Muslim Women’s Dress

According to the Qur’an, what is a believing woman’s dress code? If a woman wears a head scarf then does she violate any command of Allah, as certain modern-day Quran cults allege? 

A believing women’s dress code is mentioned in two verses of the Qur’an. In Surat Al Ahzaab 33:59 and in Surat An-Noor 24:31. In Al Ahzaab, Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” 33:59 Pickthall

Whereas in Surat An-Noor, Allah says:

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ ۖ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ ۚ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.” 24:31 Pickthall

The orders pertaining related to the type of garments to wear and the parts of a woman’s body that are to be covered / uncovered are highlighted as follows:

1- Wear Jilbaab

As per the order “..draw their cloaks [ARABIC: JALABEEB, plural of JALABIYYA, JILBAAB] close round them..” 33:59 believing women should wear Jilbaab i.e. a cloak, a gown, which is a loose and long outer garment worn over Kamees that covers entire body and hides the figure and exposes only the head, hands and feet). This type of over garment is also known by the term Abaya.

2- Expose only those parts that the Jilbaab exposes

As per the order “..and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent..” they should uncover only those body parts that are exposed when they observe the order to “..draw their cloaks close round them..” i.e. the head, hands and feet. The rest of the body / figure should not be exposed.

3- Cover the neckline / chest with the Khimaar

As per the order “..and to draw their veils [ARABIC: KHUMUR] over their bosoms…” their Khimaar i.e. scarf or any other covering should cover the region below the neckline and chest area (Juyub) and this part of the body should not be exposed.

The word Khumur in the above verse is plural form of Khimaar which literally means ‘covering’, not specifically head covering but any kind of covering. A headscarf worn by women, as well as men is also called a Khimaar. The order in the verse is not to wear the Khimaar per se but to cover the chest-region with it, as the Khimaar was worn prior to Quranic revelation and is a neccesary dress of people dwelling in Hijaz region owing to extreme heat. The verse shows that women were already wearing the Khimaar, and the order specified that they are to cover the chest with it. Hence if a woman wears a head scarf and she extends it over her neckline in accordance with the commandment in the verse, she has fulfilled the order of Allah.