Saturday, April 2, 2016


Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem

“People are so judgmental, they keep asking me why I gave up wearing an abaya, after all it’s not necessary as long as I am wearing MODEST CLOTHES,” a woman ranted in the rest room. She went on to pass the verdict that an abaya was actually a cultural thing and not an Islamic requirement at all.
I was attending a seminar in Qatar on Islam and this rant was not an uncommon one. Neither was this Muslim woman’s concept of ‘hijab’ a solitary opinion.
I had to bite down on my lip to keep me from offering my two bits on this topic. Sadly, today, everything in Islam is up for debate. Modesty,  naqab, terrorism and a few other choices are the most popular. The source of knowledge most people draw upon to debate is sadly neither the Quran nor the Sunnah, but their own understanding of what they have heard Islam has ordained. People who do have knowledge are wary of speaking lest they get the oh-so-dreaded “judgmental” title.

It is no wonder then that non-Muslims are confused about the idea of hijab in Islam because we Muslims are the ones who make these confusing misrepresentations of our own Deen, sometimes with our words and more often with the way we practice it.
Anyone even slightly intelligent would know that Hijab could not possibly mean a small handkerchief sized cloth on the head and that couldn’t possibly be what Allah swt has intended for women.
Yet thousands of Muslim women choose to understand hijab to mean just that. They can wear skinny jeans, red lipstick, alluring perfume and top it off with a 'kerchief around their crown and still be included in the hijabi clan. For them, hijab or modesty means covering their hair. Period.

In some cultures, women think they can remain scantily dressed in front of their fathers, brothers and other women in the house yet wear an abaya outside the house that covers even the whites of their eyes, if you would let me exaggerate a bit. For them modesty is only practiced outside the house, and taken off with the abaya once they come home. 

Many others think modesty means they simply have to wear loose, modest clothes when they go out and skimp on the makeup. Yet many others wear an abaya and a naqab but forget to lower their gaze, specially in the virtual world where interacting with males for hours need never interfere with their modesty. For them, modesty is only a certain way of dressing and not their behavior.

But is this what Allah swt really wanted from us women? Was that the whole purpose of Hijab? Isn’t that a way of God forbid, cheating on our own Creator, by following His laws apparently, but actually fulfilling our own desires under the guise of religion?

  • What is that inner desire we are fulfilling when we flick that bang of hair or our earrings out of our scarf? To display our beauty, right? That is exactly what Allah wanted us to hide. So the purpose of hijab is lost.
  • What makes us buy a bling bling abaya? To look beautiful? Isn’t that what the abaya was worn for in the first place, to hide our beautiful clothes and figures when we go out before strangers? If the abaya itself is adding to the beautification, it is not serving its actual purpose, is it?

  • What makes us spray perfume and put on lipstick before we step out of the house for shopping? To be admired? Isn’t that what Allah forbade, to be admired by eyes other than our husbands?

If we only ask ourselves these simple questions, it will make it so much easier to do proper hijab. If the purpose of hijab is not being fulfilled, then it is not what Allah wanted from us. Rather, it is our own devious nafs dictating its terms under the cover of religion.

Some women argue “But we do it for ourselves, because we like looking beautiful in our own eyes”. That is clearly a contradiction because they NEVER dress like that when they are by themselves at home. PJs rule at home for most women. It is only when they go out before others that they beautify themselves.

These problems and issues arise because perhaps we do not know or realize the importance of ‘haya’ in Islam. The word haya is derived from the root ‘haa yaa yaa’ from which ‘hayat’ is also derived meaning ‘life’. If we say that haya is the very life of Islam, it would not be incorrect. 

Modesty, the inherent quality of Islam
Zayd ibn Talha ibn Rukana (may Allah be pleased with him), who attributed it to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "The Messenger of Allah said, 'Every deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty.' "
(Malik :: Book 47 : Hadith 47.2.9

Haya is a branch or part of Iman.
Narrated Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Faith (belief) consists of more than sixty branches (i.e. parts). And Haya (This term "Haya" covers a large number of concepts which are to be taken together; amongst them are self respect, modesty, bashfulness, and scruple, etc.) is a part of faith.” 
(Bukhari :: Book 1 :: Volume 2 :: Hadith 8)

Shyness or Modesty is for men too
It has become almost accepted in today’s society to look upon shyness as a weakness or a character flaw, especially in males. We see the opposite in the following hadith.
Narrated 'Abdullah (bin 'Umar) (may Allah be pleased with them): Once Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed by an Ansari (man) who was admonishing his brother regarding Haya'. On that Allah's Messenger said, "Leave him as Haya' is a part of faith."
(Bukhari :: Book 1 :: Volume 2 :: Hadith 23)

Haya and Iman are inseparable
Our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Indeed Haya (modesty) and Iman (faith) are companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well. (Baihaqi)

However Haya should not be understood to mean that one does not speak up for truth out of shyness or one becomes laid back and complacent instead of an active and productive member of the community.
It does not mean that women should never adorn themselves and remain shabbily dressed in permanent oblivion in their houses, never communicating with the opposite sex. What it means is that a person should have the quality of haya apparent in every aspect of his or her life: in clothes, adornments, walking, speech, dealings with the opposite sex, in private and in public life. Haya should be that inhibition that stops a Muslim from watching, hearing, saying or doing anything that he would be ashamed of doing before Allah.

Haya is in the eyes
People usually use this statement to negate any need to wear hijab. They say that real haya is in the eyes or purity is in the heart so outer clothing does not matter.
It is true that hijab or “purdah” as we call it, is not only a covering or outer garb but also the kind of conduct and intention that should accompany it. Yet the presence of only a good intention is not sufficient without any action to verify that intention. You can perhaps vouch about your own purity of thought (which is disliked by Allah because no one can claim to be free from sin) but how can you vouch for the intentions of the hundreds of men you choose to walk amongst? Intention is important but not sufficient by itself for repeatedly Allah says: “Those who believed and performed good actions.” Hence, actions must accompany intention and in the following ayahs, Allah Ta’ala has stated certain specific actions that He wishes us to do.

The purpose of clothes is to cover, not reveal
Allah swt mentions the purpose of clothes in Surah Al-‘Araaf:
“O Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment (libas) upon you to cover yourselves and as an adornment, and the raiment of righteousness, that is better. Such are among the Ayat of Allah, that they may remember.” (26)
We should ask ourselves, do our clothes fulfill the purpose of covering us or are they only for adornment?
According to a hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Among the words that have come down to the people from the earlier Prophets is: If you feel no shame then do as you wish." Narrated by al-Bukhari from the hadith of Abu Mas'ood al-Badri (may Allah be pleased with him).There is a basic requirement or awrah that men need to cover even before other men and women need to cover before other women. Clothes worn by men or women cannot be transparent or figure- hugging even before mahram relatives.

Who says we have to cover our head?
In Surah An-Nur verse 31, Allah Ta'ala tells the Muslim men to lower their gaze and protect their chastity followed by commands for the Muslim women:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent and to draw their khumur over their juyub and not to reveal their adornment except to their husband’s fathers, or their sons or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex.”

The word ‘Khumur’ (plural of khimar) means something that covers. It refers here to what is used to cover the head, known among the people as a veil.  It was clearly ordained here to extend the head dress (or scarf or dupattaover the bosoms so they serve their actual purpose of covering a woman’s attraction. So any hijab that does not cover the bosom of a woman is not fulfilling the requirement laid out by Allah Ta'ala.
In the verse, women are explicitly told about the people before whom they may reveal their adornment. It is vital to pause here and think, “What was the need of mentioning every mahram by name if there was going to be no difference in the woman’s attire before them and everyone else?”

Catwalk in a hijab?
Not only the clothes but even the manner of walking should not be provocative or such that it draws attention to the women. The whole purpose of hijab is lost if a woman’s stilettos or anklets can be heard all over the street.
“And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” (An-Nur; 31)
For the same reason, wearing strong perfume when going before non-mahram men is strictly forbidden for women. This again is not to prevent women from the finer things in life, but a way of protecting her from unwanted attention.

An abaya is cultural, not in Islam?
In Surah Al-Ahzab: 59, Allah Ta’ala ordains “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their jilbabs (cloaks) all over themselves. That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as to not be annoyed. And Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

None of us can deny this verse that states that the believing women (not just Saudi women) must draw their cloaks over upon themselves, a knowledge of Arabic will show you that this translation is the closest and the word ‘selves’ would obviously include what we include when we talk of our SELVES ie our whole body, with our clothes, jewellery, makeup, hair, and many say that it includes the face, which is the crown of our whole body. It cannot mean loose, modest clothing as some want to believe, because a ‘jilbab’ is mentioned which means outer robe or cloak or abaya or chaddar to be worn over the clothes a woman is wearing inside the house. It cannot mean she is being told to wear loose, modest clothes OVER her other clothes, can it?

It is true that some women in some countries wear an abaya as a cultural outfit, not really to fulfill an Islamic obligation. But do the actions of a few people (or even of all of mankind) absolve me as an individual of the responsibility to obey Allah's commandments? For Muslims, the Quran and Sahih Ahadith are the source of guidance, not the actions of fallible humans.

