Definition of Hijab
كتاب الحجاب باللغة الإنجليزيةقراءة: 33188
Definition of Hijab
It is very clear that it is mandatory for every Muslim to understand his/her faith the correct way. This means to have authentic knowledge of Islam based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah so that we can follow what Allah I and His Messenger r have commanded us to do and refrain ourselves from committing sins because of disobedience. The best way to learn and practice Islam correctly is by knowing and understanding at least the correct meaning of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad r in Arabic, if not learning the language of the Qur’an itself. We have to understand that no matter how much efforts were put to translate the meanings of the Holy Qur’an, the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad r or the right deductions by the renown Muslim scholars of these two revealed sources of knowledge and guidance to other languages there will always be errors because of misinterpretation of the meanings of the words. It is in this context that I tried to give the real/explicit meaning of the word “Hijab” in Arabic. If we look at the meaning of the word “Hijab” in the dictionary we learn that the word means “veil”, “screen”, “cover(ing)” or “curtain” (see Al Mawrid: A Modern Arabic English Dictionary, 1992 p. 453).
The meaning of the word “Hijab” becomes more clear to mean “covering” which also means “veil” as Allah I Himself uses the term. As stated in the Qur’an Allah I tells us Allah which meaning of is translated as:
“It is not given to any human being that Allah should speak to him unless (it be) by Revelation, or from behind a veil.” ( 42:51).
From the above verse, Allah I clearly mentions the word Hijab(veil) to mean covering. He makes it very clear to us that no one has spoken to Him directly face to face while seeing His face but there was always a Hijab (covering or veil) between Him and the one who spoke to Him. In fact, even Prophet Muhammad r Allah’s Prophet and Messenger to the whole mankind did not see Allah I. After Allah I honored the Prophet r to have ascended to the highest Heaven, and given him the privilege to speak to Himself, one of his Companions asked him whether he has seen Allah I. The following authentic Hadith tells us:
Abi-dhar t narrated that he asked Allah’s Messenger r: “Did you see your Rubb (Sustainer)?” He r replied, which meaning of is translated as:”I saw light.” (Reported by Muslim).
Also Aishah said:
“ If anyone tells you that Muhammad r has seen his Rubb (Sustainer), he is a liar for Allah said, which meaning of is translated as:‘No vision can grasp Him’ (6:103).” (Reported by Al-Bukhari).
Another verse, in chapter Al-Mutaffifin, verse 15, Allah I uses the word Hijab when He says, which meaning of is translated as:
“Nay! Surely they (evil-doers) will be veiled from seeing their Rubb(Lord) that Day.”
In the above verse, Allah I explains how the Kafiroon (Disbelievers) will be veiled (covered) from seeing Allah. Note that the word used here by Allah is “Mahjoboon” which comes from the verb “Hajaba” which means “prevent from seeing”.
In another verse, Allah I says, which meaning of is translated as:
“And when you (Muhammad) recite the Qur’an, We put between you and those who believe not in the Hereafter, an invisible Hijab (veil or covering).” (17:45)
The word Hijab in this verse means ‘O Muhammad you will not be seen by the Kafiroon (Disbelievers) when you recite the Qur’an. Note that the the above verse (17:45) was revealed as the result of the following incident in the life of the Prophet r:
Narrated Sa’ead bin Jubairt “When Chapter 111 was revealed, the wife of Abu Lahab came looking for the Prophet r while he was sitting with Abu Baker t. Abu Baker t said to the Prophet r: “I prefer you hide from her or leave as she is coming for you and she might harm you.” The Prophet r said which the meaning of is translated as: ‘There will be a screen set between her and I.” So, she did not see him…” (Reported by Abu Ya’ala).
In brief, as stated in the Qur’an, the word Hijab means to veil or cover something from being seen by others, so when we say that the Muslim woman must wear Hijab, we mean that she must cover her face so as not to be seen by men who are not her mahram (those whom she is forbidden to marry permanently and her husband). It does not mean, the way some Muslims understand, that Hijab means covering the woman’s hair only because if the word Hijab means covering the hair only, then when Allah stated in the Qur’an in chapter 42 verse 51 that no one will be spoken to by Allah except behind Hijab, it would mean that they will see His Face, which is absolutely incorrect.
Indeed, in this world no one has seen Allah I. Even Prophet Moses and Prophet Muhammad r whom Allah I has given the privilege to speak with did not see the Almighty. However, in the eternal world, Allah I will reward the Muslim Believers to see Him, which is then the supreme success and Allah will be pleased with them and they will be pleased with Him as He said in the Qu’ran, which meaning of is translated as:
“For those who have done good is the best (reward, i.e. Paradise) and even more (i.e. having the honor of glancing at the countenance of Allah).” (10:26).
In line with the above Qur’anic Verse are Ahadith that tell us that Allah I will reward the righteous Believers the highest honor and privilege to see His Face. This means He will unveil His Face (remove his Hijab or covering). One of these Ahadith is the following:
‘Abdullah ibn Umar narrated that Allah’s Messenger r said , which meaning of is translated as:
"The lowest in station among the inhabitants of Paradise will be he who looks at his gardens, his wives, his bliss, his servants, and his couches stretching a thousand years’ journey, and the one who will be most honored by Allah will be he who looks at His face morning and evening.” He then recited, "Faces on that day will be bright, looking at their Rubb (Sustainer).” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi).
Proofs of the Obligation of Hijab
For the enlightenment of all Muslims, let us know the concrete proofs from the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah on the obligation of Hijab for Muslim women. First let us try to understand fully what the Qur’an says about the required Hijab for women. Then, let us know the proofs from the reported Sunnah that are authentic. In other words let the words of Allah I and His Messenger r guide us as to how women in Islam must be covered. In this way, we get divine guidance that will unite our different arguments/positions on the issue of Hijab for women.
Proofs from the Qur’an
Allah I said in the Qur’an, which meaning of is translated as:
‘And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and protact their privet parts (from illegal sexaul acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.) and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks, and bosoms, etc) 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, their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam) or the (female) slaves whom their right hands posses, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers that you may be successful’ (24:31).
In the above verse, there are three proofs of the obligation of Hijab (covering the woman’s face):
A) Allah’s saying, which meaning of is translated as:
“And not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent.” Here Allah forbids the women to show off their adornment absolutely except that which is apparent, such as their outer clothes, this is the interprtation of Abdullah bin Mas’aud of this verse. Also, looking at this verse, we see that Allah stated:“Except only that which is apparent” and He did not state: “Except only that which they expose”’ because what is exposed is something you cannot hide but what appears is under your control, you can hide it if you wish to do so and you can show it off if you wish; so, woman can only show off their outer clothes because they cannot hide them even if they wish.
B) Allah’s saying, which meaning of is translated as:
“And to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their body, face, necks and bosoms).” The woman’s veil is what she puts over her head, so if she is ordered to draw her veil all over her body starting from the head ending at the toes, then her face will be the first part of her body to be covered. Also it is common sense that the beauty of the woman is her face, so how would Allah I command the woman to draw her veil over her body to prevent others from looking at her beauty and at the same time He will permit her to expose her face? This is logically senseless.
C) Allah’s saying, which meaning of is translated as:
“And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.” During the pre-Islamic period, women used to wear anklets and they would stamp their feet on the ground to develop a sound with their anklets in order to attract the attention of men, so Allah I made it forbidden on Muslim women to do this act . If women are forbidden to stamp their feet on the ground to avoid infatuating men, then how about exposing their face?. So which is more attractive to men, to hear the sound of the anklets or to see the woman’s face?. Obviously the face of the woman is more attractive. Given this reality, how could it be possible to permit women to expose their faces where at the same time they are forbidden to stamp their feet?. This is a very clear proof that the woman’s face must be covered whenever strange men or non-mahram are present.
Allah said in the Qur’an, which meaning of is translated as:
“O prophet! Tell your wives, and your daughters, and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”’(33:59). The purpose of the revelation of this verse is that the women at the Prophet’s time used to walk outside Al-Madinah when they had to answer the call of nature because they did not have restrooms in their homes and there were some wrong-doers who used to follow the women slaves when they walk outside the town to answer the call of nature and harass them. There were cases, however, when they would harass the free women thinking they were slaves, so Allah I revealed this verse to command the Prophet’s wives, daughters, and the believing women to cover themselves in order to be distinguished from the slaves women. Ibn Katheir said regarding this verse: “Allah I commanded His Messenger r to order the believing women especially His wives and daughters for their honour, to draw cloaks on themselves to be distinguished from the non-Muslim women and women slave.” The word “Jilbab” (cloak) means the cover over the veil (yashmak), according to the following interpreter of Qur’an: Ibn Mas’aud, Obidah, Qatadah, Al-Hasan Al-Basrey, Sa’eid bin Jubair, Ibrahim Anna’kahy, and Atta Al-Kahrasany.
