Years ago, I recall seeing that the number one question people asked about Islam on Google was, “what is the dress code for women?” This is really telling that in the grand scheme of all possible questions people could have about the religion that such an inconsequential topic has such a disproportionate amount of attention from the masses. Not to mention that the answer to the question, for all intents and purposes, has no bearing for 50% of the population of men who seem to be the most fixated on determining a ruling on this subject.
This doesn’t mean that the Quran doesn’t have guidelines on dress code for believers, but compared to the central tenants of the religion, dress code is relatively low on the list of priorities. Why not be more interested in the bigger questions, e.g. who is God, why are we here, what is idol worship, how do we know if we are devoted to God alone, how do we worship God alone, how do we know the Quran is from God, what happens after death, what is the Hereafter, what are the requirements to make it to Paradise in the Hereafter, how do we protect ourselves from the Hellfire, how does one lead a righteous life…are just a few of the questions that I think are exponentially more important for someone’s salvation that a serious person would have concerns about rather than the dress code of women.
Out of the 6,346 verses of the Quran, the topic of dress code is only mentioned a few times compared to the thousands of verses that deal with the other more pressing issues that have exponentially more bearing on salvation. Ironically, the Hadith literature, on the other hand, focuses an exorbitant amount of narrations on such silly details e.g. how one should put on shoes, how one should clip their nails, what foot to use when stepping into a bathroom, how many rocks to clean one’s privates after going to the bathroom, what side one should sleep on, let alone what attire and grooming practices are lawful and unlawful for believers.
- Prohibited from wearing gold rings
- Silk is prohibited to be worn by men
- Wearing only a single shoe is prohibited
- Tattoos are prohibited
- Facial hair removal is prohibited for the ladies
- Adjusting one’s teeth is prohibited
- Growing one’s beard and trimming the mustache is mandatory
- A man dyeing his beard is recommended
- Women using hair extensions or wearing false hair is prohibited because it is falsehood
Yet in the tens of thousands of Hadith from the six authentic compilers, Kutub al-Sittah ( ٱلْكُتُب ٱلسِّتَّة ), which includes Bukhari and Muslim, I don’t recall ever seeing a single mention in any Sahih Hadith mandating that women must cover their hair or any mention of women having to cover their hair at all. If this was such a central part of the religion, is it not quite strange that there is virtually no mention of this being a requirement for women?
Sure the Hadith mention the concept of a headcover but never signifies that this was a commandment from God or His messenger for women to cover their hair.
Interestingly, in a Hadith found in the Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, 3:127-28 (kitab al-salat), it states, “Umar saw a slave woman who veiled her hair. He struck her and told her: ‘Do not imitate free women!”
Another Hadith from Sahih Muslim 1365e discusses the supposed marriage of Muhammad with one of the women of Khaibar upon their conquest, and the people were attempting to determine if Muhammad would make her a wife or a concubine. “They said: If he (the Holy Prophet) would make her wear the veil, then she would be a (free married) woman, and if he would not make her wear the veil, then she should be a slave woman.”
Not that I believe these accounts, but the one thing that Hadith are reliable for is to show the mindset of the time of the people who fabricated these narrations. This shows historically that the concept of a head-covering in the religion for women was never because it was decreed by God but came from culture and decreed by the Islamic state.
[6:150] Say, “Bring your witnesses who would testify that GOD has prohibited this or that.” If they testify, do not testify with them. Nor shall you follow the opinions of those who reject our revelations, and those who disbelieve in the Hereafter, and those who stray away from their Lord.
قُلْ هَلُمَّ شُهَدَاءَكُمُ الَّذِينَ يَشْهَدُونَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ حَرَّمَ هَٰذَا فَإِنْ شَهِدُوا فَلَا تَشْهَدْ مَعَهُمْ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَالَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ وَهُمْ بِرَبِّهِمْ يَعْدِلُونَ
A recent book that shows how the Islamic state utilized dress code laws in the past is called “The Muslim Difference.” For instance, it cites the Pact of ‘Umar as the earliest attempt by a Muslim state to mandate strict dress codes for what was lawful and prohibited. The pact states that “no one should be permitted to imitate and resemble Muslims in their dress, riding animals, and general appearance, and that the obligations for non-Muslims were to adopt distinct headgear, footgear, belts, and prohibited from using saddles. During the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, imperial decrees preventing non-Muslims from resembling Muslims were complemented by the composition of religious treaties forbidding Muslims from resembling non-Muslims. This extended to other fashion legal rulings such as Abbasid caliph Mutawakkil (r. 847-61) decreeing that Jews and Christians wear honey-colored turbans in contrast to the blue and black turbans that were to be only worn by Muslims. Not to be outdone, the Fatimid caliph Hakim (r. 996-1020) decreed that Jews and Christians wear black turbans. This transformed black from the prestigious symbol under Abbasid Caliphas into a humiliating symbol of non-Muslim subjects. The Mamluk Sultans issued a color-coded decree that outfitted Jews with yellow turbans, Christians with blue turbans, and Samaritans with red turbans. Similarly, the Ottoman sultans mandated black hats for Jews and red hats for Christians, while only Muslims were permitted to wear turbans.
For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that these decrees were actually from God. Even if that was the case, attempting to force any dress code on the masses goes completely against the verses of God in the Quran. This is because the Quran prohibits aggression, oppression, and compulsion, and forcing people into a certain style of dress is clearly an act of aggression, oppression, and compulsion.
[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
A follower of the Quran is never justified in using aggression in response to someone else’s dress or expression. Ironically, the only time that aggression is permitted is against an aggressor or to fight oppression. So, in the eyes of the verses of the Quran, the people who fight back against such tyranny are the ones who are in the right, even if their dress code was wrong.
[2:190] You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors.
[2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque (Masjid), unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers.
[2:192] If they refrain, then GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
[2:193] You may also fight them to eliminate oppression, and to worship GOD freely. If they refrain, you shall not aggress; aggression is permitted only against the aggressors.
وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ
وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِنْدَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ فَإِنْ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ
فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّهِ فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَلَا عُدْوَانَ إِلَّا عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ
Mandating a strict dress code on the masses is a hallmark of tyranny. If people are not free to make such basic decisions regarding what they are allowed to wear, how less likely are they to object to other matters of control that the state mandates? By controlling the minutia of a population’s daily affaris, it keeps them compliant and imprisoned.
For those who don’t live in societies with such strict guidelines, it might seem strange to think how this could have such a societal impact on a population but consider the COVID hysteria that took place and the compulsion and aggressive behavior towards people who did not want to wear a mask. How many people during that time got persecuted in grocery stores, airplanes, restaurants, etc., over the mask mandates that ravaged the world? Not to dismiss these atrocities that occurred during COVID, but this is a pittance compared to the multitude of people who had to and still have to deal with this subjugation by people over their religious dress. This is the worst form of tyranny because the ones who are mandating this believe that they are authorized by God for such actions.
[7:32] Say, “Who prohibited the nice things GOD has created for His creatures, and the good provisions?” Say, “Such provisions are to be enjoyed in this life by those who believe. Moreover, the good provisions will be exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection.” We thus explain the revelations for people who know.
قُلْ مَنْ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي أَخْرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِ وَالطَّيِّبَاتِ مِنَ الرِّزْقِ قُلْ هِيَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا خَالِصَةً يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
[11:18] Who are more evil than those who fabricate lies about GOD? They will be presented before their Lord, and the witnesses will say, “These are the ones who lied about their Lord. GOD’s condemnation has befallen the transgressors.”
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أُولَٰئِكَ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ وَيَقُولُ الْأَشْهَادُ هَٰؤُلَاءِ الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا عَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ أَلَا لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ
[6:93] Who is more evil than one who fabricates lies and attributes them to GOD, or says, “I have received divine inspiration,” when no such inspiration was given to him, or says, “I can write the same as GOD’s revelations”? If only you could see the transgressors at the time of death! The angels extend their hands to them, saying, “Let go of your souls. Today, you have incurred a shameful retribution for saying about GOD other than the truth, and for being too arrogant to accept His revelations.
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ قَالَ أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ وَلَمْ يُوحَ إِلَيْهِ شَيْءٌ وَمَنْ قَالَ سَأُنْزِلُ مِثْلَ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذِ الظَّالِمُونَ فِي غَمَرَاتِ الْمَوْتِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ بَاسِطُو أَيْدِيهِمْ أَخْرِجُوا أَنْفُسَكُمُ الْيَوْمَ تُجْزَوْنَ عَذَابَ الْهُونِ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَكُنْتُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِهِ تَسْتَكْبِرُونَ
Quran brings out our true convictions of a person by increasing their faith or disbelief.
[17:82] We send down in the Quran healing and mercy for the believers. At the same time, it only increases the wickedness of the transgressors.
وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا
The fact is nowhere in the Quran does it command that women must cover their hair, yet despite this, many people try to force this on the masses. So to put this idea to rest, let’s look at the verses that people utilize to try to justify the mandate that women must cover their hair.
The word Hijab is commonly used to mean head covering in modern Arabic, but this word, nor its root, is ever used this way in the Quran. Instead, this root is consistently used to mean a barrier, but not just any barrier, specifically a barrier that isn’t physical, like a wall or dam, but as a barrier of the mind or space. For physical barriers, the Quran utilizes other words e.g.
|ḥijābun||حِجَابٌ||(will be) a barrier,||7:46:2|
|bil-ḥijābi||بِالْحِجَابِ||by the cover (*the sun set and night fell);||38:32:11|
|lamaḥjūbūna||لَمَحْجُوبُونَ||surely [ones] shut out / barred / isolated.||83:15:6|
[7:46] A barrier ( حِجَابٌ ) separates them, while the Purgatory is occupied by people who recognize each side by their looks. They will call the dwellers of Paradise: “Peace be upon you.” They did not enter (Paradise) through wishful thinking.
وَبَيْنَهُمَا حِجَابٌ وَعَلَى الْأَعْرَافِ رِجَالٌ يَعْرِفُونَ كُلًّا بِسِيمَاهُمْ وَنَادَوْا أَصْحَابَ الْجَنَّةِ أَنْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَمْ يَدْخُلُوهَا وَهُمْ يَطْمَعُونَ
[17:45] When you read the Quran, we place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter an invisible barrier ( حِجَابًا ).
وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَسْتُورًا
[19:16] Mention in the scripture Mary. She isolated herself from her family, into an eastern location.
[19:17] While a barrier ( حِجَابًا ) separated her from them, we sent to her our Spirit. He went to her in the form of a human being.
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَرْيَمَ إِذِ انْتَبَذَتْ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا مَكَانًا شَرْقِيًّا
فَاتَّخَذَتْ مِنْ دُونِهِمْ حِجَابًا فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا
[41:5] They said, “Our minds are made up, our ears are deaf to your message, and a barrier ( حِجَابٌ ) separates us from you. Do what you want, and so will we.”
(٥) وَقَالُوا قُلُوبُنَا فِي أَكِنَّةٍ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَا إِلَيْهِ وَفِي آذَانِنَا وَقْرٌ وَمِنْ بَيْنِنَا وَبَيْنِكَ حِجَابٌ فَاعْمَلْ إِنَّنَا عَامِلُونَ
That said, the verse that some people utilize to justify the hijab for women is the following.
[33:53] O you who believe, do not enter the prophet’s homes unless you are given permission to eat, nor shall you force such an invitation in any manner. If you are invited, you may enter. When you finish eating, you shall leave; do not engage him in lengthy conversations. This used to hurt the prophet, and he was too shy to tell you. But GOD does not shy away from the truth. If you have to ask his wives for something, ask them from behind a barrier ( حِجَابٍ ). This is purer for your hearts and their hearts. You are not to hurt the messenger of GOD. You shall not marry his wives after him, for this would be a gross offense in the sight of GOD.
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَنْ يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَٰكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانْتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنْكُمْ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِنْ وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَنْ تَنْكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا
Now, this can be understood that this is a physical barrier or a spacial barrier e.g. keeping one’s distance from them, but either interpretation doesn’t change the fact that this verse is only applicable to the wives of the prophet. This is because the prophet’s wives bore more responsibility than other women. For instance, as mentioned in the above verse, people were prohibited to marry the prophet’s wives after he passed. This condition is not the case for other women.
[33:30] O wives of the prophet, if any of you commits a gross sin, the retribution will be doubled for her. This is easy for GOD to do.
يَانِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ مَنْ يَأْتِ مِنْكُنَّ بِفَاحِشَةٍ مُبَيِّنَةٍ يُضَاعَفْ لَهَا الْعَذَابُ ضِعْفَيْنِ وَكَانَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرًا
[33:31] Any one of you who obeys GOD and His messenger, and leads a righteous life, we will grant her double the recompense, and we have prepared for her a generous provision.
وَمَنْ يَقْنُتْ مِنْكُنَّ لِلَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا نُؤْتِهَا أَجْرَهَا مَرَّتَيْنِ وَأَعْتَدْنَا لَهَا رِزْقًا كَرِيمًا
[33:32] O wives of the prophet, you are not the same as any other women, if you observe righteousness. (You have a greater responsibility.) Therefore, you shall not speak too softly, lest those with disease in their hearts may get the wrong ideas; you shall speak only righteousness.
يَانِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَعْرُوفًا
The other verse which is heavily cited to justify the mandate that women have to wear a head covering is the following.
[24:30] Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes (and not stare at the women), and to maintain their chastity. This is purer for them. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything they do.
قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
[24:31] And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies ( زِينَتَهُنَّ ), except that which is necessary. They shall cover ( بِخُمُرِهِنَّ ) their chests, and shall not relax this code in the ( زِينَتَهُنَّ ) presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies ( زِينَتِهِنَّ ) . All of you shall repent to GOD, O you believers, that you may succeed.
وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِنْ زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
|2||lil’mu’mināti||لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ||to the believing women|
|3||yaghḍuḍ’na||يَغْضُضْنَ||they to subdue|
|6||wayaḥfaẓna||وَيَحْفَظْنَ||and they (shall) guard / maintain|
|9||yub’dīna||يُبْدِينَ||they to disclose / reveal|
|13||ẓahara||ظَهَرَ||it was apparent / obvious / necessary|
|15||walyaḍrib’na||وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ||And let them set forth / put|
|16||bikhumurihinna||بِخُمُرِهِنَّ||with their cover|
|18||juyūbihinna||جُيُوبِهِنَّ||their breasts / cleavage,|
|20||yub’dīna||يُبْدِينَ||they (shall) flaunt / disclose / reveal|
|21||zīnatahunna||زِينَتَهُنَّ||their beauty / adornments (bodies)|
|23||libuʿūlatihinna||لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ||to their husbands,|
|46||malakat||مَلَكَتْ||[it] possessed / owned / controlled*|
|47||aymānuhunna||أَيْمَانُهُنَّ||their right hands / oaths (*their servants)|
|49||l-tābiʿīna||التَّابِعِينَ||the attendants / servants / employees|
|52||l-ir’bati||الْإِرْبَةِ||the sexual desire|
|61||ʿawrāti||عَوْرَاتِ||private aspects (of)*|
|62||l-nisāi||النِّسَاءِ||the women (*children who have not reached puberty).|
|64||yaḍrib’na||يَضْرِبْنَ||they to strike|
|65||bi-arjulihinna||بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ||with their feet|
|66||liyuʿ’lama||لِيُعْلَمَ||that it may draw attention / make known|
|68||yukh’fīna||يُخْفِينَ||they conceal / hide|
|70||zīnatihinna||زِينَتِهِنَّ||their beauty / adornments (bodies).|
|71||watūbū||وَتُوبُوا||And repent [you all]|
|77||laʿallakum||لَعَلَّكُمْ||so that you [all] may|
|78||tuf’liḥūna||تُفْلِحُونَ||[you all] succeed.|
There are two points of contention from this verse that people try to justify interpreting this verse to imply that it means women should cover their hair. The first is the word ( بِخُمُرِهِنَّ ). In some translations, they will translate this word as “head cover,” except this word simply just means a cover. The root for خُمُرِ is the same root as the word Khamr (intoxicants), which covers the mind.
There is even a Hadith that states that the prophet wiped over his Khimar. This shows that Khimar was not limited to women in the context of a veil or a head-covering like they make it out to be, but is, in the more general sense, just a cover.
وَحَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْعَلاَءِ، قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ، ح وَحَدَّثَنَا إِسْحَاقُ، أَخْبَرَنَا عِيسَى بْنُ يُونُسَ، كِلاَهُمَا عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنِ الْحَكَمِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِي لَيْلَى، عَنْ كَعْبِ بْنِ عُجْرَةَ، عَنْ بِلاَلٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَسَحَ عَلَى الْخُفَّيْنِ وَالْخِمَارِ . وَفِي حَدِيثِ عِيسَى حَدَّثَنِي الْحَكَمُ حَدَّثَنِي بِلاَلٌ وَحَدَّثَنِيهِ سُوَيْدُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيٌّ – يَعْنِي ابْنَ مُسْهِرٍ – عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ بِهَذَا الإِسْنَادِ وَقَالَ فِي الْحَدِيثِ رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم .
It is narrated from Bilal that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) wiped over the socks and Khimar ( وَالْخِمَارِ ), and in the hadith transmitted by ‘Isa b. Yaunus the words are: ” Bilal narrated it to me.” This tradition is transmitted by A’mash with this addition;, I saw the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).”
Sahih Muslim 275
But even if we say that Khimar means a headcover, the verse uses such a cover to cover the chest and does not say or mention to cover the hair. This shows that the intention of the khimar is to cover the chest and not the hair.
How one understands 24:31 really boils down to how one understands the use of the word “zīna” which is used three times in this verse. The word “zīna” used three times in this verse most simply means “adornments.” People typically think of adornments as an accessory. For instance, this is how we find it used in the following verse.
[20:87] They said, “We did not break our agreement with you on purpose. But we were loaded down with jewelry ( زِينَةِ ), and decided to throw our loads in. This is what the Samarian suggested.”
(٨٧) قَالُوا مَا أَخْلَفْنَا مَوْعِدَكَ بِمَلْكِنَا وَلَٰكِنَّا حُمِّلْنَا أَوْزَارًا مِنْ زِينَةِ الْقَوْمِ فَقَذَفْنَاهَا فَكَذَٰلِكَ أَلْقَى السَّامِرِيُّ
The problem with this understanding is that the verse does not use “zīna” as an exterior item like an article of clothing or jewelry. This is apparent because if this was the case, it would have instructed the women to remove or not wear their adornments, but instead, it says to conceal and not flaunt their zīna. Secondly, the portion that says that the women should not strike their feet when they walk to draw attention to what they conceal of their zīna, again indicates that this is not some accessory but some other form of beauty.
This gets more interesting in the following verse, were we are commanded to bring our zina when we go to the masjid.
[7:31] O children of Adam, you shall be clean and dress nicely ( زِينَتَكُمْ ) when you go to the masjid. And eat and drink moderately. Surely, He does not love the gluttons.
يَابَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِنْدَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ
|1||yābanī||يَابَنِي||O Children (of)|
|3||khudhū||خُذُوا||Take [you all]*|
|4||zīnatakum||زِينَتَكُمْ||your adornments (*be clean and dress nicely)|
|8||wakulū||وَكُلُوا||and eat [you all]|
|9||wa-ish’rabū||وَاشْرَبُوا||and drink [you all]|
|10||walā||وَلَا||but (do) not|
|11||tus’rifū||تُسْرِفُوا||you [all] be extravagant / gluttonous.|
|15||l-mus’rifīna||الْمُسْرِفِينَ||the extravagant ones / gluttons.|
So how do we reconcile this? The root for zīna in addition to adornments, like accessories, also has another meaning which is to make something alluring, and we see this used in this manner in the following verses.
[49:7] And know that GOD’s messenger has come in your midst. Had he listened to you in many things, you would have made things difficult for yourselves. But GOD made you love faith and adorned ( وَزَيَّنَهُ ) it in your hearts, and He made you abhor disbelief, wickedness, and disobedience. These are the guided ones.
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ فِيكُمْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ لَوْ يُطِيعُكُمْ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِنَ الْأَمْرِ لَعَنِتُّمْ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَكَرَّهَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكُفْرَ وَالْفُسُوقَ وَالْعِصْيَانَ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الرَّاشِدُونَ
[28:79] One day, he came out to his people in full splendor ( زِينَتِهِ ). Those who preferred this worldly life said, “Oh, we wish that we possess what Qãroon has attained. Indeed, he is very fortunate.”
(٧٩) فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فِي زِينَتِهِ قَالَ الَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا يَالَيْتَ لَنَا مِثْلَ مَا أُوتِيَ قَارُونُ إِنَّهُ لَذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ
|1||fakharaja||فَخَرَجَ||So he came out|
|5||zīnatihi||زِينَتِهِ||his adornments (full splendor).|
|9||l-ḥayata||الْحَيَاةَ||the life (of)|
|11||yālayta||يَالَيْتَ||“Oh, (we) wish (that)|
|13||mith’la||مِثْلَ||(the) like (of)|
|15||ūtiya||أُوتِيَ||[he] was given|
|17||innahu||إِنَّهُ||Indeed, he (is)|
|18||ladhū||لَذُو||surely possessor of|
Based on this, the way we can understand this in a simple, consistent manner is that when a woman is out in public, she shouldn’t walk or dress in such a way that is drawing unnecessary attention from men, but when we are going to the masjid we want to make the act alluring to others. This is why it is understood that when we go to the masjid we look good. We do this by being clean, dressing nicely, and not being gluttons. This makes the religion more alluring for people to want to join and participate, which is a form of striving in the cause of God.
[24:60] The elderly women who do not expect to get married commit nothing wrong by relaxing their dress code ( ثِيَابَهُنَّ ), provided they do not reveal too much of their bodies ( بِزِينَةٍ ). To maintain modesty is better for them. GOD is Hearer, Knower.
وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ الّٰتِیۡۤ لَا يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحًا فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَاتٍ بِزِينَةٍ وَأَنْ يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَهُنَّ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
|1||wal-qawāʿidu||وَالْقَوَاعِدُ||And the postmenopausal / elderly|
|8||falaysa||فَلَيْسَ||then not (is)|
|12||yaḍaʿna||يَضَعْنَ||they put aside|
|13||thiyābahunna||ثِيَابَهُنَّ||their [fancy] clothes / garments,|
|15||mutabarrijātin||مُتَبَرِّجَاتٍ||ones who are displaying / decking (themselves)|
|18||yastaʿfif’na||يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ||they shall seek to abstain / maintain modesty|
|21||wal-lahu||وَاللَّهُ||and God (is)|
[33:59] O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized (as righteous women) and avoid being insulted. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
يَاأَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
|4||li-azwājika||لِأَزْوَاجِكَ||to your wives|
|5||wabanātika||وَبَنَاتِكَ||and your daughters|
|6||wanisāi||وَنِسَاءِ||and (the) women|
|7||l-mu’minīna||الْمُؤْمِنِينَ||[the] believers (to)|
|8||yud’nīna||يُدْنِينَ||[they] lower (*lengthen)|
|11||jalābībihinna||جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ||their [over] garments.|
|15||yuʿ’rafna||يُعْرَفْنَ||they be recognized|
|17||yu’dhayna||يُؤْذَيْنَ||they be harmed / harassed / insulted.|
|18||wakāna||وَكَانَ||And [He] is|
The overall takeaway from the Quran is aside from women being recommended to cover their cleavage, there is no explicit dress code for the believers, just guidelines. God has given us the hearing, eyesight, and brain, and we are responsible for using them to apply our own discretion to the best of our ability based on the verses of God in the Quran.