Q. Is it allowable for a non muslim woman to see a muslim woman without her hijab?
A. The law regarding what you have asked is clearly mentioned in Sura An Nur verse 31 which stated ‘and they (the Muslim women) 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).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan