Posted by: ali | April 11, 2008


This topic always goes well with people (note the sarcasm). I brought this up at my school MSA when the president gave her speech on gender roles in Islam, and of course, the headscarf (hijab) came up. I stated that in my view, the headscarf is not required in Islam, and that the Qur’an commands Muslims to dress modestly. Furthermore, I mention that modesty is relative to the time and place that you are living in.

For example, here in the United States, there was a time when men would wait on street corners and watch the women as they stepped over the curb, so they could catch a glimpse of their ankles. At that time women could not wear pants, or knee length skirts, all had to be ankle length. This is obviously not the case now, but it illustrates the point that modesty changes over time. Similarly, if my family goes to Saudi Arabia, the women would probably wear headscarves due to the culture/social norms of the country. Well they still didn’t listen, stating that it is in the Qur’an.

Well it actually isn’t. The Qur’an simply tells woman not to display their beauty beyond what is socially acceptable.

They then say that there are hadiths about the issue.

Wrong again, no authentic hadith mentions the Prophet (s) telling women to wear a headscarf.

They respond again, stating that scholars say such and such. Personally, I go directly to the sources of knowledge in our religion: the Qur’an and authentic Sunnah. And all that I have stated above is in the Qur’an, and the Qur’an is infinitely more reputable than any scholar or even hadith.

So take a look for yourself:

All Qur’anic verses in this post are from the MUHAMMAD ASAD translation of the Holy Qur’an


And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; [37] hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. [38] And let them not display [more of] their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, [39] or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs [in walking] so as to draw attention to their hidden charms [40] And [always], O you believers – all of you – turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state! [41]

Now before looking at the tafsir/commentary, we see the phrase:

“…and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof…”

Indicating that a woman should not display her beauty except that which may be decently shown.

This is further clarified in the tafsir/commentary

Note 37 (Quran Ref: 24:31 )

My interpolation of the word “decently” reflects the interpretation of the phrase illa ma zahara minha by several of the earliest Islamic scholars, and particularly by Al-Qiffal (quoted by Razi) as “that which a human being may openly show in accordance with prevailing custom (al-adah al-jariyah)”. Although the traditional exponents of Islamic Law have for centuries been inclined to restrict the definition of “what may [decently] be apparent” to a woman’s face,hands and feet – and sometimes even less than that – we may safely assume that the meaning off illa ma zahara minha is much wider, and that the deliberate vagueness of this phrase is meant to allow for all the time-bound changes that are necessary for man’s moral and social growth. The pivotal clause in the above injunction is the demand, addressed in identical terms to men as well as to women, to “lower their gaze and be mindful of their chastity”: and this determines the extent of what, at any given time, may legitimately – i.e., in consonance with the Quranic principles of social morality – be considered “decent” or “indecent” in a person’s outward appearance.(Quran Ref: 24:31 )

Note the segments “that which a human being may openly show in accordance with prevailing custom (al-adah al-jariyah)” and “we may safely assume that the meaning off illa ma zahara minha is much wider, and that the deliberate vagueness of this phrase is meant to allow for all the time-bound changes that are necessary for man’s moral and social growth”, as well as the source being a number of very early Islamic scholars. So this is not some crazy new idea.

Note 38 (Quran Ref: 24:31 )

The noun khimar (of which khumur is the plural) denotes the head-covering customarily used by Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam. According to most of the classical commentators, it was worn in pre-Islamic times more or less as all ornament and was let down loosely over the wearer’s back; and since, in accordance with the fashion prevalent at the time, the upper part of a woman’s tunic had a wide opening in the front, her breasts cleavage were left bare. Hence, the injunction to cover the bosom by means of a khimar, (a term so familiar to the contemporaries of the Prophet) does not necessarily relate to the use of a khimar as such but is, rather, meant to make it clear that a woman’s breasts are not included in the concept of “what may decently be apparent” of her body and should not, therefore, be displayed.(Quran Ref: 24:31 )

Note the segments “The noun khimar (of which khumur is the plural) denotes the head-covering customarily used by Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam”, and “does not necessarily relate to the use of a khimar as such”

Upon reading it, I personally think it is pretty clear: social norms of one time (headscarf at the time of the Prophet (s)) ≠ rules for other/all time.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not by any means look down on those who wear the scarf, I simply see it as a different point of view.



  1. The author of this article is correct on the views on “Hijab”.

    We have posted over 500 articles on Hijab, Headscarf, veil, etc. at our

    website supporting the views of this author.

    One can visit the website

  2. in Quran, it says: “let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. [38]” so I think the head-covering is refer to hijab. The thing is, if you look at those nuns, and they all wear hijib too, but in a little different shape. lol. personally, I look at it as personal referance. it’s recommanded, but I don’t think it’s manditoried. (is it?) I wear hijiab when I go to school. and I do enjoy wearing it. it block me out with a lot of temp and side tract, and also block out a lot of those guys who wants to start a pick up line with you. lol it really work. so no one really bother me at school. lol. but when I am out of school, I normally don’t wear it. 1, I don’t need ppl ask me why am I wear hijiab and have a daughter and don’t have a husband. 2. can’t really wear hijiab to my waiting job right now. 3. so if I hear music and started humming and dance, no one will look at me funny… lol maybe one day i will wear hijiab full time. but till then, I take it easy. 🙂

  3. Very interesting way of pointing things out. I agree with most of the things you blogged about. However, some women nowadays take hijab as a means of getting closer to Allah. Since it has become a social norm for “Muslim” women, many women are checking their intentions, being pure about it, and using it as a symbol of their Islamic pride. There is nothing wrong with that, but it makes you think about how the issue of hijab has transformed in some cases. Of course there are some that state hijab as a requirement in Islam, which isn’t completely true. Islam is a religion for all of mankind in any part of the world at any time period. For things like this, we can’t truly say its right or wrong, we’re only human.

  4. @ibrahim

    jazakullah khair for the comment and link!

  5. @meng,

    when i read the verse/segment that says

    “let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. ”

    i saw simply saying to cover the chest, and to use a head cover to do so (and that the head cover was just an example of what to use)

    also, note 38 addresses this directly

    thanks for the comment!

  6. I agree 100% with this. Most muslims take their religion for granted. Assume that if imam says so or if there is a law in Iran or Saudia Arabia then it must be true. Truth lies in yourself reading and following Islam in your heart. Its not about following regulations blindly. Some women dont wear hijab and some do and some go beyond that and cover their faces. None of it makes a woman less or more of a muslim. That is between them and Allah and their intentions.

  7. It does seem that head covering should be a personal decision and between one person and their God. Interesting post.
    I corrected your information on my blog – my apologies! I should also do more research. 🙂

  8. @LisaM,

    thanks for your comments, and thanks for posting my entry on your blog! greatly appreciated, and best of luck to you!

  9. @Islam

    As one can see, the scholars of a different time and era disagree on the issue, so you can imagine that modern day scholars would also disagree regarding the issue. If it was meant to be clear there would not be so much discussion on the issue, as there are no such discussions regarding prayer or fasting.

  10. You are not qualified. Learn under the scholars, then challenge. You are a person who has not learned how to swim trying to disprove the theories and tactics of Olympic swimmers.

    You are absolutely unqualified.

    Do you know what the arkaan of Salah are according to all the different opinions and why? Do you even know the Arkaan of Salah? DO NOT GOOGLE IT. If you do not even know the differences of opinion on what the arkaan of Salah are, you are no one to be offering your grand opinion on an issue that is far more advanced in Islamic Law

    Learn for a while and acknowledge to the people and to yourself your youth, lack of knowledge, and inexperience. You have good intentions mashallah, but speaking with your only teacher having been google and yahoo and the search results from them, will lead to your spiritual and intellectual misguidance and perhaps spiritual destruction.

    wa salaam

  11. salaam,

    Also brother, you did not even consider what Islam had written. This shows how easily you brush off clear evidences and conclusions.

    Ask yourself truly, when such a DOMINANT MAJORITY of scholars have held this opinion that hijab is a part of Islam – all you have to say is:

    “Well..umm…someone disagreed in the past and now people are disagreeing so this shows that its not conclusive.”

    Ya Allah. Thousands upon thousands of scholars from ALL the Sahabah till today have said hijab is fard. And because some minority (none of whom are qualified as ‘ulama) disagreed you will throw aside that majority? You will throw aside all the companions?

    You think those scholars couldn’t read a dictionary but you can?
    You think the companions of the Prophet didn’t know how to apply and implement those verses but you do?

    How much arrogance is in your heart my dear brother, that you will toss aside all the scholars through whose work islam came to you, and now you will become your own mujtahid, when you cannot even speak the language of the Quran – but have to rely on dictionaries and google searches.

    Do you have any education in how rulings are supposed to be deduced?

    Br. islam has provided absolute convincing evidence, from Quran, Sunnah, and the Ijma’ of the ulama that hijab is fard. Tossing it aside by saying: “Well, someone disagreed” is a sign that you are not out here to learn, but that you are here to teach and convince the world of your own ignorant opinions. People have studied 20 years on these subjects and for some reason you think you, at an age that is YOUNGER than just HOW MANY YEARS these people have studied can go out and start refuting their rulings.

    May Allah guide you and help us if these are the youth of the Muslims.

    I ask all of us to remember the hadith of the Prophet:

    At-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-Anas: “Allah will not eradicate knowledge by snatching it away from the people, but He will eradicate knowledge by taking away the (righteous) scholars left, the people will take the ignorant ones as their leaders. They will issue fataawa without knowledge so they themselves will go astray and they will lead others astray.”

    wa salaam

  12. The last few posts are proof enough that neither the Qur’an nor any Authentic Hadith directly states what these writers are advocating. Do they not understand that Islam is not based upon scholars, but is based solely on divine guidance that exists ONLY in the Qur’an and Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad. If a scholar has to write a whole book to state that you have to cover your hair, then any sane person must realize that this requirement is not clear and self-evident (Zahir). Actually at least one of the comments of Anon, blinded by his zeal regarding this issue, contain some falsehoods that no scholar or repute would dare say. One such comment was that “all of the Sahaba till today said Hijab is Fard”. This statement is either the result of complete ignorance or a flat out lie. Can he give me just one quote of even one Sahabi that made such a pronouncement? It seems that Anan preaches by hearsay and without proof (Daleel).

    I would like the readers to be aware that any obligation on the part of a Muslim to follow must come from the Qur’an or Authentic Sunnah. Period!

  13. Allah says in the Quran to follow those with knowledge if you do not know. and quite frankly non of us have the proper knoweldge of Islam so we go to the scholars who have spents years and years learning the deen. Dont doubt the scholars and crtisize them for they have done more for islam than any of us have.

  14. Not to insult, but there is no way we can make such rulings, ESPECIALLY without a deep knowledge of the arabic knowledge.

    Imam Suhaib Webb ( put it excellently:
    “…this is equivalent to practicing Law without passing the law examination [a federal crime]. People should be very careful in assuming that they understand texts and are able to derive rulings from them especially when they are relying on translations. For that reason, there is a famous axiom in the law that states: “If an unqualified person issues a ruling and he is correct, he is a sinner. If a qualified person issues a ruling, and he is incorrect, he is rewarded.”

  15. @islam

    the qur’an also says “why don’t they contemplate this Qur’an?” and many times it says “Oh ye who believe..”, not “Oh scholars”, indicating that it was meant to be interpreted by the commonfolk

  16. @asim

    the ‘notes’ that are in this entry are not mine, they are from Muhammad Asad, who had a very strong command of the Arabic language, as well as a number of other credentials.

  17. @islam

    also, Muhammad Asad is more than qualified to derive this ruling, so even if I was to follow what you say, i would come to the same conclusion

  18. All of the scholars of the deen have agreed that hijab or head covering for women is fard. how can you go against that and say it is not? makes no sense at all when all of the great scholars of islam past and present have said it to be fard. and Allahu Alam we are all going to answer to Allah for our actions but dont spread things like this bc we will be held accountable for our words and actions. and i say this to myself first b4 u.

  19. great post, concise and to the point.

    “…and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof…”

  20. interesting:

  21. Why don’t we just go back to basic of “hijab” which is modesty? Modesty is in everything and hijab is definitely just part of it.

    Just my two cents.


  22. Lis,

    I agree that hijab ultimately has to do with modesty. However over time people have come to think that the veil that covers the hair, or even the face, are required components of being modest; which they are not.

    Thanks for the comment

  23. […] The Middle Path […]

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