A veil is a piece of cloth that covers a woman’s body to varying degrees. But how should Muslim women dress remains the focus of hostility in the eyes of many who view veils as oppressive to women. Why? It’s because of the strict policies that require women to wear full-length robes, burqas, and niqabs. The West thus treats Muslim women as the only group to suffer oppression. The problem lies somewhere in our limited understanding or misinterpretation of the Quran and Hadith (our Prophet’sﷺ sayings).
Is There Any Islamic or Un-Islamic Dress in Quran and Hadith?
Many people in the West often condemn Islam for requiring women to wear the headscarf (or hijab). Skeptics often argue that Islam is incompatible with democracy because women lack the freedom to dress as they want. It is wrong. There is no requirement of a specific dress in Islam. All Islam wants from Muslim is to dress modestly.
The Quran and hadith expect both men and women to dress modestly. In Quran, Allah says:
This verse clearly states the basic guideline for both men and women to dress attractively and modestly. Any clothing that “hides your private parts and adds aesthetic value” (or modest dress) is what Allah orders men and women to wear.
Laws for dressing would also reflect the cultural interpretation of modest clothing that varies from society to society. Muslim women don’t have the same knowledge of what modest dressing requires. But, in an Islamic world, the culture of the people would also reflect the law.
Who are Pious Women in the Quran and Hadith?
Allah says to our Prophetﷺ to tell all Muslim women “to draw their veils as coverings over them.” In Quran, Allah says:
Why? It’s a way to recognize women as pious, free women. “Drawing their veils” while going out sanctifies their honor. This way, a woman can work honorably in any society without being glorified or condemned for her look. Our beloved Prophetﷺ also warns against lavish dress to impress others.
In the above verse, the word pious describes a devout person. Pious clothing is thus a piece of cloth for a Muslim woman that expresses her devotion to Islam. Piety has also become a general placeholder for ethics, so a good Muslim is pious. In the same way, pious clothing equals morality because this practice helps form a woman’s character and serves to establish public norms of dress.
Hadith: “The Defining Characteristics of Islam is Modesty.”
Guarding chastity and modesty is one of the most oft-repeated ethical instructions in the Quran and Hadith. The word modest refers to clothing that does not show too much of a woman’s body. The goal of wearing modest clothes is to be decent and demure (see the video above). It is also to discourage sexual attention.
And that means a way to cover her body to not to arouse sexual desire for men. For example, her dress shouldn’t be see-through, too short, or overly tight. Beyond it, she can wear anything she wants or that culture in which she lives demands.
Stay Away from the Taliban Style of Islam
Why? It is because they have no vision for the future. They remained locked into male society and learned something that only made them brutal fighters. Taliban have no background knowledge of history, culture, and tradition in Afghanistan.
Think of the Taliban’s new hijab mandate in schools as an example. Afghan women held a seminar in Kabul University to show their support for the hijab, separate education for men and women, and the new Taliban rule.
There is nothing wrong with it. Most Afghan women wear hijab, but it is not in any way an Islamic dress. All Islam wants is to dress modestly. Such attire has never been part of the Afghan culture as well. An Afghan journalist Malali Bashir painted a picture of a woman wearing traditional clothes to show the world the real culture of Afghanistan.
The Taliban style of hijab is not the true interpretation of the instructions from the Quran and Hadith. What the Taliban are enforcing is not modest. It has nothing to do with Islam. So Muslim women should stay away from it.
Dressing in the World Religions
Of course, Islam is not the only religion that expects modesty from its followers. If you read Corinthians, 11: 4-6, it says:
See it clearly states that when a woman prays, she must cover her hair or shave it. Even modern paintings of Christian women, including the Virgin Mary, reflect this modest dress.
Young Virgin Mary Painting (Source: Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato)
Christian sects, such as Amish and the Mennonite, also require modest attire.
Dress codes in the world religions may overlap, but the wisdom and reasoning behind them can vary. Such a difference may explain why many in the West wrongly view veils a symbol of oppression. It also clarifies why hijab is such a hot issue in the secular world.
In short, Muslim women should avoid going to the extreme. They can wear anything that “hides their private parts and adds aesthetic value.” It is wrong to interpret the instructions from the Quran and Hadith in a restricted way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!
An intuitive editor and a published writer, with extensive experience writing/editing papers on many subjects.
He also worked as an editor (at JFE), senior content writer (at SORCIM.com), and proofreader in several multinational companies.
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