Re-Opening A Wound: The Second Revelations on Hijab Part 3

Figure 1A: An example of Hijab after the first revelations.

Figure 1A: An example of Hijab after the first revelations.

People, both Muslims and unbelievers, may often ask, “What might drive a woman to dress in complete and full hijab and go out into the public sphere in such a fashion?” The following below and following on in the next days aims to give the understanding and drive behind these women taking such steps. Consider first the ayah and then commentaries along with it.

Prophet! Tell your wives, your daughters and the women of the believers to let down some of their jilbabs over themselves; that is better, so that they will be recognised and not harassed. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.[1]

Commentary

Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers…

Imam al-Hussain al-Baghawi has said, “So the command came for them to cover themselves totally, as Ibn `Abbas, `Ubaidah and others mentioned that when she comes out, nothing should be seen but one or both eyes.”[2]

Imam Ibn `Atiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him, explained: “The common custom for the Arab women was that when they went out from their homes for any need, their faces were revealed, just as the slave women had their faces revealed. Men would look at them and then entertain false thoughts about them. Allah then ordered His Messenger to give the command to bring down a part of the jilbab to cover themselves so that the difference between the slave and the free women might be known. Free women were known by their veiling, so this would keep those who annoy them from being provoked or given reason to bother them. In Madinah, there used to be a group of people that sat on the roadsides to look at women, harass and annoy them and this ayah applies to them in the circumstance of revelation.”[3]

Commentary

… to let down some of their jilbabs over themselves …

Imam al-Baghawi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “There were those who were people of fornication. They followed the women in the streets, also at night when they would go out to relieve themselves, they would at times wink at the women and nudge them. If the women did nothing, they followed them, but if they fought against them they went away. These people were looking to bother the servant or slave women, but they could not tell them apart from other women. Both women went out in the khimar and dress, so there was no difference. But the ayah was revealed and they were told to cover themselves completely with the jilbab, which goes over the khimar and the dress.”[4]

Imam Ibn `Atiyyah ruled: “This ruling is to stop both the molestation of free and slave women and slaves. But there should be a difference, as `Umar stopped a woman from wearing a face veil as she was a slave and the face veil is for those who are free and Muslim.”[5]

Commentary

…that is better, so that they will be recognised and not harassed. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

Imams al-Mawardi and al-`Izz ibn `Abdus-Salam, may Allah have mercy upon them, explain: “This is so the slave or even unrighteous women are known from those who are righteous. Those commanded in this ayah have covered whatever remains of the chest and the entire face except one or both eyes to see the way.”[6]

Imam Ibn al-Jawzi, may Allah have mercy on him, explained: “It is better for them to cover the whole of the head including the face when they go out so that they are known to be free and not slaves. In this way, they will not be annoyed or molested.”[7]

Imam Ibn `Atiyyah further said: “So the general ruling is that they are known to be free and not molested but also that molestation is not valid once it is known that they are free and the others are slaves. But rather, when they see them to be righteous women, they do not come near them.”[8]

The Understanding of the First Three Generations

The Companions

The great scholar Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said of this passage: “When the woman goes outside, she must pull that portion of jilbab over her head, where it passes the forehead, then goes over the nose, leaving nothing exposed but the two eyes to see the way. But the front of her person and vast majority of the face must be covered.”[9]

He said further in his own commentary: This means they should bring a portion of the jilbab over themselves so that it covers the neck completely and also the forehead down, using their jilbab, which is the use of the rida’ and the maqna.`[10]

The second khalifah, `Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, saw some servant and slave women veiling their faces, but he stopped them. He said, ‘It is not for you to be like the free women. So take off this veil from the face.’[11]

The Companion, `Ubaidah ibn as-Salamah, may Allah be pleased with him, stated: “When a woman goes outside of her home, everything should be covered except for one eye to see the way.”[12]

The Companions, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Umm `Atiyyah all described the jilbab as being bigger than the khimar, enveloping it, going over it and covering the woman completely.[13]

The Companion, `Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the women should go out, covering all in totality.[14]

The Companion, Safiyyah bint Shaibah and Umm Salamah, may Allah be pleased with both of them, said that when the ayah was revealed, the Ansar women came out draped in all black, resembling crows with their tranquility and grace and blackness of clothing.[15]

The Followers of the Companions[16]

Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin, may Allah have mercy on him, once asked his teacher `Ubaidah ibn as-Salamani about the commentary on the passage. He was told that the meaning is when the women go out that they cover everything except for one eye to see the way.[17]

`Ali ibn Abi Talhah, may Allah be pleased with him, a student of Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said that when the women go out they should cover themselves, showing nothing but the eyes.[18]

Imam al-Hasan al-Basri, may Allah be pleased with him, a direct student of `Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “Half of the face should then be covered.”[19]

Qatadah added: “The veil should be brought down over the forehead and over the nose, leaving both eyes exposed to see the way.”[20]

Imam Ibn ush-Shihab az-Zuhri, may Allah be pleased with him, mentioned the same thing in his rulings and was told the same by his teachers in Madinah and Makkah.[21]

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy upon him, has mentioned: “The whole of a woman must be covered upon emerging from the home. Not even the fingernails should be exposed.”[22]

Imam Ibn Jarir at-Tabari, may Allah be pleased with him, stated, “The respectable women should not look like the slave girls from their dress when they move out of their houses, with uncovered faces and loose hair. They should rather draw and let down over them a part of their sheets or outer garments so that no evil person may dare molest them. Allah, the Most High commanded His Prophet about the woman that they should not imitate the slave women in their dress. For when the slave women go out from their homes for a necessity, they expose their hair and faces.”[23]

Imam al-Wahidi, may Allah have mercy upon him, the famous commentator, stated: “The commentators state that the ayah was revealed so that they veil their faces and heads so that only one eye is exposed to see the way. In this way, they will be known to be free and not slaves and they will not be harassed or molested.”[24]


[1] Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 59

[2] Ma`alam ut-Tanzil fi Lubab it-Ta’wil, pp. 1052-1053.

[3] Al-Muharrar ul-Wajiz fi Tafsir il-Kitab il-`Aziz, pp. 1520-1523.

[4] Ma`alam ut-Tanzil fi Lubab it-Ta’wil, pp. 1052-1053.

[5] Al-Muharrar ul-Wajiz fi Tafsir il-Kitab il-`Aziz, pp. 1523-1524.

[6] Tafsir ul-Qur’an, pp. 445-446.

[7] Zad ul-Masir fi Ilm it-Tafsir, pp. 1138-1139.

[8] Al-Muharrar ul-Wajiz fi Tafsir il-Kitab il-`Aziz, pp. 1523-1524.

[9] Al-Muharrar ul-Wajiz fi Tafsir il-Kitab il-`Aziz, pp. 1520-1523.

[10] Tanwir ul-Maqbas, pp. 448-449.

[11] Ma`alam ut-Tanzil fi Lubab it-Ta’wil, pp. 1052-1053.

[12] Al-Muharrar ul-Wajiz fi Tafsir il-Kitab il-`Aziz, pp. 1520-1523.

[13] Lisan ul-Arab, vol. 1, pp. 322-323.

[14] Tafsir ul-Qur’an il-`Azim ,pp. 1137-1138.

[15] Tafsir ul-Qur’an il-`Azim ,pp. 1137-1138.

[16] By this we have included the students of the Companions and their students as well (Ar. Tabi`in wa Atba` ut-Tabi`in).

[17] Tafsir ul-Qur’an il-`Azim, pp. 1137-1138.

[18] Tafsir ul-Qur’an il-`Azim ,pp. 1137-1138.

[19] Fath ul-Qadir, vol. 4, pp. 303-304.

[20] Fath ul-Qadir, vol. 4, pp. 303-304.

[21] Tafsir ul-Qur’an il-`Azim ,pp. 1137-1138.

[22] Zad ul-Masir fi `Ilm it-Tafsir, pp. 1138-1139

[23] Jami` ul-Bayan, vol. 22, under ayah 59 of Surat ul-Ahzab.

[24] Fath ul-Qadir, vol. 4, pp. 303-304

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s