Hijab in the Quran

Islam is a comprehensive religion which covers all aspects of our lives. One of these very important aspects is the interaction between the two genders and the boundaries in terms of clothing and behavior that must be observed. Hijab in the Quran tries to explain to the reader the different verses of hijab in the Quran and what some of the reasons behind this important command are.

Facts about Hijab in the Quran

No. of Surahs that mention hijab2
Surahs which mention hijabSurah al-Nur (no. 24) Surah al-Ahzab (no. 33)
No. of verses of hijab4
Applications of hijabClothing Conduct
People to whom hijab appliesBoth men and women

Hijab in the Quran: Introduction

One of the most important discussions regarding clothing and behavior in Islam is the discussion of hijab (حجاب). Contrary to what most people believe, hijab also applies to behavior and men also have a level of hijab that they must observe. The Quran mentions the hijab that genders must observe in a few of its verses and guides us to our duty in this regard.

In this article, we will be talking about the following topics:

Who Are the Mahrams?

Mahram (محرم) are certain people from one’s close relatives whom one cannot ever marry; for example, one’s parents, brothers and sisters, direct paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, and so forth.

Some of these are one’s blood relatives and others are those that become mahram through marriage; for example, for the husband, the parents of his wife and for the wife, the parents of her husband.

These are people to whom one can speak easily and freely, doesn’t need to lower his/her gaze from, and a woman does not need to cover herself in front of.

However, a woman must cover herself and observe hijab in front of other men and men must also observe hijab in front of women who are not of the category of one’s mahram.

Hijab in the Quran: Hijab for Men

قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ

Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them. Allah is indeed well aware of what they do. 1

Regarding the hijab of men, it has been mentioned that they must:

  1. Lower their gaze from looking at non-mahram
  2. Cover their private parts from the eyes of others; although in other verses guarding one’s private parts also refers to protecting oneself from unlawful (according to Islam) sexual relations.

Hijab in the Quran: Hijab for Women

There are a few verses that refer to the discussion of hijab for women in the Quran and we will have a look at them below.

       I.            Hijab in the Quran: Verse of Surah Nur

وَ قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَرِهِنَّ وَ يحَفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَ لَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَ لْيَضْرِبْنَ بخِمُرِهِنَّ عَلىَ‏ جُيُوبهِنَّ وَ لَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَائهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنىِ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنىِ أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيرْ أُوْلىِ الْارْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُواْ عَلىَ‏ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ وَ لَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يخُفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَ تُوبُواْ إِلىَ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكمُ‏ْ تُفْلِحُون

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed. 2

What Does ‘To Display of Their Adornment Only That Which is Apparent’ Mean?

‘The parts that are apparent’, according to narrations, refers to the face and hands. 3

According to commentators, the prohibition directly applies to the place and body part of adornment and it is that which is not allowed to be displayed; otherwise, it is the prohibition doesn’t apply directly to the adornments like earrings and bracelets, and so forth. However, the consequence would be the same, which is that those places and the adornments worn there would have to be covered.

Covering the Hair and Chest

The word khumur (خمر) is the plural of the word khimar (خمار) and refers to the cloth a woman uses to cover the hair and uses the rest to cover her chest.

Therefore, the verse is commanding women to cover their hair as well as chests with the same cloth. 4

The Categories of Mahram for a Woman

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Sons
  • Husband’s father
  • Husband’s sons even though they might not be their sons
  • Brothers
  • Brother’s sons
  • Sister’s sons
  • Women who do not share the same faith as them and in this case one is not allowed to disrobe in front of them
  • Men who for reasons (like retardation, etc.) do not experience lust
  • Children who do not yet have knowledge of gender differences 5
  • Slaves. Even though apparently this sentence has a wide meaning and might seem to indicate that a woman does not need to observe hijab in front of her male slave; however, Islamic narrations (which provide an explanation for the meanings of verses) explicitly state that the verse means refers to female slaves, even if they are from another faith and does not include male slaves. 6


Another one of the aspects of a woman’s hijab is that women should not strike their feet on the ground in such a way that their adornments and ornaments like anklets, earrings, bracelets, and so forth are heard by men 7 (as this would attract their attention).

    II.            Hijab in the Quran: Verse of Surah Ahzab

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw closely over themselves their chadors [when going out]. That makes it likely for them to be recognized and not be troubled, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful. 8

The word jalabib (جلابیب) is the plural of jilbab (جلباب) and can mean:

  • A head covering that covers the head and neck
  • A long cloth that covers the whole body including the head and neck

Previous verses speak of the persecution and harassment that believers faced from the hypocrites and this is why this verse states that the believing women should cover themselves in such a way that they do not face harassment from lewd men.

According to this verse, a type of head covering or scarf was used by the women of that time; however, they would not pay enough attention to covering themselves from non-mahram men. And this is why the verse speaks of drawing close their covering and not of wearing the jilbab itself which was already in practice at that time. 9


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Hijab in the Quran: What Does it Mean to Lower the Gaze?

The word that has been used in the abovementioned verses for lowering the gaze is “gaḍḍa” (غضّ). This word means to lower one’s gaze and does not imply closing or covering one’s eyes.

There are two ways we can look at another person: as a means for some other purpose; for example, speaking to a person entails one to look at that person; or independently, that is, to evaluate that person, notice things about them, stare at them; the purpose of which is to take sexual pleasure and to do so in lust or attraction.

When the verse says to lower the gaze, it is this second, autonomous kind of looking that the Quran is prohibiting, that is, to stare at and flirt with the opposite gender. 10

Hijab in the Quran: Hijab in Terms of Behavior

يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ ۚ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا ﴿32﴾

O wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women: if you are wary [of Allah], do not be complaisant in your speech, lest he in whose heart is a sickness should aspire; speak honorable words.

وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ ۖ … ﴿33﴾

Stay in your houses and do not flaunt your finery like the former [days of pagan] ignorance… 11

The first thing to mention regarding these verses is that even though they begin with addressing the wives of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his household), they include all women.

However, the wives of the Prophet are role models for other women and have a greater responsibility. 12

Hijab in the Quran Covers Certain Rules of Behavior

In this verse, there are a number of behavioral codes mentioned for the believing women which are part of their hijab:

  • To not soften or make their voices delicate when speaking to men.
  • To speak normally and directly in a way that is favored by Islamic law and common Islamic practice which is a speech that gets one’s meaning across. 13
  • To not leave the house in order to display one’s self in finery and adornment. 14

Hijab in the Quran: What is the Purpose of Wearing Hijab?

One can mention multiple reasons and purposes for why hijab is a must for women in Islam:

1. Human Dignity

As a human being, our human dignity and respect is one of the most important parts of our life; particularly in our social life. When a woman becomes a means to promote products, as a decor for waiting rooms, as a thing that attracts tourists and travelers, and so forth, in such a society there is no value placed on a woman as a person and her lofty human value is forgotten. Her youth and honor and her apparent appearance is considered her only honor and value.

Thus, a woman is transformed into a means to satisfy the desires of a group of deceitful and corrupt people. How can a women shine in such a society through her moral characteristics, knowledge, awareness and wisdom and hold a high position? 15

2. Preventing the Spread of Corruption

The spread of corruption and increase in the number of illegitimate children is one of the most painful consequences of not observing hijab. Although one cannot say that this is the sole factor and that there certainly are others that contribute to this, it is, however, one of the most effective factors in this issue. 16

3. Increase in Divorce Rates

Documented statistics show that with the increase in inappropriate dressing in society, the number of divorces and broken families has also continuously increased.

In a society where hijab is observed, the husband and wife belong to each other and their love, emotions, and passion are reserved solely for each other.

However, in a society where a woman is like a common commodity which anyone can look upon in all states of dress or undress, the sanctity of marriage holds no meaning and families very easily break apart, leaving children without a safe and healthy environment. 17

4. Social and Mental Health

Physical desire is one of the strongest and deeply rooted of man’s instincts and a society in which modest dressing and hijab is not observed, is a society that constantly places a person in an atmosphere where he/she constantly faces scenes and situations in which his/her senses are excited.

According to psychologists, constant excitement results in illness and mental issues as well. Is it then not playing with fire to create such a society and atmosphere where this instinct and sense is constantly enflamed and excited? Is it logical to allow such a danger to arise?

A Soul at Peace

Islam wishes that men and women have a soul and spirit that is at peace, healthy nerves, and pure sight and hearing and this is one of the philosophies of making hijab obligatory on both men and women; although the hijab for men, as discussed above, is different than that of women. 18

Hijab in the Quran: Hadith on Hijab

Jaʿfar b. Muhammad al-Sadiq (peace be on him) states:

An unlawful look (at a non-mahram) is an arrow from the arrows of Satan which is poisonous. He who abandons for the sake of Allah, Almighty and Glorious, and not for something else, consequently, Allah will give him a faith which he will taste (the pleasure of).

In another narration, Muhammad b. Ali al-Baqir (peace be on him) states:

The Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) cursed the man who looks at the private part of a woman who is not lawful to him and also the man who proves treacherous to his religious brother regarding his wife and also the man whose help people need (due to his position) but he asks them for a bribe. 19

Summary of Hijab in the Quran

Hijab in the Quran is an important discussion regarding rules of behavior and interaction and clothing between men and women in Islam.

There are a few verses in the Quran in this regard. The hijab of men is to lower their gaze from looking lustfully at a woman and covering their private parts from others; while that of women is to cover their bodies except the hand and face and to also lower their gaze from such a look. Apart from this, there are some behavioral codes that a woman must follow.

There are many hadith narrated from the Infallibles (peace be on them) as well concerning this topic; some of which have been mentioned above.


  1. [24: 30]. Qarai translation
  2. [24: 31]. Pickthall translation
  3. Tafsir al- Mīzān. Vol. 15, p. 156.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Tafsir al- Mīzān. Vol. 15, pp. 156-157
  6. Tafsir Namūna. Vol. 14, p. 451
  7. Ibid. p. 157
  8. [33: 59]. Qarai translation
  9. Tafsir Nūr. Commentary of Surah al-Aḥzāb. Verse 59
  10. The Islamic Modest Dress. Third lesson, part: the command to ‘cast down their glance’
  11. [33: 32-33]. Qarai translation
  12. Qarashi, A. A. (1998-9). Tafsir Aḥsan al-Ḥadīth, 3rd ed. Beʿthat Publications. Vol. 8, p. 352
  13. Tafsir al-Mīzān. Vol. 16, p. 461
  14. Tafsir Nūr. Commentary of Surah al-Aḥzāb, verse
  15. Tafsir Namūna. Vol. 14, pp. 445-446.
  16. Ibid, pp. 444-445.
  17. Ibid, p. 444.
  18. Ibid, pp. 443-444.
  19. A Bundle of Flowers from the Garden of Traditions of the Prophet & Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.).pp. 184 & 185
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