“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (Jilbab) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” [Noble Quran 33:59]
The reason for women to cover is clearly stated here by Allah the Almighty as a form of protection. And in the following verse from the Quran it is clear who women are allowed to be uncovered around.
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts from sin and not show of their adornment except only that which is apparent, and draw their head covers over their necks and bosoms and not reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women (i.e., their sisters in Islam), or their female slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants free of physical desires, or small children who have no sense of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah altogether, O you Believers, in order that you may attain success.” [Noble Quran 24:31]
Definition and Description of the Jilbab (Over Garment)
The Jilbab is defined as the covering with which a woman wraps around her body on top of her regular household garments to cover herself from head to toe, and is intended to completely hide the shape of her body.
The Jilbab has been mentioned in ayah 33:59 above. This ayah orders Muslim women to draw their outer garments about themselves when they go out.
How the Salaf (Early Companions) & Other Scholars Defined Jilbab
Ibn Mas’ud said, “Jilbab is that sheet of cloth which is worn on top of the scarf.”
Ibn `Abbas said concerning the description of the Jilbab that “it is to be fully wrapped around the women’s body, so that nothing appears but one eye with which she can see.” [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]
Al-Qurtubi defined it as “a cloth which covers the entire body…”
Ibn Al-Hazm said: The word Jilbab means the outer sheet which covers the entire body. A sheet smaller than that which would cover the entire body, cannot be categorized as Jilbab. [al-Muhalla, Vol 3. Pg. 217]
Muhammad bin Sireen: “When I asked Ubaydah bin Sufyan bin al-Harith the meaning of this verse and how the Jilbab was to worn, he demonstrated it to me by pulling a sheet of cloth over his head to cover his entire body, leaving the left eye uncovered. This was also the explanation of the word ‘Alaihinna in this verse” [Commentary by Ibn Jarir and Ahkam-ul-Quran, Vol.III, p .457 ]
Umm Salamah narrated that: When the verse, “That they should draw their over garments (Jalabib) close around them” was revealed, the women of Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing over garments (Jalabib).
Al-Qurtubi, explains: “Women in the past (i.e. before the ayahs concerning covering properly were revealed) used to cover their heads with the Khimar, throwing its ends over their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest bare, in the manner of the Christians. Then Allah commanded them to cover those parts with the Khimar.”
Hence, the Khimar must fully cover not only the hair, but the neck, the shoulders and the chest.
Allah states further in An-Nur, 24:31:
“…And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.” [Noble Quran 24:31]
The women in the time of Jahiliyyah (ignorance) wore anklets which were used to attract attention by stamping their feet and making the anklets jingle. This shows not only that this practice (of stamping the feet to draw attention), is forbidden by Allah, but also that the legs and ankles must be covered as well.
Regarding the feet, this is clarified in the following Hadith from Ibn ‘Umar who reported that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
“On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will not look at the man who trails his garment along out of pride. Umm Salamah then asked: What should women do with (the hems of) their garments? He replied: Let them lower them a hand span. She said: Their feet would be exposed! He (Peace be upon him) then said: Let them lower them a forearm’s length but no more.” [Reported by At-Tabarani]
So it is clear that the dress worn in public must cover the entire body (including the feet) except what has been specifically excluded.
Therefore, from the above proofs from the Quran, the Sunnah and the Statements of the Salaf of this Ummah, we can conclude that a Jilbab or an outer garment or cloak of some type must be worn by a Muslim woman over her normal clothes whenever she goes out in public or if she is in the presence of strangers (i.e., men that are not a Mahram for her) within her own home or the home of a close relative and that simply covering the hair with a headscarf along with normal clothing is not sufficient.
Garments such as the Abaya, the chador, a cloak or other similar garments that are worn over normal clothing can also be defined as a “Jilbab” as well as any combination of clothing that covers as a single over garment (such as the Abaya) does.
The Jilbab Must be Sufficiently Thick and Loose
The Jilbab should be thick and opaque so as not to display the skin color and loose enough so as not to reveal the shape and size of the woman’s body beneath it.
We find a very severe warning against wearing clothing that is transparent or tight fitting in the following Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah who said that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: “I will not be a witness for two types of people who are destined for the fire: people with whips, like the tails of cows, who beat the people (i.e. tyrants who are the enemies of their own people) and women who, although clothed, are yet naked seducing and being seduced, their hair style like the tilted humps of camels. These will not enter the paradise nor will its fragrance reach them although its fragrance reaches a very great distance” [Muslim]
The Scholars have interpreted the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) statement “although clothed, are yet naked” as meaning a woman wearing clothes that do not cover her body properly.
Al-Qurtubi reports a narration from `Ayshah that some women from Banu Tamim came to see her, wearing transparent clothing. `Ayshah said to them: “If you are believing women, these are not the clothes of believing women.”
Further proof that the Jilbab should be both sufficiently loose and thick can also be found in the following Hadith from Usamah ibn Zaid who said:
Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) gave me a gift of thick Coptic cloth he had received as a gift from Dahiah Al-Kalbi, and so I gave it to my wife. Thereafter the Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked me: Why didn’t you wear the Coptic cloth? I replied: ‘I gave it to my wife.’ The Prophet (Peace be upon him) then said: Tell her to wear a thick gown under it (the Coptic garment) for I fear that it may describe the size of her limbs. [Narrated by Ahmad, Al-Baihaqi, and Al-Hakim]
So, from this, we can conclude that a skin-tight body suit or blue jeans (for example) which may conceal the skin color, are nonetheless lacking as proper Hijab because they still reveal the size and shape of the body. Additionally, a Jilbab that may be sufficiently loosely fitting, but is transparent, would also be lacking because it is not opaque and thick and would reveal the skin color of the woman