The legitimacy of women going out

Q 1: Allah (Exalted be He) says: And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance Does this Ayah (Qur'anic verse) address only the Messenger's wives? What is the legitimacy for women going out for example, to the Masjid (mosque) or to fulfill their needs?

A: First, the Ayah is not confined to the Prophet's wives; rather, it addresses all believing women. It was originally revealed concerning the Prophet's wives but the ruling applies to all the believing women, for they are all commanded to stay in their homes, and obey Allah (Exalted be He) and His Messenger. They should not be soft in speech (Part No. 17; Page No. 223) when they address men in a way that tempts those who are lewd and the hypocrites. They should say good words without softening their tone of voice, frowning, or being crude. Moreover, they should not expose their beauty as the people of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic time of ignorance) used to do. However, the Prophet's wives are different from the believers' wives; they definitely obey the order because they are in the house of Islamic leadership. Through obedience, they maintain the status of leadership and its dignity, and have a greater effect on the rest of women. Therefore, their reward was doubled more than all other women as well as the punishment in case of disobedience. Second, the meaning of the Ayah does not imply that women are absolutely prevented from going out; they may go out to fulfill their needs, such as to go to Masjids to perform Salah (Prayer), to listen to sermons, and to attend Islamic gathering on Salat-ul-`Eid (the Festival Prayer). Likewise, they may go out to fulfill their needs, such as to receive treatment and to maintain the ties of kinship. However, they should not uncover their beauty, apply make up or perfume, be soft in speech or seductive when walking. The Prophet's wives and the wives of the believers used to go out after the revelation of this Ayah to the Masjid to perform Salah, Hajj, `Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage), fulfill their needs, visit one another, maintain the ties of kinship, and travel with their husbands whenever they were chosen for that purpose. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not object to this (Part No. 17; Page No. 224) and people continued to act according to this without any objection. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.