Women covering their faces and hands

Q 1: What is the ruling on a woman covering her face and of her hands, especially if she is very attractive?

A: Muslim women are commanded to cover their entire bodies in the presence of Ajanib (men other than a husband or permanently unmarriageable male relatives). This includes covering the face and the hands. This ruling is based on textual evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet). (Part No. 17; Page No. 142) As for the textual evidence found in the Qur'an, Allah (Exalted be He) states: ...and to draw their veils all over Juyûbihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) This Ayah (Qur'anic verse) indicates that since a woman is commanded to drape the Khimar (veil) down from her head and to her bosom, she is by inference required to cover the area of her body between the head and the bosom, which includes the face and neck. This is clearly stated in the Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih (authentic book of Hadith) on the authority of `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that she said: “May Allah bestow His Mercy on the early emigrant women. When the Ayah: ...and to draw their veils all over Juyûbihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) was revealed, they rent apart their Izar (garment worn below the waist) to cover their faces therewith Khimar refers to all such pieces of cloth which a woman uses to cover her head. The word Jayb refers to a frontal cut in the garment. Second: Allah (Exalted be He) states: And as for women past child-bearing who do not expect wed-lock, it is no sin on them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment. But to refrain (i.e. not to discard their outer clothing) is better for them. And Allâh is All-Hearer, All-Knower. Al-Raghib mentioned in his book Mu`jam Mufradat Alfaz Al-Qur'an Al-Karim (Dictionary of Qur'an Terminology) and Ibn Faris in his Mu`jam Maqayis Al-Lughah (Dictionary of Standard Language): (Part No. 17; Page No. 143) "The word Al-Qa`idah refers to older menopausal women who are sought for marriage." Al-Baghawy stated in his book of Tafsir (exegesis of the meanings of the Qur'an): " Rabi`at-ul-Ra'y said: " The word refers to elderly women whom men would not want to marry. As for aged women who still remain relatively attractive and may be a source of temptation for men, they are not meant here in this Ayah." End of Al-Baghawy's quote. Tabarruj refers to a woman's display of her adornments and charms in front of men who are outside the degree of Mahram relationships. This is stated by the author of Al-Lisan and the author of Al-Qamus and others. The text of the above Ayah denotes that Allah (Exalted be He) grants a concession to older women who are not desirous of marriage to expose their faces because their older appearance is not a source of temptation for men, unlike younger women. However, it is best if she continues to cover her face like young women are obliged to. Al-Baghawy stated:" 'wa an yasta`fifna' means that it is better for older women to preserve their honor by wearing Hijab." Abu Hayyan stated:" 'wa an yasta`fifna' means that it better for them not to uncover their faces as it is for young women." End of Abu Hayyan's quote. It is understood from this Ayah that a woman who (Part No. 17; Page No. 144) still enjoys some allure of beauty and is expected to marry does not fall under the category of Al-Qa`idah. She is not permitted to uncover any part of her body in the presence of non-Mahram (not a spouse or an unmarriageable relative) since the potential result of Fitnah (temptation) is feared. Third: Allah (Exalted be He) states: 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 Allâh is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. The meaning of this Ayah is further explained in the Hadith narrated by Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abu Hatim and Ibn Mardawayh in their books of Tafsir on the authority of Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) and `Ubaydah Al-Salamany (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: "Allah ordered Muslim women who go out in public to fulfill their needs to wear a full veil that covers the entire head and face except for one eye." In his Lisan Al-`Arab (Arabic Tongue), Ibn Manzhur quotes Ibn Al-Sikkit as saying: "Al-`Amiriyyah (an Arab tribe) uses the word Jilbab (long and loose-fit coat or garment worn by Muslim women) to refer to Khimar (veil)." Ibn Al-`Araby said: "Jilbab means Izar (garment worn below the waist)." (Part No. 17; Page No. 145)  Al-Az-hary said: "Ibn Al-`Arabi's explaining of Jilbab as meaning Izar does not refer to the garment which a woman wears below her waist. Rather, it refers to that sort of garments which cover the woman's entire body." In the Sahih (authentic book of Hadith) of Muslim on the authority of Um `Atiyyah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said: O Messenger of Allah, a woman of us may not have an outer garment (to cover her body). He said: Let her sister lend her an outer garment to wear. Abu Hayyan said in his Tafsir: "Both free and bonds women of the pre-Islamic era used to go out in public with their faces uncovered. Bondswomen were often violated by assailants in palm groves when they went out at night to fulfill their needs. The same would happen to free women and these adulterers would claim that they thought they had merely ravished a bondswomen." It is for this reason that free women were ordered to wear clothes not traditionally worn by bondswomen and to cover their heads and faces so that no man would ever think of harassing them." The above-mentioned evidence from the Qur'an is sufficient. As for evidence from the Sunnah. First: Um Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that