Must a Woman Wear Proper Hijaab ?
The general understanding in Islam regarding Sunnah, is that if the Prophet or any of his wives (RA) or companions (RA) are recorded in authentic hadith to have engaged in an act that is not haram (prohibited) as defined by Qur'an or Sunnah, then the act is declared halal (permissible). If the companions engaged in an act that the Prophet was aware of and did not speak out against, it is halal.
It is well-known that the wives of the Prophet covered their faces any time non-mahram men were near. A woman named Asma, who was not a wife of the Prophet , was also recorded as covering her face. Easily, one can conclude that wearing veil is halal (permissible).
However, Muslims and Muslimahs across the world have been in "hot debate" for centuries, over the issue of whether or not covering the face is obligatory upon a Muslimah. Those who argue that it is not required, point to the use of the word khimar in the Qur'an, and explain that today's modern khimar does not cover the face, and argue that khimar has never referred to the covering of the face, but only to that of the hair, neck, and bosoms. While one cannot deny the support of Hadith that indicate that the Prophet's wives wore khimar, one must realize that they also covered their faces at all times in the presence of non-mahram men.
The group of scholars agree that it is a highly recommended act to cover the face. The scholars also agree that a woman must cover her adornment, yet some scholars argue that this does not include the face.
BASING ON CULTURE VS. QURAN AND SUNNAH. ...Most Muslim men, even in America, would be pleased if their wives veil, but some state that a veil draws too much attention, causing men to look upon her more than normal. However, one must realize that when men 'look', they have nothing of her to see! Regardless, this issue must stick to understanding and implementing Qur'an and Sunnah, and not making excuses based on the current culture. Muslims are ordered not to imitate the dress of any non-Muslim culture, so, surely, we cannot make the choice to wear proper hijaab based on the pressures of modern day society; instead, we choose, insha'Allah, to fear Allah, swt, and not mankind!
When in a state of ihram, the Muslimah cannot wear proper hijaab. However, according to several scholars, such as Sheikh ibn Baz, even when in a state of ihram, "she should lower her head covering or outer cloak over her face when she is in the presence of non-mahram men." So, it is to say that she should not cover her face around the other women during ihram, but that she should cover it if a non-mahram man approaches. He bases this on the hadith below, narrated by 'Aisha (RAA).
In Fathul Bari, chapter Hajj, a tradition reported on the authority of Aisha (RA) says: "A woman in a state of Ihram (during Hajj and Umrah) should stretch her head - cloth over to her face to hide it." Hadith - Recorded by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and ibn Majah, Narrated 'Aisha. [In his work Jilbab al-Marah al-Muslimah, al-Albani states (p. 108) that it is hasan due to corroborating evidence. Also, in a narration from Asma, Asma also covered her face at all times in front of men.] Narrated 'Aisha (RA) who said, "The riders would pass us while we were with the Messenger of Allah ). When they got close to us, we would draw our outer cloak from our heads over our faces. When they passed by, we would uncover our faces."
According to Shaikh ibn Uthaimin, "she is not required to cover her face during the prayer unless there are non-related men around her. She must then cover her face from them, as it is not allowed for a woman to uncover her face except to her husband and her male relatives i.e., mahram."
If a woman is not around any non-mahram men and does not fear that any will enter her area of salah, she may reveal her face and hands. This is agreed upon by the group of scholars.
So, whether agreeing that proper hijaab is required or not, one must surely acknowledge that it is a desirous sign of piety. What better example of sunnah to follow for a Muslimah than that of the Prophet and his wives RA. Every Muslimah is encouraged to cover to the fullest, showing only one or both eyes.
A woman does not have to wear a proper hijaab (affixed veil), but she should emulate the female companions by using her hijab or other items, to lift and cover her face when a non-mahram man approaches, even during ihram (Hajj), as this is in accordance with sunnah.
Hadith - Muwatta 20.16 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."
The following Fatawa is from Sheikh Ibn Uthaimin:
"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 (i.e. father, husband, etc.).
"As for those who claim that Islamic hijab is to cover the head, shoulders, 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 no allow the exposure of the foot of the woman while it allows her to uncover her face?
"It is 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 that 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 (SWT) and the Sunnah of our Prophet (SAW). 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."
Who Can She Uncover in front of?
A Muslimah should not uncover her adornment in front of any non-Mahrahm male. Muslimahs should especially be careful and remain covered, modest, and quiet around in-laws.
If a gay male is aware of female body parts, he should not be allowed to view a woman uncovered. And, of course, a bisexual male should not be allowed to view a woman without proper covering.
In addition, a Muslimah should not uncover that which she normally uncovers, in front of any non-Muslim female whom she fears may describe her to others. She may also choose to remain covered around any Muslim female whom she fears may describe her physical attributes to their husband or others.
The Noble Qur'an - An-Nur 24:30-31
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, Allāh is All-Aware of what they do.
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 Islām), 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. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allāh to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.
* the Arabic word here is Khumaar, which is the plural form of Khimaar.
Hadith - Bukhari 7:167
The Prophet said, "A woman should not look at or touch another woman to describe her to her husband in such a way as if he was actually looking at her."
Hadith - Muslim, narrated Aisha
A eunuch used to come to the wives of Allah's Apostle and they did not find anything objectionable in his visit considering him to be a male without any sexual desire. Allah's Apostle one day came as he was sitting with some of his wives and he was busy in describing the bodily characteristics of a lady and saying: As she comes in front four folds appear on her front side and as she turns her back eight folds appear on the back side. Thereupon Allah's Apostle said: I see that he knows these things; do not, therefore, allow him to enter. She (Aisha) said: Then they began to observe veil from him.
Hadith - Al-Tirmidhi #3109, narrated Abdullah ibn Mas'ud [Tirmidhi transmitted it.] The Prophet said, "A woman should be concealed, for when she goes out the devil looks at her."
Muslimahs should not socialize with non-mahram men, and should only speak out of necessity to non-mahram men. Allah swt knew that mankind would be tempted to let their guard down and their hijab down, around in-laws. Surely Allah swt is all merciful to provide us the guidance we need in every aspect of our lives. In reference to socializing with in-laws, such close relations can easily lead to adultery which has the death penalty.
Hadith - Bukhari and Muslim The Prophet said, "The in-laws are death."
Women past childbearing age who do not expect wedlock
The Noble Qur'an - An-Nur 24:60
And as for women past childbearing who do not expect wedlock, it is no sin on them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment. But to refrain (i.e. not to discard their outer clothing) is better for them. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.