Why Proper Hijaab ???
Proper hijaabis may not look too intellectual, and may often be mistaken for Muslimahs who have no opinions of their own. That can and nearly always IS a mistaken impression. Behind our veils lie women with emotions, thoughts, and ambitions of their own. I know many proper hijaabis with high academic qualifications and razor sharp intellects. So, please, never ever make the mistake of underestimating a proper hijaabi.....................
Assalaam Alaikum !
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
As a Muslimah brought up in a household where the 'Liberal' tradition of our Beloved Faith held away, and having received an equally liberal and westernized education, many of my friends were surprised when, in my early twenties, I decided that my previous halfhearted attempts to wear hijab were contrary to the teachings of The Most Holy Quran Almost overnight, I not only adopted far more concealing clothing, but I also became a 'proper hijaabi', a sister who covers her face and hands when in public or in the presence of any man outside her immediate family.
Although this transformation may have taken place quickly, I had spent weeks and even months studying the problem of Hijab in some depth and had read widely, not only from The Most Holy Quran and Hadith, but also from teachers whose opinions I came to respect deeply. I spoke to sisters both here in England and abroad. I prayed and sought the guidance of Almighty Allah the Compassionate and Merciful. In the end, after much prayer and study, I found myself faced with no alternative; my conscience informed me that I should adopt full veiling , and I accepted that 'quiet internal voice' wholeheartedly.
Because of the surprise shown by my friends when this
transformation took place, I decided to write to them, giving them at
least part of the reasoning behind my actions. The following is based on
what I wrote to them with one or two later additions so as to make this
version more easily comprehensible. I only hope that my words help at
least some of those who read them.
As most of you know, I started wearing a proper hijaab
(face veil) some time ago, also concealing my eyes from
the sight of others, and wearing gloves when outside my home
or in the presence of strangers. This has led to my being asked many
times why a seemingly 'modern' Muslimah should adopt such a 'strict'
form of Hijab. In the main body of this letter, I hope you will find
some proofs that wearing of the proper hijaab is not merely a practice of
Arab people, but was also a practice of the female companions of the
As you will see, I have not sought to establish
my argument for wearing proper hijaab from a theological point of view, because
I am not qualified to do so. For me, the way I cover-up is a matter
of conscience, guided Insh'Allah by much reading, study and by my
own self image. I spent long enough as an adult in the modern world
before finally accepting the need for decent concealment to know that
I can affect men because of the physical blessings that Almighty Allah
has granted me. As I would feel much guilt were I even to risk leading
a man from the One True Path, I prefer to hide away my physical aspect
and, Insh'Allah, to allow my mind and my actions to be the
elements upon which I am judged as a Muslimah and as a human-being.
So I am NOT attempting to establish whether or not the wearing of
proper hijaab is Waajib or Mustahab (Obligatory or Highly Recommended), for that
is an issue which scholars of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa'ah are still
debating. Instead, I'll try to establish that the proper hijaab is indeed a
practice of the Sahabiyaat. If I can, it should be a refutation of those
people who claim that the proper hijaab is an expression of Arabian culture and
that it is not from Islam, and that it is even a hindrance to the our
Da'wah efforts in Western nations.
For instance it is claimed that proper hijaab wearing women work against
Da'wah as their "strict" dress scares away potential
My own limited experience has actually revealed
the opposite to be the case. Whereas once most of my non-Muslim friends
had no interest in Islam, at least now they wish to know more about
our Glorious Faith, and a longtime acquaintances who was once extremely
skeptical about all religions, is now preparing for her to take her
I also trust that, Insh'Allah, you will have to conclude - as I
have done - that the proper hijaab is a vital and spiritually beautiful aspect
of the Muslim woman's dress, and that it is in no way a hindrance to the
true Da'wah of Islam.
The Mufassireen, such as Al-Qurtubi, cite in
their Tafseer of the Ayah on Jilbaab (Al-Ahzab 33:59), that the Jilbaab
is: "a cloth which covers the entire body.... Ibn 'Abbaas
and 'Ubaidah As-Salmaani said that it is to be fully wrapped around
the women's body, so that nothing appears but one eye with
which she can see." [Tafseer Al-Qurtubi]. The same narration
(of Ibn Abbas) is also in Al-Tabari, Ibn Katheer etc., and they also
show how Ibn Abbas answered the Sahaba's question on "what is
meant by the verse" by getting a sheet and wrapping it all around
him so that only the eyes showed.
However, in addition to this Tafseer, we do
in fact have an authentic Hadith mentioning proper hijaab. The Prophet
(Peace be unto Him) commanded: "A woman (pilgrim) does not cover
her face with a niqab (i.e. does not tie or affix) nor should she
wear gloves." [Al-Bukharee; Muslim; Saheeh Abi Dawood #1600;
authenticated by Al-Albaanee].
