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. 🙂
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:
[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:
– 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:
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):
– 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!