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While reading Surat Al-Noor, I came across the following verse:

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear therof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31).

(*Bold emphasis is mine.)

It's apparent that face plays a central role when it comes to beauty in human beings. I wonder as to why some scholars deem it necessary for women to cover their faces while others don't? If covering the face is not necessary then why Allah said so in this verse? Please support your answer with authentic sources.

  • "should not display their beauty and ornaments" I think this translation is not correct.Here it says "not expose their adornment" instead of that. – Zahra Ezati Sep 6 '12 at 21:20
  • see also islam.stackexchange.com/questions/88/… – NesreenA Sep 7 '12 at 13:11
  • This is not from Al-Nisa'a, but from Al-Nur. – System Down Sep 7 '12 at 17:58
  • @SystemDown: you are right. Fixed it. – Noah Sep 8 '12 at 1:25
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Whether covering a women's face is wajib has been debated for a long time. Since the side that assures that it is wajib has already been covered, I'll cover here the side that says it is not. I will be referring to the writings of Sheikh Al-Albani, who is considered by many as the most prominent Sunni scholar in modern times to have come to criticize covering the face as being obligatory.

When it comes to the ayah in the question (Al Nur 24:31), the part that is in dispute is this:

وليضربن بخمرهن على جيوبهن

The two crucial words are خمرهن (khumurihin) and جيوبهن (jiyubihin). According to Al-Albani, the first word is the plural of خمار (khimar) which he translates as head covering and the second word is the plural of جيب (jayb) which is the collar line (the area where a shirt/dress is cut off to expose the neck). So in this translation the ayah does not instruct Muslim women to cover their faces, but only their heads (as in their hair).

Then we have Al-Ahzab 33:59

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allaah is Ever Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful

The point of contention is the translation of the verb يدنين (yudneen), that many translate (as in the above translation) as "to cover the face (with a veil)". Al-Albani postulates that the verb actually means "to bring closer" and does not specify the face. And the word جلابيبهن (jalabeebihin) is the plural of جلباب (julbab), which means "covering" without any specifics as to what it covers.

A third ayah, Al Ahzab 33:53

O you who have believed, do not enter the houses of the Prophet except when you are permitted for a meal, without awaiting its readiness. But when you are invited, then enter; and when you have eaten, disperse without seeking to remain for conversation. Indeed, that [behavior] was troubling the Prophet, and he is shy of [dismissing] you. But Allah is not shy of the truth. And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts. And it is not [conceivable or lawful] for you to harm the Messenger of Allah or to marry his wives after him, ever. Indeed, that would be in the sight of Allah an enormity.

The word حجاب (hijab) here means screen, and the ayah itself only concerns itself to conduct when entering a house (the prophet's house in particular) and not for day to day veiling.

Furthermore, Al-Albani cites many hadith, such as:

It was narrated that Jabir said: "I attended the prayer with the Messenger of Allah () on the day of 'Eid. He started with the prayer before the Khutbah, with no Adhan and no Iqamah. When he finished the prayer, he stood leaning on Bilal, and he praised and glorified Allah (SWT) and exhorted the people, reminding them and urging them to obey Allah (SWT). Then he moved away and went to the women, and Bilal was with him. He commanded them to fear Allah (SWT) and exhorted them and reminded them. He praised and glorified Allah, then he urged them to obey Allah, then he said: 'Give charity, for most of you are the fuel of Hell.' A lowly woman with dark cheeks said: 'Why, O Messenger of Allah?' He said: 'You complain a great deal and are ungrateful to your husbands.' They started taking off their necklaces, earrings and rings, throwing them into Bilal's garment, giving them in charity."

(Sahih) Sunan Al-Nasa'ai

It is apparent here that since the narrator was able to describe the woman's cheeks that her face was uncovered in public. Something that was not commented on negatively.

Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said from Amra bint Abd ar-Rahman that A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to pray subh and the women would leave wrapped in their garments and they could not yet be recognised in the darkness."

Muwatta Malik

Al-Albani deduces that since it was the darkness (and only the darkness) that lead to the women becoming unrecognizable, then it comes to reason that they are recognizable in the light, which means that their faces were known and seen.

One more hadith is this one, although it's authenticity is disputed:

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah () wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah () turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands. Abu Dawud said: This is a mursal tradition (i.e. the narrator who transmitted it from 'Aishah is missing) Khalid b. Duraik did not see 'Aishah.

Sunan Abu Dawud

This hadith has direct instruction on what not to cover. But, this hadith is weak according to Abu Dawud (see his commentary at the end of the quote), and most scholars. However, both Al-Albani and Al-Bayhaqi have disputed this classification.

The following pages (Arabic) have more on Al Albani's writings in the subject:

http://www.nationalkuwait.com/vb/showthread.php?t=69797

http://www.ikhwan.net/forum/showthread.php?18491-%D1%D3%C7%E1%C9-%C7%E1%D4%ED%CE-%C7%E1%C3%E1%C8%C7%E4%ED-%DD%ED-%CC%E6%C7%D2-%DF%D4%DD-%C7%E1%E6%CC%E5-%E6-%C7%E1%ED%CF%ED%E4

  • Can you please provide references for considering it farz or wajib – bjan Dec 11 '13 at 12:02
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It's understandable that at the time of the revelation that virtue was judged by ones dress code's modesty. Since Nasaara failed to deliver it's message with completion by the fact of such event as 3eesa AS crucifixion, then his ideal world hadn't manifested up to the time of the prophet Mu7ammad's SAW era. Hence in SAW's era the same opposition must had been met, that is modesty in dress code defined ones virtue.

