Asalaamu’alaykum waRahmatullahi waBarakaatuhu,
I need to know the ruling on Parda. My friend who wears parda and attended the Darul Uloom where her daughters still attend has confirmed this is Fard. I don’t wear parda I wear a hijab. However she’s indicating to me that it is fard to wear parda and that women should not work but get married and her husband should take care of her. Well I have no problem that a husband takes care of you etc. However in the world we are currently living in the Real World there are more women than men and less marriages and sometimes not by choice as in my case. I cannot sit and except food to drop from the sky so I trust that Allah is the provider but I also believe that I need to strive and still send out my applications for a job while making my duas. Her idea is different and this is why I think people’s concept about this deen is that its too difficult and they run from it. Had I not been blessed by Allah with a brain and a little knowledge I would totally agree with this sister and never want to work wear a parda lock myself in my room and never come out as this is her concept of Islam. I beg to differ in this approach hence I am asking you please to tell me IS IT FARD TO WEAR THE PARDA? She has quoted the verse of Surah Ahzab I agree that in the time of the Prophet p.b.u.h. the believing women dressed a certain way and we are to follow the Sunnah however there are things that are Fard and things that are not so can you please explain the ruling on this for me.
Wa Alaikum As Salaam,
First of all, it should be understood that the religion of Islam which we have been given, is complete and perfect. It’s teachings are filled with a great amount of wisdom, whether we can understand it or not.
All the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the beloved Prophet (SAS) is filled with guidance which guide us (the Muslims ) to that which is the truth and to that which is required to be done as true believers. None of these teachings is difficult, severe or burdensome. Instead, these are filled with a great amount of ease, with many allowances and considerations given to special situations. In this regard, the Holy Quran states, ‘Allah intends for you ease and He dose not intend difficulty on you’.(Sura Al Baqara (2) verse 185).
However, this ease in our religion must be viewed and understood from the proper perspective. We have to look at it from the correct angle and appreciate the beautiful teachings of Islam for what they are.
One of the biggest problems that are encountered by some Muslims who live in the west is that they adapt so much to the western culture that they find it difficult to practice ‘Islam’. Some of them have become so indoctrinated with the western ideologies and trends, it becomes difficult for them to see the wisdom, beauty and purity in the Quranic laws and injunctions. For such people, the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAS) has become old fashioned.
It is on account of this, we find that today, many Muslims have a great misunderstanding of Islam and its teachings and practices. Being ‘cultured’ into an ‘UnIslamic Culture’ they tend to repel, resist and even question the authentic teachings of Islam.
As I said before, the ease that is present in the Islamic teachings must be viewed from the correct perspective. If not, then we will find that Muslim women will see that it is difficult to cover themselves properly and wear the hijab, niqaab or purdah. Beardless men will also think that it is difficult to keep a beard, those who have grown accustomed to mixing and mingling with the opposite sex will find it extremely difficult to refrain from this, performing Salaah five times a day, fasting the entire month of Ramadhan and embarking on the sacred pilgrimage will all be seen as very difficult for some.
However, this difficulty is confined only to the perception of the individual which has no external truth or reality. Hence, it is essential that we view the Islamic teachings from the proper perspective, and do not analyze these based on our personal likes and dislikes. Our personal inclination to a particular practice and aversion to another, must not be the criterion to gauge what is ‘easy’ and what is ‘difficult’ in Islam. At all times, we must remember that it is Allah alone who Has sent the Prophet (SAS) as a teacher to mankind, hence, our practices must be in accordance to his teachings.
Having said this, I wish to state that with respect to the wearing of the niqaab (purdah), many of our great, authentic and reliable scholars have stated that it is compulsory for a woman to wear the niqaab (purdah). Based upon this, we will find that many women do it as a compulsory requirement. Some other scholars have stated that a woman is given the allowance to expose her hands upto the wrists and face, however, when she is in front of non-blood relatives and she fears that fitna (mischief like lustful thoughts and gazes) can come about, then she must cover her face. Some women also practice upon this allowance.
The garb of a Muslim woman represents respect, dignity and chastity, and so, it is not within her nature to be seen and ‘looked at’ by the piercing lustful gaze of those who seek pleasure in looking at her. In Islam, a woman is a private person, hence, she loves privacy as clearly stated by the Prophet (SAS). The garb protects her, and gives her the privacy that she is required to have.
A Muslim woman must never feel hesitant to wear the purdah in front of others that are not blood related to her. This is the sign of a believing woman who is upright and wants to do the right thing at all times. In an atmosphere where women are dressing in a semi-nude and indecent way, and are propagators of lewdness and iniquity, a Muslim woman should feel proud to dress in a modest and religious way, thus portraying purity, chastity and honour.
Alhamdulillah, today Muslim women all over the world are wearing their niqaab (purdah) wherever they are, without being taunted and criticized.
With respect to a ‘woman working’, this is allowed with certain conditions. Some of these are :-
1) The job that is being done is halal for a Muslim woman to do.
2) While doing the job, she is not required to compromise her Islamic teachings in the manner of her dress and conduct.
3) The environment in which she works does not require her to have open or private mingling with the opposite sex. Sometimes, the working woman is in privacy with her boss, she travels alone with him and she also develops an open and free relation with other males that are around her. All these are totally haram, and a Muslim woman is not allowed to violate the laws of Islam in these and other areas.
The allowance therefore is given with certain conditions which must be met. If these conditions are not met, then the woman must be provided for, by that person who overlooks her affairs. In the first case it is her father, and then upon marriage, the husband takes the responsibility.
The ideal situation in Islam is that when a woman marries, she should not find herself caught up in workng for others. She should commit herself to the service of her husband and the proper upbringing of her children. Allah Has made the husband as the breadwinner and Ameer, and so, his responsibility is to provide for his wife in fulfilling her needs and necessities. If for some valid reason, a woman has not been married or has been divorced and there is no one to provide for her, then she will be allowed to seek a halal livelihood taking into consideration the conditions which have been mentioned before. (In an Islamic state, the Baitul Mal (public exchequer) provides for her and eliminates her from the burden of working for a livelihood).
Alhamdulillah, Allah Has given us a perfect religion with comprehensive guidelines for living in a REAL World. The teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAS) are not given for one living in an imaginary world. All are connected to, and provide guidance and success for all those who live on the face of the earth. These teachings are for all times and places, and will never become outdated. Allah in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, Has given man a system of life (in which he should live) which brings about goodness and benefits to everyone. This system protects one from harms and disastrous results, and create peaceful living among all members. Included in this, is the function of a family. Each one from the husband and wife has been given duties and responsibilities which each must fulfill. These responsibilities take priority before other things and must not be neglected and overlooked for the acquisition and fulfillment of other objectives. For example, in Islam, a wife has been given certain responsibilities which become difficult to fulfill if she is engaged in work. Regarding this, the Prophet (SAS) is reported to have said,’ Beware! Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible and answerable for his flock. The leader and ruler is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs). A man is a guardian over his family and shall be questioned abut them. A woman is the guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). A servant is the shepherd of his master’s property and shall be questioned about it. Beware! Everyone of you is a guardian, and everyone of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust’. (Bukhari, Muslim)
The above hadith shows that the wife is a guardian over her husband’s household and children. She has been deputed in Islam to look after the household of her husband and also to look after his children in giving them a good upbringing. This task becomes more needed when the husband is not at home. In fulfilling his responsibilities in Islam, he must work in order to meet the financial requirements of the family. In doing so, he is often absent from his home and children. In order to share the responsibility of the family, Islam has placed the task of looking over the household, property and wealth of the husband on the wife. Similarly, being the mother of the children, she has been made responsible to look after their needs, training and upbringing. If the wife begins to work, then who will attend to the welfare of the children and overlook the house hold?
In today’s world (with the dominance of the western culture), many women (wives) have started to work on a full time basis. The result of this is that children have become neglected and have been deprived of the mother’s love, and proper upbringing and training. A child is naturally closer to the mother, and he spends more time with her. It is in the beginning years of growth, the mother can inculcate good values, morals and manners in the child. The mother should focus her attention on the child from infancy. The parable of a child is like a weak and delicate branch. You can twist it and bend it as you please, but this is not easy when the branch becomes dry. If someone complains the children are unruly, spendthrift, ill mannered etc. then the mother is also to be blamed. She failed to rear them appropriately. This is why they have been reduced to this level.
In the present situation (of working women), the scene is that the father goes to work, the mother goes to work and the children are placed in day-care centres. The persons at these centres have not been hired to give the children good morals, values, and religious instruction. Instead, they are simply paid for attending to the children during the day. At the evening, the father returns home tired from work, the mother returns home tired from work and the children also returns home, but tired of being at the day-care centre. They are anxious to see their parents and spend time with them, but ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ are too tired to spend quality time with the young, growing kids that need parental love, affection and care. In order to get some time for relaxation and rest, the children’s attention is now diverted to movies, television and electronic games so that they may occupy their precious moments. With this type of training, the children grow without proper values, conduct and good training. They do not learn about love, respect and compassion to others. They do not learn about being responsible and obedient to their superiors. Instead, they learn about violence, aggressiveness and insolence from the electronic games and movies which they are encouraged to look at by their parents.
The result of this is children’s violence and delinquencies, which have become a part of our school system today.
Many child psychologists have iterated this point in the past that the spate of violence among children today, is mostly due to children’s negligence at home on account of working mothers. (It is good to see that today’s professionals are recognizing the wisdom in Islamic teachings, something which many Muslims until today fail to acknowledge).
With respect to the issue of Parda being fard or not, the following explaination in my commentary of Sura An Nur.
In Sura An Nur verses 30 and 31, Allah says:-
30. Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.
31. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islâm), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allâh to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.
The first verse (of the above two verses) gives an injunction to the believing men that they must: (i) lower their gazes and (ii) guard their private parts.
The command to ‘lower the gaze’ in verse 30 means that one must keep his eyes away from that which has been prohibited in the Shariah to look at. According to many Commentators, it is totally haraam (unlawful) for a male to look at a non blood relative female with lust and evil intentions, and to look without such motive is Makrooh (abominable). It is also haraam (unlawful) to look at the awrah (private parts) of a male and female.
The law of ‘lowering the gaze’ for the believing men is extremely important, and the Prophet (S.A) has emphasized on this to a great extent. In this regard, the Prophet (S.A) is reported to have said, ‘The casting look (eye) is a poisonous arrow among the arrows of satan. Whoever turns away his gaze fearing me (Allah), I (Allah) shall give him such faith, the sweetness of which he will feel in his heart’. (Tibrani from the hadith of Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) – Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg.282-Arabic text)
In another tradition, it is narrated that the Prophet (S.A) said to the companions, ‘Beware of sitting on the pathways’. The Companions said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! It is necessary that we meet and sit on the pathways so that we may speak to each other’ (that is we do not have any other place to do so). The Prophet (S.A) then said, ‘If you must sit, then give the pathway its right and due’. They said, ‘What is the right of the pathway, O Messenger of Allah?’ He (the Prophet S.A) said, ‘Lowering the gaze, refraining from causing harm (to anyone), responding to the greeting, and enjoining good and forbidding evil’. (Bukhari, Muslim from the tradition of Abu Saeed Al Khudri – Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.12 pg.201).
It is also narrated that the Prophet (S.A) said to Ali (R.A), ‘Do not follow a gaze (look) with another one. For you is the first, but not the second’. It means that the first one may be forgivable, but the second one is a sin. (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Hakim)
Jareer bin Abdullah narrated that he asked the Prophet (S.A) about a sudden glance and the Prophet (S.A) said to him, ‘Turn away your eyes’. (Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Darimi – Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.12 pg.201)
The second injunction of verse 30 is that of protecting one’s private parts. This law indicates that the believing men are commanded to protect themselves from falling into all possible situations of unlawfully satisfying their sexual desires. The purpose of this injunction is to prohibit all illicit acts which are done in fulfilling one’s passions. In a like manner all acts that lead to sinful deeds and the unlawful fulfillment of one’s sexual desires would be totally forbidden and Haram.
