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Rebuking those who claim Hijab to a cultual tradition, and not a religious obligaion

From Fatawa Ibn Baaz

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds. May Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon the noblest Prophet and Messenger Muhammad, his family, and Companions.

I have read an article written by the person, called Ahmad Baha' Al-Din in some newspapers. He alleged the lawfulness of some things that Allah prohibits. In his column "Yawmiyyat", (Al-Ahram Newspaper, issues nos. 36992, 36993, 36994, 36996), the writer launched a severe attack on Hijab (veil) and Niqab (faceveil).

  • He called to unveiling the face and considered Hijab a Bid`ah (innovation in religion).
  • He claimed it is just a matter of dress that is part of personal freedom.
  • He even alleged that women used to wear Niqab as a tradition and Islam did not ordain or come with it.
  • He falsely claimed that women used to sit with the Prophet (peace be upon him) unveiled and used to go for trade, pasturing and war with their faces uncovered and they remained in such a state during the era of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, the Umayyad, and Abbasid Caliphates.

He said that when the Turks embraced Islam, they spread their non-Islamic traditions of their tribes, such as the one-eyed veil, yashmak, and imposed them on Muslim and Arab women.

The writer expressed his views on the permissibility of unveiling the face, denied Hijab, inserted false claims and lies, and twisted the proofs to give different implications.

It is known that urging women to unveil their faces is an evil call, rejected by Islam and the sound intellect; it is an anti-Islamic idea, indeed.

A Muslim is encouraged to do whatever may increase his or her record of good deeds and decrease his or her bad ones, overtly and covertly, in words and actions, and should stay away from temptations and their means and their evil ends.

Similarly, scholars are commanded to promulgate good and teach it in all forms, such as acts of worship, transactions, and Islamic etiquettes among individuals and in the whole society. Those who call to unveiling women's faces advocate that out of unawareness and ignorance of the evil consequences of this call or out of ill intention and purpose, paying no attention to virtuous morals. They may call to the unveiling of women's faces out of hostility and hatred, as the way of the traitors and enemies of Islam who are plotting for this great corruption and dangerous plague night and day, secretly and openly, individually and collectively.

Such people call to liberate women from virtue, honor, bashfulness, and chastity to stoop down into meanness, vice, and immodesty.

A Muslim must avoid the sources of evil and traps of Satan in words and actions.

A Muslim assuming the process of instructing people should call them to the way of guidance and truth, bring them closer to the means of infallibility and distance them from the places of temptation and suspicion in order to become a godly scholar.

It is narrated that `Ali ibn Abu Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said to Kumayl ibn Ziyad in his will: "O Kumayl, The people are three: a godly scholar; a seeker of knowledge who is on the path of salvation; and worthless confused riffraff who respond to every cry, bend along with every wind, take no benefit from the light of knowledge and resort to no firm stand."

Calling to unveiling the face and rejecting Hijab brings about no good to Muslims, male or female, both in the worldly life or in the Hereafter. It only results in evil, profligacy, and wicked things detested most by Allah. Wisdom and well-being of Muslims lie in the act of adhering to Hijab, not unveiling the face in any case. In principle, Hijab is an act of worship as Islam orders it and forbids discarding it in the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), as will be discussed later.

Wearing Hijab protects women, since it helps man lower his gaze from what Allah (may He be Praised) ordered Muslims not to look at, ends desire of the wicked people whom there is disease in their hearts and keeps women away from intermixing with men. Hijab also covers the woman's Awrah (private parts of the body that must be covered in public) that stimulates men's sexual desires.

Tabarruj (women dressed immodestly in violation of the Islamic dress code) does not only mean that a woman has discarded her Hijab but rather she no longer abides by the Shariah of Allah, infringing His orders and calling to immorality. Eliminating temptation constitutes the very rationale behind ordering women to wear Hijab, since indulging in ways and causes of temptation is prohibited in Islam. It is clear that it is obligatory upon the Muslim woman to cover her face and attractive parts (of the body) as stated by the Qur'an, Sunnah, and Ijma (consensus of scholars) of the Salaf (righteous predecessors).

For instance, proofs of wearing Hijab and prohibition of unveiling the face in the Qur'an include what Allah (Exalted be He) says:

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, and to draw their veils all over JuyŻbihinna and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband‘s fathers, or their sons, or their husband‘s sons, or their brothers or their brother‘s sons, or their sister‘s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Isl‚m), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg All‚h to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.

In this noble Ayah (Qur'anic verse), the obligation of wearing Hijab and prohibition of unveiling the face are stressed in two places:

(i) Allah (Exalted be He) says:and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent

It prohibits a woman to disclose anything of her adornments except what Allah excludes, i.e. her outer garments and any part which is unintentionally exposed. This is confirmed when Allah (may He be Praised) repeated the prohibition of exposing women's adornments in the same Ayah.

(ii) Allah (Exalted be He) says:and to draw their veils all over JuyŻbihinna

It explicitly orders the Muslim woman to draw her veil from the head to the bosom, because the face is part of the head that must be covered based on reason, Shari`ah and people's customs. Nobody can say that the face does not belong to the head, and there is no text in the Qur'an or Sunnah excluding it from the head.

Some scholars say that the face is not included in the general obligation of covering, but this is linguistically unaccepted as well as the Shari`ah and opinions of the early and late scholars oppose it. Scholars of Usul-ul-Fiqh (principles of Islamic jurisprudence) and Hadith sciences mentioned two rules that refute this claim.

First, affirmative evidence is given precedence over negative evidence.

Second, when permitting evidence conflicts with the banning evidence, preference is given to the latter, i.e. the one that bans.

Allah (may He be Praised) knows the means of temptation that women have, so He ordered them to cover them in order not to cause temptation lest the person in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire.

Adornment that a woman is prohibited to show refers to everything that a man loves to see of women, including the natural and artificial adornment that a woman may make to beautify and adorn her body.

The natural adornment includes her face, hair, hands, legs, bosom, and the like. It is admittedly true that the face is the place of beauty and certainly the main source of temptation that provokes men's sexual desires. Therefore, it is with greater reason prohibited more than any other adornment a woman may apply to her body.

In his Tafsir, Al-Qurtuby said, "Adornments are either innate or artificial. The innate one includes the face, which is the source of adornment and symbol of beauty that carries the sense of life. That is because it contains the means of acquiring knowledge. As for the artificial adornment, it refers to things that a woman adds to beautify her disposition, such as clothes, jewelry, kohl, and dye."

Moreover, Al-Baydawy said in his Tafsir:and not to reveal their adornment refers to jewels, clothes, dyes, and the places to which they are applied, thus are all forbidden to be seen by foreign men.

Knowing that the face is unquestionably the source of beauty, Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) prohibited women to disclose anything of her adornment. This is a general rule for which there are no exceptions in the Qur'an or Sunnah, nor is it permissible to be specified by an opinion of anyone.

Specification introduced by anyone in this regard is not acceptable, because the general texts of the Qur'an and Sunnah cannot be specified by humans, conjectures, or individual reasoning.

The general texts of the Qur'an can be specified only by the Qur'an, authentic Sunnah, or 'Ijma` of the Salaf. It is not possible that the artificial adornment becomes prohibited to unveil, so how can the innate adornment, i.e. the face, be permitted to appear?

The saying of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He):except only that which is apparent according to Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) and a group of early scholars of Tafsir, means what the woman cannot hide, such as her cloak or clothes or what the Arab women used to spread over all her clothes or the bottom parts of their clothes or what may unintentionally appear.

Thus, a Muslim woman is prohibited to expose anything of her adornment and is commanded to try her best to cover everything related to her adornment.

When Allah (may He be Praised) forbids a woman to disclose anything of her beauty except that which is apparent, He instructs her on how she could surround the places of adornment by wrapping the veil that she wears on the head, saying:and to draw their veils i.e. from the head and forehead and to draw their veils all over JuyŻbihinna i.e. down to her bosom. In doing so, she would preserve the head and its organs, the chest from below, the neck and the surrounding areas to make sure that she covered both the innate and the artificial adornment.

