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Niqab (Women covering all of their faces) is not Mandatory!

Abdul Haleem


Two leading Saudi Scholars, Shaikhs Ibn Uthaimin and Ibn Jibreen, have issued "ruling" proclaiming it is MANDATORY for women to wear niqab (face-veils)!

"The Islamic hijab is for the women to cover everything that is forbidden for her to expose. That is, she covers everything that she must cover. THE FIRST OF THOSE BODILY PARTS THAT SHE MUST COVER IS HER FACE. It is the source of temptation and the source of people desiring her. THEREFORE, THE WOMAN MUST COVER HER FACE IN FRONT OF THOSE MEN THAT ARE NOT MAHRAM. As for those who claim that the Islamic hijab is to cover the head, shoulder, back, feet, shin and forearms while allowing her to uncover her face and hands, this is a very amazing claim. This is because it is well-known that the source of temptation and looking is the face. How can one say that the Shariah does not allow the exposure of the foot of the woman while it allows her to uncover her face? It not possible that there could be in the Esteemed, Wise and Noble Shariah a contradiction. Yet everyone knows that the temptation from uncovering the face is much greater than the temptation than results from the uncovering of the feet. Everyone also knows that the most sought after aspect of the woman for men is the face. If you told a prospective groom that a woman's face is ugly but her feet are beautiful, he would not propose to such a woman. However, if you told him that her face was beautiful but her hands, palms, or shins were less than beautiful, he would still propose to her. From this one can conclude that the face is the first thing that must be covered. There are also evidences from the Book of Allah and the sunnah of our Prophet. There are also statements from the Companions, the leading Imams and the great scholars of Islam that indicate that it is obligatory for the woman to cover all of her body in the presence of non-mahram men. This obviously indicates that IT IS OBLIGATORY UPON THE WOMAN TO COVER HER FACE IN FRONT OF SUCH MEN. However, this is not the place to quote all those authorities. And Allah knows best."

Shaikh ibn Uthaimin, "Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women" (Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1996), pp. 289-290, emphasis partially in original.

"A WOMAN IS NOT TO UNCOVER HER FACE IN FRONT OF NON-MAHRAM MEN. In fact, that is forbidden. HER HIJAB IS NOT COMPLETE WITHOUT HER COVERING HER FACE. That is her most attractive aspect. The evidence is in Allah's statement,

‘[Tell the believing women) to draw their veils over their necks and bosoms’ (al-Nur [24:] 31).

Allah has ordered them to lower their headcovering from their heads over the opening in the front of chest. If it comes down from the head, it covers both the face and the neck and front chest area. Allah also says,

‘[Tell the believing women] not to reveal their adornments except to their husbands, their fathers...’ (al-Nur [24:] 31).

Therefore, it is forbidden for her to expose her adornments save in front of her husband and other mahram men."

Shaikh ibn Jibreen, "Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women" (Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1996), p. 295, emphasis partially in original.

These two Saudi opinions are noteworthy for the paucity of Quranic and hadith citations in their support.

There is a good reason why the learned shaikhs don’t quote the Quran: IT DOESN’T SUPPORT THEIR POSITION!

The so-called "revelation" of hijab appears in Surah 24. The following is the Yusef Ali translation of the relevant verses [all emphases in passages from the Quran or ahadith are added by me]:


SAY TO THE BELIEVING MEN THAT THEY SHOULD LOWER THEIR GAZE AND GUARD THEIR MODESTY: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.


AND SAY TO THE BELIEVING WOMEN THAT THEY SHOULD LOWER THEIR GAZE AND GUARD THEIR MODESTY; THAT THEY SHOULD NOT DISPLAY THEIR BEAUTY AND ORNAMENTS EXCEPT WHAT (MUST ORDINARILY) APPEAR THEREOF; that THEY SHOULD DRAW THEIR VEILS OVER THEIR BOSOMS and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.

Here are two other translations of Quran 24:31:

PICKTHAL: And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, AND TO DRAW THEIR VEILS OVER THEIR BOSOMS, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women's nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.

SHAKIR: And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and LET THEM WEAR THEIR HEAD-COVERINGS OVER THEIR BOSOMS, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful.

Two things are noteworthy about Quran 24:30 and 31.

(1)     In Quran 24:30, MEN are directed to "lower their gaze"! If face veils for women were MANDATORY why would this direction even be necessary?

(2)    Quran 24:31 only tells women to cover "their BOSOMS." Nothing whatever is said about the HEAD - let alone the FACE!