So can a woman’s voice be heard by men?
Allah Ta'ala clearly states in the Quran that the woman’s voice can be heard but with certain limits.
“O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep Taqwa, then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire, but speak in an honorable manner. And stay in your houses, and do not Tabarruj yourselves like the Tabarruj of the times of ignorance, and perform the Salah, and give Zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. …(till the end of the ayat)” (Surah Al-Ahzab 32-33)
This means that if there is a genuine need, a woman should address non-Mahram men in a manner in which there is no softness, not in the same way that she addresses her husband, but decent and honourable talk that is known to be good.
So the voice of women is not awrah or forbidden to be heard by men. However casual, provocative, misleading, flirtatious or unnecessary, unreserved talking and mixing is not allowed.

Stepping out of the house
(And stay in your houses,) means, stay in your houses and do not come out except for a purpose. One of the purposes mentioned in Shari`ah is prayer in the Masjid, so long as the conditions are fulfilled, as the Messenger of Allah said: “Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from the Masjids of Allah, but have them go out without wearing fragrance.”

So although the house is a woman’s main sphere of influence and interest, she is allowed to go out for valid reasons: for acquiring education, for providing important services like teaching and medical care and the likes, for performing Islamic rites such as Salah, pilgrimage and Eid and for other chores. What is forbidden is going out without any reason simply to display herself as eye-candy for onlookers or to while away idle hours. 

If she was not meant to go out at all, there would have been no need for Allah Ta'ala to describe the attire and manner which she must adopt when she goes out. "What she is forbidden from is tabarruj like the tabarruj of the days of Ignorance which has been described by commentators as ‘when women would go out of their homes walking in a shameless and flirtatious manner before men, not tying their hijabs properly so that their neck, earrings and all could be seen. (Tafsir ibn Kathir)

If we go out in the malls these days and witness the attire and actions of both women and men, we can understand why Allah Ta'ala wanted women to stay safe in the protection of their homes unless necessary. In our daily lives, we are well aware of the chaos a house and family fall into when some women just cannot sit at home, are never around for their families and their priorities lie elsewhere. The very foundation of the family unit is weakened and it has a ripple effect on the society. Women were never meant to be cogs in the commercial world, but the strong foundation on which sound families could be built. 

Islam is truly the religion of ease and simplicity. It fills our lives with peace if we follow its laws without trying to change them to suit our desires.  Everyday we are required to recite these verses of Surah al Fatiha in every unit of our salah:
“Guide us to the Straight Way. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace , not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (i.e. those who knew the Truth, but did not follow it) nor of those who went astray (i.e. those who did not follow the Truth out of ignorance and error)”
So we can only adopt one of three ways, firstly the way of the Prophets, the Sahaba and the righteous people who followed the guidance sent by Allah Ta'ala, or secondly the way of those who know what Allah has commanded in the Quran and Sunnah but choose not to act upon it or lastly the way of those who are living a life of ignorance, not knowing what Allah wants from them.

The question, dear sister, is that when it comes to modesty what path will I follow?


  1. MashaAllah well written as it's the need of the hour ! Allah guide us all Ameen n would love it if u could keep guiding us ! JazakAllah

    1. Jazakillah khair aunty, ameen to your duas. may Allah accept our efforts and guide us all to what pleases Him.

  2. Barak Allahu feeki, Hafsa Ji. :)

    A much needed reminder today, when a cursory look at what hijab has been "reduced to" (pun unintended), is perhaps less alarming than the emotional and "scholarly" rhetoric used by some Muslims to actually defend/justify it.

    May Allah guide all of us to the Right Path. Ameen.

    1. Ameen, true, that is what is most disturbing, may Allah swt guide us all

  3. MashaAllah tabarakahAllah ♡

    What a beautiful reminder, may Allah bless you and your entire household as well as all your loved ones and grant you Jannah-tul-Firdaus.

    I especially liked this point you made, of dressing modestly even in front of our mahram relatives i.e. at home.

    Because, subhanAllah Hayaa is sth one can easily loose (but at the same time also "get back" again alhamdulillah, if one works on it).

    So when we go around half-naked at home, it's very easy to loose that natural sense of hayaa and then all of a sudden it doesn't bother one that much if the abbaya slightly slips off or certain parts of the body get exposed, or the fabric clings to the figure etc., since you are used to it anyway.

    It's fascinating how much of an impact our dresscode at home actually has on our behaviour outside.

    So again BarakahAllahufeeki for this post ♡