Assalamu alaikum Wa
I was as old as eighteen when I first started to wear proper hijaab. Although I was brought up in a good Muslim household and had been raised as a Muslimah, no-one in my immediate family veiled themselves. My parents admired sisters who revealed their piety by veiling, but they did not think that it was completely necessary, and they left it to me as to whether I wanted to wear proper hijaab. As a teenager I had happily worn long dresses as opposed to jeans, and had covered my head with a hijaab scarf but I was unconvinced that there was any need to hide my face from sight. Anyway, I reasoned, I lived in a hot country and it would just make things more unpleasant in summer if I wore proper hijaab.
It was true that one or two of my friends started to veil but they came from what I judged to be 'very religious' families. To me they were veiling because it pleased their parents or because they too were 'very religious'. Then I met the lady who was to become my mother-in-law. Extremely well educated and well traveled, she had decided after study that for her it was fard to cover herself up completely outside her home. When we first met I asked her why she veiled and, very patiently, she explained the reasons that had brought her to her decision. She never once said that I was wrong to leave my face exposed, but she impressed me enough for me to go away and start studying her reasons why we should veil. The more I read on the subject, and the more I studied, the more certain I became that it was at least mustahab.
One day I went to the lady who made my clothes and told her that I wanted a khimar and a matching niqab , Next morning in her house I put them on and, from that moment, I have no appeared in public with my face exposed.
I continued to study and to talk to my future mother-in-law. I sought advice from sisters who I respected and I talked to my wali and to the imam at our masjid. All the time I was becoming more and more towards thinking that veiling was fard, and that just wearing a proper hijaab, with my eyes showing and my hands visible under a chest length khimar which did not fully conceal my figure was NOT good enough.
The day before my nikkah, I first left my home wearing what has remained more or less my 'outdoor attire' since then. I not only wore socks to ensure my legs were hidden under the skirt of my long dress but I wore a thigh-length khimar, and matching proper hijaab with eye veils and with my hands gloved. It was that day when I really came to feel that I was correctly dressed, and since then I have never had any reason to think otherwise.
This article is not the place to argue the religious reasons for this decision, and I am sure that most readers will be fully aware of the arguments for such concealment in public or when in the presence of non-mahraam. But perhaps I may be allowed to explain, in practical terms, why I feel it is ESSENTIAL for me to be covered up in this way.
[I am not wise enough nor learned enough to state categorically that other sisters MUST dress like this. But I hope they will all consider the evidence in the Holy Qur'an and in Hadith, as well as reading the works of scholars such as Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz. Or go to the 'Why proper hijaab is Fard and Wajib' section of this site. Then insh'Allah they will be on their way to reaching the same conclusions as I did after studying the subject thoroughly - if, of course, they are not of this opinion already!]
If you agree that it is mustahab or fard to cover your face in public, perhaps like me it would be worth looking at what you achieve by this and what flaws there are in just wearing proper hijaab.
It is true that, when wearing hijaab and proper hijaab, you are hiding your awrah and you have concealed the central source of your attraction - your face. Men will not be as attracted to you, nor will there be the same degree of chance to draw them into sinful thoughts or actions when you wear proper hijaab. But perhaps you must consider what they can STILL see..
It is no wonder that western cosmetics companies sell so much eye make-up, because a pair of attractive eyes most often are the focus of a man's attention as he looks at a woman. We read of the 'radiant eyes of the houris', of Mata Hari's 'bewitching eyes' and is western magazines we see girls inviting men with their made-up eyes. So it is little wonder that men will look at women wearing proper hijaab and will judge them as creatures of beauty if they see beautiful eyes gazing back at them from over the covering of their proper hijaabs..
When I wore just proper hijaab, I tried to narrow down the gap between my head covering and the niqab but, even when drawing them together till it was difficult to see between them, I never fully concealed my eyes. So, for all my good intentions, I left the most 'potent' [perhaps 'dangerous' would be a better word] part of my feminine characteristics open for any man to see.
Yet the solution to this potential cause of fitnah is so simple; all sisters need to do is to wear eyes veils. I personally wear two layers of black gauze material over my eyes. With both lowered there is no hint at all of there being any gap between my proper hijaab and head covering. Yet I can still see sufficiently to move about in safety. If I need more accurate sight, such as for reading, I can throw back the outer layer of my eye veils. This enables me to see better while still to a large degree concealing my eyes from onlookers. I am told that like that it is possible to see the gap between my veils and maybe in a strong light to gain a hint of what lies behind that opening. But throwing back the outer veil does allow me to read while still maintaining a reasonable degree of concealment. A single veil may not be perfect, but it allows me to briefly read or see more clearly for a hopefully brief time until I can lower my outer veil again so that I will be respectably hidden again.
I have been asked if it not very hot in summer when wearing such depth of veils. I have to echo the anonymous sister who said, "Yes, it is hot, but the Fires of Hell are hotter still............" In truth I soon grew used to wearing this form of veiling and now, six years after I started covering up fully, I think little about it unless the weather is very hot. And then I would also be feeling the heat if I was wearing some light western clothing.
My reasons for wearing gloves are similar to those for veiling my eyes. If you look at dancers or mime artists, you will see how they use their hands so eloquently, how they can be seductive and persuasive. Also hands reveal a woman's age and even beauty; slim unwrinkled and beautifully manicured hands will almost certainly belong to a equally attractive women. So they can be as 'revealing' as a sister's face or eyes. As such they should be covered too.
I personally wear a long khimar that reaches down well below my hips so as to hide my figure should my gown press against me in the wind or with my walking. This hides my hands for much of the time. But I need to expose them to perhaps guide my daughter in the street or to open a door or a gate, or to take money from my bag when shopping. So, always before I leave my home I will put on gloves which I will not remove unless I am in another sister's house or I have returned to my own home. I freely admit that there are times when wearing gloves can be inconvenient but I am used to handling money with them on, to writing and even typing when gloved. I believe that momentary inconvenience is an extremely small price to pay for having my hands properly concealed at all times in public. I personally wear long gloves that reach up my forearm as it seems very silly to wear them and then show one's wrists or forearm as can be the case with ordinary short gloves if your sleeves ride up.
The same applies with my feet, ankles and legs; I wear long opaque socks as it would be foolish to be otherwise concealed while tempting men with a sight of trim ankles or pleasantly shaped legs.
As for colours, I normally wear only black as this is the least 'demonstrative' shade and will attract less attention than wearing some bright colour. Again it would seem to be nonsense to conceal myself fully and then draw attention to myself by wearing brightly hued clothing. So wearing black to me is the sensible [and correct] thing to do. Likewise I do not wear flimsy materials as these can shape themselves to my body or even blow up in the wind. Slightly heavier fabrics may be a trifle warmer than lightweight materials, but they are 'safer' to wear so that I feel more 'comfortable' when dressed in that way.
I would never think of myself as a perfect Muslimah in actions or dress. But I do my best and I am convinced that the manner in which I conceal myself in public or when with non mahraam is correct. There are times I admit when I find this form of concealment to be rather impractical or even uncomfortable but, as I have said, I view full veiling as fard. Insh'Allah I will continue to overcome any temptations to dress otherwise when away from the safety of my home. I know that my beloved husband approves of the way I dress and that alone would be enough for me to continue veiling fully. But, even more importantly, I believe that, by concealing myself in this way, I am obeying the precepts of the Holy Qur'an and pleasing Allah (swt) which is in itself the most priceless of rewards.