Clothes That Muslim Men & Women Wear

Islamic source texts encourage modesty for men and women, and Muslims around the world have developed garments to meet this need. Muslims may wear clothing styles imported from other countries, but they also develop garments similar to those worn by their non-Muslim neighbours that may be longer or looser to allow for greater modesty. Some Muslims wear the same clothing as their non-Muslim neighbours.

General Islamic Dress Requirements

According to ahdith, (statements made by the Prophet Muhammad and/or those close to him), Muslim men and women are required to cover the area between the navel and knee when anyone except their spouses are present. Muslims are directed in the Qur'an to wear their best clothing to congregational prayer. Muslims are forbidden to wear clothing too closely resembling that of the opposite sex. In places where men and women wear similarly shaped garments, the differences are in the colours or embellishments. Conservative Muslims may shun clothing that is closely associated with non-Muslims, but this is not required by mainstream Islamic scholars.

Islamic Dress for Women

The Qur'an specifies that women should cover their torsos and legs in public. A hadith (singiular of ahdith) requires women to cover all but the face and hands. Another hadith requires women to wear a khimar (a garment covering the head, neck, and chest) during prayer. This hadith is usually interpreted to include any garment that covers the same areas as a khimar. These types of garments are called hijab. Muslim women in South and South East Asia may wear a shalwar kameeze or a baju kurung. In the Levant and Arabian Peninsula, Muslim women wear embroidered dresses under a abaya or jilbab. Sub-Saharan African women wear loose cotton dresses with head coverings that leave the neck exposed. In Western Europe and North America, Muslims are developing a style that is distinctly Western, with three-piece suits and mock wrap dresses, but also distinctly Islamic, with longer hemlines and a looser fit.

Islamic Dress Requirements for Men

Muslim men are discouraged from wearing silk or garments that trail on the ground when they are standing. Some conservative Muslim men wear shortened trousers to ensure that the hem of their trousers does not touch the ground, but this is not required by most Muslim jurists. Muslim men in South East Asia wear sarongs, and in South Asia wear shalwar kameeze. Muslim men in the Levant and Arabian Peninsula wear a jubba or a thobe, and add a bisht for more formal attire. Sub-Saharan African men wear loose pastel robes. In Western Europe and North America, men may wear clothing that is not distinctly Islamic, wear clothing from Muslim-majority countries or wear styles that reflect both Western and Islamic elements.

Women's Face Coverings

Some Muslim women cover their faces with a niqab, or wear garments that cover the whole body, including the face, such as a burka. This is not required, but the wives of the Prophet Muhammad did cover their faces and hands when in public, so Muslim women may emulate them as a sign of piety.

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About the Author

Nakia Jackson has written for online publications since 2006, including columns for Sadie Magazine, Naseeb and Muslim Wake Up!. She has written on religion and beauty, crafts and music. Jackson's expertise stems from personal experience and her years at Berklee College of Music, pursuing a Bachelor of Music.