Answered by: Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
I would like to know if Niqaab is mandatory in Islam.
As far as I know, it is not. Hijab is, and so is covering one’s self completely with loose garments.
I know that Tawaf is also not accepted with Niqaab (face covering) on and the same is with prayers, even though you are praying where other non-mahram men are able to see a woman (such as in the Haram in Makkah!)
Please explain if niqaab is a must in Islam. If it is, how is it that prayers and Tawaf (where other non-mahram men can see women) are not accepted with Niqaab on?
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
The nakedness (awrah) in front of ghair mahram males (with whom marriage is lawful) consists of the whole body except the face, hands and feet.
The face, according to the Hanafi Fiqh, is not part of the nakedness. However, wherever there is a fear of temptation, it becomes obligatory to cover the face (niqab).
Allamah Ibn Abideen Shami (RA) writes in his Raddul Muhtar, “A young women will be prevented from exposing her face, not because it is part of Awrah, rather for the fear of temptation.” (p.532 v.9) Thus, in this day and age, due to the immoral nature of people and society and the greater risk of people engaging in fitnah, it is compulsory to cover the face as well.
In regards to your question, one of the prohibitions which apply only to women is that no cloth or sheet should be touching the women’s face. When a woman enters ihram, she should not wear a niqab or burqa.
The Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam has said: “The Muhrimah (a female in ihram) should not cover her face, nor should she wear gloves.”
However, it is permissible for the woman to cover her face if she fears the gaze of a ghair mahram male.
Sayidah Aaisha Radiallahu Anha said, “The riders would pass by us while we were with the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam in the state of ihram. When one of them would ride next to us, we would take our jilbab and cover our face. When the rider would pass, we would uncover once again.”
In Salah, the nakedness of woman is her full body beside her face, hands and feet. (Raddul Muhtar)
Therefore, it is not necessary that the woman does cover her face whilst in Salah as the face is not supposed to be covered. However, saying all that, if in the Masjid Haram or anywhere there are men present, then even in Salah it will become obligatory to cover the face.
Only Allah Knows Best
Written by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham
 Raddul Muhtar p.531 v.9