Having given these instructions, Allah informs the believers that ‘these’ bring about more purity for them. By protecting their gazes and private parts, their hearts would continue to remain pure, they would gain more righteousness and piety in their religion and they would be more protected against falling into sins and transgressions.
With these guidelines, the believing men are further told in verse 30, ‘Surely Allah is All Aware of what they do’. It means that Allah is well acquainted of all their actions. Whether they obey these instructions or violate them, Allah is fully aware, and would recompense them for what they do.
Sura Nur continues in verse 31 to give the same injunctions to the believing women. It states: ‘And say to the believing women that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts’. Here, they (the believing women) are also ordered to lower their gazes. It means that they must turn their eyes away from that which is unlawful to look at in the Shariah. According to some scholars, it is totally forbidden for women to look at non-blood relative males (non-Mahram) whether the ‘look/gaze’ is with bad intent, lust, passion or not. These scholars have based their ruling on the hadith of Umm Salmah (R.A) which states that once Umm Salmah and Maimoonah (R.A) were with the Prophet (S.A) when suddenly Abdullah bin Umm Maktoom, the blind companion, came to see him (the Prophet S.A). When this happened, the Prophet (S.A) told both of his wives ‘go in hijaab from him’ (that is, conceal themselves by covering and going inside). On this, Umm Salmah said, ‘O Prophet! He is a blind man’. The Prophet (S.A) said, ‘Are both of you blind also. Can you not see him?’ (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Baihaqi)
Based on this tradition, the above scholars have stated that it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to look at non-Mahram (non-blood relatives) males, even if the look/gaze is free from lust, passion etc.
Other scholars however, have stated that there is no harm upon a woman if she looks at non-Mahram male (i.e. non blood relative male). The prohibition is only in the case where the ‘look’ or ‘gaze’ is lustful and sinful. These scholars have based their ruling on the hadith of Aishah (R.A) in which it is related that on the day of Eid, some abysinian youths were showing their skills by playing with spears and shields etc. in the courtyard of the Prophet’s masjid. While this took place, Aishah (R.A) kept looking at them while the Prophet (S.A) screened her from the people. She continued to look at the abysinians until the Prophet (S.A) asked if she had seen enough. Here, the Prophet (S.A) did not object to her watching.
This goes to show that if a woman looks at a non blood relative male without having lust and passion in her heart, then, although it is not encouraged and preferred, yet it will not be sinful. This should be done only in cases of need and necessity. However, if the look and gaze is with lust and passion, then, according to all scholars, it will be totally haraam (unlawful) and sinful.
The Islamic law goes further to explain that although the above mentioned degree of looking at the opposite sex without lust and evil intent is permissible, yet it continues to be haram for one to look at the awrah (concealable parts of the body) of another person, be it male or female. The awrah (concealable parts) of a male is from the navel to the knees and the awrah of a female is her entire body except the face and hands upto the wrists. It is not permissible for a man to see the awrah of a male or female, and in a like manner it is not permissible for a female to look at the awrah of a male or female. The remainder of the verse (31) explains the exemptions which are given in regards to the law of Hijab. The verse states: ‘And they (the believing women) must not expose (reveal) their adornment except that which appears thereof (that which is apparent) and to draw their veils (sheets) over their bosoms’. (v.31)
Here, in this part of the verse an exemption is given to the believing women that they are allowed to expose of their bodies ‘that which appears thereof’ or ‘that which is apparent’. In other words, the law established from the Holy Quran is that a Muslim woman is ordered to cover her entire body from the head to the feet. However, an exemption has been given in verse 31 of Sura Nur which tells them that they are allowed to expose those areas which are apparent and ‘appears thereof’. As to what these areas are, there is a difference of opinion among the scholars regarding them.
On this issue, the great Companion Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) has explained that what has been exempted in the verse, is the outer covering, such as the veil or the sheet used for Hijab. These outer garments are used to cover the normal garments worn by women. Hence, according to him the meaning of the verse is that it is not permitted to expose any part of the garments, except the outer clothing like the veil, whose concealing is not possible when going out for some work.
In contrast to this opinion, the other great Companions and expert scholar of the Holy Quran, Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A), Qatada and Miswar bin Makhrama (R.A) have indicated from their explanations that what have been exempted in the verse is the face and the palms, because when a woman is forced to go out because of necessity, it is difficult to conceal the face and palms while engaged in work. The great Commentators like Saeed bin Jubair, Ata and Awzaa’i (A.R) have also stated that what have been exempted from being covered are the face, palms and clothing’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.12 pg.207)
Ibn Juraij has narrated from Aishah (R.A) that she said, ‘My niece visited me and then the Prophet (S.A) came to my room. When he entered he turned his face. Upon this, Aishah (R.A) said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, she is my niece and only a girl’. The Prophet (S.A) said, ‘When a girl reaches the age of puberty, it is not permissible for her that she exposes (herself) except her face and this and then he pointed to the hands until a little beneath the wrists’. (Tafseer Ibn Jareer vol.18 pg.142)
The great Commentator, Dhahak (A.R) has also stated that the exemption given in the verse refers to the face and the palms’. (Tafseer Ibn Jareer vol.18 pg.143)
The great authority on Tafseer, Ibn Jareer At Tabari, has quoted all the different opinions of the Companions and the great scholars of Tafseer in his book and at the end of the discussion he writes, ‘The best of all these opinions which is correct is the statement of those who say that the exemption referred to in the verse is that of the face and the palms’. He further writes, ‘We have stated that this is the best statement based on the interpretation that all scholars have unanimously agreed that it is essential upon one performing Salaah to conceal the awrah and that a woman can expose her face and palms in Salaah, while covering all the other parts of her body. Except where an allowance has been given to her, on account of necessity, for half of the area between the wrist and elbow to be uncovered.
When this is a unanimously agreed issue, then it means that it is allowed for her to expose that which is not the awrah since the exposing of these non awrah parts is not haram (unlawful). (If these parts like the face and palms were awrah, then it would have been compulsory for a woman to cover them in Salaah and also on Hajj. However, this is not so, as agreed by all the scholars.). It therefore follows that since she is allowed to expose these parts then this would be the areas which Allah has given an exemption about in the Holy Quran’. (Tafseer Ibn Jareer At Tabari vol.18 pg.143-144)
While on the topic of Hijaab, it is important for one to know that the very first verses regarding the subject of hijaab for women were revealed in Sura Ahzaab in the third year of Hijrah or in the fifth year of Hijrah, as some scholars have stated. As for the above mentioned verses of Sura Nur, these were revealed at the time of the incident of slander which took place in the 6th year of Hijrah. Hence, it is clear from this explanation that Sura Nur’s verses on hijaab were revealed later, and Sura Ahzaab’s verses on hijaab were revealed earlier. This makes it clear that the verses of Sura Nur were not abrogated by any other verses, but instead, it was one of the firm and established teachings that have been given regarding hijaab.
The verse (i.e. 31 of Sura Nur) goes on to say, ‘And that they (the believing women) must wrap (cover) their bosoms with their shawls (sheets-khimar)’. Here, the believing women are commanded to cover their bosoms (chests) with the sheet/shawl that they would normally use for proper covering. The word ‘khumur’ (Arabic) used in the verse, is the plural of ‘khimar’, which is a piece of cloth which women use to cover their head, and it also covers up the neck and bosom.
According to many Commentators, the reason for this verse was that women at that time used to place the khimar (sheet/shawl) on their heads and let its two sides hang on their back. The result of this was that their neck, chest and ears remained uncovered.
In opposition to this custom, Allah ordered the believing women ‘to draw their veils (sheets) over their bosoms’. Based on this law, a Muslim woman was therefore required to cover with the khimar (sheet/shawl) in a manner that when it is placed on the head, the two sides should not be dropped on the back. Instead, it should be used to cover the ears, the neck and the chest so that the bosom would be entirely covered. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.12 pg.207)
The other injunction of verse 31 (of Sura Nur) is highlighted in the following manner:
‘(And the believing women) must not reveal (expose) their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or to their women, or to those whom their right hands possess, or male attendants having no (sexual) urge, or small children who have no sense of the shame of women’.
