Evidence from the Qur’aan

muslimah-at-sunset2In the Quran, Allah ('azza wa jall) says:

{O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their Jalaabeeb close around them; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle.} (Surah al-Ahzab, [33]:59)

In this verse there is a clear command for Muslim women to wear a garment which Allah ('azza wa jall) has referred to as "Jalaabeeb", the plural of "Jilbaab". The Jilbaab is an outer-garment, an extra layer, something worn over normal clothing.

Further, in Surah an-Noor, chapter 24, verse 31, Allah ('azza wa jall) commands the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) to say to the believing women,

{And say to the faithful women to lowe r their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their adornment except what is apparent of it, and to extend their head-coverings (khumur) to cover their bosoms, and not to display their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments. And turn in repentance to Allah together, O you the faithful, in order that you are successful.}

This Qur'anic verse lists a number of things that Muslim Sisters are to do:

1) Lower the gaze (from looking at that which is impermissible).

2) Guard the private parts; by, for example, not having sexual relationships outside marriage.

3) Conceal all of the body and its decorations except "what is apparent of it". Some scholars have agreed that the face and the hands are "what is apparent of it"; other scholars say that only the eyes are "what is apparent of it".

4) Wear a Khimaar (head-covering) and extend it to cover the bosom. This means that it covers the hair, the neck, the shoulders, and the upper chest.

5) That the husband, mahram relatives, women, slaves, male servants who do not feel sexual desire, and children are the only people who can see more of the woman than "what is apparent of it".

6) Not stamp the feet, so that what is hidden becomes known to others, such as anklets.

jilbaabis566It can clearly be seen from this analysis that Allah ('azza wa jall) has commanded every believing woman that when non-Mahram men are present, she is to wear the Jilbaab, which is loose and opaque, plus a headscarf (referred to in the Quran as 'Khimaar').

Surah an-Noor, chapter 24, verse 60, provides an exemption for certain women in regard to the Jilbaab. It reads as follows, {And the elderly women, those who do not have hope of marriage, there is no fault on them that they lay aside (some of) their clothing as long as they are not making a display of their adornment. And that they refrain is better for them. And Allah is the Hearer, the Knower.}

For those who who say that the Jilbaab is 'just a tradition' and 'not from Islaam', here is an interesting puzzle. Elderly women who have no hope of getting married again are allowed to, "lay aside (some of) their clothing" - but they are restricted from making a display of their adornment. How can a woman lay aside any part of her clothing without making a display of her body? The answer is: she is laying aside an extra layer. This is the only way to understand this verse.

So what is this "extra layer" that Muslim women are wearing? My dear sister, it is the Jilbaab! Many of our predecessors explained that these verses pertain to the Jilbaab.

Some of them include:

  • Ibn Abbas,
  • Ibn Umar,
  • Mujahid,
  • Sa'id ibn Jubayr,
  • Abu ash-Sha'tha,
  • Ibrahim an-Nakha'i,
  • Al-Hasan,
  • Qatadah,
  • Az-Zuhri, and
  • Al-Awza'i in Imam ibn Kathir's Tafseer (commentary) of Surah an-Noor, verse 60.

May Allah be pleased with them all. Hence, what we learn is:

*The Muslim woman is commanded in Surah an-Noor, verse 31, that whenever she is around non-Mahram men, she must cover with a Jilbaab. This rule is always in force whenever non-mahram men are present, whether she is indoors or outdoors.

*The only exception to the rule regarding the Jilbaab is that of elderly women who do not have hope of marriage. They may leave off the Jilbaab, as long as they continue to wear other clothing that covers them. Although, it is important to note that if an elderly woman has the potential to be a temptation for men, for example she still looks young, then such a woman should be careful and cover, so as to safeguard herself and also not be a cause of temptation for others, as this exception is for women who have aged outwardly.

The Women-Companions and the Jilbaab

When the above verse was revealed, the Sahaabiyaat were eager to obey the command of their Lord, the Most High, without complacency or procrastination.

Umm Salamah, the Mother of the Faithful, said,

“When the verse, "That they should draw their jalaabeeb close around them" was revealed, the women of Ansaar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing Jalaabeeb.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 32, #4090)

Jilbaab_BrownIn fact, some of the Sahaabiyaat remained in their homes and did not go out when they didn’t have a Jilbaab. In Prophetic Narrations (aHaadeeth), we find that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) commanded the Sahaabiyaat to come out for the Eid gathering:

Narrated Umm Atiyya: “We were ordered to bring out our menstruating women and screened women to the religious gatherings and invocation of the Muslims on the two Eid festivals. These menstruating women were to keep away from the musallaa (prayer area). A woman asked,

"O Messenger of Allah! What about one who does not have a Jilbaab?"

He said, "Let her borrow the jilbaab of her companion." (Sahih Bukhari, Book 8, #347)

My Dear Sister, surely if it were allowed for a sister to go outdoors without Jilbaab, why didn't the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam) allow the Sahaabiyaat to leave their homes, in order to join the believers in the celebration of E’id, without their Jilbaabs? But instead, he told them that they must find the garment called "Jilbaab" to wear, even if they had to borrow one from a friend!

The rule is plain: It is disobedience to Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala) and His Noble Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) if a woman goes outdoors without wearing the garment called "Jilbaab".

What does the dictionary say about Jilbaab?

The definitive dictionary of classical Arabic, ‘Lisan al-Arab’ by Ibn al-Mandhur, provides the following definition of Jilbaab,

"The Jilbaab is the outer-garment, mantle, or cloak. It is derived from the word tajalbaba, which means to clothe. Jilbaab is the outer sheet or covering which a woman wraps around her on top of her garments to cover herself from head to toe. It hides her body completely." (Lisan al-Arab, volume 7, page 273)

The dictionary al-Qamus al-Muhit by Abu Tahir al-Fayruzabadi provides the following definition,

"The Jilbaab is that which conceals the clothes like a cover."

The dictionary al-Sihah by Jawhari provides the definition,

"The Jilbaab is the cover and some say it is a sheet. Jilbaab has been mentioned in the Prophetic Narrations with the meaning of sheet, which the woman wrapped over the clothes."

What material should the Jilbaab be made of?

This garment must be made of fabric that is thick and opaque so that it does not show what is beneath it, and it must be loose so that it does not reveal the contours of what is beneath it.

A Statement of Modesty, A Protection

Modesty is always a concern whenever non-Mahram men are present, and for the purposes of modesty a sister must wear a Khimaar and Jilbaab, which has been commanded by Allah ('azza wa jall) in the Qur’aan. It is therefore incorrect to say that Shalwaar Kameez or other conservative outfits with the Hijaab alone, are sufficient for the purposes of modesty.

Rather, when a sister goes outdoors or in public, there may be other concerns beyond modesty. Surah al-Ahzab, verse 59, mentions these concerns in giving the reason for the command of Jilbaab, when it says, "that is better so that they are recognized and not annoyed" . From this we can see that the Jilbaab has two purposes:

1) To make the sister recognizable as a Muslim woman.

2) To protect her from being "annoyed", i.e., harassed, molested and hurt.

In Conclusion:

The Muslim woman, as is clear from the verses of the Qur'aan, must wear the Jilbaab.

She should wear it proudly and with conviction, because it asserts her Islamic identity and is a command from the Lord of the Worlds.