Some people make quite an issue about jilbaab being fard to wear and I have heard that although it IS preferable, it is not an obligation to do so. The evidences quoted by the people who say it is are the hadith about the Prophet peace be upon him ordering the women to borrow a jilbaab at the eid prayer and verse 59 of ahzaab. Can you please shed some light on why this does not make it fard.
Allah Most High says:
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and believing women that they should cast their outer garments (jalabib) over their persons. That is most convenient that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Ahzab, 59)
The above verse is clear in determining that it is obligatory (fard) upon a woman to cover herself with a jilbab. This leaves us with the question, what is a jilbab?
It is stated in Lisan al-Arab:
“Jilbab, plural of Jalabib: an outer garment or a cloak with which a woman covers her head and chest. And it is said: It is a long cloak that covers a woman completely.” (Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, 2/317)
Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) states:
“Jilbab is long cloak that covers a woman from her head to her feet.” (Ruh al-Ma’ani, 22/88)
The above and other interpretations of Jilbab are clear that a jilbab is the outer garment that women must wear when emerging in front of strangers. This garment must be wide, loose, and modest and covers the body completely.
After the revelation of this verse, many female Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) used to emerge outside their homes with complete reticence as though birds were sitting on their heads. They used to cover themselves with long black cloaks. (See: Ruh al-Ma’ani, 22/89)
Therefore, a woman must cover herself with a loose and modest cloak when emerging in front of strangers. This may be a tradition veil (burqa) or some other garment.
And Allah Knows Best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK