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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Women's Hijab In Islam -Part 6

Is Nikab (Face Veil) Obligatory?

The esteemed Quraanic commentators AlTabaree and AlQurtubee have elaborated on the form of Hijaab or Jilbaab as viewed by the companions of the prophet (RAA).

AlQurtubee states that the Jilbaab is a cloth which covers the entire body. Ibn Abbaas and Ubaidah As Selman have said that its is to be fully wrapped around the women's body so that nothing appears but one eye which she can see. The Tabi'ee and Qutada (RAA) stated that the Jilbaab should be wrapped and foxed from above the forehead and made to cover the nose, (although the eyes are to show) and the chest and most of the face are to be covered.

Among the proofs used by the scholars regarding the face veil are the following:" Aishah (RAA) said: May Allah bestow his mercy on the first Muhajirat (emigrants). When Allah revealed: "and draw their head covers over their necks and bosom..." they tore their material and covered themselves with it.
Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalanee, has explained that covered themselves means: "covered their faces".

Furthermore, it has been authentically related in the Muwatta of Imaam Maalik and the Sunan of AbuDawood that the Prophet (PBUH) forbade women from covering their faces and hands during their performance of Salaat, Hajj or Umrah. This clearly indicates that wearing the face veil (Nikaab) was a common practice during the time of the prophet (PBUH), and not some people claim, a cultural practice that appeared years later.

In fact the majority of Imams and scholars are on the opinion that it is not obligatory. Among those scholars is late sheikh Naasiruddeen al-Albaanee may Allah's Mercy be on him. He said:

The main errors of those who make the face veil obligatory:

1. The interpretation of al-idnaa' in the verse of the Jilbaab to mean "covering the face". This misinterpretation is contrary to the basic meaning of the word in Arabic which is "to come close", as is mentioned in authoritative dictionaries.
However, there is sufficient evidence in the interpretation of the leading commentator on the Quran, Ibn 'Abbaas, who explained the verse saying, "She should bring the Jilbaab close to her face without covering it." It should be noted that none of the narrations used as evidence to contradict this interpretation are authentic.

2. The interpretation of Jilbaab as "a garment which covers the face." Like the previous misinterpretation, this interpretation has no basis linguistically. It is contrary to the interpretation of the leading scholars, past and present, who define the Jilbaab as a garment which women drape over their head scarves (khimaar). Even Sheikh at-Tuwaijree himself narrated this interpretation from Ibn Mas'ood and other scholars.

3. The claim of a consensus (Ijmaa') on the face being considered 'awrah. Sheikh at-Tuwaijree claimed that scholars unanimously held that the woman's face was 'awrah and many who have no knowledge, including some Ph.D. holders, have blindly followed him. In fact, it is a false claim, which no one before him has claimed. The books of Hambalite scholars which he learned from, not to mention those of others, contain sufficient proof of its falsehood.
(More to be found in Islam Web )

The Issue of Nikaab has continued to arouse extended controversy and debate between the Scholars and Jurists (Fukahaa) both past and present concerning whether it is mandatory or Favored by Allah (SWT) for the woman. And whether she subsequently falls into sin by exposing her face or not. Each of two sides clings to their own opinion that they turn support with evidences from the Quraanic verses, the prophetic Ahadeeth and the practice of the Sahaabah and their views.

One of the views on this is that the Nikaab is legally binding on the woman and she who abandons it is a sinner. It says that the woman's face which she is ordered not to reveal to non-relatives is definitely part of the Auwrah (private areas that are never to be exposed). The other view says that the Nikaab is simply recommended and encourages the woman to cover her face; however it does not place it on the level of being mandatory. Consequently, this opinion does not consider the woman falling into sin when she exposes and unveils her face as long as in doing so, she has not applied facial make up.

The dispute continues between the two viewpoints and takes on, in certain occasions bitter aspects. The advocates for making the face veil mandatory accuses the other group of following their own desires. The other group accuses their opponents with being obstinate fanatics. The matter is much broader than this and does not require accusations of obstinacy nor of following the desires but rather requires making Ijtihaad and following proofs from the Shareeah to the best of one's ability. To give the benefit of the doubt in such a situation is better and most befitting for the Muslim, limiting the points of difference and narrowing the gap of disagreement are two factors which are sought after.

As for my personal opinion in this matter I must stand by the proof that the Prophet (PBUH) forbade women from covering their face during the prayers, Umrah and Hajj. Therefore, I believe that the face veil is not obligatory but only recommended for Muslim women and that is favored by Allah yet in some special cases, that is when a Muslim woman realizes that uncovering her face might cause Fitnah. On the other hand, it is also a personal opinion of each woman and her personal freedom, either to wear the face veil or not..

A final Prayer:

"O my Lord! Verily, you are the One Whose Omnipotence can turn and change (the likings of) our hearts and eye sights! May You set firm my abidance by Your religion and make me persevere to adhere to the Islamic manner!
Allahumam I pray that you guide us along the straight path, and protect us from deviation after having followed guidance. Allahuma may your prayers and blessings be upon the leader of your messangers Mohammed (Salla Allah Alaih Wasalam), his family and companions and all who follow in their footsteps until the final hour.
Allahuma I thank you for giving me the strength, inspiration and power to write this and to help spread the word of Islam and the true teachings of our beloved Mohamed (SAAW).

Sources for my "Womens Hijab "Veil" in Islam" :
1. Amr Khaled Lecture on Alhijab, from
2. Is the Face Veil Obligatory for the Muslim Woman? Article from Islam Web.
3. I appeal to your sense of shame, for Nawal Bint Abdallah, translated by Abdul Qadir Abdul Khaliq.




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