Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful Praise be to Allah. May the peace and blessings of Allah shower upon our Beloved Messenger, his family, companions, and those who follow them.
Our understanding of hijab comes from two verses of the Qur'an. The first, in Surat al-Nur, reads, “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments 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, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31).
The other verse in Surat al-Ahzab says, “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59)
One of the most famous hadith proofs for hijab is the following, "A'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that Asma’, the daughter of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) came to the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: 'O Asma’! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands." [Abu Dawud]
These are the evidences for hijab. As to what form the hijab takes, that can vary depending upon local custom. Scholars are unanimous that the hijab must cover every part of the woman's body, except for the face and hands. Some Hanafi scholars say that the face, hands, and feet are all exempted. The clothing used to cover the body should be opaque and loose-fitting. In other words, the color of the skin and the contours of the body should not show through the clothing. The head should be covered with some form of a khimar or head veil. The head veil should cover the hair, neck, ears, and bosom. Furthermore, women should not make themselves up or use perfume when they go out. Using makeup and perfume would defeat the whole purpose of hijab. It is easy to see how the West has built a whole industry revolving around making the female as seductive as possible with makeup, perfume, revealing clothing, and constantly changing hair styles. This is not an image that we Muslim women want.
As to what fabrics, colors, or styles of clothing you use, that is up to you, as long as you have satisfied these basic requirements. It is recommended to wear a jilbab, or over-garment. However, a long, loose-fitting tunic with a long skirt also satisfies the requirement for covering the body modestly. If you look at styles in the Muslim world, you will see everything from an Arab abaya to an Iranian chador, from Afghani burqas to Malaysian skirt and tunic sets, from smart business suits to Indo-Pak shalvar qamiz. You will see a diversity of fabrics, colors, and designs. All of these can fulfill the basic requirement of hijab, which is the modest covering of the hair and body. As far as color is concerned, a lot of that is cultural. While wearing black in Iran or the Arab world is customary, in Africa and Southeast Asia it is customary to be colorful and this is not inappropriate. Diversity is one of the strengths of the Umma. I don't think it's appropriate for people to tell you that if you wear a black hijab, your hijab is good, but if you wear a hijab with flowers on it, your hijab is bad. As long as you are modest and have not dressed in a way that will attract attention to yourself, you are fine. You can tell if you are wearing something that is showy or flashy. What colors you wear are entirely up to you. Just use discretion.
And Allah knows best. And Allah alone gives success.
Umm Salah (Zaynab Ansari)
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