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Is Niqab Obligatory for women In Islam?

Home is a better place for Muslim women and her stay at home has always been preferred .

Allah swt says:

And stay in your houses( (Al-Ahzab 33:33)

But she is allowed to fulfill needs like education, medical treatment,job and family visits and while fulfilling these needs she has to meet the Islamic dress code mentioned in Quran and Hadith.

When we study Quran and Hadith we come to know that Niqab is an obligation on Muslim women from Allah swt. This issue has been discussed in depth in Quran and Hadith .

On one instance Allah swt says:

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 Allâh is Ever Oft­Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Al-Ahzab 33:59)

On another instance Allah swt says:

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer 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, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husband's sons, their brothers or their brother's sons, or their sister's sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islâm), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allâh to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful. (An-Nur 24:31)

This verse makes it clear that Muslim women should even conceal the voice of their adornment .So how can we expect that they are allowed to show their faces and hands.

While discussing the issue of women who have reached old age Quran says:

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 Allâh is All-Hearer, All-Knower. (An-Nur 24:60)

When women reach old ages they are given relaxation to show their faces and hands and this specific permission cannot be generalized by any means rather it highlights the importance of covering face and hands for young girls and women.

Some of the hadiths highlighting this issue are as follows:

No 1:

Narrated Aisha radi Allahu anha The wives of the Prophet used to go to Al-Manasi, a vast open place (near Baqia at Medina) to answer the call of nature at night. 'Umar radi Allahu anhu  used to request the Prophet salal laho aliehi wasalam"Let your wives be veiled," but Allah's Apostle did not do so(without command of Allah swt). One night Sauda bint Zam'a radi Allahu anha the wife of the Prophet went out at 'Isha' time and she was a tall lady. 'Umar addressed her and said, "I have recognized you, O Sauda." He said so, as he desired eagerly that the verses of Al-Hijab (the observing of veils by the Muslim women) may be revealed. So Allah revealed the verses of "Al-Hijab" (A complete body cover excluding the eyes).
(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith - 1.148)

No 2:

Aisha radi Allahu anha used to say: "When (the Verse): 'They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms,' was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces."
(Sahih Al-Bukhari: Hadith  6:282)

If the women of first generation were covering their faces with cut pieces what stops contemporary Muslim women from covering her face.

NO 3:

Narrated Anas radi Allahu anhu: The Prophet salal laho aliehi wasalam stayed for three days between Khaibar and Medina, and there he consummated his marriage to Safiyya bint Huyai radi Allahu anha. I invited the Muslims to the wedding banquet in which neither meat nor bread was offered. He ordered for leather dining-sheets to be spread, and dates, dried yoghurt and butter were laid on it, and that was the Prophet's wedding banquet. The Muslims wondered, "Is she (Saffiyya) considered as his wife or his slave girl?" Then they said, "If he orders her to veil herself, she will be one of the mothers of the Believers; but if he does not order her to veil herself, she will be a slave girl. So when the Prophet proceeded from there, he spared her a space behind him (on his she-camel) and put a screening veil between her and the people(Sahih Bukhari: Volume 7, Book 62, Hadith 22)

No 4:

Narrated Anas bin Malik radi Allahu anha: The Prophet salal laho aliehi wasalam stayed with Safiya bint Huyai radi Allahu anha for three days on the way of Khaibar where he consummated his marriage with her. Safiya was amongst those who were ordered to use a veil. (Sahih Bukhari :Volume 5, Book 59, Hadith 523)
Hadith no 3 and 4 clearly tells that a slave girl is not commanded to cover her face and all free muslim women are commanded to cover their faces

No 5:

Safiyyah, daughter of Shaybah radi Allahu anha, said that Aisha radi Allahu anha mentioned the women of Ansar, praised them and said good words about them. She then said: When Surah an-Nur came down, they took the curtains, tore them and made head covers of them
(Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 32, Hadith 4089)

No 6:

Narrated Ummul Mu'minin  Umm Salamah, radi Allahu anha
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.
( Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 32, Hadith 4090)

Hadith 5 and 6 clearly indicate that women of first generation took the meanings of the verse to cover their head and face with the outer garments.How can we think that modernist women and their supporters understand the meanings of hadith more than the women of first generation.

No 7:

Narrated Thabit ibn Qays radi Allahu anhu: A woman called Umm Khallad radi Allahu anha came to the Prophet salal laho aliehi wasalam while she was veiled. She was searching for her son who had been killed (in the battle) Some of the Companions of the Prophet (saws) 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 Apostle of Allah (saws) said: You will get the reward of two martyrs for your son. She asked: Why is that so, Apostle of Allah? He replied: Because the people of the Book have killed him. (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 14, Hadith 2482)

This hadith clearly indicates that Muslim women of first generation were not ready to give up their veil even when they were afflicted with shocks and pains.

Some of the people who are not in favour of face niqab quote this hadith:

Narrated Anas ibn Malik radi Allahu anhu: The Prophet salal laho aliehi wasalam brought Fatimah a slave which he donated to her. Fatimah wore a garment which, when she covered her head, did not reach her feet, and when she covered her feet by it, that garment did not reach her head. When the Prophet salal laho aliehi wasalam saw her struggle, he said: There is no harm to you: Here is only your father and slave. (Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 32, Hadith 4094)

They forget that father and slave are mehram of the women and women can come in front of them.

The result of the above mentioned discussion is that women must cover themselves from head to feet when going out or before non mehrams.
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