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Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said in his "Majmoo' al fatawa" that :

والحجاب مختص بالحرائر دون الإماء كما كانت سنة المؤمنين في زمن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وخلفائه أن الحرة تحتجب والأمة تبرز وكان عمر رضي الله عنه إذا رأى أمة مختمرة ضربها وقال أتتشبهين بالحرائر أي لكاع فيظهر من الأمة رأسها ويداها ووجهها.

"Hijab is exclusive to free women; its not for slaves. Its similar to what was the practice of the faithful followers in the time of the Prophet and those who came after him, that a free women veils while the slave woman reveals. When Umar saw a slave girl wearing a veil, he hit her and said, 'Do you want to resemble a free woman, you fool?'. Its allowed for a slave girl to show her head, hands and face"

Is this the correct translation?

  • looks right .. "reveals", or "reveal herself" is a better translation I suppose. The last sentence does not have the "It's allowed" part, but rather "so what is revealed of a slave girl is her head, hands , and face" – Butarek Hd Sep 9 '17 at 8:10
  • @ButarekHd " أتتشبهين بالحرائر " literally translates to "do you look like free women" but I'm guessing, it means "do you want to look like free women". Is that correct? – Daud Sep 9 '17 at 8:13
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    no. "do you look like free women" means "أتشبهين الحرائر" , but the the sentence " أتـتشبّهين بالحرائر " means : " are you imitating free women" , or "are you copying" . and in the hadith (“Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”) : "من تشبّه بقوم فهو منهم" – Butarek Hd Sep 9 '17 at 8:29
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Yes, mostly correct with some minor differences in the choice of the English words, and the partial quote that may take the whole topic out of its context. The fatwa you are referring to is in Majmū' al-Fatāwa by Ibn Taymiyyah

والحجاب مختص بالحرائر دون الإماء كما كانت سنة المؤمنين في زمن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وخلفائه أن الحرة تحتجب والأمة تبرز وكان عمر رضي الله عنه إذا رأى أمة مختمرة ضربها وقال أتتشبهين بالحرائر أي لكاع فيظهر من الأمة رأسها ويداها ووجهها.

— NOTE: My own translation, so treat with care:

Hijāb is specifically mandated to free women and not for slave women as was the practice of the believers in the time of the Prophet ﷺ and his successors: free women observe hijāb, while slave women reveal [face and hands]. 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb, may Allah be pleased with him, when he saw a slave woman wearing khimār, he would beat her and say "Do you want to resemble a free woman, O' irrational one?." Then he would ask her to reveal her head, face, and hands.

Majmū' al-Fatāwa, Vol. 15, pp. 372

This story is referring to a specific incident that took place between 'Umar and of the slave women of Anas ibn Malik. A following paragraph in the same fatwa explains what Ibn Taymiyyah meant:

وليس في الكتاب والسنة إباحة النظر إلى عامة الإماء ولا ترك احتجابهن وإبداء زينتهن ولكن القرآن لم يأمرهن بما أمر الحرائر والسنة فرقت بالفعل بينهن وبين الحرائر ولم تفرق بينهن وبين الحرائر بلفظ عام بل كانت عادة المؤمنين أن تحتجب منهم الحرائر دون الإماء واستثنى القرآن من النساء الحرائر القواعد فلم يجعل عليهن احتجابا واستثنى بعض الرجال وهم غير أولي الإربة فلم يمنع من إبداء الزينة الخفية لهم لعدم الشهوة في هؤلاء وهؤلاء فأن يستثنى بعض الإماء أولى وأحرى وهن من كانت الشهوة والفتنة حاصلة بترك احتجابها وإبداء زينتها

— NOTE: My own translation, so treat with care:

There is no permission in the Book [Qur'an] or the Sunnah that allows looking at the slave women, nor for them to not observe hijāb, or to show their adornment. The Qur'an does not order slave women to observe the same rules [pertaining to hijāb] as was the order to free women. The distinction is made in the Sunnah, but it is not a general distinction. It was the habit that free women —except as exempted in the Qur'an for free women of post-menstrual age who have no desire for marriage and for a list of males— do not show their adornment. Slave women who could be a cause of temptation or tribulation —as a result of not observing hijāb or hiding their adornment— should be most worthy and most encouraged to be exempt from the permissibility to not observe hijāb.

Majmū' al-Fatāwa, Vol. 15, pp. 372

The main points of the fatwa are:

  • Hijāb is mandated for free women but exempted by context
    • specific women based on age and desirability
    • specific men based on being mahrams or their level of desire.
  • Hijāb is not mandated for slave women but exempted by context when the lack of a mandate may result in temptation or tribulation.

It is worth noting that hijab is mandatory for women by textual (Qur'an and hadith) and habitual references (behavior of the Prophet ﷺ and his companions). While you may hear many apologetics stipulate different reasons ('illah, Arabic: علّة) for mandating hijab, there is no textual evidence as such. The inferred reasons are apparently based on wisdom (hikmah, Arabic: حكمة) and benefits (masāliḥ Arabic: مصالح):

  • Encouraging chastity and purity
  • Reducing the risk of sins, and minimizing temptations.

This list is not conclusive. The distinction between free women and slave women, for the scholars who recognize such distinction, is based on judgment and wisdom (among many others on the list), but not as a reason for the law. The following definitions are to be noted so one can understand the distinction better (per the same fatwa, in the preceding paragraph):

  • Hijāb (Arabic: حجاب) is the word used for clothing that covers a woman's entire body, or for a partition separating men from women.
  • Khimār (Arabic: خمار) the word used for clothing that covers a woman's entire head and neck.
  • Niqāb (Arabic: نقاب) which is the word used for clothing that covers a woman's face.

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