Islamic Dress Code

The fol­low­ing arti­cle pro­vides details of the Islam­ic require­ment of dress for both men and women:

The Muslim Woman’s Dress by Dr. Jamal A. Badawi

This paper is based on Muham­mad Nasirud­din AI-Albani’s Hijab­ul-Marat-il-Mus­limah Fil Kitab Was­sun­nah, 3rd Print­ing, AI-Mak­tab-uI-Isla­mi, Beirut, Lebanon 1389 A.H. (1969).

Oth­er sources checked include “tafsir” of the Quran includ­ing those by Ibn-Kathir, Yusuf Ali, and Sayyid Qutb; author­i­ties in Fiqh includ­ing Sayyid Sabiq’s Fiqh-us-sun­nah and Yusuf AI-Qaradawi’s AI-Halal Wal­haram Fil-Islam, and a ref­er­ence on Hadith from Mishkat-ul-Masabeeh.


To some as a sub­ject the Mus­lim women’s dress may sound triv­ial. The shari’ah, how­ev­er, assigns it moral, social, and legal dimensions.

One basic require­ment to be a true believ­er accord­ing to the Quran is to make one’s opin­ions, feel­ings, and incli­na­tions sub­servient to what­ev­er Allah and his Mes­sen­ger have decided:

It is not befit­ting for a believ­er, man or woman, when a mat­ter has been decid­ed by Allah and His Apos­tle to have any option about their deci­sion: if any one dis­obeys Allah and His Apos­tle, he is indeed on a clear­ly wrong path. 1

Plac­ing, there­fore, one’s per­son­al opin­ions, feel­ings, or incli­na­tions above or at the same lev­el as the com­mand­ments of Allah is the ulti­mate of human pride and van­i­ty. This means, in effect, that a mor­tal is respond­ing to Allah’s guid­ance say­ing: “0 my cre­ator! Your Law is Your Own opin­ion. I have my own opin­ion, and I know best what is good for me.” This atti­tude is befit­ting for unbe­liev­ers and hyp­ocrites, but not for a believ­er no mat­ter how imper­fect (all are!) one may be in imple­ment­ing Islam in one’s life 2. The expo­si­tion of truth in an hon­est and straight for­ward way may thus cause some unease even to good and sin­cere Mus­lims. It may seem safer and diplo­mat­ic to avoid the issue alto­geth­er, or to present it in a dilut­ed and vague way. It is even safer and more ‘diplo­mat­ic’ to explic­it­ly or implic­it­ly con­done each oth­ers’ infrac­tions, to help each oth­er find excus­es and to ratio­nal­ize our dis­obe­di­ence to Allah sub­hanahu wata’ala. This atti­tude is nei­ther new nor it is with­out con­se­quences. As the Quran presents it:

Curs­es were pro­nounced on those among the chil­dren of Israel who reject­ed faith, by the tongue of Dawood (David) and of Esa (Jesus) the son of Mary: because they dis­obeyed and per­sist­ed in excesses.

Nor did they (usu­al­ly) for­bid one anoth­er the iniq­ui­ties which they com­mit­ted: evil indeed were the deeds which they did 3



The dress must cov­er the whole body except for the areas specif­i­cal­ly exempt­ed. The Quran states:

Say to the believ­ing men 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 and guard their mod­esty; 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, their fathers, their hus­bands’ fathers, their sons, their hus­bands’ sons, their broth­ers or their broth­ers’ sons, or their sis­ters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands pos­sess, or male ser­vants free of phys­i­cal needs, or small chil­dren who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw atten­tion to their hid­den orna­ments. And 0 you believ­ers! Turn all toward Allah that you may attain bliss. 4 These ‘ayahs con­tain, among oth­er thing, two main injunctions:

  1. A Mus­lim woman should not dis­play her beau­ty and adorn­ment (zeenah) except for “that which must ordi­nar­i­ly appear of it” 5 (ma dha­hara min­ha), or “that which is appar­ent.” (4) The word zeenah 6 lends itself to two relat­ed mean­ings: a) nat­ur­al or bod­i­ly beau­ty, 7 and, b) acquired adorn­ment such as rings, bracelets, and clothes. The part of zeenah, exempt­ed from the above injunc­tion, was inter­pret­ed in two ways:
    1. The face and the hands. This is the inter­pre­ta­tion of the major­i­ty of the jurists, past and present. 8 This inter­pre­ta­tion is con­firmed by ijma’ (con­sen­sus) that a Mus­lim woman is allowed by Islam to uncov­er her face and hands dur­ing pil­grim­age and even dur­ing the prayers, while the rest of her body is regard­ed as ‘awrah (that which should be cov­ered). 9 This inter­pre­ta­tion is based on the author­i­ty of Prophet Muham­mad (Allah’s bless­ing be upon him), espe­cial­ly the hadith in which he says: If the woman reach­es the age of puber­ty, No (part of her body) should be seen but this – and he point­ed to his face and hands.”
    2. What­ev­er appears of the woman’s body owing to uncon­trol­lable fac­tors such as the blow­ing of the wind, or out of neces­si­ty such as the bracelets or even the out­er clothes them­selves. 10
  1. The head­cov­ers (khu­mur) should be drawn over the neck slits (juy­oob). Khu­mur is the plur­al of the Ara­bic word “khi­mar” which means a head­cov­er. 11 Juy­oob is the plur­al of the Ara­bic word “jaiyb” (a deriv­a­tive of jawb or cut­ting) refers to the neck slit (of the dress). This means that the head­cov­er should be drawn so as to cov­er not only the hair, but it should also be drawn over the neck and to be extend­ed so as to cov­er the bosom.


