The Word: Hijab
In our age, the word Hijab is used to refer to a woman’s covering. This Arabic word gives the sense of “covering” because it refers to a veil or a means of “covering”- but it can be said that because of the origin of the word, not every covering can be considered Hijab.
The “covering” which is referred to as a Hijab is that appears behind a curtain. The Holy Quran describes the setting of the sun in the story of Solomon (peace be upon him), “…until the sun was covered with a Hijab and time for the afternoon ritual prayer was over.”(38:32).
Most probably what is meant in this verse is that the sun was no more visible as it became hidden behind the clouds.
The word Hijab is also used in Surah Al-Israa: “When you do recite the Quran, We put, between you and those who believe not in the Hereafter, an invisible Hijab.” –
It is said that if the verse is recited by a believer, he will be screened from a disbeliever. Apparently in this verse also, Allah (Glory be to Him) used the word Hijab in the sense of meaning: “separation”, “screening” or “seclusion”.
The Verse of Hijab
The verse in which the word Hijab is used as a covering for women is: “"...and when you ask his wives for any object, ask them from behind a Hijab..." (Quran 33:53). According to the Hadith, whenever the phrase “the verse of Hijab” is used, it refers to this verse and not to the verses of Surah An-Nur..
The verse of Hijab states:
“O you who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses, until leave is given you- for a meal, and then not so early as to wait for its preparation: but when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Verily, such behaviour annoys the Prophet, and he is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed of the truth. And when you ask his wives for anything you want, ask them from before a Hijab: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for their hearts… (Al-Ahzab 33:53”)
Hadith 2: The specific reason this verse was revealed is reported by Anas ibn Malik:
“When the messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) married Zainab, the daughter of Jahsh(May Allah be pleased with her), he invited the believers for a meal. After the people had taken their meal, they sat for talking. When the Messenger wanted to get up, they did not get up. When he saw that, he got up, and some of them got up, but three of them remained sitting. The Prophet wanted to go inside, but these people where sitting, then they got and went away. I came and told the Prophet that they had left, and then he came and entered. I wanted to follow him, but he put the Hijab between me and him.(Sahih Bukhari)
Is Hijab Only for The Wives of the Prophet?
In the Holy Quran there are special commands about the Prophet’s wives. In recent years, some Muslims who claim to be progressive have argued for a more modern and liberal approach towards Hijab. In particular, Javad Ahmed Ghamidi has argued that the verse of Hijab refer specifically to the wives of the Prophet and does not pertain to all believing women.
Although, there are verses in the Holy Quran which are special commands about the Prophet’s wives, the proper opinion is that the Hijab is for all the believing women, not just for the wives of the Prophet. Here are the reasons:
First: Amongst the principles of Islam is that: “The lesson is with the generality of the statement, not for the specific reason for revelation.” The verse of Hijab was specifically revealed for the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his wives. However, there is generality within the words of this verse which makes the ruling of Hijab a universal thing.
Second: Allah states the reason why the Hijab must be between the Prophet’s wives and the companions of the Prophet: “That is purer for your hearts and for theirs.” The fact is that, all men and women have this flaw of heart which should be purified through Hijab. So if the desires of hearts are universal, thus the purification should also be universal. Thos who restrict this verse would be saying that this impurity is only specific to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions- the most righteous women and men of all times.
Third: The companions of the Prophet as well as the first generations of Muslims understood this verse to be universal and general. According to the tradition, when the Prophet came and spoke to Umm Salamah, who was not one of his wives, she was using the Hijab between her and the Prophet.(Siyar Al’Allam An-Nubala Vol.2 204-205) Also Abu Dawud narrates that on one occasion a female Muslim wanted to give a letter to the Holy Prophet and the letter was delivered to the Prophet from behind a curtain. This Hadith also proves that the verse of Hijab is not exclusive to the wives of the Prophet and that women met with the Prophet face-to-face only before the Verse of Hijab was revealed. (Abu Dawud Book 33 Hadith 4154, also in Nasai)
Hadith 3: Also in another Hadith, Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) narrated:
“The Messenger of Allah said to Sauda bint Zam'a, Screen yourself before him," when he saw the child's resemblance to 'Utba. The boy did not see her again till he met Allah”(Sahih Bukhari 9:89:293)
Hadith 4: Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) narrated:
“ I was with the Messenger of Allah while Maymunah was with him. Then Ibn Umm Maktum came. This happened when we were ordered to observe veil. The Messenger of Allah said: Observe veil from him. We asked: O Messenger of Allah! Is he not blind? He can neither see us nor recognize us. The Messenger of Allah said: Are both of you blind? Do you not see him? (Abu Dawood Book 32, hadith # 4100)
Fourth: The commentators of the Quran such as Imām Muhammad Al-Amīn Ash Shinqītī, Imām ibn Jarīr At-Tabari, Abu Bakr Al Jassas and Al Imām Al Qurtubī understood this verse to be a general ruling. Furthermore, there is no proof for commentators to restrict the verse to be specific, whereas the verse itself uses general meaning when discussing the Hijab.
Hijab is Not an Article of Clothing?
Some may argue that the term Hijab which appears in the verse of Hijab does not refer to clothing; rather it refers to a curtain that provides privacy for women or a screen that is put in between a woman and the man who is asking- it is true that the curtain between men and women is part of Hijab, however it is not the only alternative of Hijab.
It is unreasonable to say that Allah has legislated a barrier that conceals the woman from non-related men in the home, yet when she comes out of her home she has no barrier. Both men and women still have this disease when she is outside her home.
Hadith 5: The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“The woman is Awrah. When she leaves her home, Satan looks at her.” (Musnad Al—Bazzar 2061)
In the Hadith above, the Prophet clearly states that “all of a woman is her Awrah”- which means “when she leaves home” or when unrelated men are able to see her face, she becomes completely Awrah in Nazar.
Thus, Allah has prescribed the Hijab to purify the hearts of the people by putting a barrier between the men and women.
Does the Jilbab Cover the Face?
Verse of Jilbab
There is another verse in the Surah Al-Ahzab which related to the issue of women’s covering- the verse is frequently called “The verse of Jilbab”. The verse in English translation goes:
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their Jilbabs over their persons: that is most convenient, that they should be known and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (Al-Ahzab 33:59”)
In this verse, Allah has commanded the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), his daughters, and his noble women followers to cover their entire body.
The apparent message of this verse is that there is no difference between the clothes of the wives of the Prophet and other Muslim women. This verse is also a negative response to those who claim that covering the face is obligatory on the wives of the Prophet but not on other women.
How is it possible that only the wives of the Prophet should cover their faces, while Allah has ordered the Prophet’s daughters and the believing women to wear the exact same clothing?
In Jilbab verse, Allah also states the reason as to why women are to wear Jilbab. It is to be known so as not to be annoyed. Meaning that wearing the Jilbab, they make themselves separate from prostitutes or the slaves who were forbidden to wear the Jilbab. Ibn Kathir said when commenting on this part of the verse: “It is so that they will be known that they are not slaves or whores.”
In other words, by wearing a Jilbab, a woman is known as a free, believing, noble and modest woman. This is why the wives of the Prophet and his daughters were mentioned first, as they are the most righteous of women.
Another issue in this verse is that Allah says: “to draw their Jilbabs all over their bodies…” and according to the exegete, it means to put it upon every part of the body and it indicates that the Quranic Jilbab is large enough to cover women fully.
Jilbab in the Sunnah
When we look at the Sunnah, statements of the Sahabah and the Tabi’een, we see that Jilbab is the garment that is brought over the head of a woman and laid upon her face.
Hadith 6: Mother of the Believers, Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) says:
“The woman is to bring down her Jilbab over her head and then place it upon her face.” (Fath-Al-Bari 3:406)
In this tradition, Aisha the wife of the Prophet has used the word “Al-Mar’ah” which generally refers to all women. This shows that Aisha, who was the most knowledgeable woman in the religion, knew that the Jilbab covered the entire body, including the face.
Hadith 7: In another Hadith, Aisha said:
“When the verse “They should draw their Jilbabs over their necks and bosoms” was revealed, the ladies cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.” (Sahih Bukhari 6:60:282)
Hadith 8: Aisha used to cover her face even in the state of Ihram:
“The riders used to pass by us when were in the state of Ihram accompanying the Messenger of Allah. When the riders came near, each of us would lower her Jilbab from her head over her face, and when they passed by we would uncover our faces. ” (Abu Dawud 1833, Ahmad 24067)
From this Hadith, we understand:
a) Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was obeying the command of Allah in Surah Al-Ahzab by wearing Jilbab and bringing it over the head upon the face. This shows how the Jilbab is worn.
b) The women during the time of the Prophet knew that their faces were Awrah in Nazar and that they should cover it in front of non-related men, even if they were in the state of Ihram- however it the state of Ihram it is better for women to have the face uncovered and only cover it when non-mahram men are around.
c) The Prophet (peace be upon him) was with Aisha and her companions and he approved of their action in covering their faces.
Hadith 9: Before we narrate this Hadith, one should be familiar with the incident of Ifk- on the way back from a trip, when Mother of the Believers, Aisha lost her wedding necklace; she went out in search for it, by the time it was found, the caravan had moved on and she was taken home by Safwan bin Muattal Sahmi. The hypocrites slandered Aisha and said that she commited adultery with Safwan. After that, Allah revealed verses, establishing Aisha’s innocence and condemning the slanderers. Now, here is what Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said:
“Safwan ibn Muattal Sahmi was lagging behind the army. He came to where I had stopped and saw the black shape of person sleeping. When he saw me from near, he recognized me, because he has seen me before the Jilbab was enjoined. When I heard him saying: To Allah we belong and unto Him is our return- I woke up and I covered my face with my Jilbab” (Bukhari- 4141, Muslim 2770)
From this Hadith, we understand:
a) Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) mentions that Safwan recognized him because he had seen her before the Hijab was revealed. She also mentioned that she covered her face with her Jilbab as soon as she felt Safwan’s presence. This means for Mother of the Believers, covering the face was a sign of honour and modesty. So by mentioning this, Aisha assures people that while she went back to Medina accompanying Safwan, she dressed as Allah had commanded her, covered her face with a Jilbab.
b) This action of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), shows us that Jilbab covers the face, and the objective of Jilbab is to cover the whole body as well as the face. We should remember that the command for Jilbab is not just for the wives of the Prophet but also for his daughters and the believing women. Thus Aisha is proving us how Muslim women should wear the Jilbab.
c) This Hadith also shows us that after the Hijab was prescribed, the showing of the face of a woman is abrogated- and that Aisha as a believer covered her face following Allah’s command.
Hadith 10: Another Hadith mentioning the Jilbab follows:
“A woman asked: O Messenger of Allah! What about a woman who does not have a Jilbab? The Messenger of Allah said: Let her sister cover her with her Jilbab” (Abu Dawud 2242)
The beneficial point of this Hadith is that the Jilbab should be large enough to cover the entire body of two women. Another point in this Hadith is that a woman would not go out without a Jilbab, and that if she did not have a Jilbab she would not go out. The command to wear Jilbab signifies that it is obligatory to cover. Even here in this Hadith, the Prophet suggested that two women share the Jilbab together but she did not allow the woman to go out without her Jilbab.
Hadith 11, 12 and 13: Ibn Abbas was one of the companions of the Prophet who was an expert in his commentaries on the Quran, as well as an authority on the Sunnah of the Prophet. When Ibn Abbas was asked regarding the verse of Jilbab, he said:
“Allah commanded all believing women, when going out of their homes for some need, to cover their faces from above their heads with their Jilbabs- leaving one eye to see the path ” (Abu Dawud 2242)
Abidah-As-Salmani was another companion of the Prophet. He was also a companion of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib and Abdullah ibn Mas’ud- and was considered a great jurist. In the following Hadith, Ibn Sireen narrates of his commentary:
“I asked Abidah As Salmaani what the statement of Allah meant- O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their Jilbab all over their bodies- so he took his garment and covered his head and his face and he left exposed one of his eyes. ” (Tabari 2242)
In another tradition, Ibn Sireen asks the same question from Ibn Awn:
“I asked Ibn Awn about the verse of Jilbab. So he veiled himself with his garment covering his mouth and his face and he also covered his left eye but he left the right eye showing, then he drew his garment from above making it close to his eyebrow, or upon his eyebrow. ” (Tabari 2242)
What is a Jilbab?
As we mentioned earlier, the modern Jilbab is not the same garment as that referred to in the Quran and Hadith. In fact, the Jilbab worn today dates only from the 1970s, when Egyptian women who belonged to Ikhwan-al-Muslimin adopted them as an Islamic wearing.(El Guindi p.143)
The traditional Jilbab is explained by Imam Al-Qurtubi in his Ahkam Al-Quran:
“Jilbab is the garment that is larger than the Khimar. It is reported by Ibn Abbas and Ibn Mas’ud that Jilbab is any large clothing. And it is said that it is the face-veil. However the most correct opinion is that it is a garment that is used to cover the entire body.” (Ahkam-Al-Quran)
Ibn Hazm Al-Andalusi also states:
“And Jilbab, in the language of the Arabs that the Messenger of Allah used to speak to us with, is the clothing which covers the entire body- not just a part of it.” (Al-Muhalla 3/212)
“Such women as are past child-bearing age...”
In the previous section, it was said that women had to cover their entire body in front of non-related men. There is however an exception in this command: that is women who have attained old age may uncover themselves, unlike women who are younger and more beautiful.
Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
“And as for women past child-bearing age who do not expect wedlock, it is no sin on them if they discard their outer clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment. But to refrain is better for them; And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (An-Nur 24:60)
However, in this verse, Allah has clearly stated that even those old women should refrain from committing Tabarruj- which means old women are permitted to take off their outer garment but they must not draw attention to themselves.
Even though all of these exceptions exist, it is better if a woman does not show herself to a man. These exceptions are because of needs that may arise. Islam is not a religion which wants to cause fault or blame to its followers. When there is no necessity or need or difficulty, it is better to observe the full covering.
Hadith 14: The Hadith of Hafsah bint Sireen makes this issue clear:
“We used to enter upon Hafsah bint Sirin who had put her Jilbab this and covered her face with it, and we would say to her: May Allah have mercy on you, Allah says: - “for women past childbearing who do not expect wedlock, it is no sin on them if they discard their outer garment in such a way as not to show their adornment.” And she would say to us: “What comes after that verse?” We would say: “But to refrain is better for them”. And so she said: “It is to keep the Jilbab”” (Bayhaqi 7/93)
So Hafsah bint Sireen, the companion of Aisha, covered her face by wearing the Jilbab, even though as an old woman she did not have to. This narration is also to prove that Jilbab is a garment that covers the face.
4- Khimar Does the Khimar Cover the Face?
Verse of Khimar
Allah has commanded Muslim women to: “protect their private parts, and not to reveal their adornment except only that which that cannot be hidden, and to draw their Khimars all over their bodies (An-Nur 24:31) This verse is referred to as the Verse of Khimar. We shall go through the verse part by part.
“protect their private parts” which means women should guard their chastity, and covering the whole body is the means of doing that. If covering is one of the means of guarding one’s chastity, then it is enjoined.
“and not to reveal their adornment ” The Arabic word for adornment is Zeenah and the word includes both the woman’s natural and physical beauty, and that which women adorn themselves, such as jewelry, eye shadow, hand dye and so on. According to this Quranic phrase, both the natural beauty and other adornments are to be concealed from strangers.
“except only that which cannot be hidden ” Allah has forbidden showing all adornment except that which is apparent, which that one cannot help showing, such as the outside of one’s garment. The Arabic word used in this phrase is maa Zahara minhaa which means what appears by itself and not maa azharna minhaa what they show of it. The commentators such as Ibn Sireen, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Al-Hasan, Ibn Sireen and others interpreted the phrase “except only that which is apparent” as meaning the outer garment and clothes- because it cannot be hidden.
“and to draw their Khimars all over their Juyub ” Khimar is a veil that covers a woman’s hair, face, neck and chest- as compared to Jilbab which covers the entire body from head to toe. If a woman is commanded to draw her Khimar over the neck opening of her garment, then she is commanded to cover her face, as that is implied.
Khimar in the Sunnah
Hadith 15: Faatimah bint Al-Mundhir said:
“We would cover our faces with our Khimar while were in the state of Ihram, and while doing that we would be with Asma bint Abi Bakr. (Muwatta pg 217)
In the Arabic Hadith, the verb nukhammir is used which comes from the root of Khimar. The infinitive khammara generally means “to cover with a Khimaar”.
Hadith 16: Umm Ismail ibn Abi Khalid reported:
“We entered upon Mother of the Believers on the the Tarawayah day and we said to her: “O Mother of the Believers! Here is a woman who refuses to cover her face while she is in the state of Ihram. So Aishah lifted her Khimar from her chest, and covered the woman’s face with it. (Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalaani 2/272)
Notice here that Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) covered the woman’s her with her own Khimar. This is the proof that the female companions of the Prophet knew that the Khimar which was prescribed for all Muslim women was meant to cover the face. Furthermore, here is a woman who did not want to cover as she believed it is not obligatory to cover in the state of Ihram, so Mother of the Believers took it upon herself to cover the woman- as the Messenger of Allah said:
“When you see an evil change it with your hand,..” (Sahih Muslim 12:8:2833)
Hadith 17: Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) narrates:
“When the verse: “They should draw their Khimar over their bosoms” was revealed, women cut their sheets at the edges and cover their faces with the cut pieces. (Sahih Bukhari 60:282:1)
The Hadith above also indicates that it is obligatory to cover the face, because the believing women covered their faces after the prescription of Khimar.
Hadith 18: Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) narrates:
“The Messenger of Allah used to offer the Morning Prayer and some believing women covered themselves with their Khimar used to attend the Fajr prayer with him and they would return to their homes unrecognized. (Sahih Bukhari 8:368:1)
Notice that the word “unrecognized” in this Hadith shows that the believing women covered their faces with their Khimar.
Hadith 19: Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Allah does not accept the prayers of a woman who has reached puberty unless she wears a Khimar. (Sahih Bukhari 14:2:2482)
Niqab in Hajj
Niqab is a veil which covers the face of a woman. The most common style of Niqab has slits for the eyes.
As we stated in the previous chapter, the Quranic verses enjoin women to wear the Khimar and the Jilbab. While the word Niqab is mentioned in the Hadith, it is not mentioned in the Quran.
It is a way of dressing that was known to Muslim women at the beginning of Islam and at the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Hadith 20: Thabit bin Qays (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates:
“A woman called Umm Khallad came to the Prophet while she was wearing a Khimar. She was searching for her son who had been killed in the battle. Some of the companions of the Prophet said to her: You have come here asking for your son while you are 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 Messenger of Allah said: You will get the reward of two martyrs for your son. She asked: Why is that so, O Messenger of Allah? The Prophet replied: He was murdered by the People of the Book (Sahih Bukhari 14:2:2482)
It is important to note that if she was wrong in her understanding, the Prophet would have corrected her.
Hadith 21: Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates from the Messenger of Allah:
“And if one of the women of Paradise looked at the Earth, she would fill the whole space between the Earth and the Heaven with light, and would fill whatever is in between them, with scent. Even then the veil of her face is better than the whole world and whatever is in it. (Sahih Bukhari 8:76:572)
The word Niqab is used here to show that even the women of Paradise veil their faces.
The fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade the woman in the state of Ihram to wear this particular kind of face-veil, the Niqab, indicates that it is permissible to wear it when not in Ihram and also it shows that the wearing of the Niqab was common at the time of the Prophet. Moreover it cannot be understood from the Hadith that it is permissible for the woman in Ihram to uncover her face so that non-related men can see her- rather she must cover her face with something other than her Niqab- even as Fatimah bint l-Mundhir said: “We would cover our faces while were in Ihram” (Muwatta 217) In fact, this is another proof that covering the face is obligatory- otherwise the female companions would not wear it in Ihram. As, according to the principles: “Only an obligatory deed can take away an obligatory”.
5- Use of Intellect
Covering the Face is Obligatory
We have already spoken about the fact that wearing the Khimar, Jilbab, Niqab and Hijab (in their Quranic point of view) all imply covering the face. We also discussed why it is obligatory for women to cover their faces. We can also come to the same conclusion using our intellect:
In the traditions, we have many which relate to the time when one is a suitor for marriage at which time it is permitted to look. Does this not mean, then, that it is not permitted if one is not a suitor? Not only is it permitted but it has been stressed that it is better if one looks. For instance, they said a man wanted to marry a daughter of one of the Companions who was a resident of Medina. The Holy Prophet said to him, "Go and look and then marry. There is something in the eyes of the Companions." Holy Prophet told him to look first because the Companions were from just one or two tribes and most of them had some kind of an eye defect. He told him to look first and then marry so that later he would not be disappointed. When a tradition says that it is permissible as a suitor, then does this not mean that it is not permitted when one is not a suitor? Otherwise what would have been the meaning of this exemption? This indicates that the one who is not proposing marriage is sinning if he looks at a non-mahram woman in ordinary circumstances, as is the one who is proposing marriage if he looks for any purpose other than proposing marriage.
The Feet and the Anklets
Hadith 22: Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates from the Messenger of Allah:
“Umm Salamah said: “What are the women to do about their hemlines on their dresses?” He said, “Drop them down the distance of a hands span.” She then said, “That will expose the women’s feet.” So the Messenger of Allah- peace and mercy be upon him- said: “Then let the garment fall down an arms span, and do not add anything on that.” (Musnad 5/2 55/ Nasai 8/209, Awaanah 5/482/. Bayhaqi 2/333)
The point here is that if women must cover their hair, arms, feet, then how is it that they would not cover their face in front of a non-mahram man? Isn’t the face more of an attraction that one’s feet or arms? Does not the same criterion which exists in relation to hair, also exist in relation to the face?
“And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.”
If a woman is forbidden to stamp her feet lest men be tempted by what they hear of the sound of her anklets etc., then what about uncovering the face? Which is the greater source of temptation – a man hearing the anklets of a woman whom he does not know who she is or whether she is beautiful, or whether she is young or old, or ugly or pretty? Or his looking at a beautiful youthful face that attracts him and invites him to look at it? Every man who has any desire for women will know which of the two temptations is greater and which deserves to be hidden and concealed. (Risalat al-Hijaab, Shaikh Al-Uthaimeen)
Of course, Allah has legislated the Islamic Hijab due to the beauty of women and their sexual attractiveness. Although this is not the only reason, it is one of them, based upon the fact that Allah gave the exception for older – less attractive women to uncover and also based upon this fact that women were allowed to uncover in front of eunuchs or impotent men. So the only logical answer is that, based upon all of these proofs from the Quran and Sunnah, a woman must cover her face at all times when she is in front of non-mahram men, so that she will be known and not to be bothered, so that she will not expose her adornment that will cause temptation for the people, and so that she will be able to guard her chastity and honour.
Shaikh Ibn Uthaimin states:
“The first of those bodily parts that she must cover is her face. The face is the source of temptation and the source of people desiring her. Therefore, a woman must cover her face in front of those men that are not her Mahram. As for those who claim that the Islamic Hijab is to cover the head, shoulders, back, feet, shin and forearms while allowing her to uncover her face, this is a very amazing claim.
This is because it is well known that the source of looking and attractiveness is the face. How can one say that the Shariah does not allow the exposure of the foot of the woman while it allows her to uncover her face? It is not possible that there could be in the Esteemed, Wise and Noble Shariah a contradiction. Yet everyone knows that the temptation from uncovering the face is much greater than the temptation that results from the uncovering of the feet. Everyone also knows that the most sought after aspect of the woman for men is the face.
If you told a prospective groom that a woman’s face is ugly but her feet are beautiful, he would not propose to such a woman. However, if you told him that her face was beautiful but her hands, palms, or shins were less than beautiful, he would still propose to her. From this one can conclude that the face is the first thing that must be covered.
There are also evidences from the Book of Allah (SWT) and the Sunnah of our Prophet (SAW). There are also statements from the Companions, the leading Imams and the great scholars of Islam that indicate that it is obligatory for the woman to cover all of her body in the presence of non-Mahram men. This obviously indicates that it is obligatory upon the woman to cover her face in front of such men." (Al-Fatawa Lil Mar’a pg 33)
Some women may say: “Well, I am not attractive, so I do not need to cover my face.”
Firstly, sexual attractiveness is only a part of the reason why a woman covers her entire body, not the only reason. So this argument is refused. Allah has made Hijab obligatory for all women, except the elderly. He did not give the exception for “ugly women.” Moreover, Allah commanded women to wear the Hijab so that women may be known as free women, not be bothered. It is also a representation of modesty and honour.
Secondly, what one person may deem ugly, another may deem beautiful. Indeed, beauty is within the eye of the beholder.
6- Benefits of Veiling
Obedience towards Allah and His Messenger
In the Quran, Allah commands all believing women to cover their body with a Jilbab or a Khimar. The Hadith clarifies that a Jilbab covers the entire body including the face whereas Khimar covers the head and also the face. Therefore, for a woman, covering her Awrah (which includes her face) is obeying Allah and His Messenger.
No believer, man or woman, has the right to delay with regards to commands:
“It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. (Quran 33:36”)
The believers who are praised by Allah are those who:
“They say “We hear and we obey.” And such are the successful. (Quran 24:51”)
And the reward for obeying Allah and His Messenger:
“Those who obey Allah and His Messenger will be admitted to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; to abide therein forever and that will be true success. (Quran 4:13”)
Based on the Hadith we discussed, a woman who does not wear proper Hijab as if she does not cover her whole body has commited a sin and deserves the punishment of Allah because she has disobeyed Allah’s command.
“Those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and transgress His Laws will be admitted to Fire, to abide therein: and they shall have the humiliating punishment. (Quran 4:14”)
However this does not mean that all women who do not cover their faces will go to Hell, because many of those women are unaware that covering the face is obligatory.
“Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards. To them will Allah turn in Mercy: for Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. (Quran 4:17”)
Seeking the Love of Allah
Allah (Glory be to Him) is bashful and He loves bashfulness. By wearing the veil, a woman is seeking Allah’s love and pleasure. Allah says:
“When My servant accomplished all that is made obligatory for him and seeks my nearness through other acts of worship, I begin to love him. When I love him, I become his ears so that he hears by Me. I become his eyes, so that he sees by Me, I become his tongue, so that he speaks by Me, I become his tongue, so that he speaks by Me and I become his hand so that he holds by Me. Whatever he asks me, I shall give him. (Hadith Qudsi-Bukhari)
Indeed, by wearing the veil a woman is also getting closer to Allah:
“And if a servant comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him. If he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I got a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to Him- and whosoever comes to Me walking, I shall go to him running.(Hadith Qudsi- Sahih Muslim 60:1866)
It seems difficult to wear the veil at times- but it is this difficulty that reminds a believer woman that she dresses like this because Allah has ordered here- so veiling is a spiritual struggle (Jihad).
“Allah will certainly aid those who aid Him, for verily Alah is the Strong, the Mighty (Quran 22:40”)
Following the Sunnah
As we discussed in the Hadith, covering the entire body as well as the face was the practice of the Prophet’s wives, his daughters, and his female companions- all with the approval of the Prophet. Clearly, this indicates that covering the face, either with a Khimar or Niqab is Sunnah.
Covering the face was also the practice of all Muslim women in the first centuries of Islam (including the first three generations which are the best generations of all times).
Al-Hafidh ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani said in his Fathul Bari:
“And it has not ceased to be a custom for women, from the older generations and the newer ones, to cover their faces from non-related men. (Hadith Qudsi-Bukhari)
What about wearing the full Hijab in our times? The Prophet- peace be upon him- says:
“…except those who adhere to my Sunnah when my community became wrongdoers, for them Allah will write the reward of a hundred thousand martyrs. (Majais Sabi’ 2134)
In another Hadith:
“The Prophet was asked: “O Messenger of Allah! What do you say regarding a man who loves a community but has never had the opportunity to meet those people. The Messenger of Allah- peace be upon him- said: “That man is with those whom he loves”. (Bukhari Fath 6169)
So if we are showing our love and respect to the noblest and most righteous people of the world, we are indeed with them- even if we never had the chance to meet them.
A sense of Islamic Identity
Veiling is an identification of the Muslim woman that distinguishes her from women of other religions, as well as from women of lower position in the society. Muslim women should not imitate Jews and Christians in the way of dressing. The Prophet- peace be upon him- said:
“You will follow the ways of those communities before you, span by span and cubit by cubit so much so that even if they entered the hole of a lizard, you will follow them.” We said: “O Messenger of Allah! Do you mean the Jews and the Christians?” He replied, “Whom else?”(Sahih Muslim 67:10:2669)
Solidifying Root of the Family
Islam wants to confirm the roots of family and increase the observation of marital relations. Islam does not want the relationship between a husband and a wife to grow cold. This is the reason that in Islam privacy is considered very important.
Hijab is in fact the principle of distinguishing between public and private space- the reason for veiling is that sexual desires should be fulfilled within the family environment. In the modern world, sexual desires are taken from the bounds of family to society and this has weakened the work and activity. In Islam, both men and women should be active- while men should be mainly active in the public space and women should be mainly active in the private space.
Indeed, uncovering the face encourages mixing with non-related men. If a woman thinks that she is equal with women in uncovering her face and going around unveiled, she will not be modest (Ibn Uthamain) and this will take away her Haya. A free relationship between girls and boys, men and women causes marriage to look like a duty and limitation to the youth, rather than a great desire.
Gheerah is an Arabic word which means protectiveness or jealousy. Gheerah is intrinsic in the straight man who does not like people to look at his wife or daughters. Allah reminds in the Qur’an, the meaning of this protectiveness is: “Oh you who believe, Protect yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones.” (At-Tahreem, Aayah 6)
Also a Muslim man should feel Gheerah for all Muslim women: The Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…” (Surah An-Nisaa, Ayah 34) while the mixing of sexes and absence of Hijab destroys the Gheera in men. The Law of Hijab requires women to preserve their beauty from others and share it with their husbands.
Why Hijab is for Women?
The rulings concerning the covering of men and women are different. Men are obliged to cover from navel to knee while women are obliged to cover their entire body. Why is this ruling different?
Murazi Tahari, a Persian poet says:
“She is the hunter of the hearts. He is the prey. Let him cover his heart.
He is the hunter of the bodies. She is the prey. Let her cover her body.
She captures hearts. Her weapon is her body.
He captures bodies. His weapon is his heart.”
What the poet want to say is that it is the female instinct which, because of its particular nature, wishes to capture hearts and imprison the male. Thus, the deviation begins with the female instinct.
Woman desires to see bravery and courage in man and man wants to see elegance and charm in woman. Woman considers the support of a man the most valuable thing for her. Woman is able to control her sexual drive more than man. The sexual drive of man is aggressive and that of woman passive and inciting. Therefore the command to cover was issued mainly for women.
7- Statements from the Scholars
Faqeeh Qadhi Ibn Al-Arabi:
“All of the woman is Awrah(to be concealed) ; her body and her voice. It is not permissible for a woman to uncover her Awrah unless out of necessity, or need such as witnessing or a disease that is affecting her body.”(Akham Al-Quran.)
“The Awrah of a free woman is everything but her hands and face in Salat. And her Awrah amongst the Muslim women and Mahram men is what is between her navel and knees. And in front of non-related men, her Awrah is all her body.”
Ibn Jarir At-Tabari:
“Allah said mentioning to his Prophet Muhammad-peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- “O Prophet! Say to your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers” do not imitate the dress of slave women. If you leave your homes for some need, then cover your hair and your faces.”(Tafsir Tabari 59:33)
Abu Bakar Al-Jassas:
“The young woman is commanded to cover her face from non-related men and to display chastity and modesty when leaving the home for some need.(Ahkam Al Quran 3:458)
The Imām of the Shāfi’ī’s, Imām Al-Juwaynī stated
“There is agreement (ittifāq) of the Muslimīn upon the forbiddance of women coming out (of their homes) with their faces unveiled.”
Abul A'la Maududi:“In verse 59 the third step for social reform was taken. All the Muslim women were commanded that they should come out well covered with the outer garments and covering their faces whenever they came out of their houses for a genuine need." (From Tasfeer of Quran by Maoulana Abul A'la Maududi in tafseer of ayah # 59 of Surah Al-Ahzaab)
 Niqab is not the only variant of face-veil- however in popular use, it is used as equivalent to “covering the face”- it is not correct to view Niqab as opposed to the Hijab. As we discussed earlier, Hijab is a barrier between men and women while Niqab is just a form of Hijab. It is often said: “Niqab is obligatory”: this means: “covering the face is obligatory”.