The status of Fatimah, the most beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Khadijah, is so great within the religion of Islam that our last prophet has said: “Fatimah (AS) is part of me, whoever annoys her, annoys me and whoever pleases her, in fact, he/she pleases me”  He has also said: “Fatimah (AS) is the leader of the women of the worlds and a role model for all Muslim women” .
The history of Islam has witnessed the immense respect that the Prophet (PBUH&HP) had for Fatimah Zahra (AS) which also reflects the importance of women in society. In pre-Islamic times when Arabs would bury their daughters alive, Allah revealed the Chapters of al-Kawthar, and Dahr with the birth of Fatimah (AS) to praise her .
According to some Quran commentaries, when the Quraysh tribe [i] said that the Prophet (PBUH) had no offspring, the chapter of al-Kawthar was revealed:
“Indeed We have given you abundance (al-Kawthar);
So pray to your Lord and sacrifice,
Indeed it is your enemy who is without posterity” (108:1-3).
Al-Kawthar means the abundant good, i.e., the abundant offspring that the Prophet (PBUH) would have through his daughter Fatimah Zahra (AS) especially after the death of his son (Qasim), which made the Quraysh men say he was cut off from male children. In fact, this was a reply to those people and their effort to weaken the Prophet's spirits just because he did not have a son .
Fatimah (AS), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was born on the 20th of Jumada al-Thani (the sixth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar), five years after Muhammad (PBUH)’s prophetic mission (Be’that).
After losing her mother as a young child, she looked after her father so devotedly that Muhammad (PBUH&HP) used to call her “Umme Abiha”, i.e., the mother of her father. This was a really hard time for the family because Abu Talib (the leader of Banu Hashim [ii] and the prophet’s uncle) who was the protector of Muhammad (PBUH&HP) from the animosity of the Quraysh also died in the same year as Khadijah.
So in Fatimah’s (AS) early childhood, there was no place for leisure and playing childish games. Rather, she fulfilled an important role accompanied by motherhood characteristics in her father’s life with all the suffering, mockery, and humiliation he was facing. She would comfort him, empathize with him, relieve his pain, and take care of him with kindness .
When it was the right time for the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), Fatimah (AS), to get married, and after her cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) proposed to marry her, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) consulted with her and asked if she would accept his marriage proposal. In fact, Muhammad (PBUH&HP) wanted to encourage Muslims to also seek their daughters’ opinions and avoid wrong pre-Islamic beliefs about girls.
When Fatimah (AS) was asked about this (Ali (AS)’s proposal), she respectfully sought her father’s advice and the Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: “God has authorized this marriage”. Fatimah (AS) then replied that she was satisfied with what Allah and His Prophet (PBUH&HP) were pleased with.
Fatimah (AS) was the model of Prophet’s teaching among women just as Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) was the best embodiment of his instructions and manly qualities among men; they were the most suitable couple to be married. So after receiving Fatimah’s (AS) consent, their marriage took place in the simplest possible manner .
A few days later, the Prophet (PBUH&HP) called on his daughter and asked her how she had found her husband. She said that he was the best companion in devotion and obedience to God. Later, he asked Ali (AS) how he had found his wife, and he said that he found her the best companion in giving service to the Creator.
Fatimah Zahra (AS) aided her husband in his worldly and religious affairs and cooperated with him in achieving his exalted goals. She was responsible for the household work; made dough, baked bread, and cleaned the house; in return, Ali (AS) vouched to take care of the outside work .
It has been narrated that once Imam Ali (AS) saw that Fatimah (AS) had been working so hard that she got blisters on her hands. He decided to ask the Prophet (PBUH&HP) for a housekeeper. But Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said that he would teach them something instead that would do them better than having a housemaid. He told them to recite the Tasbih of Fatimah Zahra before sleeping; that is 34 times “Allahu akbar,” 33 times “al-hamdu lillah,” and 33 times “Subhan Allah.”
It is strongly recommended to say this Tasbih [iii] as a devotional act after each prayer.
God bestowed upon Fatimah (AS) and Ali (AS) four children; two sons, Hassan (AS) and Hussain (AS), who were the second and the third Infallible Imams; and two daughters, Zainab (AS) and Umme Kulthum (AS).
