Are black clothes obligatory in Islam?
Allah has decreed that women must be bashful and modest and must not incite lust in strange men. This is the foundation of a woman’s behaviour in society, the foundation of the Muslim world order, the foundation of the well-beseen worshipping of Allah and of righteous living. All the other ordainments of Allah in respect of women (concealing the awrah (the prohibited body parts) from strangers, having mahram companions (close relatives), staying by the husband’s side unless he permits differently etc.) are designed to safeguard this main rule for every woman.
“And tell the believing women to reduce some of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap a portion of their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands.
Their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women. That which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” (24:31)
Wearing black is nothing more than a devout sand pious impulse to fulfill this commandment of Allah as best as one can.
There is no direct order either in the Quran or in the Sunnah to wear black as a sign of devotion to the Lord. Quite the reverse, both those Holy Books encourage the wearing of white. All the best known imams keep saying that time and again, such as imams Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood. They all warn against false perception of the black colour as the colour of mourning.
They all say that such custom is nothing but emulation of non-Muslims, such as Christians and Jews, and such emulation is deplorable for a Muslim.
For a true Muslim to mourn the deceased is to offer prayers to the Lord and to appear heart-stricken in front of him, with the colour of your clothes hardly being a matter of importance at such a time. “Wear your white garments, for they are among your best garments, and shroud your dead in them.” (Sunan Abu Dawood, 3878)
Black colour is Halal. The Prophet himself wore black. “I saw the Prophet on the pulpit and he wore a black turban, and he let both the ends hang between his shoulders.” (Sunan Abu Dawood, 4077) This is why there originated a pious custom in Saudi Arabia in the third decade of the last century to protect women from obscene lust of strangers by shrouding them in black.
The laws on the protection of decency laid it down as adequate means of protecting God’s Will. Yet, in recent years one is witnessing the reassessment of public perception of this measure. Black clothes (especially for women) are Halal but optional, the realization of this is becoming more widespread even in the country to which all Muslims look as the birthplace of Islam and the place where the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located.