Narrated Alli bin Aby Talhah, that Ibn abbas said “ Allah I has commanded the believing women when they leave their houses for a necessity to cover their faces”. Mohammad bin Seareen (a great scholar) said, I asked Obidah As-Slmany about the meaning of Allah’s saying : (Draw their cloaks all over their bodies), so he covered his face and head while exposing his left eye. Also many Muslim scholars such as Abu Baker Arrazy (died on 370H), Emmad Ad-Deen At-Tabri (died on 516H) Imam Al-Bagawi (died on 516H), Ibn Al-Jawzy in his Tafseer (explanation) of Qur’an (died on 597H), Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiah (died on 728H) and many other scholars said the meaning of this verse is for the woman to cover her face when non-mahram men are present. With all of these proofs, we see that this verse, with no doubt, means that the Muslim woman must wear a Hijab (covering or veil) so as to cover her whole body from head to toes.
Allah I said in the Qur’an, which meaning of is translated as:
“And when you ask them (the Prophet’s wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen. That is pure for your hearts and for their hearts.” (33:53) This verse, which was revealed in the fifth year after Hijrah, tells us that Hijab means covering all parts of the body including the face and there is no dispute between the scholars that this verse means covering the face with the rest of the body. But the dispute is about one issue whether this verse is restricted only to the wives of the Prophet r?. Or is it for all Muslim women?. Imam At-Tabri, the greatest Scholar of the Qur’an Tafseer (explanation), stated in his Book of Tafser regarding this verse “When you ask the Prophet’s wives and the believing women whom are not your wives, ask them from behind a Hijab (veil) and do not enter their homes (while they are inside the house alone), this is purer for your hearts and their hearts”. So this verse is a rule, which is not for the Prophet’s wives only but for all Muslim women. This verse (33:53) and verse (33:59) have one relation, that is, in verse 33:53 Allah I stated , which meaning of is translated as:
“And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen”, the scholars agreed that this verse means that the Prophet’s wives must cover their bodies including the faces and in verse 33:59 Allah I stated, which meaning of is translated as:” O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks(veils) all over their bodies”
commanding the Prophet r to tell his wives, daughters, and the believing women to cover themselves. The point here is, how could we say that in verse 33:53 it means that the Prophet’s wives must cover their faces and in verse 33:59 it means they have to cover their bodies except their faces and the hands? If we say this, then we mean that the Qur’an means one thing in one verse and means another thing in other verse where both verses concern the same rule. To confine our interpretation of the said verses in this kind of thinking is absolutely wrong because the verses in the Qur’an confirm each other and not to contradict each other.
Allah I said in the Qur’an, which meaning of is translated as: “And as for women past child bearing who do not expect wed-lock, it is no sin on them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment. But to refrain (i.e not to discard their outer clothing) is better for them. And Allah is All Hearer, All Knower.” (24:60). The proof in this verse, is that Allah I had negated the sin on the old women (those who had past childbearing age and have no attraction to men) if they discard their outer clothes under the condition that they do not show their adornment. It is obvious that the meaning of this verse is to discard the outer clothing but not all the clothing because she will be nude. So the elderly women can expose their faces and hands (in the presence of men who are stranger or non-mahram) if they wish but if they refrain on showing their faces it is better for them. Imam At-Tabri stated, when Allah I said, which meaning of is translated as:
‘It is no sin on them if they discard their outer clothing’, it means there is no sin on them if they discard their veils and their gowns (abaya). Also Imam Abu Ya’ala said “In this verse there is a proof that it is permissible for the elderly women to expose their faces and hands in the presence of men but not their hair because it is forbidden on them as it is forbidden on young women.” Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Baz said regarding this verse “Allah informs that the elderly women who are not in the interest of marriage (because of their old age) are not to be counted for misdemeanor for removing their clothes (coverings or veils) off their faces and hands as long as they are not exposing their adornments” . So it is clear to understand from this point that the elderly women who are allowed to expose their faces and hands must still observe modesty by not exposing their adornments. It must be noted that Allah I has encouraged them to observe Hijab (full covering of their bodies which includes covering of their faces) when He I says, which meaning of is translated as:
“But to refrain (not to discard their outer clothing) is better for them.”. If Allah I has encouraged elderly women (who by nature do not appear attractive to men) not to remove their veils (covering) from their faces, so how about young and pretty women?.
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