In-laws and the women's dress code

Q272 :Could you please explain the importance of purdah in Islam. What is the ruling concerning the purdah in the case of aunts, cousin-sisters and sisters-in-law? Does their married status make any difference as to how they should appear? People seem to have different view, but what is the correct one?

A272 : The purdah is the name of a type of dress which is used by the Muslim women in the Indian Subcontinent. Therefore, we cannot say that Islam gives a particular ruling with regard to the purdah. Whether they use the purdah or some other type of dress is immaterial, as long as the requirements themselves are met. A Muslim woman is required to wear a wide dress when she is in the company or presence of any man who is lawful to be married to her, and her dress must cover all her body. However, she is not required to have her face or the lower part of her arms, i.e. from the wrist downward, covered when she goes out. Moreover, she must not choose transparent or eye-catching material or colors for outer garments. Her dress must not imitate the dress of non-believers either. These rulings apply to all Muslim women, whether married or not. You ask about the status of certain relatives. The rule which requires the Islamic dress to be worn is that of the degree of relationship. If a relative is lawful for a woman to marry, then she should appear before him in full Islamic dress. If she cannot marry him, as in the case of nephews, paternal or maternal uncles, then an aunt appears before her nephews as she would in front of her father or brother. If the blockage of the marriage between them is the result of a marital relationship, then that blockage is disregarded. Thus a woman should maintain her full Islamic dress in front of her brother-in-law. I do not understand what is meant by the term "a cousin-sister". If it refers to cousins of the first degree, then the same rule applies.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )