“And say to the believing women that they are lower their gaze and guard their sexual organs; and that they are not to display their ornaments except for what appears thereof. And let them draw their head coverings (bikhumurihinna) over their bosoms.” (Qur’an 24:31)
“O Prophet! Say to your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers that they are to cast their over-garments over them. That is more convenient, that they be recognized, so that they won’t be molested.” (Qur’an 33:59)
I would encourage readers to read this very excellent and brief over view of the topic here:
This was a panel I did for the Sultan Masjid ‘mini-gallery‘ in Singapore. It is the first ‘mini-gallery‘ in any masjid any where. Al hamdulilah.
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers! turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Qur’an 24:31)
As our position is Prima-Qur’an we take primarily from the Qur’an. We also believe that the Blessed Messenger (saw) explained the Qur’an to his people.
“And obey Allah and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away, then Our Messenger is responsible only for conveying the message clearly. (Qur’an 64:12)
In a world of nihilism and postmodernism, there can be a lot of pressures upon any faith tradition to amalgamate and transform their faith into something ‘more acceptable’ to an increasingly secularized world.
I feel the issue of the women’s khimar is one such issue. It seems to me that many ‘Qur’an only’ and post-modern Muslim groups really struggle with this. Their disparate interpretations are only a reflection of this reality.
It has reached us as Muslims across the sectarian divide that a Muslim woman covers all but the hands and face.
That is to say the Shi’a, the Sunni, and Ibadi f have all concurred on this. In fact, the only debate within the community is if she should cover more than this, meaning -the face veil.
Where I feel the postmodern Muslims do not ponder deeply enough is on the ‘default dress’. When this verse above was being revealed, what was the ‘default dress’ of the people of that time? What was the basic ‘skeleton’ if you will?
This is what has led many ‘Qur’an only’ and post modern Muslims to leave open the possibility of wearing skirts, or even tight and revealing clothing. It really seems that we could offer a better response than to simply cave in completely to postmodernism. It may be cliché but a saying comes to mind, ‘If you do not stand for something you will fall for anything.’
It would be one thing if the ‘Qur’an only’ and postmodernist Muslims completely capitulated to western liberalism on this issue. That in and of itself would not be so problematic. However, what is problematic is the real disdain they have for Muslim women who choose to continue to observe the khimar as explained by the Blessed Messenger (saw) and preserved in the mass transmitted Sunnah. Some of their rhetoric can be frightening for ‘enlightened’ people.
Some of them take the term ‘zeenatahhunna’ (ornaments) to mean ‘thighs’ ‘breast’ ‘backside’ etc. They even then say things like, “This expression may sound vague to many because they have not understood the Mercy of Allah.”
In other words: ‘If you do not agree without interpretation of zeenatahhunna than don’t blame us for your short-sightedness‘!
“Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage, there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments (Arabic: Thiyabahunna), provided they do not display their beauty/adornment. But it is best for them to modestly refrain: and God is One Who sees and knows all things” (Qur’an 24:60)
It can be a normal garment and an outer garment. (11:5; 24:58).
In verse 24:60, we clearly note that an older woman is permitted to remove this ‘thobe’ without wanton display of their beauty. This cannot refer to her normal garments as if this were to be removed she would be left exposed.
“O Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall lengthen their garments. Thus, they will be recognized and avoid being molested. Allah is Forgiver, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an 33:59)
“The women may relax (their dress code) around their fathers, their sons, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, the other women, and their (female) servants. They shall reverence Allah. Allah witnesses all things.” (Qur’an 33:55)
I would also like to point out to the reader’s something in regards to the following:
“O Prophet! Say to your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers that they are to cast their over-garments over them. That is more convenient, that they be recognized so that they won’t be molested.” (Qur’an 33:59)
It should be pointed out that Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah (a highly respected scholar of the Sunni denomination) in Islam gave a fatwa-legal verdict after the events of 9-11 and gave Muslim women a dispensation to not wear the headscarf. The legal maxim and reasoning where that Allah (swt) says above: “That they won’t be molested.” However; if they become molested and abused because of it then the hukum (the wisdom in the legal ruling) is defeated. *
*Note (If anyone can find the exact source and text of this Fatwa I would be grateful.)
I would also encourage sisters and brothers to check out the excellent work the sisters are doing over here: