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So, I know there is debate about whether Muslim women should cover their faces. From my research:

  • In the Hanbali madhhab, the dominant opinion is that covering the face is obligatory in the presence of non-mahram men, as the face is considered part of a woman's awrah.
  • The other three schools: The Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi'i madhhabs do not generally regard the face as awrah, and so they don't consider it obligatory to cover the face. However, scholars typically say that if uncovering the face leads to fitnah, then it becomes obligatory to cover it.

My question is: What does fear of fitnah mean? Who decided whether uncovering the face leads to fitnah? Does that mean if a woman thinks men might be attracted to her, she should cover her face? or is this expected in certain environments?

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Generally, fear of fitnah could mean any (or a combination) of the following:

  1. High risk of attraction: If a woman's face is likely to attract attention that may lead to temptation, scholars advise covering it; as noted by Ibn Abidin Shami:

A young woman is prevented from exposing her face, not because it is part of the awrah, rather for the fear of temptation.” (Raddul Muhtar P.532 V.9)

2. Prevailing immorality: In a society where immorality is rampant, and the likelihood of haraam thoughts or actions is high, covering the face is advised.

3. The role of social norm (urf): In some societies, the majority of Muslim women wear niqab (or other types of face-covering) and uncovering the face is seen as a deviation from the norm. In such situations, a woman should cover her face to avoid unnecessary attention and social disturbance. The principle here is to maintain social harmony and prevent discord, which is also a type of fitnah.

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