Similar comments can be made concerning Quran 33:59 - often cited as an alternative authority for mandatory veiling:


YUSUFALI: O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that THEY SHOULD CAST THEIR OUTER GARMENTS OVER THEIR PERSONS (WHEN ABROAD): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

PICKTHAL: O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to DRAW THEIR CLOAKS CLOSE ROUND THEM (WHEN THEY GO ABROAD). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

SHAKIR: O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they LET DOWN UPON THEM THEIR OVER-GARMENTS; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

This passage says nothing about covering the FACE - or even the HAIR! Moreover,
Yusef Ali and Pickthall translations talk only about women wearing heavier "outer garments" when they "go abroad." And the Shakir translation merely suggests LENGTHENING women’s garments - not face or head veils!

While the Quran provides NO SUPPORT for mandatory niqab, the hadith literature is
CONTRADICTORY on this subject.


Abu Dawood, Book 32, Number 4090:

Narrated Umm Salamah, Ummul Mu'minin:

When the verse "That they should cast their outer garments over their persons" was revealed, THE WOMEN OF ANSAR CAME OUT AS IF THEY HAD CROWS OVER THEIR HEADS BY WEARING OUTER GARMENTS.

Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 282:

Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba:

'Aisha used to say: "When (the Verse): "They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms," was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and COVERED THEIR FACES WITH THE CUT PIECES."


Abu Dawood, Book 32, Number 4092:

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', WHEN A WOMAN REACHES THE AGE OF MENSTRUATION, IT DOES NOT SUIT HER THAT SHE DISPLAYS HER PARTS OF BODY EXCEPT THIS AND THIS, AND HE POINTED TO HER FACE AND HANDS.

This contradiction is echoed in a further contradiction as to whether niqab is even permitted during hajj:


Malik’s Muwatta, Book 20, Number 20.5.15:

Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that Abdullah ibn Umar used to say that A WOMAN IN IHRAM SHOULD WEAR NEITHER A VEIL NOR GLOVES.


Malik’s Muwatta, Book 20, Number 20.5.16:

Yahya related to me from Malik from Hisham ibn Urwa that Fatima bint al-Mundhir said, "WE USED TO VEIL OUR FACES WHEN WE WERE IN IHRAM in the company of Asma bint Abi Bakr as-Siddiq."

Surprisingly, Shaikh ibn Jibreen, author of one of the two Saudi opinions declaring niqab mandatory, agrees with the position that women may NOT wear niqab during hajj:

"A burqa’ is a type of face veil that opens for the eyes to look out from. This is allowed and there is nothing wrong with it except when one is in the state of ihram [for Hajj or Umra]. The Prophet said,

‘Women are not to wear the face veil (niqaab).’

"This refers to the one performing the pilgrimage. She is not to wear face veil (niqaab) which is the same as a burqa’."

Shaikh ibn Jibreen, "Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women" (Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1996), p. 281, emphasis partially in original.

There is a glaring illogic in Shaikh ibn Jibreen’s position: Pilgrimage is the MOST HOLY OF OCCASIONS in Islam and precisely the time when the arguments IN FAVOR OF FACE VEILS ON WOMEN to prevent distraction of MEN from their religious duties would seem STRONGEST. Yet ibn Jibreen says this is when UNVEILING is MANDATORY!

The truth is the niqab is NOT an Islamic institution, but an innovation borrowed from
paganism and Judaism! This was the opinion of Quran translator Marmduke Pickthall:

"THE VEILING OF THE FACE BY WOMEN WAS NOT ORIGINALLY AN ISLAMIC CUSTOM. It was prevalent in many cities of the East before the coming of Islam, but not in the cities of Arabia. The purdah system, as it now exists in India, was quite undreamt of by the Muslims in the early centuries, who had adopted the face-veil and some other fashions for their women when they entered the cities of Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. It was once a concession to the prevailing custom and was a protection to their women from misunderstanding by peoples accustomed to associate unveiled faces with loose character. Later on it was adopted even in the cities of Arabia as a mark of [tamaddun] a word generally translated as 'civilization', but which in Arabic still retains a stronger flavour of its root meaning 'townsmanship' that is carried by the English word. IT HAS NEVER BEEN A UNIVERSAL CUSTOM FOR MUSLIM WOMEN, the great majority of whom have never used it, since the majority of the Muslim women in the world are peasants who work with their husbands and brothers in the fields. For them the face-veil would be an absurd encumbrance. . . .

"The Egyptian, Syrian, Turkish or Arabian peasant woman veiled her face only when she had to go in to town, and then it was often only a half-veil that she wore. On the other hand, when the town ladies went to their country houses, they discarded the face-veil, and with it nearly all the ceremonies which enclosed their life in towns. . . .Not everywhere did wealthy adopt those customs. Umarah tells us that among the Arabs of Al-Yaman, in the fifth Islamic century, the great independent chiefs made it a point of pride and honour never to veil the faces of the ladies of their families, because they held themselves too high and powerful for common folk to dare to look upon their women with desiring eyes. It was only the dynasty which ruled in Zabid, and represented the Khilafat of Bani'l-Abbas in Yaman which observed the haram system with some strictness, no doubt in imitation of the Persianised court of Baghdad.


