My Muslim Sister 3

I Appeal To Your Sense Of Shame
My Muslim Sister...
Will You Not Respond?
Nawaal Bint Abdullah



The major point of difference among the scholars concerns the hadeeth of Asmaa (radiallahu 'anhaa) i.e.,

that the face and hands need not be covered; a number of the scholars have maintained that the face and

hands must also be covered, because it was the practice of the wives of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa

sallam) and the wives of the Sahaabah to cover themselves completely according to authentic Ahadeeth.

The above point has been a topic of debate amongst the scholars both past and present and will be dealt

with, Insha' Allah at the end of this essay.

The Second Requirement: Thickness

The garment should be thick and opaque so as not to display the skin color and form of the body beneath it.

Delicate or transparent clothing does not constitute a proper covering. Al-Qurtubee reports a narration from

'Aaishah (radiallahu 'anhaa) that some women from Banu Tameem came to see her wearing transparent

clothing. 'Aaishah said to them: If you are believing women, these are not the clothes of believing women.

He also reports that a bride came to see her, wearing a sheer, transparent Khimaar whereupon 'Aaishah

(radiallahu 'anhaa) said: A woman who wears such clothing does not believe in Soorat An-Noor. Moreover,

the following hadeeth makes this point graphically clear. Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said:

There will be in the last of my Ummah, scantily dressed women, the hair on the top of their heads

like a camel's hump. Curse them, for verily they are cursed.

In another version he (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: ...scantily dressed women, who go astray and

make others go astray; they will not enter Paradise nor smell its fragrance, although it can be

smelled from afar. [At-Tabaranee and Saheeh Muslim]

"Scantily dressed women" are those who wear clothing which reveals more than it conceals, thereby

increasing her attractiveness while opening the path to a host of evils.

The Third Requirement: Looseness

The clothing must hang loosely enough and not be so tight-fitting as to show the shape and size of the

woman's body. This obviously includes such things as skin-tight body suits, etc. The following hadeeth

proves this point clearly. Usaama ibn Zayd (radiallahu 'anhumaa) said: Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa

sallam) gave me a gift of thick Coptic cloth he had received as a gift from Dahiah Al-Kalbee, and so I gave it

to my wife.

Thereafter the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) asked me: Why didn't you wear the Coptic cloth? I

replied: I gave it to my wife. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) then said: Tell her to wear a thick

gown under it (the Coptic garment) for I fear that it may describe the size of her limbs. [Narrated by

Ahmad, AI-Bayhaqee, and Al-Haakim]

The Fourth Requirement: Color, Appearance and Demeanor

Allah Ta'ala says: 0 wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women; if you fear (Allah), then

do not he too pleasant of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should feel desire for you. [Al-

Ahzaab: 32]

The reason for the revelation of this verse is not the fear of distrust nor misbehavior on the part of the

women, but rather to prevent them from speaking invitingly, walking seductively, or dressing revealingly so

as to arouse sexual desire in the heart of lecherous and evil men. Seductive dressing and enticing speech

are the characteristics of ill-intentioned women, not Muslims. Al-Qurtubee mentions that Mujahid (radiallahu

'anhu) said: Women (before the advent of Islaam) used to walk about among men. Qataada (radiallahu

'anhu) said: They used to walk in a sensuous and seductive manner. Maqaatil (radiallahu 'anhu) said: The

women used to wear an untied cloth on their heads, while provocatively toying with their necklaces, earrings

and other ornamental jewelry.

Furthermore, Allah has commanded women not to display their beauty, meaning both natural and acquired


Allah commands the believing women thus: ...And do not make a display of yourselves (tabarruj) like

the displaying of the ignorance of long ago... [Al-Ahzaab: 33]

A garment which is intended to conceal a woman and her beauty from public view cannot be a thing which

enhances her beauty. Therefore, the garment cannot contain bright colors, bold designs or shiny and

reflective material that draw men's attention to the wearer. The word above, At-Tabarruj, means not only "to

display oneself" but also "to spruce up one's charms for the purpose of exciting desire"!

Imaam Adh-Dhahabee says in his book Kitaab AI-Kabaa'ir (The Book of Major Sins): Amongst the deeds

which a woman is cursed for are displaying the adornments she wears, wearing perfume when she goes

out, and wearing colorful clothes... Hence, the Muslim woman is encouraged to wear muted, somber colors

and to avoid bright designs, patterns and colors.

This point should serve also as a reminder to Muslim men who are in positions of responsibility for their

women, that Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) has warned in an authentic hadeeth narrated by

'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn Al-'Aas that amongst the three individuals who would not enter Jannah (Paradise)

would be: Ad-Dayooth, who is contented with obscenity within his family. i.e., a cuckold - a man who permits

the women he is responsible for, such as his wife, daughter, etc. to engage in illicit sexual relations or to

display their beauty to men, thereby stimulating sexual desire!

The Fifth Requirement: Difference from Men's Clothing

The clothing of a Muslim woman must not resemble the clothing of men. The following two hadeeth help to

explain this.

Abu Hurayrah (radiallahu 'anhu) said: Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) cursed the man who

wears women's clothes and the woman who wears men's clothes. [Abu Dawood and Ibn Maajah


'Abdullah ibn 'Umar (radiallahu 'anhumaa) said he heard Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) say: The

man who resembles a woman and the woman who resembles a man is not of us (i.e., not of the

believers). [Ahmad and At-Tabaraanee - Saheeh)

Additionally, Abu Dawood relates a narration from Umm Salamah (radiallahu 'anhaa) which shows that the

Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) forbade women to bundle their Khumoor on their heads in such a way

as to resemble the turban of a man. Western Muslim sisters should pay specific attention to this point since

regretfully this has become a widespread practice amongst many of them!

The Sixth Requirement: Difference from the Clothing of Unbelievers

Her clothing must not resemble the clothing of unbelievers. This is a general ruling of the Sharee'ah which

encompasses not only dress but also such things as manners, customs, religious practices and festivities,

transactions, etc. Indeed, dissimilarity with unbelievers is a precedent that was established by the first

generation of Islam. The following two hadeeth and statement of 'Umar (radiallahu 'anhu) will help to clarify

this position.

'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn Al-'Aas said: Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) saw me wearing two saffron

colored garments, so he said: Indeed, these are the clothes of kuffaar (unbelievers), so do not wear

them. [Saheeh Muslim]

'Abdullah ibn 'Umar (radiallahu 'anhumaa) said: Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) stated: Whoever

resembles a people is one of them. [Abu Daawood]

Abu Musa Al-Ash'aree (radiallahu 'anhu) related that 'Umar (radiallahu 'anhu) told him: ...I shall not honor

those whom Allah has dishonored, nor esteem those He has humbled, nor bring close those whom He has

kept afar. [Ahmad]

The Seventh Requirement: No Vain or Ostentatious Dressing

The woman's dress must not be an expression of ostentation, vanity or as a status symbol by being

excessively showy or expensive, nor must it be excessively tattered so as to gain admiration and fame for

being humble. Ibn 'Umar (radiallahu 'anhumaa) reported that Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said:

Whoever dresses for ostentation in this world, Allah will dress that person in a dress of humiliation

on the Day of Resurrection, and then set it on fire. [Abu Dawood]

The Niqaab (Face Veil): Between Mustahab (Recommendable) and Waajib


The esteemed Quraanic commentators At-Tabaree and Al-Qurtubee have elaborated on the form of Hijaab

or Jilbaab i.e., "outer garments" as viewed by the Companions of the Prophet (radiallahu 'anhum), as well as

the circumstances surrounding the revelation of Soorah Al-Ahzaab: 59, that was quoted at the beginning of

this essay. They state that when the believing women used to go out at night (wearing ordinary clothes) to

answer the call of nature, some hypocrites tried to annoy them, thinking the women were slave girls. The

women thereby would scream out loudly causing these hypocrites to flee. Thereupon Allah revealed this


Al-Qurtubee states that the jilbaab is "a cloth which covers the entire body." Ibn 'Abbaas and 'Ubaidah As-

Salmaanee have said that it is to be fully wrapped anound the women's body, so that nothing appears but

"one eye with which she can see." The Tabi'ee, Qataadah (radiallahu 'anhum), stated that the Jilbaab should

be wrapped and fixed from above the forehead and made to cover the nose, (although the eyes are to show)

and the chest and most of the face are to be covered.

Furthermore, it has been authentically related in the Muwatta of Imaam Maalik and the Sunan of Abu

Dawood that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) forbade women from covering their faces and hands

during their performance of Salaat, Hajj or Umrah. This clearly indicates that wearing the face veil (Niqaab or

Burqa'a) was a common practice during the time of Rasool-Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), and not as

some people claim, a cultural practice that appeared years later!

Among the proofs used by the scholars regarding the face veil are the following: 'Aaishah (radiallahu 'anhaa)

said: May Allah bestow His Mercy on the first Muhaajiraat (emigrants). When Allah revealed: ...and draw

their headcovers over their necks and bosoms... they tore their (material) and covered themselves with it.


Ibn Hajar AI-Asqalanee, known as "Ameer Al-Mu'mineen in Hadeeth" has explained that "covered

themselves" means: "covered their faces." [Fath Al-Baree] Additionally, after the battle of Khaybar, the

Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) married Safiyah bint Huyai. The Muslims said amongst themselves:

Will she (Safiyah) be one of the Mothers of the Believers (i.e., wives of the Prophet) or just what his right

hand possesses (i.e., slave girl). Some of them said: If he (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) makes her observe

Hijaab, then she will be one of the Mothers of the Believers, and if he does not make her observe Hijaab,

then she will be what his right hand possesses. So when he departed (for Medina), he made a place for her

behind him (on his camel) and made her observe Hijaab. [Al-Bukharee]

Looking At The Opinions

The issue of the Niqaab has continued to arouse extended controversy and debate between 'Ulamaa

(scholars) and Fuqahaa (jurists) both past and present concerning whether it is Waajib (mandatory) or

Mustahabb (favored by Allah ta'aalaa) for the woman. And whether she subsequently falls into sin by

exposing her face or not. Each of the two sides clings to their own opinion that they in turn support with

evidences from the Quraanic Ayaat, the Prophetic ahadeeth and the practice of the Sahaabah and their


One of the views on this is that the Niqaab is legally binding on the woman and she who abandons it is a

sinner. It says that the woman's face - which she is ordered not to reveal to non-relatives - is definitely part

of the Auwrah (private areas that are never to be exposed). The other view says that the Niqaab is simply

recommended and encourages the woman to cover her face; however, it does not place it on the level of

being mandatory. Consequently, this opinion does not consider the woman falling into sin when she exposes

and unveils her face as long as in doing so, she has not applied facial makeup.

The dispute continues between the two viewpoints and takes on, in certain occasions, bitter aspects. The

advocates for making the face veil mandatory accuses the other group of following their own desires. The

other group accuses their opponents with being obstinate fanatics. The matter is much broader than this and

does not require accusations of obstinacy nor of following the desires but rather requires making Ijtihaad

(judgement based on the Sharee'ah) and following Daleel (proof from the Sharee'ah) to the best of one's

ability. To give the benefit of the doubt in such a situation is better and most befitting for the Muslim, limiting

the points of difference and narrowing the gap of disagreement are two factors which are sought after. I do

not want in this rush to take a side with one group over the other: nor to validate the proofs of which I see

the truth in this issue. Rather the aim is, as I said, to narrow the controversy and to highlight the points

agreed upon. Thereby, we may adopt them and work on spreading them. As for the point of disagreement -

it will remain under the category of Ijtihaad whose scholarly advocate will be rewarded whether he attains

truth or was mistaken.

Please Consider The Following

First: The two views agree upon the legitimacy of the Niqaab, that it is a consummate perfection for a

woman and more virtuous for her, as well as closer to the aims of the Sharee'ah - which is to prevent Fitnah

- and is an obstruction to excuses as well as severing the path of those who follow their lusts. It is therefore

more appropriate that the efforts should be directed to encourage wearing the Niqaab, and to motivate

people towards it, and to show and explain its virtues and merits. This implies that covering the face with the

Niqaab should be the general rule and uncovering the face the exception.

Second: In spite of the fact that there are differing views on the Islaamic ruling regarding whether the

Niqaab is obligatory or recommended, it is undoubtably one's duty to unify the call for it and cooperate as

much as possible in urging young women about its necessity and to limit their desire to expose their faces

as much as possible. Indeed, it is merely gracious to both parties, unlike what is happening now between

opposing sides - which is to leave the matter loose and dangling through the claim that the Niqaab is only

Mustahabb, and being aloof from spreading the call for it. This is indeed an inversion of the truth and poor

judgement in the matter.

Hence, my brother Muslims, when you are asked: 'What is the form of the Hijaab according to the

Sharee'ah, especially from a woman who loves the Deen?' you should urge and encourage her to wear the

Niqaab even if you are of the opinion that it is only Mustahabb.

Lastly: We truly hope from Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa for the day when all believing women rush to cover

their faces with full contentment of their souls and desire for their Deen is the strongest of desires. This is a

hope which, without any doubt, is shared with me by those who are of the opinion of it being Mustahabb and

those who are of the opinion of it being Waajib.

I pray that Allah guide us along the Straight Path, and protect us from deviation after having followed

guidance. And may Allah bless the Leader of His Messengers, Muhammad (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), his

family and his companions, and all who follow in their footsteps until the Final Hour, Ameen.

Compiled by I.A. Palmer

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Date : 4/5/2010
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