From the Veiw Point of Traditions

From the point of view of the traditions, and the external aspects of the verse, it is more or less certain that it is not necessary for women to cover the face and hands and it is not forbidden for men to look at a woman's face or hands if his look is not one of lust or fear of deviation.

The traditions are numerous and we have only referred to a few and a few more will be mentioned. One is a tradition from Imam Riza, peace be upon him, who is asked "Is it permissible for a man to look at the hair of his wife's sisters?" "No. It is not permissible unless she be a menopausic woman. A wife's sister is just like any other woman that you are not related to according to the Divine Law and you can only look at her and her hair if she is menopausic".

Thus whenever the Imams are asked if it is permissible to look at a woman's hair, etc, they are never asked if it is permissible to look at a woman's face when the look is not one of lust or fear of deviation.

There is another tradition from Imam Riza, peace be upon him, about a young boy. "Must a seven-year old boy be encouraged to recite the ritual prayer?" He said it is not obligatory but to encourage is a good thing. It is not necessary that a woman hide her hair from him until he reaches puberty.1 We see that again it is covering the hair which is referred to and not covering the face.


Again concerning "What their right hands own," if a female slave is mahram to a man, is a male slave mahram to his female

  1. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.29.

owner or not? I am using the term 'mahram' here erroneously with a purpose because this is an interpretation that others have. There is a difference when we say 'mahram' meaning, for instance, they are not permitted to marry. It is permitted for him to look at her hair but he is not mahram in the usual sense such as the father-in-law and his son's wife. Some have interpreted it this way. When a question is asked about this, the answer given is that there is no problem if a male slave look at his female owner's hair". Again, hair is mentioned, not the face.

There is a discussion concerning a khwajah (eunuch) and whether or not he is a male slave of a woman. The ruling was that he was like a woman and there was no problem if he looked at a woman's hair. A person asked Imam Riza if it was necessary to cover before a khwajah and the Imam said it was not. "They used to enter my father's house and women did not cover their hair before them."1 As to "the women of the Book", of course, they do not need to be dhimmah ('People of the Book' who live in Muslim lands and are accorded hospitality and protection by Islam on condition of acknowledging Islamic political domination and paying the jizyah tax) because they all have the ruling of a kafir. (A person who covers over the truth of religion, a disbeliever, an infidel). There is no problem with looking at the hair of a Jewish woman or a Christian or a Zoroastrian woman or a woman who is none of these. The Holy Prophet said, "It is not forbidden to look at the hands and hair of dhimmah women."2

Wherever you look you see that the issue which is an exception is referred to or questioned and the face and hands are not questioned. Whereas if it had been forbidden to look at the face and hands of a woman, they would have been referred to in the exceptions.

  1. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.29.
  2. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.26.

As to dhimmah women, some of the 'ulama believe that we must look and see what the situation was at the time of the Holy Prophet; what extent of the body was not covered? Clearly the dhimmah women did not cover their hair or their hands to a certain point. These was no problem, then, in looking at them.

I have mentioned that in every exception, it is permitted to look without lust except under one condition. That is to look at a woman in lust when one wants to see a woman to decide whether or not to marry her, as a serious suitor of marriage.1 Of course, it is clear that a man cannot spend years looking at women in this way to determine whether or not he wants to marry her. There are other conditions as well. How much education should she have? Where does she come from, etc. After all of the other conditions are met and the only one remaining is to see if one wants to marry her, it is this situation that the exception refers to. If the purpose is only lust, it is clearly not with the intention of marrying.

These, then, were some of the traditions but there are many more from both Sunni and Shi'ite sources.

Now as to the dhimmah women, the traditions say it is Muslim woman but not with lust or with a look with holds the fear of deviating within it. It is permissible to look at her in what she customarily wears outside of her home. Ayatollah Burujerdi says that one must suffice to look only at that which was common in those days. Perhaps customs have changed today and even more areas of their body are uncovered.

There is another point to mention following this. There is an edict, based on a tradition which some 'ulama find diffucult to accept. It is concerned with a tradition where the Imam said that 1. There is clearly a difference between laws made by people or a low making body and Allah's Laws. If a person wants to follow the laws of a country, one can play a bit with them. "The Law such and such and I did not do that" But when it comes to Allah's Law there is a difference and one's intention is known.

there is no problem to look at the hair of a bedouin woman, a woman from suburb of Kufah or Ilj (non-Arab bedouin women). Why>? Because it is their custom to dress in their particular style and they refer to cover their heads. So it is not forbidden to look at them, but, of course, not with lust.

Some of the ulama have issued edicts just as the tradition states but the late Ayatullah Mohammad Kazim does not issue one because he says what is perhaps meant is that in places where these kinds of women are it is not obligatory for men to curtail their comings and goings. There is no problem if their eyes fall on these women's hair. There is no problem if the women are told to cover themselves but they do not listen. Therefore he felt it was an exceptional situation, not one that needed religious edict. Another faqih (religious jurisprudent) says the same thing holds for urban women. If they are told they should cover themselves and they do not, there is no problem if men look at their hair.


