Women: Appearance

Q673 :1. Is it permissible for a woman not to comply with her husband's wishes with regard to her appearance, if he asks her to wear make-up or to have her hair styled in a certain fashion? 2. Is there any clear instruction in the Qur'an or Hadith which requires Muslim women to cover their heads during their normal day-to-day activity?

A673 : 1. Let us first of all be clear about the situation we are talking about. What the husband is requesting applies within the family home, when he is with his wife and children, not having a party at home where men and women mix together. If so, then a woman is strongly advised by the Prophet to make herself appealing to her husband. By doing so, she helps him feel completely satisfied with what he has at home. He does not look to others, wishing that his wife does the same as them. Also, a man is recommended not to neglect his appearance. While everyone likes to be relaxed at home, putting on the same dress day after day and totally neglecting one's appearance is bound to have a negative effect on one's partner. This applies in both cases. Indeed, it is a wise woman who takes care to dress well when her husband is about to come back from work. Let us take the example of hair style. If a man comes home to find his wife wearing her home dress, having been in the kitchen all the time, with her hair dishelved, he is bound to compare her with other women he may see in the street, at the office or on television. He feels that there is something missing in his family life. If he likes his wife to wear her hair short and she refuses, he is bound to be upset. She may protest to him that it is un-Islamic for a woman to wear her hair short, as many people believe. This is in fact a mistaken notion. It is more traditional of certain societies. If a woman wears her hair short, she commits no offence, provided that she does not appear in front of men other than her husband, father, brothers or uncles. To assume that it is forbidden for a woman to cut her hair short is totally mistaken. 2. Verse 31 of Surah 24, entitled "Light" or "An-Noor" deals with what women may reveal and what they must hide. It states this instruction to believing women: "Let them draw their head coverings over their bosoms." What this instruction means is that a Muslim woman must have a head cover which she should draw over her bosom to cover her neck and chest. She should do that when she appears before men who are not related to her or rather men to whom she can be married. In a Hadith, which I have quoted quite often (in these columns), the Prophet tells his sister-in-law, Asmaa' bint Abu Bakr: "Asmaa', when a woman attains puberty, nothing maybe seen of her except this and this." (The Prophet pointed to his face and to the lower parts of his arms.) You have here a clear instruction in the Qur'an and in the Hadith. With such conclusive evidence, no one may argue that covering her head is not required of a Muslim woman.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )