Hijab: Definition & Conditions

Source: https://www.islamweb.net/en/article/135432/hijab-definition-and-conditions

Hijab is an Arabic word that describes the Muslim woman’s entire dress code, which includes a veil and whatever else is needed to cover everything except the face and hands. It is adopted at puberty – an age when, according to Islam, people become accountable for their actions.

This article will attempt to briefly enumerate the basic requirements regarding the Hijab as stipulated by the Sharee’ah (Islamic Law). The term Hijab includes not only dress and the covering of the body, but also the methods of behavior that one has before members of the same and/or opposite sex, promoting privacy for females and prohibiting loose intermingling between males and females; it is, therefore, an encouragement of modesty, decency, and chastity.

The following requirements represent the ones agreed upon by the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholars and are all solidly backed by firm evidence taken from the Quran, the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) and the practice of the Companions of the Prophet.

1. The Extent of Covering

The dress worn in public must cover the entire body except what has been specifically excluded, based upon the following verse:

Allah Says (what means): “And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not display their adornment [Zeenah] except only that which [ordinarily] appears thereof and to draw their headcovers [Khumur] over their chests and not display their adornment [i.e., beauty] except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their female slaves, their women [i.e., their sisters in Islam], or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O Believers, in order that you might succeed.” [Quran 24:31]

The word Zeenah in the above verse literally means adornment, and includes both:

(a) That which Allah has adorned (i.e., the woman’s natural and/or physical beauty), and,(b) That with which they adorn themselves (i.e., jewelry, eye shadow, attractive clothing, hand dye, etc). The word ‘Khumur’ (pl. of ‘Khimaar’) refers to a cloth that covers the head (including the ears), hair, neck, and bosom.

2. Thickness

The garment should be thick and opaque so as not to display the skin color and form of the body beneath it. Delicate or transparent clothing does not constitute a proper covering. Imaam Al-Qurtubi reported a narration from ‘Aa’ishah that some women from the tribe of Banu Tameem came to see her wearing transparent clothing. ‘Aa’ishah said to them: “If you are believing women, these are not the clothes of believing women.” He also reported that on another occasion, a bride came to see her wearing a sheer, transparent Khimaar, whereupon ‘Aa’ishah remarked: “A woman who wears such clothing does not believe in Soorah An-Noor (i.e., the chapter in the Quran that contains the abovementioned verse regarding the Hijab).” Moreover, the following Hadeeth makes this point graphically clear. Prophet Muhammad said: “There will be among the last of my Ummah (Nation), scantily dressed women; they will wear their hair on top of their heads, like a camel’s hump. Curse them – for verily they are cursed.”

3. Looseness

The clothing must hang loosely and not be so tight and fitting to show the shape and size of the woman’s body. This obviously prohibits such things as skin-tight bodysuits and the like. The following Hadeeth proves this point clearly. Usaamah bin Zayd said: The Prophet once gave me a gift of thick Coptic cloth that he had received as a gift from Dahiyyah Al-Kalbee, so I gave it to my wife. Afterward, he asked me: “Why haven’t you worn the Coptic cloth? I replied: ‘I gave it to my wife.’ The Prophet then said: “Tell her to wear a thick gown under it (i.e., the Coptic garment) for I fear that it may describe the size of her limbs.” [Narrated by Ahmad, Al Bayhaqi and Al-Haakim]

4. Colour, Appearance, and Demeanour

Allah Says (what means): “O wives of the Prophet! You are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.” [Quran: 33:32]

The reason for the revelation of this verse was not due to the fear of distrust or misbehavior on the part of the women, but rather to prevent them from speaking invitingly, walking seductively, or dressing revealingly so as to arouse sexual desire in the heart of lecherous and evil men. Seductive dressing and enticing speech are the characteristics of ill-intentioned women, not Muslims. Imaam Al-Qurtubi mentioned that Mujaahid said: “Women (before the advent of Islam) would walk about among men.” Qataadah said: “The women (at that time) would wear an untied cloth on their heads, while provocatively toying with their necklaces, earrings, and other ornamental jewelry.”

