Hijab in the west

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“Hijab in the west”

By Shaykh Mohammed Shakeeb;

No doubt Muslim women in the West have felt the brunt of the rise of hostility and animosity towards Muslims/Islam, which has resulted in a number of women finding it extremely difficult to maintain the observance of hijab.
We pray that Allah ta’ala strengthen us and keep us all firm in our Deen.

Perhaps the plight of these women has contributed to some scholars compassionately issuing fatwas allowing women to abandon the head scarf as wearing of the headscarf, or the hijab brings them undue attention and puts their safety at risk.

Whilst we empathise with the challenges that muslim women in the west face on a daily basis, we must also respect our religious traditions established for centuries based on the Quran, the Sunnah and the practice of the blessed companions and the consensus of the Ummah (ijmaah).

All four Sunni schools of law consider covering the hair of a woman to be obligatory by ijma’ah or consensus. The only thing they differed upon was whether the face and hands should also be covered along with the hair in the presence of non mahram males.

The Hanafi position

The awrah of a woman in front of a non mahram male according to the Madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifa is her entire body (including her hair), excluding her face, hands up to the wrist and her feet.
However, the recorded position since the earliest times is that it is necessary (wajib) to also cover the face for young women due to fitna as mentioned by Imam Jassas.

قال الجصاص رحمه الله: ( المرأة الشابة مأمورة
بستر وجهها من الأجنبي،

The Maliki position

According to the Madhhab of Imam Malik, the awrah of a woman in front of a non mahram male is her entire body besides her face and palms (the hands up to the wrists). Both of these parts are not awrah, however, it is essential for a woman to cover these when there is a fear of fitna by revealing them.

يقول القاضي عياض في إكمال المعلم : « وهذا ليس فيه إلا إبداء كفيها ووجهها، وذلك مباح منها النظر إليه لغير تلذذ ومداومة لتأمل المحاسن. قال ابن عباس: {وَلا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا}، قال: الوجه والكفان، وقاله عطاء . وذكر ابن بكير: أنه قول مالك وغيره، وإليه مال إسماعيل القاضى قال: لأنه الذى يبدو من المرأة فى الصلاة

The Shafi position

According to the Madhhab of Imam Shafi, there are two opinions that are mentioned. One opinion states that the awrah of a woman in front of a non mahram male is her entire body, including her palms and face. The other opinion states that the awrah of a woman is her entire body excluding her palms and face.

According to Imam An Nawawi , the second opinion is the most correct one, and it is the official position of the Madhhab. In this regard he writes, As for the awrah of a woman, it is her entire body except her face and palms. (Al Majmoo’ Sharh Al Muhazzab Vol. 4 Pages 190,191).

The Hanbali position

With respect to the Madhhab of Imam Ahmad, there are also two opinions (narrations) which have been mentioned. One opinion states that the awrah of the woman is her entire body except her palms and face.
The other opinion from the Hanbalis states that the awrah of a woman is her entire body. In this respect, the great Hanbali scholar, Ibn Qudamah writes in his famous ‘Al Mughni’, ‘some of our companions say that the entire body of a woman is her awrah since the Prophet (S.A.S) said, ‘A woman (herself) is awrah’ (Tirmidhi).

Note; Some Ulama have differentiated between the awrah of a woman and the hijab of a woman saying the hijab is what she wears in front of males and the awrah is what she covers during salaat. There are more details to this but for the sake of brevity this should suffice.

Those who say that women need not cover their hair cite ‘urf’ as an evidence. As long as you are dressed modestly according to urf (practices and habits of people of a particular time and place) then you are abiding by the Quranic injunction.
They say that the practices and habits of people are often decisive in defining what is good and desirable, and differentiating it from what is not good and not desirable.

The reply to this is that urf is of two types;

1. A valid urf (عرف صحيح)
فالعرف الصحيح: هو ما تعارفه الناس، ولا يخالف دليلا شرعيا ولا يحل محرماً ولا يبطل واجباً،

The Fuqaha have said that urf will only be taken into consideration when it does not go against any shar’i evidence like the Quran, sunnah and ijma’ah.
That it does not make something haram as halal and that it does not invalidate a wajib practice. Only then will it be considered عرف صحيح.

2. An invalid urf (عرف فاسد)
The second type of urf is the opposite of this.

وأما العرف الفاسد: هو ما تعارفه الناس ولكنه يخالف الشرع أو يحل المحرم أو يبطل الواجب

It goes against the shariah, makes something haram as halal and it invalidates wajib practices.

Let us now look at the evidences of hijab.
The Quran addresses women’s dress  primarily on two different occasions as will be shown below:

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not to expose their adornment except that which appears from it and to wrap their veils (khumur) over their chests (juyūb).

(Surah al-Nūr 31)

In this ayah, Allah has commanded the believing women to cover their beauty “except that which appears from it.”

Imam al-Ṭabarī narrated in his Tafsīr that when the Companion ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbās and other salaf al-ṣāliḥīn (May Allah be pleased with them) were asked about the words “except that which appears from it,” they interpreted it to refer to the face and hands, meaning the face and hands of a woman may be uncovered.

However Abdullah bin Mas`ūd (May Allah be pleased with him) was asked about the words “except that which appears from it,” he interpreted it to mean that only the thiyāb  (clothing) may be visible. In other words, the face and inner garments must not be exposed. (al-Ṭabarī).

Two opinions have been deduced from the above verse of surah an Nur:

1. Women should cover her whole body except her face and hands (feet also according to Hanafi).

2. The woman should veil herself completely including her face and hands.

Scholars have provided two sets of proofs for the two above opinions.
I will provide two of these evidences from hadith below.

Āishah رضى الله عنها narrates that Asmā’ bint Abū Bakr (May Allah be pleased with them) came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless and give him peace) while wearing thin clothing. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless and give him peace) disliked it and said, “O Asmā’, when a woman reaches puberty, it is not appropriate that any part (of her body) be seen other than this and this.” He indicated towards his face and hands.
(Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4104)
The Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) educated Asmā’ on proper attire and allowed only the face and hands to be visible.

Āishah (May Allah be pleased with her) narrated, “While I was sitting, I fell asleep. Ṣafwān bin al-Mu`aṭṭal al-Sulamī al-Dhakwānī, who had lagged behind the army, came to where I was. He saw the body of a person who was asleep. He recognized me when he saw me as he had seen me before [the mandating of ḥijāb. I awoke when he recited, ‘Innā lillāhi wa innā ilayhi rāji`ūn’ after recognizing me. I then covered my face with my jilbāb.”
(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3910, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim2770)

In this hadith, Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) narrates an incident in which she was inadvertently left behind alone in the desert. She fell asleep with her face uncovered. First, she specifically mentions that the sahabi who saw her, Ṣafwān (May Allah be pleased with him) saw her face before the mandating of ḥijāb indicating that that was how he recognised her as he could not have seen it afterwards.
Upon awakening and realising his presence, she covered her face immediately.
Should anyone claim that the hadith above can not be used as an evidence as one could argue that the injunction of hijab was specific to the wives of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam then the answer to that is the verses of hijab was not specific to the wives of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam as seen below;

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam was told to address his wives, daughters and all Muslim women (وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ) regarding the injunction of hijab.

Another claim made by those who call for the abandonment of the hijab is that there is no evidence that the word khimār means a piece of cloth that covers the face or the hair. The say the only thing that the verse allows us to say conclusively is that Muslim women were called upon to draw a piece of cloth (khimār) over the juyūb (bosoms)—whether it covered the hair or the face, we don’t know.

The reply to this is that the Quran is to be understood according to the explanation of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.

Allah ta’ala says

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

And We revealed to you the message (Quran) that you may explain to the people what was sent down to them…

Allah ta’ala says that We revealed the Quran to you (Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) so that you can explain it’s content to the people. Quran cannot be understood by neglecting hadith.

Why would one have any doubt in the explanation of the Sahabah the likes of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Masood RA of what constitutes hijab? Did they not learn from the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam? Did they not see what the women practiced at that time and understood to be the correct definition of hijab as taught by the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam?

The fact of the matter is there is not one single opinion in the whole history of Islam until recently that allows for women to show their hair.
There is ijmaah on this issue.

With all due respect to those who want to abandon the hijab using fiqh, I strongly urge that their views should be refuted while maintaining respect for them. I believe this is a dangerous view that if followed will result in one of the symbols of islam (hijab) being made redundant.


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