Covering the face and hands for Muhrim and non-Muhrim women

Q 2: What is the ruling on covering the face and the hands for the Muhrim (pilgrim in the ritual state for Hajj and `Umrah) and non-Muhrim women? How can we refute the claims of those who disobey the correct ruling? Please illustrate this controversial issue in detail.

A: First, a woman should cover her face and hands, because this is the basic rule. We have given a detailed answer about the ruling on Hijab (veil). The following is the wording of the answer: Shar`y (Islamic legal) evidence indicates that a woman is required to cover her face in the presence of non-Mahram (not a spouse or an unmarriageable relative) men, because the face is the site of beauty and attraction, which the believing women have been ordered to conceal in front of (Part No. 17; Page No. 249) non-Mahram men. Allah (Glorified be He) says: ...and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands The Committee received a similar question to which it answered in the following wording: There is no disagreement among the scholars, as far as we know, that women's heads and hair should be concealed in front of non-Mahram men and that uncovering the head and the hair is Haram (prohibited). Allah (Exalted be He) says: 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). Um Salamah said that when this Ayah (Qur'anic verse) was revealed ...draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). The women of the Ansar (Helpers, inhabitants of Madinah who supported the Prophet) came out of their houses as if they had crows over their heads out of tranquility and were wearing black clothes. Ibn `Abbas said that Allah (Exalted be He) orders the believing women to cover their faces, when going out of their houses, by drawing their cloaks over their heads and revealing only one eye. Muhammad ibn Sirin said: I asked `Abidah Al-Salmany about the following Ayah: ...draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). (Part No. 17; Page No. 250) He covered his face and head and revealed his left eye. Allah (Exalted be He) shows the wisdom behind this, by saying: That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. This means that concealment is better for women so that they would be known as chaste women who preserve their honor; and, thus, no man would be encouraged to molest or harm them. Women's jilbab (loose outer garment with no front opening) is the cloak which is drawn all over their bodies. Allah (Exalted be He) says: ...and to draw their veils all over Juyûbihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) The veil refers to a head covering for women, which is equivalent to the turban worm by men. Juyubihinna refers to the opening of a garment from which a person wears the garment and takes it off. Drawing veils all over Juyubihinna means being completely concealed with it. (Part No. 17; Page No. 251) The Ayah means that women should draw the excess edge of their head covers over their bosoms and tightly cover their faces with it, so that their bosoms, necks and heads would be completely covered and they would be unrecognized. Al-Bukhari related on the authority of `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who narrated: May Allah have mercy on the early emigrant women. When the following Ayah was revealed: ...and to draw their veils all over Juyûbihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) they tore their outer garments and made veils from them. This means that they covered their heads. Ibn Abu Hatim and Abu Dawud related in the Sunan on the authority of Safiyyah bint Shaybah who narrated: While we were with `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), we mentioned the women of Quraysh and their merit. `Aishah said: The women of Quraysh were indeed good, but by Allah I have never seen any better than the women of the Ansar, who believed more strongly in the Book of Allah and had more faith in the Revelation. When Surah Al-Nur was revealed - (Part No. 17; Page No. 252)  ...and to draw their veils all over Juyûbihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) - their menfolk came back to them and recited to them what Allah had revealed. No sooner had a man recited it to his wife, daughter, sister and all other female relatives, but they all went and picked up their embroidered aprons, and covered their heads with them, in obedience to the words of the Qur'an that Allah had revealed. The next morning they stood behind the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) with their heads covered, as if there were crows on their heads. Hence, `Aishah, the Mother of the Believers, understood from the Ayah that a woman should cover her head in front of non-Mahram men. She praised the women of the Muhajirun (Emigrants from Makkah to Madinah) and praised the women of the Ansar even more, because they understood the obligation of covering their heads in front of non-Mahram men and hastened to carry out the obligation. She also praised the men of the Ansar who recited the Ayahs to their female relatives which explain the necessity of concealing the `Awrah (parts of the body that must be covered in public), preserving honor, and blocking the means leading to Fitnah (temptation). All of them were Arabs to whom the Qur'an was revealed in Arabic. They correctly understood it, the guardians were responsible for conveying it to their charges, and the women were responsible for carrying out its orders in preference for the Qur'an and Shari`ah (Islamic law) and in disagreement with the people of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic time of ignorance), who used to reveal their (Part No. 17; Page No. 253) `Awrah. Al-Tirmidhy related on the authority of Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A woman is `Awrah (i.e. her entire body must be covered). Al-Tirmidhy commented: It is a Hadith Hasan Sahih (a good and authentic Hadith). The question includes a claim that the Khimar (veil covering to the waist) is drawn back from the head to the shoulders and whenever it is placed on the head, it is drawn back again, which is tiresome. Claiming that this attracts more attention to the woman, provokes mockery, and causes embarrassment is not an excuse for a Muslim woman to reveal her head and beauty. It can be avoided by tightening the Khimar and covering the face with it. This is easy for a woman who lives in a Muslim country and is brought up in a house that observes the teachings of Islam and the Hijab. In fact, any Muslim woman who wants to observe the rules of lawful clothing and tightening the Hijab can easily find a way to do this. Muslim women should hold fast to their Din (religion) of Islam, especially in places where corruption and depravation have spread and where practicing Muslim women who observe their chastity by wearing the Hijab are subject to mockery. She should be stronger in resisting Fitnah and have pride in herself, her morals, and her honorable customs which she inherited from her early Islamic environment, so as to be a role model for her fellow sisters. (Part No. 17; Page No. 254) This may encourage other women to observe the means leading to preserving their chastity and protecting themselves from the sins committed by those who have weak determination, faith, and humanity. May Allah protect all women from being led astray and facilitate knowledge for them and safety from this evil. Accordingly, it is clear that a woman, who is not in the state of Ihram (ritual state for Hajj and `Umrah), must cover her head, face, and hands in the presence of non-Mahram men. Second, a Muhrim woman should uncover her face and hands, because it was authentically reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him), who said: A Muhrim woman should not cover her face or wear gloves. (Related by Al-Bukhari). However, if she sees non-Mahram men, she should cover her face and hands. This is based on the following Hadith related by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah on the authority of `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), who narrated: Riders would pass 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. (Part No. 17; Page No. 255) May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.