5. The difference between Men’s Clothing

The clothing of a Muslim woman must not resemble that of men. The following statement helps to explain this: Abu Hurayrah said: “The Prophet cursed the man who wears women’s clothes and the woman who wears men’s clothes.” [Abu Daawood and Ibn Maajah]

6. The difference from the Clothing of Unbelievers

Her clothing must not resemble the clothing of the unbelievers. This is a general ruling of the Sharee’ah which encompasses not only the dress but also matters such as manners, customs, religious practices and festivities, transactions, etc. Indeed, dissimilarity with unbelievers is a precedent that was established by the first generation of Muslims. ‘Abdullaah bin ‘Amr bin Al-’Aas sad: “The Prophet once saw me wearing two saffron-colored garments, so he said: “Indeed, these are clothes of ‘Kuffaar’ (unbelievers), so do not wear them.” [Muslim]

7. No Vain or Ostentatious Dressing

The woman’s dress must not be an expression of ostentation, vanity or a status symbol by being excessively showy or expensive, nor must it be excessively tattered so as to gain admiration and fame for being extremely humble. Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet said: “Whoever dresses for ostentation in this world, Allah will dress that person in a dress of humiliation on the Day of Resurrection, and then set it on fire.” [Abu Daud]

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Kitab Al-Kasb Series (Part 49): Permissibility of Beautifying by Wearing the Finest and Best Garment

Every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.

Part 49: Permissibility of Beautifying by Wearing the Finest and Best Garment.
This matter also applies to clothing, for there is no harm for a person to adorn himself by wearing the finest and best garment, as the Messenger of Allah used to own a long outer garment of Fenner cur, with a patterning of silk; and he used to do it during festivals and for receiving delegations. However, it is better to make do with normal clothing which is less (opulent) than that, for it was narrated that the working garment of the Messenger of Allah used to be like the garment of an Oiler.

Likewise, there is no harm in having a beautiful bondswoman, for the Prophet apart from having (as wives) free women also had a bondswoman, Mariyah, with whom he begot a son, Ibrahim. And Ali, apart from having free women (as wives) also had a bondswoman with whom he begot Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyyah. Thus we know that there is no harm in that. The basis of this is the statement of Allah, “Say: Who has forbidden the finery of Allah which He has produced for devotees, and wholesome means of subsistence?” [Al-Quran, surah Al-A’raf, verse 32].

Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani says, “If people were to be content with what is less opulent than that, and direct their surplus toward preparing for their hereafter, that would be better for them.”

The basis for this is the hadith of Abu Dharr (in which is narrated) that he used to hold on to the curtains of the Ka’bah during the Hajj season, and call out with his loudest voice, “O take heed! As for those who know me, they know me; and as for those who do not know me, then I am Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junahad, the Companion of the Messenger of Allah. Indeed, every one of you – when you want to go on a journey – you prepare for your journey; and so, what is the matter with you that you do not prepare for the journey to the hereafter, even though you are almost certain that journey is something that you cannot avoid? And truly, whosoever desires to go on a journey in the world, if it occurs to him to turn back, he may do so; and if he asks for a loan, he gets it; and if he requests for something, most likely it will be given to him; but none of these (options) will be obtainable on the journey in the hereafter.” 

Yahya ibn Mu’adh was asked, “What is the matter with us who are certain about death but yet do not love it?” He said, “Verily you are in love with the world, hence you abhor leaving it behind you. If you send ahead what you love then you will surely love to meet it.” Therefore we know that it is preferable for a person to make do with what is indispensable of the world, and to send ahead for his hereafter what is in excess of that of what he earned; but if he enjoys anything of that excess in this world after having earned it licitly, then there is no harm in that.

The view that considers as sinful one who spends on himself and on his dependents out of what he earned licitly, and delivers from it what is due to Allah, is a view that is not correct, even though the best path is the path of the Messengers. We have elaborated that they made do only with what was indispensable for themselves of the world, especially our Prophet; for when it was presented to him the keys to the treasuries of the earth, he declined them, and said, “I shall be a serving prophet. I go hungry one day, and I am sated one (other) day. When I am hungry I shall have patience, and when I am sated I shall give thanks.”

However, notwithstanding this, he at times partook of some of the wholesome things, such that it was narrated that one day he said, “I wish we had wheat bread dipped in butter and honey which we could eat.” Whereupon ‘Uthman prepared it and brought it in a large bowl. It was said that he did not partake of it, but the sounder view is that he partook of some of it, and then instructed that the remainder be given away in charity. Also, a roasted young and plump billy goat was gifted to the Prophet and he ate some of it with his Companions. And he also partook of what was served before him, he said to one of his Companions, “Give me a shank.”

Through these reports, it becomes clear to us that he at times partook (of the wholesome things) to make known to us that there is no harm in that for us, though most of the time he made do with what is less than that to make known to us that that is better; as it was narrated that A’ishah used to weep for the Messenger of Allah and say, “O one who wore not silk, nor ate his fill of barley bread.”


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Kitab Al-Kasb Series (Part 38): Extravagance and Temperance in the Matter of Clothing.

Every Wednesday, I will share a part of the translation of the book Kitab Al-Kasb (the book of Earning a Livelihood) written by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani.

Part 38: Extravagance and Temperance in the Matter of Clothing.
Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Al-Shaybani says, “The matter of clothing is analogous to eating in all that we have mentioned.”

This means that just as it is forbidden to be extravagant and profligate in the matter of eating, so too it is forbidden in the matter of clothing.

The basis in this ruling is what was narrated that the Prophet forbade two notorieties [Documented in al-Suyuti in al-Jami’ al-Saghir]. What is meant here is that one dons the garment of the utmost beauty and good quality in a manner which prompts fingers to point at it, or that one dons a garment of the utmost raggedness in a manner which also prompts fingers to point at it. One of these two extreme cases constitutes extravagance, while the other constitutes niggardliness whereas the best affairs are the moderate ones.

One should therefore at most times wears clothes that are washed clean, without burdening oneself with the good and the new, so as to realize in practice the statement of the Prophet “Shabbiness is part of faith” [Narrated by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, al-Hakim, Ahmad and al-Tabarani].

However, there is no harm in donning the best garment one can find during some of the festivals, occasions and congregations, due to what was narrated from the Prophet that he used to have a fennec jubbah gifted to him by al-Muqawqis, and he used to wear it during festivals and (Friday) congregations, while deputations would alight to have audience with him. And it is narrated that the Messenger of Allah used to have a qaba’ hemmed with silk, and he used to wear that on festivals and Friday congregations [Narrated by Muslim]

And furthermore in the donning of those garments on some occasions is the expression of blessing, for the Prophet says, “When Allah bestows His favor on his servant, He loves that its traces are seen on him” [Narrated by al-Tirmidhi]. But in troubling oneself with fine garments all the time there is something of the indication of pretentiousness, and that may incite rancor in people who are in need, and hence safeguarding from that is preferable.

Likewise, during winter time, a person should not seek refuge (from the cold) between two or three layers of outer garments if just one suffices him to ward off the cold, for that is galling to needy people, whereas one is prohibited from doing something that causes hurt to others, while his objective (to keep warm) is attained with something that avoids that.

It is better for him to choose coarse garments to wear, in accordance with what has been narrated from ‘Umar that he used to only wear coarse garment. If a person wears a coarse garment in the winter time, and soft garment in the summertime, there is no harm in that, for the coarse wards off from the cold what cannot be warded off by soft garment (used) in summertime, and he requires that protection from the cold during winter time. In contrast, the soft garment dries up perspiration in a manner that cannot be done by coarse garment, and he requires that in the summertime.

And if he wears a soft garment in both winter and summertime, that is also flexible for him, if he earns that the licit way for Allah says, “Say: Who has forbidden the finery of Allah, which Allah has produced for devotees, and wholesome means of subsistence?” [Al-Quran, surah Al-A’raf, verse 32].

Just as what we have explained is recommended for the matter of one’s food and clothing, so too it is recommended for the matter of one’s dependents food and clothing, for he is commanded to provide for them with goodness. And goodness is what is below excessiveness and beyond niggardliness, so much so that they say, “One should not take the trouble to produce all the that his dependents desire, nor deny them all their desires, but his provisioning for them should be in between that, for the best affairs are the moderate ones.”


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