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Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their
outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better
in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not annoyed..." [Noble
The word "Hijab" comes from the Arabic word "hajaba" meaning to hide from view or conceal. In the present time, the context of Hijab is the modest covering of a Muslim woman. The question now is what is the extent of the covering? The Quran says:
"Say to the believing man that
they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for
greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard
their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments
except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils
over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands..."
[Noble Quran 24:30-31]
These verses from the Quran contain two main injunctions:
A woman should not show her beauty or adornments except what appears by uncontrolled factors such as the wind blowing her clothes, and the head covers should be drawn so as to cover the hair, the neck and the bosom.
Islam has no fixed standard as to the style of dress or type of clothing that Muslims must wear. However, some requirements must be met. The first of these requirements is the parts of the body which must be covered. Islam has two sources for guidance and rulings: first, the Quran, the revealed word of Allah and secondly, the Hadith or the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who was chosen by Allah to be the role model for mankind. The following is a Tradition of the Prophet:
"Ayshah reported that Asma' the daughter of Abu Bakr came to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: 'O Asma'! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not properthat anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to theface and hands." [Abu Dawud]
The second requirement is looseness. The clothing must be loose enough so as not to describe the shape of the woman's body. One desirable way to hide the shape of the body is to wear a cloak over other clothes. However, if the clothing is loose enough, an outer garment is not necessary. Thickness is the third requirement. The clothing must be thick enough so as not to show the color of the skin it covers or the shape of the body. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stated that in later generations of his Ummah there would be
"women who would be dressed but naked and on top of their heads (what looks like) camel humps. Curse them for they are truly cursed." [Muslim]
Another requirement is an over-all dignified appearance. The clothing should not attract men's attention to the woman. It should not be shiny and flashy so that everyone notices the dress and the woman. In addition there are other requirements:
Women must not dress so as to appear as men.
"Ibn Abbas narrated: 'The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) cursed the men who appear like women and the women who appear like men.'" [Bukhari]
Women should not dress in a way similar to the unbelievers.
The clothing should be modest, not excessively fancy and also not excessively ragged to gain others admiration or sympathy.
Often forgotten is the fact that modern Western dress is a new invention. Looking at the clothing of women as recently as seventy years ago, we see clothing similar to Hijab. These active and hard-working women of the West were not inhibited by their clothing which consisted of long, full dresses and various types of head covering. Muslim women who wear Hijab do not find it impractical or interfering with their activities in all levels and walks of life. Hijab is not merely a covering dress but more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. Dress is only one facet of the total being. The basic requirement of the Muslim woman's dress apply to the Muslim man's clothing with the difference being mainly in degree. Modesty requires that the area between the navel and the knee be covered in front of all people except the wife. The clothing of men should not be like the dress of women, nor should it be tight or provocative. A Muslim should dress to show his identity as a Muslim. Men are not allowed to wear gold or silk. However, both are allowed for women.
For both men and women, clothing requirements are not meant to be a restriction but rather a way in which society will function in a proper, Islamic manner.