The dress must be loose enough so as not to describe the shape of a woman’s body. This is con­sis­tent with the intent of the ‘ayahs cit­ed above (24: 30–31) and is sure­ly a cru­cial aspect of hid­ing zeenah. Even mod­er­ate­ly-tight clothes which cov­er the whole body do describe the shape of such attrac­tive parts of the woman’s body as the bust­line, the waist, the but­tocks, the back and the thighs. If these are not part of the nat­ur­al beau­ty or zeenah what else is?

Prophet Muham­mad (PBUH) once received a thick gar­ment as a gift. He gave it to Osamah b. Zayd, who in turn gave it to his wife. When asked by the Prophet why he did not wear it, Osamah indi­cat­ed that he gave it to his wife. The Prophet then said to Osamah “ask her to use a gho­lalah under it (the gar­ment) for I fear that it (the gar­ment) may describe the size of her bones.” 12 The word gho­lalah in Ara­bic means a thick fab­ric worn under the dress to pre­vent it from describ­ing the shape of the body.

A high­ly desir­able way of con­ceal­ing the shape of the body is to wear a cloak over the gar­ment. The Prophet (PBUH), how­ev­er, indi­cat­ed that if the woman’s dress meets the Islam­ic stan­dards it suf­fices (with­out a cloak) even for the valid­i­ty of prayers. 13


The dress should be thick enough so as not to show the col­or of the skin it cov­ers, or the shape of the body which it is sup­posed to hide. The pur­pose of ‘ayah (24:31) is to hide the Mus­lim women’s body except ma dha­hara min­ha (the face and hands). It is obvi­ous that this pur­pose can­not be served if the dress is thin enough so as to reveal the col­or of the skin or the shape or beau­ty of the body. This is elo­quent­ly explained by Prophet Muham­mad (PBUH): “In lat­er (gen­er­a­tions) of my ummah there will be women who will be dressed but naked. On top of their heads (what looks) like camel, humps. Curse them for they are tru­ly cursed.” ln anoth­er ver­sion he added that they “will not enter into par­adise or (even) get a smell of it.” 14

At one occa­sion Asma’ (daugh­ter of Abu-Bakr) was vis­it­ing her sis­ter ‘A’ishah, wife of the Prophet. When he not­ed that Asma’s dress was not thick enough he turned his face away in anger and said, “If the woman reach­es the age of puber­ty, no part of her body should be seen, but this, and he point­ed to his face and his hands.” 15


The dress should not be such that it attracts men’s atten­tion to the woman’s beau­ty. The Quran clear­ly pre­scribes the require­ments of the woman’s dress for the pur­pose of con­ceal­ing zeenah (adorn­ment). How could such zeenah be con­cealed if the dress is designed in a way that it attracts men’s eyes to the woman? This is why the Quran address­ing the Prophet’s wives as the exam­ples for Mus­lim women says:

Bedi­zen not your­selves with the bedi­zen­ment of the Time of Igno­rance… ” 16

Addi­tion­al Require­ments (16)

In addi­tion to the above four main and clear­ly spelled out require­ments, there are oth­er require­ments whose spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tions may vary with time and loca­tion. These include:

  1. The dress should not be sim­i­lar to what is known as a male cos­tume. lbn ‘Abbas nar­rat­ed that “The Prophet (PBUH) cursed the men who act like women and the women who act like men.” 17
  2. It should not be sim­i­lar to what is known as the cos­tume of unbe­liev­ers. This require­ment is derived from the gen­er­al rule of Shari’ah that Mus­lims should have their dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ty and should dif­fer­en­ti­ate their prac­tices and appear­ance from unbe­liev­ers. 18
  3. It should not be a dress of fame, pride and van­i­ty. Such fame may be sought by wear­ing an exces­sive­ly fan­cy dress as a sta­tus sym­bol or an exces­sive­ly ragged dress to gain oth­ers’ admi­ra­tion of one’s self­less­ness. Both motives are improp­er by Islam­ic standards.

The Prophet (PBUH) says:

Who­ev­er wears a dress of fame in this world, Allah will clothe him with a dress of humil­i­a­tion in the day of res­ur­rec­tion, then set it afire.” 19


It should be not­ed that the basic require­ments of the Mus­lim woman’s dress apply as well to the Mus­lim man’s cloth­ing with the dif­fer­ence being main­ly in degree. This can best be under­stood by look­ing into what Islam defines as ‘awrah which refers to the part of the body that should be cov­ered at all times unless there is an expressed excep­tion. The cov­er­ing of ‘awrah is also a con­di­tion for the valid­i­ty of prayers for both men and women.

It has been agreed among jurists on the basis of the Quran and Sun­nah that ‘awrah for the woman is defined as the whole body except for the face and hands. For the man, the ‘awrah is defined as the area between the navel and the knees. 20

With­in the def­i­n­i­tion of ‘awrah for men and women, all the four basic require­ments dis­cussed in this paper are essen­tial­ly the same:

  1. Man should ful­ly cov­er his ‘awrah.
  2. Men’s clothes should be loose enough so as not to describe what he is cov­er­ing (his ‘awrah).
  3. They should be thick enough so as not to describe the col­or of the skin or the parts required to be covered.
  4. They should not be designed in a way to attract atten­tion. The basic rule of mod­esty and avoid­ing “showoff” applies to all believ­ers men and women.
    The three oth­er addi­tion­al require­ment dis­cussed under the Mus­lim woman’s code of dress apply to men’s clothes as well:
    1. They should not be sim­i­lar to what is knows as the female dress.
    2. They should not be sim­i­lar to what could be iden­ti­fied as the dress of unbelievers.
    3. They should not be clothes of fame, pride, and vanity.

In addi­tion to the above lim­i­ta­tions on the Mus­lim man’s clothes, men are not allowed to wear silk and gold. This does not apply to women.


There are sure­ly many oth­er issues per­tain­ing to the sub­jects that are not cov­ered in this paper. Its main focus is on the doc­u­ment­ed injunc­tions of Allah (sub­hanahu wat’ala) as derived from His word (the Quran) and as explained by the cho­sen Mes­sen­ger, Muham­mad (peace be upon him). These injunc­tions are to be com­plied with by all Mus­lim men and women; and in case of trans­gres­sion, they will be held account­able in the here­after. Tru­ly hus­bands, fathers, and moth­ers do have an oblig­a­tion to remind, exhort and help each oth­er achieve the plea­sure of Allah and to avoid His wrath. In the final analy­sis, how­ev­er, it is not coer­cion or force which is like­ly to bring about obe­di­ence to Allah. It is but, the love of Allah, the accep­tance of His guid­ance as the supreme Truth even if con­trary to one’s per­son­al opin­ions, that will bring about the change.


AI-Quran, Trans­la­tion of mean­ings by A. Yusuf Al and M.M. Pickthall.
AI-Hadith, as cited.
Al ‑Albani, Muham­mad N. Hil­ab­ul Mar’at-il-Muslimah Fil-Kitab
Was­sunah, 3rd Print­ing, AI-Mak­tab-uI-Isla­mi, Beirut, Lebanon,1389 A.H. (1969).
AI-Qaradawi, Yusuf, Al-Halal Wal­haram FiI-Islam, Mak­ta­bat Wahbah,Cairo, 1396 A.H. (1976).
Sabiq, Sayyid, Fiqhus-Sun­nah, 2nd Print­ing, Darul-Kitab-il-Ara­bi, Beirut, Lebanon, 1392 A.H. (1973).

For Mus­lim men and women, for believ­ing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and con­stant, for men and women who hum­ble them­selves, for men and women who give in char­i­ty, for men and women who fast (and deny them­selves), for men and women who guard their chasti­ty and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise for them has Allah pre­pared for­give­ness and great reward.

Quran, AI-Ahz­ab 33:35


  1. Surat-ul-Ahz­ab (33) 36
  2. A dis­tinc­tion should be made between, a) the accep­tance of Allah’s word as true and supreme in itself while not suc­ceed­ing to imple­ment it ful­ly in one’s life hop­ing and try­ing to reach that goal, and b) regard­ing one’s own opin­ions or oth­er social val­ues and pres­sures as more valid than Allah’s injunc­tions and try­ing to find var­i­ous excus­es to lus­ti­fy one’s break­ing of the law of Allah. It is the lat­ter atti­tude which is not only blame­wor­thy but akin to unbelief.
  3. Surat-ul-Maid­ah (5) 81 –82.
  4. Surat-un-Nur (24) 30–31
  5. Yusuf Ali, op. cit. p.904., (4) M.M. Pick­thall, The Mean­ing of the Glo­ri­ous Koran, p 25. 
  6. Accord­ing toLisan-ul-’Arab (Dic­tio­nary of Ara­bic lan­guage), the term zeenah includes “all that which beau­ti­fies,” quot­ed in (Mrs.) Ne’mat Sidqy. At- Tabar­ruj, 17th Print­ing. Dar-ul‑l’tisam, Egypt, 1975 pp.20–21.
  7. The term zeenah is used in the Quran to refer to chil­dren, wealth, and nat­ur­al beau­ty in Allah’s cre­ation. See exam­ple Quran 17:47, 16:8, 37:6 and 3:14.
  8. This is the inter­pre­ta­tion of Malik, Ash-Shafi’i, Abu Han­i­fa and a ver­sion of Ahmad b. Han­bal. See AI-Albani op. cit., pp.41.42.
  9. Al-Albani pro­vides ample evi­dence that the cov­er­ing of the face and hands is not required. Suf­fice it to say that the woman is allowed to uncov­er her face and hands dur­ing such spir­i­tu­al acts as the prayers and pil­grim­age. See pp.25–46.
  10. One weak­ness with this more strin­gent inter­pre­ta­tion is that “uncon­trol­lable” fac­tors are auto­mat­i­cal­ly for­giv­en with­out any need for spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The fact that Quran 24.31 exempts from all “zeenah” that which is regard­ed as “ma dha­hara min­ha” is itself an indi­ca­tion of a con­ces­sion. This con­ces­sion is con­firmed by the Hadith (relat­ed to Asma’ as will be seen in the dis­cus­sion of the third require­ment. See AI-Albani, Ibid., pp.25–46.
  11. Accord­ing to Al-AIbani., this mean­ing of “khir­mar” was explained in such author­i­ties as lbn-ul-Atheer’s An-Nihayah and Tafseer-uI-Hafi­zlbn-Kathir and oth­ers. Al Albani reports that he knows of no dif­fer­ence on this point. See AI-Albani, Ibid, pp.33–34.
  12. This Hadith appears in Mus­nad Ahmad, also in AI-Bay­haqi, and is con­firmed in oth­er sources of Hadith such as Sunan Abi-Dawood. See AI-Albani, IbId, p.59–63.
  13. See Sayyid Sabiq’s Fiqh-us-Sun­nah, Dar-ul-Kitab-il-’Arabi, Beirut, Lebanon, 1969, vol.1. p.127.
  14. At-Tabarani and Sahih Mus­lim. See al-Albani, op. cit., p.56.
  15. At anoth­er occa­sion when the Prophet (PBUH) saw a bride in a thin dress he said, “she is not a woman who believes in Surat-un-Noor who wears this. “Surat-un-Noor is the Surah where the main require­ments of the Mus­lim woman’s dress are out­lined. Still on anoth­er occa­sion some women from the tribe of Bani Tameem came to vis­it ‘A’ishah in thin clothes. Upon see­ing them, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “If you are believ­ers, then these are not believ­ers’ cloth­ing.” See Yusuf AI-Qaradawi, op. cit, p.180.
  16. The term used in the Quran is tabar­ruj which means dis­play­ing of beau­ty. Anoth­er deriv­a­tive of tabar­ruj is burooj which is used in the Qur’an (e g 4:77, 15:16. 25:61, 85:1). Burooj means tow­ers because of their clear vis­i­bil­i­ty. Clear “Vis­i­bil­i­ty” of the woman may result from the type of dress, the way she walks, or the way she behaves. (16) Accord­ing to AI-Albani, a fur­ther require­ment is that the dress should not be per­fumed. In fact, this require­ment extends beyond dress. There are sev­er­al ahadeeth which make it clear­ly for­bid­den for a Mus­lim woman to wear per­fumes when she goes out of her home even if she is going to the mosque. See AI-Albani. Op. Cit., pp. 64–66
  17. Al-Bukhari, Abu-Dawood, Ahmad, Ad-dari­mi. For this and oth­er ahadeeth on the same sub­ject see AI-Albani, Ibid, pp.66–69
  18. For an excel­lent dis­cus­sion of this prin­ci­ple on the basis of Quran and Sun­nah, see Al-Albani, Ibid, pp.78–109.
  19. For this and oth­er ver­sions of the hadeeth see AI-Albani, Ibid. pp. 110–111
  20. Dif­fer­ence exists, how­ev­er, among jurists whether the knees and the thighs should be includ­ed in the def­i­n­i­tion of the man’s ‘awrah. For a good dis­cus­sion on the evi­dence relat­ed to both views, see Sayyid Sabiq’s Fiqh-us-Sun­nah, op. cit, vot. 1, pp.125–127