The following will headline some of the objections raised by people who insist the opposite of complete hijab. We would like to answer these systematically but with due care.
It will often be cited by some people that as the face and hands are not `awrah, there is no necessity for them to be covered. Whenever the scholars discuss `awrah, the vast majority of them agree that the face, hands (and sometimes the feet) are not `awrah. If they are not `awrah, it is not necessary for them to be covered. And if it is not necessary for them to be covered, it is not compulsory to cover the face or the hands.
There are a number of answers to this issue:
a. The discussion on `awrah takes place when discussing what is compulsory to cover in the prayer for men and women. For men it is from the right shoulder all the way down to the knees. For the women it is everything except the hands and the face. This has nothing to do with the state of women’s clothing when she comes out of her house. The issue is unrelated. One can look in the Book of Prayer in any fiqh text and see that this discussion takes place there, not in the context of hijab.
b Whether scholars believe it to be `awrah or not to be `awrah, both sides of the argument have agreed that it should be covered. The discussion merely centres around why it is to be covered.
c. This academic issue does not answer the question why these scholars have come to the same ruling commenting on the same ayah.
Dates of Revelation
Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 59 was revealed Dhul Qa`dah 5AH, while Surat un-Nur (24), ayah 31 was revealed Shawwal 6AH.
Thus, the first revelation was Surat ul-Ahzab and the final was Surat un-Nur and so the ruling is that the hands and face were uncovered as the final ruling.
The answer to this rests on the following points:
Firstly, the first part of a surah being revealed later or earlier does not mean that the surah was revealed in one sitting.
Secondly, there are ayat in surahs that were revealed earlier than others that abrogate the passages of those others. The reason is that some of the ayat were revealed later and were put in that surah as part of its’ completion.
Thirdly, the listing for the revelation of the ayah is wrong as it was the surahs that were revealed in those times. But this has been something mainly quoted by Abul Ala al-Mawdudi, who is neither a scholar of the Qur’an, faqih or licensed but was a journalist. Evidence from an authentic source must be provided when discussing these matters.
Fourthly, the revelations on hijab were presented previously in their order according to revelation. One who believed otherwise would have to bring clear evidence in contradiction to this understanding.
There are often ahadith quoted that seemingly lend credence to the idea that women may appear in public with everything covered but the face and the hands. Let us look at some of the texts.
- Women were commanded not to cover their faces during hajj. If this was compulsory, then why were they commanded to uncover the face and the hands?
The response is that women were not told it was compulsory to cover the hands and face on hajj. They were told not to wear niqab or gloves during hajj. This is not the same as being told not to cover at all. Here is the hadith itself:
The woman should not wear niqab, nor should she wear gloves.
- There is a hadith in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim which runs, narrated `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, used to offer the Fajr prayer and some believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the Fajr prayer with him and then they would return to their homes unrecognised on account of the darkness.
Someone would say that this hadith proves that due to the darkness, they were not recognised by the men. But had it been light, the men would have recognised the women. This thinking is flawed from the following angles:
Firstly, The hadith mentions that it was on account of the darkness that they did not recognise one another. There is no mention of whether or not they were veiling their faces or not. The hadith could have come before the final revelation if we were to hold the argument as valid.
But in looking at the invalidity of the argument, there is another problem. When you look at the hadith, the text runs, “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, used to offer the Fajr prayer and some believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the Fajr prayer with him and then they would return to their homes unrecognised on account of the darkness.”
The underlined words, if examining the Arabic, all use the feminine plural hunna. This means that the recognition being referred to was the women in relation to one another. It was the women that did not recognise each other on account of the darkness, not the men that were looking at them, which were not even mentioned. And this makes more sense when we realise that the Mother of the Believers, `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, is the narrator of the hadith.
- There is the following hadith: Thabit ibn Qays narrated that a woman called Umm Khallad came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, while she was veiled. She was searching for her son who had been killed in battle. Some of the Companions of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said to her:
“You have come here asking for your son while veiling your face?” She said, “If I am afflicted with the loss of my son, I shall not suffer the loss of my modesty.” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “You will get the reward of two martyrs for your son.” She asked, “Why is that so, Prophet of Allah?” He replied, “Because the People of the Book have killed him.” 
Why were the Companions amazed if it was compulsory? This would seem to mean that it was not something known or compulsory.
Firstly, this is an authentic hadith and it is good when they are quoted in context.
Secondly, they were amazed that she was wearing one as an old woman, since menopausal women are not required. There will be more on this later.
- There is the hadith: Umm Salamah, Mother of the Believers narrated that 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 by wearing outer garments.
Someone might say that this does not mention their faces being covered. The indication was that it was as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments. This would not just mean that they had some black, it would mean all black. Those who have seen crows know that they are black, their black feathers cover the whole of their bodies, including their faces. Even their beaks are black. It would require an evidence to say that the comparison is yielding some other meaning.
- There is the hadith: `A’isha, Mother of the Believers, narrated that her older sister, Asma,’ daughter of Abu Bakr, came into the presence of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, wearing thin clothes. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, turned his attention from her. He said, “Asma’! When a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.” 
There are points to this hadith:
a The very collector of the hadith (Imam Abu Dawud) graded it weak and said Khalid ibn Darik never heard narrations from `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her.
b. We do not know how old Asma’ was at the time, so we may not be able to draw a definite ruling regarding whether she was obligated to wear hijab at the time.
c. Let us say that she was an adult. We find her doing a completely different practice in another hadith listed shortly.
d. This hadith has consistently been used regarding the prayer after the revelation of Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 59.
- There is the hadith: Yahya related to me from Malik from Hisham ibn Urwa that Fatima bint al-Mundhir, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “We used to veil our faces when we were in Ihram in the company of Asma’ bint Abi Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with her.” 
Someone may then say, “This only shows that they covered and not that it was compulsory. The wives were only ordered to cover.”
The response would be that both women mentioned in the hadith were not wives. You should also notice that as of this hadith, Asma’ is actually veiling her face, something different to what she did in the hadith before, if we accept it as authentic.
- 7. There is the hadith: `Abdullah bin Abbas narrated that Al-Fadl (his brother) was riding behind the Messenger of Allah, and a woman from the tribe of Khath`am came and Al-Fadl started looking at her and she started looking at him. The Prophet turned Al-Fadl’s face to the other side. The woman said, “Messenger of Allah, The obligation of Hajj enjoined by Allah on His devotees has become due on my father and he is old and weak, and he cannot sit firm on the mount. May I perform Hajj on his behalf?” The Prophet replied, “Yes, you may.” That happened during the Final Hajj.
- 8. There is the hadith: `A’ishah, Mother of the Believers, may Allah be pleased with her, said, “The riders would pass us while we were with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. When they got close to us, we would draw our outer cloak from our heads over our faces. When they passed by, we would uncover our faces.”
Someone may say in response to this hadith, “But she is the wife of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, so this does not count as they are different to us.”
I would suggest that you read Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 53 again to understand the gist of what is being explained.
- There is the hadith: `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates that on one occasion a female Muslim wanted to give a letter to the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, the letter was delivered to the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, from behind a curtain.
Some individuals holding the position that face veiling was only for the Wives of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, might use this as evidence that only the wives were enjoined with face veiling; but this does not really provide a proof for either position due to the following questions:
a. Who was the woman?
b. When was this hadith revealed.
c. In buying and selling, it is always understood that the face and or hands can be revealed for the sake of transaction. Further evidence is needed to substantiate either point.
- There is the hadith: Sa`d bin Abu Waqqas narrated that once `Umar asked permission to enter into the presence of the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in whose company there were some women from Quraish. They were talking to him and asking him for more financial support, raising their voices. When Umar asked permission to enter, the women quickly screened themselves (fa badirna al-hijab).
When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, admitted Umar, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, was smiling. Umar said, “Messenger of Allah, May Allah keep you happy always.” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “I am astonished at these women here with me. As soon as they heard your voice, they quickly screened themselves.”
`Umar said, “Messenger of Allah, You have more right to be feared by them.” Then he addressed the women, saying, “Enemies of your own souls! Do you fear me and not the Messenger of Allah?”
They replied, “Yes, for you are a fearful and fierce man as compared to the Messenger of Allah.” On that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said (to Umar), “By Him in Whose hands my life is, when Shaitan sees you taking a path, he takes a path other than yours.”
Some people have reasoned that by looking at this hadith, one can see that the women were uncovered and they only covered and screened themselves out of fear of `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him and no other reason. This thinking is flawed from a number of points:
a. How would this show that their faces and hands were not covered?
b. By examination, it would appear that they left the room.
c. Even if we accepted that conclusion, we must remember what Allah has revealed, the Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves. He has certain exemptions as a prophet that others do not have. For example, he may marry without a wali or contractual witnesses and as a prophet contract the marriage. This is the case for all prophets, peace be upon them.
- There is the hadith: `Abdullah bin Abbas narrated that Al-Fadl bin `Abbas rode behind the Prophet as his companion rider on the back portion of his she-camel on the Day of Nahr (Sacrifice) on the Farewell Hajj, and Al-Fadl was a handsome man.
The Prophet stopped to give people verdicts. In the meantime, a beautiful woman from the tribe of Khath`am came, asking the verdict of the Messenger of Allah. Al-Fadl started looking at her as her beauty attracted him.
The Prophet looked back while Al-Fadl was looking at her; so the Prophet held out his hand backwards and caught the chin of Al-Fadl and turned his face to the other side in order that he should not gaze at her.
She said, “Messenger of Allah, The obligation of performing hajj enjoined by Allah on His worshipers has become due on my father, who is an old man and who cannot sit firmly on the riding animal. Will it be sufficient that I perform hajj on his behalf?” He said, “Yes.”
Although a slightly different narration, this is often quoted as evidence that women were going in public with their faces and hands uncovered on a regular basis.
There are a number of answers that have been given to this narration. Firstly, the woman only came to him and al-Fadl. We have no evidence that it was in a gathering of everyone.
Secondly, the hadith in its’ other transmissions indicates that it was night time.
Thirdly, The women who wear attached veils are allowed to lift them when no men are present and they lower them when men are present. However, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, as per Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 6, is to be treated as a father and is exempted, while al-Fadl was not and he was not told to lower his gaze, but actually had his face turned from the woman.
- There is the hadith: Jabir ibn `Abdullah reported, “I observed prayer with the Messenger of Allah on the `Eid day. He commenced with prayer before the khutbah without adhan or iqamah. He then stood up leaning on Bilal and he commanded them to be on guard against evil for the sake of Allah and he exhorted them on obedience to Him, and he preached to the people and admonished them.
He then walked on till he came to the women and preached to them and admonished them and encouraged them to give alms, for most of them are the fuel for Hell. A woman having a dark spot on her cheek stood up and said, “Why is it so, Messenger of Allah?” He said, “For you grumble often and show ingratitude to your spouses.” And they began to give alms out of their ornaments such as their earrings and rings, which they threw in the cloak of Bilal.
Those that insist that face veiling was not an established practice will often point to this hadith as a star witness that uncovering the face and hands is the norm among women and was the norm in the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
Answers to this line of reasoning follow below:
a. The only narrator of this hadith in this fashion is Jabir, the other Companions that narrated it mentioned nothing at all of the incident, all though they were all present there.
b. It mentions that the woman stood up suddenly. It is possible that Jabir only saw her face from his vantage point. This is especially relevant as Bilal, who was actually there, narrated nothing about the incident at all.
c. She may have been menopausal and thus not required to cover. More on this later.
- There is the hadith: Ibn Abbas said, “A beautiful woman, from among the most beautiful of women, used to pray behind the Prophet. Some of the people used to go to pray in the first row to ensure they would not be able to see her. Others would pray in the last row of the men, and they would look from underneath their armpits to see her. Because of this act, in regard to her, Allah revealed,
The statement was actually not made by Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, but was stated by Imam Abul Jawza’, may Allah be pleased with him, the great Basran hadith scholar; but the report has weakness in it due to some narrators. It would require something else to strengthen it. Until that is brought, it cannot be used as evidence.
Imam Ibn al-Jawzi, may Allah have mercy on him, also says, “There is Consensus that this surah, in totality, was revealed in Makkah.” So this is before revelation on hijab even began.
There have been some scholars that have referred to complete hijab as revealed as an ‘obstacle to da`awah’ in the West and ‘an unnecessary and backward approach.’ This includes people that are even highly respected. Others have also said that modern figures have also made similar but more ‘pragmatic’ statements.
- These people must remember the Words of Allah and be careful of mocking revelation:
Allah has proclaimed in His Book,
Was it Allah, His Signs, His Messenger that you were mocking? Make no mistake, you have disbelieved after you believed.
- They are not mu`tamad in any school.
In order to know the final ruling in any school, one goes to the mu`tamad. Those who are not depended upon are tested and examined according to that.
- The first three generations are the source.
The mu`tamad of the schools are submitted to the understanding of the first three generations. Thus we hold on to them as they held onto the first three generations. So those who would come now have to be questioned.
Some go further and quote ancient scholars such as Imams Fakhr ud-Din ar-Razi, who they claim stated the following, “Since the showing of the face and hands is necessary, the jurists had no choice but to agree that they are not awrah.”
But what does this have to do with the issue of women going outside of the home and revealing their face or not? And what’s more, this statement is under his commentary under Surat un-Nur. If we read what he mentioned in Surat ul-Ahzab, we can see he as well says the face should be covered. The same holds true for Imams al-Qurtubi, Ibn al-Jawzi and others.
In order for them to have a valid argument, they would have to bring a text from Surat ul-Ahzab, where depended upon scholars and the like made statements such as these.
In addition to this, all of this ahadith appear under chapters regarding hajj, charity, prayer and so forth. None of them appear or are used in discussion regarding the hijab. They then need to bring evidence for using them in this fashion. They also must bring scholars who understand and use these evidences in this way, as when one checks the commentaries, the commentators throughout history do not explain, elucidate or even quote them as part of this subject.
Difficulty in the ‘West’
In countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and others, some would say that Muslims are risking their lives in making such decisions as to cover the face and hands when in public. They would say that especially that in a post 11 September 2001, it is just not practical. We must remember the context that hijab was revealed in and also the rest of Islam. This will give us greater understanding regarding convenience and obedience.
Just the Wives
Others would say that the veil was only commanded for the wives. They cite the passage as their evidence:
Believers! Do not go into the Prophet’s apartments without waiting for the proper times, unless you are given permission. But if you are invited, enter, take the meal and when you finish, then disperse. Do not linger in conversation. This would bother the Prophet and he is shy to tell you to go. But Allah is not shy of the truth. And when you ask his wives for anything, ask them from behind a curtain. That is purer for your hearts and theirs. It is neither for you to bother the Messenger of Allah, nor to marry his wives after him. That would be an enormity in the sight of Allah.
Whether you reveal anything or keep it hidden, Allah knows all. And it is no sin for them to speak freely with their fathers, their sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, sons of their sisters, their own women or their servants. Women! Keep your duty to Allah as He is Witness over everything.
There are a number of problems with using these ayat in this fashion. Firstly, the ayah is referring to a physical curtain that has been put down that must be present. The reason for the revelation of this ayah gives us that understanding as well.
Secondly, we find ahadith about women covering their faces who were not wives and holding it as compulsory. These include the hajj, when women are commanded not to wear attached veils.
Thirdly, we answer the ayah that they have quoted with another ayah:
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.
There has been no commentator in history that understood this ayah to mean that it was permissible for women to go out uncovering their heads.
Another problem: Textual
We read that Allah has proclaimed:
As for women past child bearing age who have no hope of marriage, there is no harm for them if they discard their outer clothing in such a way as to not show adornment. But to refrain is better for them and Allah is the All Knowing, the All Hearing.
Suppose for a moment we adopt the position that women are to cover everything except the face and hands? If we should do this, the outer garments cast off would be the clothing covering their hair and the outer clothing covering either the underwear or the undergarments. This would leave the women either completely naked or semi-nude.
This would necessarily be the only option left. The reason for that is we know how the Arab women originally dressed (see the previous posts), so if we were to remove the garments, this is what would happen. But what have the scholars of commentary said? We will go to them, for they will provide us with the correct understanding of the passage.
The Companion Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “So there is no harm for the women past child bearing age/menopausal with taking off the rida’ when they are in the presence of strangers as long as they are not showing their finery, although it is best to keep it on and covered.”
Imam Ibn al-Jawzi, may Allah have mercy on him, mentioned, “So there is no harm for them in removing the jilbab, the rida’ or the face veil which goes over the khimar and this is the intent of the ayah. It does not mean to remove all the clothes.
The Arabs say, ‘The woman has put down,’ when referring to a woman who is past child bearing age that has taken off the over garments. Al-Qadi Abu Ya`la said about this ayah, ‘This is an indication and evidence that it is permissible for those elderly women to reveal their face and hands when in front of men. But as far as the hair, this is impermissible, the same as it is for the young women.’ ”
Imam Ibn `Atiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “And there is no harm in them taking off their jilbabs, according to the reading of Ibn Mas`ud.”
Imam al-Husain al-Baghawi, may Allah have mercy on him, commented, “There is no harm in these menopausal women taking off their jilbab or rida’ when in the presence of strange men. These garments go over the khimar, but it is not allowed for the khimar to be removed.”
Imams al-`Izz ibn `Abdus-Salam and al-Mawardi also mentioned, “So the women who can no longer bear children or cease to have monthly cycles, there is no harm in them taking off the outer garments, the rida’ which goes over the khimar, just as it is valid for them to remove the jilbab. But the young women may not do this but must wear their jilbabs, which do not describe any of their shape.”
Now picture this…
What the writer is not trying to do is appear arrogant, recalcitrant or malicious towards those who do not wear full hijab. Rather, what I have tried to do is to indicate the reasoning for why women do wear it and what background and evidences they cite for their understandings.
In addition to this, I have also tried to show that this is something that is part of Islam and inseparable. Furthermore, those who would try to hide, obfuscate or obscure matters have to be brought to heel and made to understand that this understanding is well grounded in the first three generations and cannot be merely ignored or undermined due to social pressures, overwhelming fear or social excommunication or just good ole down home cowardice.
Those that may not want to wear it have their own decisions to make and are responsible for their own actions while those who do wear it have their rights and divine mandate that they may take from Allah.
The most important thing to be taken from all of this is that sisters who do so are brave, obeying Allah and command our reverence, honour, respect and support, irrespective of how afraid some of us might be to do so
or how awkward some of us might feel when we notice them and have to “apologise” or “answer for” the very “extreme” and “it’s okay if they do it but it’s only a sunnah, really” behaviour that these ladies might engage in while seeking the Pleasure of Allah.
We ask Allah to give us the bravery, zeal, uncompromising faithful stubbornness of these ladies and increase us in good deeds and actions to please Him and glorify Him. Amin.
 Collected by Imams al-Bukhari in his Al-Jami` us-Sahih; Muslim ibn Hajjaj in his Al-Jami` us-Sahih; Malik ibn Anas in his Muwatta’ and classified by them as authentic.
 Collected by Imam Abu Dawud in his Sunan, Book 14, Hadith # 2482
 Collected by Imam Abu Dawud in his Sunan, Book 32, Hadith # 4090
 Imam Malik’s Muwatta’ Book 20, Hadith # 20:5:16
 Collected by Imam Abu Dawud in his Sunan, Book 10, Hadith # 1829
 Collected by Imam Abu Dawud in his Sunan, Book 33, Hadith # 4154
 Collected by Imam Bukhari in his Al-Jami` us-Sahih, Book 54 #515
 Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 6.
 Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 50.
 Collected by Imam Bukhari in his Al-Jami` us-Sahih, Book 74, #247.
 Collected by Imam Muslim in his Al-Jami` us-Sahih, Book 4 #1926.
 Surah al-Hijr (15) ayah 24
 Imams Ibn Majah in his Sunan, Abu Dawud in his Sunan, Abu Dawud Tayalisi in his Musnad, al-Baihaqi in his As-Sunan ul-Kubra, Ahmad in his Musnad, Tirmidhi in his Sunan, and Nasa’ii in his Sunan and classed authentic.
 Zad ul-Masir fi `Ilm it-Tafsir, pp. 752-753
 Surat ut-Tawbah (9), ayah 65
 Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayat 53-55
 Surat ul-Ahzab (33), ayah 59
 Surat un-Nur (24), ayah 60
 Tanwir ul-Maqbas, pp. 376-377
 Zad ul-Masir fi `Ilm it-Tafsir, pp. 1005-1006
 Al-Muharrar al-Wajiz, pp. 1369-1370.
 Ma`alam ut-Tanzil, pp. 917-918
 Tafsir ul-Qur’an, pp. 369-370