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Hijab is often misunderstood not only by Non Muslims, but even Muslims. Although the authentic sources of Islam, i.e, Quran and Sunnah make it clear, yet there have risen many people who have tried to manipulate and compromise it with the current world scenario. Laws of Allah remain intact, irrespective of whether world changes or not. And since the command is directly from our creator, this command holds good and has more advantages till the Qiyamah.
In Arabic, Hijab means covering or concealing. It is the name of something that is used to cover. Everything that comes between two things is known as hijab. Hijab means everything that is used to cover something and prevent anyone from reaching it, such as curtains, door keepers and garments, etc.
Khimaar comes from the word khamr, the root meaning of which is to cover. For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Khammiru aaniyatakum (cover your vessels).” Everything that covers something else is called its khimaar.
But in common usage khimaar has come to be used as a name for the garment with which a woman covers her head; in some cases this does not go against the linguistic meaning of khimaar. Some of the fuqahaa’ have defined it as that which covers the head, the temples and the neck.
The difference between the hijab and the khimaar is that the hijaab is something which covers all of a woman’s body, whilst the khimaar in general is something with which a woman covers her head.
Niqab is that with which a woman veils her face (tantaqib)…
The difference between hijaab and niqab is that the hijab is that which covers all the body, whilst niqab is that which covers a woman’s face only.
The woman’s dress as prescribed in sharee’ah (“Islamic dress”) is that which covers her head, face and all of her body.
But the niqab or burqa’ – which shows the eyes of the woman – has become widespread among women, and some of them do not wear it properly. Some scholars have forbidden wearing it on the grounds that it is not Islamic in origin, and because it is used improperly and people treat it as something insignificant, demonstrating negligent attitudes towards it and using new forms of niqaab which are not prescribed in Islam, widening the opening for the eyes so that the cheeks, nose and part of the forehead are also visible.
Therefore, if the woman’s niqaab or burqa’ does not show anything but the eyes, and the opening is only as big as the left eye, as was narrated from some of the salaf, then that is permissible, otherwise she should wear something which covers her face entirely.
Shaykh Muhammad al-Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The hijaab prescribed in sharee’ah means that a woman should cover everything that it is haraam for her to show, i.e., she should cover that which it is obligatory for her to cover, first and foremost of which is the face, because it is the focus of temptation and desire.
A woman is obliged to cover her face in front of anyone who is not her mahram (blood relative to whom marriage is forbidden). From this we learn that the face is the most essential thing to be covered. There is evidence from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the views of the Sahaabah and the imams and scholars of Islam, which indicates that women are obliged to cover all of their bodies in front of those who are not their mahrams. [Fataawa al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1/ 391, 392)]
Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan (may Allaah preserve him) said: The correct view as indicated by the evidence is that the woman’s face is ‘awrah which must be covered. It is the most tempting part of her body, because what people look at most is the face, so the face is the greatest ‘awrah of a woman. This is in addition to the shar’i evidence which states that it is obligatory to cover the face.
For example, Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…” [al-Noor 24:31]
Drawing the veil all over the juyoob implies covering the face.
When Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) was asked about the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies” [al-Ahzaab 33:59] –
he covered his face, leaving only one eye showing. This indicates that what was meant by the aayah was covering the face. This was the interpretation of Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) of this aayah, as narrated from him by ‘Ubaydah al-Salmaani when he asked him about it.
In the Sunnah there are many ahaadeeth, such as: the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The woman in ihraam is forbidden to veil her face (wear niqaab) or to wear the burqa’.” This indicates that when women were not in ihraam, women used to cover their faces.
This does not mean that if a woman takes off her niqaab or burqa’ in the state of ihraam that she should leave her face uncovered in the presence of non-mahram men. Rather she is obliged to cover it with something other than the niqaab or burqa’, on the evidence of the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) who said: “We were with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in ihraam, and when men passed by us, we would lower the khimaar on our heads over our faces, and when they moved on we would lift it again.”
Women in ihraam and otherwise are obliged to cover their faces in front of non-mahram men, because the face is the center of beauty and it is the place that men look at… and Allaah knows best. [Fataawa al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1/396, 397]
He also said: It is OK to cover the face with the niqaab or burqa’ which has two openings for the eyes only, because this was known at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and because of necessity. If nothing but the eyes show, this is fine, especially if this is customarily worn by women in her society. [Fataawa al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah, 1/399]
Correct view on the ruling on covering the face
The correct view is that a woman is obliged to cover her entire body, even the face and hands. Imam Ahmad said that even the nails of a woman are ‘awrah, and this is also the view of Maalik (may Allaah have mercy on them both). Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “… It seems that the view of Ahmad is that every part of her is ‘awrah, even her nails, and this is also the view of Maalik.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 22/110).
In contrast to those who say that this is not obligatory, if we examine the views of those who say that it is not obligatory for women to cover the face, we will see that it is as Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd (may Allaah preserve him) said:
“One of the following three scenarios must apply:
1 – There is clear, sound evidence, but it has been abrogated by the verses that enjoin hijaab…
2 – There is sound evidence but it is not clear, and it does not constitute strong evidence when taken in conjunction with the definitive evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunnah that the face and hands must be covered…
3 – There is clear evidence, but it is not sound…” (Hiraasat al-Fadeelah, p. 68-69)
With regard to the evidence that it is obligatory to cover the face and hands:
1 – Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“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” [al-Ahzaab 33:59]
Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Allaah commands women to let the jilbaab come down (over their faces) so that they will be known (as respectable women) and not be annoyed or disturbed. This evidence supports the first opinion. ‘Ubaydah al-Salmaani and others stated that the women used to wear the jilbaab coming down from the top of their heads in such a manner that nothing could be seen except their eyes, so that they could see where they were going. It was proven in al-Saheeh that the woman in ihraam is forbidden to wear the niqaab and gloves. This is what proves that the niqaab and gloves were known among women who were not in ihraam. This implies that they covered their faces and hands.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 15/371-372)
2 – Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…” [al-Noor 24:31]
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: “With regard to the phrase ‘and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent’, ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood said: the adornment which is apparent is the garment, because the word zeenah (adornment) was originally a name for the clothes and jewellery, as we see in the verses in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
‘Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes)’ [al-A’raaf 7:31]
‘Say (O Muhammad): Who has forbidden the adornment with clothes given by Allaah, which He has produced for His slaves’ [al-A’raaf 7:32]
‘And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment’ [al-Noor 24:31]
Stamping the feet makes known the khulkhaal (anklets) and other kinds of jewellery and clothing. Allaah forbade women to show any kind of adornment except that which is apparent, but He allowed showing the hidden adornment to mahrams. It is known that the kind of adornment that usually appears, without any choice on the part of the women, is the clothing, as for the body, it is possible to either show it or to cover it. All of this indicates that what appears of the adornment is the clothing.
Ahmad said: the adornment which is apparent is the clothing. And he said: every part of a woman is ‘awrah, even her nails. It was narrated in the hadeeth, ‘The woman is ‘awrah,’ This includes all of the woman. It is not makrooh to cover the hands during prayer, so they are part of the ‘awrah, just like the feet. Analogy implies that the face would be ‘awrah were it not for the fact that necessity dictates that it should be uncovered during prayer, unlike the hands.” [Sharh al-‘Umdah, 4/267-268]
3 – It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah said: “The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in ihraam. When they came near, each of us would lower her jilbaab from her head over her face, and when they passed by we would uncover (our faces).” [Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1833; Ahmad, 24067]
Shaykh al-Albaani said in Jilbaab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah (107): its isnaad is hasan because of the existence of corroborating reports.
It is well known that a woman should not put anything over her face when she is in ihraam, but ‘Aa’ishah and the Sahaabiyaat (women of the Sahaabah) who were with her used to lower part of their garments over their faces because the obligation to cover the face when non-mahrams pass by is stronger than the obligation to uncover the face when in ihraam.
4 – It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “May Allaah have mercy on the women of the Muhaajireen. When Allaah revealed the words (interpretation of the meaning)
‘and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…” [al-Noor 24:31],
they tore their aprons and covered their faces with them.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4480)
5 – It was narrated from ‘Aa’ishah… that Safwaan ibn al-Mu’attal al-Sulami al-Dhakwaani was lagging behind the army. He came to where I had stopped and saw the black shape of a person sleeping. He recognized me when he saw me, because he had seen me before hijaab was enjoined. I woke up when I heard him saying ‘Inna Lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon (verily to Allaah we belong and unto Him is our return),’ when he saw me, and I covered my face with my jilbaab.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3910; Muslim, 2770)
6 – It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The woman is ‘awrah and when she goes out the Shaytaan gets his hopes up.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1173).
[Al-Albaani said in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi (936): It is saheeh]
[Source: Extracted from the answers of Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid]