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This piece is entitled Hijab because it is the one 'Arabic word - more than any other - which has come to be associated, almost exclusively, with the head-covering/scalf worn by Muslim women. In fact, Hijab is never employed in Al-Qur'an in this context. (I personally avoid the use of this particular word when referring to my own head-scalf)

Allah SWT has described/defined the Muslim Community as the "middlemost community" 2:143 - in other words, a Community that is measured, moderate, and modest, achieving balance and equity in all its differing aspects. Such a Community is necessarily free of all exaggerations/excesses as well as all forms of extremism.

Virtually all acts of worship require the head to be covered - during performance of Salaat, upon the Pilgrimages of Hajj and Umra and whenever communities gather together in Masaajid. This covering constitutes a recognition and willing acceptance that the believer/s is/are in the Presence of The Holy One - which is why, apart from the obvious call to modest dress, many Jewish, Christian and Muslim women continue to adorn their heads with scalfs/shawls whenever they venture out into the world.

Human beings tend to differ in respect of what constitutes real modesty. Such divergences of opinion are bound to be subjective - which is why the Standard employed is the one conferred upon Mankind by The Creator. It is only when this Standard is selectively applied or abandoned altogether that confusion in regard to the definition of real morality arises. When boundaries and limits of proper human behaviour are persistently breached, that which is immoral becomes not only tolerable but actually acceptable. Believers need to equip themselves with knowledge about their Religion so that they are always aware of that which is acceptable in the Sight of Allah SWT and that which is not.

In order to clarify the meanings of Ayaat-Allah relating specifically to women's attire I will be providing dictionary definitions of all the relevant 'Arabic words used. In Sha Allah, by these means and employing such a method a greater degree of comprehension may be attained into the Will of Allah SWT in this regard.

Surah 24 An-Nur, Verses 30-31
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to guard their private parts: this will be more conducive to their purity - verily, Allah is Aware of all that they do.

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty beyond what may be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings upon their bosoms - WAL-YADRIBNA BI-KHUMURIHINNA 'ALA JUYUBIHINNA. And let them not display their beauty to any except their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands' fathers, or their sons, or their husbands' sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of women's nakedness: and let them not swing their legs (in walking) so as to draw attention to their hidden charms.

And, O you believers - all of you - turn to Allah in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state!

We may observe that Verse 31 is considerably longer than Verse 30 - which is addressed to men. This reveals the great importance attaching to the manner in which women dress and how they comport themselves.

1) Verse 30: Allah SWT Commands men to
a) lower their gaze -
b) guard their private parts
c) by following steps a/b Allah SWT then informs believing men that such measures will be: most conducive to their purity.
d) a warning is issued: Allah SWT is Aware of all that they do.

Always important to note that in the construction of these Guide-lines it is men who are addressed first.

2) Verse 31: Women are now addressed, they are Commanded to
a) lower their gaze -
b) guard their private parts
c) not to display their beauty - ZEENATAHUNNA - beyond what may be apparent
d) draw their head-coverings - KHUMURIHINNA - over their bosoms
e) not to display their beauty to any men except to those to whom they are directly related through immediate family, servants/young children
f) not to swing their legs in a manner that would draw attention to their concealed beauty.
g) all believers called upon to turn to Allah SWT in repentance.

The differences of opinion emerge from c) - what does Allah SWT mean when HE Refers to " except what may be/that which is apparent" - ILLA MA DHAHARA MINHAA? Because the term is not restrictive but is rather broad, it has to be understood in its broadest sense. Also, since we know that Al-Qur'an was/is intended for all peoples of all times, the use of the word Khimaar has to be understood within the context of the times in which the Ayaat were revealed - being addressed to the compatriots of the Prophet (pbuh) In other words, the stress is on loose-fitting clothes with head-coverings being component parts.

ZEENATAHUNNA means "their adornment" and is related to showy and fanciful clothing, Allahu 'Alam - we may examine the root meaning of the word -

Zana, which means -
to decorate

Zain -

Zeenah -

Khamara is the root of the word Khumur (singular KHIMAAR) - it means, amongst other things:
to cover

Khumur means -
veil covering head and face of woman

(We may bear in mind here that in 5:90 Al-Khamru is employed, which means: wine/alcohol/intoxicants - consumption of which results in alteration of behaviour/conduct. Intoxicants conceal, hide or obscure reason/the senses - preventing them from functioning properly and in the way intended by Allah SWT. Allahu 'Alam)

Jaib - of which the plural is Juyub - means, amongst other things:

Thus, women are called upon to conceal their shape/form - the parts which are hidden and the parts which protrude.

Surah 24 An-Nur, Verse 60
And women advanced in years, who no longer feel any sexual desire, incur no sin if they discard their (outer) garments - THEEYABAHUNNA - provided they do not aim at a showy display of their beauty. But, it is better for them to abstain: and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

Thaub -

The plural Theeyab means -

Surah 33 Al-Ahzaab, Verse 59
O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, as well as all believing women, that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments - YUDNEENA 'ALAYHINNA MIN JALABEEBIHINNA: this will be more conducive to their being recognized and not annoyed. And Allah is indeed Much Forgiving, a Dispenser of Grace!

A summary of the above Ayah:

1) Direct address to the Prophet - and through him to all believers;
a) tell your wives/daughters to draw over/upon themselves some of their outer garments - YUDNEENA 'ALAYHINNA MIN JALAABEEBIHINNA.
b) the reason for this Command is explained: this will enable them to be recognized - YU'RAFNA - and;
c) they will then not be annoyed.
d) Allah SWT Informs believers that HE Is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Jilbaab and its plural Jalaabeeb mean -
women's dress

Surah 33 Al-Ahzaab, Verse 53
O you who have attained to faith! Do not enter the Prophet's dwellings unless you are given leave (when invited) to a meal, do not come (so early as) to wait for it to be readied: but whenever you are invited, enter (at the proper time) and when you have partaken of the meal, disperse without lingering for the sake of mere talk - LI-HADEETH: that, behold, might give offence to the Prophet, and yet he might feel shy (asking) you (to leave) but Allah is not shy of (teaching you) what is right.

And (as for the Prophet's wives) whenever you ask them for anything that you need, ask them from behind a screen - WWARAA'I HIJAB: this will but deepen the purity of your hearts and theirs. Moreover, it does not behove you to give offence to Allah's Apostle - just as it would not behove you to ever marry his widows after he has passed away: that, verily, would be an enormity in the Sight of Allah.

Hajaba is the root for the word Hijab, it means, amongst other things -
to veil
to hide

Hijab, plural Hujub, means -
folding screen
woman's veil

The interesting aspect of Verse 53 is that it is the men who are enjoined upon to employ Hijab when addressing the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) In other words, they were required to use a screen or barrier when speaking with the Mother's of The Faithful - Surah 33 Verse 6. This was designed to prevent any kind of inappropriate exchange that may have caused them to incline towards each other. Allahu 'Alam.

With especial reference to the Niqab - this contravenes the Laws of Allah SWT. 24:30 clearly state that men must "lower their gaze" This injunction is impossible to carry out if a woman's face is concealed. Furthermore, what is the logic of this Ordinance - no real point in a man lowering his gaze if he cannot see a woman's face. 24:31 stipulates the exact same thing for women - yet, how may one whose face is entirely concealed "lower the gaze"? And, if a woman is covered from head to foot, then what is remaining of "that which may be apparent thereof"? I suggest, nothing would be or is apparent. From a legal view, a person is identified by means of his or her face. In civil, criminal cases a woman may be required to provide testimony - or she herself may be the victim. How, then, is identity to be determined if the woman's face is veiled?

The veiling of the face predates Islam by thousands of years. It may have become prevalent amongst the Muslim Community because of influences as well as associations with the Early Christians. In Early Christendom very young girls/women would withdraw from society and enter houses which became, to all intents and purposes, nunneries. The face-covering was also adopted in order to protect women and prevent their molestation - those were particularly dangerous times for the female gender (nothing much has changed since then, it would seem) The niqab is not an Islamic requirement - it actually conflicts with and contradicts Al-Qur'an. It is an unfortunate truth that many Muslims adhere to Al-Hadeeth, sects, scholars and schools of thought instead of Al-Qur'an - which mean that practices alien to Islam have become not only common-place, but have actually become prominent and visible.

Surah 33 Al-Ahzaab, Verse 52
No (other) women shall henceforth be lawful to you - nor are you (allowed) to supplant (any of) them by other wives, even though their beauty should please you greatly 'AJABAKA HUSNUHUNNA - (none shall be lawful to you)
beyond those whom you already possess. And Allah keeps Watch over everything.

Although this Ayah is a direct address to the Prophet (pbuh) in that Allah SWT Informs him that he may not marry any other women/exchange his wives for others, it does nevertheless reveal that women's beauty - referred to as HUSNUHUNNA, their beauty - could be seen/was apparent. And a woman's beauty lies principally in her face.

Husn means -

The Niqab is not part of Islam nor should it ever be supposed or believed that it is. Educating Muslims in respect of their Deen is a fundamental requirement in order to ensure they adhere to the Guidance which flows from Al-Qur'an, as well as to prevent them from succumbing to popular myths which are contrary to the letter and spirit of Islam.

Muslim women's attire in modern times has been the subject of fierce debate and bitter controversy - all of which are but manufactured distractions designed to conceal massive problems confronting both the Ummah and the world. Al-Islam does not impose unreasonable burdens upon the Community of Believers, so the Ayaat relating to attire are but very few in number. Of far greater import is Libaas-At-Taqwa - that Garment of Allah-consciousness which defines, describes every true believer, whether male or female, and determines their manner, mode of life-style, conduct, thought and dress.

Allahu 'Alam.

Translations from "The Message Of The Qur'an" by Muhammad Asad
Dictionary definitions from: "A Dictionary Of Modern Written 'Arabic" by Hans Wehr, Edited by J. Milton Cowan.

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