Women's dress code as in the Glorious Quran

The Quran defines the dress code for both men and women. But as it ought to be, dress code for women is more detailed because a woman's body is made as such that it attracts greater attention with improper intent. This factor can neither be denied nor overlooked.

Therefore both men and women are commanded by Allah (or commanded by Allah through the Prophet Muhammad (SAAW)) in the Quran to adhere to modesty by not gazing or staring at people around them and by covering their bodies with decency.

Personally, I would interpret 'modesty' for men as not showing the body above their thighs, and concealing their lower chest and backs. For women it would mean adhering to modesty similarly as mentioned for men, plus, not exposing their bare arms, covering the entire chest below the neck (some may consider it necessary to conceal the neck as well), covering the entire back, thighs and legs upto the center of the calves or some may want to cover the legs in full.

Women must either wear the loose outer garment over their regular clothes (jilbab), or as in Western countries many Muslim women wear trousers, skirts, blouses, shirts or tops without the jilbab .. they need to make sure that these garments are loose so that they don't reveal the contours of the body, and of course, the garments must not be made see-through materials.

Individuals can have minor differences regarding the above interpretations, but in general regarding all vital issues of modesty, the above dress code and etiquettes must be adhered to by believing men and women as per the commandments of Allah.

Also, women in particular, are expected to take care not to attract unnecessary attention through their mannerisms e.g. walking noisily by purposely stamping their feet (refer Verse 24:31). Often such attention maybe be harmless. But sometimes it can attract the attention of people harboring offensive intentions. The purpose of this commandment is to stay safe and not take any chances of making mistakes by getting involved with the wrong persons.

Check the following verses for references.

"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is Aware {Al-Khabir} of what they do." (24:30)

"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 ...... 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 you may succeed." (24:31)

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

Finally, we come to the issue of the veil (head covering) or hijab and face covering or nikab for women. This too can be discussed by taking into consideration the above verses. Even many of those people who have read the Quran often say that the Quran does not mention anything about the hijab or nikab. Many Muslims and non-Muslims claim that the Quran does not require women to wear veils. But this claim is debatable if we read the above verses of the Noble Quran carefully.

Allah Almighty says " ..... to draw their veils over their bosoms" It's important to analyse this.

There's a difference between the modern hijab and the one worn in the medieval times. If we try to understand the dress code of women as existed hundreds of years ago (and perhaps even now in certain parts of the world), we will observe that the veil or 'hijab' or khimar mean the same. A piece of the veil (or khimar in Arabic) would be attached to the larger headcover, folded and placed over the head, and it could be unfolded and pulled down across the face and over the bosom whenever desired. Thus, the veil or khimar would serve the purpose of a head cover (hijab), a face cover (nikab) and also a covering over the bosom. For a better understanding of this issue, check this picture of a village woman in Beersheba, Palestine. This is the closest illustration we can get of the kind of khimar worn in olden days. You can see the face covering attached with the headcover pulled down, coming over the face and bosom, though she's put it on her face so as to cover only a portion of her face. That's because the face cover is attached to the headcover only at a single point .. as can be seen. If it was attached to the headcover or khimar more firmly from one end to the other, it would cover the face and bosom fully when pulled down. This covering can also be folded and placed back over the khimar or hijab or headcover, whatever we choose to call it, in order to remove it from the face and thus only keep the headcover covering the hair.

By the way, it must be understood that veil (or hijab) has nothing to do with any strict seclusion of women as some non-Muslims misinterpret in connection with the hijab and nikab on the basis of certain incorrect practices by hardliners and cultures borrowed from ancient / orthodox Christian and Jewish ideologies of their clerics.

As mentioned, many Muslim and non-Muslim analysts strongly deny that the Quran requires women to wear head coverings nor face coverings. Political factors are also a motive behind such squabblings. Muslim traditionalists strongly assert that the Quran does require the same. The truth is, YES, the Quran does command women to cover their heads and bosom, and in certain circumstances also to cover their faces. The verses above are clear evidences of this fact. The social setup in Arabia and many parts of the world necessiated this dress code. Even today in many parts of the world it's necessary. However, concerning those Muslims living in the West who may consider wearing modest, loose and unrevealing clothing to be enough to make them look and feel modest and unconspicuous, that too would be acceptable from the Quran's rational view point. We must remember that this commandment of the Noble Quran on dress code of women is essential for specific circumstances, and can also be adjusted by staying within the required limits in certain societies as in today's West.

As Musims it's important for us to keep in mind the ideology of modesty as aptly fits into the society we live in, but only to the point it comfortably complies with the Quranic values. Also, it's just as vital as per the dictates of the Glorious Quran to nurture a clean & modest intent and decent behaviour which compliment and support the ideology of the modest dress code, without which, modest clothing might not carry too many blessings for us in the Sight of Allah Almighty.

Thus the Noble Quran says:

"O Children of Adam! We have revealed unto you raiment to conceal your shame, and splendid vesture, but the raiment of restraint from evil, that is best. This is of the revelations of Allah, that they may remember." (7:26) Al-Araaf

Thus, Allah Almighty makes it very plain that though He has informed humankind the importance to conceal their shame and observe modesty by wearing the right kind of clothes, yet what's even more important without which modesty of outer garments won't serve any purpose, is to adhere to proper conduct and avoid the forbidden acts through restraint and self-control.