All Praise is due to Allaah. We praise Him, seek his help, and ask His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allaah from the evil of our souls, and the adverse consequences of our deeds. Whoever Allaah guides, there is none that can misguide, and whoever He allows to be misguided, then none can guide him.
I bear witness and testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except for Allaah; He is alone, having no partners. I bear witness and testify that Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him, is His slave and worshipper.
One of the greatest acts of a Muslimah; one of the greatest sacrifices she makes: is to sacrifice her beauty and adornments for Allaah’s sake, her Lord and Creator. Indeed it is a great sacrifice, and Allaah is very appreciative of the deeds and sacrifices of his slaves.
The Hijaab is such a fundamental aspect of Islam, especially for our sisters. The Hijaab is more than just a piece of cloth that covers the women from head to toe. It encompasses the identity of the female slave of Allaah, her beliefs and principles, her character and her behaviour. It is a shield from fahsha (evil deeds, illegal sexual intercourse and sins), and a great blessing from Allaah.
Allaah says in the Qur’aan:
O Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover yourselves (screen your private parts) and as an adornment, and the raiment of righteousness, that is better. Such are among the Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allaah, that they may remember (i.e. leave falsehood and follow truth). 1
It is unfortunate that nowadays that the people want to uncover themselves rather than cover up. It seems that modesty has become unpopular, obsolete, archaic, out of date and out of touch with modern society. Everybody, from young girls to the elderly, are encouraged to express themselves and quite often this means tight, revealing clothes. It is a shame and quite ironic that if the Muslim woman chooses to cover herself up, some sees it as oppression, degradation even though she exercises her freedom of expression to wear her Hijaab. Some countries have even gone to extent of banning the Hijaab, the Niqaab; without bothering in getting the views of the Muslimah who wears it and enjoy its benefits into consideration. They refuse the Muslimah from expressing her faith based on misplaced assumptions and baseless fears:
“Verily! (During the worldly life) those who committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed. And whenever they passed by them, used to wink one to another (in mockery); and when they returned to their own people, they would return jesting; and when they saw them, they said: ‘Verily! These have indeed gone astray!’ But they (disbelievers, sinners) had not been sent as watchers over them (the believers). But on this Day (the Day of Resurrection) those who believe will laugh at the disbelievers. On (high) thrones, looking (at all things). Are not the disbelievers paid (fully) for what they used to do?” 2
Some say the Muslimah, the one covered up and shielded is not liberated, and they say that the Muslimah is degraded. By Allaah, the Muslimah is free. Free from being a slave to fashion and modern trends. By Allaah, the Muslimah is honoured and elevated to a high position, protected and respected. Women are the gems of society. They are our mothers, our sisters, our wives, our daughters. They bear a heavy burden and experience so much pain in terms of child birth. They sacrifice much of their needs for the sake of their children, their brothers, their husbands and their fathers, so it is right that the woman deserves a high status in both this world and the next and have their honour protected. It is heart rendering to see that women sometimes sell this high status and honour in exchange to beautify themselves and allow men to see their bodies. At the end day of the day no one wants to have men staring at his mother, daughter, sister or wife having illicit images in their minds. Thus the Creator of mankind has instructed the woman to take precautions and guard her high status and honour so that they may be known a free, respectable, honoured woman, who will not be annoyed:
“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 Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” 3
One may ask why they (women) should restrict themselves just because the men cannot control their desire. To say that the men should control their desires is true, and they have a duty to guard their honour as well as the honour of the women. However, it is impossible for them to do so unless the woman does everything to prevent the initiation of the natural attraction man has towards woman within themselves. It is not a case of degradation and restricting the woman rather it is a precaution taken for the safety and benefit for both man and woman.
“…it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allaah knows but you do not know.” 4
So it has been established that there is of much practical benefit of wearing the Hijaab. So the next question is what is the correct form of Hijaab and its requirements?
