The Dress code of a Muslim woman in front of other women and her Mahrams
This article is translated from the lecture ‘Awratul-Mar’ah Lil-Mar’ah, by Shaikh Nasir-ud-Deen al-Albaani.
Shaikh Nasir-ud-Deen al-Albaani (Rahimahullaah) was asked about the ‘Awrah of a (Muslim) woman in front of another (Muslim) woman and he (Rahimahullaah) said:
The scholars of Tafseer (the interpreters of the Qur’an) mentioned that the woman has two kinds of Zeenah (adornment), apparent and hidden. This is according to the following verse in Surat an-Nur (24:31) where Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) said:
“And not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent..”
This means that she does not show off her apparent adornment to men (other than her Mahrams). Hence, the apparent Zeenah (adornment) is related to the men who are Mahrams for the woman.
In a Hadeeth related (Marfou’) to the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), it is mentioned that the parts of a woman’s body that can be revealed before men other than her Mahrams, are her face and hands only. Anything other than these two parts is considered hidden adornment which the woman is not allowed to show.
On the other hand, the hidden Zeenah (adornment) is that which Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) has allowed for the woman to reveal to all of her Mahrams and to Muslim women.
Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) said in Surat an-Nur (24:31):
“And not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers, or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the female slaves whom their right hands possess, ..”
Allaah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) Statement “or their (Muslim) women”, clearly proves that it is allowed for the Muslim woman to show her hidden adornment to her father, brother, sister, etc. and that the ‘Awrah of a woman in front of another Muslim woman is bound with this hidden Zeenah (adornment).
What is the hidden Zeenah (adornment)?
Allaah says in Surat an-Nur (24:31):
“And not to reveal their Zeenah (adornment) except to their….”.
What is meant by the word “Zeenah”?
Does it mean the Zeenah (adornment) itself or that part of the body which the woman usually adorns? In other words: does the verse mean that the woman should not show off the parts of the body that she adorns even if there is no adornment on them or does it mean that she should not show the parts of the body adorned with Zeenah?
Undoubtedly, the correct point of view which the scholars of Tafseer have relied upon, is that women are not to uncover the parts of the body or the places of Zeenah.
What is actually meant by the verse, is the places or the positions of the Zeenah.
It should be borne in mind that there are parts of the body which are never habitually adorned by women (So, placing Zeenah in these places does not change the ruling).
For example, does the woman normally adorn the thigh (above the knees)? The answer is no. Does she adorn the back? The answer is no. Does she adorn the breasts? The answer is no. Does she adorn the armpit? The answer is no, and so on.
Accordingly, our Lord (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) allowed women to uncover the places of Zeenah i.e., the parts of the body that they usually adorn, for their Mahrams, and not more than that.
In order to confirm this meaning, we should bring our attention to the statement of the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “The woman is ‘Awrah; whenever she leaves her house, Shaitaan (Satan) supervises her.” It means that Shaitaan tempts her, inspires her to do evil, or inspires others to tempt her. Therefore, the woman is totally ‘Awrah except what is exempted by Allaah and His Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
The apparent Zeenah that the woman can show before men other than her Mahrams are the face and the two hands only. Before Mahrams, she may reveal the positions or places of Zeenah i.e., the parts of the body where she usually wears adornments.
The adornments of the woman at the time of Prophet Muhammad (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) were:
1- Bracelets on the hands and Dumlooj (bangles) which are put on the upper arm.
2- Necklace (chain) on the neck and a small part of the chest.
3- Anklets which Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) pointed to in Surat an-Nur (24:31), and which is from the hidden adornment:
“And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.”
In the beginning of Islam women having newly embraced Islam, used to wear anklets, and when they stamped their feet, the resonance (ringing) of the anklets attracted the attention of men.
Therefore, Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) educated them (refined their manners) through this verse. So this is the last Zeenah (adornment) that is known in the early times of Islam.
Based on the previous discussion, it is now clear to us that the parts or the positions of Zeenah which the woman can show off before her father, brother, and lastly before the Muslim women are:
1- The hands, arms, and a small part of the upper arm where the Dumlooj is worn.
2- The head with the adornment in the ears and around the neck.
3- The feet and a small part of the legs below the knees where one wears anklets.
These are the parts of the body which Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) has allowed for the woman to reveal before her Mahrams and before her sisters in Islam.
1- In case of necessity, the woman may show some parts of her body to other women which are not allowed in normal cases, because in the case of necessity, the forbidden matters become lawful.
2- Tight and transparent clothes are not allowed.
Men whom a woman can never marry because of close relationship (e.g. a brother, a father, an uncle, etc.); or her own husband.
 That part of the body which is illegal to expose before others.
 Shaikh ibn Baaz – It is incumbent upon women to veil (cover faces) themselves from non Mahram men and not show their beauty to men in accordance with the words of Allaah, Most Glorified [(33:53) / Fatawa Islamiya Vol.5 page. 118]
Shaikh ibn ‘Uthaimeen is of the opinion that it is obligatory upon the woman to cover her face in front of non-Mahram men because the face is the most sought after aspect of the woman for men. [Fatawa regarding women page. 289]
 Reported by at-Tirmidhi and authenticated by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jamie’ no. 6690