6.18 Moral Teachings of Islam- Dress Code Continued

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Summary of 6.17  "Modesty and Dress Code"

Our main emphasis last time was to understand why Islam includes the matter of dress in its code of behavior.  We indicated that Islam doesn’t look at the matter of dress as a decorative thing or for protection from weather conditions.  In Islam dress in accordance with the Quran has a moral function.  The question of dressing or not dressing properly is relevant in Islam to the moral standards of a society and its promotion of decency.

 

Another point was that the dress code in accordance to Islam is not limited to females.  We covered various evidences that show the fact that the responsibility for maintaining moral standards in a society is a joint responsibility of both males and females.  In both cases they are required to follow the path of God and it is not males making laws for females or vise versa.  Both males and females in a truly Islamic society follow the commands and directions that God has revealed for the benefit of all concerned.  We said that there may be some differences in terms of the extent or nature of the requirement of the Islamic dress for males and females.  This doesn’t mean that one follows the rules and the other doesn’t.  The basics of dress for each gender fall into five categories of required, commendable, permissible, detestable and forbidden.  In each of these categories there are rules that apply to men and women alike and others that are specifically to males and others to females.

 

Most of our discussion focused on the first category of acts.  We said that both Muslim males and female the basic requirement is to cover the awrah which means the part of the body that should be covered in the presence people from the other sex with the exception of certain categories.  The definition of the awrah for males is from the navel to the knee (with some differences of opinion about whether the thigh should be covered). For female the whole body is awrah except for the face and hands provided that the cloth is not transparent and not tight so as not to show the skin and the shape of the body which can arouse temptation.  We indicated that this dress code is not to be followed at all times.  In the privacy of ones home or in the presence ones spouse there are no restrictions.  There are also certain categories of close relatives before whom a Muslim woman doesn’t have to observe the complete code which covers the entire body.  An example of these would be ones father, son, brother, nephew, uncle and stepfather because these are people who a person would not look at in a sexual sense.  Also the people in these categories a person can never marry.  The woman can show her hair, arms and legs in front of these people.

 

6.18   Dress Code Continued

 

Host:  Is the wearing of the veil a religious requirement?

Jamal Badawi:

There is no evidence in terms of the original sources of Islam, Quran and Hadith, that shows that covering the face is a mandatory requirement for all Muslims, but in fact we find evidence to the contrary.  There is a very famous saying of the Prophet known as Hadith Asma’a, and is about when Asma’a sister of Aisha (the wife of the prophet) entered the house of the Prophet and had clothing on that was not properly concealing and when the Prophet entered and saw her he was angry and turned his face and said “Asma’a when a woman reaches maturity it is not appropriate for her that anything of her body show except for this and that” and he pointed to his face and hands.  This Hadith is narrated in Abu Dawood Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made a clear acceptation of the face and hands.  The other evidence which is even clearer is that all Muslim jurists agree that a woman can have valid prayers without covering her face.  It is however a requirement that when a person goes to prayer that his or her awrah must be covered or else the prayers would be invalid.  Thus, if a woman’s prayers (an act of worship) are accepted when her face and hands are not covered then how come it is forbidden for her to uncover them in public?  If for the Pilgrimage, one of the basic Pillars of Islam neither male nor female are allowed to cover their face.  If covering the face is a requirement how could it be non-applicable in the matter of worship which is even more worthy of observance.  In addition to this there are numerous sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) indirectly show that covering the face was not a requirement or universal practice of Muslim women.  For example in some sayings it says that the Prophet (PBUH) was saying such and such and a girl looked this asked a question.  Some narrators describe the color of the woman or girl’s completion and if they covered it then how could the narrators know what it was.  Most of these sayings are found in some of the most authentic sayings of the Prophet like Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Nassai, Abu Dawood and Al Bihaqi.  In the Quran it says tell the believing men and tell the believing women to lower their gaze it assumes that there is something to look at.

 

In fact a good reference for further discussion of this is found in a nice book by Muhammad Nasir Al Deen Al Albani in Arabic.  The title of the book is translated to Muslim Woman’s Dress According to Quran and Sunnah.

 

Host:  There are Muslim women who do wear the veil is this wrong or too strict on their part?

Jamal Badawi:

Covering the face can not fall in the categories of forbidden, detestable or mandatory because it is permissible.  In some cases it could even be commendable in the case where there is lots of corruption and the woman feels that this would be better protection for herself or society.  Some jurists say that it might even be more than recommended in the case of clear corruption.  The only case where the covering of the face is forbidden is in the Pilgrimage.  In fact I have seen women in North America who drive their cars and go everywhere with a veil.  One can not blame them for this but actually they could be commended for their self imposed reservations.

 

I should add that one should not over emphasis this with Muslim women who are trying to practice Islam.  A woman who did not practice Islam fully and used to wear normal everyday cloths and tries to practice more should be commended for her courage in covering and meeting the minimum requirement of covering everything except the face and hands.

 

Host:  What are some more commendable points related to dress?

Jamal Badawi:

It is commendable for both males and females to observe cleanliness, tidiness and modesty both in body and dress.  For the male it is commendable to wear some kind of head cover particularly the turban.  For women it is commendable to wear a cloak or over garment.  By definition commendable acts means things that are not required but rather praise worthy type of acts.

 

To start with cleanliness is a highly commendable act that is emphasized in the Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  For example in the Quran (9:108) “Allah loveth those who make themselves pure.”  In (2:222) it says that “Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”  Cleanliness in Islam carries several meanings which include moral purity, spiritual purity as well as physical purity and purity of clothes.  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that cleanliness is half of the faith.

 

The second item is tidiness.  The dress code in Islam does not imply that one should have a clumsy type of appearance.  A narration by Abu Dawood says that the Prophet (PBUH) said “Whoever has hair let them honor it (by tidying it).”  In another occasion it is said that a man went to meet the Prophet (PBUH) and his hair and beard were fuzzy and un-managed and the Prophet told him to go tidy himself up.  The man tidied himself up and cam back and the Prophet praised him and said “Isn’t that better for you than if one of you comes with his hair and beard fuzzy as if he is Satan.”

 

Thus the Prophet emphasized neatness alongside of modesty and covering.  In several collections of Hadith like Tirmithi, Ahmad and Nasa’ai Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said “Allah loves to see the effect of his blessing on his servant.”  If God gave one the means to have nice neat clothes one should use it and not be overly strict with ones self as long as they observe the minimum requirements.

 

Modesty is also important for both males and females.  One should cover/dress in a way that it does not stimulate physical or sexual feelings.  For example we mentioned earlier that the minimum requirement for a man to cover himself from navel to knee but this doesn’t mean that a man should just go exposing his chest.

 

A commendable act for males is the use of a turban and this can take a variety of forms.  The Prophet said that when men cover their head they have the appearance of angels.  Hair covering for females is mandatory in front of people from the other sex that are not close relatives.  The cloak is recommended for females which can take the form of an overcoat or a wide piece of cloth that is designed to cover the body and is worn over the regular clothes.  Again this is not required because there is none incident when Um Salamah the wife of the Prophet asked him can a woman pray in her regular clothes and he said yes as long as her clothes are long enough as to conceal her body.  Some women find the cloak convenient because they can wear anything underneath it.

 

Host:  What about categories of permissible and detestable?

Jamal Badawi:

In principle the permissible things in ones dress include all other things that are not classified as required, commendable, detestable or forbidden.  The basic rule in Islamic law is that if any act is not classified in the other four categories then it is permissible.  One does not need special text that says one can do this.  This includes colors (there is no restriction on colors so long as it is not flashy or attracts much attention) and designs.  Some people think that one must wear colors or designs that are limited to a specific country or culture which is not true.  For example the Prophet recommended a garment/dress (goes down to the knees or heels) that is worn by the male with pants underneath.  Any clothing design, for males or females that meets the basic requirement of Islamic dress is permissible.

 

The detestable acts include vanity and imitation.  Vanity in fact can be detestable or forbidden depending on the degree.  If someone is dressed for the purpose of showing off in an overly flashy way and effects ones pride it could be in the category of forbidden.

 

Imitation can either be detestable or forbidden.  If a person imitates non believers in their dress for the purpose of loosing his or her identity it is not acceptable.  If it is a matter of good design or material that doesn’t contradict Islamic requirements then it is fine.

 

Host:  Could you develop the category of the forbidden?

 

Jamal Badawi:

The most conclusive forbidden act is the imitation of other sexes.  According to the narration of Ibn Abas cursed those men who behave, act or dress like women and women who behave, act or dress like men.  This is a kind of rebellion against the pure nature that God created.  Another forbidden aspect of imitation that I mentioned before is to imitate people in their dress which contradict Islamic rules or for the purpose of expressing week identity.

 

Vanity could also be forbidden if it reflects pride on the part of the individual.  For example, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) if a person wears clothes of fame for the purpose of pride in this life God will clothe him in humiliation on the Day of Judgment.  In another saying he says that a person who has a long dress (for highness) is absolutely erroneous because it reflects pride and vanity and a person should be humble while also being neat and clean.  This doesn’t mean that a person has to shorten their dress.  Abu Bakr the companion of the Prophet once asked do I have to shorten my dress and the Prophet said no you are not doing that for the purpose of vanity.

 

In addition there is a restriction that applies only to males but not to females.  A Muslim male is forbidden from wearing gold or silk.  In both Bukhari and Muslim the Prophet says that whoever (males) wears silk in this life will not wear it in the hereafter.  In another saying he said gold and silk are permissible to the female of my Ummah (followers) and not for its males which is narrated in Tirmithi and Nassa’ai.  The exception would be in the case of having to use silk in the case of skin disease or medical purposes.