Another issue is that of hearing the voice of a non mahram woman. Is this forbidden or not? This is clear from the edicts that it is not forbidden as long as it is not for lust or in fear of deviating. There is no problem between a blind person who is hearing another. However, there is, caution, where it does not concern one, he should avoid it. But it is forbidden for a woman to make her voice very pleasant and attractive so as to cause confusion in a man whereby a man who has a sickness in his heart hears her voice, and gets attracted to it through lust.1

  1. Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Tabatabai Yazdi, "Urwatul Wusqa" Section on Marriage, Chapter One Issue 39.

This is among the things which are very clear. it is permissible to hear the voice of a non-mahram woman as long as her voice is normal and not one to cause lust or arouse the fear of deviating.

The verse of the Holy Quran is clear. It does not say women shouldnot speak. No. It says they should not change the tone of their voice. Woman continuously went to the Holy Prophet and to the Imams and asked the questions they had. This is clear.


Another issue is shaking hands. Of course, all of these issues arise only when there is no lust or fear of deviation present; otherwise they are clearly not permitted. Again, the traditions and religious edicts confirm one another in this matter. The Imam was asked if it is permitted to shake hands with a non-related woman. He said; "No, unless the hands be covered or the woman be mahram." One must not shake the hands with a woman who is not mahram unless her hand is covered and even then, pressure should not be applied?1


Here there are two more points which should be mentioned. The first is that the issues mentioned up to this point were all referred to within the contents of the verses and the traditions. Perhaps no further question would occur to a person up to this point, but these are some of the issues which have occurred to me. Since this is a matter of an edict, everyone must note that I have mentioned my own point of view and referred to these proofs because of their necessity but the issue is one which must be followed according to the Divine Law. The second point is that

  1. Ibid.

edicts exist which are comparable to the ones mentioned that include the religious edicts of the great 'ulama' but these are the edicts of the minority, not the majority.

For instance, Shaikh Tusi gave such an edict as well as Shaikh Hadayiq and Shaikh Ansari. All three are among the most learned shi'ite scholars. The others mentioned these reasons, like Ayatullah Hakim in Mustamsak but when it comes to issuing a religious edict, they hold back. The actions of Muslims, to this point, have been opposed to these views so the faqih moves beyond the issue.


This itself is an issue that the customes and habits of Muslims oppose something which is clear from the verses of Quran and the traditions. The customs of the Muslims are not something which can be easily put aside. There is a need for an analysis as to what it is.

If we asume that Muslims have acquired a custom from the beginning of Islam whereby it is discovered to be from the customs of the Holy Prophet and the Imams, which is a lesson they learned from them and if this, then this is a custom which goes back to the time of the Holy Prophet which is a thing he practised, it is clear that it is something which should be preserved. However, a custom of the people is not proofin itself except when it is discovered to be among the customs of the Holy Prophet. Then it becomes proof and must be observed.

For instance, take the beard. Some people say that the real proof for it is that men from the time of the Holy Prophet and later all had beards. Thus, we rely upon this. Now note what they answer. If someone had said that it is forbidden to grow a beard we would have said that people in the past, according to custom, had a beard and this existed from the time of the Holy Prophet. Thus, it was not forbidden to have a beard. If it had been forbidden, it could not have become the custom. But the question then arise whether growing a beard is obligatory or recommendatory. We assume the possibility that it is a part of custom which is at least, recommendatory or unspecified. Custom only dictates when there is a lack of respect involved. Therefore it is either obligatory or recommendatory.

A thought has occurred to me here which is a historical social point and most often the reason why the religious authorities become fixed here is because they do not attend to the social issue. The hijab did not exist among the pre-Islamic Arabs. Islam brought the covering of the head, neck and chest, etc. and the forbidding of looking with lust. But a part of that which Islam brought existed in non-Arab areas. It was a very strong influence in Iran, in particular, among the Jews and people were influenced by their way of thinking.

Islam did not make it obligatory to uncover the face. It said it is obligatory to cover the hair, not to display the face. Clearly, those nations which came to accept Islam were following their own customs because Islamic precepts did not say it was obligatory to display the face, except in the haram. Nor did they say it was forbidden to cover the face, it gave a choice. It left it up to the various nations to practise their own customs of hijab if they so desired.

History shows that non-Arabs felt it was obligatory to cover the face. Thus this custom of covering the face, as we find it now, is not a custom of the Holy Prophet and the Imams.

Another point which is very sensitive and should also be considered, relates to caution. Every religious jurisprudent speaks this way out of caution. They all know that these two things exist, one in a woman and one in a man. That which exists within a woman is the desire to show herself off, it is a part of her nature. That which exists within man is an inclination towards looking, not just looking but flirting and receiving pleasure from it. Both of these exist. Will Durant says that there is nothing in the world more firm and more persevering than a man's desire to look at a woman. It exists no matter how much it is restrained and it is referred to in the traditions. It is because of this that a religious jurisprudent does not find the courage, in spite of the fact that all of these reasons and proof exist, to issue a religious edict. They say caution should not be put aside. The caution relates to human nature itself.

This brings up another issue. Some people follow a philosophy and that philosophy is that in those areas which are ruled by customs; whatever one does not say to the people is better. It is better not to say it than to say it.

I may have mentioned that I once received a letter in praise of the book I wrote called "Stories of Good People". The ritual prayer leader in Khuzistan read the book. He said that he looked up all of the stories. Although not one idea was changed and they had been presented in a very readable, pleasant style, he had two criticisms. The first criticism related to a story about Hazrat Fatimah and Hazrat 'Ali, peace be upon them. Their work had been devided so that Hazrat 'Ali die the work outside of the house and Hazrat Fatimah, the word within the house; a division which the Holy Prophet had made at the very beginning of their marriage. When Hazrat 'Ali was home, he helped Hazrat Fatimah within the house and when he was not home, Hazrat Fatimah did the work outside the house as well. One day she was covered from head to toe in shoot from having started the fire and because there was no flowing water in Madinah, it had to be carried from the wells, often at some distance a way, the pressure applied by the straps of her water bag remained on her body because of all the water she had carried to her house. This man said that even though this story was true and was part of the traditions, I should not have mentioned it because it could be misused.

I do not deny the general principle that if telling the truth will cause the people to deviate, it should not be said because the reason for telling the truth, in the first place, is to guide the people, not to turn away from it. Of course, the Holy Quran tells us, "Those who conceal the clear (Signs) we have sent down and the Guidance after we have made it clear for the people in the Book ... on them shall be God's curse and the curse of those entitled to curse ..."1 The tone of this verse is very strong. There are very few verses in the Holy Quran where such a strong and angry tone is found. At the same time, I believe the purpose to be that people should not conceal the truth because of their own interests but to conceal the truth because the truth itself under very limited, temporary and definite conditions so that it is not misused and does not pertain to this verse. In other words, it is forbidden to lie but it is not always obligatory to speak the truth. That is, there are occasions when one must remain silent.

I am of the belief that this kind of prudence, when it is based upon the real issue of the truth has no problem but, not when it is based on individual, personal or group interests. Now the point is whether or not it is prudent thinking not to issue a religious edict about buying or selling a radio or that it is not obligatory for a woman to cover her face and hands. It is correct kind of thinking? Is it intelligible? Does it produce the correct result or not? Will some women who cover their face and hands then uncover their face and hands and finally their whole form by saying this truth? Or is the opposite true?

That is, many men and women think that the bases of the religious viewpoint is that the face of a woman should not show for when the face shows, there will be no stopping the rest. On the other hand, the covering of the face is impractical and, from the point of view of logic, it is indefensible. No reasoning or deduction can be given for it being so. Therefore, they will then completely uncover themselves.

Some sociologists believe that the cause for the extremity in

  1. 2:159

woman's dress and their lack of modesty is because of the erroneous belief that society had about the hijab. Yet the error was that the truth was not spoken! If it had been expressed just as the Islamic precepts express it, things would never have reached this point. It is here that one should refer to the proverb, "being, more Catholic than the Pope", or jumping "from the frying pan into the fire".

The Holy Quran says in Surah Hujarat, "O believers, advance not before God and His Messenger".1 What is meant by 'advance' is a point beyond which God and His Prophet said there by, 'advancing before God and His Messenger'.

Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Ali, peace be upon him, said, "God has given limits. Do not aggress beyond them. (He has specified the forbidden, do not disobey). He has specified the obligatory and the precepts; do not shun them and so to the things for which He remained silent about (neither forbidden nor oblige it was not because He forgot them but rather He wanted you to be free in regard to them. Therefore, do not restrict yourself there and make something your duty in the name of God's religion and God."

The Holy Prophet said in a tradition recorded in Jama' al-Saghir, "Just as God dislikes that which He prohibited, people should obey and He likes them to do what is allowed; whatever is without any problem should be considered to be such and they should not forbid anything which God has not forbidden ..."

This tradition has also been recorded as the following, "God loves people who allow whatever He has allowed and prohibit whatever He has prohibited."

Perhaps I am mistaken. As I have mentioned, in areas covered by religious edicts, each person must follow the edicts of their own mujtahid.

  1. 49:1.

But, in regard to that which is mentioned as prudent thinking and saying it is not advisable to mention something even though it is the truth, I disagree with this prudent thinking. I believe it is advisable to express the truth and that which is advisable is to counteract the concept that women today express, "The hijab is impractical." We must prove to them that the Islamic hijab is logical and practical.

Secondly, we must make efforts to establish cultural, social, and health activities, particular to women, and resist the mixed activities which are limitated from Europe. It is only in this way that women will rediscover their real personality and the possibility that they will no longer be a tool, a toy and means to men's lust in the name of freedom and equality