Modesty is central to the religion of Islam. Both men and women need to be modest in dress and in behavior and avoid encouraging sexual attraction from people other than their spouses.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! When non-Muslims are asked about what their first thought is about Islam, the first thing that pops in the minds of many is the Muslim hijab.
The hijab is usually in reference to the headscarf that women must wear in front of certain men. As a clothing of modesty, it is only a tiny part of the world of modesty in Islam.
In this lesson, we will go over the concepts of modesty for both men and women in Islam and how they are fundamental to its social and moral values. We will then go into the different types of clothing that exist among Muslims and what kinds of dress are allowed and what kinds are not.
BODY OF TEXT
Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.
And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof.
And [tell them] to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women.
And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.
(Chapter 24, verses 30-31 of the Holy Qur’an)
Modesty is central to Islam. Modesty can mean different things. Modesty can be in speech or in behavior where one becomes unassuming and humble in how one talks or relates to others. These are virtues that Islam obviously accepts, encourages and even makes mandatory.
Modesty can also be in dress, which is the subject of this lesson. By modesty in dress, Islam means a mode of dress AND a mode of behavior that goes along with it. Both are intended to decrease the likelihood of sexual attraction. Purposefully dressing or behaving in such a way that incites sexual attraction is forbidden in Islam.
Sexual relations in Islam can be a good and bad thing. It can be a good thing in that it strengthens the bonds of marriage. But it can also be a bad thing if it is done out of wedlock. This is the social side of things. Sexual relations outside of divine limits also damages the soul.
As a precaution, Islam demands that we be modest. For women, it means that they need to cover all of their bodies except for their hands and face as Islam considers women’s hair to be a source of sexual attraction. The covering of the head and hair is traditionally called “hijab” which means a veil. In the Qur’an, the head covering is called the khimar. However, hijab can also be inclusive of one’s entire body.
In Islam, women need to cover their hair but men do not need to do so.
Just covering the hair and body, however, is not enough. Clothes must also be loose fitting so as to cover the shape of one's body. It is therefore forbidden to wear tight pants and shirts even if the head covering or head hijab is observed.
Men also need to be modest. Although they don’t need to cover their hair, they need to wear clothes that are loose fitting and cover most of their bodies. Wearing armless shirts and tight sports pants for example is considered inappropriate in Islam.
What is equally mandatory for both men and women is that they should be modest in behavior. This means that they should not talk, walk or behave in such a way that would elicit sexual attraction. For example, flirting with someone is forbidden in Islam unless that person is your spouse.
In Islamic cultures around the world, there are plenty of variations in women’s hijab and overall modesty. Here are a few:
In Iran, women wear the chador which is a large piece of cloth that covers the head, upper and lower body. Islamically speaking, this is the closest to what the Prophet’s wives and the women of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) used to wear.
This is the regular hijab where only the head is covered with a piece of cloth. The rest of the body is covered with regular loose fitting clothes. As we mentioned earlier, in the Qur’an, the word for hijab is khimar.
There is also something called the Burqa which is an enveloping outer garment that also covers the entire body, including the face.
Niqab refers to a piece of clothing that covers the face. So women, in addition to hijabs or chadors, will also wear the niqab. According to most scholars of Islam, both Shia and Sunni, the niqab is not obligatory. Only a minority of Shia and Sunni scholars believe that it is obligatory to wear for women.
In Islam, one is free to wear any kind of clothing as long as the clothing respects one's cultural limits and abides by Islam's standards of modesty. This doesn’t mean that one needs to be modest at all times. There are times when Islam encourages the opposite.
Among married couples for example, Islam encourages immodesty both in terms of dress and in behavior as it wants to encourage sexual attraction between the couple. So Islam doesn’t have a problem with sexual attraction per se, it only seeks to keep it within health limits.
refers to a piece of clothing that covers the face.
enveloping outer garment that also covers the entire body, including the face.
A large piece of cloth that covers the head, upper and lower body.
Head covering, the Qur’anic term for hijab.
Culturally speaking, it refers to the regular hijab where only the head is covered with a piece of cloth. The rest of the body is covered with regular loose fitting clothes.
As a woman, do I have to cover my face (niqab) according to Islam?
No, it is not necessary to cover the face according to Islamic law.
What parts of the body do women have to cover in Islam?
Everything except for the hands and face.
If all parts of the body are covered, is it ok to wear tight clothing?
No, that is not considered appropriate hijab. Clothes covering the body must be lose fitting.
Does the Burqa have any precedent in early Islam?
No, only the chador has early precedent. The Burqa is culturally specific.
Is modesty in Islam only in clothing?
No, modesty also includes behavior.
women’s modesty in islam
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