Copyright © 2005 Dr. Arshad Sayeed Siddiqui

Home pageQuranTafsirHadithsAn-Nawawi's 40 Hadith


By Dr. Arshad S Siddiqui

The vital issue regarding Muslim women’s modesty and dress has been, and continues to be, especially in our modern times, a subject of keen interest and utmost importance for the social health and welfare of the islamic community.

Unfortunately, Muslims have become extremely lax in their duty of observance in matters of modesty and dress. In fact the observance of decorum is virtually non-existent among the present-day Muslims, especially in westernized islamic countries and the muslim communities in the west. Muslims constantly see around them the careless immodesty of the non-beleivers society and they have been extremely influenced by their loose morals and shameful conduct. Let this be a warning that those who adopt the ways of such a society must also face the terrible consequences of their evil deeds. The result of such blind, mindless imitation is a preponderence of immodesty and immorality as evidenced in our women folk.

In order to avoid all such evil occurrences, Believers are required to adopt an attitude of modesty and decorum at all times, an attitude which may be described by the arabic word
“Hishmah” a term which designates modesty, decency, honor, purity and chastity.

The islamic rulling regarding women’s Hijaab is stipulated in various verses of the Quraan; each of which will be discussed in turn. Firstly we will focus our attention on surah An-Noor, 24.30-31, where Allah’s messenger (saw) is commanded to address the believing men and women regarding the general observance of modesty and decency in their relationships with each other, as well as the particular regulations for women’s dress.
Allah the Mighty and exalted commands his prophet (saw) in the following manner:
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.( 24.30).

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 (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) 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 Islam), 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. ( 24.31).

The meaning of these verses is, generally speaking, a self explanatory except for the intent of Allah’s command:“The believing women are not to display anything of their adornments except that which ordinarily appears thereoff”Thus, the scholars of islam differed as to the precise meaning of the phrase ‘except that which ordinarily appears thereoff’.

The great scholar from Andalus, Al-Imam Al-Qurtubi mentions the different sayings from the companions and the taabieen regarding the specific meaning of the phrase in question. According to Saeed bin Jubair, Ata-a and Al-Awzaai, the meaning of the phrase is : The face and the two hands and the garments. After narrating similar such sayings in his tafseer, Al-Imam At-Tabari stated that the intended meaning of the exception quoted in the previous mentioned phrase ( Regarding what may be displayed of the womens body ), is the face and the two hands. This is the most correct of the mentioned openions because all of the scholars agree that every person must cover his /her ‘Awrah’ during salah and that a women is allowed to uncover her face and the hands while praying but she must cover other than these two areas. Thus, if there is unanimous agreement between the ‘ulama’ regarding this matter then it is obvious that a women may display of her body that which is not awrah as is the case with a man, because it not forbidden to expose whatever is not awrah. Consequently, since the women is allowed to display the face and the hands, it is obvious that this is the exception made by Allah in his saying : ‘except that which ordinarily appears thereoff, because these are precisely the parts which appers exposed on the women.’

Allaah says “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”
[al-Ahzaab 33:53]
In this aayah Allaah explains that for women to observe hijaab and be screened from non-mahram men is purer for the hearts of everyone.

Since wearing hijab is not one of the five pillars of islam therefore, is it really that important?

This is a mistake, because hijaab is obligatory for women. Allaah is the One Who has commanded women to cover their adornments. This has been enjoined upon women as a protection against abuse and temptation. That is because women are the focus of desire, and the focus of what those who are tempted to look at. So if a woman uncovers her beauty she will provoke desire, and people will become attracted to her and will follow her. This is the cause of many immoral actions such as adultery and the things that lead to it. So hijaab is obligatory for women and was enjoined upon them in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“…and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…”
[al-Noor 24:31]
The veil (khimaar) is that which comes down from the head and covers the face, and the jilbaab is an outer garment with which a woman covers herself, leaving no part of her body showing.
And Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“…And when you ask (his [the Prophet’s] wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen…”
[al-Ahzaab 33:53]
So it is a protection for women so that there will be no room for people to treat them as playthings.
Is it necessary to wear hijab in a kaafir country?

It is not permissible for you or for any other woman to take off your hijaab in the kaafir countries, just as that is not permissible in any Muslim country. It is obligatory to observe hijaab in front of non-mahram males whether they are Muslims or kaafirs. Allah commands his believing servants to migrate from a land in which they are not able to establish Islam, to the spacious earth of Allah where they can do so.
“O my slaves who believe! Certainly ,spacious is My earth. Therefore worship me.” 29.56.

If a girl doesn't wear hijab, does that mean she will go to hell ? But what if she performs Salaah, reads Quran regualrly, acts decently, doesn't look at forbidden things, doesn't gossip or backbite etc?

