Islam's Ideal Woman
By Imam Qaradawi
The correct Islamic behaviour required of Muslim women which keeps them from wantonly displaying their attractions is characterised by the following: (A) Lowering the Gaze Indeed, the most precious ornament of a woman is modesty, and the best expression of modesty is in the lowering of the Gaze, as Allah says: ".....And tell the believing women that they should lower their gazes.....(24:31) (B) No Intermingling Not intermingling with men in such way that their bodies come in contact or that men touch women, as happens so often today in movie theatres, university classrooms, auditoriums, buses, street cars, and the like. Ma'qal Ibn Yasar narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) said, "It is better for one of you to be pricked in the head with an iron pick than to touch a woman whom it is unlawful to touch." (C) Her clothing must conform to the standards laid down by the Islamic Shari'ah, which are as follows: 1. Her dress must cover her entire body with the exception of "that which is apparent," which, according to the most preferable interpretation, refers to the face and hands. 2. It must not be transparent, revealing what is underneath. The Prophet (Pbuh) has informed us that, among the dwellers of hell are such women as are clothed yet naked, seduced and being seduced. These shall not enter the Garden, nor shall (even) its fragrance reach them. Here the meaning of "clothed yet naked" is that their light, thin, transparent garments do not conceal what is underneath. Once some women of Bani Tamim, who were clad in transparent clothes, came to see Hazrat Aisha (ra) and she remarked, "If you are Believers, these are not the clothes which befit believing women." On another occasion, when a bride wearing a sheer and transparent head-covering was brought into her presence, she commented, "A woman who dresses like this does not believe in Surah al-Nur." (Surah 24, which together with Surah 33 (al-Ahzab) contains many injunctions concerning purity and propriety, man-woman relations, and dress. (Trans.) 3. Her dress must not be too tight so as to define the contours of her body even though it may not be transparent. This describes many of the styles of clothing current in the sensuous, materialistic civilisation of the Western world, whose fashion designers compete with one another in devising clothing for women which tantalisingly emphasises the bustline, waist, and hips, etc., in order to elicit the lustful admiration of men. Women who wear such clothes likewise fall under the definition of "clothed yet naked," since such a dress is often more provocative than one which is transparent. 4. She must not wear clothes which are specially for men, such as trousers in our time. The Prophet (Pbuh) cursed women who try to resemble men and men who resemble women, and prohibited women from wearing men's clothing and vice-versa. 5. In her choice of clothing a Muslim woman should not imitate non-Muslims, whether they are Jews, Christians, or pagans, for Islam disapproves of conformity to non-Islamic modes and desires its followers to develop their own distinctive characteristics in appearance, as well as in beliefs and attitudes. This is why Muslims have been asked to be different from non-Muslims in many ways, and why the Prophet (Pbuh) has said, "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." (D) The Muslims woman walks and talks in a dignified and business-like manner, avoiding flirtatiousness in her facial expressions and movements. Flirting and seductive behaviour are characteristics of women with immoral motives, not of Muslims. Allah says; " Then do not be too pleasant of speech, lest one in whose heart there is a disease should feel desire (for you).....(33:32) (Pbuh) She does not draw men's attention to her concealed adornment by the use of perfume or by jingling or toying with her ornaments or other such things. Allah says: "They should not strike their feet in order to make known what they hide of their adornment....." (24:31) The women of the time of Jahiliyyah used to stamp their feet when they passed by men so that the jingling of their ankle-bracelets might be heard. The Qur'an forbade this, both because it might tempt a lecherous man to pursue her and also because it demonstrates the evil intention of the woman in attempting to draw the attention of men to herself. Similar is the Islamic ruling concerning the use of fragrant perfumes, since here again the intention is to attract men by exciting their desire. A Hadith states, "The woman who perfumes herself and passes through a gathering is an adulteress." Islam does not require, as some people claim, a woman to remain confined to her house until death takes her out to her grave. On the contrary, she may go out for namaz, for her studies, and for her other lawful needs, both religious and secular, as was customary among the women of the families of the Prophet's Companions and the women of later generations. Moreover, this early period of Islam is considered by all Muslims to be the best and most exemplary period in the history of Islam. Among the women of this time were those who took part in battles in the company of the Prophet (Pbuh) himself, and after that under the caliphs and their commanders. The Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) told his wife Saudah, "Allah has permitted you to go out for your needs." He also said, "If someone's wife asks his permission to go to the mosque, he should not deny it to her." (Reported by al-Bukhari, on the authority of Aisha and Umar respectively). On another occasion he said, "Do not prevent the bond-maids of Allah from (going to) Allah's mosques." (Reported by Muslim).