Fatimah (AS) portrays excellence in her role as a mother and displays a model for all the God-fearing parents in the upbringing of her four children. It has been narrated by a companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) that one day the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was busy grinding some grain when her older son Imam Hassan (AS) started crying. The companion offered to help her with comforting the child, but Fatimah (AS) preferred to take care of her son herself. This shows how important it is for a child to have her/his mother around her/him as much as possible since only a mother can truly soothe her child and no one else can be as much of comfort as a mother .
She always read passages from Quran when she put her children to sleep in the crib and so they all grew up hearing Quran from their infancy, and the words of God became etched upon their young hearts. Through such osmosis, the Quran and the children of Fatimah (AS) became inseparable for all time .
It has been said that this blessed family vowed to fast for three days if their sons recovered from an illness. They became well, and the family fasted for three consecutive days without eating any food giving away their Iftar (breakfast) [iv] to a beggar, an orphan, and a prisoner who arrived at their door and asked for food. The 76th chapter of the Quran (Dahr) was revealed in praise of this family and their extremely charitable act in the way of Allah .
“They fulfill their vows and fear a day whose ill will be widespread. They give food, for the love of Him, to the needy, the orphan and the prisoner, saying, ‘We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We do not want any reward from you nor any thanks.’ Indeed we fear from our Lord a day, frowning and fateful. So Allah saved them from the ills of that day and granted them freshness and joy. And He rewarded them for their patience with a garden and garments of silk” (76:8-12).
Fatimah (AS) actually showed such generosity and compassion for the poor that no destitute or beggar ever returned from her door unattended.
As well as being an exemplary daughter, a loving and supportive wife, and a caring mother, she played an active part as a very powerful, intellectual, and aware member of the society.
Along with all her feminine qualities, she was well-aware of her rights and whenever necessary stood up for them, instead of suffering like a helpless victim. She would make herself available for people who needed answers or clarifications on complicated issues. Her sermons and sayings are evidence of her strong character and noble mind.
She was also a very courageous lady who accompanied the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in many wars. Her genius, wisdom, determination, will-power, piety, patience, knowledge, and nobility, both in words and deeds, were inherited from her illustrious father.
In short, the existence of Fatimah Zahra (AS), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), along with her skills of eloquence, her political and social expertise, and powerful foresight, demonstrates how a Muslim woman can attain high spiritual and mystical positions and how a woman can play different roles powerfully, and positively influence the course of history by her social contribution .
[i] A powerful merchant tribe that controlled Mecca and its Kaaba and that according to Islamic tradition descended from Ishmael. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was born into the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe.
[ii] A clan of the Quraysh tribe
[iii] The repetitive utterances of short sentences in the praise and glorification of Allah.
[iv] The evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset.
Well, one way to answer this question is to consider it by itself and regardless of any side issues. One may thus say that Muslim women –together with the rest of the world– need clothes! women in Islam, too, deserve to wear beautiful and stylish outfits! Muslim women, too, can have a job! And if all that is acceptable, there could be no fault found with designing such clothes or presenting them as a model.
As you know, though, Islam generally gives us the liberty to do all that is sensible, necessary, and harmless but always draws our attention to certain limits and red lines as well. Our answer to such questions, therefore, is usually like; “No problem provided that…”
So, let’s now have a look at those conditions for women in Islam that might concern fashion designing and modeling?
As you know, Islam has set a certain limit on women’s covering. This certain limit addresses women’s natural charm and attractions for men, and their understandable desire to expose them.
So, the big idea for setting such specific measures may be that women do not make a pledge of a special extent of covering for themselves which they would never break. Since, it will end up in what we can see today, where women’s bare body is so widely used as a tool to win men’s attention and pleasure. That’s why Islam has issued special rulings for women (and of course men’s) covering.
The second thing, which is even more repeated and stressed on in Islam, is modesty . But what is modesty all about? Cambridge dictionary defines it [with regards to clothes and behavior] as “a quality, in women, of dressing or behaving in a way that is intended to avoid attracting sexual interest” [i].
Of course, modesty is not exclusively for women in Islam. Men, too, are bid not to dress up or behave in a way that may attract sexual interest. What’s more, the same term is also metaphorically used to imply protecting all parts of the body from trespasses, such as modesty of the eyes, modesty of the tongue, or modesty of the heart. So, in a broad sense, modesty is the quality of protecting oneself against wrong desires. And that’s exactly what we need in fashion modeling.
Now, modesty is somehow different from covering obligations. It means a person (or a woman, as concerns this article) might be well covered following the Islamic principles of covering, but her type of clothes or her manners may still leave room for provoking sexual interest.
Moreover, the realization of modesty can be culturally variable. What is considered as an acceptable level of modesty in a cultural background may not be so in another. But in every culture, I guess, women know pretty well what kind of outfit or behavior could attract sexual attention. And that will do!
Finally, I should say that Islam is not opposed to men and women looking neat, good-looking, fashionable, or even attractive. If a woman is especially kind looking, for example, she looks particularly attractive to everybody.
Does it mean that she shouldn’t look like that? No way! What Islam tries to avoid is looking SEXUALLY attractive –in the same way that Islam asks men time after time to take care of their sight and never look at any woman –other than one’s spouse- sexually. Because Islam wants all sexual pleasure and satisfaction to be concentrated within wedlock and intended for its strength and persistence, rather than its disruption!
So, yes, fashion designing and modeling are acceptable for women in Islam [ii]. And yes, Muslim fashion designers or models are not the same as others who usually intend to be seductive in their manners and their type and extent of covering. Muslim designers and models are required to cover their body (except for the face, hands, and feet) and to look modest. In Muslim countries, therefore, fashion shows are held in segregated places when the kinds of clothes being presented do not go along with Islamic rulings on covering and modesty in public.
[ii] You can read more about whether Muslim women can have a job here.
- Al-kafi, vol. 3, p. 714 , Knaz al-‘Ummal, vol. 3, p. 126
The way we look is usually considered as an expression of our character. That’s why it concerns us very much –maybe just a little too much these days. As a Muslim who tries to lead an Islamic life, it might pop into our heads if we are allowed to wear makeup in Islam, use jewelry, perfume, etc. or not.
This question concerns both men and women, naturally a bit more women though. Here, we would like to address the issue in a more general sense; what Islam says about wearing makeup in different situations. And to give a general preliminary answer, as our opening, yes, Islam allows us to wear makeup and jewelry as long as modesty is preserved.
But let us now have a more detailed look at some specific places where the question has been specially brought up and talked of in Islamic traditions:
It might surprise you to find out that Islam particularly recommends us –though not as an obligation– to be in good shape, wear our best clothes, brush our teeth, wear perfume, and in short, to wear makeup when we stand to pray.
And so did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) prepared himself for every prayer (Salat) since “God is beautiful and loves beauty,”  and conforming to this verse of the Quran:
“O Children of Adam! Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer… Say, ‘Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good things of [His] provision?’…” (7:31,32)
Maybe this is where wearing makeup in Islam is most stressed on. Both men and women are time and again required to appear in the way that looks pleasantest to their better half, especially in their solitary moments.
It is considered a great merit for a woman to put on her make-up, wear jewelry and perfume to charm her husband , and as great a merit for a man always to look neat, well-groomed, perfumed, and dressed up in the way that gratifies his wife, even though it takes a little trouble, and even though it’s not the kind of outfit he likes best .
A man or a woman should never have the impression that their spouse is more concerned with how he or she looks to others than to them!
Here, actually, Islamic Interpretations are varied. On the one hand, all Muslims are repeatedly recommended to look neat and groomed in public . On the other hand, red lines have been drawn where an important Islamic principle is at risk: modesty.
Men are generally allowed to wear jewelry, such as rings or necklace (though necklaces are more commonly used by women in some Muslim countries), but they are forbidden from wearing any golden ornaments, maybe because Islam always wants there to be a certain line between men and women’s appearance, in the same way as Muslim men are required to wear a beard.
Women, too, are allowed to wear make-up, jewelry, or perfume in public as long as it doesn't make them appear sexually attractive. And of course, the bottom line for sexual attraction could be different from culture to culture. Several verses of the holy Quran ask women to keep a modest look in the public:
“… [tell the faithful women] not to display their charms, beyond what is [acceptably] visible… And let them not thump their feet to make known their hidden ornaments.” (24:31)
This verse mentions an example of immodesty at the time and culture of early Islam. But the rule applies to any kind of appearance or manner which is intended or is very likely, to provoke sexual interest in anybody other than one’s spouse.
According to what we said, therefore, Muslims are very much suggested to, so to say, wear makeup in Islam for praying and for one’s spouse. They are also advised to do so in the public sphere so far as one’s appearance is not in a way that could excite unlawful (Haram) sexual temptations.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 83, p. 169
- Al-Kafi, vol. 11, p. 165 , Al-Kafi, vol. 11, p. 168
- Makarim al-Akhlaq, p. 80
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 16, p. 249