Hijab in the Light of the Qur'an and Hadith
chapter is based on an authoritative Arabic book titled Hijab al-Mar'ah
al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah, by Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani, a famous
scholar and traditionist. It was translated by this writer and initially
published in condensed form in the quarterly, Islam and the Modern Age.
The third edition of the original work with some
additions is before me. The question of hijab (veil), the author tells us, has
been discussed in the light of the Qur'an and Hadith.
From the author's point of view, a woman's face is not
included in the parts of the body that need to be compulsorily covered. He
suggests, however, that it is better to cover it. He agrees with those who, in
spite of holding the view that the face is not to be covered as a rule,
nevertheless advocate the covering of the face in order to discourage mischief,
in view of the general moral degradation in present-day society. Here is one of
the traditions referred to by him to support his argument.
'Aishah says that Muslim women used to attend the Morning
Prayer led by the Prophet wrapped in a sheet of cloth. Afterwards, when they
returned home, it was so dark that they could not be recognized.
This narrative makes it clear that their faces were not
covered. Had their faces been covered, the question of their being recognized
would not arise. The phrase "because of the darkness they could not be
recognized" makes sense only if the faces, by which individuals are recognized,
Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani takes a similar stand as
regards the covering of a woman's hands, quoting a famous tradition narrated by
Ibn 'Abbas. It says that once the Messenger of God addressed the women to urge
them to give alms (Sadaqah). Afterwards Bilal ibn Rabah, a Companion of the
Prophet, spread a sheet, on which the women began throwing their rings.
After quoting this tradition the author quotes Ibn Hazm:
"Ibn 'Abbas saw the hands of women in the presence of the Prophet. This proves
that the face as well as the hands are not included in the parts of the body to
be covered. Indeed all other parts except these have to be veiled?"
He further writes: My heart bleeds to see the way many
women of today adorn themselves, crossing all limits of decency. But the remedy
does not lie in declaring forbidden what Allah has permitted.
He goes on to say that it is clear from the Qur'an, the
Hadith and the practice of the Companions and Tabi'in (companions of the
Prophet's Companions) that, whenever a woman steps out of her home, it is
incumbent upon her to cover herself completely so as not to show any part of her
body except the face and the hands. According to Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani's
findings the following rules of hijab are applicable:
1. The whole body, except for the exempted parts should
2. But any veil, which in itself becomes an attraction,
is to be avoided.
3. Garments should not be semi-transparent.
4. Dress should not be tight fitting.
5. Garments should not be perfumed.
6. The form of dress should not in any way resemble that
7. It should not resemble that of non-believers.
8. Garments should not reflect worldly honor.
The first rule of hijab has been derived from the
following passages of the Qur'an: "And tell the
believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their
adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their
bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers
or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers
or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or
male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know naught of women's
nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of
their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may
The second rule of hijab, according to Muhammad
Nasiruddin al-Albani's research, is that hijab in
itself should not be a source of attraction. It should not become a
display of finery referred to in the Qur'an as 'tabarruj':
"Stay in your homes and do not display your finery as
women used to do in the days of Jahiliyah (period before Islam). Attend to your
prayers, give alms to the poor, and obey God and His Messenger, God only wishes
to remove uncleanliness from you (members of the family), and to purify you."
( 33:33 )
According to the author, the intention of this verse is
that a woman should not display her beauty and attraction in such a way as to
produce carnal desires in the hearts of men. Since the purpose of the gown
(jilbab) is to hide such attractions, it is, therefore, unimaginable that the
gown itself should become a source of attraction.
He states, moreover, that in Islam the displaying of
feminine attractions is a habit so important to avoid that it has been bracketed
in the scriptures along with such unlawful things as polytheism, adultery and
theft. He has collected a number of ahadith to support his argument.
The third rule of the hijab, according to the writer, is
that the garment should not be thin because a thin cloth can never provide
cover. And a diaphanous garment only accentuates the attraction of a woman and
becomes a potential source of mischief. The author quotes many sayings of the
Prophet Muhammad, one of which is as follows:
"Towards the end (in the last phase) there will be women
among my followers who appear naked, or as good as naked, even when wearing
The fourth condition set by the writer is that the
garment should be loose-fitting. He again supports his argument by quoting
various sayings of the Prophet. Finally he has given an instance where Fatimah
(the Prophet's daughter) expressed her disapproval of a dead woman being wrapped
in such a shroud as might display her body as being a woman's. He wrote: "See
for yourself how the dearest daughter of the Prophet considered the use of such
a cloth detestable as would not properly drape feminine parts of a dead woman's
body. Certainly such a garment for a living woman would be far worse!"
The fifth condition of hijab is that the garment should
not be perfumed (while going out). There are many traditions forbidding women to
wear perfume while going out wearing adornments and perfume is a major sin, even
if it is done with the husband's permission."
The sixth condition of hijab is that a woman's garments
should not resemble those of men. Here is one of the traditions he has quoted to
this effect: "The Prophet has condemned men who imitate women and women who
imitate men." From this tradition the writer comes to the conclusion that a
garment which in most parts resembles those of men is not permissible for women,
even if it covers her adequately.
The seventh rule of hijab is that it should not resemble
that worn by non-believers. Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani says that any
similarly to non-believers must be avoided, in matters of worship, festivals and
dress. The Qur'an states this briefly, but the Sunnah provides the detail. One
of the verses that it is: "so that they may not be like those who were given the
scriptures before this…"
He quotes Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Kathir who construe this
verse as meaning that imitation of non-believers is not allowed in Islam. Then
he quotes the tradition in which the Prophet forbade adopting the ways of
non-believers in prayers, funeral prayers, sacrifice, food, dress etiquette,
The eighth rule of hijab is that a woman's garments
should not reflect worldly honor. Here is a hadith to this effect: "One who
wears the mantle of fame in this world will be made to wear the robe of dishonor
in the hereafter."
His concluding remarks are: "the garment (dress) should
cover the entire body of a woman except the face and hands, and should not
become an attraction in itself. Neither should it be thin, not tight. It should
not accentuate the body. It should not be perfumed or resemble those worn by men
or non-believing women. It should not suggest fame."