‘AL-Hijab’ - The veil
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
‘AL-Hijab’ - The veil
One of the controversies of today is the issue of the veil or hijab, what is commonly known as the covering of the Muslimah (Muslim women). The west looks upon Muslim countries that encourage the covering of its women as something oppressive, barbaric and demeaning; this point was clearly seen when the Taliban regime was in power in Afghanistan, and the condemnation it received from countries such as Britain and America. France has even outlawed the hijab in its schools and government institutions. Countries such as Turkey and Tunisia had taken similar steps long before even France, and they are supposed to be Muslim countries! In the name of modernism and feminism many groups have risen in Muslim countries to dissuade Muslim women from covering, apparently this reformation will bring Islam into the 21st centaury.
This treatise has been written in order to provide clarification on the issue of the hijab.
Why do Muslim women cover?
Muslim women cover in order to fulfil an obligation from Allah (swt), and that is to cover all that is considered awrah (parts of the body that are not supposed to be exposed to others) and to leave exposed all that is allowed to be apparent, which the scholars of Islam agree are the face and hands of a woman.
The evidences supporting the request to cover
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an,
﴿ قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ ﴾
“Say to the believers to lower the gaze and to protect and cover their awrah, [Surah An Nur 24:30]
The above verse is general for both the believing men and women; the two main points being:
1. To lower the gaze and
2. To cover the awrah.
And in another verse,
﴿ وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ ﴾
And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (face and hands), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. necks and bosoms, etc.) [Surah An Nur 24:31]
This verse specifically addresses the believing women and mentions four points:
1. Lowering the gaze
3. Covering all except hands and face
4. Special reference to ensure chest area is covered.
The correct manner of covering
Though the command to cover is accepted by most Muslim women, we find there are different interpretations to what is considered covering. For some just wearing western clothes such as a trouser suit or jeans and tee-shirt is enough. For others a more traditional look of shalwar and khameez (loose trouser and shirt), or the sari (one piece wrap) is considered covering.
The fact is whatever is worn must fulfil the divine requirements for covering, which is to leave only the hands and face of a women showing.
What must be considered?
1: The Extent of Covering
Amongst the authentic ahadith which clarify this point is the following:
Ibn `Umar (raa) reported that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said,
“On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will not look at the man who trails his garment along out of pride.” Umm Salamah then asked: “What should women do with (the hems of) their garments?” He replied: “Let them lower them a hand span. She said: Their feet would be exposed! He then said: Let them lower them a forearm’s length but no more.” [At-Tabarani-Sahih]
2: Thickness of the Garment
The garment should be thick and opaque so as not to display the skin color and form of the body beneath it. Delicate or transparent clothing does not constitute a proper covering.
Imam Al-Qurtubi reports a narration from ‘Aiesha (ra) that some women from ‘Banu Tameem’ (an Arab tribe) came to see her wearing transparent clothing. ‘Aiesha said to them: ‘If you are believing women, these are not the clothes of believing women.”
He also reports that a bride came to see her, wearing a sheer, transparent ‘Khimaar’ whereupon ‘Aiesha (ra) said,
“A woman who wears such clothing does not believe in ‘Surah An-Nur’.
Moreover, the following ‘hadith’ (narrative) makes this point graphically clear. The Messenger (saw) said,
"There will be in the last of my ‘Ummah’ (Muslim Nation), scantily dressed women, the hair on the top of their heads like a camel’s hump. Curse them, for verily they are cursed.”
In another version, the Messenger (saw) said: “…scantily dressed women, who go astray and makes others go astray; they will not enter Paradise nor smell its fragrance, although it can be smelled from afar.” [At-Tabarani] [Muslim]
“Scantily dressed women” are those who wear clothing which reveals more than it conceals, thereby increasing her attractiveness while opening the path to a host of evils.
3: Looseness of the Garment
The clothing must hang loosely enough and not be so tight-fitting as to show the shape and size of the woman’s body. This obviously includes such things as skin-tight body suits, etc. The following hadith proves this point clearly:
Usama ibn Zayd (ra) said, ‘The Prophet (saw) gave me a gift of thick Coptic cloth he had received as a gift from Dahiah Al- Kalbee, and so I gave it to my wife. Thereafter the Prophet (saw) asked me: “Why didn’t you wear the Coptic cloth? I replied: I gave it to my wife. The Prophet (saw) then said: Tell her to wear a thick gown under it (the Coptic garment) for I fear that it may describe the size of her limbs.” [Ahmad] [ Al Bayhaqi] and [Al-Hakkim]
4: Color, Appearance and Demeanor of the Garment
A garment which is intended to conceal a woman and her beauty from public view cannot be a thing which enhances her beauty. Therefore, the garment cannot contain bright colors, bold designs or shiny and reflective material that draws men’s attention to the wearer, this is called Tabarruj.
The Arabic word, ‘At-Tabarruj’ means not only “to display oneself” but also “to spruce up one’s charms for the purpose of exciting desire”.
Imam Adh-Dhahabi says in his book Kitab Al-Kaba’ir (The Book of Major Sins):
“Amongst the deeds which a woman is cursed for are displaying the adornments she wears, wearing perfume when she goes out, and wearing colorful clothes...” Hence, the Muslim woman is encouraged to wear muted, somber colors and to avoid bright designs, patterns and colors.
5: Difference from Men’s Clothing
The clothing of a Muslim woman must not resemble the clothing of men. The following two hadith explain this.
Abu Hurairah (ra) said, “The Prophet (saw) cursed the man who wears women’s clothes and the woman who wears men’s clothes”. [Abu Dawud] and [Ibn Majah]
Abdullah ibn `Umar (ra) said he heard Allah’s Messenger (saws) say, “The man who resembles a woman and the woman who resembles a man is not of us (i.e., not of the believers).” [Ahmad] and [At-Tabarani-Sahih]
Additionally, Abu Dawud relates a narration from Umm Salamah (ra) which shows that the Prophet (saw) forbade women to bundle their Khumoor on their heads in such a way as to resemble the turban of a man.
6: Difference from the Clothing of Unbelievers
Her clothing must not resemble the clothing of the unbelievers. This is a general ruling of the ‘Sharia’h which encompasses not only dress but also such things as manners, customs, religious practices and festivities, transactions, etc. Indeed, dissimilarity with unbelievers is a precedent that was established by the first generation of Islam.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-’Aas said, “The Prophet (saw) saw me wearing two saffron colored garments, so he said: “Indeed, these are the clothes of ‘Kuffar’ (unbelievers), so do not wear them.” [Sahih Muslim]
7: The garment must not be perfumed
On the authority of Ad’Diya Al-Maqdisi, the Prophet (saw) said,
“Any woman who perfumes herself and passes by some people that they smell her scent, then she is a ‘Zaniyah’ (adulteress).”
8: No Vanity or Ostentatious Dressing
The woman’s dress must not be an expression of ostentation, vanity or as a status symbol by being excessively showy or expensive, nor must it be excessively tattered so as to gain admiration and fame for being extremely humble.
Ibn ‘Umar (ra) reported that the Prophet (saw) said: “Whoever dresses for ostentation in this world, Allah will dress that person in a dress of humiliation on the Day of Resurrection, and then set it on fire.” [Abu Dawud]