Questions on the headscarf

1). There’s a Hadith that clearly states that a women should cover all of herself, except for her face and hands. Aren’t your assertions that a woman shouldn’t wear a scarf going directly against this Hadith?

 

May Allah reward your efforts to uncover the truth about this issue. The hadith you mention is in the collection of Abu Dawud:

 

Aisha said, “Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of God (pbuh) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of God turned his attention from her and said, “O Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her except that she displays parts of her body except this and this,” and he pointed to the face and hands.

 

Now, this hadith is categorised as weak because it is ‘mursal’. In other words there is a gap in the chain of narration – the narrator never met A’isha. Hence, Abu Dawud declared it weak. I realise that more recently, Sheikh Albanee decided it was ‘saheeh’ or authentic as he used it as proof that Muslim women are NOT required to cover the face. He asserted that this hadith must be authentic because it would then explain ‘except that which is apparent’ (the verse in Surah An Nur, which you can find here).

 

In other words, the categorization of ‘saheeh’ was not based upon an analysis of the chain but because he felt it fitted his understanding of the issue. So, it is still weak and cannot be used to base our actions upon. 

 

2).  How am I to understand the narration related to women going to Hajj at the time of the Prophet, when they covered their faces when men passed by? Isn’t this proof that women must cover their faces and heads?

 

The collection of Abu Dawood has this statement from Aisha, the wife of the Prophet:

 

عن عائشة قالت : ” كَانَ الرُّكْبَانُ يَمُرُّونَ بِنَا وَنَحْنُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مُحْرِمَاتٌ ، فَإِذَا حَاذَوْا بِنَا سَدَلَتْ إِحْدَانَا جِلْبَابَهَا مِنْ رَأْسِهَا عَلَى وَجْهِهَا ، فَإِذَا جَاوَزُونَا كَشَفْنَاهُ ”

 

Narrated Aisha, “The riders would pass us while we were in ihram with the Messenger of Allah. When they got close to us, one of us would draw her jilbaab from her head over her face. When they passed by, we would uncover our faces.

 

This account, however, contradicts the following hadith from Bukhari:

 

The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “The woman in the state of Ihram should not cover her face, or wear gloves.”

 

How can it be that the wives of the Prophet covered their faces in ihram when he clearly stated that a woman should not cover her face or hands and he was with them at this time? Obviously there is a problem with the authenticity of Abu Dawud’s account (The collection of Abu Dawud is deemed less authentic compared to Bukhari). So, we cannot use the account attributed to A’isha as credible evidence.

 

Some argue that this Hadith in Bukhari means women did cover their faces normally. However, by that same token, would these same ‘scholars’ claim that when Muslims were told in the Quran not to approach the prayer while intoxicated (4.43), it meant they were usually drunk? Of course not! 

 

If you would like more information about the issue of ‘covering the face’, please look here

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The Muslim headscarf – NOT Allah’s religion

B8BB95CA-2376-416B-A838-628B4640B3FBFor centuries, most of the clergy have claimed women must (at the very least) wear a headscarf. Women’s dress is probably the most talked about issue both in the Eastern and Western world and the headscarf is now synonymous with a woman’s religion.

 

Before we look at the evidence, we need the context, the backdrop – if you like. The culture of the Arabs at the time of the Prophet; the people were scantily clad and often exposed their private parts.* Keep this in mind as you read on.

 

As usual, I will let the evidence speak for itself and you can make up your own mind but prepare to be shocked.

 

I always start with the Quran – There are 2 verses in the Quran about how Muslim women should dress in public. The first is in Surah Al Ahzaab (59):

 

يأَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ قُل لاًّزْوَجِكَ وَبَنَـتِكَ وَنِسَآءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَـبِيبِهِنَّ ذلِكَ أَدْنَى أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلاَ يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً

 

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to lower their Jalabeeb over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known so as not to be harmed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

 

So, this verse commands:

 

1). All Muslim women to ‘lower’ their ‘jalabeeb’

The majority of ‘scholars’ claim the jalabeeb (plural of ‘jilbaab’) means to cover from head to toe. Some even include the eyes/one eye. They equate ‘jalabeeb’ in this verse with a cloak worn by modern day Muslim women. They present no evidence whatsoever to back up their claim. However, anyone with common sense will understand that the ‘jalabeeb’ here refers to something the women already owned. It simply refers to clothing/garment.

 

So, in other words, Allah told the women to cover more of their bodies than they currently were (remember the culture of the time!)

 

2). Women were commanded to lower their ‘jalabeeb’ so that they could be recognised as Muslims and as a result, not harmed.

 

Another significant point to note here is that many translations of the Quran wrongly translate ‘fa la yu’dhayn’ as ‘not be molested’, immediately connecting the concept of covering to sexuality.

 

The verses just before this one, using the same word (yu’dhoon), tell us about ‘harming’ God, the Prophet and the believing men and women. Common sense would dictate that it is obviously not anything sexual being suggested here – you cannot ‘molest’ God. 

 

In summary, this verse commands women to cover up their bodies more than they had been at that time to be different from the pagans. It is general. The specifics came later in the 2nd verse.

 

The 2nd verse is from Surah An Nur (31):

 

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِى إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِى أَخَوَتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـنُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّـبِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُوْلِى الإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُواْ عَلَى عَوْرَتِ النِّسَآءِ وَلاَ يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُواْ إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعاً أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

 

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and cover their private parts and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent, and to draw their covers all over their Juyub and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their women, or their right hand possesses, or the Tabi`in among men who do not have desire, or children who are not aware of the nakedness of women. And let them not cover their legs so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.

 

Now, as mentioned, this verse is very specific. It includes:

 

1).  Women must cover their private parts (just like men are commanded in the verse prior to this one) and not expose them except that which is apparent. ‘That which is apparent’ is defined differently by ‘scholars’ – Some claim it is what is necessary to see (ie. one eye/eyes) while others propagate it is the face. BUT it is obviously related to the covering of the private parts. In other words, it means cover up the private areas except that which is impossible to hide (eg. the size of the hips or bottom).

 

2). Their ’juyub’ (plural of ‘jayb’) must be covered – this refers to covering the chest area/breasts/cleavage. Again, ‘and not to reveal their adornment except that which is apparent’ means cover the chest with fabric except that which is impossible to hide (eg. size of bust). The covering of the chest may be relaxed in the company of the list of people which follows.

 

‘Scholars’ claim the ‘khumr’ mentioned here means ‘headscarves’ but linguistically, the root خمر – also used to refer to ‘alcohol’ in the Quran – means ‘cover’. It is only over time that the word has now evolved to imply a headscarf when the Quranic meaning is the original one. Here, it means ‘cover with clothing/fabric’.

 

3). Their legs must be covered in a way which doesn’t make what they are covering visible/apparent. In other words, clothing must cover the legs and not be so tight/transparent that there is nothing left to the imagination.

 

This part of the verse is commonly translated as ‘And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment’ but the verb used here is the same verb as is used to state the chest must be covered (ضرب). Therefore, in the same verse, about the same topic, it has to mean the same thing.

 

Anyway, how would stamping your feet reveal anything except the sound of anklets? Any claims to this are based on shaky evidence.

 

The Quran makes it very clear. Women are commanded to cover their private parts, their chests and their legs. In other words, to dress modestly. So, where is the command to wear a headscarf ?

 

Well, put frankly – it isn’t in the Quran.

 

Despite all the attention given to how Muslim women dress, there is NO book on women’s dress in the collections of ahadith. In fact there is actually more information about men’s dress (eg. Gold, silk, covering the private parts)! So, it cannot be found in ahadith either. Surely, if the women covered their heads, we would have some evidence about how and when they wore it.

 

So, in conclusion, the headscarf does not seem to be based upon evidence and Allah’s religion. The reasons for it differ between communities and time periods in history. It is a concept intertwined with symbolism/recognition, belonging, misogyny, patriarchy, and culture. I am not the first to state this view and am sure will not be the last.

 

Sometimes, the truth is a bitter pill to swallow but our religious practices must be based upon evidence and our Lord’s commands, not what makes us comfortable because we are used to it. The headscarf is not a woman’s religion. It’s a direct result of centuries of misogyny, patriarchy and culture. More recently, it is now associated with belonging/recognition and even liberation. The solution to this is my answer to most problems in life – Knowledge. Muslims (men and women) need to know the real religion instead of relying on the mere opinions of clerics. It will be a tough road to begin with but we owe it to ourselves and to future generations. May The Almighty guide us all.

 

*If you read the Quran in it’s entirety (verses about covering the private parts) alongside ahadith about dress (easily found online), this becomes very clear.