing over remembering my Lord, until complete darkness.
[41:5] And they said, “Our hearts are sealed from what you invite us to and in our ears there is a deafness, and there is a barrier between you and us. So do what you will, and so will we do.”
[42:51] And it is not to human that God would speak to him, except inspiration, or from behind a barrier, or sending a messenger when he reveals by His permission what He wills. Indeed, He is Most High, Most Wise.
[83:15] Indeed, that Day they (the disbelievers) will be separated from their Lord.
Though many Muslims insist to call “Hijab”, an Islamic dress code, but they completely ignore the fact that has been stated in the Quran, and Hijab as a dress code has nothing to do with the Quran.
Short Historical Background
“Hijab” or veil can be traced back to early civilizations. It can be found in early and late Roman and Greek art. The evidence can be seen in archeological discoveries whether in pottery fragments, paintings or recorded civil laws. In Greco-Roman culture, both women and men wore head covering in religious contexts. The tradition of wearing the veil (by women) and the head cover (by men) was then adopted by the Jews who wrote it in the Talmud (Talmud equals the Hadith books, neither are the words of God), then the Christians adopted the same. After the prophet Muhammad’s death, the writers of the hadith books adopted and encouraged the ancient tradition of head covering. Hadith books’ writers took it after the Jews as they did with many other traditions, and alleged them to the prophet since the Quran did not command it.
According to the Jewish traditions or religious books, the Rabbis and religious leaders encourage head cover for the Jewish woman (and men). Observant Jewish women still cover their heads most of the time and specially in the synagogues, weddings, and religious festivities. Christian women cover their heads in many religious occasions while the nuns cover their heads all the time. As we can expect the traditional Arabs, of all religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims used to wear head cover or “Hijab”, not because of Islam, but because of tradition. In Saudi Arabia, up to this day most of the 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.
Quran has provided the guidelines on the dress code for the believing women that they shall cover their chests with a piece of clothes instead of wearing of head cover or hijab or burqu (veil) as advocated by the tradition or supported by any other sources. It has been found in the guidelines that the women’s dress code is very general as God has not exactly specified how much they will cover or how much they will reveal leaving the decision with the believing women themselves to adjust them in their particular situations and what they use for their clothing, even the decision can be taken based on their ages either. It also appears from the relevant verses that the dress code is a recommendation rather than a commandment from God to protect the believing women from the harassment by the wicked men as there is no punishment is indicated in this world or in the Hereafter in the event of violating the dress code while the believing women are to strive in the cause of God to achieve righteousness for His forgiveness and to receive a recompense from Him.
The history indicates that hijab is a traditional dress that dates back to ancient civilizations and is found among Jews, Christians and Muslims. In certain areas of the world, men are the ones who wear the hijab while in others the women do. There are also some areas where both men and women wear hijab. So, there should not be any confusion among the believing women and those who advocate them to wear “Hijab” that the origin of “Hijab” is tradition not religion, and is not supported or advocated by the Quran. Hence, it has nothing to do with religion or to do with Islam.
Many of us are not aware that mixing tradition with religion is a form of idol worship, since the followers of traditions are following laws from sources other than God and claim it to be from God. Moreover, either ignoring what God asks us to do in His book, or following innovated laws not stated in the Quran, is a clear sign of disregarding God and His message. Thus, the women who are wearing “Hijab” or “Burqu” expecting recompense from God are committing gross offence being unaware that it is not from God’s scripture. However, there would be no sin for them if they wear it because they like it or because of tradition being aware that it is not religious, for it is not from God.
There is a 3-fold confirmation that the wearing of “Hijab” as practiced by many Muslim women all over the world is a tradition, and it has nothing to do with religion or to do with the Quran. This may help women to understand the dress code for them given by God and prevent them from committing an unforgiveable sin who are wearing “Hijab” in the hopes of receiving reward from God being recognized as religious in the societies while religion is not a matter of show off. This may help even those who are advocating them to wear “Hijab” are also committing sin for misguiding them disregarding God’s laws may avoid this sin. However, since women are our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, we may share what God has defined as a dress code for them to avoid idol worshiping, which is an unforgivable sin (4:48, 4:116, 39:65) if maintained till death (25:71), while God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, insists on making His religion easy, practical and enjoyable for His true believers.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.