New Age Islam
Thu Apr 15 2021, 07:03 PM

Debating Islam ( 20 Jun 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Should Women cover their faces?


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