Unfortunately, there is a lot of debate on this relatively clear issue, which is a great shame and only creates confusion and unnecessary disputes amongst both Muslims and non Muslims. The reason for this is not due to unclear scriptural texts rather people try to fit Islam around their lives and interests instead of adapting their lives around the requirements and principles of Islam. So there are those who say Hijaab is a choice, there is no obligation to cover the head, or Hijaab only refers to covering the hair only, there is no obligation to wear Niqaab, the Qur’aan does not specifically say Hijaab or Niqaab, the Qur’aan says just be modest.
So, what is the Hijaab? What is the Niqaab and is it obligatory? What is the correct interpretation of the verses of the Qur’aan regarding Hijaab and how did the Muslim women at the time Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) implement these commandments?
Allaah says, in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning):
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allaah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” 5
And He said,
“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 Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” 6
It was narrated from Safiyyah bint Shaybah that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) used to say:
When these words were revealed – “and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)” – they took their izaars (a kind of garment) and tore them from the edges and covered their faces with them. 7
When Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) was asked about the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies…”
He [Ibn 'Abbaas] covered his face, leaving only one eye showing.
Shaykh Muhammad al-Saalih al Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
“The Hijaab prescribed in shari’ah means that a woman should cover everything that it is haraam for her to show, i.e. she should cover that which it is obligatory for her to cover, first and foremost of which is the face, because it is the focus of temptation and desire.
A woman is obliged to cover her face in front of anyone who is not her mahram. From this we learn that the face is the most essential thing to be covered. There is evidence from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the views of the Sahaabah and the imams and scholars of Islam, which indicate that women are obliged to cover all of their bodies in front of those who are not their mahrams. 8
My dear sisters, never belittle the Hijaab for it is great in the sight of Allaah. Know that it may be source of aid for you on the Day of Judgment and be a key for you to enter Jannah. Yes it is hard but Jannah is surrounded by trials and hardships and Allaah will pay his slaves in full and no injustice will be done to them. Ya Muslimah! Protect your body and your private parts. Protect your high status as free, respectable women. Protect your honour and never become deluded and preoccupied with the glitter of this world.
The Messenger of Allaah (may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“The best of your women is the affectionate, the fertile (in productivity), the propitious (favorable), the consultative if they fear Allaah. The most evil of your women are the Mutabar’rijat (those who do At-Tabarooj – to make a dazzling display of oneself), the Mutakhayelat (who strut/swagger), and they are the hypocrites. Those who enter Al-Jannah (the Paradise) are like the Cough Crow.”[Al-Baihaqi in his "As-Sunan"]
“Of the people of Hell there are two types whom I have never seen, the one possessing whips like the tail of an Ox and they flog people with them. The second one, women who would be naked in spite of their being dressed, who are seduced (to wrong paths) and seduce others. Their hair is high like the humps (of camels). These women would not get into Al-Jannah (the Paradise) and they would not perceive its odor, although its fragrance can be perceived from such and such a distance.” 9
May Allaah reward those who adhere to the Hijaab according to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and may he guide many of our sisters to fulfill their obligations. Remember my dear sisters that the world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the disbeliever. If the Hijaab is heavy for you then bear it, be patient and know that the fear and shock on the Day of Judgment is far greater and unbearable in comparison to the burden of the Hijaab.
O’ female slaves of Allaah, fear Allaah, listen and obey him, do what you have been commanded to do and abstain from what Allaah and His Messenger have prohibited so that you may be successful.
This is a collection and compilation of research and works of scholars presented to you in this article in conjunction with my experiences as a Muslim born and living in the West. May Allaah reward the scholars who are among us now and the scholars of the past and please make du’a for them and make du’a for me that Allaah has mercy on me. The intention of this article is not to give a fatwa but give a general advice to my dear sisters in Islam and encourage them to fulfill their obligations.
Whatever I have written that is true is from Allaah alone, while anything that is false is from myself and Shaytan. Subhanaka Allaahummah wabihamdika, ash haduanla illaha illa anta, astaghfiruka wa atuboo ilayk