Aboo Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that Allah, the Almighty said, "My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works until I love him." (Saheeh al-Bukhaari)

Niqaab is Mustahabb (Recommended)

twosistersshoreThe term Mustahabb means ‘recommended’ i.e. something which is recommended to do because it draws a person closer to their Lord, their Creator and Sustainer. The above Divine Narration beautifully and magnificently describes the way to seek the love of Allah. It is our obedience to Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala), through our servitude of what He has commanded us to do which draws us nearer to Him. And by doing more than what He has been commanded us, we may draw nearer to Him even more, something which every Muslim woman should strive for.

When a Sister is already covering everything but her face and hands, and she then wants to do something extra in order to to seek the love of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala), the next step for her is to cover her face and hands.

Even if there was no other reason for wearing the Niqaab, other than to draw closer to Allah ('azza wa jall), surely this reason in itself sufficient. Let alone the fact that the Mothers of the Faithful, the Prophet’s (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) wives, wore the face-veil! Furthermore, many of our beloved Prophet's companions viewed the face-veil to be an obligation, binding on all Muslim women. Their statments regarding the Niqaab can be found in many Qur’anic exegeses pertaining to the verses on covering.

Niqaab, A Statement of Modesty

glovesblackThe word 'Hayaa'' is often translated to mean ‘Shyness’, even though the Arabic term 'Hayaa'' actually contains a much richer meaning. A better, albeit longer, translation of its meaning might be, ‘Keeping private that which should be private’.

Islaam places great importance on privacy, and on keeping private those things which should be kept private. Hijaab is in fact part of a larger code of conduct, and Hayaa' (modesty, shyness and bashfulness) constitutes only one aspect of it.

Allah ('azza wa jall) has, through the Sharee'ah (Islamic Codes of Law), clearly distinguished between a person's public and private space; He has placed a screen (i.e. Hijaab) between them. Private space is physically separated from public space and strongly protected against any incursion (Surah an-Noor, verses 27-29). What people do in their private space has also been protected and screened, This is accomplished by the prohibition on speculation, gossip and spying (Surah an-Noor, verses 12-13 and Surah al-Hujuraat, verses 11-12). What is private must be kept private, by the physical protection of walls and by the conduct of Muslims in not talking about it, speculating over it, or looking into it.

The same rule applies to the physical person, as what is not necessary to be displayed for some task should be covered. That is why we find in Surah an-Noor, verse 31, women are {not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it}. Whereas in the private space and sphere of the home and family, rules are relaxed. People within the special group of family may visit freely (Surah an-Nur, verse 61) and be at ease in their manner of dressing (Surah an-Nur, verse 31). By contrast, in public space rules are strict. This includes not only dress but also conduct: physical contact should be avoided, talk should be business-like, and Khalwah (i.e., a woman being alone with a non-Mahram man) should be avoided. Therefore, in the dress, speech, and behaviour of a Muslim, there should be a screen which separates the public (that which is necessarily known) from that which is private (that which unnecessary to be made known).

From this, we can see that the Niqaab is a screen of privacy, an act of ‘Hayaa''’ (modesty). Clearly, it is Mustahabb (recommended) to screen our privacy even more than what has been commanded. We can respect other peoples' privacy more carefully through avoiding speculation, gossip, and spying; we can protect our own privacy more carefully by taking extra steps in modest dress, in avoiding physical contact and Khalwah (seclusion) with non-Mahrams, and by keeping any of our necessary conversations with non-Mahrams to the minimum necessity, just enough to conduct our business modestly.

For sisters, that extra degree in modest dress is the Niqaab, including the gloves for some.

Niqaab as Taqwa (Allah-Consciousness)

Sometimes people criticise Muslim women in Niqaab for being too concerned with their outward appearance, rather than their inner reality. It is true that this can lead to hypocrisy, but we should not be discouraged by such people nor let them push us down to the opposite extreme of saying that the outward is not important at all. Sometimes it is the outward which actually helps us to develop the inner, by making us more aware of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala). This awareness, of Allah ('azza wa jall) watching us is referred to in Arabic as 'Taqwa’.

Niqaab can increase Taqwa. When a sister sees her own reflection in Niqaab, or when she becomes aware of why she wears it, she may be reminded that she dresses like this because Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala) rewards and likes modesty, and because she knows that He is aware of all that she does to please Him. Such thoughts should in turn inspire her to behave in the best possible manner she can. SubhaanAllah! In this way, let's contemplate over how much more of a reminder the Niqaab can be in each day of a Muslim woman's life, especially when it is worn with the correct intention!

For many sisters, Niqaab is a spiritual struggle because it often seems so difficult to wear. At times we may be forced to look deep into ourselves and find our faith and our courage in order to continue wearing it. This provides many spiritual benefits in itself, such as an increase in Taqwa and helping in conquering one's Nafs (inner, lower self).

The above are just some of the ways that Niqaab is beneficial and recommended (Mustahabb). Let's now get to the best crunch of it all.

Niqaab, the Way of our Role Models: the Mothers of the Faithful

quranniqabisWe have gone through a number of different benefits for wearing Niqaab and how it cane be recommended and beneficial. We learnt how Niqaab is actually a higher degree and level of Hijaab. Therefore, whatever benefits the Hijaab brings about, as a commandment of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala), the Niqaab also brings about, but on much a higher degree as it is a supererogatory (Nafl) act.

We will now come to see that the Niqaab was worn by the Mothers of the Faithful, the Prophet’s (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) wives. For, their way was the way of righteousness, obedience and compliance to the prescriptions of their Lord. They were truly women of modesty and bashfulness and lofty, emanating examples for women of all times after them. For the Mothers of the Faithful (radhiallahu 'anhunna), the Niqaab was Fardh (a binding obligation), as the command in Surah al-Ahzaab, verse 53, clearly states.

Isn't it then really strange, how can Muslims claim that the Niqaab ‘presents a bad image of Islam’ or is ‘cultural’, ‘oppressive’ and ‘backward’? There is no dispute that the Mothers of the Faithful, who are our role models, wore the face-veil and surely, their way is a way of liberation, righteousness and balance. That is why, any sister who is true to her self must rightly agree that the face-veil is, in fact, highly recommended.

In Conclusion

niqaab344The face-veil, as does the Hijaab and Jilbaab, asserts the Islamic identity of all believing women. Even many non-Muslims, when questioned about which religion women wearing the face-veil adhere to respond by saying, "Islam". Then why is it that Muslims so readily cry out that the Niqaab is not from Islaam? There may be a greater problem behind their embarassment and that maybe a hidden inferiority complex, which only adds to their difficulty of going against the norm of society.

After Surah an-Noor, verse 31, had been revealed, the Mothers of the Faithful, as well as the Sahaabiyaat (Women Companions), continued to wear Niqaab with the approval of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). This has specifically been mentioned of Umm Khallad (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14, #2482), Asmaa' bint Abi Bakr (Muwatta, Book 20, #20.5.16), and some Qurayshi women who were visiting the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) (Sahih Bukhari, Book 54, #515).

This evidence is also backed by the fact that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) had to tell women not to wear the Niqaab and gloves during pilgrimage (Sahih Bukhari, Book 29, #64), which shows that Niqaab and gloves were well-known and worn by a substantial number of Women Companions (radhiallahu 'anhunna).

Clearly, this form of extra modesty has the approval of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). This adds as an important factor contributing to the wide-spread acceptance of the Niqaab by many Muslim women into their lives, from the time of our Noble Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) right up until this day.

In Summary:

  • Hijaab is a screen of privacy.  
  • Hijaab helps develop Taqwa (Allah-Consciousness)
  • Hijaab is a struggle that purifies the soul.
  • Hijaab covers the beauty of sisters.
  • Hijaab is an assertion of Islamic identity.
  • Hijaab draws you close to Allah.
  • Niqaab is a better screen of privacy.
  • Niqaab helps develop more Taqwa.
  • Niqaab is a greater struggle.
  • Niqaab is a better cover.
  • Niqaab is a stronger assertion.
  • Niqaab draws you even closer.