Ibn ‘Uthaimīn: What Women Can Wear in Front of Each Other
Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaimīn
Categorized under: Clothing and Dress, Fatāwá and Rulings
Correcting the Understanding of What Women Can Wear in Front of Each Other
On the subject of marriage, he says:
With vacation coming up, there are a lot of parties, and along with them, a lot of Islamically wrong things happening among women from wearing things that are short, see-through, and other than that, by which much of the body is revealed.
Along with this, we are really finding some sisters saying this clothing is permissible among women, saying that the scholars have truly only [said it was] prohibited in order to close the doors to [certain sins]; [saying also] that the base rule with regard to clothing is permissibility; and that the area a woman must cover of herself in front of other women is that which is between the naval and the knees, so based on that, she [need] not cover anything other that [area] alone in front of [other] women.
We hope to get clarity on this issue, with evidence. We ask Allāh that He not deny you the reward and that He reward you with the best of rewards in this life and the hereafter.
And is it correct that the area a woman must cover of herself [in front of other women] is between the naval and the knees?
The reality is that [the situation] mentioned in the question does occur at times, meaning: women coming to parties in see-through or short clothes, wearing attractive perfume, or other than that from things that put people to trial or temptation. And this is something prohibited; it is not allowed. This is because the Prophet ﷺ said: “Two kinds from the people of Hellfire I have not [yet] seen: people with whips like cow tails with which they strike people; and women dressed but undressed, wayward and inviting others to waywardness–[these women] will not enter Paradise, nor even find its fragrance.”
The scholars have explained that–meaning his statement, “dressed but undressed”–as their having clothes on, but it being short, see-through, or tight-fitting. All of this, the scholars have explained. And the area a woman must cover of her body is not like that of a man’s; rather, it is of a greater degree. For this reason, we say: that which a woman must cover of herself in front of other women is like that which a man must cover in front of other men, but that does not mean that a woman only wears that which covers between the navel and the knees. Not a single scholar has ever said this. Even European and disbelieving women don’t do this; there has to be something covering their chests or covering their breasts at the very least.
And is it comprehensible that the Islamic Sharī‘ah, pure and purifying, allows women to uncover [any part of themselves] other than what is between the navel and the knees? This is incomprehensible.
A woman’s dress is decent, modest wear. Shaikh Ibn Taimiyyah, may Allāh have mercy on him, said: The women from among the Companions, inside houses, would wear gowns that covered [the areas] from the hands to the ankles–from the hands […] to the ankles […]–this [was] in the house.
As for when she would leave [the house], it is known, the well-known ḥadīth, that the Messenger ﷺ allowed them to drag their garments [on the ground] up to a forearm in [extended] length in order to cover the feet. So what a woman should wear is not the same as what a man should; due to this, the Messenger ﷺ did not say, “men dressed but undressed,” though he did say: “A man is not to look at the [Islamically defined] private areas of [other] men’s bodies, nor a woman at the [Islamically defined] private areas of [other] women’s bodies.”
On the contrary, he distinguished between what is worn by men and what is worn by women. So for women, he said, “dressed but undressed,” while he did not say with regard to men that they [would be] “dressed but undressed,” since there is nothing wrong with a man showing his chest to another man or showing his shin. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, a woman is prohibited from that.
As for what the person with the question said, that this is from closing the doors [to certain evils], we say: we grant that it is coming from the angle of closing the doors. Does that then [mean] that issues are to be left open for anyone to do whatever he or she wants to do? No, the Sharī‘ah has rules governing all actions. It is not: every person does what he or she likes saying, “This is [just] a means [not a categorical sin in itself].”
[The fact is that] every means to something, if it leads in the end to something prohibited [Islamically], it becomes prohibited. Every [such] means, if hasn’t ended up in a prohibited thing today, will end up in one tomorrow.
For this reason, we see these kinds of clothes, the ones that were referred to in the question, to be prohibited, even among women [themselves].