To Veil or Not to Veil the Face? The Niqab Debate

A comprehensive introduction to the debate on whether veiling the face is compulsory for a Muslim woman

Foreword                     ——————————————————             xi

Acknowledgements     ——————————————————            xiii

Notes on Terminology and Transliteration——————————-           xvi

Preface                        ——————————————————–         xviii

Is the Niqab or face-veil compulsory (wajib) for all

Muslim women?         ——————————————————–             1

  1. Clarification of terms – “khimar”, “jilbab”, and “hijab” 3
  2. Arguments of those who say niqab is wajib: ………………………….. 9
  3. Arguments of those who say niqab is not wajib: ……………………… 25
  4. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………….. 95

Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………  96

Recommended Websites …………………………………………………..…  108

  1. Clarification of terms ………………………………      3

 Arguments of those who say niqab is wajib:

 A1) Interpretation of “… draw their jalabib over

themselves …” (Qur’an 33:59)………………………..         9

A2) Interpretation of “…and to not display their adornment

(zeenah) except that which may be apparent…” Q.24:30-31                 10

A3) Qur’an 33:53 as listed above.  That other believing

women should be even more required to wear the veil than

the Prophet’s wives, as they are in even greater

need of purifying their hearts and minds. ………………….. 11

A4) Aisha used to say, “… (the women) cut their waist sheets

at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.”…….11

A5) Narrated ‘Aisha, “… some believing women covered with

their sheets (murut) … and then they would return to

their homes unrecognized.” …………………………….      12

A6)Narrated ‘Aisha, “… ‘Umar used to say to the

Prophetr, ‘Let your wives be screened (ihjub, from hijab),’

… So, Allah revealed the verses of Al-Hijab.” ………….      12

A7) “The Prophet r said, ‘A woman is ‘awrah (and thus

should be concealed), …” ……………………………….               13

 

A8) Narrated Umm Salamah, “… the women of Ansar came

out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing

outer garments.”  ………………………………………     14

A9) Narrated Thabit ibn Qays, “A woman called Umm

Khallad came to the Prophet r while she was veiled

Some of the Companions … said to her, ‘You have

come here … while veiling your face?’  ……………………..     14

A10) Narrated ‘Aisha, “…the early immigrant women

… tore their thick outer garments and covered

themselves (made khumur) from them.” ……………………        15

A11) Fatima bint al-Mundhir said, “We used to veil our faces

when we were in ihram…”  …………………………………         16

A12) Narrated ‘Aisha, “Riders would pass us

… while we were in the sacred state (wearing ihram)

… one of us would let down her jilbab from her head

over her face, …”  ………………………………………..              17

A13)  “… ‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green

khimar.” ……………………………………………………………….         17

A14) Narrated Umm ‘Atiyyah, “… A woman asked,

‘O Allah’s Apostle, What about one who does not

have a jilbab?’ He said, ‘Let her share the jilbab

of her companion.’” …………………………………….                18

A15) “…The Prophet r said, ‘…and if one of the women of

Paradise looked at the earth, … the khimar of her

eyes/face is better than the whole world …” ……………….      18

A16) Narrated Aisha, “A woman made a sign from behind

a curtain to indicate that she had  a letter for the Apostle

of Allah r …” …………………………………………      19

A17) “The Messenger of Allah r said, ‘Allah does not

accept the prayer of a woman … unless she wears a khimar.’”…20

A18) “…Then Allah’s Apostle r … said to Sauda bint

Zam’a, ‘Veil (screen) yourself before him,’…” ……………    20

A19) “…Then Ibn Umm Maktum came… The Prophet r

said, ‘Observe the veil from him.’ We asked …Is he not

blind? … The Prophet r said …Do you not see him?’”       22

A20)  The Prophet r said: “A pilgrim woman must neither

cover her face…” ……………………………………         22

A21)  Blocking the means that lead to haram (Sadd ad-dhara‘i)       23

A22) Most Hanbalis regard the entire body of a woman

as ‘awrah outside of salah. …………………………….….     23

A23) That, “there is a consensus among the four

well-known schools of (Islamic) law that the face of

a woman should be covered.” …………………………      24

 

  1. Arguments of those who say niqab is not wajib: ……… 25

B1)             The vast majority of ulama argue that the niqab

is not wajib………………………………………………     25

B2)             The terms “khimar”, “jilbab”, and “hijab” may have

more than one meaning………………………………        25

B3)              The majority of the ulama among the Companions and

the Tabi‘un interpreted “illa ma dhahara minha” (“except

that which may be apparent”) in Qur’an 24:31 as being

the face and hands ……………………………………        25

B4) Refutations of the arguments of those who say

niqab is wajib ………………………………………         28

Refutation of A1      (Interpretation of “… draw their jalabib

over themselves …” Qur’an 33:59) …………               28

Refutation of A2      (Interpretation of “…and to not display

their adornment (zeenah) except that which may

be apparent…” Qur’an 24:30-31) …………..                30

Refutation of A3      (Qur’an 33:53 as listed above. Those other

believing women should be even more required

to wear the veil than the Prophet’s wives, as

they are in even greater need of purifying

their hearts and minds.) …………………..       32

Refutation of A4      (‘Aisha used to say, “… (the women) cut their

waist sheets at the edges and covered their

faces with the cut pieces.”  …………………     39

Refutation of A5      (Narrated ‘Aisha, “… some believing

women covered with their sheets (murut)

and then they would return to their

homes unrecognized.”) ……………………     40

Refutation of A6      (Narrated ‘Aisha, “… ‘Umar used to say

to the Prophetr, ‘Let your wives be screened

(ihjub, from hijab),’ … So, Allah revealed the

verses of Al-Hijab.”)  ………………………     40

Refutation of A7      (“The Prophet r said ‘A woman is ‘awrah (and

thus should be concealed) …”) …………….                41

Refutation of A8      (Narrated Umm Salamah, “… the women of

Ansar came out as if they had crows over

their heads by wearing outer garments.”) …      42

 

Refutation of A9      (Narrated Thabit ibn Qays, “A woman called

Umm Khallad came to the Prophet r

while she was veiled. …  Some of the

Companions …said to her, ‘You have come

here… while veiling your face?’) ……….           42

Refutation of A10    (Narrated ‘Aisha, “…the early immigrant

women … tore their thick outer garments and

covered themselves (made khumur) from them.”) 43

Refutation of A11    (Fatima bint al-Mundhir said, “We used to veil

our faces when we were in ihram…”)……………      43

Refutation of A12    (Narrated ‘Aisha, “Riders would pass us

…while we were in the sacred state (wearing

ihram) … one of us would let down her jilbab

from her head over her face …”) …………     44

Refutation of A13    (“… ‘Aisha said that the lady (came),

wearing a green khimar.”) ……………………               45

Refutation of A14    (Narrated Umm ‘Atiyyah, “… A woman

asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle, What about one

who does not have a jilbab?’ He said, ‘Let her

share the jilbab of her companion.’ ”) …………..     47

Refutation of A15    (“…The Prophet r said, ‘…and if one of

the women of Paradise looked at the earth

…the khimar of her eyes/face is better than

the whole world …”) ………………….           47

Refutation of A16    (Narrated ‘Aisha, “A woman made a sign from

behind a curtain to indicate that she had a

letter for the Apostle of Allah r …”) ………     49

Refutation of A17    (“The Messenger of Allah r said, ‘Allah

does not accept the prayer of a woman

…unless she wears a khimar.’”) ……………     49

Refutation of A18    (“…Then Allah’s Apostle r … said to Sauda bint Zam’a, ‘Veil (screen) yourself before him,’…”) …………………………………………………50

Refutation of A19    (“…Then Ibn Umm Maktum came…

The Prophet r said, ‘Observe the veil from

him.’ We asked … Is he not blind? …

The Prophet r said … Do you not

see him?’”) …………………………………                50

Refutation of A20    (The Prophet r said: “A pilgrim woman

must neither cover her face…”) ……………                51

Refutation of A21    (Blocking the means that lead to haram

Sadd ad-dhara‘i)  ……………………………..                52

Refutation of A22    (Most Hanbalis regard the entire body of a

woman as ‘awrah outside of salah) …………      52

Refutation of A23    (That, “there is a consensus among the four

well-known schools of (Islamic) law that the face

of a woman should be covered.”) …………     52

 

B5)             A woman appeared before a man in ihram without

covering her face, and having beautified herself with make-up 54

B6)             The Prophet r said, “When a young lady begins to

menstruate, it is not proper that anything should be seen

of her except her face and hands” on a number of occasions  54

B7)  The Prophet r replied, “When a woman reaches the

age of puberty, it is not lawful for her to display her body

except the face and hands.” ………………………..…        56

B8)             Ansari women who took the verses (of Qur’an 24:30-31)

to mean they should wear head-covers were praised by ‘Aisha 57

B9)             The Prophet r said, “… a woman in the state of ihram

should not cover her face…” ………………………..         58

B10) Ibn ‘Umar reported, “Allah’s Messenger r forbade

women pilgrims from wearing gloves, veils, and clothes

dyed with saffron …”  ……………………………………………………..      59

B11)  The Prophet r did not command a woman to cover her

face in the final year of his mission ………………….         59

B12)  Jabir saw the face of the woman he described –

“a woman having a dark spot on her cheek…”  ………                63

B13)  Exposure of the face was common at the time of the

Prophet (r) and Companions ………………………       65

B14)  Women had their faces exposed after the verses

on women’s covering were revealed ……………………              66

B15) At the time of the Prophet r, there were women

who had their faces exposed ………………………………67

B16) Hadith recommends looking at the face of the woman

when a person wishes to marry her …………………………68

B17)  “As for older women … it is no sin on them if they

discard their (outer) clothing…” (Qur’an 24:60) ……………70

B18)  Allah’s Messenger r said, “If any man sees a woman

who charms him…” ………………………………………70

B19) With respect to what clothes a woman may pray in, her

entire body is ‘awrah and must be covered, except her

hands and face………………………………………………72

B20) There is no point in enjoining men to lower their gaze if

there was nothing to gaze at ……………………….…      74

B21)              Classical jurists (fuqaha) who view the niqab as not obligatory 77

B22) Commentators of the Qur’an (Mufassirun) who view the

niqab as not wajib: ……………………………..………        82

B23) Evidence from the chronological dating of the verses

in the Qur’an ……………………………………………        84

B24) Refutation of the “Fitnah Argument” related to niqab:

Blocking the means that lead to haram (or, Sadd ad-dhara‘i)…87

  1. Conclusion …………………………………………                95

 

Islam is considered by many observers to be the fastest growing religion in the world, yet it is the most misunderstood of the world’s major faiths. Some misconceptions about Islam stem from calculated propaganda against Islam, but a good amount of it is attributable to the ignorance of many Muslims whose limited knowledge and practice of Islam perpetuates these misconceptions.

 

Due to the deficiencies of the common, restricted way of teaching Islam to the youth, many Muslims grow up believing that Islam requires only blind faith and invites no intellectual challenges. Often such Muslims manage with minimal knowledge of their faith until they interact with larger circles of people, in higher institutions or the work place, where they are confronted with many misconceptions about Islam, and face questions they cannot answer.

 

It is in response to the need for empowering Muslims to know their religion, and to share its beautiful message with the rest of humanity, that this work was begun.

 

This effort is part of a wider project of intellectual empowerment of the global Muslim world. Among the programs designed by the Islamic Education Trust over the past decade and a half is the Train the Trainers Course (TTC) in Islam and Dialogue. As its name indicates, the course is designed to train da’wah volunteers in clarifying misconceptions about Islam, handling differences of opinion among Muslim scholars, and extending personal leadership training to others. The contents of this series of books evolved from teaching manuals from the TTC. It is hoped that this publication will serve as intellectual resource material for Muslims of different backgrounds.

 

May Allah accept this effort from us all, guide us to what pleases Him, and continue to forgive us where we have erred.

 

Justice Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, OFR

National President

Islamic Education Trust

May 2010/Jumada II, 1431 AH

All praise and gratitude is due to Allah, Who has made this work possible. And may the peace and blessings of Allah be in His last messenger, Prophet Muhammad r.

 

In light of the Prophet’s saying: “Whoever does not show gratitude to people, does not show gratitude to Allah”, the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria (DIN) and the Islamic Education Trust (IET) as a whole feel obliged and are happy to express their sincere gratitude to all the brothers and sisters who have in various ways contributed to the development of the Train the Trainers Course in Islam and Dialogue (TTC) and its study material of which this paper is a part of.

 

The full list of contributors to the TTC is known only to Allah. This is particularly so as the material has evolved into its present form since before the TTC formally began as a course in 1994. The contributions to the course and its material have come through numerous channels, directly and indirectly, both formally and informally, and from all over the world. They have come from various backgrounds, age-groups, organizations, specializations and religions. Many have also contributed to the contents and style of the course material in more ways that can be mentioned – through contacts with general and specialist scholars, and wise da’wah personnel; through support with literature and multimedia, funding for research, through all sorts of (eventually) useful criticisms, intra-faith and inter-faith dialogues, debates, and arguments; through good questions and better answers; through organizing and supporting training courses that have increased the experience of trainers/researchers, and workshops that brought useful and diverse minds and perspectives together; … and most of all through their prayers, good will and encouragement. The list is endless, alhamdulillah! And as only the Qur’an is perfect, this material will by Allah’s leave continue to evolve through revisions and improvements with contributions from people like you, the reader.

 

The names acknowledged below are therefore by no means exhaustive, as it has become practically impossible to cite all who deserve mention – but Allah has counted them all, and we continue to pray Allah to bless them with the best in this life and the next.

 

Special acknowledgement however must be made of those who to the best of our knowledge worked hardest on this particular topic of “Is the face-veil (niqab) compulsory (wajib) for all Muslim women?” First and foremost are all those who organized and participated in the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria’s 2004 Research Workshops on Niqab, Music, Bid’a, Jihad and Apostasy in Islam. The chief editor and researcher of the workshop proceedings was Mrs. Asiya Rodrigo, who also located most of the references in this work. Others who greatly assisted in numerous other capacities include Abdullahi Orire, Muhammad Husam, Muhammad Dukuly, Nuruddeen Lemu, and Barr. Zakariyya Bello. Special thanks go to Habibullah Aminu for locating and inserting almost all the Arabic texts, and for reconfirming most of the references.

 

I would also like to express our profound gratitude to all those lecturers and scholars who read through and gave their valuable constructive suggestions and encouragement. Finally, and on behalf of all the research team and members of the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria (DIN), I would like to pray for the Trustees and minds behind the Islamic Education Trust (IET), and the DIN in particular, Justice Shiekh Ahmed Lemu and B.Aisha Lemu. Their wisdom, support, encouragement and inspirational leadership have with Allah’s blessings, helped bring the DIN where it is today – Alhamdulillah! May Allah reward you all with the best in this life and the next, and jazaakum ulLahu khairan.

 

Ibrahim Yahya

(Director, Da’wah Institute of Nigeria, Islamic Education Trust)

  1. Use of “p”

It is a time-honoured and cherished tradition among Muslims that whenever the name of any of the numerous Prophets of God is mentioned, peace and blessings are mentioned upon him.  In line with this tradition and the injunction in Qur’an 33:56, wherever the title “the Prophet,” “Messenger of Allah,” “Apostle of Allah,” or the Prophet’s name, “Muhammad,” appear in this text, the symbol (r) appears next to it.  This abbreviation equates to the saying, “may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.”  Contemporary written work on Islam by Muslims incorporate many variations of symbols and abbreviations for this benediction, including “S.A.W.”, “s.a.s.”, “s”, “p”, “pbuh” and others. In determining which customary symbol to utilise, it is worth mentioning that manuscripts belonging to the first two centuries of Islam’s intellectual heritage did not rigidly adhere to the custom of writing a benediction after the Prophet’s name[1], and hence, there is no ‘best’ way of representing it.

  1. References to ahadith[2] and commentaries drawn from computer software

Efforts have been made to ensure all ahadith in this material are drawn from reliable and well-respected collections.  Where there is some doubt over any hadith by a respected authority, mention has been made of it in a footnote, while its (unomitted) presence in this text indicates strong support for its authenticity by other scholars of repute.  An abundance of Islamic classical texts and some of their translations now exist on CD-ROMs[3]. The present material has made use of some of these CD-ROMs for obtaining ahadith and their commentaries (tafasir).  The most commonly utilised CD-ROM database of hadith in English has been the Alim Version 6.0 software.  Hence, references to hadith collections that end with the phrase “in Alim 6.0” throughout this material refer to those obtained from the Alim Version 6.0 database (ISL Software Corporation, 1986-2000).  References to collections of hadith commentaries which have been drawn from other CD-ROMs have been noted in footnotes throughout the text.

  1. Transliteration of Arabic words

Modern Islamic literature in English utilises a number of transliteration systems for Arabic words.  This material has followed the system used by the majority, the details of which may be found in the International Journal of Middle East Studies[4]. However, for our ease and simplicity, we have omitted the diacritical dots and dashes which facilitate exact pronounciations. It is expected that this should not render the words unreadable.

[1] Jeffrey Lang, Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam (Beltsville, USA: Amana Publications, 1994), p.ix

[2] Plural of hadith – the narrations or reported actions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

[3] Database software for viewing information on computers.

[4] With a few exceptions.

The conventional dress of Muslim women has become symbolic with Islam’s presence in a society. Much has been publicised about the role of the hijab in the lives of Muslim women, and yet its significance to women and Islamic society remains clouded. Ignorance, stereotypes and misconceptions significantly contribute to the inferiority complex, alienation, and rebellion experienced among some Muslims.

 

Unfortunately, in addition to the flood of criticisms against Muslims, and Muslim women in particular, regarding the wearing of hijab, another disturbing angle has been the stream of criticisms by some Muslims against Muslim women who are already wearing the hijab, but who are not also wearing the niqab (or face-veil). This has unfortunately created confusion among some sincere Muslims regarding what Islam’s position really is, on the ‘awrah of a woman, and hence the minimum or optimum dressing allowed for a Muslim woman to wear when in public. This confusion naturally has consequences for those committed to applying the teachings of Islam to their lives, and presenting it others, including their families, new Muslims and non-Muslims, etc.

 

While the covering of a Muslim woman’s hair and body is well-established to be compulsory (wajib) in Islamic jurisprudence or (fiqh), there is contention over whether the same applies to also covering the face, or whether it remains an option.  If indeed the niqab (face-veil) is obligatory, it would imply that those wearing only a head-cover and loose clothing down to their feet are committing a sin by omission, which is prohibited (haram).  Hence, the issue of concern in this book is not whether it is beneficial or preferable for some women to wear the niqab under certain circumstances, but whether the niqab is compulsory for all Muslim women from the evidence of the Qur’an and Sunnah as understood by our great scholars.

 

This write-up attempts to present all the main arguments raised by both the proponents and opponents of niqab being compulsory. It aims to educate the young Muslim on the position of the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (r), the understanding of his companions, their followers, and the majority of Muslim scholarship on the question of whether or not the niqab is a compulsory part of a Muslim woman’s hijab. It at the same time attempts to present differences of opinions on the various issues raised where they exist – and Allah knows best.

 

In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful

 

أن الحمد لله نستعينه ونستغفره ونعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ,ومن سيآت أعمالنا  من يهده الله فلا مضل له ومن يضلل الله فلا هادي له أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأشهد أن محمدا عبده ورسوله صلى الله وسلم عليه وعلى آله وصحبه ومن اهتدى بهديه إلى يوم الدين

 

All praise belongs to Allah. We give praise to Him, ask for His assistance, and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the mischief of our souls, and from the wrongs of our deeds. For whoever Allah guides, none can lead astray. And whoever Allah allows to be misguided, none can guide aright. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, He alone with no partner. And I bear witness that Muhammad r is His servant and messenger. May blessings and peace be upon him, his family, his companions, and whoever follows his guidance, right until the Day of Judgement.

 

While the covering of a Muslim woman’s hair and body is well-established to be compulsory (wajib) in Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh, there is contention over whether the same applies to also covering the face, or whether it remains an option.  If indeed the niqab (face-veil) is obligatory, it would imply that those wearing only a head-cover and loose clothing down to their feet are committing a sin by omission.  Hence, the issue of concern in this paper is not whether it is beneficial or preferable to wear the niqab but whether the niqab is compulsory for all Muslim women.

[1] The Arabic texts of the quoted verses of the Qur’an and Hadith have been cited as some of the translations available in English have sometimes presented very inaccurate and erroneous interpretations of texts related to this topic. This is unfortunately the case with some of the translations of the Qur’an and Hadith (Sahih Bukhari) by Muhammad Muhsin Khan.

The “niqab” refers to the covering of the face by a piece of cloth or one’s outer garment, leaving at most only one or two eyes exposed in order to see where one is going.  The Qur’an does not contain the word “niqab” but rather uses the terms “hijab”, “jilbab” and “khimar” when referring to a woman’s concealment.

 

The term “hijab” may be found in 3 verses of the Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَنْ يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَى طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانْتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ إِنَّ ذَلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنْكُمْ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِنْ وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ذَلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَنْ تَنْكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا إِنَّ ذَلِكُمْ كَانَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا

1) “O believers! Do not enter the houses of the Prophet without permission, nor stay waiting for meal-time: but if you are invited to a meal, enter, and when you have eaten disperse and do not seek long conversation. Such behavior annoys the Prophet, he feels shy in asking you to leave, but Allah does not feel shy in telling the truth. If you have to ask his wives for anything, speak to them from behind a curtain (hijab). This is more chaste for your hearts and for theirs. It is not proper for you to annoy the Messenger of Allah, nor ever to marry his wives after him; this would be a grievous offence in the sight of Allah.” (Qur’an 33:53)

 

Here, the word “hijab” is referring to the curtain between the Prophet’s wives and visiting men who enter their dwellings.  It was used to distinguish between their private quarters and the public area of the home.

 

وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَسْتُورًا

2) “When you recite the Qur’an, We put a hidden barrier (hijab) between you and those who do not believe in the hereafter.” (Qur’an 17:45)

 

In this verse, the “hijab” is referring to a metaphysical barrier of perception, knowledge, and spiritual benefit between those who believe and those who disbelieve.

وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَنْ يُكَلِّمَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَّا وَحْيًا أَوْ مِنْ وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُولًا فَيُوحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَاءُ إِنَّهُ عَلِيٌّ حَكِيمٌ

3) “It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration of from behind a veil (hijab) or by the sending of a Messenger to reveal with Allah’s permission what Allah wills: for He is Most High Most Wise.” (Qur’an 42:51)

 

Here, again, the “hijab” refers to a metaphysical concealment.  A hadith in Sahih Muslim explains this veil of Allah’s further:

 

عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى قَالَ قَامَ فِينَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِخَمْسِ كَلِمَاتٍ فَقَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لَا يَنَامُ وَلَا يَنْبَغِي لَهُ أَنْ يَنَامَ يَخْفِضُ الْقِسْطَ وَيَرْفَعُهُ يُرْفَعُ إِلَيْهِ عَمَلُ اللَّيْلِ قَبْلَ عَمَلِ النَّهَارِ وَعَمَلُ النَّهَارِ قَبْلَ عَمَلِ اللَّيْلِ حِجَابُهُ النُّورُ وَفِي رِوَايَةِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ النَّارُ لَوْ كَشَفَهُ لَأَحْرَقَتْ سُبُحَاتُ وَجْهِهِ مَا انْتَهَى إِلَيْهِ بَصَرُهُ مِنْ خَلْقِهِ

أخرجه مسلم في كتاب الإيمان، باب في قوله عليه السلام: إن الله لا ينام

 

Narrated Abu Musa, “The Messenger of Allah r[1] was standing amongst us and he told us five things. He said, ‘Verily the Exalted and Mighty God does not sleep, and it does not befit Him to sleep. He lowers the scale and lifts it. The deeds in the night are taken up to Him before the deeds of the day, and the deeds of the day before the deeds of the night. His veil is the light.’ In the hadith narrated by Abu Bakr (instead of the word ‘light’) it is ‘fire’. ‘If he withdraws it (the veil), the splendour of His countenance would consume His creation as far as His sight reaches’.”[2]

 

From the above, it would appear that the Qur’an does not utilize the term “hijab” for a woman’s clothing per se, but rather a screen or barrier of any sort.  Nonetheless, the actions of the Prophet’s wives following “the verse of the hijab” (Q33:53) in veiling their entire bodies whenever they encountered non-mahram men suggests that a hijab can also refer to clothing through which a woman conceals herself from view.

 

Though “hijab” is used in the contemporary sense as denoting a head-cover, the term “khimar” is used in the Qur’an (24:30-31 – see p.4 below for text) for a covering that includes a woman’s hair.  Since the verse endorses a new way of wearing the khimar for believing women (by drawing it also over their chests), it would appear that the khimar was known in pre-Islamic times to be a head-covering that left the chest exposed.  Hadith scholar Muhammad Nasiruddeen al-Albani writes that several Qur’anic commentators have noted that the khimar used to hang down a woman’s back, leaving her neck, shoulders and ears uncovered.[3]

 

Ibn Mandhur,[4] Ibn Muflih,[5] and al-Bahuti[6] define the khimar as a garment that covers one’s head[7].  Imam Raghib al-Isfahani in his famous work, Mufradat alfadh al-Qur’an explains that, “The root meaning of the word is “to cover”, and the khimar, therefore, is the cover or veil, but it has become synonymous with a veil with which a woman covers her head (i.e., headscarf); the plural of the word is khumur (as used in the Qur’an: An-Nur: 31).”  Ibn Kathir says, “Khumur is the plural of khimar, which means something that covers, and is what is used to cover the head.”[8] Sheikh Muhammad al-Munajjid on Islam Q&A (online) said, “Khimaar comes from the word khamr, the root meaning of which is to cover. For example, the Prophet r said: ‘Khammiru aaniyatakum (cover your vessels).’ Everything that covers something else is called its khimaar. But in common usage, khimaar has come to be used as a name for the garment with which a woman covers her head; in some cases this does not go against the linguistic meaning of khimaar. Some of the fuqahaa’ have defined it as that which covers the head, the temples and the neck.”  Sayyid Qutb states that the Islamic khimar covers the head, neck and chest areas;[9] though al-Albani states that, linguistically, the khimar refers to the covering of the head only, as in the hadith which mention wiping over the khimar for ablution.[10] Nonetheless, in practical reality, a khimar could be extended to cover other body parts as well, as the Qur’an enjoins.

 

Ibn Mandhur defines the jilbab as a garment larger than the khimar, generally covering a woman’s head and chest but which may also extend down to cover the rest of a woman’s body.[11]  The dictionary Al-Qamus al-Muhit by Abu Tahir al-Fayruzabadi provides the definition, “The jilbab… is that which conceals the clothes like a cover.”  Jawhari’s dictionary Al-Sihah says, “The jilbab is a cover and some say it is a sheet.” The Al-Munjid dictionary defines a jilbab as a loose dress or shirt.  Al-Baghawi[12] said, “It is the garment which a woman covers herself with, worn above the dress (dir’) and the headscarf.”  Ibn Kathir says in his Tafsir of Surah al-Ahzab verse 59, “The jilbab is a rida’ (robe), worn over the khimar. This was the view of Ibn Mas’ud, ‘Ubaydah, Qatadah, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Sa’id bin Jubayr, Ibrahim An-Nakha‘i, ‘Ata’ al-Khurasani and others. It is like the izar[13] used today.”

 

Al-Albani makes reference to a narration about ‘Umar to illustrate what the jilbab did not cover.  He states that a slave woman went to ‘Umar about a matter, whereupon ‘Umar told her to remove the jilbab from her head since she was a slave and the jilbab was only for free women to wear. Al-Albani argues that this narration indicates that the wearing of the jilbab did not prevent ‘Umar from recognizing that the woman was a slave, and therefore that it could not be covering her face.[14]

 

The hadith literature suggests a variety of terms for both men’s and women’s clothing (such as thawb, mirt, dheel, etc.).  Most such references to clothing are discussed under the subject of prayer.  Furthermore, most of these terms are used interchangeably for both men and women.  For example, al-Bukhari’s chapter on Prayer has a reference to women who used to pray the dawn prayer wrapped up in their sheets (murut; sg. mirt).  In Sahih Muslim[15], there is reference to the fact the Prophet r was wearing a mirt one day.  Ibn Mandhur also quotes a hadith narrated by Umm Salamah that the Prophet r used to wipe his hands in ablution over his shoes and his “khimar” – here used to mean a turban.[16] This would indicate that many of the above-mentioned terms do not specify a particular style; merely general categories of clothing such as the word “dress,” “coat” or “shirt” in English, which indicate neither length nor a detailed description of appearance.

 

Throughout the Muslim world, regional differences in terms used for a Muslim woman’s dress (eg. dupetta, tarha, haiak, telekong, burqa, hijab, sadl, ghataa, thawb, etc.) have however not altered the general meaning of khimar as a head-cover, and a jilbab as an outer garment worn over one’s underclothes.  Only some elements of modern Algeria regard the jilbab as including a face-veil.[17]

[1] r Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

[2] Sahih Muslim, Vol. 1, No. 179

[3] Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. 1994, p.78. The book was also released as Hijab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah.

[4] in Lisan al-‘Arab (Vol.4, p.257

[5] in Al-Mubdi‘ (Vol.1, p.366)

[6] in Kashshaf al-Qina‘ (Vol.1, p.318)

[7] In common usage of Arabic, the words “head” and “face” are distinct. Unless specified otherwise, the word “head” is not taken to refer to the face, but instead refers to the rest of the head, while the word “face” is specially used to designate the face. An example of this is the process of wudu’: the Qur’an and ahadith mention washing the “face” separately from wiping the “head”, and Muslims are not expected to run their hands over their faces again when getting to the stage of wiping the head.  If the khimar is said to just cover the “head” then the general meaning is that it covers the hair. In order to argue that the khimar is a garment which covers the face, scholars would have to specify that it covers the “face”.

[8] (Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azeem, tafsir of Surah an-Nur, verse 31).

[9] (In the Shade of the Qur’an),

[10] (1994, Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. p.6-7, 72)

[11] (Lisan al-‘Arab Vol.1, p.272-273).

[12] in his Tafsir (Vol.3, p.518)

[13] Material usually tied around the waist.

[14] 1994, Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. p.99-100.

[15] Hadith No.3881.

[16] Cited by al-Baraazi, 1995, Hijab al-Muslima, p.36.

[17] Anne Sofie Roald, 2001, “Islamic Female Dress” in Women in Islam: The Western Experience. Routledge, p.263.

The proponents of niqab being wajib put forward the following verses and hadith in support of their view[1]:

 

  • Interpretation of “… draw their jalabib over themselves …” (Qur’an 33:59)

 

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the believing women that they should draw their cloaks (jalabib; sg. jilbab) over themselves.  That will be better so that they will be recognized and not molested, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an 33:59).

 

It has been related that the meaning of “draw their jalabib over themselves” is to cover their faces, and this has been attributed to Ibn Mas’ud, Ubayda as-Salamani and some others.[2] It has also been reported that Ibn ‘Abbas, with reference to this verse, said that Muslim women are to cover their heads and faces with the exception of one eye[3]. Ibn Taymiyyah argues that Ibn ‘Abbas initially held the position that the face and hands may be seen after the revelation of Surah an-Nur but when Surah al-Ahzab was revealed, he changed his view, and thus baring only one eye was his final position (in Fatawa al-Kubra).

 

  • Interpretation of “…and to not display their adornment (zeenah) except that which may be apparent…” (Qur’an 24:30-31)

 

وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ

 

“…And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and to not display their adornment (zeenah) except that which may be apparent, and to draw their coverings (khumur; sg. khimar) over their bosoms…” (Qur’an 24:30-31).

 

Proponents of niqab as wajib argue that in this verse, the words “except that which may be apparent” (“illa ma dhahara minha”) refer to the outer garment a woman wears, and this is the view of Ibn Mas’ud, al-Hasan, Ibn Sirin, Abu al-Jawza’ and Ibrahim Nakha‘i.[4] Al-Baghawi (d. 516A.H.) says that Ibn Mas’ud’s view was based on Allah’s saying, “… take hold of your zeenah in every place of worship” (Qur’an 7:31), and what was meant by that was clothing.[5]

 

  • Qur’an 33:53 as listed above. Those other believing women should be even more required to wear the veil than the Prophet’s wives, as they are in even greater need of purifying their hearts and minds.

 

The author of Adwa al-Bayan, Al-Shinqiti, argues that if the Prophet’s wives were commanded to veil themselves because it would serve to bring about better purity in the men that came to visit them as well as themselves[6], and they already were the purest of the Muslim women, then other believing women should be even more required to wear the veil as they are in even greater need of purifying their hearts and minds.  This is also reported to be the view of Abdul Azeez Ibn Baz (Hijab wa Safur).

 

  • Aisha used to say, “… (the women) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.”

 

عَنْ صَفِيَّةَ بِنْتِ شَيْبَةَ أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا كَانَتْ تَقُولُ لَمَّا نَزَلَتْ هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ {وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ} أَخَذْنَ أُزْرَهُنَّ فَشَقَّقْنَهَا مِنْ قِبَلِ الْحَوَاشِي فَاخْتَمَرْنَ بِهَا

ـ  أخرجه البخاري في كتاب تفسير القرآن، باب ( وليضربن بخمرهن على جيوبهن)

 

Narrated Safiya bint Shayba, “Aisha used to say, ‘When (the verse) “They should draw their khumur over their bosoms” was revealed, (the women) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.’”[7]

  • Narrated ‘Aisha, “… some believing women covered with their sheets (murut) … and then they would return to their homes unrecognized.”

 

عَنْ الزُّهْرِيِّ قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي عُرْوَةُ أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ لَقَدْ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُصَلِّي الْفَجْرَ فَيَشْهَدُ مَعَهُ نِسَاءٌ مِنْ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ مُتَلَفِّعَاتٍ فِي مُرُوطِهِنَّ ثُمَّ يَرْجِعْنَ إِلَى بُيُوتِهِنَّ مَا يَعْرِفُهُنَّ أَحَدٌ

ـ  أخرجه البخاري في كتاب الصلاة، باب كم تصلي المرأة من الثياب

Narrated ‘Aisha, “Allah’s Apostle r used to offer the Fajr prayer and some believing women covered with their sheets (murut) used to attend the Fajr prayer with him and then they would return to their homes unrecognized.”[8]

 

Proponents of compulsory niqab argue that the only way women could be unrecognized is if they wore full body coverings, including the face.[9]

 

  • Narrated ‘Aisha, “ … ‘Umar used to say to the Prophet r, ‘Let your wives be screened (ihjub, from hijab),’ … So, Allah revealed the verses of Al-Hijab.”

 

عَنْ عُرْوَةَ عَنْ عَائِشَةَ أَنَّ أَزْوَاجَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كُنَّ يَخْرُجْنَ بِاللَّيْلِ إِذَا تَبَرَّزْنَ إِلَى الْمَنَاصِعِ وَهُوَ صَعِيدٌ أَفْيَحُ فَكَانَ عُمَرُ يَقُولُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ احْجُبْ نِسَاءَكَ فَلَمْ يَكُنْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَفْعَلُ فَخَرَجَتْ سَوْدَةُ بِنْتُ زَمْعَةَ زَوْجُ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَيْلَةً مِنْ اللَّيَالِي عِشَاءً وَكَانَتْ امْرَأَةً طَوِيلَةً فَنَادَاهَا عُمَرُ أَلَا قَدْ عَرَفْنَاكِ يَا سَوْدَةُ حِرْصًا عَلَى أَنْ يَنْزِلَ الْحِجَابُ فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ آيَةَ الْحِجَابِ

ـ  أخرجه البخاري في كتاب ال، باب كم تصلي المرأة

 

Narrated ‘Aisha, “The wives of the Prophet r used to go to Al-Manasi, a vast open place (near Baqia at Madinah), to answer the call of nature at night. ‘Umar used to say to the Prophet r, ‘Let your wives be screened (ihjub, from hijab),’[10] but Allah’s Apostle r did not do so. One night Sauda bint Zam’a, the wife of the Prophet, went out at ‘Isha’ time and she was a tall lady. ‘Umar addressed her and said, ‘I have recognized you, O Sauda.’ He said so, as he desired eagerly that the verses of Al-Hijab may be revealed. So, Allah revealed the verses of Al-Hijab.”[11]

 

  • “The Prophet r said, ‘A woman is ‘awrah (and thus should be concealed), …”

 

عن أبي أحوص عن عبد الله : عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم قال المرأة عورة فإذا خرجت استشرفها الشيطان

قال أبو عيسى هذا حديث حسن غريب

قال الشيخ الألباني : صحيح

Narrated Ibn Mas’ud, “The Prophet r said, ‘A woman is ‘awrah (and thus should be concealed), for when she goes out the shaytan looks at her.’”[12]

 


A8)  Narrated Umm Salamah, “… the women of Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments.”

 

عن أم سلمة قالت  : لما نزلت { يدنين عليهن من جلابيبهن } خرج نساء الأنصار كأن على رءوسهن الغربان من الأكسية .

قال الشيخ الألباني : صحيح

ـ  أخرجه البخاري في كتاب الصلاة، باب كم تصلي المرأة

 

Narrated Umm Salamah, “When the verse that, ‘they should cast their outer garments over their persons’ was revealed, the women of Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments.”[13]

 

Some proponents of niqab argue that this hadith indicates that the sahabiyyat wore complete coverings that were black like crows.

 

  • Narrated Thabit ibn Qays, “A woman called Umm Khallad came to the Prophet r while she was veiled. … Some of the Companions … said to her, ‘You have come here … while veiling your face?’

 

عن عبد الخبير بن ثابت بن قيس بن شماس عن أبيه عن جده قال  : جاءت إمرأة إلى النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم يقال لها أم خلاد وهي منتقبة تسأل عن ابنها وهو مقتول فقال لها بعض أصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم جئت تسألين عن ابنك وأنت منتقبة ؟ فقالت إن أرزأ ابني فلن أرزأ حيائي فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ” ابنك له أجر شهيدين ” قالت ولم ذاك يارسول الله ؟ قال ” لأنه قتله أهل الكتاب [كذا قال] ”

.قال الشيخ الألباني : ضعيف

ـ         سنن  أبي داود ، باب فضل قتال الروم على غيرهم من الأمم

 

Narrated Thabit ibn Qays, “A woman called Umm Khallad came to the Prophet r while she was veiled. She was searching for her son who had been killed (in the battle). Some of the Companions of the Prophet r said to her, ‘You have come here asking for your son while veiling your face?’  She said, ‘If I am afflicted with the loss of my son, I shall not suffer the loss of my modesty.’ The Apostle of Allah r said, ‘You will get the reward of two martyrs for your son.’  She asked, ‘Why is that so, Apostle of Allah?’  He replied, ‘Because the people of the Book have killed him.’”[14]

 

  • Narrated ‘Aisha, “…the early immigrant women … tore their thick outer garments and covered themselves (made khumur) from them.”

 

عن عروة بن الزبير عن عائشة رضي الله عنها أنها قالت : يرحم الله نساء المهاجرات الأول لما أنزل الله { وليضربن بخمرهن على جيوبهن } شققن أكنف ( أكنف استر واصفق ومنه الكنف للوعاء والكنف للبناء . هامش د ) قال ابن صالح أكثف مروطهن فاختمرن بها .

قال الشيخ الألباني : صحيح

ـ         سنن  أبي داود ،كتاباللباس، باب في قوله{وليضربن بخمرهن على جيوبهن}

 

Narrated ‘Aisha, “May Allah have mercy on the early immigrant women. When the verse, ‘That they should draw their veils over their bosoms’ was revealed, they tore their thick outer garments and covered themselves (made khumur) from them.”[15]

 

Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani said that the phrase, “covered themselves”, in the above hadith means that they “covered their faces”.[16]

 

  • Fatima bint al-Mundhir said, “We used to veil our faces when we were in ihram…”

 

عن هشام بن عروة عن زوجته فاطمة بنت المنذر أنها قالت : كنا نخمر وجوهنا ونحن محرمات ونحن مع أسماء بنت أبي بكر الصديق

 

“Yahya related to me from Malik from Hisham ibn Urwah that Fatima bint al-Mundhir said, ‘We used to veil our faces when we were in ihram in the company of Asma’ bint Abi Bakr as-Siddiq.’”[17]

 

This hadith is used by face-veiling advocates to indicate that the sahabiyyat all covered their faces, and that even in ihram a woman is required to cover her face when in the presence of other men.

 

  • Narrated ‘Aisha, “Riders would pass us … while we were in the sacred state (wearing ihram) … one of us would let down her jilbab from her head over her face, …”

 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ كَانَ الرُّكْبَانُ يَمُرُّونَ بِنَا وَنَحْنُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مُحْرِمَاتٌ فَإِذَا حَاذَوْا بِنَا سَدَلَتْ إِحْدَانَا جِلْبَابَهَا مِنْ رَأْسِهَا عَلَى وَجْهِهَا فَإِذَا جَاوَزُونَا كَشَفْنَاهُ

ـ سنن  أبي داود ،كتاب المناسك (الحج)، باب في المحرمة تغطيوجهها

 

Narrated ‘Aisha, “Riders would pass us when we accompanied the Apostle of Allah r while we were in the sacred state (wearing ihram). When they came by us, one of us would let down her jilbab from her head over her face, and when they had passed on, we would uncover our faces.”[18]

 

  • “… ‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green ”

 

عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ أَنَّ رِفَاعَةَ طَلَّقَ امْرَأَتَهُ فَتَزَوَّجَهَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ الزَّبِيرِ الْقُرَظِيُّ قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ وَعَلَيْهَا خِمَارٌ أَخْضَرُ

ـ  أخرجه البخاري في كتاب اللباس، باب الثياب الخضر

 

Narrated ‘Ikrima, “Rifa‘a divorced his wife whereupon ‘Abdur-Rahman bin az-Zubair al-Qurazi married her. ‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green khimar.[19]

 

  • Narrated Umm ‘Atiyyah, “… A woman asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle, What about one who does not have a jilbab?’ He said, ‘Let her share the jilbab of her companion.’”

 

عَنْ أُمِّ عَطِيَّةَ قَالَتْ أُمِرْنَا أَنْ نُخْرِجَ الْحُيَّضَ يَوْمَ الْعِيدَيْنِ وَذَوَاتِ الْخُدُورِ فَيَشْهَدْنَ جَمَاعَةَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَدَعْوَتَهُمْ وَيَعْتَزِلُ الْحُيَّضُ عَنْ مُصَلَّاهُنَّ قَالَتْ امْرَأَةٌ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِحْدَانَا لَيْسَ لَهَا جِلْبَابٌ قَالَ لِتُلْبِسْهَا صَاحِبَتُهَا مِنْ جِلْبَابِهَا

ـ  أخرجه البخاري في كتاب الصلاة، باب الصلاة  قي الثياب

 

Narrated Umm ‘Atiyyah, “We were ordered to bring out our menstruating women and secluded women in the religious gatherings and invocation of Muslims on the two ‘Eid festivals. These menstruating women were to keep away from their Musalla.  A woman asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle, What about one who does not have a jilbab?’ He said, ‘Let her share the jilbab of her companion.’”[20]

 

  • “…The Prophet r said, ‘…and if one of the women of Paradise looked at the earth, … the khimar of her eyes/face is better than the whole world …”

Narrated Anas, “…The Prophet r said,

 

وَلَوْ أَنَّ امْرَأَةً مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ اطَّلَعَتْ إِلَى أَهْلِ الْأَرْضِ لَأَضَاءَتْ مَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَلَمَلَأَتْهُ رِيحًا وَلَنَصِيفُهَا

عَلَى رَأْسِهَا خَيْرٌ مِنْ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا فِيهَا

ـ  أخرجه البخاري في كتاب الرقاق، باب قي الخضاب للنساء

 

‘…and if one of the women of Paradise looked at the earth, she would fill the whole space between them (the earth and the heavens) with light, and would fill whatever is in between them with perfume, and the khimar of her eyes/face is better than the whole world and whatever is within it.’”[21]

 

This hadith is interpreted by proponents of niqab as wajib to mean that even the pure women of Paradise wear veils.  Therefore, it is even more desirable that the women of Earth wear them, and that the word “khimar” means to cover the face.

 

  • Narrated Aisha, “A woman made a sign from behind a curtain to indicate that she had a letter for the Apostle of Allah r …”

 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ أَوْمَتْ امْرَأَةٌ مِنْ وَرَاءِ سِتْرٍ بِيَدِهَا كِتَابٌ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَبَضَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَدَهُ فَقَالَ مَا أَدْرِي أَيَدُ رَجُلٍ أَمْ يَدُ امْرَأَةٍ قَالَتْ بَلْ امْرَأَةٌ قَالَ لَوْ كُنْتِ امْرَأَةً لَغَيَّرْتِ أَظْفَارَكِ يَعْنِي بِالْحِنَّاءِ

سنن أبي داود: كتاب الترجل، باب في الخضاب للنساء

 

Narrated Aisha, “A woman made a sign from behind a curtain to indicate that she had a letter for the Apostle of Allah r. The Prophet r closed his hand, saying: ‘I do not know if this is a man’s or a woman’s hand.’ She said: ‘No, a woman.’ He said, ‘If you were a woman, you would make a difference to your nails’, (meaning with henna).”[22]

Proponents of the niqab as wajib view argue that this is an example of how women after the revelation of Surah al-Ahzab (chapter 33) used to only speak to the Prophet r behind a veil of some sort.

 

  • “The Messenger of Allah r said, ‘Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman … unless she wears a khimar.’”

 

عن عائشة : عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم أنه قال

” لايقبل الله صلاة حائض إلا بخمار ”  قال أبو داود رواه سعيد يعني ابن أبي عروبة عن قتادة عن الحسن عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم .

قال الشيخ الألباني : صحيح

سنن أبي داود: كتاب الصلاة، باب المرأة تصلي بغير خمار

 

Narrated ‘Aisha, “The Messenger of Allah r said, ‘Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman who has reached puberty unless she wears a khimar.’”[23]

 

A18) “…Then Allah’s Apostle r … said to Sauda bint Zam’a, ‘Veil (screen) yourself before him,’…”

 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ كَانَ عُتْبَةُ بْنُ أَبِي وَقَّاصٍ عَهِدَ إِلَى أَخِيهِ سَعْدِ بْنِ أَبِي وَقَّاصٍ أَنَّ ابْنَ وَلِيدَةِ زَمْعَةَ مِنِّي فَاقْبِضْهُ قَالَتْ فَلَمَّا كَانَ عَامَ الْفَتْحِ أَخَذَهُ سَعْدُ بْنُ أَبِي وَقَّاصٍ وَقَالَ ابْنُ أَخِي قَدْ عَهِدَ إِلَيَّ فِيهِ فَقَامَ عَبْدُ بْنُ زَمْعَةَ فَقَالَ أَخِي وَابْنُ وَلِيدَةِ أَبِي وُلِدَ عَلَى فِرَاشِهِ فَتَسَاوَقَا إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ سَعْدٌ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ابْنُ أَخِي كَانَ قَدْ عَهِدَ إِلَيَّ فِيهِ فَقَالَ عَبْدُ بْنُ زَمْعَةَ أَخِي وَابْنُ وَلِيدَةِ أَبِي وُلِدَ عَلَى فِرَاشِهِ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ هُوَ لَكَ يَا عَبْدُ بْنَ زَمْعَةَ ثُمَّ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْوَلَدُ لِلْفِرَاشِ وَلِلْعَاهِرِ الْحَجَرُ ثُمَّ قَالَ لِسَوْدَةَ بِنْتِ زَمْعَةَ زَوْجِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ احْتَجِبِي مِنْهُ لِمَا رَأَى مِنْ شَبَهِهِ بِعُتْبَةَ فَمَا رَآهَا حَتَّى لَقِيَ اللَّهَ

أخرجه البخاري: كتاب الأحكام باب من قضي له بحق أخيه فلا يأخذه فإن قضاء الحاكم لا يحل حراما ولا يحرم حلالا

 

Narrated ‘Aisha, “‘Utba ibn Abi Waqqas said to his brother Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, ‘The son of the slave girl of Zam’a is from me, so take him into your custody.’  So in the year of Conquest of Mecca, Sa’d took him and said, ‘(This is) my brother’s son whom my brother has asked me to take into my custody.’ ‘Abd ibn Zam’a got up before him and said, ‘(He is) my brother and the son of the slave girl of my father, and was born on my father’s bed.’  So they both submitted their case before Allah’s Apostle. Sa’d said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! This boy is the son of my brother and he entrusted him to me.’  ‘Abd ibn Zam’a said, ‘This boy is my brother and the son of the slave girl of my father, and was born on the bed of my father.’ Allah’s Apostle said, ‘The boy is for you, O ‘Abd ibn Zam’a!’  Then Allah’s Apostle further said, ‘The child is for the owner of the bed, and the stone is for the adulterer.’ He then said to Sauda bint Zam’a, ‘Veil (screen) yourself before him,’ when he saw the child’s resemblance to ‘Utba. The boy did not see her again till he met Allah.”[24]

 

 

  • “…Then Ibn Umm Maktum came… The Prophet r said, ‘Observe the veil from him.’ We asked, …Is he not blind? … The Prophet r said, …Do you not see him?’”

 

عَنْ أُمِّ سَلَمَةَ قَالَتْ كُنْتُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَعِنْدَهُ مَيْمُونَةُ فَأَقْبَلَ ابْنُ أُمِّ مَكْتُومٍ وَذَلِكَ بَعْدَ أَنْ أُمِرْنَا بِالْحِجَابِ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ احْتَجِبَا مِنْهُ فَقُلْنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَلَيْسَ أَعْمَى لَا يُبْصِرُنَا وَلَا يَعْرِفُنَا فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَفَعَمْيَاوَانِ أَنْتُمَا أَلَسْتُمَا تُبْصِرَانِهِ

سنن أبي داود : كتاب اللباس، باب في قوله ( وقل للمؤمنات يغضضن من ابصارهن)

 

Narrated Umm Salamah, “I was with the Apostle of Allah r while Maymunah was with him. Then Ibn Umm Maktum came. This happened when we were ordered to observe veiling. The Prophet r said, ‘Observe the veil from him.’ We asked, ‘Apostle of Allah! Is he not blind? He can neither see us nor recognise us.’ The Prophet r said, ‘Are both of you blind? Do you not see him?’”[25]

 

  • The Prophet r said: “A pilgrim woman must neither cover her face…”

 

Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet r said:

وَلَا تَنْتَقِبْ الْمَرْأَةُ الْمُحْرِمَةُ وَلَا تَلْبَسْ الْقُفَّازَيْنِ

أخرجه البخاري البخاري في كتاب جزاء الصيد: باب ما ينهى من الطيب للمحرم والمحرمة

 

“A pilgrim woman must neither cover her face nor wear gloves.”[26]

 

The proponents of niqab being wajib for women argue that the fact that this hadith mentions an exception indicates that covering the face and wearing gloves was, outside of ihram, the rule.

 

A21) Blocking the means that lead to haram (Sadd ad-dhara‘i)

 

Advocates of compulsory veiling also utilize the jurisprudential method of Sadd ad-Dhara‘i to buttress their argument.  Sadd ad-Dhara‘i means blocking the means that lead to haram.  It is argued that at the time of the Prophet r and the first generation of Companions, people’s minds were pure and therefore women could leave their faces open without any fear of trouble.  However, the present times are replete with moral deficiencies, fitnah[27] is everywhere, and society takes every opportunity to consume a woman as an object of temptation.  Therefore, women must cover their faces not because their faces are ‘awrah but in order to protect themselves, and thus block the means to such fitnah.

 

A22)          Most Hanbalis regard the entire body of a woman as ‘awrah outside of salah.

 

The legal status[28] of anything in Islam is carefully analysed by the jurists of fiqh.  Therefore, it is important to ascertain their views on this issue. Most Hanbalis regard the entire body of a woman as ‘awrah outside of salah.  Ahmad ibn Hanbal views the hands as ‘awrah at all times and states that the face may be covered in salah and ihram if there are non-mahram men around.

 

A23)          That, “there is a consensus among the four well-known schools of (Islamic) law that the face of a woman should be covered.”

 

Some proponents of niqab as wajib have written that there is a consensus among the four well-known schools of (Islamic) law that the face of a woman should be covered, and that this is the view of Imams Malik, Al-Shafi‘i and Ahmad.[29]

[1] As explained earlier, we have left the original Arabic terms used for a woman’s garment in each of the ayat and hadith listed so as to clarify the meaning of the statements for the reader. Proponents of the niqab as wajib usually translate all of the terms (eg., jalabib, khumur and hijab) as “veils” or full-body coverings, leaving just one eye or two to see the way.  This interpretation has been questioned by other scholars, as will be expounded upon later in the paper.

[2] Cited by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.326; and Imam al-Qurtubi, Tafsir al-Qurtubi. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah. Vol.14, p.156.

[3] Ma’rifatul-Qur’an Vol.7, p.217; Tafsir Ibn Jarir Vol.22, p.29; Tafsir al-Qurtubi. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah. Vol.14, p.156; Tafsir Ibn Kathir.

[4] Tafsir Ibn Kathir.

[5] Ma‘alim al-Tanzil (1994, Dar al-Tayyibah. Vol.6, p.34)

[6] “…If you have to ask his wives for anything, speak to them from behind a curtain (hijab). This is more chaste for your hearts and for theirs…” (Qur’an 33:53)

[7] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, No. 4759

[8] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.1, No. 372

[9] Sheikh Ibn Uthaimeen, Hijaab, p.12-13

[10]Ihjub nisa‘aka.”

[11] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.1, No. 146

[12] Tirmidhi, No.3109 in Alim Software Version 4.5

[13] Abu Dawood, No. 4090

[14] Abu Dawood, No. 2488

[15] Abu Dawood, No. 4102

[16] Fath al-Bari.

[17] Al-Muwatta’, Book 20, No.18

[18] Abu Dawood, No.1829

[19] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.7, No. 5825

[20] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.1, No. 351

[21] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.8, No. 6568

[22] Abu Dawood, No. 4166

[23] Abu Dawood, No. 641

[24] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.9, No. 7182

[25] Abu Dawood, No. 4112

[26] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.3, No. 1838. Also found in Ahmad and Abu Dawood, and authenticated by al-Albani.

[27] troubles, trials, enticements, temptations, and disorder

[28] i.e. whether it is wajib (obligatory), mustahab (commendable), mubah (permissible), makruh (discouraged), or haram (prohibited).

[29]  See, for example, the works of Sheikh al-Tuwaijree and internet sites such as http://www.geocities.com/livingpurdah/light.html.

B1) The vast majority of ulama argue that the niqab is not wajib

 

The vast majority of ulama argue that the niqab is not wajib.[1] They use the same verses referred to in A1-A3 to justify their position, contending that the correct meaning of khimar and jilbab do not necessarily involve covering one’s face.

 

B2) The terms “khimar”, “jilbab”, and “hijab” may have more than one meaning. 

 

They also explain that the fact that the terms “khimar”, “jilbab”, and “hijab” may have more than one meaning implies that an isolated meaning (such as covering of the entire face or leaving only one or two eyes) cannot be used to establish an obligation (or prohibition of the other meanings).

 

B3)  The majority of the ulama among the Companions and the Tabi‘un interpreted “illa ma dhahara minha” (“except that which may be apparent”) in Qur’an 24:31 as being the face and hands.

 

It has been reported that the majority of the ulama among the Companions and the Tabi‘un (Succeeding Generation) interpreted the phrase “illa ma dhahara minha” (“except that which may be apparent”) in Qur’an 24:31 as being the face and hands.[2] Some have interpreted it to mean the kohl and ring and thus what places on the body such accessories occupy (ibid.).

 

For example, Ibn Mansur, Ibn Jarir, Abd ibn Humayd, Ibn al-Mundhir and al-Baihaqi related that Ibn ‘Abbas said that kohl, the ring, bangle and necklace are permitted to be seen (as “that which may be apparent”).  Abdul-Razzaq also related from Ibn ‘Abbas that the bangle and the ring are allowed to be displayed.[3] Abdul-Razzaq, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Jurayj, Ibn Abi Shaybah and Tahawi with a solid chain said that Ibn ‘Abbas regarded the ring and the parts of the face as what is permissibly apparent.[4] Al-Qurtubi also reports that Ibn ‘Abbas and Qatadah said that nothing may be seen of a woman except her face.[5]

 

Ibn Abi Shayba, Abd ibn Humayd and Ibn al-Mundhir said that ‘Aisha was asked about what the adornments are that shouldn’t be seen.  She replied that they were the chest, the heart, the opening of the chest, and what comes together in the chest.[6]

 

Al-Miswar ibn Makhramah said what may be apparent include bracelets, rings, and kohl.[7]

 

Mujahid said kohl, rings and dye may be seen.[8]

 

Al-Hasan said that rings and bracelets are permissible to be exposed.[9]

Ibn Abi Shayba said that ‘Ikrima said the face and a little part of the neck may be seen.[10]

 

Ibn Jarir said that Ibn Jabir and Ibn ‘Ata said the face and hands may be seen.[11]

 

Other notable Companions who have been mentioned in the books of jurists as sharing this view include al-Dahhak,[12] Urwah and Anas.[13]

 

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi adds that, “Sa’id ibn Jubayr, ‘Ata and al-Awza‘i have stated explicitly that the showing of the face and hands is permissible.[14] ‘Aisha, Qatadah, and others have added bracelets to what may be shown of the adornments; this interpretation implies that a part of the arm may also be shown.”[15]

 

Abdul-Razzaq and Ibn Jarir said that Qatadah said the place (on a woman’s body) where description of a person is made (i.e. the face), the ring and kohl are permitted to be seen.[16]

[1] Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid, Vol.1, p.95.

[2]Al-Hafiz al-Suyuti, Al-Dharr al-Mansur fil-Tafsir bil Ma’thoor.

[3] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.317.

[4] ibid., p.318; Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1989, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, p.156.

[5] Tafsir al-Qurtubi. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah. Vol.14, p.156.

[6] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.318.

[7] Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597A.H.), 1987, Zad al-Masir. Dar al-Fikr. Vol.5, p.355-356; Ibn al-‘Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an.

[8] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, Op. Cit.

[9] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, Op. Cit.

[10] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Op. Cit.

[11] ibid.

[12] Al-Baghawi, 1994, Ma’alim al-Tanzil. Dar al-Tayyibah. Vol.6, p.34.

[13] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Op. Cit., Vol.2, p.326; The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, 1989, p.156.

[14] This is echoed by Al-Shawkani (d. 1250A.H.), 1995, Fath al-Qadir. Al-Maktabah al-‘Asriyyah. Vol.4, p.29.

[15] The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, Op. Cit.

[16] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Op. Cit., Vol.2, p.318.

In addition to arguing that the words “khimar” and “jilbab” have been erroneously translated as “veil”, and that there are numerous reports from the Companions and Tabi‘un to substantiate this view, those who argue that the niqab is optional offer the following refutations to each of the arguments made by the proponents of niqab as wajib:

 

Refutation of A1 (Interpretation of “… draw their jalabib   over themselves …” Qur’an 33:59)

 

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا

 

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the believing women that they should draw their cloaks (jalabib; sg. jilbab) over themselves.  That will be better so that they will be recognized and not molested, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an 33:59).

 

Referring to Q33:59, Sheikh Nasiruddeen al-Albani mentions that the distinguished linguist al-Raghib al-Isfahani in al-Mufradaat defines the term “al-idnaa’[1] as meaning “to come close to”[2] and therefore it may not be inferred to mean “covering the face”.  He also states that Ibn ‘Abbas’ explanation of the verse, as related in the Tafsir of al-Tabari, is that a woman “should bring the jilbab close to her face without covering it”, and any other narration that contradicts this is unauthentic.[3] Al-Albani alleges that most scholars are aware that the hadith related by Ibn ‘Abbas that women are only permitted to reveal one eye is weak.[4]

Concerning the claim that Ibn ‘Abbas changed his initial stance after the revelation of Surah al-Ahzab, Dr. Syed Mutawalli Darsh states that Ibn Taymiyyah was mistaken in deducing that Surah al-Ahzab came after Surah an-Nur.[5] Most of Surah al-Ahzab relates to the Battle of Khandaq, which took place in Shawwal of 5 A.H. In addition, verse 53 of this surah (which commands niqab for the Prophet’s wives is reported by Anas ibn Malik to have been revealed during the walima for the marriage of the Prophet r to Zaynab bint Jahsh[6].  This marriage took place in Dhu’l Qidah of 5 A.H.  Verse 33:53 is generally agreed by the scholars to mark the commencement of the revelation of verses related to women’s dressing.  Surah an-Nur was revealed after the incident of the slander of ‘Aisha, which occurred after Zaynab’s marriage to the Prophet r had been well-established.[7] Surah an-Nur verse 31 is generally agreed to mark the final definitive statement on women’s dressing.  Thus, if Ibn ‘Abbas’ commentary of 24:31 was that the face and hands are what is “apparent”, then this (and not his alleged commentary of 33:59) must be his final word on the matter.

 


Refutation of A2 (Interpretation of “…and to not display their adornment (zeenah) except that which may be apparent…” Qur’an 24:30-31)

 

وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ

 

“…And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and to not display their adornment (zeenah) except that which may be apparent, and to draw their coverings (khumur; sg. khimar) over their bosoms…” (Qur’an 24:30-31).

 

With respect to the argument of Ibn Mas’ud and some others that what may be seen of a woman’s adornment (zeenah) is her outer garment only, Ahmad ibn Ahmad al-Shanqiti states that the best tafsir of the Qur’an is the Qur’an itself, and the same verse in the Qur’an describes “zeenah” (“adornments”) as jewellery or accessories and not the outer dress: see the phrase “they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their (hidden) ornaments (“zeenatihinna”)”. Qur’an 24:31.[8]

 

Qur’an 24:60 also mentions the word “zeenah” with reference to what is underneath a woman’s outer garments:

 

وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ اللَّاتِي لَا يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحًا فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَاتٍ بِزِينَةٍ وَأَنْ يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَهُنَّ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

 

“As for older women, who have no hope of marriage, it is no sin for them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show their adornments (zeenah). But to remain modest is better for them, and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”

 

Al-Baghawi (d. 516 A.H.) says, “His (Allah’s) saying ‘… they should not show their zeenah (beauty/decoration)’ means… the hidden zeenah, for there are two zeenahs: hidden and open. The hidden type is things like the anklets, dye on the feet, bracelets on the wrist, earrings and necklaces. These it is not permissible for her to show, nor for the non-mahram man to look at. But what is meant by zeenah is the place of zeenah (in other words, where these jewellery are placed).  His saying ‘… except what is apparent thereof’ refers to the open zeenah.”[9]

 

Al-Nasafi (d. 710A.H.) said, “Zeenah is what the woman uses to decorate herself in jewellery, or kohl or dye. And the meaning [of the verse is]: they should not show the places of zeenah, for showing the zeenah itself – which is jewellery and the like – is permissible… And the [jewellery/accessories] are placed there to show off those places, not for showing of [the jewellery] in itself. And its places are the head, the ears, the neck, the chest, the upper arms, the lower arms, the shin – which are for the diadem, the earrings, the necklaces, the sash worn over the shoulder, the bracelet, the armlet and the anklet.”[10]

 

Moreover, it is widely understood that the Qur’an mentions exceptions as an alleviation or concession (rukhsah) from what may otherwise pose hardship.  The exception in 24:31 (“except that which may be apparent”) cannot be the outer cloth as that is something which cannot be avoided being seen and cannot be further covered, and thus cannot be a concession. Yusuf al-Qaradawi argues that the verse is referring to what may be covered but does not have to be, and therefore it makes more sense to say it is the face and hands.[11]

 

Other opponents of the idea that niqab is wajib also point to the wording in Verse 24:31, which tells women to draw the khumur over their “juyub” (sg. “jayb”).  The word “jayb” refers to a pocket, a mathematical curve which looks like a wave with depressions and peaks, or a bosom.  For example, the Prophet Musa (u) is commanded in the Qur’an (28:32) to put his hand on his “jayb[12], meaning his chest or pocket.  It is argued that an interpretation of the word “jayb” as including the face is therefore not tenable according to both its literal meaning and usage.  Ibn Kathir states, “‘and to draw their khumur over their juyub’ means that they should wear the outer garment in such a way as to cover their chests and ribs, so that they will be different from the women of the Jahiliyyah, who did not do that but would pass in front of men with their chests completely uncovered, and with their necks, forelocks, hair and earrings uncovered.”[13] Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali contends that had the requirement been to lower the khimar over the face, the word “wujuh” (“faces”) would have been used instead of “juyub”.[14]

 

Again on wording, al-Albani in an interview states that verse 24:31 cannot be taken to mean cover the face as “walyadribna” means “and to pull/draw together”[15], and if Allah wanted to command that the face be covered, He would have used more explicit words such as “let fall” (“sadala”).[16] This is confirmed by Ibn Kathir who states, “Sa’id bin Jubayr said, ‘wal-yadribna’ means to pull it around and tie it securely.”[17]

 

Refutation of A3 (Qur’an 33:53 as listed above. Those other believing women should be even more required to wear the veil than the Prophet’s wives, as they are in even greater need of purifying their hearts and minds.)

 

The argument that some mufassirun make that the specific command to the Prophet’s wives in 33:53 has wider application to all Muslim women to veil themselves because they are in even greater need of purifying their hearts and minds has been rejected by other ulama on the grounds that if the verse had general import, Allah would have stated it in general terms and not used the words “his wives” (referring to the Prophet r).  Other verses in the same chapter mention the unique position of the Prophet’s wives and place a number of conditions on only them because of this special position[18].  The wording of the verse also clearly describes an offensive situation which occurred specifically to the Prophet r wherein guests would not leave his home at meal-times nor give him and his wives any privacy[19].  Such ulama also argue that the thoughts that need to be purified are not the urge for temptation or fitnah but, rather, any ideas of marrying the Prophet’s wives after his death[20].

 

Aside from the Qur’anic references mentioned, several hadith have been used to support the contention that the obligation to cover the face was unique to the Prophet’s wives – “mothers of the believers”.  These include the following:

عَنْ أُمِّ سَلَمَةَ قَالَتْ كُنْتُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَعِنْدَهُ مَيْمُونَةُ فَأَقْبَلَ ابْنُ أُمِّ مَكْتُومٍ وَذَلِكَ بَعْدَ أَنْ أُمِرْنَا بِالْحِجَابِ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ احْتَجِبَا مِنْهُ فَقُلْنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَلَيْسَ أَعْمَى لَا يُبْصِرُنَا وَلَا يَعْرِفُنَا فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَفَعَمْيَاوَانِ أَنْتُمَا أَلَسْتُمَا تُبْصِرَانِهِ

ـ سنن أبي داود : كتاب اللباس، باب في قوله ( وقل للمؤمنات يغضضن من ابصارهن)

 

Narrated Umm Salamah, “I was with the Apostle of Allah r while Maymunah was with him. Then Ibn Umm Maktum came. This happened when we were ordered to observe veiling. The Prophet r said, ‘Observe the veil from him.’ We asked, ‘Apostle of Allah! Is he not blind? He can neither see us nor recognise us.’ The Prophet r said, ‘Are both of you blind? Do you not see him?’ Abu Dawood said: This was peculiar to the wives of the Prophet r. Do you not see that Fatimah daughter of Qays passed her waiting period with Ibn Umm Maktum. The Prophet r said to Fatimah daughter of Qays, “Pass your waiting period with Ibn Umm Maktum, for he is a blind man. You can put off your clothes with him.”[21]

 

عَنْ فَاطِمَةَ بِنْتِ قَيْسٍ أَنَّ أَبَا عَمْرِو بْنَ حَفْصٍ طَلَّقَهَا الْبَتَّةَ وَهُوَ غَائِبٌ فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَيْهَا وَكِيلُهُ بِشَعِيرٍ فَسَخِطَتْهُ فَقَالَ وَاللَّهِ مَا لَكِ عَلَيْنَا مِنْ شَىْءٍ. فَجَاءَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَذَكَرَتْ ذَلِكَ لَهُ فَقَالَ « لَيْسَ لَكِ عَلَيْهِ نَفَقَةٌ ». فَأَمَرَهَا أَنْ تَعْتَدَّ فِى بَيْتِ أُمِّ شَرِيكٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ «تِلْكَ امْرَأَةٌ يَغْشَاهَا أَصْحَابِى اعْتَدِّى عِنْدَ ابْنِ أُمِّ مَكْتُومٍ فَإِنَّهُ رَجُلٌ أَعْمَى تَضَعِينَ ثِيَابَكِ فَإِذَا حَلَلْتِ فَآذِنِينِى».

أخرجه مسلم في كتاب الطلاق، باب المطلقة ثلاثالا نفقة لها

 

Another version of the latter hadith states that Fatimah bint Qays narrated that Abu Amr ibn Hafs divorced her absolutely when he was away from home, and he sent his agent to her with some barley. She was displeased with him and when he said, “I swear by Allah that you have no claim on us”; she went to Allah’s Messenger r and mentioned that to him.  He said, “There is no maintenance due to you from him”, and he commanded her to spend her Iddah in the house of Umm Sharik, but then said, “That is a woman whom my companions visit. So you had better spend this period in the house of Ibn Umm Maktum, for he is a blind man and you can take off your garments. And when the Iddah is over, inform me.”[22]

عَنْ حُمَيْدٍ الطَّوِيلِ سَمِعَ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَقَامَ عَلَى صَفِيَّةَ بِنْتِ حُيَيٍّ بِطَرِيقِ خَيْبَرَ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ  حَتَّى أَعْرَسَ بِهَا وَكَانَتْ فِيمَنْ ضُرِبَ عَلَيْهَا الْحِجَابُ

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب المغازي، باب غزوة خيبر

 

Narrated Anas bin Malik, “The Prophet r stayed with Safiya bint Huyai for three days on the way of Khaibar where he consummated his marriage with her. Safiya was amongst those who were ordered to use a veil.”[23]

 

The wording “amongst those” indicates that there were a select group of women who were required to wear the niqab, and not all.

 

Certain hadith indicate that observing the face-veil was taken as a sign of being of noble status or a wife of the Prophet r.  The following is one such hadith:

 

سَمِعَ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَقَامَ عَلَى صَفِيَّةَ بِنْتِ حُيَيٍّ بِطَرِيقِ خَيْبَرَ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ  حَتَّى أَعْرَسَ بِهَا وَكَانَتْ فِيمَنْ ضُرِبَ عَلَيْهَا الْحِجَابُ

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب المغازي، باب غزوة خيبر

 

Narrated Anas,[24] “The Prophet r stayed for three nights between Khaibar and Medina, and was married to Safiya. I invited the Muslims to his marriage banquet and there was neither meat nor bread in that banquet but the Prophet r ordered Bilal to spread the leather mats on which dates, dried yogurt and butter were put. The Muslims said amongst themselves, ‘Will she (i.e. Safiya) be one of the mothers of the believers, (i.e. one of the wives of the Prophet) or just (a lady captive) of what his right-hand possesses?’ Some of them said, ‘If the Prophet r makes her observe the veil, then she will be one of the mothers of the believers (i.e. one of the Prophet’s wives), and if he does not make her observe the veil, then she will be his lady slave.’ So when he departed, he made a place for her behind him (on his camel) and made her observe the veil.”[25]

 

Another version of this hadith also narrated by Anas says at the end,

فلما ارتحل وطأ لها خلفه ومد الحجاب

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب النكاح، باب اتخاذ السرارري ومن اعتق جارية ثم تزوجها

 

“So when the Prophet r proceeded from there, he spared her a space behind him (on his she-camel) and put a screening veil between her and the people.”[26]

 

A narration of Ibn Kathir further confirms the imposition of veiling as being uniquely upon the Prophet’s wives.  He relates the incident of Qilah bint Qais (also refered to as Qutailah bint Qais) who was divorced by the Prophet r.  After his death, she became re-married to ‘Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl.  Abu Bakr, upon hearing of this, was angry but ‘Umar informed him that “She is not one his (the Prophet’s) wives as the Prophet did not make her his choice (he did not consummate their marriage) and he did not veil or screen her.”  With this information, Abu Bakr became satisfied.[27]

 

A similar case is mentioned regarding the Prophet’s marriage to Asma’ bint Nu’man ibn Abi al-Jawm, whom he was prohibited from consummating the relationship with.  She also re-married after the Prophet’s death to Al-Ashath bin Qais, explaining to ‘Umar that the Prophet r never veiled her because she was not one of the “Mothers of the Believers”.[28]

 

Refutation of A4 (Aisha used to say, “… (the women) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.”)

 

The original Arabic of this hadith does not mention covering the face. “Ikhtamarna biha” does not translate as “covered their faces”, but rather that the women covered themselves (or made khumur) with their cut material.  To say that they “covered themselves” (“ikhtamarna biha”) means they “covered their faces” is a mistranslation or a very erroneous interpretation.[29] This interpretation is contested by those who argue that the word “ikhtamar” comes from “khimar” and therefore alludes to “covering their heads.”[30]

 

Refutation of A5 (Narrated ‘Aisha, “… some believing women covered with their sheets (murut) … and then they would return to their homes unrecognized.”)

 

The hadith does not, in fact, end with the words “they would return to their homes unrecognized” but actually says “they would return to their homes unrecognized because of the darkness.”  With respect to this phrase, Darsh quotes al-Baqi who says, “This shows that women used to unveil their faces.  For if they were used to covering their faces, it would have been difficult to recognize them whether it was dark in the early morning or whether it was light (i.e. the fact that it was dark would have made no difference.”[31]

 

Refutation of A6 (Narrated ‘Aisha, “ … ‘Umar used to say to the Prophet r, ‘Let your wives be screened (ihjub, from hijab),’ … So, Allah revealed the verses of Al-Hijab.”)

 

The hadith in question only alludes to one of the reasons why verse 33:53 was revealed to the wives of the Prophet r.  The command to veil was directed to the “Mothers of the Believers” only in order to protect their good name and the dignity of the Prophet’s household.  This is evident from the reason ‘Umar advocated veiling for them.  He is reported to have said, “O Messenger of Allah, different people call at your house.  Some of them are decent and righteous but others are insolent. Could you not ask your wives to be screened?”[32] Many mufassirun have mentioned with regard to the revelation of 33:59 that women who went out at night to ‘relieve themselves’ would often be harassed by mischief-makers seeking sexual pleasure from slave-girls.[33] Numerous hypocrites were also seeking to defame the household of the Prophet r.  This was a concern to ‘Umar, who wished to protect the Prophet’s wives and the Prophet r himself from harm.

 

Refutation of A7 (“The Prophet r said, ‘A woman is ‘awrah (and thus should be concealed), …”)

 

Regarding the hadith that a woman is (entirely) ‘awrah, those who advocate the niqab as optional argue that if it is taken to mean the entire body of a woman is ‘awrah and that this is an absolute and universal rule, then it should be the case even for salah and Hajj.  Yet this would be contrary to the consensus that a woman may reveal her face and hands for salah and Hajj.  Scholars such as Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali argue that it would be senseless for the Shari’ah to allow a woman to expose her ‘awrah in two of the most important Islamic rites of worship which require the utmost purity and remembrance of Allah without distraction, and therefore that the face and hands cannot possibly be classed as ‘awrah.

 

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi also contends that the hadith requires qualification because it would be too burdensome for all women to have to cover their face and hands, and it is allowed to look at a woman even outside of salah and Hajj for seeking marriage.[34] He therefore interprets the hadith to mean that the larger part of a woman’s body (and not all of it) is ‘awrah.

 

Ibn Qudamah in Al-Mughni, said that, “the face and hands constitute a specific exemption to the general meaning of this hadith”.  This is supported by Imam al-Razi, who states, “Since the showing of the face and hands is necessary, the jurists had no choice but to agree that they are not ‘awrah, and since the showing of the feet is not necessary, they have differed concerning whether or not they are ‘awrah.”[35]

 

Refutation of A8 (Narrated Umm Salamah, “… the women of Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments.”)

 

This hadith describes how the women came out in their new jilbabs. However, supporters of the idea that niqab is wajib say the description “like they had crows on their heads” does not suggest that their faces were covered, but rather that their heads were covered with something “on” top of them. This hadith, it is argued, is another proof that the jilbab does not necessarily have to cover the face.

 

Refutation of A9 (Narrated Thabit ibn Qays, “A woman called Umm Khallad came to the Prophet r while she was veiled. …  Some of the Companions … said to her, ‘You have come here … while veiling your face?’)

 

Ulama who say the face may be exposed contend that this hadith is actually in their favour.  If veiling the face were so common, the Companions would have no cause to ask Umm Khallad why she appeared before them wearing one.  Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi also argues that her response shows that it was not a command of Allah or the Prophet r but her own personal choice.  Furthermore, if the face-veil were known to be compulsory, for the Companions to be surprised would be as absurd as their asking, “Why are you observing salah?”[36]

 

Refutation of A10 (Narrated ‘Aisha, “…the early immigrant women … tore their thick outer garments and covered themselves (made khumur) from them.”)

 

Those who refute the proponents of niqab as wajib say the text of this hadith does not mention anything about covering the face. Ibn Hajr held this interpretation due to his position on what a woman is allowed to reveal of herself.  However, the term “khimar” may not be inferred to mean a face-cover.[37]

 

Refutation of A11 (Fatima bint al-Mundhir said, “We used to veil our faces when we were in ihram…”)

 

The opponents of the position that niqab is wajib argue that this hadith indicates only a custom of some women during the Prophet’s time to cover their faces, but not an obligation as there were others who did not do so (see examples starting from B5 below).  As proof, al-Albani cites a tradition from ‘Aisha related by al-Baihaqi with an authentic chain of narrators, regarding the female in ihram: “She may drape the garment on her face, if she wishes.” Al-Albani argues that this indicates that covering one’s face with one’s outer garment is a matter of choice.[38]

 

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi extends this argument to say that accepted ‘urf or local customs among certain societies today such as secluding and veiling women and not permitting them to enter mosques are not a basis to effect universal prohibitions.  Even within these same societies, some customs are practiced in bigger cities and not in smaller towns or the desert or rural villages, and vice versa.[39]

 

It has also been argued by opponents of compulsory face-veiling that if a woman in ihram is still supposed to cover her face around non-mahram men, she in reality would have to cover her face at all times on the Hajj (due to its being a very public rite, with vast crowds), and that this is just the same as wearing an affixed veil (niqab) – which was specifically prohibited by the Prophet r.[40]

 

Refutation of A12 (Narrated ‘Aisha, “Riders would pass us … while we were in the sacred state (wearing ihram) … one of us would let down her jilbab from her head over her face, …”)

 

The hadith about riders passing by ‘Aisha and her company when they were in ihram is said to be weak (da’if) in its chain of narrators (isnad)[41] due to doubtfulness over the narrator Yazid ibn Abi Ziyad, and a da’if hadith cannot be used as a basis to establish an obligation (wajib).[42] Al-Ghazali contends that this hadith is much weaker than the Asma’ hadith[43] which is corroborated by other evidence.

 

Moreover, Sheikh al-Qaradawi argues that even if ‘Aisha did cover her face on the occasion, it does not imply that it is compulsory for others to do so. He points out that since not all the actions of the Prophet r are compulsory for believers, it is unreasonable to use the actions of those other than the Prophet’s as a basis to make something compulsory for everyone.[44]

 

Another interesting observation is the implication of the wording in the hadith.  ‘Aisha describes the jilbab as being “let down” from the head to cover the face.  This is a proof that the jilbab was not originally covering the face by default.

 

Refutation of A13 (“… ‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green khimar.)

 

The wife of Rifa’a was wearing a green khimar. Those who argue against niqab as wajib say that the hadith merely shows a woman obeying the command in Surah an-Nur verse 31 to wear a khimar, but it does not say anything in itself to indicate that the khimar was covering her face. Indeed, the full text of this hadith reads:

 

عن عكرمة : أن رفاعة طلق امرأته فتزوجها عبد الرحمن بن الزبير القرظي قالت عائشة وعليها خمار أخضر فشكت إليها وأرتها خضرة بجلدها فلما جاء رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم والنساء ينصر بعضهن بعضا قالت عائشة ما رأيت مثل ما يلقى المؤمنات ؟ لجلدها أشد خضرة من ثوبها . قال وسمع أنها قد أتت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فجاء ومعه ابنان له من غيرها قالت والله ما لي إليه من ذنب إلا أن ما معه ليس بأغنى عني من هذه وأخذت هدبة من ثوبها فقال كذبت والله يا رسول الله إني لأنفضها نفض الأديم ولكنها ناشز تريد رفاعة . فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ( فإن كان ذلك لم تحلي له أو لم تصلحي له حتى يذوق من عسيلتك ) . قال وأبصر معه ابنين له فقال ( بنوك هؤلاء ) . قال نعم قال ( هذا الذي تزعمين ما تزعمين فوالله لهم أشبه به من الغراب بالغراب )

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب اللباس، باب الثاب الخضر

 

Narrated ‘Ikrima, “Rifa‘a divorced his wife whereupon ‘Abdur-Rahman bin az-Zubair al-Qurazi married her. ‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green khimar (and complained to her (‘Aisha) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah’s Apostle came, ‘Aisha said, ‘I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!’…”[45]

 

If the woman were wearing ‘the full veil’ her skin would not be visible for the Prophet r to look at. Her face or her hands must have been showing. It seems most likely that it was the skin on her face that had turned green, as hands rarely turn this colour after a beating. If this is true, then the khimar does not imply clothing that covers the face.

 


Refutation of A14 (Narrated Umm ‘Atiyyah, “… A woman asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle, What about one who does not have a jilbab?’ He said, ‘Let her share the jilbab of her companion.’ ”)

 

The word used for what the women were to wear in this hadith is a “jilbab”, but nowhere within the text of the hadith is there a description on whether or not the jilbab is to cover the face.  Imam an-Nawawi mentioned in his Sharh Sahih Muslim with respect to this hadith that several jurists have provided explanations for the meaning of “jilbab.”  For instance, An-Nadr ibn Shamil states that the jilbab is a short cloth but wider than a khimar, and large enough for a woman to cover her head with.  Another scholar said that it is a loose dress which may be distinguished from a robe (rida’) and covers a woman’s chest and back.  Yet another scholar said that it is a simple wide cover one throws over oneself, and another said it is like an izar[46].

 

Refutation of A15 (“…The Prophet r said, ‘…and if one of the women of Paradise looked at the earth, … the khimar of her eyes/face is better than the whole world …”)

 

This hadith refers to the women of Paradise wearing some sort of veil on their faces. Yet opponents of those who use this hadith as proof for niqab being wajib argue that no jurist at any time in Islamic history has ever used the way of life of the people of Paradise as a basis for the establishment of a Shari’ah rule.  If so, one would have to apply to all other features of Paradise to what is legally permissible and prohibited on Earth: the wearing of fragrances for women so strong that it may be smelled vast distances away, the drinking of wine, the use of gold goblets and reclining on luxurious cushions, permission to have 70 wives, etc.

 

Abu Hurairah also narrated that, “The Prophet r said, ‘Allah said, “I have prepared for My pious worshippers such things as no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard of, and nobody has ever thought of. All that is reserved, besides which, all that you have seen, is nothing”.[47] Then he recited (Qur’an 32:17): “No soul knows what is kept hidden (in reserve) for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.”’[48]

 

Hence, what is truly meant by women who are veiled in Paradise is inconceivable to us.  From the hadith above on the nature of the Hereafter, we may be certain that it cannot be referring to the same sort of face-veils that we are accustomed to seeing today.

 

The khimar, like the jilbab, is a general term, and there were different styles of wearing it during Jahiliyyah and after the revelation.  However, it is argued that if the word khimar already means to cover the face, why would it be necessary to specify the “khimar of the face” in the hadith in question?  In legal theory of Islamic jurisprudence (Usul ul-fiqh), a word which has multiple and ambiguous meanings cannot be used to establish a definitive ruling.

 

Refutation of A16 (Narrated Aisha, “A woman made a sign from behind a curtain to indicate that she had a letter for the Apostle of Allah r …”)

 

Some scholars argue that the text of this hadith, contrary to proving that covering the face is compulsory, appears to be clear proof that women can display their hands in public, for the Prophet r could not have made the observation that he did if the woman were wearing gloves. In any case, the hadith merely shows that it is permissible for all women to use a screen, not that it is compulsory, as there are many other instances where women approached the Prophet r or the Companions without being behind a screen.[49]

 

Refutation of A17 (“The Messenger of Allah r said, ‘Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman … unless she wears a khimar.’”)

 

Al-Albani argues that this hadith is, in fact, a strong proof for the claim that the niqab is not compulsory, because the consensus of scholars is that covering the face in salah is not a condition for its validity.[50] It therefore also suggests that the khimar is a headscarf and not a niqab.  This understanding was conveyed by al-Shawkani in his commentary on this hadith.[51]

 


Refutation of A18 (“…Then Allah’s Apostle r … said to Sauda bint Zam’a, ‘Veil (screen) yourself before him,’…”)

 

Sauda bint Zam’a is one of the wives of the Prophet r. Those who view the niqab as optional say that the Prophet’s commanding her to screen herself only confirms that the Ummahat al-Mumineen (Mothers of the Believers) were to do so in obedience to Surah al-Ahzab verse 53. This hadith does not say anything about the obligations of ordinary Muslim women.

 

Refutation of A19 (“…Then Ibn Umm Maktum came… The Prophet r said, ‘Observe the veil from him.’ We asked, … Is he not blind? … The Prophet r said, … Do you not see him?’”)

 

Sheikh Nasiruddeen al-Albani contends that this hadith has been categorized as unauthentic by hadith scholars such as Imam Ahmad, al-Baihaqi and Ibn Abd al-Barr, and al-Qurtubi also confirms this.[52] Its weakness is due to an unknown narrator in its isnad, whom only one person narrated from.  It also contradicts a reliable narration that the Prophet r approved of Fatimah bint Qays staying at the same Ibn Umm al-Maktum’s home, “The Prophet r said to Fatimah, daughter of Qays, ‘Pass your waiting period with Ibn Umm Maktum, for he is a blind man. You can put off your clothes with him.’”[53] A similar narration related by al-Tabarani states that Fatimah herself said, “He instructed me to be at Ibn Umm Maktum’s home because he couldn’t see me whenever I took my headscarf off.”[54]

 

Refutation of A20 (The Prophet r said: “A pilgrim woman must neither cover her face…”)

 

Regarding the contention that the requirement to not veil during ihram implies that veiling was customary when not in ihram, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali states that this argument is as illogical as saying because men are forbidden from covering their heads when in ihram.[55] Sheikh al-Qaradawi explains that, “Whatever is forbidden for someone in pilgrimage was originally permissible (but not compulsory). There is no regulation of ihram wherein something that was originally compulsory then in ihram becomes haram.  That is why many jurists use this point to argue that if the face and hands are ‘awrah, then the Prophet r would never say it is haram to uncover some of the ‘awrah.”[56]

 

The ulama of fiqh understand that a conditional prohibition indicates a permissibility outside of that condition but not an obligation. The hadith prohibiting veiling in ihram is thus similar to the hadith of Umm ‘Atiyyah that “the Messenger of Allah said: ‘A woman should not mourn for any deceased person for more than three days, except in the case of her husband’s death, which she may mourn for a period of four months and ten days. Such a woman (in mourning) is not to wear any (brightly) colored dress. She may wear only plain dress. During this period she should not use any adornment or eye makeup, nor wear any perfume, nor dye her hands and feet with henna, nor comb her hair, except at the end of her menstruation period, when she may use some cleaning or refreshing agents (such as perfume, etc.) to get rid of any offensive smell left over from her period.’”[57] This hadith indicates that the wearing of adornment, eye make-up, perfume, henna, etc. is usually permitted when a woman is not in the condition of mourning, but not that they are obligatory for her to wear.

 

Refutation of A21 (Blocking the means that lead to haramSadd ad-dhara‘i)

 

See Refutation of “the Fitnah argument” section below on B24

 

Refutation of A22 (Most Hanbalis regard the entire body of a woman as ‘awrah outside of salah)

 

See (vii) and (viii) under B21 below (Classical jurists who view the niqab as not obligatory)

 

Refutation of A23 (That, “there is a consensus among the four well-known schools of (Islamic) law that the face of a woman should be covered.”)

 

Al-Albani contests the position that there is a consensus among the four well-known schools of law that a woman’s face should be covered.[58] He cites, for example, Ibn Hubairah al-Hanbali, who states in al-Ifsaah that the face is not considered ‘awrah in the Maliki, Shafi‘i and Hanafi schools as well as being “a narrated position of Imam Ahmad.” Al-Albani states that this position is also preferred by many Hanbali scholars, though not all.[59]

 

Those who argue that the niqab is not wajib state that aside from the refutations above, there is ample evidence from the Sunnah that the Prophet r and his Companions did not command women in general to cover their faces.  The following are examples of this evidence:

 


B5) A woman appeared before a man in ihram without covering her face and even having beautified herself with make-up

 

Sa’id ibn Mansur narrated that Mujahid said, “A man came to Ibn ‘Abbas and said to him, ‘Such and such a woman came to me with all her make up while I was in the state of ihram.  I could not control myself and ejaculated. (What should I do?)’  Ibn ‘Abbas laughed until he fell on his back and said: ‘You are very lustful.  There is no harm, but you must slaughter a sheep.  Your Hajj is complete.’”[60]

This hadith is an indication that a woman appeared before a man in ihram without covering her face and even having beautified herself with make-up such that it was too much of a temptation for the man.  However, Ibn ‘Abbas’ response was not to send for her or to criticize her actions.  Rather, he attributed the blame to the man who was too easily tempted.

 

B6)The Prophet r said, “When a young lady begins to menstruate, it is not proper that anything should be seen of her except her face and hands.”

عن عائشة رضي الله عنها  : أن أسماء بنت أبي بكر دخلت على رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم وعليها ثياب رقاق فأعرض عنها رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم وقال ” يا أسماء إن المرأة إذا بلغت المحيض لم تصلح أن يرى منها إلا هذا وهذا ” وأشار إلى وجهه وكفيه

أخرجه أبو داود، كتاب اللباس، باب فيما تبدي المرأة من زينتها

 

Narrated ‘Aisha, “Asma’, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah r wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah r turned his attention from her. He said, ‘O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this,’ and he pointed to her face and hands.”[61]

 

This hadith has been criticized as being mursal[62] but is strengthened[63] in its meaning by other sahih chains of narration.  Al-Albani notes that two other authentic chains are provided in his book:[64] one from Asma’ bint ‘Umays[65] and the other from Qatadah[66], in abbreviated format.  This, he explains, is why he authenticated ‘Aisha’s hadith about Asma’ as hasan in his books.[67] Other scholars who have also strengthened it include al-Baihaqi, al-Thalabi, al-Mundhiri, al-Zayla‘i, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani and al-Shawkani.[68]

 

B7)The Prophet r replied, “When a woman reaches the age of puberty, it is not lawful for her to display her body except the face and hands.”

 

Mawdudi writes that Ibn Jarir related an incident where Muzinah bint Abdullah ibn Tufail, a niece of ‘Aisha, paid her a visit.  When the Prophet r saw her, he turned his face away.  ‘Aisha then said “O Messenger of Allah, she is my niece”.  The Prophet r replied, “When a woman reaches the age of puberty, it is not lawful for her to display her body except the face and hands.”[69]

 

Another version of the same hadith reads that Abu Bakr narrated on the authority of Ibn Jurayj that ‘Aisha said, “The daughter of Abdullah ibn Tufail of Muzaynah, my half-brother through my mother, entered my house.  Then the Prophet r entered, but turned away from here.  I said to him, ‘She is the daughter of my brother and she is a young girl.’  He said, ‘Once a girl starts to menstruate, it is forbidden for her to uncover any part of her body except her face and what is beyond this’ – and he grasped his hand just above the wrist, leaving beyond the wrist a space equal to a hand’s width.”[70]

 

B8) Ansari women who took the verses (of Qur’an 24:30-31) to mean they should wear head-covers were praised by ‘Aisha

عن عائشة أنها ذكرت نساء الأنصار فأثنت عليهن وقالت لهن معروفا وقالت

: دخلت امرأة منهن على رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فذكر معناه إلا أنه قال ” فرصة ممسكة ” قال مسدد كان أبو عوانة يقول ” ” فرصة ( فرصة بضم الفاء كذا في خ . والفرصة القطعة من القطن أو الصوف ) وكان أبو الأحوص يقول ” قرصة ” .

قال الشيخ الألباني : حسن صحيح

أخرجه أبو داود، كتاب اللباس، باب فيما تبدي المرأة من زينتها

Safiya, daughter of Shayba, said that ‘Aisha mentioned the women  of Ansar, praised them and said good words about them. She then said: “When Surat an-Nur came down, they took the curtains, tore them and made head-covers (khumur) of them.”[71]

 

In this hadith, the Ansari women who took the verses (of Qur’an 24:30-31) to mean they should wear head-covers were praised by ‘Aisha – thus indicating that their understanding of the verse’s interpretation was correct. Al-Albani comments that had the women been expected to cover more, they would have been corrected and not praised.[72]

 

B9)The Prophet ‘p’ said, “… a woman in the state of ihram should not cover her face…”

 

Abdullah ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet r said

 

وَلَا تَنْتَقِبْ الْمَرْأَةُ الْمُحْرِمَةُ وَلَا تَلْبَسْ الْقُفَّازَيْنِ

أخرجه البخاري البخاري في كتاب جزاء الصيد: باب ما ينهى من الطيب للمحرم والمحرمة

 

“…the Muhrima (a woman in the state of ihram) should not cover her face, or wear gloves.”[73]

 

Fiqh us-Sunnah states, “This proves that a woman in the state of ihram should not cover her face and hands. The scholars, however, say that there is no harm if she covered her face with something other than a veil. She may also use an umbrella or similar item as a screen between men and herself.” Again, this argument suggests an element of choice. [74]

 

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali warns that it is improper to claim that the uncovering of the face which is advocated for two entire pillars of the faith (Hajj and Salah) would pave the way for unlawful instincts and acts to occur[75] If indeed, revealing the face was bound to lead to haram, the Prophet r would never have made it permissible (and even enjoined it) for such important rites of Islam, where concentration and purity are expected to be at their highest.

 

B10) Ibn ‘Umar reported, “Allah’s Messenger r forbade women pilgrims from wearing gloves, veils, and clothes dyed with saffron …”

Fiqh us-Sunnah states, “Ibn ‘Umar reported, ‘Allah’s Messenger r forbade women pilgrims from wearing gloves, veils, and clothes dyed with saffron or warse. (a sweet smelling plant that was used to dye clothes yellow).  Besides these, they may wear anything else, any color, silk clothes, ornaments, trousers, or a shirt or shoes.’ (Reported by Abu Dawood, Al-Baihaqi and Al-Hakim, with a sound chain of authorities) Bukhari reported that ‘Aisha wore a dress that was dyed with ‘usfur (safflower, the red dyestuff prepared from its flower heads) while she was in a state of ihram, and she said, ‘A woman must neither wear a veil to cover her face, nor wear clothes that are dyed with saffron or other fragrant dyeing material.’ Jabir said, ‘I do not consider ‘usfur a scent.’”[76]

 

B11) The Prophet ‘p’ did not command a woman to cover her face in the final year of his mission

 

أَخْبَرَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ أَرْدَفَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْفَضْلَ بْنَ عَبَّاسٍ يَوْمَ النَّحْرِ خَلْفَهُ عَلَى عَجُزِ رَاحِلَتِهِ وَكَانَ الْفَضْلُ رَجُلًا وَضِيئًا فَوَقَفَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِلنَّاسِ يُفْتِيهِمْ وَأَقْبَلَتْ امْرَأَةٌ مِنْ خَثْعَمَ وَضِيئَةٌ تَسْتَفْتِي رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَطَفِقَ الْفَضْلُ يَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهَا وَأَعْجَبَهُ حُسْنُهَا فَالْتَفَتَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَالْفَضْلُ يَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهَا فَأَخْلَفَ بِيَدِهِ فَأَخَذَ بِذَقَنِ الْفَضْلِ فَعَدَلَ وَجْهَهُ عَنْ النَّظَرِ إِلَيْهَا فَقَالَتْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ فَرِيضَةَ اللَّهِ فِي الْحَجِّ عَلَى عِبَادِهِ أَدْرَكَتْ أَبِي شَيْخًا كَبِيرًا لَا يَسْتَطِيعُ أَنْ يَسْتَوِيَ عَلَى الرَّاحِلَةِ فَهَلْ يَقْضِي عَنْهُ أَنْ أَحُجَّ عَنْهُ قَالَ نَعَمْ

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب الإستأذان: باب قول الله تعالى (وقل للمؤمنين يغضوا من أبصارهم ويحفظوا فروجهم)

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas, “Al-Fadl ibn ‘Abbas rode behind the Prophet r as his companion rider on the back portion of his she camel on the Day of Nahr (slaughtering of sacrifice, 10th Dhu’l-Hijja) and al-Fadl was a handsome man.  The Prophet r stopped to give the people verdicts.  In the meantime, a beautiful woman from the tribe of Khath’am came, asking the verdict of Allah’s Apostle.  Al-Fadl started staring at her as her beauty attracted him. The Prophet r looked behind while al-Fadl was looking at her; so the Prophet r held out his hand backwards and caught the chin of al-Fadl and turned his face (to the other side) in order that he should not gaze at her.  She said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! The obligation of Performing Hajj enjoined by Allah on His worshippers, has become due (compulsory) on my father who is an old man and who cannot sit firmly on the riding animal. Will it be sufficient that I perform Hajj on his behalf?’  He said, ‘Yes.’”[77]

 

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ أَنَّهُ قَالَ كَانَ الْفَضْلُ بْنُ عَبَّاسٍ رَدِيفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَجَاءَتْهُ امْرَأَةٌ مِنْ خَثْعَمَ تَسْتَفْتِيهِ فَجَعَلَ الْفَضْلُ يَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهَا وَتَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهِ فَجَعَلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- يَصْرِفُ وَجْهَ الْفَضْلِ إِلَى الشِّقِّ الآخَرِ. قَالَتْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ فَرِيضَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَى عِبَادِهِ فِى الْحَجِّ أَدْرَكَتْ أَبِى شَيْخًا كَبِيرًا لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُ أَنْ يَثْبُتَ عَلَى الرَّاحِلَةِ أَفَأَحُجُّ عَنْهُ قَالَ « نَعَمْ ». وَذَلِكَ فِى حَجَّةِ الْوَدَاعِ.

أخرجه مسلم في كتاب الحج، باب الحج عن العاجز لزمانه وهرم ونحوهما، أو للموفت

Another version says: ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas reported that “while al-Fadl ibn ‘Abbas had been riding behind Allah’s Messenger r, a women of the tribe of Khath’am came to him (to the Holy Prophet r) asking for a religious verdict. Al-Fadl looked at her and she looked at him. Allah’s Messenger S turned the face of al-Fadl to the other side. She said, ‘Messenger of Allah, there is an obligation from Allah upon His servants in regard to Hajj. (But) my father is an aged man; he is incapable of riding safely. May I perform Hajj on his behalf?’  He said, ‘Yes.’  It was during the Farewell Pilgrimage.”[78]

Those who argue that niqab is not wajib point out that neither Fadl nor the Prophet r were mahram to the woman.  Therefore, if niqab was compulsory, she should have hid her face around them according to those who advocate that even in ihram a woman should screen herself from men.  However, al-Albani argues that Fadl could only be attracted to the woman’s face, therefore her face must have been left exposed, and that there is no way that he would gaze so continuously and be so amazed by her beauty if he only saw her face accidentally for a moment, or could only see her size, stature and outer dress[79] Ibn Hazm further said that if the woman’s face was ‘awrah, the Prophet r would have commanded her to cover it and not just instead turn Fadl’s head away.[80]

It has been noted that Tirmidhi’s version of this hadith also includes al-Abbas asking the Prophet r why he turned Fadl’s face away.  His reply was “I saw two young people looking at each other, and I was afraid of what effect Shaytan might have upon them.”[81] This indicates that the possibility of desire and fitnah developing was the cause for the Prophet’s action.  However, such a cause did not pre-empt him to command the woman to cover her face.

Moreover, it is argued that her appearance before non-mahram men without a face-veil could not be because she was elderly, as Tirmidhi’s version indicates that she was a young woman.  In addition, a report from ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib states that the incident occurred on the day of sacrifice after the rituals of Hajj had been completed and thus the woman would not have been in ihram. This is strong evidence that had the niqab been compulsory when out of ihram, she should have been wearing one.[82]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali also explains that the Fadl hadith took place in the Prophet’s last pilgrimage (as mentioned in the second narration) and that no hadith came after it abrogating the rule of permissibility of showing the face.[83] Al-Shawkani adds, “This sound hadith may be taken as proof that the verse of the Hijab (33:53) is a special rule for the wives of the Prophet r, for the verse of the Hijab was revealed earlier, in the fifth year, whilst this incident took place in the final year.”[84] Since the Prophet r did not command the woman to cover her face in the final year of his mission, permissibility of facial exposure must have been the final rule.

 

B12) Jabir saw the face of the woman he described – “a woman having a dark spot on her cheek…”

عن عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ عَابِسٍ سَمِعْتُ ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ لَهُ رَجُلٌ شَهِدْتَ الْخُرُوجَ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ نَعَمْ وَلَوْلَا مَكَانِي مِنْهُ مَا شَهِدْتُهُ يَعْنِي مِنْ صِغَرِهِ أَتَى الْعَلَمَ الَّذِي عِنْدَ دَارِ كَثِيرِ بْنِ الصَّلْتِ ثُمَّ خَطَبَ ثُمَّ أَتَى النِّسَاءَ فَوَعَظَهُنَّ وَذَكَّرَهُنَّ وَأَمَرَهُنَّ أَنْ يَتَصَدَّقْنَ فَجَعَلَتْ الْمَرْأَةُ تُهْوِي بِيَدِهَا إِلَى حَلْقِهَا تُلْقِي فِي ثَوْبِ بِلَالٍ ثُمَّ أَتَى هُوَ وَبِلَالٌ الْبَيْتَ

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب النكاح : باب (والذين لم يبلغوا الحلم منكم)

 

Narrated Abdurrahman ibn Abis, “I heard Ibn ‘Abbas answering a man who asked him, ‘Did you attend the prayer of ‘Eid al-Adha or ‘Eid-al-Fitr with Allah’s Apostle?’ Ibn ‘Abbas replied, ‘Yes, and had it not been for my close relationship with him, I could not have offered it.’ (That was because of his young age). Ibn ‘Abbas further said, ‘Allah’s Apostle went out and offered the ‘Eid prayer and then delivered the sermon.’  Ibn ‘Abbas did not mention anything about the Adhan (the call for prayer) or the Iqama.  He added, ‘Then the Prophet r went to the women and instructed them and gave them religious advice and ordered them to give alms and I saw them reaching out (their hands to) their ears and necks (to take off the earrings and necklaces, etc.) and throwing (them) towards Bilal.  Then the Prophet returned with Bilal to his house.’”[85]

Ibn Hazm makes the point that in this hadith, Ibn ‘Abbas has clearly seen the hands of these women, indicating that they are not ‘awrah.[86]

عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ قَالَ شَهِدْتُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- الصَّلاَةَ يَوْمَ الْعِيدِ فَبَدَأَ بِالصَّلاَةِ قَبْلَ الْخُطْبَةِ بِغَيْرِ أَذَانٍ وَلاَ إِقَامَةٍ ثُمَّ قَامَ مُتَوَكِّئًا عَلَى بِلاَلٍ فَأَمَرَ بِتَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحَثَّ عَلَى طَاعَتِهِ وَوَعَظَ النَّاسَ وَذَكَّرَهُمْ ثُمَّ مَضَى حَتَّى أَتَى النِّسَاءَ فَوَعَظَهُنَّ وَذَكَّرَهُنَّ فَقَالَ « تَصَدَّقْنَ فَإِنَّ أَكْثَرَكُنَّ حَطَبُ جَهَنَّمَ ». فَقَامَتِ امْرَأَةٌ مِنْ سِطَةِ النِّسَاءِ سَفْعَاءُ الْخَدَّيْنِ فَقَالَتْ لِمَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ « لأَنَّكُنَّ تُكْثِرْنَ الشَّكَاةَ وَتَكْفُرْنَ الْعَشِيرَ ». قَالَ فَجَعَلْنَ يَتَصَدَّقْنَ مِنْ حُلِيِّهِنَّ يُلْقِينَ فِى ثَوْبِ بِلاَلٍ مِنْ أَقْرِطَتِهِنَّ وَخَوَاتِمِهِنَّ.

أخرجه مسلم في كتاب صلاة العيدين

In another report, Jabir ibn Abdullah narrated, “I observed prayer with the Messenger of Allah on the ‘Eid day. He commenced with prayer before the sermon, without adhan or iqama. He then stood up leaning on Bilal and he commanded (them) to be on guard (against evil for the sake of) Allah and he exhorted (them) on obedience to Him, and he preached to the people and admonished them. He then walked on till he came to the women and preached to them and admonished them and encouraged them to give alms, for most of them are the fuel for Hell. A woman having a dark spot on her cheek stood up and said, ‘Why is it so, Messenger of Allah?’. He said, ‘For you grumble often and show ingratitude to your spouses.’ And they began to give alms out of their ornaments such as their earrings and rings, which they threw in the cloak of Bilal.”[87]

The hadith indicates that Jabir saw the face of the woman he described, and thus that both the face and the hands were not considered as compulsory to be covered.[88]

 

B13) Exposure of the face was common

أن سبيعة بنت الحارث أخبرته أنها كانت تحت سعد بن خولة وهو من بني عامر بن لؤي وكان ممن شهد بدرا فتوفي عنها في حجة الوداع وهي حامل فلم تنشب أن وضعت حملها بعد وفاته فلما تعلت من نفاسها تجملت للخطاب فدخل عليها أبو السنابل  ابن بعكك رجل من بني عبد الدار فقال لها ما لي أراك تجملت للخطاب ترجين النكاح فإنك والله ما أنت بناكح حتى تمر عليك أربعة أشهر وعشر . قالت سبيعة فلما قال لي ذلك جمعت علي ثيابي حين أمسيت وأتنت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فسألته عن ذلك فأفتاني بأني قد حللت حين وضعت حملي وأمرني بالتزوج إن بدا لي

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب المغازي

Narrated Subayya bint Al-Harith that she was married to Sa’d ibn Khaula who was from the tribe of Bani ‘Amr ibn Luai, and was one of those who fought the Badr battle. He died while she was pregnant during Hajjat-ul-Wada’ (the Farewell Pilgrimage). Soon after his death, she gave birth to a child. When she completed the term of delivery (i.e. became clean from blood-flow), she prepared herself for suitors. Abu As-Sanabil ibn Bu’kak, a man from the tribe of Bani Abd-ud-Dal called on her and said to her, “What! I see you dressed up (beautified) for the people to ask you in marriage. Do you want to marry? By Allah, you are not allowed to marry unless four months and ten days have elapsed (after your husband’s death).” Subayya in her narration said, “When he (i.e. Abu As-Sanabil) said this to me, I put on my dress in the evening and went to Allah’s Apostle and asked him about this problem. He gave the verdict that I was free to marry as I had already given birth to my child and ordered me to marry if I wished.”[89]

Other versions include that she had henna on and had made herself up. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi notes that she appeared before Abu Sanabil when he was not her mahram, and that if her face and hands were not exposed, he would not have known that she had beautified herself.[90] The hadith also indicates that this took place in the 10th year of Hijrah after the Farewell Pilgrimage, and therefore was long after the verses on women’s dressing were revealed. Muhammad al-Ghazali says that all these circumstances point to an environment where the exposure of the face was common.[91]

 

B14) Women had their faces exposed after the verses on women’s covering were revealed

عن ابن عباس قال : كانت امرأة تصلي خلف رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم حسناء من أحسن النساء فكان بعض القوم يتقدم حتى يكون في الصف الأول لئلا يراها ويستأخر بعضهم حتى يكون في الصف المؤخر فإذا ركع نظر من تحت إبطيه فأنزل الله { ولقد علمنا المستقدمين منكم ولقد علمنا المستأخرين }

سنن الترمذي

 

Ibn Abbas said, “A beautiful woman, from among the most beautiful of women, used to pray behind the Prophet r. Some of the people used to go to pray in the first row to ensure they would not be able to see her. Others would pray in the last row of the men, and they would look from underneath their armpits to see her. Because of this act, in regard to her, Allah revealed, ‘Verily We know the eager among you to be first, and verily We know the eager among you to be behind’ (Surah al-Hijr verse 24).”[92]

Imam al-Bukhari relates a hadith narrated by Sa’id ibn Jubayr that, “Ibn ‘Abbas was asked, ‘How old were you when the Prophet r died?’ He replied. ‘At that time I had been circumcised.’ At that time, people did not circumcise the boys till they attained the age of puberty.’” The author of Al-Isabah also writes that Ibn ‘Abbas was born three years before the Hijrah.  Both narrations would make him around 13 years of age when the Prophet r died in 11 A.H.  If Ibn ‘Abbas commenced praying in congregation at the age of 10, this would be in 7 or 8 A.H., after both Surah al-Ahzab and Surah an-Nur were revealed.  Thus, the incident in this hadith of a woman’s beauty clearly visible by other men in the mosque would have occurred at the earliest in 7 or 8 A.H.  This indicates that women had their faces exposed after the verses on women’s covering were revealed, and therefore that covering the face was not considered compulsory for all.

 

B15) At the time of the Prophet r, there were women who had their faces exposed

Ammar ibn Yasir narrated that a man saw a woman pass by and was so attracted by her beauty that he followed her until he knocked his face against a wall (due to not looking where he was going).  He then went to the Prophet r and told him what had happened while the blood was still running down his face.  The Prophet r replied that if Allah wants good for a person, he punishes him in this world, and if Allah wants harm for a person, he reserves it for the Hereafter.[93]

 

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi comments on this hadith that it shows that at the time of the Prophet r, there were women who had their faces exposed and who were so beautiful that some men even followed them around.  Yet, they were not commanded to veil their faces.[94]

 

 

B16) Hadith recommends looking at the face of the woman when a person wishes to marry her

 

عن جابر بن عبد الله قال  : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ” إذا خطب أحدكم المرأة فإن استطاع أن ينظر إلى ما يدعوه إلى نكاحها فليفعل ” قال فخطبت جارية فكنت أتخبأ لها حتى رأيت منها ما دعاني إلى نكاحها [وتزوجها] فتزوجتها .

قال الشيخ الألباني : حسن

أخرجه أبو داود، كتاب النكاح، باب في الرجل ينظر إلى المررأة وهو يريد تزوجها

 

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah, “The Prophet r said: ‘When one of you asks a woman for marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so.’” He (Jabir) said, “I asked a girl in marriage, I used to look at her secretly, until I looked at what induced me to marry her. I, therefore, married her.”[95]

 

Another narration describes a Companion telling the Prophet r that he was going to get married. The Prophet r asked if he had seen her. When the man said, “No”, he r said: “Go and look at her for it is more likely to engender love between the two of you.”[96]

A hadith in Sahih Muslim, the “Book of Marriage”, states,

 

عَنْ أَبِى هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ كُنْتُ عِنْدَ النَّبِىِّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَأَتَاهُ رَجُلٌ فَأَخْبَرَهُ أَنَّهُ تَزَوَّجَ امْرَأَةً مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « أَنَظَرْتَ إِلَيْهَا ». قَالَ لاَ. قَالَ « فَاذْهَبْ فَانْظُرْ إِلَيْهَا فَإِنَّ فِى أَعْيُنِ الأَنْصَارِ شَيْئًا ».

أخرجه مسلم في كتاب النكاح باب ندب النظر إلى وجه المرأة وكيفها لمن يريد تزوجها

“Abu Hurairah reported that a man came to the Prophet r to tell him that he had proposed to an Ansari woman.  The Prophet r asked him, ‘Have you seen her?  For the women of Madinah have some defects in their eyes.’”[97]

 

Al-Nawawi in his commentary (Sharh Sahih Muslim) of this hadith says, “This hadith recommends looking at the face of the woman when a person wishes to marry her.  This is our (Shafi‘i) view, and the view of Malik, Abu Hanifa, Ibn Hanbal and the view of the overwhelming majority of the scholars.”[98]

 

B17) “As for older women, … it is no sin on them if they discard their (outer) clothing…” (Qur’an 24:60)

 

وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ اللَّاتِي لَا يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحًا فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَاتٍ بِزِينَةٍ وَأَنْ يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَهُنَّ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

 

“As for older women, who have no hope of marriage, it is no sin on them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show their adornments. But to remain modest is better for them, and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Qur’an 24:60).

 

Al-Albani said that the majority of scholars have interpreted this to mean that an elderly woman is permitted to remove her jilbab and may appear before men in a headscarf with her face exposed.[99] This, it is contended, is further proof that the niqab is not compulsory for all Muslim women.

 

B18) Allah’s Messenger ‘p’ said, “If any man sees a woman who charms him…”

عن جابر بن عبد الله : أن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم رأى امرأة فدخل على زينب فقضى حاجته وخرج وقال إن المرأة إذا أقبلت أقبلت في صورة شيطان فإذا رأى أحدكم امرأة فأعجبته فليأت أهله فإن معها مثل الذي معها

 

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, “Allah’s Messenger r saw a woman who charmed him, so he went to Sauda who was making perfume in the company of some women. They left him, and after he had satisfied his desire he said, ‘If any man sees a woman who charms him he should go to his wife, for she has the same kind of thing as the other woman.’”[100]

 

عَنْ جَابِرٍ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- رَأَى امْرَأَةً فَأَتَى امْرَأَتَهُ زَيْنَبَ وَهْىَ تَمْعَسُ مَنِيئَةً لَهَا فَقَضَى حَاجَتَهُ ثُمَّ خَرَجَ إِلَى أَصْحَابِهِ فَقَالَ « إِنَّ الْمَرْأَةَ تُقْبِلُ فِى صُورَةِ شَيْطَانٍ وَتُدْبِرُ فِى صُورَةِ شَيْطَانٍ فَإِذَا أَبْصَرَ أَحَدُكُمُ امْرَأَةً فَلْيَأْتِ أَهْلَهُ فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ يَرُدُّ مَا فِى نَفْسِهِ

أخرجه مسلم في كتاب النكاح، باب من رأى امرأة فوقعت في نفسه، إلى أن يأتي امرأته أو جاريته فيواقعها

 

Another version states that Jabir reported that Allah’s Messenger r saw a woman, and so he came to his wife, Zaynab, as she was tanning leather and had sexual intercourse with her. He then went to his Companions and told them: “The woman advances and retires in the shape of a devil, so when one of you sees a woman, he should come to his wife, for that will repel what he feels in his heart.”[101]

 

عن جابر بن عبد الله : أن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم رأى امرأة فدخل على زينب فقضى حاجته وخرج وقال إن المرأة إذا أقبلت أقبلت في صورة شيطان فإذا رأى أحدكم امرأة فأعجبته فليأت أهله فإن معها مثل الذي معها

 

In another narration, Jabir reported that the Prophet r said, “If anyone sees a woman and is attracted to her, he should go to his wives and that will certainly take away that which he feels”.[102]

 

All these hadith suggest that there is something of a woman that is usually seen which may captivate a man.  Most ulama state that, since the body is usually covered, it must be a woman’s face.

 

B19) With respect to what clothes a woman may pray in, her entire body is ‘awrah and must be covered, except her hands and face

 

Fiqh us-Sunnah states with respect to what clothes a woman may pray in:  “There is no such dispute over what constitutes a woman’s ‘awrah. It is stated that her entire body is ‘awrah and must be covered, except her hands and face. Says Allah in the Qur’an, ‘And to display of their adornment only that which is apparent (do not expose any adornment or beauty save the hands and face).’ It has been authentically related from Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibn ‘Umar and ‘Aisha that the Prophet r said, ‘Allah does not accept the prayer of an adult woman unless she is wearing a head-covering (khimar).’ This is related by ‘the five’, except for an-Nasa‘i, and by Ibn Khuzaimah and al-Hakim. At-Tirmidhi grades it as hasan.

 

“It is related from Umm Salamah that she asked the Prophet r, ‘Can a woman pray in a long shirt (like a night shirt) and head-covering without a loincloth?’ He said, ‘If the shirt is long and flowing and covers the top of her feet.’ This is related by Abu Dawood. The scholars say it is sahih in mauqoof form (as a statement of Umm Salamah and not that of the Prophet r.)

 

“It is also related that ‘Aisha was asked, ‘In how many garments is a woman to pray?’  She answered, ‘Ask ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib and then return to me and tell me what he said.’ ‘Ali’s answer was, ‘In a head-cover and a long flowing shirt.’ This was told to ‘Aisha and she said, ‘He has told the truth.’

 

“The clothes worn must cover the ‘awrah, even if they are tight enough to highlight those features. If the clothes are so thin that one’s skin color can be seen, they are not suitable for prayer.” [103]

 

Another narration describes clothing appropriate for women’s prayer:

 

عن مالك عن محمد بن زيد بن قنفذ عن أمه أنها سألت أم سلمة زوج النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم :ماذا تصلي فيه المرأة من الثياب فقالت تصلي في الخمار والدرع السابغ إذا غيب ظهور قدميها

 

الموطأ، كتاب صلاة الجماعة، باب الرخصة في صلاة المرأة في الدرع الخمار

“Yahya related to me from Malik from Muhammad ibn Zayd ibn Qunfudh that his mother asked Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet r ‘What clothes can a woman wear in prayer?’  She said, ‘She can pray in a shirt that reaches down and covers the top of her feet.’”[104]

 

These statements all support the argument that if a woman may validly pray with her face and hands exposed, then such body parts cannot constitute part of her ‘awrah (that which should not be seen).

 

B20) There is no point in enjoining men to lower their gaze if there was nothing to gaze at

 

عَنْ عُبَادَةَ بْنِ الصَّامِتِ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ اضْمَنُوا لِي سِتًّا مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَضْمَنْ لَكُمْ الْجَنَّةَ اصْدُقُوا إِذَا حَدَّثْتُمْ وَأَوْفُوا إِذَا وَعَدْتُمْ وَأَدُّوا إِذَا اؤْتُمِنْتُمْ وَاحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَكُمْ وَغُضُّوا أَبْصَارَكُمْ وَكُفُّوا أَيْدِيَكُمْ

 

Narrated Ubadah ibn as-Samit, “The Prophet r said, ‘If you guarantee me six things on your part I shall guarantee you Paradise: Speak the truth when you talk, keep a promise when you make it, when you are trusted with something fulfill your trust, avoid sexual immorality, lower your eyes, and restrain your hands from injustice.”[105]

 

عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ يَزِيدَ قَالَ دَخَلْتُ مَعَ عَلْقَمَةَ وَالْأَسْوَدِ عَلَى عَبْدِ اللَّهِ فَقَالَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ كُنَّا مَعَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ شَبَابًا لَا نَجِدُ شَيْئًا فَقَالَ لَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنْ اسْتَطَاعَ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيَتَزَوَّجْ فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَأَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب النكاح، باب من لم يستطع الباءة فليصم

 

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ قَالَ قَالَ لَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمُ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيَتَزَوَّجْ فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَأَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ

أخرجه المسلم في كتاب النكاح، باب استحباب النكاح لمن تاقت نفسه إليه ووجد مؤنة واشغال من عجز عن المؤن بالصوم

 

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, “We were with the Prophet r while we were young and had no wealth whatever. So Allah’s Apostle said, ‘O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty (i.e. his private parts from committing illegal sexual intercourse etc.), and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual desire.’”[106]

 

Muhammad al-Ghazali says there is no point in Allah and the Prophet r enjoining men to lower their gaze if there was nothing to gaze at.[107] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi makes the point that lowering the gaze “does not mean the shutting of the eye, or the bowing of the head in order that the human being does not see anyone.  This is not possible.  For verily, the meaning of the expression ‘lowering the gaze’ (al-ghudd min al-absaar) does not mean the lowering of the whole gaze (ghudd al-absar).”[108] He also argues that if a man is afraid of temptation, he should not look at the woman concerned.[109]

 

This explanation of lowering the gaze is supported by the hadith that Jarir ibn Abdullah narrated:

عَنْ جَرِيرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ قَالَ سَأَلْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- عَنْ نَظَرِ الْفُجَاءَةِ فَأَمَرَنِى أَنْ أَصْرِفَ بَصَرِى.

أخرجه مسلم في كتاب الآداب، باب نظر الفجأة

 

“I asked the Messenger of Allah r about the unexpected glance. He replied, ‘Avert your eyes,’ meaning, do not look back deliberately.”[110]

 

Ibn Muflih al-Hanbali[111] in Al-Adab al-Shari’ah said that Qadi ‘Iyad commented on this tradition that, “The scholars, may Allah Most High have mercy upon them, have said that there is proof in this hadith that it is not compulsory for a woman to cover her face in the street. Instead, it is a recommended practice for her to do so and it is compulsory for the man to lower his gaze from her at all times, except for a legislated purpose. Sheikh Muhyiddeen al-Nawawi mentioned that without further explanation.”

 

In other words, “lowering of the gaze” means to avert one’s gaze from the faces of the passers-by and not to caress the attractive features of the members of the opposite sex with one’s eyes – implying that there would be some attractive features that would be visible in passers-by.  A narration from Buraydah ibn al-Hasib clarifies how much is permitted to a man who sees an attractive woman:

 

عن ابن بريدة عن أبيه قال  : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم لعلي رضي الله عنه ” يا علي لا تتبع النظرة النظرة فإنض لك الأولى وليست لك الآخرة “.

قال الشيخ الألباني : حسن

سنن إبي داود، كتاب النكاح، باب ما يؤمر به من غض البصر

 

“The Prophet r told ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘‘Ali, do not let a second look follow the first. The first look is allowed to you but not the second.’”[112]

 

B21) Classical jurists (fuqaha) who view the niqab as not obligatory:

 

  • Imam Malik held the view that it is permissible for a woman to reveal her face and hands.[113]

 

  • The position of the Maliki scholars is mentioned by the author of Aqrab al-Masaalik ‘ala Madhhab Malik, who states that the ‘awrah of a woman who is not a slave is her entire body except her face and two hands. Al-Sawi also writes that it is permissible to look at the face and hands of a woman if it is not aimed at evoking desires, and that it makes no difference whether it is the inner or outer part of the hand.[114] Ibn Rushd in Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid states that the general position of the Maliki madhhab is that the face and hands may be exposed.  Zarruq in a book called Al-Waghlisiyya differentiates between an attractive and unattractive woman, arguing that an attractive woman should cover her face and hands, especially if she feels threatened by revealing them.[115]

 

  • One of the views of Imam al-Shafi‘i is that the ‘awrah of a free woman is her entire body with permission to reveal her face due to necessity.[116] Imam al-Shafi‘i himself in his book, Al-Umm, wrote, “All of a woman’s body is ‘awrah with the exception of her hands and her face. The top of her feet is also ‘awrah.

 

  • The position of the Shafi‘i scholars may be found in various texts such as al-Shirazi’s Al-Muhadhdhab, which states that a free Muslim woman is entirely ‘awrah except her face and hands. Imam an-Nawawi in his Al-Majmu’: Sharh al-Muhadhdhab explained this permissibility as including up to the wrists.  Their verdict rests on the basis of (a) Ibn ‘Abbas’s interpretation of “except that which is apparent” as the face and hands, (b) the Prophet’s prevention of a woman from wearing niqab and gloves while in ihram, thus indicating that such body parts are not ‘awrah, and (c) the need to reveal the face in times of buying and selling, and the hands in taking and giving.  An-Nawawi also stated that some jurists in the Shafi‘i school view a woman’s face and the inner part of the leg as not ‘awrah, and al-Muzani said that the two feet are not ‘awrah.[117]

 

According to other Shafi‘i scholars, the ‘awrah of a woman depends on her location.  In the privacy of her home, it is between the navel and her knees; in salah and Hajj, it is everything except the face and hands; and outside of her home, it is the entire body.[118]

 

Ahmad ibn Naqib (d. 765 A.H. which is 1367 C.E.) in Umdat as-Salik reports the position of the Shafi‘i madhhab in his time to be that niqab is fard and this is the position of other late Shafi‘i scholars like Ibn Hajr.  Therefore, one may conclude that the opinion of the early Shafi‘i scholars was that showing the face is not compulsory, despite the contrary view of Shafi‘is several centuries later.

 

  • The books of Hanafi scholars view it as being permissible to look at a woman’s face and hands if there is no fear of desires overcoming oneself, because these aspects of a person are the points of interpersonal interactions and necessary to know one person from another. Seeing the face and hands, it is argued, is necessary for trade, buying and selling in the markets, witnessing in courts, identification for security, etc.[119] The Hanafi scholar Abu Bakr al-Jassas in Ahkam al-Qur’an says, “The imams of our fiqh say, ‘The exception (“illa ma dhahara minha”) in the verse means the face and the palm of the hands because kohl is the adornment of the eyes while henna and the ring are the beautification of the hands.  When looking at the adornments of the face or hands is permitted, it follows positively that looking at the face and hands is not prohibited.”  However, gazing at such body parts in order to evoke attraction is prohibited.[120]

 

There are some views by some Hanafi scholars of more recent times that covering the face and hands is wajib, on the basis of extra precautions needed to overcome fitnah in the modern age.  This argument is handled below (see the section in this paper on Refutation of the Fitnah argument – p.35).  Nonetheless, the general and historical view of the Hanafi school, based on traditional sources, is that the face and hands of a woman may be revealed.

 

  • Abu Hanifa also states that the feet are also not ‘awrah as they are naturally seen when walking. Furthermore, the face and hands are more attractive.  Therefore, if the face and hands may be seen, so may the feet.[121]

 

  • Two opinions are recorded from Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. According to one opinion, a woman may display her face[122] (there is a dispute about the hands), while according to the other opinion, niqab is fard.

 

  • Among the Hanbali scholars, there are divergent views on whether a woman may reveal her face and hands. Despite the stance of many jurists in the school that the niqab is mandatory, Ibn Qudamah, the great Hanbali scholar, said that there is no argument that it is permissible for a woman to leave her face exposed when praying, and that nothing may be uncovered of a woman usually except her face and two hands.[123] In his classic text, Al-Mughni, Ibn Qudamah states the view of Abu Hanifa (as mentioned above) as well as Malik, Awza‘i and Shafi‘i that all of a woman is ‘awrah except her face and hands.  He then says that some jurists state that a woman is all ‘awrah because of the narration from the Prophet r in Tirmidhi that a woman is (in general) ‘awrah, but that women are allowed to leave their faces and hands open because (a) it would be too difficult to cover them at all times, and (b) it is allowed for someone seeking marriage with a woman to look at her face.[124]

 

The renowned Hanbali jurist, Ibn Muflih, writes, “Chastisement (of a marriageable woman who has her face uncovered in the street) is not allowed in issues where there is a difference of opinion, and the difference has already been mentioned.  As regards our opinion and that of a group of Shafi‘ite scholars and others, looking at a marriageable woman without desire or in a secluded circumstance is permissible.”[125]

 

  • The majority of ulama that belonged to schools other than those mentioned above also viewed the face and hands of a free woman as permissible to be seen. Imam an-Nawawi mentioned that these ulama agreed with the stance of Abu Hanifa, Malik, Awza‘i, al-Thawri, and a narration of Ahmad.  Al-Thawri also shared Abu Hanifa and al-Muzani’s view that the feet are not ‘awrah.[126] Ibn Hazm’s view was that all of a woman’s body should be covered except her face,[127] and Imam Dawood said the face and hands were permissible to be revealed.[128] Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi further states that this is the view of the majority of ulama among the Companions.[129]

 

B22) Commentators of the Qur’an (Mufassirun) who view the niqab as not wajib:

 

  • Abu Ja’far al-Tabari explains the verse “let them draw their khumur over their bosoms” as meaning that women should cover their hair, necks and earrings. After citing various scholars’ opinions on what a woman should cover, Tabari concludes by saying, “The strongest and most accurate view is that which says that the exemption refers to the face and the hands. Also included are kohl, rings, bracelets, and makeup. We say that this is the strongest and most accurate opinion because all scholars are unanimous that everyone who needs to pray must cover the ‘awrah in his or her salat. A woman may reveal the face and the hands in her salah, while she must cover the rest of her body except what is reported from the Prophet r that he allowed up to a hand’s width of the forearm. What is not ‘awrah is not haram to be revealed”.[130] This view is also supported by al-Razi, al-Qurtubi and al-Baydawi.[131]

 

  • Imam Abu’l-Qasim Zamakhshari says, “Why is the woman permitted to display ‘what may be apparent of it’? Because to conceal that would cause her inconvenience. A woman is forced to deal in commodities with her hands. She is compelled by genuine need to expose her face especially at the times of giving evidence, litigating in court, and marriage. She is compelled to walk the streets and expose her feet, especially poor women. This is the meaning of ‘illa maa dhahara min ha’, that is, what the situations of ordinary life compel her to expose”[132]

 

  • Al-Baji (d. 474AH) explains that Qur’an 24:31 means, “nothing should be seen of her besides the circle of her face”.[133]

 

  • Al-Qurtubi says, “It seems probable that, since the face and hands are customarily uncovered, and it is, moreover, required that they be uncovered during acts of worship such as salah and Hajj, the exemption (referred to in the verses of Surah al-Nur) pertains to them.”[134]

 

  • Ibn al-‘Arabi says, “The correct point of view concerning the apparent adornments is that which is on the face and the hands, for it is these which appear in prayers and on Hajj. As an act of ibadah and as a way of life, they are customarily uncovered.”[135]

 

  • Al-Razi (d. 606 A.H.) states that, “Since the showing of the face and hands is necessary, the jurists had no choice but to agree that they are not ‘awrah, and since the showing of the feet is not necessary, they have differed concerning whether or not they are ‘awrah.[136]
  • Al-Nasafi (d. 710A.H.) says, “‘Except what is apparent thereof’ means ‘except what has become customary and is the nature to show’, and that is the face, the hands and the feet, for in covering them is clear difficulty, as the woman has no way of getting around and doing things with her hands. Also, there is the necessity of uncovering the face, particularly in the issue of witnessing, or trials, or marriage. It is also inevitable when walking the streets, as well as the showing of the feet, and particularly for poor women.”[137]
  • Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi states that because ‘Aisha, Qatadah, and others have added bracelets to what may be shown of the adornments; some interpreters have understood that this implies that a part of the arm may also be shown. Various scholars have thus commented that the exposure of the lower part of the arm up to a length varying between about four inches to one-half of the arm is permissible. He writes that al-Tabari, al-Zamakhshari, al-Razi, al-Jalalayn, and al-Baghawi[138] all conclude that the face, hands, and their ornaments such as kohl and rings are not part of the ‘awrah.  In addition, other scholars who are frequently quoted by the proponents of niqab such as al-Jassas, Ibn al-‘Arabi and al-Qurtubi list both opinions but prefer Ibn ‘Abbas’.[139]

 

B23) Evidence from the chronological dating of the verses in the Qur’an

 

The ulama who contend that the niqab is not wajib also rely on chronological dating of the verses in the Qur’an to buttress their argument.  Darsh, for example,[140] points out that even if verse 33:59 in Surah al-Ahzab was interpreted to mean women should cover their faces with their jalabib (sg. jilbab), verse 24:31 in Surah an-Nur was revealed afterwards[141], thereby abrogating the need for niqab with the khimar.  He supports this chronology of revelation by using internal evidence that Surah an-Nur mentions the slander against ‘Aisha which happened after the time the Prophet r had already married Zaynab, whereas verse 53 in Surah al-Ahzab is said to have been revealed in the context of the marriage between Zaynab and the Prophet r [142].

 

To illustrate how the majority of the ulama support the above order of revelation, we have quoted at length below from the tafsir of Syed Abu’l-Aala Maududi[143] In his “Introduction to Surah al-Ahzab”, he says, “The Surah discusses three important events which are: the Battle of the Trench (or Al-Ahzab: the Clans), which took place in Shawwal, A.H. 5[144]; the raid on Bani Quraizah, which was made in Dhil-Qa’dah, A.H. 5; and the Holy Prophet’s marriage with Hadrat Zaynab, which also was contracted in Dhil-Qa’dah, A.H. 5.” He also mentions that this surah was the initial phase of introducing reforms to social behaviour between the sexes, which was complemented by Surah an-Nur one year later when the slander was made against Aisha.

 

In Mawdudi’s “Introduction to Surah an-Nur”, he writes, “The consensus of opinion is that it was sent down after the Campaign against Bani al-Mustaliq and this is confirmed by vv. 11-20 that deal with the incident of the ‘Slander’, which occurred during that Campaign. But there is a difference of opinion as to whether this Campaign took place in 5 A.H. before the Battle of the Trench or in 6 A.H. after it…

“According to Ibn Sa’d, the Campaign against Bani al-Mustaliq took place in Shaban 5 A.H. and the Battle of the Trench in Dhil-Qa’dah the same year. This opinion is based on some traditions from Hadrat ‘Aisha about the events connected with the ‘Slander’ in which she refers to a dispute between Hadrat Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah and Sa’d bin Mu‘az. Hadrat Sa’d bin Mu‘az, according to authentic traditions, died during the Campaign against Bani Quraizah, which took place immediately after the Battle of the Trench. It is, therefore, evident that he could not be present in 6 A.H. to take part in a dispute about the ‘Slander’.

 

“On the other hand, Muhammad bin Ishaq says that the Battle of the Trench took place in Shawwal 5 A.H. and the Campaign against Bani al-Mustaliq in Sha’ban 6 A.H. This opinion is supported by many authentic traditions from Hadrat ‘Aisha and others. According to these traditions, (1) the Commandments about purdah had been sent down in Surah al-Ahzab before the incident of the ‘Slander’, (2) the Holy Prophet r had married Hadrat Zaynab in Dhil-Qa’dah 5 A.H. after the Battle of the Trench, (3) Hamnah, sister of Hadrat Zaynab, had taken a leading part in spreading the ‘Slander’, just because Hadrat ‘Aisha was a rival of her sister. All this evidence supports the view of Muhammad bin Ishaq.

 

“Now let us consider the two opinions a little more closely. The only argument in favor of the first opinion is the mention of the presence of Hadrat Sa’d bin Mu‘az in a dispute connected with the incident of the ‘Slander’. But this argument is weakened by some other traditions from Hadrat ‘Aisha, in which she mentions Hadrat Usaid bin Hudair instead of Hadrat Sa’d bin Mu‘az in this dispute. It may, therefore, be assumed that there has been some confusion regarding the two names in reporting the traditions. Moreover, if we accept the first opinion, just because of the mention of the name of Hadrat Sa’d bin Mu‘az in some traditions, we encounter other difficulties that cannot be resolved in any way.  For, in that case, we shall have to admit that the revelation of the Commandments of purdah and the Holy Prophet’s marriage with Hadrat Zaynab had taken place even earlier than the Battle of the Trench. But we learn from the Qur’an and many authentic traditions that both these events happened after that Battle and the Campaign against Bani Quraizah. That is why Ibn Hazm, Ibn Qayyim and some other eminent scholars have held the opinion of Muhammad bin Ishaq as correct, and we also hold it to be so. Thus, we conclude that Surah al-Ahzab was sent down earlier than Surah an-Nur, which was revealed in the latter half of 6 A.H. several months after Surah al-Ahzab.”[145]

 

B24) Refutation of the “Fitnah argument”: Blocking the means that lead to haram (Sadd ad-dhara‘i)

 

An argument made by some proponents of niqab as wajib is that during the time of the Prophet r and his righteous Companions, people were pure, but now there is fasad (mischief) and fitnah in the land.  They contend that exposure of a woman’s face would capitalize on the weakness in people’s hearts and bring about greater fitnah.  Therefore, the Shari’ah tool of Sadd ad-Dhara‘i may be used to block the means to such haram.  In this way, even if the face is otherwise permissible to be exposed, it may be prohibited because of the danger of it leading to haram today.

 

The ulama who oppose this argument state that despite the first generation’s exemplary standards, their period was also a period of man, and among men there are those who are weak and make mistakes.  Even in the Prophet’s time, there were those who were committing zina and receiving the hadd punishment, there were fasiqoon and those who were hurting women, who had diseases in their hearts, and who had unIslamic moral attitudes.  This is why the Qur’an sent strong warnings to those who would not desist from wrongdoing, and enjoined believing women to send a message through their dressing that they were to be respected and not bothered.[146]

 

Darsh states that those who make niqab wajib for all rely on specific instructions given to the Prophet’s wives only to safeguard their social distinction in the society.[147] Furthermore, women’s dress during the lifetime of the Prophet r and his Companions was more a sign of status (particularly with respect to the differences between the dress of free women and that of slaves)[148] rather than a means of preventing temptation.[149] This was confirmed by al-Razi who stated that verse 33:59 was revealed because men seeking prostitution would frequently approach slave girls who were out at night, and covering one’s body was a sign of being a free woman who was not to be approached.[150]

 

Professor Khaled Abou El-Fadl makes the point that the early jurists ruled on women’s dressing based not on the degree of fitnah in society at the time but on what was considered a woman’s ‘awrah, which is independent of whether there is fitnah or not.  “The ‘awrah is to be covered even if it doesn’t cause a fitnah,” such as in times of solitary prayer.[151]

 

Nonetheless, fitnah between the sexes, it is argued, is normal and innate, as are trials related to wealth, children and even one’s faith.[152] Those who advocate niqab as only an option state firmly that whatever Allah and the Prophet r left alone without making an obligation should be sufficient for us.  Al-Albani issues a warning in his book Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah[153] that Sadd ad-Dhara‘i may only be resorted to if the existing provisions in the Shari’ah are insufficient to deal with an impending problem.

 

El-Fadl makes the case that placing responsibility upon an individual for the potential indiscretions of another violates Qur’anic injunctions about one soul not bearing the burden of another[154] and effectively makes those prone to immorality the determiners of the law, rather than Allah.[155]

 

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi explains that the ulama of fiqh and usul ul-fiqh said that taking the tool of Sadd adh-Dhara‘i to the extreme is as bad as taking unblocking the means to haram to the extreme. He also argues that if Allah and the Prophet r left something alone in our reality (such as the natural inclination between the sexes), then we should not try to remove them, because if we try to remove a permission from our reality as a general rule for all, we are prohibiting something Allah has permitted, or we are bringing something new into the religion.  The injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah[156] are enough Sadd adh-Dhara‘i for us[157], since Allah is the Most Wise and Knower of all.[158]

 

Sheikh al-Albani agrees, saying “It is well known that when Allah Most High instructed men and women to lower their gazes and instructed women to cover themselves in front of men, He did that to block the road to corruption and prevent temptation.  In spite of that, He (Most Gracious and Glorious) did not command that they cover their faces and hands in front of them.  The Prophet r further emphasized that in the story of al-Fadl by not commanding the woman to cover her face.  And Allah was truthful when He said, ‘And your Lord is not forgetful.’[159]  The reality is that the condition of there not being fitnah was only mentioned by scholars regarding the man’s looking at the woman’s face, as in [al-Jazairi’s] Fiqh ‘ala al-Madhaahib al-Arba‘ah.[160]

 

Sheikh al-Qaradawi further argues that if a hukm (ruling) of Shari’ah is authentic, it is general and permanent, not for one generation or two and then later ceases to be applicable.  If this was so, the Shari’ah would not really be permanent and this would be contrary to the fact that it is the last Shari’ah for mankind.  This argument that Shari’ah should be modified to modern times is also the argument used by modernists and those who seek more secular laws.  Therefore, it is highly dangerous to impose one’s own personal views over the Shari’ah[161], which should in reality be over us.[162]

 

Opponents of the fitnah argument state that the fear of fitnah alone cannot justify any prohibition, and that there are no Shari’ah provisions for the prohibition of showing the face, either through an explicit text or by indication or analogy.  Furthermore, Sadd ad-Dhara‘i can only be invoked if there is a near-definite probability that the prohibited item will lead to haram.  Sheikh al-Qaradawi expounds that whenever there is no clear text that is authentic and direct that prohibits an action, it remains lawful.  Had Allah willed wearing the niqab to be compulsory and the wearing of the head-cover alone to be classed as sinful and insufficient, He would have revealed a verse to that effect so that there would be no confusion over what is obligatory.[163]  Furthermore, Allah has issued a warning to those who seek to make haram for themselves what Allah has permitted:

قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ مِنْ رِزْقٍ فَجَعَلْتُمْ مِنْهُ حَرَامًا وَحَلَالًا قُلْ آللَّهُ أَذِنَ لَكُمْ أَمْ عَلَى اللَّهِ تَفْتَرُونَ

 

“O Prophet, ask them, ‘Have you ever considered that out of the sustenance which Allah has given you, you yourselves have made some things halal (lawful) and others haram (unlawful)?’ Ask them, ‘Did Allah permit you to do so, or do you ascribe a false thing to Allah?’” (Qur’an 10:59)

 

A hadith of the Prophet r echoes this warning:

 

قَالَتْ عَائِشَةُ صَنَعَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ شَيْئًا فَرَخَّصَ فِيهِ فَتَنَزَّهَ عَنْهُ قَوْمٌ فَبَلَغَ ذَلِكَ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَخَطَبَ فَحَمِدَ اللَّهَ ثُمَّ قَالَ مَا بَالُ أَقْوَامٍ يَتَنَزَّهُونَ عَنْ الشَّيْءِ أَصْنَعُهُ فَوَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لَأَعْلَمُهُمْ بِاللَّهِ وَأَشَدُّهُمْ لَهُ خَشْيَةً

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب اللإعتصام بالكتاب والسنة، باب ما يكره من التعمق والتنازع في العلم والغلو في الدين والبدع

 

Narrated Aisha, “The Prophet r did something as it was allowed from the religious point of view but some people refrained from it. When the Prophet r heard of that, he, after glorifying and praising Allah, said, ‘Why do some people refrain from doing something which I do?  By Allah, I know Allah more than they.’”[164]

 

This is why, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, the salaf were reluctant to use the word “haram” unless it was explicitly made so by Allah or His Messenger.[165]

 

The ulama who permit the face to be revealed often conclude their arguments with a reminder that imposing strict and rigid rules upon others in order to force purity fulfils neither the letter nor the spirit of Islam, which is ease and mercy.  In support of choosing the easier of two options, the following texts are quoted:

 

فَإِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُمْ مُيَسِّرِينَ وَلَمْ تُبْعَثُوا مُعَسِّرِينَ

أخرجه البخاري في كتاب الوضوء، باب صب الماء على البولف في المسجد

 

Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet r said, “…You have been sent to make things easy and not to make them difficult.”[166]

 

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ يَسِّرُوا وَلَا تُعَسِّرُوا وَبَشِّرُوا وَلَا تُنَفِّرُوا

Narrated Anas bin Malik, “The Prophet r said, ‘Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them).’”[167]

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُخَفِّفَ عَنْكُمْ

 

“Allah wishes to lighten your burdens, for man has been created weak.” (Qur’an 4:28)

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

 

“Allah wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship.” (Qur’an 2:185)

 

هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ

 

“He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in the observance of your faith – the faith of your father Ibrahim (Abraham).” (Qur’an 22:78)

[1] Verse 33:59 mentions that the Prophet (s) should tell his wives, daughters and the believing women to “yudnina alaihinna min jalabib hinna

[2] i.e. “to draw their jilbabs close to themselves”

[3] “Introduction” in Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 3rd edition. Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah, 1996, p.5.

[4] This is due to a defect in Abdullah ibn Salih and doubt over whether Ibn Abi Talhah actually heard from Ibn ‘Abbas. Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. 1994, p.11.

[5] Hijab or Naqab. London: Dar al-Dawa Bookshop, 1995, p.16.

[6] see footnote 19 in this paper.

[7] See B25 below for more details of how this chronology was reached.

[8] Mawahib al-Jaleel min Adillat Khaleel. Qatar: Idarat ‘Ihya al-Turath al-Islami, Vol.1, p.148.

[9] Ma’alim al-Tanzil. Dar al-Tayyibah. 1994, Vol.6, p.34.

[10] Madarik al-Tanzil. Dar Ibn Kathir. 1998, Vol.2, p.500.

[11] Fatawi al-Mu‘asira. Al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa’. 1996, Vol.2, p.319.

[12]Usluk yadaka fi jaybika…” (Qur’an 28:32)

[13] Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir of Surah an-Nur.

[14] As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith, 1989, p. 39.

[15] As in “wal-yadribna bi khumurihinna alaa juyub hinna” (“and to draw their khumur together over their bosoms”)

[16] See the interview at http://www.uh.edu/campus/msa/articles/tape_.html#khimar

[17] Tafsir of Surah an-Nur, verse 31.

[18] “O wives of the Prophet!  If any of you are to become guilty of manifestly immoral conduct, she will have double punishment (in the Hereafter).  This is indeed easy for God.  But any of you who devoutly obeys God and His Messenger, to her We shall grant reward twice and We have prepared for her a most excellent Sustenance (in the Hereafter).  O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the (other) women.  If you are conscious of God, let not your speech be too complaisant, in case any in whose heart there is a disease should desire (you).  Speak in a right (mar’oof) way.  Stay in your houses and do not flaunt your charms as they used to do in the former times of ignorance.  Establish regular prayers and give regular charity and obey God and His Messenger.   O members of the household!  God wishes to remove from you that which is loathsome and He wants to purify you to utmost purity.” (Qur’an 33:30-33)

[19] “O believers! Do not enter the houses of the Prophet without permission, nor stay waiting for meal-time: but if you are invited to a meal, enter, and when you have eaten disperse and do not seek long conversation. Such behavior annoys the Prophet, he feels shy in asking you to leave, but Allah does not feel shy in telling the truth…” (Qur’an 33:53). Anas describes the context of the verse’s revelation in the following manner: “I know (about) the Hijab (the order of veiling) more than anybody else. Ubayy bin Ka’b used to ask me about it. Allah’s Apostle became the bridegroom of Zaynab bint Jahsh whom he married at Medina. After the sun had risen high in the sky, the Prophet invited the people to a meal. Allah’s Apostle remained sitting and some people remained sitting with him after the other guests had left. Then Allah’s Apostle got up and went away, and I too followed him till he reached the door of ‘Aisha’s room. Then he thought that the people must have left the place by then, so he returned and I also returned with him. Behold, the people were still sitting at their places. So he went back again for the second time, and I went along with him too… When we reached the door of ‘Aisha’s room, he returned and I also returned with him to see that the people had left. Thereupon the Prophet hung a curtain between me and him and the Verse regarding the order for (veiling) Hijab was revealed.” (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.7, No. 375).

[20] “…It is not proper for you to annoy the Messenger of Allah, nor ever to marry his wives after him; this would be a grievous offence in the sight of Allah.” (Qur’an 33:53). See Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p. 329.

 

[21] Abu Dawood, No.4112; Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol.11, p. 228.

[22] Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, No. 1480

[23] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol 5, No. 4212

[24] Anas said of himself, “I know (about) the Hijab (the order of veiling) more than anybody else. Ubayy bin Ka’b used to ask me about it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.7, No. 375)

 

[25] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol 5, No. 4213

[26] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.7, No. 5085.

[27] Ibn Kathir, Commenting on Qur’an 33:53, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azeem. Vol.6, p.455-456;  Al-Mustadrak ‘ala as-Sahihain, Vol.5, p.426.

[28] Shihabuddin Al-Alusi, Ruh al-Ma’ani, Vol.16, p.199; Abu Hayyan, Al-Bahr al-Muhit, Vol.9, p.171; Al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, Vol.11, p.203-204, cited in Al-Maktab ash-Shamila, 2006 edition.

[29] Kamillah Khan in her well researched book, Niqaab: A Seal on the Debate, Dar al Wahi Publications, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2008, p.10-11 says about this mistranslation found in Muhsin Khan’s Translation of Sahih Bukhari, that “…all we learn from this particular Hadith is the fact that they covered. Yet the translator has made it seem that ‘Aisha mentioned how the faces were covered, which is a clear lie against her.”

[30] Sahih Bukhari, Vol.6, No.4759. The same hadith is also found in Abu Dawood (see point A10).

[31] Dr. S.M. Darsh, 1995, Hijab or Naqab. London: Dar al-Dawa, p.25.

[32] Cited by Dr. S.M. Darsh, Hijab or Niqab. Op. Cit., p.11.

[33] Al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir Vol.6, p.591.

[34] 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.329.

[35] Tafsir al-Kabir of Fakhr al-Deen al-Razi Vol.20, p.205-206.

[36] Fatawi al-Mu’asira. 1996, Op. Cit., Vol.2, p.324.

[37] See section on “Clarification of terms” and Refutations to A2 and A4 above.

[38] Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1996, 3rd edition. Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah.

[39] Fatawi al-Mu’asira. 1996, Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.331.

[40] See B9 below.

[41] Shiekh Muhammad al-Ghazali, 1989, As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith. p.40.

[42] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Op. Cit., Vol.2, p.328.

[43] See B6 below

[44] ibid.

[45] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.7, No. 5825.

[46] Material usually tied around the waist, a wrapper. See Sharh Sahih Muslim Vol.2, p.542.

[47] Hadith Qudsi No.37.

[48] (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, No.303 in Alim Version 4.5.  See also Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.4, No.467; Vol.9, No.589; and Sahih Muslim, No.6783).

[49] For example, see B5-B7, B11-B15, and B17-B19 below.

[50] Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. 1994, Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. p.7.

[51] Nayl al-Awtar.

[52] Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1996, 3rd edition. Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah.

[53] Abu Dawood, No.1905; Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol.11, p. 228. See the full text of this hadith in the Refutation to A3 above.

[54] Cited by al-Albani, Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 3rd edition. Op. Cit.

[55] As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith. 1989, p.38.

[56] Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. 1996, Vol.2, p.327.

[57] Fiqh us-Sunnah Vol.4, No.23 in Alim Version 4.5.

[58] Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami, 1994, p.5-20.

[59] See the section in this paper on classical jurists who view the niqab as not wajib for examples of Hanbali scholars who take this position, as well as the founders and jurists of other schools. See points B21 and B22 below for the positions of the fuqaha (jurusts) and mufassirun (commentators of the Qur’an) respectively.

[60] As-Sayyid Sabiq, 1992, Fiqh us Sunnah, “Book of Hajj and ‘Umrah.” Trans. Muhammad S. Dabas and M.S. Kayani. Indianapolis, USA: American Trust Publications. Vol.5, p.58.

[61] Abu Dawood, No. 1902.

[62] There is a missing narrator between ‘Aisha and Khalid ibn Duraik.

[63] Al-Albani notes that the well-known hadith science rule that ‘unreliable narrations are strengthened by (reliable) narrations similar to them’ is often overlooked when it comes to this hadith.  He also states that the use of such supportive evidence is practiced by eminent scholars such as Imam Ahmad and Ibn Taymiyyah.  (Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1996, 3rd edition. Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah).

[64] Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah (1994, Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. p.57-59)

[65] Asma’ bint ‘Umays narrated that, “The Messenger of Allah r entered the house of ‘Aisha bint Abu Bakr while her sister, Asma’ bint Abu Bakr, was with her.  She was wearing a dress from al-Sham (a region covering the Lebanon and Syria of today) with wide sleeves.  When the Messenger of Allah r saw her, he got up and went out.  ‘Aisha said, ‘Leave the room for the Messenger of Allah has seen something he does not like.’  So she withdrew.  The Messenger of Allah r re-entered and Aisha inquired as to why he stood to leave.  He said, ‘Did you not see what she was wearing?  It is not permitted for anything to be seen of a Muslim woman except this and this’ and he took his sleeves and covered the upper part of his hands until nothing could be seen of his hands except his fingers.  Then he lifted his hands to his temples until only the face could be seen.” (Al-Baihaqi).

[66] Qatada narrated that the Prophet r said, “When a young lady begins to menstruate, it is not proper that anything should be seen of her except her face and hands.” (Abu Dawood)

[67] Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, Al-Irwah, Sahih Jami’ as-Sagheer, and Takhreej al-Halal wal-Haram.

[68] Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1996, 3rd edition. Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah.

[69] Narrated by ‘Aisha in S. Abu A’la Maududi, n.d., The Meaning of the Qur’an, Delhi: Board of Islamic Publications, Vol.4, p.353.

[70] Cited by Dr. S.M. Darsh, 1995, Hijab or Naqab. London: Dar al-Dawa, p.19.

[71] Abu Dawood, No. 4089 in Alim Version 4.5.

[72] Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. 1994, Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami.

[73] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.3, No. 1838.

[74] Fiqh us-Sunnah Vol.5, No.49 in Alim 4.5

[75] As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith, 1989, p.36.

[76] Fiqh us-Sunnah Vol.5, No.49 in Alim Version 6.0

[77] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.8, No. 6228. See also Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.3, No.79.

[78] Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, No. 1334.

[79] Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1996, 3rd edition. Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah.

[80] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.323.

[81] “Abwab al-Hajj”, No.885.

[82] Cited by al-Albani, 1994, Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah fil-Kitab was-Sunnah.  Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami.

[83] As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith. 1989, p.38-39.

[84] Nayl al-Awtar.

[85] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.7, No. 5249

[86] Al-Muhalla Vol.3, p.285.

[87] Sahih Muslim Vol 2, No. 885R1

[88] Muhammad al-Ghazali, 1989, As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith. p.38.

[89] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.5, No. 3991

[90] Fatawi al-Mu’asira. 1996, Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.324.

[91] As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith. 1989, p.41.

[92] Ibn Majah; Abu Dawood; Tayalisi; al-Baihaqi; Ahmad; Tirmidhi, and Nasa‘i, and judged as sahih by al-Albani. in Silsilat al-Ahadith as-Sahih, No. 3472.

[93] Related in Majma al-Zawa’id Vol.10, p.192. Al-Tabarani also related the hadith and said its isnad was good.

[94] Fatawi al-Mu’asira. 1996, Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.324.

[95] Abu Dawood, No. 2082

[96] Reported by Ahmad and others and classed as sahih.

[97] Sahih al-Muslim Vol.2, No. 1424

[98] Cited by Dr. S.M. Darsh, 1995, Hijab or Naqab. London: Dar al-Dawa Bookshop, p.27-28.

[99] This opinion has been reported from Ibn Abbas, Ibn Umar, Mujahid, Sa’id ibn Jubayr, Abu Ash-Sha’tha, Ibrahim An-Nakha‘i, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Az-Zuhri, and Al-Awza‘i in Imam Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir on Surah an-Nur verse 60. See Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami. 1994, p.7.

[100] Tirmidhi, No.927 in Alim 6.0; Darimi also transmitted it.

[101] Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, No. 1403

[102] Tirmidhi.

[103] Fiqh us-Sunnah Vol.1, No.113

[104] Al-Muwatta’ Vol.8, No.37

[105] Ahmad; al-Baihaqi; Tirmidhi, No. 1260 in Alim 6.0

[106] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.7, No. 5066; Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, No. 1400R2

[107] As-Sunnan Nabawiyya Bayna Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Hadith, 1989, p.36

[108] Just as in a verse of the Qur’an which says, “Lower your voice” (31:19).  Clearly, this does not mean that one should seal one’s lips.

[109] Fatawi al-Mu‘asira. 1996, Al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.1, p.431

[110] (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 3, No. 2159). Also reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawood, and Tirmidhi.

[111] It is reported that Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah said, “There is no one under the dome of the sky more knowledgeable about the school of Imam Ahmad than Ibn Muflih.” (Cited by M. Nasiruddeen al-Albani, 1996, Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 3rd edition.  Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah).

[112] Reported by Ahmad; Abu Dawood, Book of Marriage, No.2149; and Tirmidhi

[113] Ibn Rushd, cited in Introduction and Commentary of Al-Mudawwanah al-Kubra Vol.1, p.109 – One of the most well-known and authoritative Maliki texts, by Qadi Sahnoon (d. 240 AH); Also Al-Nawawi, Al-Majmu’: Sharh al-Muhadhdhab.

[114] Cited by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu‘asira. Al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.314.

[115] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Fatawi al-Mu‘asira. Op. Cit.

[116] Abdurrahman al-Jaziri, Fiqh of the Four Schools of Thought, Vol.5, p.54.

[117] Al-Majmu’: Sharh al-Muhadhdhab Vol.3, p.167-168.

[118] Ahmad Ibn al-Naqeeb al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller, Section on Women’s Obligatory Clothing.

[119] Cited by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu‘asira.  Al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.314, 325.

[120] Abdullah ibn Mahmoud ibn Maudood al-Mausali al-Hanafi, Al-Ikhtiyaar li Tahleel al-Mukhtar Vol.4, p.156.

[121] This view of Abu Hanifa’s that the face, hands and feet may be visible is cited by Ibn Taymiyya in Fatawa al-Nisa’, p.36; Ibn Rushd in Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid; al-Kasani in Badi’ al-Sana’i fi Tartib al-Shara’i Vol.5, and Burhan al-Din Abul-Hasan ‘Ali ibn `Abdul-Jalil Abu Bakr al-Marghinani al-Rushdani al-Hanafi in Al-Hidayah al-Muhtadi Sharh Bidayat al-Mubtadi.  The face-and-hands-alone opinion has also been attributed to Imam Abu Hanifa by Ahmad ibn Naqib in his Umdat as-Salik.

[122] Related by al-Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar, and al-Nawawi, Al-Majmu’

[123] Al-Mughni Vol.1, Al-Manar Publishers, p.601.

[124] ibid. Vol.1, Vol.6.

[125] Al-Adab al-Shari’ah

[126] Al-Majmu’ Vol.3, p.169.

[127] Al-Muhalla

[128] Al-Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar Vol.2, Beirut: Dar al-Jeel, p.55.

[129] Fatawi al-Mu‘asira. 1996, Al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.316.

[130] Jami Bayan Ta’wil al-Qur’an, Vol.18, p.118-119 – tafsir of 24:31.

[131] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu‘asira. Al-Mansura: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.319.

[132] Tafsir al-Kashshaf, tafsir of Surah an-Nur ayah 31.

[133] Cited in Al-Albani, 1994, Jilbab Al-Mar’ah Al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah. Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami, p.8.

[134] Cited by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1989, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam.

[135] Ahkam al-Qur’an

[136] Tafsir of Fakhr al-Deen al-Razi, Vol.20, p.205-206.

[137] Madarik al-Tanzil. 1998, Dar Ibn Kathir. Vol.2, p.500.

[138] Al-Baghawi (d. 516A.H.), 1994, Ma’alim al-Tanzil. Dar al-Tayyibah. Vol.6, p.34.

[139] The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, 1989, p.156

[140] Dr. S.M. Darsh, 1995, Hijab or Naqab. London: Dar al-Dawa Bookshop. p.15

[141] This chronological information was also related by Suyuti in Al-Itqam fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an Vol.1, “Knowledge of the First Revelations”

[142] See footnote 19 for Anas’ hadith on the subject.

[143] (The Meaning of the Qur’an, n.d., Delhi: Board of Islamic Publications).

[144] Darsh states that this date is given by Ibn Hisham, and supported by Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Bukhari, and Ibn Hazm (1995, Hijab or Naqab. London: Dar al-Dawa Bookshop, p.12).

[145] Syed Abu’l-Aala Mawdudi, n.d., The Meaning of the Qur’an, Delhi: Board of Islamic Publications.

[146] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.331-332; Nasiruddeen al-Albani, 1994, Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah.  Beirut: Al-Maktab al-Islami.

[147] Hijab or Naqab. 1995, London: Dar al-Dawa Bookshop, p.38.

[148] The difference in what was considered ‘awrah for female slaves as opposed to free women may also be considered a proof for the side of those who say niqab is not compulsory for all Muslim women.  Female slaves during the lifetime of the Prophet r and first four Caliphs were not required to cover their hair, arms, or part of their legs in the presence of non-mahram men, regardless of the potential for fitnah that exposing such body parts would cause. See al-San‘aani, Al-Musannaf Vol.3, p.128-136; Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid Vol.1, p.156-158; Qadi Sahnoon, Al-Mudawwanah Vol.1, p.94; al-Qaraafi, Al-Dhakheerah Vol.2, p.101-105; al-Qurtubi, al-Jami‘, Vol.12, p.152-153, 157, Vol.14, p.156-157; al-Shafi‘i, Al-Umm Vol.1, p.109; al-Mawardi, Al-Haawi al-Kabir Vol.2, p.165-171; al-Kasani, Bada’i‘ al-Sana’i‘, p.543-546; al-Nasafi, Tafsir al-Nasafi Vol.3, p.140, 313; Ibn Qudamah, Al-Mughni Vol.1, p.601; Ibn Muflih, Al-Mubdi‘ Vol.1, p.361-367; al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan Vol.18, p.93-95, Vol.22, p.33-34; al-Jassas, Ahkam Vol.3, p.409-410, 486; al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf Vol.3, p.60-62, 274; al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur Vol.5, p.45-46, 239-241; and al-Tusi, Al-Mabsut Vol.1, p.87-88. Al-Bahuti only says it is preferable for a slave-girl to cover herself in the same fashion as a free woman (Kashshaf al-Qina‘ Vol.1, p.316).  Later jurists such as Ibn Hazm ruled that slaves have the same ‘awrah as free women (Al-Muhalla Vol.2, p.239).

[149] ibid.

[150] Tafsir al-Kabir Vol.6, p.591

[151] Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. 2001, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, p.233.

[152] Dr. Syed Mutawalli Darsh in an interview, Anne Sofie Roald, 2001, “Islamic Female Dress” in Women in Islam: The Western Experience. Routledge, p.286.

[153] Op. Cit.

[154] Qur’an 6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 53:38; 24:11; 2:286; 4:32; 33:58

[155] Khaled Abou El-Fadl, 2001, Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women.  Oxford: Oneworld Publications, p.235.

[156] To wear appropriate Islamic dress, not show off or be excessive, not to be in privacy with a non-mahram, and to lower one’s gaze.

[157] These Islamic injunctions, al-Qaradawi argues, are enough to prevent unlawful desires and their consequent problems in society.  The present social ills are, in this perspective, a result of not following these very inunctions and not the fact that women’s faces are visible to men.

[158] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.329-330.

[159] Qur’an 19:64

[160] Fiqh ‘ala al-Madhaahib al-Arba‘ah, [Fiqh of the Four Schools of Thought], p.12. Cited in 1996, Jilbab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 3rd edition. Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah.

[161] Sheikh al-Qaradawi quotes in this respect the verse, “If the Truth had been in accord with their desires truly the heavens and the earth and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay We have sent them their admonition but they turn away from their admonition. “ (Qur’an 23:71)

[162] Fatawi al-Mu’asira. 1996, Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.332.

[163] Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 1996, Fatawi al-Mu’asira. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Dar al-Wafa’. Vol.2, p.333.

[164] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol 9, No. 7301

[165] Cited in Al-Qaradawi’s Al-Halal wal-Haram fil-Islam (The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam), 1992, p.20-21

[166] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.1, No. 220

[167] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.8, No. 6125

As evident above, the strength of the evidence rests with the position of the majority of ulama that the face and hands of a Muslim woman are permitted to be revealed in public.  However, the debate between the proponents and opponents of the idea that niqab is wajib may likely continue for some time.  Differences of interpretation and personal inclinations towards or away from restrictions have existed since the time of the Companions.  The sahaba, however, and those who followed them, respected one another and continued to remain a jama’ah.  This example is especially relevant for Muslims today who generate a lot of heat and division over such debates.  It is from the mercy of Allah that everyone is measured by his or her intentions and that even a mistaken ijtihad done in all sincerity is a ground for reward in the Hereafter.

 

May Allah continue to guide us to what pleases Him, forgive us where we err, and bless all our efforts with the best in this life and the Hereafter.

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[1] These online resources have very useful information and products on Islam. This list is, however, far from being exhaustive, as new websites debut on the internet daily. Other Islamic websites may be even more informative than the above listed, and whereas these websites are recommended, not all the views and opinions expressed in them necessarily reflect those of DIN or the IET.

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