Muslim woman must be wise and prudent in safeguarding her dignity and honour. Times are swiftly changing and a clever woman is she who protects herself and realises her high worth and dignity as a believer, even if she trusts the same men that the Shar’iah (chronicles of Islamic Law) has outlined as potential threats to her chastity and hereafter.

Today, when dressing immodestly has become the social norm and to speak out against it may adjudge you to be a social outcast, you – the Muslim woman – must stand strong against such vicious tides. You must remember that this realm is just a realm of test, a few days that are swiftly running out as every hour passes us. Dear Sister, declare war against such a progression, a “progression” which goes against the way of some of the best women this world has ever witnessed, the female Companions of the Noble Messenger (peace be upon him). The Qur’aan clearly mentions how Tabarruj (the analytical study of which is to follow shortly) is a thing of the past, an outdated, backward, ignorant and sub-human act!

{And do not tabbarrajna [display] yourselves like that of the times of ignorance…}[i]

Something that is an outdated act is now cloaked with the colour of modernism and progression. Yet, Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) have clearly spoken out against Tabarruj and this is what we are now going to look into.


‘Lisaan al Arab’ is an excellent Arabic dictionary by Ibn Mundhur, used by scholars and laymen alike. In it one can find different meanings for the various derivates of root letters. It’s absolutely amazing to read, for it opens one’s mind up to how amazing the Arabic language you want to have a taste of it?

Well, let’s dive into the meaning of Tabarruj. Allah Willing, once you read it you’ll realise what it means to not do Tabarruj, in front of non-Mahrams generally and more specifically in front of the Hamuw (the brother-in-law), the one whom the Prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) referred to as ‘death’ for the Muslim woman.

The term ‘tabarruj’ carries two basic meanings:

1. To display, show, make apparent, raised

  • Distance between eyebrows: This is why the distance between the eyebrows is called ‘al-Baraj’, because it is so apparent to all those who look towards the face of an individual.
  • Wide Eyes: The whiteness of which is very white and the blackness of which is very black. Such eyes can’t be missed and stand out from all other features in one’s face.
  • A Specific Genus of Stars: That’s why a specific genus of stars is referred to as ‘Burooj’, because it is 1) raised, 2) apparent for onlookers. This term is mentioned in the Qur’aan: {By the heaven, dhaatil burooj [holding the big stars]} [Al Burooj [85]:1]
  • High Buildings: ‘Barj’, the plural of which is ‘Burooj’ and ‘Abraaj’, means tower/ castle. This is because such high buildings can’t be missed, as they tower above the rest. As mentioned in the Qur’aan: {Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in buroojin mushayyidah (fortresses built up strong and high)} [An-Nisaa’ [4]:78]

THAT’s why ‘a woman’s playing up her charms’ (refer to Hans Wehr) comes under this meaning. Because she makes an outward and apparent show of her beauty, intentionally wanting others to look her way.

2. To adorn herself, make herself pretty

Ibn Mundhur writes in ‘Lisaan al Arab’ regarding the term ‘at-Tabarruj’:

‘The woman making her Zeenah and Mahaasin apparent to men.’  And: ‘To make apparent the Zeenah to strangers (li an-naas al-ajaanib), and that is blameworthy. But (if it’s done) for the husband then no (it’s not blameworthy).’

Ibn Mundhur quotes Abu Ishaaq, with regards to this verse, that:

‘making apparent the Zeenah and to Istadaa.’

In the above definitions three very important terms were used:

  1. Zeenah: embellishment, adornment, ornament, decoration.
  2. Mahaasin: (pl. of mahsanah) beauties, charms, attractions.
  3. Istadaa: to call, invoke, urge, incite, appeal, necessitate, make necessary or a requisite.

Having read this deep analysis of the term Tabarruj, I now want you to read the following verse again, but this time with deep thought and contemplation,

“And do not tabbarrajna [display] yourselves like that of the times of ignorance…”[ii]

Now, if you have a brother-in-law specifically and if you live or come in contact with any non-mahram generally, I want you to recall and ask yourself honestly whether you have ever partaken in the act of ‘Tabarruj’. If so, dear Sister, it is not too late to repent and mend your ways. But time is running out as death and the Day of Judgement are swiftly catching up with man. The narrations pertaining to the punishment for Tabarruj are severe indeed and we can’t afford to gain Allah’s (the Glorious and Mighty) Anger or Wrath, may Allah forgive us.

‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood reported that the Prophet (sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam) used to dislike ten kinds of behaviour and he (‘Abdullah) mentioned that one of them was:

“Tabarruj by means of displaying beautification in an improper place.”[iii]

When the Companion Mu’aawiyyah (may Allah be pleased with him) gave a sermon in Hums (Syria), he mentioned that the Prophet (sallallahu a’lyhi wa sallam) prohibited seven things, one of which was Tabarruj.[iv]

jilbabwalk Umaymah, the daughter of Ruqayyah, came to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) to acknowledge the message of Islaam and that Muhammad (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) is the Messenger of Allah (‘azza wa jall). The Prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) said to her: “I give you my acknowledgement that you must not set partners to worship besides Allah and…that you don’t commit any falsehood by your hands and between your legs… and that you don’t make Tabarruj like that of the time of ignorance.”[v]

The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) said: “… The most evil of your women are the Mutabarrijaat (those who do Tabarruj), the Mutakhayalaat (those who strut/swagger), and they are the hypocritical ones. Those who enter the Jannah (in number) are like the Cough Crow.”[vi] The Cough Crow has a red beak and red legs. This is an expression of metonymy indicating that few from the likes of these women enter heaven because this kind of crow is rare.

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) said, “Of the people of hell there are two types whom I have never seen: The one possessing whips like the tail of an ox and they flog people with them. The second one, women who would be naked in spite of their being dressed, who are seduced [to wrong paths] and seduce others with their hair high like humps. These women would not get into the Paradise and they would not perceive its odour, although its fragrance can be perceived from such and such distance.”[vii]

The Prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) said, “There shall be, in the latter part of my nation, women who are dressed but [in fact] naked, on their heads are humps like those of Bukht [a specific kind of camel], curse them for they are surely cursed.” [Al-Mu’jam as-Sagheer by Imaam at-Tabarani p.232] The scholars say that the Prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam), in this hadeeth, is referring to women who wear tight clothes that shows off the shape of the body. In reality they are naked although they have clothes on them!

The Prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) also said: “The parable of a woman who moves with slow sweeping motion, trailing her beautified clothes, performing not for her husband, is like darkness on the day of Judgement; she has (or comes with) no light.” [At-Tirmidhi: the hadeeth is weak but the meaning is correct]

The Prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) said, “Any woman who takes off her clothes in other than her husband’s home (for an unlawful purpose), has broken the shield between her and Allah.” [Musnad Imaam Ahmad and in the Mustadrak of Imaam al-Haakim]

The scholars explain that what the Prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) is referring to is any woman who shows off her beauty to strangers by taking off her shield of clothes. She ‘has broken this shield between her and Allah’ because Allah says:

{O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness - that is the best.} [Al–A’raaf [7]:26]

Therefore, if a woman does not fear Allah (‘azza wa jall) and uncovers that which Allah has commanded her to cover, then she is breaking the shield between her and Allah, the Most High. Also, by uncovering and dishonouring herself she is in fact cheating and committing a treason with her husband, for marriage is a contract to be faithful to one another and one of the ways a Muslim woman is faithful to her husband is by means of safeguarding her beauty and ornaments for his eyes alone.

Allah refers to the commitment made to the institution of marriage as a meethaaqan ghaleedhaa (a solemn contract), a term otherwise used only in relation to the covenant between Allah and the Prophets [see Q 33:7].

Whether or not we are supported by our husbands, and whether or not they themselves understand the gravity of this solemn contract, we must comply, for our standing and questioning will be in front of our Lord alone. In our graves there will be no other, and when death approaches us, such difficulties will seem trivial and the relief will be, Allah Willing, magnanimous.

Dear Sister, a storm always settles down sooner or later. It may seem hard to begin covering properly and according to the Shar’iah (Islamic law) but soon Allah will turn hardship into ease.

{So verily, with the hardship, there is relief.

Verily, with the hardship, there is relief

(i.e. there is one hardship with two reliefs, so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs).}

(Surah 94, Verses 5-6)

[i] Surah al Ahzaab [33]:33
[ii] Surah al Ahzaab [33]:33
[iii] An-Nisaaee 8/141
[iv] Musnad Imaam Ahmad 4/101
[v] Musnad Imaam Ahmad 2/196
[vi] Al Bayaqi
[vii] Saheeh Muslim