Wearing the Jilbab as a Muslim Woman: Do Not Discard This Dress Under Duress

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

It’s no secret that I have little patience for elaborate and time-consuming endeavors when it comes to ladies dressing up.

I all but have to force my eyes not to roll whenever I behold the demands of a diva as she goes on about having a bad hair day, or worse, how the tailor ‘completely messed up’ her outfit because one particular line of flower-patterns in the floral print of her shirt is not aligned perfectly in parallel with the border lace. [*yawn*]

As a bride, I was huffing and puffing under the heavy weight of the combined duo of my blood-red, intricately embroidered gharara and it’s dupatta. Had I had my way, the beautiful but extensive kaam (embroidery and bead-work) on both would have been much more sparse and light, allowing me more ease of movement and a greater ability to breathe freely on my last night as a single woman.

The gold-colored, 4-inch, pencil-thin stilettos did not help. I am just grateful that I did not trip or fall even once that night. And I had stairs to ascend and descend at the wedding venue!

But who listens to a single girl when she wants to get married in a simple dress, and (gasp!) even think about wearing flat shoes/kitty-heel pumps on her wedding?!

I’ll tell you: no one!

Ladies’ penchant for taking pains to look good

It’s no secret (again) that most women naturally love looking good, and dressing up presentably. They also take great pains (in lieu of the above introduction of this post) for the said purpose.

Anyone who denies or challenges this claim, should just take a cursory look at the number of industries in the world that thrive and burgeon only because of their exclusively female customer base. The fashion and cosmetics (makeup and hair) industry immediately comes to mind, doesn’t it?

Walk into any mall or market and count the number of shops that cater exclusively to the needs and whims of women, as compared to those whose customer base is more generalized, and you’ll find that the former almost always outnumber the latter.

The desire in women to look good facilitates many a layman’s salary-based income, and fills many a family’s mouth with food.

Take away the female customer, and the world might as well be left facing a financial crisis!

So what has all of this got to do with the obligation in Islam, of adult women wearing a jilbab?

What is “Jilbab”?

The Arabic word jilbab, which Allah has described in the Quran (using it’s plural ‘jalabeeb‘) as the outer garment that Muslim women should ‘hang’ over their selves, literally means, ‘covering’, or a loose, robe-like garment that is worn over one’s clothes so that one is completely ‘enveloped’ by it.

I must say, going over the meaning of the word jilbab in Lane’s lexicon was quite an enlightening little treat for me. Because in the explanation of the word jilbab, several other garments were also described, using the following Arabic words: ridaa, khimar, izar, miqna’ah, mulhaqah, and mulaa’ah.

Black is Beautiful

Ah, the flak I get because my “abaya” is always black!

I want to point out a very interesting thing I came across whilst searching for the meaning of the Arabic word jilbab, which I might add, is the word also used in the narrations (ahadith) of Prophet Muhammad ‎ﷺ (in addition to other descriptive words) whenever the outer garment supposed to be worn by Muslim women was mentioned by him, or by others in his presence (more on that in a hadith explanation below, insha’Allah).

Here it is: جُلْبٌ or جِلْبٌ – “blackness of the night”.

The above ↑ Arabic word, formed by a rendition of the same 3 root letters (ج ل ب) that form the base of the word jilbab, actually means: “the darkness of the night.”

And why shouldn’t a jilbab be black? It is indeed a very elegant color, not to mention very good at ‘covering’ the clothes worn underneath it, including their bold patterns, bright colors, and prints (if any).

Black is actually rather cool in couture. Just take a look at the number of black evening gowns worn on the closely-watched, supposedly exclusively ‘A-list’ designer-fashion-endorsing Oscars red carpet ceremony every year (yes, I keep a cursory eye out on international fashion by reading articles online, not by watching the overrated, overblown ceremony that ‘awards’ paid ‘pretenders’ for being so good at playing out concocted tales on screen).

Men around the world almost always wear black tuxedos to formal events, including their own weddings. And the passing-out graduation gowns of many universities are also black in color.

Perhaps the best jurisprudential ‘evidence’ of black being the preferable color for a Muslim woman’s jilbab, are the two ahadith below.

Settle down in your seat for some fun Arabic word analysis now, insha’Allah. 🙂

Pre-dawn Obscurity

وَحَدَّثَنِي حَرْمَلَةُ بْنُ يَحْيَى، أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ، أَخْبَرَنِي يُونُسُ، أَنَّ ابْنَ شِهَابٍ، أَخْبَرَهُ قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي عُرْوَةُ بْنُ الزُّبَيْرِ، أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ، زَوْجَ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَتْ لَقَدْ كَانَ نِسَاءٌ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَشْهَدْنَ الْفَجْرَ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مُتَلَفِّعَاتٍ بِمُرُوطِهِنَّ ثُمَّ يَنْقَلِبْنَ إِلَى بُيُوتِهِنَّ وَمَا يُعْرَفْنَ مِنْ تَغْلِيسِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِالصَّلاَةِ‏

 `A’ishah, the wife of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), reported: “The believing women observed the morning prayer with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) wrapped in their mantles. They then went back to their houses and were unrecognizable, because of the Messenger of Allah’s (ﷺ) praying in the darkness before dawn.” [Sahih Muslim 645]

Word Analysis of this hadith:

– The Arabic words used to denote “wrapped in their garments” – مُتَلَفِّعَاتٍ بِمُرُوطِهِنَّ

– The meaning of the word مُتَلَفِّعَ (singular of the word used in the hadith: مُتَلَفِّعَاتٍ) is “wrapped”. I used good ol’ Google Translate to get that.

– And the meaning of مِرْطٌ (singular of the word used in the above hadith,- مُرُوطِ – to describe the outer garments worn by the wives of the Prophet) is: “a garment used as an izar (إِزَارِ) [i.e. a waist-wrapper] that a woman sometimes throws over her head, or any garment that is not sewed”.

– The meaning of the Arabic word تَغْلِيسِ, used to describe how the Prophet prayed Fajr prayer, is: “journeying or going forth during the غَلَس (darkness of the last part of the night)”.

Now, in order to better understand how indiscernible the wives of the Prophet were because of the darkness when they returned home after performing Fajr prayer with him at the masjid, please take a look at this photograph:

Pre-dawn Fajr[Please do not download, save or share the above photograph]

Unless your computer’s brightness is turned up to the maximum, you probably didn’t spot me, at first (or even second) glance in the above photograph, did you? 🙂

After praying Fajr one day up in Murree hills recently, my husband and I took a walk. And he photographed me (on request) as I sat on a rock with the backdrop of the beautiful valley and imminent sunrise over the mountains behind me.

And I was wearing – yes, you guessed it – a jet-black full overcoat (it was cold!) over my black jilbab.

When I had this photo taken, I had no idea it would become such a great photographic way of authenticating the above hadith. Because when I looked at this photograph after offloading it on my desktop computer, I was reminded immediately of how the Prophet’s wives were indiscernible in the post-Fajr darkness as they went back home wrapped in their jilbabs.

Now, a question: do you think, if I was wearing a light or brightly colored jilbab, I’d be more visible in the post-Fajr darkness?

I think I would.

Nocturnal “Hot Pursuit” of a husband by his loving wife

The second hadith which indicates that A’ishah, the wife of Allah’s messenger ﷺ wore a black outer garment when she stepped out, is a lengthy one, which describes how she followed him out once at night, and later on, he asked her this:

قَالَ ‏: فَأَنْتِ السَّوَادُ الَّذِي رَأَيْتُ أَمَامِي

“He said: ‘So you were the black shape that I saw in front of me?'”

The word used by the Prophet to refer to A’ishah, “السَّوَادُ”, means ‘black’.

Had A’ishah been wearing another color, he would not have seen her as a ‘black’ shape, but rather, the color of her garment would have been obvious to him during the darkness of the night, as light colors stick out when it is dark outside. And Allah knows best.

Lastly, I want to point out two interesting words that A’ishah used to describe her garments whilst narrating the above long hadith, in which she followed her husband out at night in secret:

 وَجَعَلْتُ دِرْعِي فِي رَأْسِي وَاخْتَمَرْتُ وَتَقَنَّعْتُ إِزَارِي

I covered my head, put on my veil, and tightened my waist-wrapper..”

She was in a hurry to follow him, yet, despite it being dark outside, she put on her head-covering (khimar) and her outer garment (izar) first. These are two of the words that were mentioned in the meaning of the word “jilbab“! Allahu Akbar! 🙂

She also uses the word “دِرْعِي“, a word which means ‘my shield’, and mentions putting it “in her head” (فِي رَأْسِي) before saying that she put on her khimar (اخْتَمَرْتُ). Perhaps the دِرْعِ is a hat of sorts, that helped keep her khimar in place, like the small, tight hat (topi) many ladies wear under their headscarves nowadays, to keep it in place? Allah knows best.

Isn’t it fun to analyze the Arabic words used in the Quran and ahadith to gain knowledge about that particular kind of ladies’ fashion that pleases Allah the most? 🙂

It is for me.

Also, before I finish, I want to point out that another word is indirectly mentioned in the above hadith!

A’ishah mentions ‘being masked’ with her izar (robe or wrapper), using the word “تَقَنَّعْتُ”, which is formed from the same root letters that form the word “مِقنَعَة” (miqna’ah) that I came across in Lane’s lexicon whilst reading up the meaning of the word jilbab.

Last but not least, the names of two garments worn by Allah’s messenger have also been mentioned at the start of this narration, using the Arabic words ridaa (cloak) (رِدَاءَهُ – ‘his cloak‘), and izar (wrapper) (بَسَطَ طَرَفَ إِزَارِهِ – ‘he spread the corner of his wrapper‘).

When the Messenger of Allah thought A’ishah was asleep, and he quietly started to go outside, A’ishah mentions that he put his ridaa on.

And Allah knows best.

Female Companions wouldn’t leave their homes, even on `Eid, if they didn’t have a Jilbab to wear

 وَحَدَّثَنَا عَمْرٌو النَّاقِدُ، حَدَّثَنَا عِيسَى بْنُ يُونُسَ، حَدَّثَنَا هِشَامٌ، عَنْ حَفْصَةَ بِنْتِ، سِيرِينَ عَنْ أُمِّ عَطِيَّةَ، قَالَتْ أَمَرَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنْ نُخْرِجَهُنَّ فِي الْفِطْرِ وَالأَضْحَى الْعَوَاتِقَ وَالْحُيَّضَ وَذَوَاتِ الْخُدُورِ فَأَمَّا الْحُيَّضُ فَيَعْتَزِلْنَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيَشْهَدْنَ الْخَيْرَ وَدَعْوَةَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ ‏.‏ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِحْدَانَا لاَ يَكُونُ لَهَا جِلْبَابٌ قَالَ: ‏ لِتُلْبِسْهَا أُخْتُهَا مِنْ جِلْبَابِهَا‏

Umm ‘Atiyya reported: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) commanded us to bring out on ‘Eid-ul-Fitr and ‘Eid-ul-Adha young women, menstruating women and purdah-observing ladies, menstruating women kept back from prayer, but participated in goodness and supplication of the Muslims. I said: “Messenger of Allah, one of us does not have an outer garment.” He said: “Let her sister cover her with her outer garment.”” [Sahih Muslim]

The above narration is usually cited as evidence to indicate the stress laid by Allah’s Messenger ﷺ upon women coming out for congregational `Eid prayer.

I think it also serves as equally good evidence of the fact that all Muslim women during the time of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ couldn’t even think about leaving their homes if they did not have a jilbab to wear — even to obey his command to attend `Eid prayer!

As we know, the Prophet ﷺ performed `Eid prayer in an open plain or ground, where there were probably no physical demarcations or barriers between men and women. This meant that the women could be seen by the men, at least from afar, hence the dire need for a jilbab.

Final round-up of Arabic words used to describe outer garments in the Quran and hadith

To sum up, here is a list of the Arabic words we all should research more deeply, in order to increase our knowledge regarding the kind of outer garments that we are obligated to wear in public, as Muslim women:


Conclusion: a few reminders to help us get our facts right

– Wearing the jilbab is obligatory in Islam, especially anywhere outside the home where men are present. There is no doubt about this obligation.

– An adult Muslim woman who has crossed puberty is committing a sin if she deliberately leaves her home without wearing a proper khimar and jilbab, even though she knows that it is obligatory.

– A printed dupatta (especially that which is made up of see-through materials such as georgette, which is commonly sold as a part of 3-piece ladies’ outfits nowadays in Pakistan) that keeps slipping off the head, and reveals thick wisps or forelocks of hair, does not even qualify as a proper khimar (head covering), let alone a jilbab.

– If your husband forbids you from wearing khimar and jilbab, you have to politely disobey him (without engaging in arguments) and still do it for the sake of Allah.

– If you are a student or teacher of Islam (i.e. you either study or teach the Quran or ahadith), wearing the khimar and jilbab is even more important for you, because to many, you “represent” Islam. Many see your actions as a practical embodiment of the teachings of Islam.

– The obligation of wearing the khimar and jilbab is not waived if you are visiting, or living in, a non-Muslim majority area. If your physical safety is threatened by wearing both in public, you are supposed to move/relocate elsewhere in the world where you’ll be able to wear both safely (and believe me, Allah’s earth is very, very vast). You are not supposed to give up adhering to the obligations of Deen regarding Islamic code of dress instead. Wrong choice.

– The companions of the Prophet ‎ﷺ used to advise each other when they saw anyone apparently making a mistake or detracting from an obligation of the Deen. This is not ‘judging’. It is sincerity. Please do not accuse a sincere sister or brother of ‘judging’ you because you have stopped wearing a khimar or jilbab after you wore it for many years. You know what you’ve done is wrong. Anyone who stopped wearing a jilbab, including me (Allah forbid!), would be sinning.

– Even if you choose not to wear a black-colored jilbab, despite all the evidence of its desirability, please avoid jilbabs that are figure-hugging or overtly-embellished like fairytale ‘Cinderella’ gowns, such as this one:

pink gown

– The wide-cuffed sleeves of your jilbab should not ride up to reveal the skin of your arms during your day-to-day activities. If they do, and you are wearing short-sleeved clothes underneath (which means that your forearms will thus get uncovered), please invest in some plain “arm sleeves” to wear with your jilbab while you are out and about.

– Nowadays, some abaya’s and jilbabs come with a praise-worthily looser-fitting, cape-like ‘butterfly’ cut, which does away with the armpit juncture of sleeves and is, therefore, extra good at completely hiding the shape and figure of the woman wearing it. I endorse this style of jilbab.

These jilbabs are also long enough to cover a woman’s feet, which is even better for Pakistani ladies, because of their penchant for wearing extra-attractive shoes, such as delicate, shiny-rock-studded sandals and slippers.

Take a look:

Photo courtesy: http://www.the-best-islamic-clothing.com

Please note: I am only endorsing the color and cut of the abaya in the above photograph.

Perhaps the following image from the muhajabat blog is better at illustrating what an ideal abaya/jilbab shape should be like, although for some reason the model’s khimar is totally missing in this photo (below):

The “butterfly cut” style of abaya. Image courtesy: muhajabat.wordpress.com

– Lastly, a final reminder: your head-covering or khimar should be long enough to easily hang loosely over your chest, in accordance with the command of Allah in the Quran, to effectively conceal the size and shape of your shoulders and bosom. Tucking your khimar inside the neckline of your jilbab so that it doesn’t cascade loosely over your shoulders down over your chest, is not correct.

To tie in the above analyses and discussion with the introduction of this blog post: I have little patience with ladies who go into tremendous nitty-gritty about their appearance, clothes and accessories, especially if they are not putting in an equal amount of painstaking effort to find out and adhere to the ‘fashion guidelines’ regarding the Islamic code of dress that Allah and His Messenger ﷺ have made obligatory upon them, as Muslim women.

Allah is the Most Deserving of our hard work, our fret, and our sweat. We should worry and dwell the most over how He wants us to dress; where we can find the kinds of dresses that will please Him the most when we wear them, and how we can avoid ‘slipping’ regarding the limits and restrictions we have to adhere to, while wearing those dresses.

If you can spend hours shopping for your everyday clothes, but are negligent about wearing the khimar and jilbab that fulfill all of the requirements of Deen as outlined in the Quran and ahadith, you need to acknowledge that something is wrong, and you need to do something quickly and urgently to set it aright.

Sister in Islam, I am willing to accept your turning away from me as a friend because you found my above advice hurtful or “judgmental” (or both, heh!) – if it means that whatever I’ve said might cause you to rethink your religious practice, and consequently, it just might also become the cause of your salvation and success in the Akhirah.

The betterment of your Akhirah (and mine) over a (supposedly) close worldly friendship that requires remaining silent when seeing each other move away from the obligations of Deen?

I’d take it any day!


  1. مِرْطٌ

    Sister I have it on good authority from a Maliki Student of Knowledge who is very proficient in Arabic that Muroot were green in color.

    Perhaps you present some research into the different colors worn by the Sahabiyaat as an extension to this piece? Because as far as I know they didn’t wear only black.

    Jazakillahu khairan.

    • Yes I came across what you’ve said in Lane’s lexicon, that مِرط means “green garment”, although it was added in brackets: “perhaps meaning grey”.

      Jazak Allah Khair for pointing it out.

      • Jazakillahu khairan for writing this piece. We need more sisters spreading awareness about what constitutes valid hijab and the importance and virtue of niqab/jilbab.

  2. Jazakillahu Khair sadaf beautifully written and and even more beautifully explained article going indepth into the word analysis! Though I do at times wear lighter shades of abayas (beige,light pink,grey blue) and also darker shades like navy blue, dark brown…black is definitely my favourite and then other dark shades. The butterfly style abaya is definitely my favourite too because it completely hides the figure, how ever I realized that with kids.. especially when you have to take them into a toilet (at the airport/in a plane/restaurant etc) it was most annoying!

    • Yes Javeria, it is alright to wear jilbabs of other colors besides black, as long as they fulfill the requirements of shari’ah (primarily, that the jilbab not be an embellishment in and of itself, which is the case when it is brightly colored, printed, or embroidered).

      I focused on providing jurisprudential evidence for a jilbab being black, simply because it gets me more flak. Heh! I love wearing only black jilbabs, at least for now.

  3. Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah Sadaf baji 🙂 Jazakillahu kheran kheran katheera for this much-needed straightforward article.
    This has come through at such a perfect time, as since the past few days I’ve been confused about whether it would suffice to cover loosely and plainly, with no embellishments etc, but without the jilbab. But Allah Has His Ways 🙂 and here came your article, alhamdulillah! May Allah put Barakah in your work and give you the best reward, ameen.

    • وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

      Ameen, Samar! 🙂

      May Allah grant us all high ranks of righteous actions and steadfastness upon His Deen. Ameen.

      Shaitan does come to each of us in little steps, making us slip little by little, by undermining the obligations of Deen first, because when the obligations start slipping away, the rest of our amal is not far behind in crumbling to bits.

  4. aoa – yay my preference for the black abaya!!!! 🙂 love it love it- though cross check arabic translations i would advise!

  5. Assalamualaikum,

    Like Samar i have been going through the same thought processes. Im happy to have received this post alhamdulillah…i did think it was solely written for me!

    I still have a question which i hope you can answer sr Sadaf – can we wear two piece loose garments as outerwear?

    What if our inner wear, was just a vest and say three quarter length trousers, can a maxi dress which isn’t figure hugging and a loose cardigan act as an outerwear?

    I’ve been wearing jilbab now for about 5 years….my husband of less than one year, ‘hates’ black and dark colours….mind you he is slightly colour blind…so blue would be considered black in his eyes…black is what i wear a lot of in the form of abayas when going out.

    The more i think about it the more confused i become….i find myself wondering what to do for peace of mind.


    • وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

      Please ask Allah for guidance and steadfastness. When the heart is in turmoil, confusions arise. Praying to Allah in earnest is the solution. Use the last third of the night to pray to Him for guiding you to wear what pleases Him. And it is very important to patiently persevere in submitting to the obligations of Deen during such trying periods, despite it being very difficult to do so.

      A cardigan with a maxi dress might not fulfill the complete requirements of hibab the way a jilbab does. Allah uses the Arabic words “يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنّ” when mentioning jilbab in the Quran (33:59), which translate to: “lower upon their selves“.

