I had been presented in a debate forum with information claiming that there is a consensus of the commentators that the face and the hands must be hidden. What I am really wondering about is whether the opinions cited in this claim are the only ones to be found in these commentaries, or whether the commentators have actually included other opinions, which have not been mentioned in the claim. In other words, I wondered if I was being provided with only one side of the story. This is why I requested the information.
I would really, truly appreciate it if you could cite the words of at least some major commentators who feel that the jilbab verse does NOT obligate the covering of the face, and if these commentators also feel that the khimar verse does not obligate it, that too. It does not have to be ALL the major commentators, just enough to give a feeling for the variety of opinion (if you had time to do all of them, that would be even more appreciated, but it is not necessary!). Inshallah, I would then post this information in the debate forum.
Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to help me. May Allah SWT reward your for your work!
To keep my response manageable, I am citing only two of the most acknowledged commentaries on Al-Ahzaab 33: 591. Al-Qurtabiy in his Al-Jami` li Ahkaam al-Qur’an writes:
واختلف الناس في صورة إرخائه، فقال ابن عباس وعبيدة السلماني : ذلك أن تلويه المرأة حتى لا يظهر منها إلاّ عين واحدة تبصر بها. و قال ابن عبّاس أيضا وقتادة : ذلك أن تلويه فوق الجبين و تشدّه، ثمّ تعطفه على الأنف، و إن ظهرت عيناها لكنه يستر الصدر و معظم الوجه، وقال الحسن تغطي نصف وجهها.
There is a difference of opinion regarding how should the sheet be hung. Ibn Abbas (ra) and Ubaidah Al-Salmaaniy say that it implies that a woman wear it in such a way that all of her body except one of her eyes remains uncovered, so that she may be able to see. Ibn Abbas (ra) and Qatadah are also reported to have said that [it means that] a woman should tie it on her forehead and then turn it to cover her nose with it: The sheet should cover her chest and a greater portion of her face, even if both her eyes remain visible. Hasan has said that the sheet should be so hung that it covers half her face.
Al-Tabariy in his Jami` al-Bayaan fi Tafseer al-Qur’an writes:
اختلف أهل التأويل في صفة الإدناء الذي أمرهن الله به فقال بعضهم هو أن يغطين وجوههن ورءوسهن فلا يبدين منهن إلا عينا واحدة… وقال آخرون بل أمرن أن يشددن جلابيبهن على جباههن.
The interpreters have differed in the determination of the style of the hanging of the sheets, which women have been directed to do. Some believe that the correct style would be to hang it in such a way that it covers their faces and heads and nothing of a woman’s body remains visible, except one of her eyes. Others believe that women have been directed to secure the sheets firmly over their foreheads.
It should be borne in mind that the determination of the style and of the limits of the cover that the Jilbaab (i.e. the sheet of cloth) should provide, is the opinion of fallible humans. The Qur’an has neither determined the style of hanging the sheet nor the limits of the cover that it should provide. Because of this reason, there may exist a difference of style in which the sheet is hung as well as the degree of cover, which it provides.
Ibn Rushd, explaining the difference of opinion among the Muslim scholars, in his book ‘Bidayah al-Mujtahid’ writes:
وأما المسألة الثالثة وهي حد العورة في المرأة ، فأكثر العلماء على أن بدنها كله عورة ما خلا الوجه والكفين ، وذهب أبو حنيفة إلى أن قدمها ليست بعورة وذهب أبو بكر بن عبد الرحمن ، وأحمد إلى أن المرأة كلها عورة.
As for the third issue – that is the extent to which a woman should cover herself – is concerned, most of the scholars are of the opinion that her whole body, except her face and hands should be covered. Abu Hanifah is of the opinion that she may not cover her feet, while Abu Bakr ibn Abd al-Rahmaan and Ahmad are of the opinion that the woman should be covered from head to toe.
It should, however, remain clear that, in my opinion, the verse2 is not related to the general social directives of Islam, but is actually a directive for a particular situation, which the pious women were faced with, due to the prevalence of slavery in the society. The verse has directed the women to wear a Jilbaab (a sheet of cloth), when they have to go out of their houses alone, so that it may create a distinction between them and slave girls3.
I hope this helps.
February 13, 2001
- While explaining Al-Noor 24: 31, all of the major commentators of the Qur’an have mentioned that a woman may not cover her face and hands. [↩]
- i.e. Al-Ahzaab 33: 59 [↩]
- The hypocrites used to harass pious women, when they would go out of their houses and when reprimanded for their behavior, they would say that they thought the woman was a slave girl. It was to safeguard this situation and to remove all excuses of the hypocrites that these directives were given (as the following verse clearly evidences). The purpose of the said verse was to create a physical distinction between the slave girls and the free Muslim women. [↩]