How Should Muslim Women Dress in the West?

27 January, 2019
Q Can you give Muslim sisters in non-muslim countries some guidelines when it comes to hijab? Wearing our black abaya can be very catchy, which defeats the purpose of hijab, and many of us are having to restrict our activities so we don't put ourselves in physical danger, especially these days with what's happening politically and with Islamophobia. So what are some guidelines?

Answer

Short Answer: Anything that fulfills your covering what must be covered in a modest and dignified manner fulfills the divine command. There’s not one mode of dress and there’s not one particular type or style of clothing that is required in order to do so. So, there’s no particular color; there is no inherent merit in wearing black or in wearing, you know, a single color, etc.

 

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Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani from SeekersHub addresses this question in the video below:

Transcript:

Can you give Muslim sisters in non-Muslim countries some guidelines when it comes to hijab? Wearing our black abaya can be very catchy, which defeats the purpose of hijab, and many of us are having to restrict our activities so we don’t put ourselves in physical danger, especially these days with what’s happening politically and with Islamophobia. So what are some guidelines?

Sh. Faraz Rabbani:  So the question: what about hijab and dress guidelines? There is no specific religious obligation to wear a black abaya. The command for both men and women is that one cover what is considered one’s awra—which is to cover what must be covered, for a man, for a woman—and that one do so in a manner that is modest and dignified.

So, anything that fulfills your covering what must be covered in a modest and dignified manner fulfills the divine command. There’s not one mode of dress and there’s not one particular type or style of clothing that is required in order to do so. So, there’s no particular color; there is no inherent merit in wearing black or in wearing, you know, a single color, etc.

However—and we have a number of answers related to this—what must be covered, you know for man is from navel to knee and for a woman—meaning in front of strangers—is everything besides the face, hands–and in the Hanafi school, the feet–for women.

Anything that covers in a modest and dignified way would be basically sufficient. So, that gives a lot of leeway in how that command is fulfilled.

And if one looks for example and inspiration across the Muslim world, the different types of dress that traditionally was considered modest and dignified that fulfilled that was very variegated. And even in terms of colors.

You know, I was reading some North African scholars actually quite critical. There is no religious expectation nor merit in a Muslim woman in Tunisia for example or Libya dressing like a woman in Saudi. The molds by which the command is fulfilled are many.

They say also, practically, that if you think you’re a doormat, people will walk all over you. One, religiously, needs to be steadfast on what one knows to be the command of Allah, subhanahu wa’ta’ala. One fulfills that command in a sensitive manner, in a manner that takes into place the society and related considerations.

But, when it comes to the divine command, one should be aware. Okay, these are the limits and these are the underlying values that one is striving to uphold and one upholds them. And one should have the confidence to be able to do so.

And part of what gives one the strength to be able to do so is, you know, the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salaam,  has said “Aleikum bill jamaa3”—“Be in community”, “Wa ‘iyyakum wa’al farqa”—“And beware of being alone, for the Shaitaan is close to the one alone, is more distant from two. Whoever seeks the vast expanses of Paradise, let them be with the community.”

One tries to practice one’s religion and particular things that one may find challenging just out there in the weeds on one’s own, it’s easy to feel very overwhelmed by it.

But if one practices one’s religion in the context of community of others with common concern, with common commitment, who also believe in upholding that guidance and those values, then that gives one the strength and commitment to do so.

As a believer we should also be aware of the society that we’re in and the rights that it accords us, and as an individual in the community, one should stand up for those rights, not just for oneself but also actively stand up for the rights of others to practice their freedom of religion and freedom of religious practice, etc. So that’s something we have to be very careful that be guarded.

And the other aspect that the ‘Ulama mention regarding dress and conduct is that modesty in dress does not entail sternness in conduct. They say that if you have good character, you can get away with pretty much anything; that if you’re a nice person, people really ultimately wouldn’t care how you behave.

I have a friend who was a very successful IT professional. He used to go to work in shalwar kameez and a big messy turban. I said, “How do you pull that off?”  He said, “I’m just good at what I do and I try to be a nice guy about it.”

If you are really good at what you do and you’re really nice to those around you, do whatever you want!

And those are two things in terms of our conduct. Whatever we do, the believer strives to be a person of excellence in one’s work, etc. One is a person of excellence.

And number two: to uphold good character, you know, to be friendly and cheerful and helpful and caring, and so on; to uphold the sunnahs of social conduct, and to place one’s trust in Allah, subhanahu wa’ta’ala, and not to worry. The solution isn’t just to say, “Well, it’s difficult, so I won’t do it,” because then religion is not possible… one is chipping away at one’s own religion and its sustainability.


I hope this helps answer your question. You can also check out more from SeekersHub at the link here.

Walaikum Asalam. Please keep in touch.

 

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Hijab And Inferiority Complex: Setting Myself Free

https://aboutislam.net/family-society/your-society/muslimah-convert-west/

Despite Islamophobia, Modest Fashion Is Now More Popular Than Ever

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/should-i-wear-hijab-in-non-muslim-countries/

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-the-counselor/self-issues-ask-about-counselor/trumps-america-im-scared-future-muslims/