      When you lower an outer garment from “over” your head, it cascades down your body and effectively conceals it’s shape. If the sleeves are added from the sides (e.g. by wearing a cardigan), the shape of the shoulders and upper arms might become discernible, especially if the headscarf is small.

      If your maxi dress is plain in color and very loose, then what I’d suggest for you, is to wear a loose-sleeved cardigan which is also plain in color, and then wear a longer-than-usual khimar (head cover) on your head so that it falls over your shoulders, chest and upper arms to effectively conceal the shape of your upper body.

      Lastly, while the colors of your hijab should be modest, there is no need to compromise on style. Style is a gift from Allah that helps you carry yourself with grace even when you are fulfilling all the requirements of hijab; a blessing that can make you look nice and presentable to your husband even when dressed in colors that he dislikes.

      So ask Allah for the blessing of style, elegance and grace. And watch what happens in your marriage. 😉

      And Allah knows best.

  6. Assalamu alaykum,

    It’s very nice indeed to see the encouragement of the wearing of jilbab and hijab – my fear, though, is that you writing style may ‘turn off’ some people from wearing it. I am afraid that you are perhaps overly enthusiastic in trying to find evidence for the ladies of the salaf wearing the color black – the ahadith that I remember mention them wearing green, saffron-yellow, and red, when mentioning color at all. The obligation, after all, is to wear clothing that covers the awra, and not on color or pattern. I very specifically asked a scholar (a qualified mufti) about this and his reply was:

    “The obligation is to cover one’s awra, and for one’s dress to be considered “modest.” Making one’s dress look good, stylish, or fashionable–while remaining modest–is permissible.”

    ‘Oldschoolhijabi’ is a blogger who has a clothing style very similar to yours, and she enjoins the wearing of jilbab as well – however, she understands that jilbab takes many shapes and forms, and it does not need to be a black abaya of the modern style (these did not even exist before the Saudi government enjoined them on their women). Oldschoolhijabi actually ran a lovely series on hijab around the world, showcasing how different places wore very bright colors and beautiful patterns whilst fully adhering to Quranic ideals of hijab.

    Again, thank you for the post – but please don’t give overly strict orders to your fellow Muslim sisters. Wearing patterns, henna, even gold jewelry, was all recorded in the ahadith as being worn by the ladies of the salaf. If you like, I can email or send you the specific ahadith, and even fatwas. It is up to every person to decide what is appropriate in their culture. 🙂

    • وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله

      Thank you for your comment, Razan. 🙂

      Yes, please do email me these ahadith and fatwa’s.

      I want to know, in particular, who the qualified mufti is whom you consulted, and the references to these ahadith: “the ahadith that I remember mention them wearing green, saffron-yellow, and red“.

      I have no doubt about the fact that the Mothers of the Believers and sahabiat wore color (and henna, jewelry, perfume etc.) whilst inside their homes or in privacy of hijab, but what I’d like to know is, if they wore these colors in their jilbabs after the revelation of Surah Al-Ahzab.

      Sister, wearing the jilbab over one’s clothes is an obligation, and yes you are right, it doesn’t have to be black. Although, are you 100% sure about this claim that you made about black abaya’s? Viz. “these did not even exist before the Saudi government enjoined them on their women“. Really?

      In this post, I have defended my preference for black, but I have also acceded that some other colors are allowed, with conditions.

      Jazaki Allah khair. 🙂

      And Allah knows best.

  7. Assalamu alaykum,

    Thank you for your prompt reply. Please do understand that I am not challenging the requirement for jilbab – I am respectfully saying that it can take many shapes and forms, as well as colors and designs. What I meant was that whichever color, pattern and design a woman chooses to wear is entirely dependent on what is not considered ‘showing off’ within her own culture – there is no specific requirement in that sense.

    The Mufti whom I referred to is one whom you have frequently quoted on this blog, from the Sunnipath/Seeker’s Guidance website. Here is another fatwa on the website regarding this issue:

    The scholars differed over when a woman put on her jilbab and her bracelets and kohl showed whether this was ‘part of what is apparent’ or not. Many said yes and many said no – I apologize but I can’t find the specific discussion right now, as it was discussed in-depth by ibn Hanbal in an Arabic book that I read of his commentary on the verses of hijab. However, here are some of the various ahadith referring to women wearing color, patterns, and henna, outside of their homes (meaning that they were dressed in jilbab/hijab, and could be seen by non-mahrams).

    From Sahih Bukhari :
    5487. ‘Ikrima related that Rifa’a divorced his wife and then ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn az-Zubayr al-Qurazi married her. ‘A’isha said that she [came] wearing a green veil (khimar) and complained to her and showed her some greenness [from bruising] on her skin. The women then used to help one another. When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came, ‘A’isha said, “I have never seen any woman endure what the believing women endure! Her skin is greener than her clothes!”

    5485. ‘Amr ibn Sa’id ibn al-‘As related from Umm Khalid bint Khalid, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was brought some clothes which includes a small black khamisa. He said, ‘To whom do you think that we should give this to wear?’ The people were silent. He said, ‘Bring me Umm Khalid.’ I was carried to him. He took the khamisa with his own hand and put it on me. He said, ‘May it wear out and have to be replaced.’ On it were some green or yellow markings. [In another narration is added “He began to look at the design on the cloak and pointed at me with his hand and”]- He said, ‘Umm Khalid! This is sanah!’ Sanah means ‘beautiful’ in Abyssinian.”

    Volume 7, Book 72, Number 733: Narrated Anas bin Malik: that he had seen Um Kulthum, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle , wearing a red silk garment.

    Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 415, Narrated by Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin:
    A woman made a sign from behind a curtain to indicate that she had a letter for Allah’s Messenger (saws). The Prophet (saws) closed his hand, saying: ‘I do not know this is a man’s or a woman’s hand.’ She said: ‘No, a woman.’ He (saws) said: If you were a woman, you would make a difference to your nails, (ie. the application of henna)’

    Here is a long explanation, with even more ahadith, by al-Albani:
    And here is an explanation by a niqabi sister:

    I am not surprised that you are not aware that the wearing of ‘black-all-over’ is indeed a 20th century innovation in the dress of Gulf Arab women! I would argue that traditional jilbab, when one looks at what women have been wearing as jilbab in all the old photographs across the Muslim world, is much closer to the type of long wrap that one sees Sudanese women wearing, which show their henna and gold bracelets, rather than the black dress of the Saudi government.

    Here is an organization documenting the traditional Saudi hijab:
    Here is a blog post by Oldschoolhijabi documenting the hijab of women in Yemen in particular.

    Thank you for putting up with my abominably long comment. I would have sent a private email but I couldn’t find yours listed. Perhaps the post will also help some of your readers – Allah SWT did say that He made us of many tribes so that we may get to know each other, and I believe that that is reflected in the variety of Muslim women’s dress worldwide. 🙂

    • Assalamu alaykum again!

      Sorry for the second comment – but I just wanted to say that I don’t endorse any other content of the blog holding the link I posted about colorful hijab – I just wanted to find that one post by al-Albani. 🙂 Thank you!

      • وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله
        Please do not apologize! I am so glad you posted all the links/information here, for the readers’ (and my) benefit!
        I enjoyed going through them all, and they are very enlightening, to say the least.
        Not to mention, they are a beneficial addition to the above blog post.
        May Allah grant us all guidance upon the Right Path. Ameen.
        ‎جَزَاكِ اللهُ خَيْرًا كَثِيْرًا

  8. assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah!
    I would just like to mention something that I am grappling with, and perhaps applicable to other reverts and those living in Western societies where there are extremely negative cultural connotations to the colour black namely death, the mafia and Satanism!

    As a revert, I don’t recall my father ever commenting on my dress code as a rebellious teenager, other than “please don’t wear so much black!!!” other reverts concur, that their non-Muslim family members are more or less ok with head covering, but baulk at black!

    I myself only had this epiphany when I realised that I only visited family and old friends when wearing green and blue. unfortunately, most of the jalabeeb (which are basically abayas) available here are black. I feel a lot of sisters who are struggling to cover, would be more amenable if culturally relevant versions (colour and cut, e.g. coat style for the West) were more widely available.