The above highlighted injunction of verse 31 indicates to another exemption which is given to women as regards the law of hijab. This law explains the categories of men before whom no hijab is to be observed.
As explained by the scholars, there are two reasons why the observance of hijab has been relaxed in front of the above mentioned groups. First of all, as seen from the verse, many of those men are from among the Mahram (blood relatives) and hence, no possibility of misconduct is expected from them. Being a Mahram (blood relative) to another means that there is a great amount of respect and honour for each other, and one goes all out to protect the chastity and dignity of the other person. There is a close knitted relationship between those who are Mahram, and one respects this bond that exists. For this reason, one can hardly think that a Mahram would do anything to violate the honour and dignity of another Mahram. As such, the relaxedness of hijab in this situation does not bring about any harm or danger. Howbeit, if there is a fear of misconduct coming from any Mahram, then hijab in front of that person becomes essential.
The second reason for the exemption of hijab for the mentioned groups (in verse 31) is that these relatives normally live together, and for the sake of removing hardships and difficulties, the law has been eased for women.
As highlighted in the verse ‘A believing woman must not reveal her adornment except to the husband…’
Here, the first exemption is that of the husband. It means that a Muslim woman can display her ornaments and beauty to her husband. In this respect, the scholars have stated that the wife is not required to observe hijab or conceal her body and adornments to the husband. This law of exposing herself entirely, is only for the husband and is not extended to the other categories which have been mentioned in the verse (i.e. 31).
The second category is that of the father. That is, a Muslim woman is allowed to reveal her ‘Zinah’ (adornments) to the father. Under this category, the scholars have stated that the grandfathers and great grandfathers both maternal and paternal are all included.
The third category in front of whom the ‘adornments’ (Zinah) can be exposed is that of the husband’s father, who is like a father. The husband’s grandfather and great grandfather would also be included.
The fourth category (mentioned in the verse) is that of the woman’s sons. This includes the grandsons from both the son and daughter’s side.
The fifth category is that of the husband’s sons from another wife. The sixth category is the brothers of the woman. Real brothers and step brothers are included in this category.
The seventh category is the sons of the woman’s brothers and the eight category is the sons of the sisters. These categories include the sons of both real and step brothers and sisters.
These are the male blood relatives to a Muslim woman, and the law of concealing and covering completely have been relaxed when a woman is in front of these people. It is for this reason, the Quran has stated, ‘And (the believing women) must not reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers…’
As explained by the scholars of the Holy Quran, the word Zinah (adornment, beauty) does not only refer to the adornments of jewelleries, but it also refers to the places of the body on which these jewelleries are worn.
In this regard, different opinions have been narrated with respect to what is allowable for a Muslim woman to leave exposed in front of the other categories of people besides the husband. While explaining the exempted areas in this verse, Ibraheem (A.R) states, ‘It refers to what is above the forearm from the ears and head’ (Tafseer Ahkamul Quran by Jasas vol.3 pg.317).
In another place, it is reported that he (Ibraheem A.R) said, ‘It refers to what is above the bosom’. (Tafseer Ibn Jareer vol.18 pg.144)
Saeed bin Abi Aruba has narrated from Qatada (A.R) that he said that the verse refers to the fact that a Muslim woman can expose her head to those mentioned in the verse (i.e. 31). (Tafseer Ibn Jareer vol.18 pg.144).
It is narrated from Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) that he said, ‘The Zinah (beauty and adornment) which the Muslim woman can expose to those mentioned in the verse are the earring, the necklace and the bracelets (bangles). As for the anklet, the armlet bracelet, her upper chest and her hair, she must not expose these except to her husband’. (Tafseer Ibn Jareer At Tabari vol.18 pg.144-145).
In a similar manner, it is narrated from Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) and Zubair that the Zinah (adornments) which can be exposed by the woman to the above categories of people are the earring, the necklace, the bracelet and the anklet’. (Tafseer Ahkamul Quran by Jasas vol.3 pg.317)
Taking all these opinions into consideration, the great jurist and commentator of the Holy Quran, Imam Abu Bakr Al Jasas (died 370 A.H) has written, ‘The clear meaning of the verse (i.e. 31) requires the allowance of exposing the Zinah (beauty and adornment) to the husband and those who have been mentioned with him from fathers and others’.
‘It is known that what is meant by Zinah (beauty and adornment) is the places of the adornment and these are the face, the palms, the forearm, since these are the places where the bracelets and bangles are worn. It includes the upper arm since the armlet bracelet is worn on this area. It includes the throat and the chest, since these are the places of the necklace. It includes the shank (area between the knee and the ankle) since this is the place of the anklet’.
Imam Abu Bakr Al Jasas continues to state, ‘The verse requires that looking to these areas be allowed to those who have been mentioned in the verse (i.e. 31), since these are the places of the hidden ornaments. As for the exposure of those areas which are revealable to the non Mahram (non blood relatives), this has already been given in the beginning portion of the verse. Now, a special concession has been given to reveal the hidden ornaments to the husband and other Mahram (blood relatives) at the end of the verse’. (Tafseer Ahkamul Quran by Jasas vol.3 pg.317).
Having stated this, Imam Abu Bakr Jasas went on to mention different narrations regarding the allowances which he has highlighted. He states that Mundhir Ath Thawri has narrated that Muhammad bin Hanfiya (the son of Ali R.A) used to comb his mother’s hair. Abul Baktari (A.R) narrates that Hasan and Husain (R.A) used to visit their sister Umm Kulthum while she was combing her hair. Ibraheem (A.R) has stated that there is no harm (prohibition and sin) for a person to look at the hair of his mother, sister or aunts. He however, disliked a person looking to their shanks’.
Imam Abu Bakr Al Jasas further explained that those statements of the scholars (from the Sahabahs/Tabieen) that show the dislike of looking towards the hair or shank of female blood relatives (Mahram) is based on precaution. This is the position to be adopted when one fears the entering of evil thoughts in the mind/heart by looking at such areas of the female blood relative.
In this case also, it would be essential upon the female blood relative (Mahram) to cover herself properly (as ordained in the Shariah) if/when she fears that exposing these allowable parts of her body can lead to any type of physical attraction.
Having given eight categories of those in front of whom a woman is not required to observe Hijab, verse 31 of Sura Nur continues to give a ninth category by saying, ‘and they must not expose their adornment except to their women’.
While commenting on this verse, some scholars have stated that ‘women’ as mentioned in the above verse refers to Muslim women only or those female slaves that are owned by a Muslim woman. This is the opinion of many of the pious predecessors.
According to this explanation, (given by these scholars), the verse means that a Muslim woman would not be required to observe hijab in front of another Muslim woman, however, she would have to observe it in front of all non Muslim women.
Concerning this, the great commentator and scholar, Mujahid (A.R) said ‘Their women as highlighted in the verse refers to only Muslim women. And does not include non – believing Mushrik women. (Safwatut Tafaseer Vol. 18 Pg. 17).
In a similar manner, the great companion Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) has stated, ‘Women (in the verse) means Muslim Women. A Muslim woman must not expose her beauty in front of Jewish or Christian women’. (Safwatut Tafaseer Vol. 18 Pg. 17).
Other scholars however, have stated that a Muslim woman is not required to observe hijab in front of non Muslim women. These scholars have cited sound and authentic traditions which show that non Muslim women used to visit the wives of the Holy Prophet (S.A.S).
While commenting on this verse, the great exegete and commentator Imam Razi writes, ‘It is stated that the word ‘women’ refers to all women (Muslim as well as non Muslim) for they are all equal in looking at each other (as females). The practice of pious predecessors in making a Muslim woman observe hijab in front of a non Muslim woman was based on Istihbaab (that which is desirable and commendable and was not compulsory). (Safwatut Tafaseer Vol. 18 Pg. 17).
Another great commentator and exegete of the Holy Quran, Allama Alusi has also adopted this explanation in his book, Tafseer Ruhul Ma’ani, and has mentioned, ‘this statement is more suited for the people today (at this time) for it has become almost impossible for Muslim women to observe hijab in front of non Muslim women’ (Tafseer Ruhul Ma’ani).
Another category mentioned in verse 31 in front of whom hijab is not required is ‘those whom their right hand’s posses’. This is the tenth category mentioned in the verse and it speaks about slaves that are owned by a Muslim woman. The law highlighted here is that a Muslim woman would not be required to observe hijab in front of her slave. It should be noted that this allowance is connected to one’s female slaves only, it does not include the male slave. Hence a Muslim woman must observe hijab in front of her male slave. While explaining this point, the great Tabi’ee scholar and jurist, Sa’eed bin Mussayab (A.R) said, ‘Do not be under the misconception that the wordings ‘those’ that your right hand’s posses’ are general and include male slaves as well. It is not so. This verse refers to only female slaves, male slaves are not included in it’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi Vol. 12 Pg. 213).
The eleventh category mentioned in verse 31 in front of whom hijab is not required is ‘male attendants having no sexual urge (desires)’. Here, it is mentioned that a Muslim woman is not required to observe hijab in front of the male attendants of the house who have no inclination, desire and need for women. While explaining this category, Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) has mentioned that it refers to those mentally disturbed and deranged type of persons who have no interest, liking and inclination towards women’. (Tafseer Ibn Jareer Vol. 18 Pg. 146). As for those male attendants who do not fall into this category, then hijab must be observed in front of them.
The other group of people before whom, a Muslim woman is not required to observe hijab is mentioned in verse 31 in the following words, ‘or children not acquainted with the privy parts (shame) of women’.
This is the twelfth category highlighted in the verse and it refers to those young children and minors who are totally unaware of issues regarding women. These children have not reached the age of having desires for women, nor are they aware of the shame of women and matters related to sex. Due to their ignorance of these affairs and their minor age, the shariah has given an exemption for Muslim women in the matter of hijab before them.
Having highlighted these categories, the verse continues by giving another law that is connected to the observance of hijab. It states:
‘And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers that you may be successful’.
Here, the believing women are told that they must not strike their feet to the ground so that their ornaments give of a sound which would then be heard by others, especially the non Mahram. As such, those who are wearing an anklet should ensure that while walking, the sound of it must not be heard.
While commenting on this verse, the scholars have stated that it will also be prohibited for a woman to put anything in the ornaments that would produce a sound. In a similar manner it will not be permissible for a woman to allow the ornaments to come in contact with each other that produces sounds that are heard by the non Mahram.
In light of this explanation, some jurists have deduced that the voice of a woman would fall into this same prohibition.
These scholars have therefore ruled that the voice of a woman is also included in the ‘awrah’, (that is, that which must be concealed), and hence, they must try their best to conceal their voices so that it may not be heard by a non Mahram.
Other scholars however, have stated that the voice of a woman is not ‘awrah’ (concealable) since it is evident in many traditions that the wives of the Holy Prophet (S.A.S) used to talk to non Mahrams from behind the curtain even after the revelation of the law of hijab.
Taking the both opinions into consideration, the general body of scholars have stated that the correct position is that hearing the voice of a woman is impermissible only when it may create a ‘fitnah’ (mischief), but where there is no such apprehension, it is allowed. The best way for women, in order to safeguard their image, and character is that they should avoid talking to non Mahrams, and only when it is necessary they can do so.
At the end of the verse (i.e. v.31 of Sura Nur) Allah gives all believers (both men and women) a general instruction, inviting them to repent and seek His forgiveness for whatever errors and mistakes they have made in respect of following the injunctions of Hijaab. The verse states: “And repent to Allah, O believers, all of you, that you may be successful” (24:31).
Looking at the injunctions given, we see that both men and women are required to lower their gazes and guard their modesty and chastity. Women have been given the law of covering themselves properly and have also been ordered to avoid displaying their beauty, especially to non blood relatives. In general, laws regarding the protection of one’s honour and dignity, privacy and purity have been highlighted in these verses (of Sura Nur) and the believing men and women have been ordered by Allah to follow them. However, knowing that man is weak and may sometimes fail in his duties, Allah has directed him to beg for forgiveness, feel repentant for his misdeeds and make a firm resolution not to indulge in them in the future.
And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan