Hijab: Always A Woman’s Business?







In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear sister in Islam, it gives us pleasure to receive your question and to see the Muslim youth are interested in knowing the teachings of Islam, which Allah has chosen for His servants as a way of life. According to the Qur’an, a true Muslim should refer to scholars to get himself well-acquainted with the sound image of Islam.

First of all, it should be clear that Hijab is meant to preserve Muslim woman’s dignity. Like all other Shari`ah-based commands, Hijab should be given due care, for it brings about countless fruits and wards off evils.

In response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

“Hijab is the proper Islamic dress code, which is primarily intended to safeguard the modesty, dignity and honor of men and women.

Allah, the Creator of humans, knows our nature better than ourselves, and thus He has prescribed appropriate rules of behavior and appearance to be observed when men and women interact with one another in a social milieu. These rules of interaction also include a prescription for modest dressing, which, I should hasten to add, apply to males as well as females.

Hijab thus forms part of a holistic program of Islamic ethics and morals governing male and female interaction. Prescribing the rule of Hijab, Allah says, “Say to the believing men to lower their gazes and guard their chastity,” (An-Nur: 30) “And say to the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their chastity, and let them not display of their charm – except what is apparent.” (An-Nur: 31)

Commenting on the phrase, “what is apparent”, Ibn `Abbas, the famous Companion and the Qur’an exegete, said, “It means face and hands.” In other words, according to Ibn `Abbas, a woman must cover all her body except her face and hands while in the presence of men who are not related to her directly (and the list of those in whose presence she need not cover is clearly outlined in Surat An-Nur: 31).

The majority of Imams – including those of the Four Schools as well as others – share the above interpretation of Ibn `Abbas, and thus hold the opinion that a woman is not obliged to cover her face and hands.

However, a group of scholars, the majority of whom belong to the Hanbalite Juristic School, teach that a woman must cover her face and hands as well. In support of their position they invoke a tradition attributed to the Prophet, peace and blessings be on him, stating, “Woman is all `Awrah, and hence as such, needs to completely covered up. They also reason by saying that the most attractive parts of a woman’s body capable of enticing men are her face and hands.

The aforementioned position of the majority on this issue seems to be more consistent with the general understanding and evidences of the Qur’an and Sunnah than of those who advocate covering the face and hands as well. There are several proofs which point to this conclusion:

Firstly, the verse quoted above from the Qur’an, seems to presume that the women it addresses are not wholly covered (i.e. face and hands), since otherwise, there is no sense in ordering both genders to lower their gazes.

Secondly, it is a general consensus among scholars that a woman is not required to cover her face and hands while performing Salah; if these were deemed to be `Awrah, it would certainly have been necessary to cover them.

Thirdly, a woman is required to bare her face while she is in a state of Ihram (during Hajj and `Umrah), which again, confirms what we said earlier.

Moreover, the evidences in the sources – the Qur’an and the Sunnah – are overwhelming in showing that the Hijab as prescribed by Islam was not meant to segregate women or shut them out of the social involvement and participation in the affairs of the Muslim community since the participation of Muslim women – at all levels of Islamic life – is fully documented beyond a shadow of doubt in the sources of Shari`ah. Such active participation as described in the sources is conceivable only if we assume that women were not wholly covered from head to toe.

In light of the above, we conclude: a Muslim woman is required to cover all her body except her face and hands, according to the majority of scholars belonging to all schools. Covering the head, however, is not at all a disputed issue among them – they all agree that this is a necessary part of Hijab.

A very important point has to be made here (concerning the point you raised in your question) as it is seldom mentioned in discussions on Hijab. Unfortunately, the onus of guarding the honor and chastity of the Muslim society is often laid solely on the backs of women. While recently, there has been more of a stress on the rules of Islamic dress for men, what needs to be addressed is the requirement of Muslim men to lower their gaze and maintain Islamic decorum in relations with all women – and not just Muslim women. It is not rare to see a Muslim couple walking where the woman is in full Hijab while her husband is gawking at other women, or to see a father instructing his daughter to cover properly before going out, and then turning back to watch a TV show full of improperly attired women. There is wisdom in the Qur’anic injunction to women to cover themselves, and this stated alongside the order to men to lower their gaze. Allah is Just and justice would not be served if women were to be the only guardians of honor.

The Hijab can become a tool of oppression if Muslim males do not maintain their part of this balance. It is often stated that it is difficult for Muslim men to avert their gaze and interact in business-like-ways with women in a society where such behavior is considered anti-social. To this we can answer that it is just as difficult or even more so for a Muslim woman to maintain Hijab in such a society. These tasks can be a struggle and Muslim males and females should view their respective duties as a social responsibility as well as acts of worship. As Allah states in the last part of the verse on Hijab, “O you who believe, turn ye altogether towards Allah in repentance that you me be successful.” (An-Nur: 31)

Now coming to the final part of the question – whether we are allowed to put out a person from the fold of Islam because of her refusal to comply with the rules of Hijab. The answer is that we are certainly not allowed to do so. If a person refuses to wear Hijab, after having known that it is a requirement mandated by Allah, then she is certainly a transgressor, and guilty of a serious offence in the sight of Allah, and yet such an offence does not justify anyone to question her basic faith. We must know that in Islam no person possesses the authority to put out people from the fold of Islam based on their sins or violations.”

Quoted, with slight modifications, from: http://www.muslims.ca

Read more: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503546030#ixzz0seSfkuMQ



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Boricua Muslimah

Graduate from Rutgers Newark. Journalist, photographer and videographer.

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