she was sitting with the Messenger of Allah at the house of his wife Maymunah. While they were sitting, there entered upon them Ibn Um Maktum. (Part No. 17; Page No. 146) This happened after the divine command to observe Hijab was revealed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Conceal yourselves with Hijab from him. Umm Salamah asked: "O Messenger of Allah! Is he not blind? He can neither see nor recognize us." Whereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Are you both blind? Do you not see him?" Narrated by Al-Tirmidhy and others. Al-Tirmidhi classified it as Hassan (a Hadith whose chain of narration contains a narrator with weak exactitude, but is free from eccentricity or blemish) and Sahih (a Hadith that has been transmitted by people known for their uprightness and exactitude; free from eccentricity and blemish). Ibn Hajar classified its Isnad (chain of narrators) as being strong. Second: Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said: O Allah’s Messenger! Good and bad persons visit your wives, would that you ordered the Mothers of the believers to cover themselves with veils. So Ayah Al-Hijab (i.e. veiling of the women) was revealed. Narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. (Part No. 17; Page No. 147) Third: `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported: 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. Narrated by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and others. Fourth: `Uqbah Ibn `Amir (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: That he consulted the Prophet (peace be upon him) about his sister who took a vow to perform Hajj barefooted and bareheaded. So he said: Command her to cover her head and to ride, and to fast three days... In this Hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered `Uqba's sister to cover her body with a veil. (Part No. 17; Page No. 148) This vow she made was not valid as it was based on an act of disobedience. Furthermore, women are required to conceal themselves with veils. We will mention the exact words of the exhaustive comment made by Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) on this issue. He (may Allah be merciful to him) said: "Scholars from among the Salaf (righteous predecessors) have held two divergent opinions regarding the meaning of "apparent Zinah (adornment)": Ibn Mas`ud and others who adopted the same view said that it refers to clothing. Ibn `Abbas and others who held the same view state that "apparent Zinah" refers to eyeliner and rings. The fact of the matter is that there are two types of Zinah (adornment): apparent Zinah and hidden Zinah. Allah allowed the woman to display her apparent Zinah in front of other than her husband and men in the Mahram degree. However, she is only permitted to show off her hidden Zinah in the presence of her husband and men in the Mahram degree. Before the Ayah on Hijab was revealed, women used to go out with their faces and hands uncovered. At that time, women were allowed to show their faces and hands and men were permitted to look at them. When Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) revealed the Ayah on Hijab which reads: 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). Women began to cover themselves with Hijab in the presence of men. This occurred when the Prophet (peace be upon him) got married to Zaynab Bint Jahsh and drew (Part No. 17; Page No. 149) the curtain and forbade women from looking. Later when the Prophet (peace be upon him) married Safiyyah bint Huyay during the year of the Battle of Khaybar, the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) said: "If he (i.e. the Prophet) orders her to veil herself, she will be one of the Mothers of the Believers; but if he does not order her to veil herself, she will be a bondswoman." The Prophet ordered her to veil herself. Allah then ordered that when the Sahabah wished to ask the Prophet's wives anything, it was to be done from behind a veil. Allah also ordered the wives and daughters of the Prophet and the believing women to drape over themselves part of their Jilbab which Ibn Mas`ud and others refer to as Rida' (outer garment). People call it Izar which covers a woman's head and her entire body. Explaining the proper method of wearing Hijab,`Ubaydah and others said that women should drape it over the entire body leaving nothing to be seen except the eyes. Hijab is synonymous with Niqab (face veil) which women used to wear. In the Sahih (authentic book of Hadith) a woman who is in the state of Ihram (ceremonial state for Hajj and `Umrah) is forbidden to wear Niqab or gloves. Since women are ordered to observe Jilbab so that they may not be identified, this would mean that both the face and hands are part of the Zinah which are forbidden to display in the presence of Ajanib (men other than a husband or permanently unmarriageable male relatives). Only outer garments are allowed to be seen by Ajanib. Ibn Mas`ud mentioned the last of the two commands while Ibn `Abbas mentioned two commands. End of Ibn Taymiyyah's quote. (Part No. 17; Page No. 150) To explain it further: The evidence that speaks of the permissibility of uncovering the face and hands was in practice before the revelation of the Ayah on observance of Hijab and the Prophet's commanding women to observe it. It should be made clear that textual proofs that denote the obligation to cover the face and the hands abrogate other proofs which permit uncovering them. However, a woman is permitted to expose her face and hands only if necessary, such as the necessity to uncover her face or hands for the sake of treatment or in case she is only able to bear witness with her face uncovered. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.