The Religious Edicts On These Issues

We have seen through these lessons that according to the precise and moderate precepts of Islam, in regard to the relations of a man and a woman based upon the reliable sources and practices of the Holy Prophet and infallible Imams, it is documented that it is not obligatory to cover the face and hands as well as the face that they strengthen the permissibility for men or women to look at each other upon the condition that it is not for lust (unless they are husband and wife) nor fear of deviation.

Now we will briefly refer to the edicts of the religious jurisprudents because it is important to know how they have interpreted this issue from the beginning of Islam to the present.1 To begin with, what is the opinion of religious jurisprudents as to the covering of the face and hands and secondly, what edicts have they issued in regard to looking?

  1. The last section of this lesson was added later by Shaheed Mutahhari and is not on the tapes but because of the importance of the issues referred to, it has been translated and appears here.

As to the fact that it is not obligatory to cover the face and hands, there appears to be no difference of opinion among all of the religious jursiprudents, Shi'ite or Sunni.

There was only one Sunni who disagreed. He was Abu Bakr ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Hisham and it is not clear if his opinion related solely to the ritual prayer or if it included those people who were not mahram, as well.

There is no difference of opinion as to the face but some differences have appeared with regard to the hands to the wrist and the feet to the ankles as to whether or not they are included among the exceptions. Before mentioning what they have said, two points should be noted. First, the issue of covering is dealt with in two places in jursiprudence. One is in relation to the fact that it is obligatory in the ritual prayer for women to cover all of their body, whether or not a non-mahram is present. Here the question arises whether or not the face and hands must also be covered.

The second place the issue is discussed is in relation to marriage and to what extent a suitor has the right to look at the woman he may decide to seek permission to marry. Here, there is most often a general discussion about covering and the permissibility or impermissibility of looking.

Thus, from the point of view of jurisprudence, we have two kinds of covering, one is the covering which is obligatory for the ritual prayer which has certain rules such as the clothes worn must be ritually pure, not usurped, etc. The other is the covering which is obligatory, other than for the ritual prayer, before men whom a woman is not mahram and which does not have the special requirements of the covering for the ritual prayer. As we will later point out, there appears to be no difference as far as the extent of covering is concerned between the covering for ritual prayer or the covering before a mahram.

The second point to be noted is that the religious jurisprudents employ a term which refers to the body other than the face and two hands. This term is "aurah" 'exposed' or 'bare' or 'naked'. It is possible that this term appears unattractive to some people in the sense that nakedness may be considered to be unattractive. We then ask if a woman's body, other than her face and hands, be something which is considered to be ugly or unattractive from the point of view of Islamic jurisprudence?

The answer is that the word "aurah" in no way refers to something ugly or unattractive. In the first place, not every ugly or undesirable act is referred to as "aurah" and the opposite is also true. The word "aurah" is often used in reference to something which has nothing to do with ugliness.

In the Holy Quran, the word is used in verse 33:12 "Truly our houses are open (exposed, vulnerable "aurah" by which excuse they hoped to be exempt from fighting. It is clear that no ugliness is referred to in relation to their houses. In verse 24:59, which will be referred to, three times are mentioned where even a mahram needs to seek permission to enter an area of another's privacy (except a husband or wife) and these are called the time of three "aurah".

In the Majma' ul-Bayan the author, who is uncomparable among the commentators in his ability to cleave apart the meaning of words in reference to the use of the word "aurah" in verse1 says, "aurah" refers to anything which can easily be harmed which one is concerned about like the borders or frontiers of a country or something related to a war. A bar or exposed or naked place or house is a house which is vulnerable and easily harmed".

Thus, it becomes clear that the word is not used by the religious jurisprudents to abase or weaken. The body of a woman is referred to as vulnerable because it is like a house which contains no walls and can be easily harmed and must be covered by some kind of an enclosure.

Now let us look at what the edicts say. 'Allamah in Tazkirat

  1. 33:14.

ul-fuqaha' wrote, "The totality of a woman's body is a "aurah" vulnerable) other than her face according to all of the 'ulama' in the various cities other than Abu Bakr ibn Abd al-Rahman Hisham who believes all of the body of a woman is vulnerable. His opinion is in the minority.

In the opinion of Shi'ite 'ulama', the two hands up to the wrist are like the face and are not considered vulnerable ('aurah'). Malik ibn Anis, Shafe'i, Uwza'i and Sufyan Thawri agree with the Shi'ite 'ulama' because ibn 'Abbas had recorded from the Holy Prophet who said, "The face and two hands are included in the exception." But, according to the view of Ahmad Hanbal and Dawoud Zahiri, the two hands must be covered. The words recorded by ibn 'Abbas are sufficient to disregard this opinion.

Then 'Allamah refers to the two feet saying, "As can be seen the religious jurisprudents refer to Surah Nur for the covering required for the ritual prayer yet it does not refer to the ritual prayer. That which must be covered in the ritual prayer is that which must be covered before a non mahram and if there is a difference of opinion, it is about whether or not more areas need to be covered for the ritual prayer. But, as to the fact that which is not obligatory to cover in the ritual prayers is the same as that which is not obligatory to cover with a non-mahram, there is no difference of opinion."

Ibn Rushed, the famous Andulusian religious jurisprudent, physician and philosopher wrote, "It is the opinion of the majoarity of 'ulama' that the body of a woman, other than her face and two hands, is vulnerable "aurah". Ahmad Hanifah believes that the two feet are also not included. Abu Bakr Abd al-Rahman Hisham believes that the total body of woman is "aurah" without any exceptions. Shaikh Jawad Mughniyah wrote in his book al-Fiqh ala 'l-Mazahib al-khamsah, "All of the Islamic 'ulama' agree that it is obligatory for men and women to cover that part of the body for the ritual prayer which they cover outside of the ritual prayer. The difference arises as to how much needs to be covered. The question in regard to women is whether or not it is obligatory for her to cover her face and hands to the extent necessary for the ritual prayer and the question in regard to men is if it is obligatory for them to cover more than the navel to the knee." Then he says, "According to imamiyah Shi'ite 'ulama', it is obligatory for women to cover that much in the ritual prayers which she covers before non-mahram other than during the ritual prayer."

What is strange is that some contemporary 'ulama' have thought that the view of the 'ulama' in the past was that it was obligatory to cover the face and this is wrong.

As to the permissibility of looking, "Allamah wrote, "A man looking at a woman or a woman looking at a man is either necessary (like the look of a suitor) or not. If there is no necessity, it is not permissible to look at more than the face and hands and if there is fear of deviating, this much is also not permissible. If there is no fear of deviating, according to Shaikh Tusi, there is nothing to prevent it but it is disapproved. The majority of the Shafe'i believes the same but some believe that it is forbidden to look at the face and hands."

In regard to looking at the face and hands, there are basically three opinions. First, the opinion that it is absolutely forbidden according to 'Allamah and a few other people including the author of the Jawahir. Second, it is permissible to look once and what is forbidden is repeated looking. Muhaqiq in Sharae', Shaid Awwal in Lum'ah and 'Allamah in his other books hold this view. Third, it is absolutely permissible according to Shaikh Tusi, Kulayni, the author of Hada'iq, Shaikh Ansari, Naraqi in Mustanad and Shaid Thani in Masalik. Shahid Thani dismisses the reasoning of the Shafe'i which 'Allamah had accepted but he says at the end, "There is no doubt that caution should prevail."

The above were the views of the past jurisprudents. Most contemporary jurisprudents do not refer directly to these two issues and, most often, cover it over by means of 'caution'. But among the contemporary jurisprudents, Ayatullah Hakim in his recital Minhaj al-Salihin, 9th edition, issue 3, in the section on marriage, gives a direct edict in which he states the face and hands are an exception. "It is permissible to look at a person one intends to marry as well as dhimmah women as long as there is no lust in the glance including women whom one cannot prevent from not covering and women who are mahram. It is forbidden to look at any other woman, other than their face and two hands to the wrist, and that only if there is no lust involved."




As a conclusion to our previous discussion, there are two points to be mentioned. One is that the science of the principles of religious jurisprudence has two expressions which are of use to us here. Something do not have the advisability to make them obligatory nor do they have the maliciousness to be rules as forbidden. As they do not contain the criteria to oblige or forbid, they are allowable and because of this they are called allowable non-expediences (mubah la-iqtida'i). Perhaps most of the allowables are of this type.

But there are others. The reason for their beins allowable is because of certain wisdom which releases them. That is, if Divine Law did not allow them, a necessary malice would have appeared. These kinds of allowables are known as allowable expediences. It is possible that with these allowables an advisability or a maliciousness exists in activating or shunning these deeds but is order to obey a higher advisability which permitting then brings about, the Divine Law rules it as allowable and overlooks the other criteria.

Those allowables, which have been allowed because of not wanting to have fault or blame (haraj), are like this. Religious jurisprudents consdier the fact that if they want to forbid some deeds, the life of people will become very difficult so they do not forbid them.

Perhaps the best example is divorce. The Holy Prophet said, "Among all of the permissibles, divorce is the most detested." Someone may ask, "If it is detested then why is it permissible? Divorce should be forbidden." But no. At the same time that it is a detested act and the issuing of a divorce causes the heavens to shake, it is not forbidden. When Abu Ayyub Ansari wanted to divorce his wife, the Holy Prophet said, "Divorcing Umme Ayyub is a sin". But, if Abu Ayyub has divorced his wife, the Holy Prophet would not have said it was invalid. That is something which is not forbidden at the same time it contains as many aspects as a forbidden thing contains and perhaps more. Because of this, it is detested but not forbidden.

The reason is that Islam does not want marrige to be compulsory. That is, to oblige a man, who must be the support and protector of a woman, to keep his wife at all costs. Efforts are made towards a divorce not occuring but that a man should keep his wife because he is so inclined and not grow cold towards his wife. But the situation goes beyond this and a man wants to divorce his wife? It is hated deed so that one is only obliged to do it. This is one example of allowable expedience.

These exceptions exist in the area of the hijab, as well. In relation to the extent of the hijab, like the fact that it is not obligatory for a woman to cover her face, it is not forbidden for a man to look at a woman's face as long as it is not a look of lust. The difference between leaving the face uncovered or coveredis one of the allowable expediences. That is, the very criterion which exist in relation to hair, exists in relation to the face. The criteria which exists in relation to the rest of the body, exists in relation to the face. There are many parts of the body which, even if they are not more stimulating, they are not less so than the face, but at the same time, this exception has appeared. The criteria is the same but if a woman is told to cover her hair, it is not difficult for her to do unless it is a woman whose rebellious nature and ego insists that her hair must remain uncovered. It is a duty which does not cause difficulty. It does not in anyway interfere with her life. But if a woman is told that she must cover her face as well, this prevents her from doing many things. It prevents her freedom of action.

For instance, many of the work available in society depends upon this very religious edict as to whether or not it is obligatory that a woman cover her face. Is it permissible for women to drive a car or not? The question has to be apporached from the point of view of duties that a woman has whether or not it is permissible. Can she maintain her duties and drive, or not? If it is obligatory for women to cover their face and hands, is it not possible for them to drive a car? That is since driving would cause the non-performance of a duty, she must not do so.

But another says, "No. It is not obligatory for women to cover her face." This then means that she can drive and driving does not mean that other parts of her body be visible or that she wear make-up or that her hair be un-covered. Just as long as the roundness of her face is visible, she can drive.

For instance, is it permissible for a woman to be a teacher and teach male students? After we said that hearing the voice of a non-mahram is not a problem, if we say that it is not permissible to look at the face of a non-mahram woman and that it is obligatory for women to cover her face, we have to say it is not permissible. But, if we say it is not obligatory for a woman to cover her face and that it is permissible for a man to look at the face of a non-mahram woman as long as it is not a lustful look, then she may be a teacher of male students. That is, the limits are this very face and hands. The truth is that the real question is whether or not women have to be limited to the home or not. This is not a small issue.

If we deduce that the view of Islam is that the face and hands of a woman must be covered along with the rest of her body, which is obligatory to be covered if we say that a woman must be covered from head to toe, this means that the activities of a woman must be limited to her home because it is not possible for her to be active outside of her home. But if we say, no it is not obligatory for women to cover their face and hands, we have not limited her activities with this. For instance, women who believe that they are obliged to cover themselves completely cannot ever leave their homes to go shopping for vegetables. She has to send a male servant or her husband to do this. Thus there is a great difference in whether or not it is obligatory for a woman to cover her face and hands. The area of her activities could become extremely limited.

We have deduced from the verses of the Holy Quran and the traditions that nothing was missing nor had it been inferred. The only thing we found a lack of was religious edicts and this was not in relation to it being compulsory to cover the face and hand. Most edicts agree that it is not.

The area in which there is a lack of religious edicts sensed is in the area of whether or not it is permissible for a man to look at the face of a un-related women as long as his look is not of lust. The majority says it is not permissible but there are people like the great Alim Shaikh Ansari who say it is permissible and in the verse itself and in the traditions, it is very clearly permissible. Thus if we are asked, "What is the difference between the face and the hair? Does not the criterion which exists for the hair exist for the face? For the eyes and eyebrows? These criteria even carry more weight here." The answers are that it is an allowable expedience, not an allowable non-expedience, that a criterion which exists for one does not exist for another.

Also, in the exception which exists in relation to individuals, there are two exceptions which we will discuss later. Covering from one's father, one's children, the sons of one's husband, brothers, father-in-law, etc. is not obligatory. Here two criteria exist. First the look of a father and even an uncle differs from that of a non-mahram. It is natural that a father does not look at his daughter with lust or with the fear of deviation nor a son at his mother. Among brothers and uncles the same is true. But there are some relationships which cannot be said to be this way. For instance, the son of a husband. Can the son of a husband naturally have the same feeling that a father has for his daughter? Even if his daughter is among the most beautiful women of the world? If a man takes a young wife who is of the same age as his son, will it be this way? Clearly not. Perhaps it can be said that a father-in-law is the same way. Here again the reason why it is not necessary to cover before these relationship is because of difficulty. A man who marries and his son lives in the same house, where the son is a part and parcel of the home. If they are to live within one place and the wife has to cover it will cause great difficulties. This is one point.

From here we can draw a conclusion which is just as we said in relation to divorce. Divorce is permissible but it is detested. It is not forbidden but it is detested. So that if a man were to ask, "If I want to divorce my wife but will I have earned God's satisfaction, should I divorce her or not?" It is best not to divorce her. In this same area, looking at a non-mahram woman when it does not stem from lust or arouse a fear of deviating, is permissible. But, if someone were to ask, "Is it better to look or not to look?" It is, of course, better not to look. The Divine law allowed it so people would not be put to undue difficulties but the criteria still exist. Is it better for a woman to cover her face or not? Is it better to cover her face but because covering her face causes her great difficulties, it has been allowed to be uncovered. The same is true of looking at the face of a non-mahram woman which, at the same time through permissible, not doing is better