By Adil Salahi
At the institute where I study, I was told by one lecturer that the institute does not allow women to cover their faces. Therefore, I did not cover my face. Later I learned that it was only this lecturer who objects strongly to this practice. Could you please explain the position, citing evidence in support.
(S. bint Abdullah)
There is nothing in the Qur’an or the Sunnah to suggest that women must cover their faces in public. In fact there is evidence to the contrary. According to all four schools of thought women need not cover their faces or their hands, up to their wrists.
The most definitive Qur’anic statement in this regard is: “Let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms.” (24: 31) In fact, the statement refers to the opening at the top of a woman’s dress. It requires that the head covering should be drawn so as to cover the top opening of a woman’s dress. However, in translation we substitute the top of the dress by the part of the body it shows. There is no reference here to face, but to bosom. This means that the head covering should cover the bosom. This ensures that should the dress have a low cut, revealing part of the woman’s bosom, it is covered by her head scarf.
There are many Hadiths that speak of women talking to the Prophet or to his companions, with their faces uncovered. One Hadith mentions that on one Eid occasion, the Prophet went to the women to address them, realizing that they could not have heard his sermon already given. The reporter of the Hadith mentions that ‘a woman with dark red cheeks’ put to him a certain question. How could the reporter of the Hadith describe her in such terms if her face was covered?
The following Hadith, reported by Anas, is highly authentic: “When the Muslim army was on the retreat during the Battle of Uhud and people moved away from the Prophet, I saw Ayesha and Umm Sulaym, having lifted their skirts and I could see the lower parts of their legs. They were carrying waterskins on their backs and almost running to give people to drink, before going back to refill their containers and come back to pour it in people’s mouths.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Anas recognized his mother, Umm Sulaym, and the Prophet’s wife as they carried water to give to the wounded. How could he unless their faces were uncovered?
People who insist that women must cover their faces rely on a rigid interpretation of certain statements. Such interpretation cannot stand, if we were to take the statements as they ordinarily mean. Besides, we do not find in the Sunnah any clear evidence to suggest that the women companions of the Prophet covered their faces in public.
Having said that, I feel that the lecturer should not have said that it was a policy of the institute when it was not. He should have explained that in his lectures he did not want women to cover their faces. If he insists on this, he is within his right. He needs to recognize his students and be able to assess their performances. How can he if he cannot tell one from the other?
Source: Arab News
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The author has presented verses from the Quran and cited hadiths to present the status of veil in Islam. How the veil or the burqa as a dress came into being is something to be researched because it is not a mere dress but is having social and political ramifications on the Muslim society in the entire world.
The practice of covering face and full body with a burqa or veil apart from being fully dressed seems to have originated in the royal Muslim families who did not want their women to be looked at by laymen. And gradually the elite and the powerful families of the society in Muslim countries enforced full veil on their women. In India, when the wives of Mughal kings would come out on raths into the city, nobody would dare to cross their path.
If someone would come accidentally on their way and glance on the ladies, he was sure to be killed or at least beaten up badly. The famous incident of a young man being killed by Noor Jehan, the powerful wife of the Mughal King Jehangir is known to every Indian. He was killed because he accidentally looked at her when she was sitting in the balcony of the palace. It proves that the full face veil or burqa as a designer dress, has nothing to do with Islam but is a symbol of social status. In many parts in India, poor women or women belonging to the lower strata of society do not cover their faces or wear burqa and roam about freely.
But women of rich and cultured families do not go out of the house frequently, and even if they do, they go out properly covered. In Urdu it is commonly said about such families: Woh log bade ghar ki aurtein hain, ghar se bahar nahi nikalti hain.
As I said, burqa is a status symbol and has nothing to do with Islam. The ummul mumineen did not have enough clothes to wear. Where would they find additional four yards of cloth to make designer burqas.