Marmduke Pickthall,

"According to Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva University) in his book 'The Jewish woman in Rabbinic literature', it was the custom of Jewish women to go out in public with a head covering which, sometimes, even covered the whole face leaving one eye free (Psychosocial Perspective, Hoboken, N.J: Ktav Publishing House, 1986, p. 239). He quotes some famous ancient Rabbis saying, "It is not like the daughters of Israel to walk out with heads uncovered" and "Cursed be the man who lets the hair of his wife be seen....a woman who exposes her hair for self-adornment brings poverty." Rabbinic law forbids the recitation of blessings or prayers in the presence of a bareheaded married woman since uncovering the woman's hair is considered "nudity" (Ibid., pp. 316-317. Also see Swidler, op. cit., pp. 121-123). Dr. Brayer also mentions that "During the Tannaitic period the Jewish woman's failure to cover her head was considered an affront to her modesty. When her head was uncovered she might be fined four hundred zuzim for this offense." Dr. Brayer also explains that veil of the Jewish woman wasn't always considered a sign of modesty. Sometimes, the veil symbolized a state of distinction and luxury rather than modesty. The veil personified the dignity and superiority of noble women. It, also, represented a woman's inaccessibility as a sanctified possession of her husband (24. Ibid., p. 139). It is clear in the Old Testament that uncovering a woman's head was a great disgrace and that's why the priest had to uncover the suspected adulteress in her trial by ordeal (Numbers 5:16-18).

"St. Tertullian in his famous treatise 'On The Veiling Of Virgins' wrote, "Young women, you wear your veils out on the streets, so you should wear them in the church, you wear them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your brothers..." Among the Canon laws of the Catholic church today, there is a law that require women to cover their heads in church (Clara M. Henning, " Cannon Law and the Battle of the Sexes" in Rosemary R. Ruether, ed., Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974, p. 272.).

"Some Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Mennonites for example, keep their women veiled to the present day. The reason for the veil, as offered by their Church leaders, is "The head covering is a symbol of woman's subjection to the man and to God" : The same logic introduced by St. Paul in the New Testament (Donald B. Kraybill, The riddle of the Amish Culture, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989, p. 56.)

"Russian Orthodox women are expected to wear a head covering when in the church. Most don't outside of it in America, but many in Russia and many other eastern Orthodox women all over eastern Europe, Greece, and the middle east do wear scarves on their heads all the time when in public."

One of the greatest advocates of mandatory headcoverings as a of mark the alleged inferiority of women was NONE OTHER than PAUL - author of the "Trinity" and other false doctrines that distort the true teachings of that MUSLIM prophet Jesus (pbuh) into something pagan. Paul said:

"1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have     handed on to you. 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is supreme over every man, the husband is supreme over his wife, and God is supreme over Christ. 4 So a man who prays or proclaims God's message in public worship with his head covered disgraces Christ. 5 And any woman who prays or proclaims God's message in public worship with nothing on her head disgraces her husband; there is no difference between her and a woman whose head has been shaved. 6 If the woman does not cover her head, she might as well cut her hair. And since it is a shameful thing for a woman to shave her head or cut her hair, she should cover her head. 7 A man has no need to cover his head, because he reflects the image and glory of God. But woman reflects the glory of man; 8 for man was not created from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for woman's sake, but woman was created for man's sake. 10 On account of the angels, then, a woman should have a covering over her head to show that she is under her husband's authority. 11 In our life in the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman was made from man, in the same way man is born of woman; and it is God who brings everything into existence. 13 Judge for yourselves whether it is proper for a woman to pray to God in public worship with nothing on her head.     14 Why, nature itself teaches you that long hair on a man is a disgrace, 15 but on a woman it is a thing of beauty. Her long hair has been given her to serve as a covering. 16 But if anyone wants to argue about it, all I have to say is that neither we nor the churches of God have any other custom in worship."

1 Corinthians 11 (New English Version), emphasis added.

As with so many other "Israeeleeat" (Jewish influences that have been absorbed into Islamic "scholarship"), mandatory niqab has become rare among the Jews and Christians, while proclaimed as a religious duty among Muslims. In this sense, it is like the prohibition on pictorial depictions of humans and mandatory beards - Jewish customs practiced more fervently among Muslims than among contemporary Jews and Christians!

Women who wish to wear niqab for personal reasons are free to do so, but the view that wearing niqab is a religious duty is an innovation which has no Quranic basis.






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