    In addition, a lot of the animosity engendered by wearing niqaab in, say, France, could be tempered, if Muslim sisters chose styles and colours which do not visually antagonise the communities in which they find themselves.

    • وَعَلَيكُمُ السَّلامُ وَ رَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ

      Agreed, sister. 🙂 Jazakillah khair for your insights.

      It is good that more and more small businesses are now cropping up to provide mild-colored, loose abaya’s via online shopping. I hope you are able to find some in dull colors besides black that fulfill all the requirements of shari’ah, insha’Allah.

  9. Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu,

    JazakAllah Khair Sr. Sadaf for reminding us of the importance of the jilbab and of modest dress in general.

    I live in the west and agree in a sense with the above comment that sometimes it is easier for sisters to wear colors other than black for safety reasons due to the negative connotations that are associated with that color nowadays.

    However, I am also in full support of sisters who wear it anyway, despite such stereotypes. I have heard before that many choose to wear black due to its being the furthest away from ‘adornment’ and it is also cooling because it does not have to be quite so thick to hide what is underneath.

    At any rate, as you mentioned, we should avoid the prints and over the top decorations for sure, because that pretty much seems to defeat the purpose.

    May Allah bless you. (:

    • وَعَلَيكُمُ السَّلامُ وَ رَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ

      Jazakillah khair, Aziza. I just scrolled over some of your posts on MYM and I am honored that you left a comment here. 🙂 ‎بَارَكَ اللهُ فِيْكِ

      I am glad you brought up a very good point that I didn’t mention in this post i.e. because black is the best at covering up everything underneath it (prints, colors, designs, embellishments on clothes), it doesn’t have to be so thick in material.

      Back when I wore light-grey colored jilbab’s, as soon as I’d step out in the sun or go under a bright light, I could see the print/borders of the clothes I was wearing underneath them.

      • Wa iyaak sister and thank you for your kind words. ❤

        Very nice point, depending on the material, it is probably sometimes the safest option to stick with the darker colors.

        I just love how our beautiful religion stipulates that we wear clothing which begs dignity and respect, whilst protecting us from harm, SubhanAllah.

        MashaAllah, keep up the good work dear sister. (:

  10. given that it is established now that sahaabiyaat women did in fact wear colour, I would like to posit that the encouragement of/insistence on wearing black for women (along with compulsory face covering) feeds into the whole perception that we find in societies/groups where women are considered a “homogenous mass”, without individual character or personality, purposed only with providing men with food, sex and offspring. this objectification is often discernible in salafi circles, even among supposedly educated women from western backgrounds, who when punting polygamy come up with gems like: women are like chocolates, and men like an assortment; women are like flowers, and men like a bouquet and the absolute worst: women are merely donuts; a “hole”, with some decoration around it!

  11. what is the literal meaning? I always wondered why the translation contains what I understand to be a word of Persian origin, “purdah”?

  12. As-salamu Alaykum..
    Can you help me find a gynaecologist who can provide female staff in case of c-section delivery in the OT? Is there any good doctor you know? As doctors now a days don’t wait for normal deliveries and do surgery right away. I am very concerned about my parda. Please can you help me out..

    • Wa alaikum ussalam Hira

      Two doctors I know of, who support a woman’s preference for normal delivery instead of Caesarian, and also respect her pardah/hijab during childbirth, are:

      – Dr Zeenat Eva Khan, who sits at National Medical Center, DHA phase 1, Karachi
      – Dr Rukhsana Moghul, Aga Khan Hospital Karachi

      These two are warm and caring in nature as well.

      May Allah make ease for you and help you.

  13. Thanks a lot sister for this great post! I love wearing black and feel much more comfortable in it than in any other color when in public.

    You have stated that wearing jilbab is obligatory upon muslim women, could you please provide Hadith or any Fatwa from well known scholars which proves this point? I know you mention the verse of Quran, but that can be interpreted in different ways and one could argue it does not mean the modern day Jilbab.

    Thanks a lot!

  14. Assalamualaikum
    I would like to ask that some scholars say that wearing a jilbab from the top of head is compulsory but is wearing an abaya with a head covering which covers your shoulders and chest and some part of upper arms fine.

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