Question # 269: Assalamu’alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…. Is niqaab obligatory or no?? And what is the proof?am so confuse?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The scholars of Fiqh differed about the ruling on the niqaab; the majority of the scholars are of the view that it is recommended, contrary to some who held that it is obligatory. However, even though they differed about its ruling in principle, they all agreed that it is obligatory at a time when there is corruption and fitnah is feared. This indicates that even according to the view that the niqaab is not obligatory in principle, it may be obligatory in some situations and not in others; nevertheless, it is a good thing to do, and this is better than keeping face uncovered all the time to keep distant from the means leading to fitnah (temptation). However, if one considers not having to cover the face and hand as the preponderant opinion, then others should not reprimand him/her for this, because the matter is controversial and tolerable. Also Refer Question # 47: Hijaab for Men

Long Answer: The scholars differed in opinion with regard to the ruling on a woman covering her face and hands in front of non-mahrams. For instance, the view of Ahmad school and the correct opinion of the Shafi’i school is that it is an obligation on the woman to cover her face and hands, while Abu Haneefa’s and Maalik’s schools are of the view that it is not an obligation on her to cover them. According to these two schools, a Muslim woman should cover her face and palms as long as there is a risk of temptation. The temptation means if a woman is beautiful or if immorality is common or unchaste people are wide spread.

The Hanafi scholar Ibn ‘Aabideen said, “The meaning is that a woman is prevented from showing her face for fear that men would see her face and hence fitnah (temptation/tribulation) would occur, because by showing her face, men may look at her with lust.” The Maaliki scholar An-Nafraawi said, “You should know that if it is feared that fitnah might happen when seeing her… then the Shari’ah requires that it is an obligation for her to cover her face at that time, not because it is an ‘Awrah (what must be covered of the body), but because of what is known to the people of this corrupt time, that if a woman shows her face, then people accuse her of immorality. Preserving one’s honor is obligatory, just as preserving the religion and family lineage.”

So, the matter is an issue of Ijtihaad (a juristic opinion on matters which are not specified in the Quran or the Sunnah).

According to the scholars who rule that niqaab is obligatory, use some of the following evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah:

  • Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “O Prophet tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed” (Soorah al-Azhab, 33:59)

Most commentators of the Qur’an established that this ayah (verse) shows that covering the face is compulsory because the “Jilbab” means a loose garment which is used to cover the head, and covers the face when it is lowered. It is also said that Jilbab means the garment, which covers the whole body. This was also confirmed by Imam Qurtubi.

The prominent interpreter of the Qur’an, At-Tabari reported from Ibn Abbas (رضي الله عنه) that he interpreted this verse saying, “Allah commanded the believing women that if they go out of their homes for a necessity to cover their faces from above their heads with their garments and show only one eye.” At-Tabari also reported such meaning from ‘Abeedah As-Salmaani.

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent” (Soorah an-Noor, 24:31)

Here it means the external garment and this is the most correct opinion. This is narrated also from Ibn Masood. Or it means what becomes uncovered without any intention. For example, what is caused by wind or the like.

  • Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts” (Soorah al-Azhab, 33:53)

The purity, which is mentioned in this Ayah is not peculiar to the mothers of believers. But every Muslim woman is in need of it. In fact, Muslims women are more in need for this order than the wives of the Prophet.

  • Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And tell the (believing women) to draw their veils over their bosoms.” (Soorah an-Noor, 24:31)

Imam Bukhari narrated from Aishah (رضي الله عنها): “When (the verse) (… And to draw their veil all over their Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms etc.) … was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist-sheets from their margins and covered their heads and faces with those cut pieces of cloth “. Imam Hafiz Ibn Hajr said: ” They covered their faces”.

Ibn Hajar said in Al-Fat-h, “They used them as Khimaars means that they covered their faces with them.” Ash-Shinqeeti said in Adhwaa’ Al-Bayaan, “A fair person undoubtedly realizes that a woman wearing hijaab in front of men and her covering her face in front of them has been confirmed by the authentic Sunnah, which explains the Book of Allah Almighty.”

  • Imam Tirmidhi narrated from Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: ” A woman is an Awrah, when she gets out Satan makes people to look up at her”. This is evidence that the whole body of the woman is Awrah.
  • Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “A pilgrim woman must neither cover her face nor wear gloves in the state of Ihram”. Imam Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi said: It is compulsory on the woman to cover her face except in Hajj. Therefore, she should let down her scarf on her face without letting it stick directly to her face and should turn away from men (From Arizah al-Ahwazi’s book).
  • Aishah (رضي الله عنها) said: “Men on camels used to pass by us while we were with the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and in the state of Ihram. We would cover our faces with our gowns when they passed by us, and then uncover them again”

According to the scholars who rule that niqaab is recommended, use some of the following evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah:

  • Some interpreters explained “…except only that which is apparent…” from Soorah an-Noor, 24:31 (quoted above) to be the face and hands.
  • Aishah (رضي الله عنها) reported that Asmaa, the daughter of Abu Bakr came to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: `O Asmaa! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands.” (Abu Dawood; graded sahih by Al-Albani)

Some consider this hadith authentic and a strong proof on the permissibility of uncovering the face, where others consider it non-authentic or abrogated.

  • Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) narrated that a woman from Khath’am asked the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) a question during the Farewell Pilgrimage, when Al-Fadl bin ‘Abbas was riding behind the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم). She said: “O Messenger of Allah! The command of Allah has come for His slaves to perform Hajj, but my father is an old man and cannot sit upright in the saddle. Will it be paid off on his behalf if I perform Hajj on his behalf?” The Messenger of Allah said to her: “Yes.” And Al-Fadl started to turn toward her, as she was a beautiful woman, but the Messenger of Allah took hold of Al-Fadl’s face and turned it to the other side. (Sunan an-Nasa’I; graded sahih)

This one may be the strongest proof on the permissibility of uncovering the face since it took place during the farewell pilgrimage (after the verses of hijaab were all revealed), yet the fact that this happened during hajj does cast some doubt on the utility of the hadith in this regard.

The preponderant view with respect to is that it is an obligation to cover the face. So, if the woman can adhere to the face cover, then it is safer for her and more likely to keep her distant from the means leading to fitnah (temptation). Hence, if the woman does not cover her face in principle and only covers it when there is a fear of fitnah, then that is not wrong. Rather, it is a good thing to do, and this is better than keeping her face uncovered all the time. The majority of the scholars who held that it is recommended to cover the face also held that it is obligatory to cover it when times are corrupt and fitnah is feared.

In the end, if one considers not having to cover the face and hand as the preponderant opinion, then others should not reprimand him/her for this, because the matter is controversial and tolerable. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that it is better to cover them.

(The above reply is based on various answers provided by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and Fatwa by Dr. Hatem al-Haj, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam