Q. I am inquiring about the Islamic ruling regarding the color of women's dress. I have read in many books that a women's dress (jilbab, khimar, etc) should not be colorful and attractive. I was wondering about the validity of such assertions and what the great Imams of fiqh have said on this matter. I am particularly wondering about this because it seems from my observations that the standards of beauty and what constitutes beauty are different in different cultural environments. For instance in Malaysia, the women wear long floor length long sleeved dresses but these dresses are quite colorful. What is the ruling on this? In addition, I have noticed in some countries such Saudi Arabia, the women wear all black. Your research on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

A. A woman's dress should not attract attention to herself. What does or does not meet this criterion becomes, as alluded above, a question of `urf or custom, linked to the mores of this and that culture. It may be that the common perception of Malaysians concerning their dresses is that they are quite ordinary, while less vivid colors might be deemed strange or look poor. In Turkish culture, to say to one's wife "You are empty" constitutes a formula of divorce without doubt and cannot be denied in a court of shari`a, but this may not be the case in another culture. It is a question of custom. Similarly the dresses Muslim women wear in Malaysia might seem too colorful in Saudi Arabia, while those worn by Muslim women in Saudi Arabi might be deemed to attract attention to oneself in Malaysia. Yet both meet the criteria of the Shari`a, and Allah knows best.