How should women observe modesty in dress while in public and privacy?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Honorable Ulama,

I would like to know the rulings of Islam regarding modesty for Muslim women in public and in privacy.

  1. How did the pious ladies among the Sahaabiyaat (RA) used to dress at home?
  2. What is the most desirable way to dress at home where there are Marhams only?
  3. What is the most desirable way to dress at home where there are Ghair-Marhams (such as brother in law) as well?
  4. In a ladies only event-hall which is part of a public shopping mall, can the Muslim ladies take off their Burqa and head-scarves? Many women who do not observe proper Hijaab and non-Muslim waitresses are also there in the same hall. What is the most desirable way to dress in such an environment in the midst of a bazaar?
  5. Which Burqa color is desirable for the ladies? What color Burqa/covering did the Sahaabiyaat (RA) use to wear outside?
  6. Can a Muslim woman take part in a gathering where there is a partition between men and women where the audience males cannot see the female audiences but, the men at the front stage see both men and women?

May Allaah Jalla Jalaaluhu grant you the greatest khair of Dunya and Aakhirah for your noble efforts. JazakaAllaahu Khaira Was-Salaam


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

1. Mawlana Yusuf al-Kandhalwi (may Allah have mercy on him) has mentioned some narrations about the clothing of the Sahabiyaat in his book Hayat al-Sahabah [i]:

“Kathir bin Ubayd narrates that when he once went to Umm al-Mu’mineen Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) she told him to wait until she completed stitching her old garment. As he waited, he remarked, “O Umm al-Mu’mineen! If I went out and informed the people about this, they would regard it as miserliness from your side.” Hadhrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “Do as you see fit. The person who does not wear old clothes does not deserve new clothes.”

Abu Sa’eed reports that when someone entered Aisha’s (may Allah be pleased with her) room as she was stitching her old garment, he remarked, “O Umm al-Mu’mineen! Has Allah not granted an abundance of wealth (to buy new clothing rather than patch old clothing)?” Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) replied, “Leave us alone! The person who does not wear old clothes does not deserve new clothes.” 

When Mundhir bin Zubayr (may Allah have mercy on him) arrived from Iraq, (his mother) Asma bint Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with her) had already lost her eyesight. He sent her delicate and exquisite garments made in Marw and Quw and when she felt it, she exclaimed, “Alas! Send this clothing back to him.” Mundhir (may Allah have mercy on him) felt grieved about this and said, “Dear mother! The garments are not transparent.” She replied, “Even though they are not transparent, they are revealing.” When he then bought for her common garments made in Marw and Quw, she accepted them saying, “It is these types of garments that you should give me to wear.” 

At the same time it should not be misunderstood from the above that a woman should always wear simple or plain clothing. It is permissible to buy nice clothes provided it is done as an expression of Allah’s blessings and not done for arrogance, showing off or for displaying to non-mahrams. 

Since deeds are based on intentions, a wife adorning herself for the sake of her husband is rewarded. However, care should be taken that one does not spend money on things one cannot afford, nor becomes so preoccupied with them that they become the purpose of life.

2. Since the woman will be among her Mahrams only, she can dress in clothing that is common in her local custom but is modest enough that it does lead to temptation for her Mahrams. [ii]

3. The woman should not come in front of her brother-in-law at all and maintain complete hijab (including covering the face) from him and other non-Mahrams. 

However, in joint-living arrangements where there is considerable difficulty for the woman to wear niqab (face veil) due to her household work, she can instead wear her hijab and jilbab and turn her face away from the non-Mahram residents of that home. [iii]

The brother-in-law or any non-Mahrams will be ordered to lower their gaze – as her not being able to cover her face is due to a legitimate difficulty on her part. That does not mean that a non-Mahram is excused from lowering his gaze.

4.) No, the Muslim woman will have to keep her hijab and jilbab on because the hijab of a Muslim woman in front of non-Muslim woman is like that in front of a non-Mahram male.  [iv]

5.) There is no specific color of burqa required to be worn. The woman can choose whatever color she wants as long as the burqa is loose-fitting, covers her properly and is not of the type that attracts gazes. For further details see Fatwa #32533 at the following link: and Fatwa #30842 at the following link: 

Regarding the colors that the Sahabiyaat (may Allah be pleased with them all) specifically wore, the ahadith do mention some of the colors that were worn. For example, a hadith  mentions that they wore black. [v]

It is also established, that a Sahabiya by the name of Tamimah bint Wahb (may Allah be pleased with her) came to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) wearing a green veil. [vi]

It is also established that the Sahaabiyaat (may Allah be pleased with them all) covered their faces when they left their homes. [vii]

6.) No, this is not permissible as mentioned by Mufti Ebrahim Desai (db) in Fatwa #7797 at the following link:

Sohail ibn Arif,
Student Darul Iftaa
Chicago, USA

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

حياة الصحابة، ص. ٦٨٠  دار الكتب العربي [i]

ولا بأس للرجل أن ينظر من أمه وابنته البالغة وأخته وكل ذي رحم محرم منه كالجدات والأولاد وأولاد الأولاد [ii]

والعمات والخالات إلى شعرها وصدرها وذوائبها وثديها وعضدها وساقها، ولا ينظر إلى ظهرها وبطنها، ولا إلى ما بين سرتها إلى أن يجاوز الركبة وكذا إلى كل ذات محرم برضاع أو مصاهرة كزوجة الأب والجد وإن علا وزوجة ابن الابن وأولاد الأولاد.

الفتاوى الهندية، ٥/ ٣٢٨ 

نعم يستثني منه حالتان: الاولى: حالة الحاجة إلي إبداء الوجه بأن يلحقها بالستر ضرر كما في الزحام، أو لحاجة [iii]

 أخرى، كأداء الشهادة والثانية: أن ينكشف وجهها من غير قصدها عند الكسب والعمل. والرجال مأمورون في هاتين الحالتين بغض النظر، والله سبحانه أعلم

تكملة فتح الملهم، ٤/ ٢٣٤ 

(والذمية كالرجل الأجنبي في الأصح فلا تنظر إلى بدن المسلمة) [iv]

(قوله والذمية) محترز قوله المسلمة (قوله فلا تنظر إلخ) قال في غاية البيان: وقوله تعالى – {أو نسائهن} [النور: 31]- أي الحرائر المسلمات، لأنه ليس للمؤمنة أن تتجرد بين يدي مشركة أو كتابية اهـ ونقله في العناية وغيرها عن ابن عباس، فهو تفسير مأثور وفي شرح الأستاذ عبد الغني النابلسي على هدية ابن العماد عن شرح والده الشيخ إسماعيل على الدرر والغرر: لا يحل للمسلمة أن تنكشف بين يدي يهودية أو نصرانية أو مشركة إلا أن تكون أمة لها كما في السراج، ونصاب الاحتساب ولا تنبغي للمرأة الصالحة أن تنظر إليها المرأة الفاجرة لأنها تصفها عند الرجال، فلا تضع جلبابها ولا خمارها كما في السراج اهـ

رد المحتار، ٦/ ٣٧١ 

كأن على رءوسهن الغربان)… (من الأكسية) السود التي تغطين بهن من الجلابيب) [v]

بذل المجهود، ١٦/ ٦٤٩ 

أن رفاعة طلق امرأته فتزوجها عبد الرحمن بن الزبير القرظي قالت عائشة وعليها خمار أخضر [vi]

اسم المرأة: تميمة بنت وهب، ولم يقع في رواية البخاري ولا في رواية غيره من مسلم والترمذي والنسائي وابن ماجه تسمية امرأة رفاعة، وقد سماها مالك في روايته: تميمة بنت وهب

عمدة القاري، ٦/ ٢٢ 


ويتضح بهذه الأحاديث أن الصحابيات رضوان الله عليهن كن بعد نزول الحجاب يلتزمن بتغطية أجسادهن [vii]

بالجلابيب ويسدلنها على وجوههن عند الخروج

تكملة فتح الملهم ٤/ ٢٢٩ 

This answer was collected from, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Ebrahim Desai from South Africa.

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