It is my understanding that female humans obeying the muslim religion must (or choose to) hide their hair and sometimes even face from non-family males. However, it is well known today, that

  1. the biological sex is not at all binary, meaning that some individuals cannot be clearly identified as either biologically male or female (not even by looking at their genitalia) and
  2. the gender identity of a person must not necessarily match their biological sex, meaning a biological male can feel, clothe and appear in a feminine way (or the other way around).

How does the previously mentioned rule (if I did not misconceive it) address this circumstance? For example, does a cis-woman adhering to the tenets of islam,

  • have to veil herself in the present of a non-family trans-male (a biological woman, with a male gender identity)?
  • Or would she have to veil herself in the presence of a trans-female (a biological man, with a female gender identity)? Which is particularly problematic, as the person would be almost impossible to identify for the muslim woman.
  • Or in the presence of a non-gender person without a clear biological sex?
  • And finally, what about post-surgery trans-persons (i.e. after surgically changing their physiological features and genitalia)?

Note: I don't know the attitude of islam towards its members being trans (that would be a different question), but given that muslim individuals may interact with non-muslims they may still encounter trans-people.

2 Answers 2


For the observing hijab in front of transgender people question...

It depends...

Practical considerations

Ordinarily, if a woman follows the ruling about wearing hijab in front of non-mahram men, she'll wear it almost continuously outside the home. So, even in the rare case she meets a non-mahram transgender person, she's probably already wearing hijab.

Exceptions arise for things like female bathrooms, ablution rooms (wudu), female-only events, where women might not observe hijab. If she's up tight about things, she could just wait until the transgender person is no longer around.

Some transgender women are "passable" (i.e., you can't readily tell them apart from natal women). Also, identifying pre-transition transgender men would be impossible. Presumably this falls under: "The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions..." (Sahih al-Bukhari 1), i.e., a woman wouldn't be blamed for not observing veil in front of someone she believes is a woman.

It's very rare that this would be a concern in practice. Realistically, a woman would likely make a best guess at the time.

School of thought

Some schools of thought are accepting of transgender people. Shia Islam in Iran is one notable example; see Transsexuality in Iran. A transgender woman will (eventually) be accepted as a woman, so other women will not be required to observe hijab in her presence.

Malaysia (Shafi'i fiqh, Sunni Islam) is at the other extreme, where transgender peoples' gender identities have been known to be rejected. See LGBT rights in Malaysia. If a woman is following these rulings, she would observe hijab in front of transgender women, and probably in front of all transgender people out of caution.

(Also practically, you're less likely to meet observably transgender people in places like Malaysia, where this ruling would apply.)

And finally, what about post-surgery trans-persons (i.e. after surgically changing their physiological features and genitalia)?

Women don't ordinarily interact with other people's genitals, so I'm not sure what the question is here.

Note: I don't know the attitude of islam towards its members being trans (that would be a different question), but given that muslim individuals may interact with non-muslims they may still encounter trans-people.

There's transgender Muslims around; likely the same proportion of the population as in the West.

The Qur'an

Qur'an 24:31 includes an exception for covering in front of males with no physical desire:

And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.

Haneef (2011) (pdf) wrote that this may be applicable in the case of transgender women:

Ghayr uli al-irbah, according to some erudite exegetes were those effeminate men with no feelings of desire towards women.

giving the references: Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Qurtubi, al-Jami'li Ahkam al-Qur'an (Beirut: Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, n.d), 12, 234; Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (Bierut: Dar al-Fikr al-Ma'rifah, n.d), 19, 163; Isma'il Abi Fida Ibn Kathir , Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim (Riy ad: Maktabat al-Riyad al-Hadithah, n.d), 6, 48.


The main reason for covering in Islam is to decrease sexual desires of the surrounding people & directing their attitudes towards the subject's intellectual level and personality. I mean, when most of the men see a beautiful lady in a miniskirt, prejudges appear in their minds and usually they can't get rid of these thoughts. So, they can't start to think about that woman's character or ideals. They see this woman as a sexual object only, not a person. Covering exists in order to avoid that. When a man see a woman with hijab or something like that, his sexual desires don't get triggered (There are some pervert men even break this barrier, but they are rare). Rather, they see this woman as a person, and when they start to talk, the important subject will be her thoughts, not her legs or breasts.

You can think about like this. Prostitutes always dress bawdy, with miniskirts etc. Because their purpose is to increase sexual desires of men, so that they can do their job. The purpose of covering is exactly opposite of this.

In the light of this information, you can decide in what situations trans etc should cover themselves or not. It may seem like a situation based or subject based necessity rather than a general rule.

Islam forbids homosexuality. But I don't know any fatva about trans genders or physically bisexual persons. Maybe some other people can give more information about it.

  • This hardly answers the question! Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 23:54
  • If there is a verse or hadith about the headscarf for transgenders or physically bisexual humans, I will be glad to hear from you!
    – kalahari
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 1:01
  • You are not bound/obligated to answer if you do not know the answer to what is specifically being asked. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 1:05
  • And you are not obligated to warn me. You can edit my answer to improve, or you can give another answer which you think more accurate. My answer is clear about improvement or lack of fatva support. I give the reason for covering so that the questioner can decide about the case in his mind.
    – kalahari
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 1:25
  • Well, @BleedingFingers is, as a matter of fact, encouraged to point out if an answer does not address a question. Not only as a diamond, but as a member of the site. None of your points even remotely address the question. It was specifically not asking for the perspective of a trans-person but for the perspective of any muslim cis-woman practising veiling given the context that there are people in the world without a heteronormative binary gender or sex. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 9:03

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