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The term jilbāb or jilbaab (Arabic: جلباب) refers to any long and loose-fit coat or garment worn by some Muslim women. Jilbab, Jubbah or Jilaabah is also known as Manteau (a French loan word, meaning "coat") by Persian speakers in Iran.
The modern jilbāb covers the entire body, except for hands, face, and head. The head and neck are then covered by a scarf or wrap (khimar). Some women will also cover the hands and face (niqab). In Indonesia, the word jilbab is used for a headscarf rather than a long baggy overgarment (Geertz). In recent years, a short visor is often included to protect the face from the tropical sun.
The Quran admonishes Muslim women to dress modestly and cover their breasts and genitals. The Quran explicitly states that "O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women" (Quran 33: 32) and as such has separate rules specifically for the wives of the Prophet. However, many people often mistake it for rules for all Muslim women. The Quran has no requirement that women cover their faces with a veil, or cover their bodies with the full-body burqua or chador. The Qur'an does not mandate or mention Hijab. In the following verse, the wives of the Prophet women are asked to draw their jilbab over them (when they go out), as a measure to "distinguish" themselves from others. Surah 33:59 reads:
Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, and your daughters that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed. [...] (Quran 33:58–59)
Qur'an and hadith
Ya ayyuha an-Nabiyy qul li azwajika wa banatika wa nisa al-mu'minin yudnina alayhinna min jalabib hinna; dhalika adna an yu'rafna fa laa yu'dhayn. Wa kana Allahu Ghafur Rahim
Translation: O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their [jalabib] (Jilbabs) over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
It is certified to this extent by Shaykh 'Abdul 'Aziz bin 'Abdullah bin Baz and Shaykh Umar Muhammad Fullata, two scholars of renown throughout the Sunni world during the latter half of the 20th century who also represent two of the most prominent institutions of Sunni Islamic scholarship, Dar ul-Ifta in Riyadh, Saudi-Arabia and Islamic University of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah in Medina, Saudi-Arabia.
This is the following verse from the Quran which explains very clearly how a Muslim woman shall act and dress:
"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. And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the 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 They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to God, O you believers, that you may succeed." (Quran 24:30-31)
There are hadith which serve as commentary on the above verse of the Qur'an (33:59) which mention the jilbab, such as the following:
Narrated Safiyah bint Shaibah: 'Aisha used to say: "When (the Verse): "They should draw their jalabib over their necks and bosoms," was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number #282)
Another hadith mentioning the jilbab follows:
Narrated Umm Atiyya: We were ordered to bring out our menstruating women and screened women to the religious gatherings and invocation of the Muslims on the two Eid festivals. These menstruating women were to keep away from the musalla. A woman asked, "O Messenger of Allah! What about one who does not have a jilbab?". He said, "Let her borrow the jilbab of her companion". (Sahih Bukhari, Book 8, #347)
Since there are no pictures of 7th century jilbab, nor any surviving garments, it is not at all clear if the modern jilbab is the same garment as that referred to in the Qur'an. In general terms, jilbab is a garment/sheet that is worn on the head, draped around the body and that totally covers the body of the woman.
Some modern Muslims insist that the contemporary jilbab and the garment described in the Qur'an and the hadith are exactly the same, and that the Qur'an therefore requires the believer to wear 'these' garments. Some scholars say that a veil is not compulsory in front of blind, asexual or gay men.
Fadwa El Guindi, an Egyptian professor of anthropology, however argues that the jilbab and khimar worn today date only from the 1970s, when Egyptian women who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood adopted them as Islamic dress. Wearing a jilbab advertised the wearer's adherence to a particular interpretation of Islam.
The Encyclopedia of Islam identifies over a hundred terms for dress parts, many of which are used for "veiling" (Encyclopedia of Islam 1986: 745–6). Some of these and related Arabic terms are burqu, ‘abayah, tarhah, bumus, jilbab, jellabah, hayik, milayah, gallabiyyah, dishdasha, gargush, gins’, mungub, lithma, yashmik, habarah, izar. A few terms refer to items used as face covers only. These are qina, burqu, niqab, lithma. Others refer to headcovers that are situationally held by the individual to cover part of the face. These are khimar, sitara, abayah or inrrah. (El Guindi 1999 p. 7)
- Martin et al. (2003), Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World, Macmillan Reference, ISBN 978-0028656038
- Is it ok to take off the kimar and niqab in front of a blind man? retrieved 25 June 2012
- Women revealing their adornment to men who lack physical desire retrieved 25 June 2012
- Queer Spiritual Spaces: Sexuality and Sacred Places - Page 89, Kath Browne, Sally Munt, Andrew K. T. Yip - 2010
- BBC NEWS | Africa | Muslim girls don sporting jilbabs
- Muslim Athletic Wear Covers Skin Without Cramping Style
- El Guindi, Fadwa -- Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance, Berg, 1999
- Geertz, Clifford -- Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics, Princeton University Press, 2000
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