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Is Niqab Established in Islamic Law or is it Merely a Cultural Practice?

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Question:

Assalamua-laikum,

I have recently started wearing hijab, however, i am now beingintroduced to many different forms of it. Personally, I wear loosefitting and covering clothing, with a scarf wrapped around my head, so as only my hands and face are showing. However, I have been told by
some that the niqab/face veil is the right way to cover oneself. Then others will tell me that the niqab is cultural and not a religious obligation. I would like to know what the quran/sunnah say about this issue. And was also curious as to how the Prophet’s (sws) wives wore their hijab. I have been told Aisha (r.a.) did not cover her face andsimply wore a hooded cloak, is this true?

Jazak Allah Khayr

Answered by Ustadha Umm Yusuf Abdul Sattar
Verified by Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf

In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful

Thank you for your question. In terms of the proper dress code for a Muslim woman, there is no standard; it varies from culture to culture. However, the key is that any clothing worn by a Muslim woman should always adhere to the following requirements:

  1. The entire body must be covered.
  2. The clothing must not be form-fitting; rather, it should be loose and flowing, such that the contours and shape of the body are not discernible, particularly the chest and hips.
  3. The clothing must not be transparent.
  4. The clothing should not draw unnecessary attention by its color or design.

As for niqab, it is necessary (wajib) according to the Hanafi school of thought. Given the prevalence of temptation between the sexes, niqab is a fundamental protection against immodesty and sin. Therefore, when a woman leaves the confines of her home, she should conceal herself with both hijab and niqab, such that no part of her body is left exposed.

In explanation of the verses of hijab, (Surah Al-Ahzab, 59 & Surah An-Nur, 30-31), it has been relayed by the Mufassireen that Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas said that when the believing women emerge, they must draw their jilbabs (a long sheet that covers from head to feet) over their heads and faces and reveal only one eye. [Maarif-ul-Qur’an]

The following hadith have been recorded in Abu Dawud:

It has been narrated from Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), “May Allah have mercy on the early immigrant women. When the verse, ‘That they should draw their veils over their bosoms’ was revealed, they tore their thick outer garments and made veils from them.” The muhaditheen have interpreted this to mean that the Sahabiat covered their faces.

It has also been reported by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), “Riders would pass us when we accompanied the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) while we were in ihram. When they came by us, one of us would let down her jilbab from her head over her face, and when they had passed on, we would uncover our faces.”

It has been narrated by Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her), “When the verse, ‘That they should cast their outer garments over their persons,’ was revealed, the women of Ansar came out as if they had crows over their heads and draped over them were black clothes that they would wear.”

It has been clearly established from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the scholars of our ummah that the Sahabiat were the epitome of modesty and righteousness. May Allah, the Most Exalted, give us the iman to live as they lived and worship as they worshipped.

Ustadha Umm Yusuf Abdul Sattar

Zamzam Academy

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