At the end of the Ayah, Allah (Exalted be He) says:And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.

He prohibits the woman to avoid the causes of temptation even by movement or voice. This is the utmost point of encouraging and guiding the Muslim woman to preserve her honor and remove harm from her.

Prohibition of unveiling both the innate and artificial adornment of women is supported by the action of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) with his wife Safiyyah and the reaction of the Mothers of the Believers and the believing women at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) when this Ayah and another Ayah in Surah Al-'Ahzab were revealed.

Both Ayahs enjoined full covering of women with veils and cloaks, particularly that women at that time used to unveil their faces and hands until the Ayah of Hijab was revealed. Therefore, unveiling the face of some women as mentioned in some Hadiths took place before the revelation of the Ayahs of Hijab, so it is not permissible to use them as evidence on making lawful what Allah prohibited, because the abrogating evidence prevails over the abrogated, as stated by the scholars.

Ayahs of enjoining Hijab include the Ayah stated above from Surah Al-Nur and the following Ayah in which Allah (Exalted be He) says in Surah Al-Ahzab:

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 All‚h is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Scholars said that the word "cloak" includes every piece of clothes that a woman wears over her hand and veil to cover the places of both innate and artificial adornment.

Allah (Exalted be He) says:That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) and this indicates that the face is meant here because the face is the main place of recognition.

Thus, the Ayah clearly states the obligation of covering the face. Allah's saying:so as not to be annoyed. assures that recognizing the beautiful parts of a woman has harmful effects, temptation, and evil for her and others. For that reason, Allah (Exalted be He) prohibited a Muslim woman to disclose anything that makes others realize her beauty.

This Ayah is clear enough to work as Shar`y evidence on the prohibition of unveiling the face and obligation of Hijab and covering women's sources of beauty, which basically include the face through which she is recognized and that causes temptation.

Umm Salamah said, "When this Ayah:draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. was revealed, women of Ansar (Helpers, inhabitants of Madinah who supported the Prophet) went out of their homes as if they had crows on their heads out of calmness and they were covered with black clothes."

Ibn `Abbas said: "Allah ordered women of the believers to cover their faces by drawing the cloak over their heads and expose only one eye when they go out."

Muhammad Ibn Sirin said: "I asked `Ubaidah Al-Salmany about the meaning of Allah's saying, draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. , he covered his face and head, and exposed his left eye."

Scholars of Tafsir (exegesis of the Qur'an) have many sayings in this topic, but it is not (necessary) to list them all here.

Among the Ayahs that enjoin Hijab is what Allah (Exalted be He) says:And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen: that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. affirms the obligation on women to wear Hijab and cover themselves in front of men.

In this noble Ayah, Allah (may He be Praised) explained the wisdom behind this obligation - that is, wearing the Hijab purifies the hearts of both men and women and keeps them away from indecency and its means

This Ayah generally addresses both wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and all Muslim women.

Al-Qurtuby (may Allah be merciful with him) states that the meaning of the Ayah encompasses all women due to the fact that a woman is entirely Awrah including her body and voice, so she is not permitted to disclose them except when necessary, as in cases of carrying legal testimony or for medical treatment.

There are many Ayahs that lend support to the obligation of wearing Hijab.

Al-Qurtuby's emphasis that a woman's voice is Awrah means that it is Awrah when accompanied by softness.

However, her natural voice is not Awrah, because Allah (may He be Praised) says: O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to All‚h), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner.

Allah (may He be Praised) forbade them to speak softly lest the one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with sexual desire and allowed them to speak in an honorable manner.

Women in the era of the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to talk to and ask him without condemning them, and so did women in the era of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Companions did not condemn them either. This certainly took place beyond any shadow of doubt.

As for the legal foundations for this ruling from the Sunnah:

It is authentically reported in the Two Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith (i.e. Al-Bukhari and Muslim) that:

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered that women should go out to the place of performing `Eid Prayer, one of them said: "What about a woman that has no veil?" He (peace be upon him) said: "Let her share the veil of her sister companion." (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

This Hadith indicates that the wives of the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) used to not go out without a Jilbab (loose outer garment with no front opening). This order to wear Jilbab signifies that a woman must cover herself and wear Hijab.

Also, it is authentically reported in the Two Sahih Books of Hadith that `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:Some believing women used to attend the Fajr Prayer with Allah‘s Messenger (peace be upon him) while covered with their Muruts (wool clothes). After finishing the prayer, they would return to their homes without being recognized by anyone because of the darkness.

Scholars from among the righteous predecessors unanimously agreed that a Muslim woman must cover her face and that her face is Awrah that she must cover in front of men except a Mahram (spouse or unmarriageable relative).

Ibn Qudamah stated in Al-Mughny: "Ihram (ritual state for Hajj and `Umrah) of the woman is in her face, but she is permitted to cover her face when needed. In fact, it is prohibited for a Muslim woman to cover her face in the state of Ihram as a man is prohibited to cover his head.

There is an exceptional case reported from Asma' who used to cover her face in the state of Ihram. Al-Bukhari and others narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:A woman (in the state of Ihram) should not wear Niqab (faceveil) or gloves.

However, if she needs to cover her face when passing by men, she is permitted to draw her veil all over her face. It is narrated that `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:Riders would pass by us when we accompanied the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) while we were in the state of Ihram. When they came by us, one of us would let down her outer garment from her head over her face, and when they had passed on, we would uncover our faces.

A woman in the state of Ihram is forbidden to wear Niqab, Burqu` (a face veil) or any piece of cloth made specifically for covering the face; yet, she is not prohibited to wear Hijab entirely.

Ahmad said: "A woman is permitted to draw the veil over her face, but she is not allowed to roll up her clothes."

Ibn Rushd said in Al-Bidayah [i.e. Bidayat Al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat Al-Muqtasid, a fiqh book]: "Scholars unanimously agreed that a woman's Ihram is to unveil her face and that she is permitted to cover her head and screen her hair. She is allowed to draw her clothes all over her face lightly to screen herself from men's sight."

These quotations affirm that Muslim scholars unanimously agree that a woman should uncover her face in the state of Ihram and that she must cover it in the presence of non-Mahram men. Uncovering the face is obligatory on women in the state of Ihram; thus, it is with greater reason obligatory to cover it elsewhere.

Actually, Asma' (may Allah be pleased with her) used to cover her face all the time, wearing Niqab while a woman in the state of Ihram is not permissible as the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade it in the Hadith mentioned above, which is considered one of the greatest proofs that women used to cover their faces in the normal conditions.

As for the meaning of his saying,A woman (in the state of Ihram) should not wear Niqab or gloves , it means that she should not wear whatever is tailored or made specifically for the purpose of covering the face like Niqab or the hands like gloves.

It does not mean that she should not cover her face or palms at all, as some people falsely understood. The face and the palms must be covered, but with something other than Niqab and gloves. This is how the jurists and scholars explained the Hadith, such as the prominent scholar Al-San`any (may Allah be merciful with him).

Thus, it is clear that a woman must wear Hijab and cover her face, and that she is forbidden to disclose any part of her body or adornment except what unintentionally appears. This ban blocks the means of temptation. Thus, any person who calls for anything else commits a mistake and contradicts the Shar`y (Islamically lawful) proofs.

Nobody is permitted to follow whims and traditions that oppose the Shari`ah of Allah (may He be Praised), because Islam is the religion of truth, guidance, and fairness in every matter.

Islam calls to the noble morals and good deeds and forbids the bad morals and evil deeds. Allah is the One Whom we invoke to guide us and all Muslims to do what pleases Him, and the One Whom we ask to protect us from the evil of our selves and misdeeds - He is the Most Generous.

May Allah's peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions!

Fatwas of Ibn Baz>Volume 5>The legality of Hijab