A recent comment by a renowned religious icon published by both the English and Malay newspapers has reiginited the clamour of calling for the ban of the niqab (face veil) in several European countries such as the UK, France and Canada.
His comment, “The niqab is a tradition and has nothing to do with Islam”, has provided leverage for non-Muslim ministers in those European nations to pursue with this intolerant stand.
Insha Allah, this will be a 3-part article that will examine this issue in the following sequence:
Part 1 - The Proofs for the Obligation of Face-Veiling
Part 2 - The Proofs that Face-Veiling is Non-Obligatory
Part 3 - Conclusion
PART 1 - The Proofs for the Obligation of Face-Veiling
1) The Noble Qur'an - An-Nur 24:31
"And (tell the believing women) not to show off their zeenah (adornment) except only that which is apparent."
This (which is apparent) refers to that which is unable to be concealed such as the outer garments like the jilbab, the veil and so on. Or it refers to that which has been exposed unintentionally due to some unintended cause.
Furthermore, it has been authentically reported from Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنه that Allah's statement, "except only that which is apparent" means the (outer) garment. This is also the opinion of al-Hasan and Ibn Sireen.
2) The Noble Qur'an - Al-Ahzaab 33:59
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their jalabeeb (plural of jilbab) all over themselves. 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.”
Ibn ‘Abbaas رضي الله عنه said: “Allaah commanded the believing women, if they go out of their houses for some need, to cover their faces from the top of their heads with their jilbaabs, and to leave one eye showing.”
Ibn Katheer رحمه الله said: Ibn Sireen رحمه الله said: "I asked 'Ubaydah as-Salmaanee about Allah's statement (as above), so he covered his face and (only) exposed his left eye."
Ibn al-Jawzee رحمه الله said: "It means they must cover their heads and faces so that they may be known as free women. The definition of a jilbab is a loose garment as has been stated by Ibn Qutaybah رحمه الله ."
3) Authenticated hadeeth from Musnad Ahmad
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “When any one of you proposes marriage to a woman, there is no sin on him if he looks at her, rather he should look at her for the purpose of proposing marriage even if she is unaware.” Narrated by Ahmad. Ibn Hajar al-Haithami رحمه الله said in Majma’ al-Zawaa’id: "Its men are the men of saheeh."
The evidence here is the fact that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said there is no sin on the man who is proposing marriage. This indicates that the one who is NOT proposing marriage is sinning if he looks at a non-mahram woman in ordinary circumstances,(for the purpose of enjoyment, etc). The man who is proposing marriage will no doubt look at the face because it is the focus for the one who is seeking beauty.
4) Authenticated hadeeth from as-Saheehayn (Imam Bukhari and Muslim)
'Aishah رضي الله عنها said: The Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم used to pray Fajr and the believing women would attend the prayer with him, wrapped in their veils, then they would go back to their homes and no one would recognize them because of the darkness. She said: "If the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم saw from the women what we have seen, he would have prevented them from coming to the mosques as the Children of Israel prevented their women."
A similar report was also narrated by Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنه .
The hadith shows that the hijaab and veil were the practice of the women of the Sahaabah who were the best of generations and the most honourable before Allaah.
'Aishah رضي الله عنها , the Mother of the Believers and Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنه who were both known as scholars with deep insight, said that if the Messenger had seen from women what they had seen, he would have prevented them from coming to the mosques. This was during the best generations, so what about the state of women today?
5) Authenticated hadeeth from Sunan at-Tirmidhi
Ibn ‘Umar رضي الله عنه said: The Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “Whoever lets his garment drag out of pride, Allaah will not look at him on the Day of Resurrection.” Umm Salamah رضي الله عنها said, “What should women do with their hems?” He said, “Let it hang down a handspan.” She said, “What if that shows her feet?” He said, “Let it hang down a cubit, but no more than that.” Narrated by at-Tirmidhi رحمه الله ; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh at-Tirmidhi.
The wisdom of sharee’ah means that it would not enjoin covering something that is a lesser source of temptation and allow uncovering something that is a greater source of temptation. The feet are undoubtedly a lesser source of temptation than the face and hands.
6) Reliable hadeeth from Sunan Abu Dawood
‘Aishah رضي الله عنها said: The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم in ihraam. When they came near us we would lower our jilbaabs from our heads over our faces, and when they had passed by we would uncover our faces. Narrated by Abu Dawood , #1562. According to al-Albani رحمه الله in Jilbab al-Marah al-Muslimah, it was also narrated by Ahmad and Ibn Majah رحمه الله , and it is hasan (good) due to the existence of shawahid (corroborating evidence).
This indicates that it is obligatory to cover the face, because what is prescribed in ihraam is to uncover it. If there was no strong reason to prevent uncovering it, it would be obligatory to leave it uncovered even when the riders were passing by.
Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah رحمه الله said: "This is one of the things which indicate that the niqaab and gloves were known among women who were not in ihraam, which implies that they covered their faces and hands."
7) Authenticated hadeeth from Sunan at-Tirmidhi
Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنه said that the the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "The woman is 'awrah." Narrated by at-Tirmidhi; Shaykh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid in his fatwa said that it has a saheeh isnad.
Imam Ahmad رحمه الله when commenting on this hadeeth said: "A woman's fingernail is 'awrah. So when she goes out of her home, she must not reveal any part of herself, not even her khuff (leather footwear), for the khuff describes the foot. What is preferred in my opinion, is that she put a button on her sleeve where her hand is so that nothing can be exposed from her."
Many scholars and imams throughout history have come up with the same understanding as Imam Ahmad رحمه الله about this hadeeth of Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنه or similar texts, that the entire body of a free woman is 'awrah without the exception of face and hands.
To summarize, the opinion that the wearing of niqab is obligatory is famous amongst the great sahabahs, tabi'iens, scholars of tafseer, scholars of hadeeth and scholars from the madhahib of the Malikis, Shafa'is and Hanbalis رحمه الله .
To state that niqab is not from Islamic tradition is a statement of ignorance of the Islamic proofs and evidences at hand, and an insult towards the multitude of works of some of the greatest Islamic scholars in history.
May those who deny the niqab hold their tongues out of wara' (fear of Allah) and may they be granted Taufeeq and Hidayah so that they may say that which is fair and just based upon sound knowledge.
1) Wujoob Sitr-il-Wajhi wal-Kafayn, Shaykh Zayd bin Muhammad Al-Madkhalee
English translation - "The Obligation of Veiling the Face and Hands"
2) Risaalat al-Hijaab, Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen
English translation - "The Veil is Obligatory with Detailed Proofs"