Islam emphasis on the covering of both men and women. The covering of man is of simple nature and there is no dispute in it but the covering for woman is contradictory. There are two school of thought; for one, niqab is mandatory while other says it is permitted. Firstly, one should have an idea of what is Khimar, jilbab and niqab.
The term niqab means
- To hide behind something completely.
- To intervene something between oneself and another.
Khimar means a thing which can cover one like a head scarf or shawl.
It means a big shawl which one can wear above the head scarf to cover the whole body.
Commandment of Covering Oneself
The commandment of covering oneself is only found in nearly 10 to 12 verses of Quran out of more then 6000 verses. These verses were revealed at the end of fourth hijri and were one of the last commandments from Allah (S.W.T). It shows that other commandments of Quran like Salah, fasting, Hajj, Zakat, etc are the ones on which Quran put more emphasis but we are fighting for the niqaab or hijab.
Practice of Women before Islam:
The women before Islam used to cover their heads with a head scarf but their chests were uncovered. The poor women were ones who don’t even cover their heads. So covering the head was the sign of a respected woman.
Niqab Compulsory or Permitted
There are two prevailed opinions of scholars.
- Niqab (covering face) is compulsory.
- Niqab is permissible.
Is Niqab a Compulsion
Following are the arguments in favor of niqab as a compulsion:
Face is the main focus
The scholars said that face is the most beautiful part in whole body. When someone meets other, they mainly focus on the face so if one does not cover the face so it is not beneficial to cover the other parts.
Surah Ahzab verse 59
In this verse, it is revealed that one should put a shawl in front of her face so no one can recognize her and she will be saved from problems.
Surah Noor Verse 31, 59 and Surah Ahzab Verse 55
In these verses, Allah commanded that a Muslimah should not reveal her beauty other than her mehram(close ones) like husband, father, brother, son, immature male and slaves. So if a woman should not cover her face then what is the reason behind this revelation.
Surah Noor Verse 27
- In this verse Allah prohibits na-mehram(strangers) to enter into the house so if naqab is not compulsory then Allah should not mention this verse in Quran. A woman is not commanded to cover herself in her house so this verse was revealed.
Surah Ahzab Verse 53
- In the verse 53, Allah commanded the wives of Prophet(p.b.u.h) to talk to the strangers from behind the veil so no doubt can come in their minds. If the face of a Muslimah remains uncovered so the doubt will definitely come to the minds of the people.
Surah Noor Verse 60
In this verse, Allah commanded that an old woman is free to take off her shawl as she has no desire of marriage. To take off her clothes means she can take her shawl off her face.
Naqab is permissible
Following are the arguments in favor of 2nd school of thought.
Duties are Clearly Mentioned in Quran
The scholars said that the duties which are necessary to fulfill are clearly mentioned in Quran like salah, fasting, zakat, Hajj etc. For hijab it is mentioned in Quran to cover your heads and chest with a shawl. There should be no contradiction in it.
Chest is the Main Focus
According to scholars the chest is the main focus in a woman’s body. Science also proves that 68 percent of man look at the chest of woman while meeting her. So Allah ruled to hide your chest.
According to the scholars, the duties which are recommended (mustahib), will become forbidden(haram) during condition of ehraam while performing Hajj but no compulsory ( wajib) duty like salah, fasting can become forbidden during ehraam. So if covering the face is wajib then why is it haram or forbidden to cover the face during ehraam.
It is also forbidden to cover the face during offering salah, so it will be impossible for a woman to offer salah in a mosque.
Eyes the Dart of Satan
Another plea of the scholars is that the most beautiful feature of ones face are eyes. Secondly, the eyes are the darts of satan so what is the purpose of covering the whole face when eyes are not covered.
Surah Noor Verse 31
In this verse, Allah (S.W.T) clearly commanded the woman to cover their heads and chest with a shawl besides the things which cannot be covered. There is no ambiguity in this verse which needs to be explain. The things which cannot be covered are face, hands and feet.
Surah Ahzab Verse 59
In this verse Allah commanded the woman to cover their bodies and heads with a shawl.
Surah Noor verse 60
In this verse, it is narrated that the old woman is free from the obligation to cover her head and chest.
Surah Ahzab Verse 59
It is narrated in this verse, that the wives of the Prophet had to cover them more than a normal woman. If they had to talk to any person, they had to hide themselves behind a curtain. Other Muslimahs are not under such obligation.
Places where Covering Face is Obligatory
There is a consensus that a place where there is a danger of strife, the woman should cover her face to avoid any harm.
Places where Covering Face is Prohibited
There is also a consensus amongst the scholars that at a place, where covering ones face can cause the problem, it is prohibited to cover the face. Like, now a days, in many countries it is prohibited by law to cover the face, so Muslimah should follow the laws of that country.
( If you find any mistake in this article then please feel free to point it out and contact us. We will try to correct it in the light of Quran and Sunnah. May Allah bless us all with the authentic knowledge of Islam. May this effort of ours ease the way of Jannah for our family. Amin)