Hijab/Headscarf
Council on American Islamic Relations, February 1, 2006

Q: WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR MUSLIM WOMEN'S DRESS?

A: Rules regarding Muslim women's (and men's) attire are derived from the Quran, Islam's revealed text, and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In the Quran, God states: "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty...And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and adornments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers...(a list of exceptions)" [Chapter 24, verses 30-31]

Also, "O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons...that they should be known and not molested." [Chapter 33, verse 59]

A wife of the Prophet Muhammad narrated: "When the verse 'That they should draw their veils over their bosoms' was revealed, (the women) tore their thick outer garments and made veils from them." [Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1901]

In another tradition, the Prophet is quoted as saying: "...If the woman reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but this --- and he pointed to his face and hands." [Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1902]

From these and other references, the vast majority of Muslim scholars and jurists, past and present, have determined the minimum requirements for Muslim women's dress: 1) Clothing must cover the entire body, with the exception of the face and the hands. 2) The attire should not be form fitting, sheer or so eye-catching as to attract undue attention or reveal the shape of the body.

There are similar, yet less obvious requirements for a Muslim male's attire. 1) A Muslim man must always be covered from the navel to the knees. 2) A Muslim man should similarly not wear tight, sheer, revealing, or eye-catching clothing. In addition, a Muslim man is prohibited from wearing silk clothing (except for medical reasons) or gold jewelry. A Muslim woman may wear silk or gold.

Q: IS ISLAMIC DRESS APPROPRIATE FOR MODERN TIMES?

A: Islamic dress is modern and practical. Muslim women wearing Islamic dress work and study without any problems or constraints.

Q: DOES ISLAMIC DRESS IMPLY THAT WOMEN ARE SUBMISSIVE OR INFERIOR TO MEN?

A: Islamic dress is one of many rights granted to Islamic women. Modest clothing is worn in obedience to God and has nothing to do with submissiveness to men. Muslim men and women have similar rights and obligations and both submit to God.

Q: BUT AREN'T THERE MUSLIM WOMEN WHO DO NOT WEAR ISLAMIC DRESS, OR HIJAB?

A: Some Muslim women choose not to wear hijab. Some may want to wear it but believe they cannot get a job or may face discrimination wearing a head scarf. Others may not be aware of the requirement or are under the mistaken impression that wearing hijab is an indication of inferior status.