From this authentic Hadith, it can clearly be
seen that the Sahabiyat were used to covering their faces with
proper hijaab and to wearing gloves. After all, had they not done so, there
would not have been any need for the Prophet (Peace be unto Him) to
specifically forbid this practice during the state of Ihram. A parallel
example to this is that, during Ihram, men are forbidden to cover
their heads, which clearly shows that outside of being in the state
of Ihram they were accustomed to covering their heads.
The Hadith is warning against affixing a niqab,
however the 'Ulama allow for a woman to cover her face with non-affixed
material. Our mother 'Aisha (RA) said: "Pilgrims were passing
by us while we were with the Prophet of Allah (PBUH). When they came
close to us we would draw our garments from the head to cover the
face." [Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah. Ad-Daraqutni reports a similar
Hadith on the authority of Umm Salamah]. From this we see that covering
the face was a priority of the Sahabiyat and should definitely be
a characteristic of the women who opt to follow their righteous path.
When the Ayah in Surah An-Noor (24:31) was revealed, 'Aisha (RA)
narrated: "May Allah bestow His Mercy on the first Muhajirat. When
Allah revealed, '...and draw their Khumur over their Juyubihinna...',
they (i.e. the women) tore their material and covered themselves with
it." [Saheeh Al-Bukharee]. Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalanee, who is known as
Ameer Al-Mu'mineen in the field of Hadith, said that the phrase,
"covered themselves", in the above Hadith means that they
"covered their faces". [FathAl-Bari].
To reinforce these samples, many of our contemporary 'Ulama, such
as Shaikh 'Abdul-'Azeez 'Abdullah bin Baaz, and Shaikh Muhammad ibn
Saalih Al-'Uthaimeen, feel that the proper hijaab is indeed Waajib upon the
believing women and they produce strong arguments to back this up.
Sisters too tell us to view 'covering up' as fard, some like Maryam
Jameelah being most insistent on this point. If you scour the Net, it is
possible to find page upon page of worthy and learned Muslims and
Muslimah arguing far more cogently than me that the proper hijaab is a religious
obligation for Muslimahs. The very few pages I have managed to find that
rail against proper hijaab come virtually unanimously from non-Islamic sources,
having mainly Christian or secular authorship.
If those trying to lead brothers and sisters away from the One
True Faith pick upon proper hijaab as being 'dangerous', perhaps it is an even
more potent tool in Da'wah that even I had ever thought.
Others from amongst the 'Ulama, such as the Muhaddith of our time,
Shaikh Muhammad Naasiru-Deen Al-Albaanee, clearly feel that the proper hijaab is
not Waajib but rather Mustahab (that is Highly Recommended), as he says
in his book, "Jilbaabul Mar'atul Muslimah". (I confess that I
have only read it in a rather inferior translation!)
Regardless of which opinion you choose to follow, I have to say
that there is no doubt concerning the benefits of proper hijaab, and the
scholars certainly do not differ in this respect. In fact, today when we
do hear criticism from our fellow Muslims aimed at the proper hijaab, their
various reasons do not make much sense.
For example, the argument that proper hijaab is counterproductive to
Da'wah in non-Muslim lands. After having come to see that the proper hijaab is
indeed an authentic part of Islam, I must then conclude that to hide it
would be counterproductive to Da'wah. No one would dare think that the
Sahabah spread Islam all around the world by concealing the practices
they learned from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Praying five times a
day may seem incomprehensible to atheists, but no-one is advocating that
Salaat is kept secret. So why imagine that a mere piece of veil should
make unbelievers shy away from Islam?
Instead, we should be listening to the wonderful words of 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA)
"Let the Sunnah go forth and do not stop it with opinions."
(At times, even I have to pray that more members of the Ummah
would hear those words in their hearts!)
Finally there are modernists like Du'at claiming that the proper hijaab is
in fact Makruh or disliked! That seems VERY strange to me, as someone
who wears proper hijaab and has a lot of experience regarding its advantages,
disadvantages and the affect it has on others. I have come across people
who do not understand why I hide myself so diligently, but I have yet to
meet a Believer or unbeliever, who view my proper hijaab as Makruh. (I confess
that this argument against proper hijaab makes me smile, because I like to
believe myself to be thoroughly 'modern', yet I cover-up fully!)
I hope that sisters reading this letter may look into their hearts
and consider their approach to Hijab. As I said initially, I am NOT
attempting to make any ruling on the subject. And I am certainly not
arguing the case for wearing proper hijaab - I am no jurist and thus such
arguments are beyond my scope. But I do trust that my sisters will
consider this topic.
Even if they feel their own mode of hijab meets
the demands of The Most Holy Quran, I trust they will in future view
those of us who have chosen to wear proper hijaab with some understanding
of why we are hidden in that way. I finally hope that, Insh'Allah,
my words may have shed a little light on what - to me - is a simple
subject, but which has somehow become complex and emotive. I cover
my face and hands in public because I believe that it is the Will
of Almighty Allah.
And that is more than sufficient reason for me.