Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by


As salamu alaykum, what is the position of our school about the niqab?

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Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuHu,

Whether a woman must cover her face and hands is a point on which Ibn Hajar and Ramli differed. In Tuhfah, Ibn Hajar goes the way of maintaining that it is not intrinsically wajib upon her, but rather enforceable. In Nihayah, Ramli maintains that in fact it is intrinsically wajib. They differ on the evidence supporting the view that it is not obligatory. There is an ijma’ reported by Qadi ‘Iyad that women do not need to cover the faces and hands, Ramli declares the ijma’ as weak [as does Khatib in Mughni and many others]. Ibn Hajar maintains that Imam Nawawi established the ijma’ in Sharh Sahih Muslim.

In ‘Umdat al-Mufti wa al-Mustafti, Sh. Ahdal’s view aligns with Ibn Hajar’s. Also, in Hashiyat al-Jamal, the following is stated,

وأيد باتفاق المسلمين على أن لولاة الأمور منع النساء من الخروج سافرات الوجوه ورد بأن منعهن من ذلك لا لأجل وجوب الستر عليهن لذاته بل لأن فيه مصلحة عامة وفي تركه إخلال بالمروءة ومن ثم نقل القاضي عياض عن العلماء أنه لا يجب على المرأة ستر وجهها وعلى الرجال غض البصر عنهن أي فإن علمن نظر أجنبي لهن وجب عليهن الستر وهذا ما قاله حج وضعف شيخنا ما نقله القاضي عياض ومنع كون ولاة الأمور إنما منعوا مما ذكر للمصلحة العامة لا لكون الستر واجبا لذاته قال وإنما ذلك لكون الستر واجبا لذاته … فالحق ما قاله حج اه ح ل

“And this is supported by the agreement that the rulers may prevent women from going out with their faces uncovered; and is refuted by that preventing them from that is not from it being intrinsically wajib, rather because in it is a public interest. Here, Qadi ‘Iyad related from the scholars [ijma’] that it is not obligatory on women to cover their faces, and it is obligatory on men to lower their gazes from them. Meaning, if the women know that strange men will gaze upon them, then covering is obligatory. This is what Ibn Hajar stated. And my shaykh weakened what Qadi ‘Iyad reported. (sic) The correct view is what Ibn Hajar stated.” (Halabi)

Both sides would probably maintain that it is something a Muslim woman should do, while notably differ on if that is to the extent of being obligatory. There is the detail that if a woman knows she will be peeped on by a strange man, then she must cover.

And Allah knows best. Fatwa Dept.

Also see Shaykh Taha Karaan’s discussion on this matter in further length and detail: