“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware what they do. -And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off her adornment except only that which is apparent and to draw their veils all over juyubihinna (neck, bosom and some scholars say it includes the face) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband sons, or their brothers, or their brother’s sons, or their women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hand possesses, or old male servants who lack vigor, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful’’ (Surah Al-Nur: 30-31)
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Suratul Al-Ahzab: 59)
Because of the controversy surrounding hijab, it pushed me to do a research on it. To me, hijab is the most debated topic in Islam, between Muslims and non-Muslims.
First, the big question – why do we wear hijab? That’s simple. It’s simply a commandment of Allah to the Muslim women. By saying that we are Muslims, we are automatically obligated to obey Allah and His Messenger. So whatever rule or command that Allah gives us through His book, we follow them as devout muslims. Also, all of Allah’s rules are there to protect us, guide us and enable us to live a good life. Hijab is just one of the commandments of Allah that is there for our benefit.
Then, the next big question, what is hijab?
This is what made me do my research, because I couldn’t take the so much controversy that surrounds hijab. I mean, isn’t it just another commandment in Islam, why does it have to be something that people just have to have their opinion on. Especially the topic of niqab (face cover), is it compulsory, optional, or not even part of Islam at all? I wanted to make sure that I was wearing the right hijab, obeying the commandment of Allah.
So from my research, I got the conditions of hijab which is agreed upon by most scholars.
Shaykh Al-Albaani said the conditions of hijab are: It should cover all of the body apart from whatever has been exempted, it should not be an adornment in and of itself, it should be thick and not transparent or “see-thru”, it should be loose, not tight so that it describes any part of the body, it should not be perfumed with bakhoor(incense) or fragrance, it should not resemble the clothing of men, it should not resemble the dress of kaafir (disbelievers, non-Muslims) women and it should not be a garment of fame and vanity.
Then, what is the position of niqab in Islam?
During my research, I stumbled upon many books and articles, some saying that niqab is compulsory in Islam, some saying that niqab is optional, and some saying that niqab is recommended.
Those who argue that niqab is compulsory in Islam quote the hadith of the Prophet (S.A.W) where he said “The woman is awrah (private part, one who is forbidden to be exposed)” [Reported by At-Tirmidhi]
They also use the following hadith to support their claim; The Prophet (S.A.W) said: “A woman who is on the state of ihram (during hajj or umrah) must not wear a niqab or gloves” [Reported by Al-Bukhari, Malik, At-Trimidhi, Abu Dawood and Ahmed]
They say that the above hadith proves that niqab and gloves were known among the Muslim women to be part of hijab and it isn’t allowed to wear them during ihram because it fits over the face and hands, and it is not allowed to wear fitting clothes in the state of ihram, but it isn’t an excuse to not cover those parts of the body if a non-mahram (a male whom a woman can get married to, in terms of shariah) is present.
Aisha (R.A.) said: “The camel riders during hajj used to pass us while we were on the state of ihram with the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) and when they were parallel to us, each one of us (women) would lower down her jilbab (veil) over her face, and when they pass us she would uncover her face.” [Reported by Ahmed, Abu-Dawood, and ibn Majah]
Also, they support their claims by referring to the hadith that allowed women to trail their garments so as to cover their feet.
Narrated by Ibn Umar (R.A.): Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W.) said; “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will not look at the one who trails his loincloth out of arrogance.” Umm Salamah (R.A.) asked; ‘What should women do with the hem of their clothes?’ He (S.A.W) said: “They may lower them a hand’s span.” She said: ‘But their feet would still remain exposed.’ He (S.A.W) said: “Let them lower those equal to an arm’s length but not more than that.” [Reported by Abu-Dawood, At-Trimidhi, An-NIssai and Imam Ahmed]
They argue that if the above hadith states that a woman’s feet should be covered, then it is compulsory on her to cover her face as her beauty is concentrated there, and her face, of course, is more beautiful than her feet.
Those that support covering of the face say that “… except that which is apparent”(Q24:31) means the places that cannot be covered even if a woman wishes like her outer clothes, her garment which shows from under her jilbab (veil) as that is impossible to cover, and her eyes for necessity to see the way.
Also, they say that the hadith below has a weak chain of narration;
Aisha (R.A.) said: “That Asma bint Abu-Bakr (R.A) walked into the Prophet (S.A.W) wearing soft (thin) clothes, then he (S.A.W) turned his face away (from her) and said which the meaning of it is translated as; ‘O Asma, when the woman reaches the age of puberty it is not permissible to see any part of her body except this and this.’ He (S.A.W) pointed to her face and hands.” [Reported by Abu Dawood]
Those that support the face and hands being exposed usually start by quoting the above hadith and claim that it is not inauthentic. They say that the hadith is a clear proof of the permissibility of exposing the face and hands.
Those that support it also claim that the face is not awrah and “… except that which is apparent” (Q24::31) is the face and hands. Ibn Qudaamah said “because necessity demands that the face be uncovered for buying and selling, and the hands be uncovered for taking and giving.”
Those that deem the face and hands to be exposed answered the question; “Is it correct to chastitise marriageable women if they uncover their faces in the street?” They say that it depends on whether it is compulsory for women to cover their faces or whether it is compulsory for men to lower their gaze from her.
They also quote the hadith of Jareer in which he said, “I asked Allah’s Messenger about the sudden inadvertent glance and he instructed me to look away.” They say that this hadith shows that it is not compulsory for a woman to cover her face.
Also, they narrate the following hadith to back up their claim;
Aisha (R.A.) said in a hadith, regarding the female in ihram, “she may drape the garment on her face, if she wishes.” [Narrated by Al-Bayhaqee]
But one thing that these scholars agree on is that wearing the niqab is a recommended sunnah, some say ‘highly recommended’. So they give the choice to the woman whether she wants to wear the niqab or not.
So, from all what I’ve written above, I’ll like to have a say in what I believe in, what my opionion is. I would not like to take sides, nor be an extremist, but I’ll just like to follow the middle way as a Muslim and take my facts from both sides.
I wouldn’t take sides because saying that the niqab is compulsory would mean denying all the verses, hadith and sunnah that shows it isn’t and saying that the niqab isn’t would mean denying all the verses, hadith and sunnah that says it is. As I don’t know Arabic yet, I’m not sure which translation of the Qur’an is correct.
So, firstly, I personally don’t think niqab is compulsory, I only think that it is highly recommended as scholars from both sides agree on its existence in Islam. So, I believe that it is a woman’s choice, after gathering knowledge about it, to use the niqab or only hijab.
Feiz Mohammed in a lecture titled ‘hijab’ was asked if a woman is allowed to remove her niqab if she wears it for two months and decides she doesn’t feel comfortable in it. He said (I paraphrase) that if she thinks the niqab is compulsory, then she is not allowed to remove it. But if she thinks that it’s optional, then she is allowed to remove it.
I believe that deeming the niqab compulsory will mean cancelling out all the hadith that shows it’s not, and that would mean denying the sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W). And also, deeming the niqab not part of Islam would also mean denying the Prophet’s sunnah (S.A.W). So, I accept that niqab and hijab are part of Islam.
In Sha Allah, niqab is something I really consider for myself in future. May Allah make it easy for me and for you to put on proper hijab according to our beliefs.
I want to end this with a quote that beautifully shows where I’m coming from; “it is not allowed for a young woman to uncover her face in front of men not because it is awrah, but fear of fitnah (temptation)” [Durr Ul Mukhtaar]