First of all it is essential to know that Muslim men and Muslim women are obliged to follow the commands of Allaah and His Messenger, no matter how difficult that may be for people and without feeling shy of other people. The believer who is sincere in his faith is the one who is sincere in carrying out his duty towards his Lord and obeying His commands and avoiding that which He has forbidden.
No believer, man or woman, has the right to hesitate or delay with regard to commands; rather he or she should hear and obey immediately, in accordance with words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning):
“It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allaah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision” [al-Ahzaab 33:36]
This is the case with the believers who are praised by their Lord in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allaah (His Words, the Qur’aan) and His Messenger, to judge between them, is that they say: “We hear and we obey.” And such are the successful (who will live forever in Paradise).
And whosoever obeys Allaah and His Messenger , fears Allaah, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful” [al-Noor 24:51-52]
Moreover, the Muslim should not look at how small or great the sin is, rather he should look at the greatness and might of the One Whom he is disobeying, for He is the Most Great, the Most High; He is Mighty in strength and Severe in punishment, and His punishment is severe and painful and humiliating. If He exacts vengeance on those who disobey Him, then utter destruction will be their fate. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Such is the Seizure of your Lord when He seizes the (population of) towns while they are doing wrong. Verily, His Seizure is painful (and) severe.
Indeed in that (there) is a sure lesson for those who fear the torment of the Hereafter. That is a Day whereon mankind will be gathered together, and that is a Day when all (the dwellers of the heavens and the earth) will be present” [Hood 11:102-103]
A sin may appear insignificant in the eyes of a person when before Allaah it is serious, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“you counted it a little thing, while with Allaah it was very great”
[al-Noor 24:15]
This matter is as some of the scholars said: “Do not look at the smallness of the sin, rather look at the One Whom you are disobeying.” We have to obey Allaah and do as He commands. We must remember that He is watching in secret and in public, and avoid that which He has forbidden.

With regard to belief, if a Muslim who prays commits some sins or bad deeds, he is still a Muslim so long as he does not commit any action which would put him beyond the pale of Islam or do any of the things which nullify Islam. This sinful Muslim will be subject to the will of Allaah in the Hereafter; if He wills He will punish him, and if He wills He will forgive him. If he enters Hell in the hereafter, he will not abide there forever. But no person can be certain as to his fate, as to whether the punishment will befall him or not, because this matter is known only to Allaah.

Sins are divided into two categories, minor and major. Minor sins may be expiated for by prayer, fasting and righteous deeds. Major sins (which are those concerning which a specific warning has been narrated, or for which there is a specific hadd punishment in this world or torment in the Hereafter) cannot be expiated for by righteous deeds. Rather the one who commits such sins has to repent sincerely from them. Whoever repents, Allaah will accept his repentance. There are many kinds of major
sins such as lying, zinaa, riba (usury/interest), stealing, not wearing hijaab at all, and so on.

Based on the above, we cannot say for certain whether a woman who does not wear hijaab will enter Hell, but she deserves the punishment of Allaah because she has disobeyed His command . With regard to her specific fate, Allaah knows best what it will be. We cannot speak about things of which we have no knowledge, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And follow not (O man, i.e., say not, or do not, or witness not) that of which you have no knowledge. Verily, the hearing, and the sight, and the heart of each of those ones will be questioned (by Allaah)” [al-Israa’ 17:36]

It is sufficient deterrent for the Muslim whose heart is aware to know that if he does a certain action he will be exposed to the punishment of his Lord, because His punishment is severe and painful, and His Fire is hot indeed.
“The Fire of Allaah, kindled,
Which leaps up over the hearts” [al-Humazah 104:6-7]
On the other hand, for the woman who obeys her Lord’s commands – including observing complete hijaab – we hope that she will enter Paradise and attain the victory of salvation from the Fire and its torments.

It is strange indeed that a woman whose character is good, and who prays and fasts and does not look at forbidden things, and avoids gossip and backbiting, yet does not wear hijaab. If a person really achieves these righteous deeds, this is a strong indication that she loves goodness and hates evil. Let us not forget that prayer prevents immorality and evil, and that good deeds bring more of the same. Whoever fears Allaah concerning his nafs, Allaah will support him and help him against his nafs.
“and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance, and perform As Salaah (Iqamat as Salaah), and give Zakaah and obey Allaah and His Messenger”[al-Ahzaab 33:33]
And Allaah is the Source of strength and the Guide to the Straight Path

It is strongly advised to adhere to complete hijaab in front of non-mahram men so that the good deeds are accepted and its reward multiplied, If a Muslim woman fasts but does not wear hijaab, her fast is still valid, but she is sinning by neglecting hijaab.
Being uncovered does not affect the validity of one’s fast, but the one who displays her beauty and adornments (tabarruj) is threatened with punishment from Allaah for going against His commandment.

Whoever makes fun of a Muslim man or woman for adhering to the Islamic sharee’ah is a kaafir, whether he is mocking a Muslim woman for observing correct Islamic hijaab or for some other reason. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) narrated that during the campaign of Tabook a man said: “I have never seen anything like these Qur’aan readers of ours. They have the biggest bellies, the most lying tongues and they are the most cowardly when meeting the enemy.” Another man said, “You are lying, and you are a hypocrite. I will most certainly tell the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) [what you have said].” He told the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), then Qur’aan was revealed. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar said: “I saw him (that man) hanging onto the saddle of the she-camel of the Messenger of Allaah, (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), stumbling over the stones, and he [the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)] was saying,

“Was it at Allaah, and His Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and His Messenger that you were mocking?”
Make no excuse; you disbelieved after you had believed. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you because they were Mujrimoon (disbelievers, polytheists, sinners, criminals)”
[al-Tawbah 9:65-66 – interpretation of the meaning]

So mocking the believers is equivalent to mocking Allaah, His verses and His Messenger. And Allaah is the Source of strength.All praise be to Allaah, and we ask Allaah to give us the strength and courage to be steadfast in following His guidance.

As for the question of wearing hijaab in a foreign country, it is a mandatory obligation which cannot be neglected. It is not permissible not to wear hijaab under any circumstance. As for the hardship that faces our fellow sisters in foreign country, with regards to the issue of hijaab, we pray to Allaah to give strengthen and courage it takes to stand up to it. By no means it is easy, and it takes great will and determination.

I give you the glad tidings of the words that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to the Sahaabah:

“There will come a time when patience is required of the one who adheres (to Islam), and he will have the reward of fifty of you.” They said, “Of them?” He said, “No, of you.”
(Narrated by Ibn Nasr; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 494).