However the Qur'an hints that dress code is not to be the barometer rather it is taqwa that should be.

[7:26]
O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your deficiencies/saw'at and as adornment. But the clothing of taqwa - that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember.

Taqwa is reverence, passion and obedience to Allah SWT.

Deficiencies/saw'at doesn't necessarily mean private parts. It could also mean corpse of a dead body as in

[5:31]
Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother's saw'at/corpse. He said: Woe unto me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother's saw'at/corpse? And he became repentant.

but we could safely refer saw'at as deficiencies, as dead bodies are deficient. it can't be said that naked dead corpse as saw'at, after all rarely are dead bodies corpse without clothes, who would want to strip out the clothes of a dead murdered body, even when they are buried they would do it with at least a piece of cloth on them.

now the next verse of 7:27 would refer to the clothes of taqwa that was stripped out as per the previous verse 7:26.

[7:27]
O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Jannah/The hidden realm/paradise, stripping them of their clothing (of taqwa) to show them their deficiencies. Indeed, he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them. Indeed, We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe.

As in the following verse the clothing of taqwa vanished and became apparent to them their deficiencies in taqwa because they ate from the forbidden tree:

[20:121]
And Adam and his wife ate of it, and their deficiencies became apparent to them, and they began to fasten over themselves from the leaves of Paradise. And Adam disobeyed his Lord and erred.

Since the verse 7:26-27 uses clothing metaphorically as the clothing of taqwa, then the tree, the fruit, and the leaves may also be interpreted metaphorically. The tree being a body of forbidden knowledge, maybe such knowledge as dividing 1 with 0 in mathematics or any other kinds from any branch of knowledge. The fruit being the theoretical product that is derived from such assumption. And the leaves being a way to correct/undo the assumptions. wallahua3lam.

The fact that the Qur'an gives a way to interpret it as such just shows that there can be differences in the matter and as such there shouldn't be disputed to the point of spilling blood over it. And those who spill blood over it are the transgressors.

The verse 24:31 has the following way to interpret it:

[24:31]
And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision(i.e. do not stare or gaze at someone) and guard their furoojahoonna/lower/deficient/private parts of body (i.e. and guard from having sexual intercourse as you may have it with only certain types of people) and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to put their headcovers inside their pockets 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/that whom they are given consent of (i.e. you may show your body to anyone so long as they have given you rights to show that to them), or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of 3awraat/the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment (i.e. be understanding/respectful to those that do not give consent to you to show what beauties/adornment hidden in you). And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.

The other verse that are controversial on the issue is:

[33:59]
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to yudneena/draw down/close 3alayhinna/whatever over themselves min/from/of jalabibeehinna/their outer garments (i.e. put down their garments that were on top of their heads). That is more adna/closer that they be known (i.e. can easily be identified as the person who they are recognized as without any veils) and not be abused (e.g. not be mistaken for someone else because everyone can see and identify, etc.). And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

wallahua3lam

1

The accepted answer is good but I like to add that, the most apparent mention of this issue in Holy Qur'an is in the very verse you first mentioned(I use a translation that I believe to be more exact)

And tell the believing women to lower their eyes and guard (from sins) their private parts and do not reveal their charms except that which is outward(face and hands), and they must draw their veils over their neck, and they must not reveal their charms except to their husbands or their fathers or their husbands' fathers or their sons or their husbands' sons or their brothers or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons or their women or their captives or the male attendants who have no sexual desire or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts, and they must not stamp their feet so that their hidden charms is known. And turn to Allah all together, O believers, in order that you find redemption. (24:31)

The phrase "إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا" translates exactly as except that which is outward. So God's command is obviously to not cover everything.

Please not that this is for the normal state of face and hands, and there are situations where covering a part of face or hands becomes a necessity:

  • One of them is, if one has makeup on her face or hands. Certainly, married women's makeup for a husband in the path of love and affection is a worship of God, but this charm must not be revealed to outsider men. So covering it or removing it is obviously mandatory. Negligence regarding makeup is one of the most prominent failures in performing Hijab.

  • Also, plucking of eyebrows, depending on it's pattern and level, can be between a simple tidiness and a charm. So Muslim women who try to fully perform God's commands, try to not reveal it. Some people make their scarves tight, covering eyebrows completely. Some other bring their scarves forward to a degree that falls in front of the eyebrows, covering them from a viewer. And some other, cover a most part of it, thus disturbing it's beauty to a viewer. Some girls who are not yet married(and thus have no need to do makeup for a husband), do a less charming or just tidying plucking of eyebrows.

  • In the case of hands, having a nail polish or wearing a jewel that draws attraction, is revealing a charm.

  • Furthermore, some women have a natural makeup. Even when they're performing complete Hijab by covering under the chin and sides of the face, they're afraid that their face might be too much attractive to a viewer. So they try to do even more by covering a part of their face, thus disturbing their natural charm to a viewer. They wouldn't commit a sin if they wouldn't, but by doing it in good will, they get closer to God. This is called "أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ" closer to piousness. A similar situation exists for women whose voices are extraordinary, who choose to not reveal it to outsider men as much as possible.

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