Traditions and Narrations

There are a series of traditions in this area which completely explain this issue. In the previous lesson we presented the traditions that basically stated it was forbidden for a man to look at the face of a non-mahram woman. There are another series of traditions whose transmissions are questionable and are not relied upon by the 'ulama but they do explain things and offer good ethics.

There is the famous letter of Hazrat 'Ali to Imam Hasan which is a letter of advice, "To the extent possible keep your wife or wives away from mixing with others. Nothing protects a woman better than the home." The tradition contains the word ihtijab. It means to be hidden by a curtain. He said to Malik al-Ashtar, "Do not continue to separate (ihtijab) yourself from the people." Where the Imam says to avoid women having to mix with non-mahram men, this is more healthy for women. This is truth. However much she is separated from non- mahram men, the danger of deviation lessons. Whereas today, we see how the danger has increased with their system in the modern world. Therefore, we cannot say that men and women mixing together creates less chances of danger.

There is another tradition which is reliable, the religious jurisprudents rely upon it.1 The Holy Prophet said, "The first look is yours but the second is to your loss." Is this giveing a ruling or taking a position? Some have said this is giving a ruling. They say the Holy Prophet said that one may look once at a woman but a second look is forbidden. Others say what is meant is that the first time when your eyes unintentionally fall on a woman's face it is possible, but a second time when it is done intentionally is not permitted. But still, others say that it is

  1. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.24.

neither a ruling nor taking a position. The first time is unintentional but the second time it is with lust and this is why the Holy Prophet said the second time is to your loss.

There is another tradition whihc is a good lesson although it is not relied upon in jurisprudence. It is good ethics. It says the Holy Prophet asked, "What things are better than any other for women." No one answered. Imam Hasan, still a child, went home and asked what the answer was. Hazrat Fatimah said, "That she sees no man and no man sees her."1 This shows that for a woman looking at a man is also dangerous. It is safer and better if she does not meet non-mahram men. There is no position that this is so. What we are referring to is what is allowed so that a woman will face less difficulty and not what is safer and more secure. Clearly this is safer?2 There is another tradition, "A look is an arrow of satan"3 This, of course, refers to a look of lust. Or "Every thing has its adulterous form and the adultery of the eyes is to look,"4 referring to a look of lust and one which holds the fear of deviating.


In the traditions we have many which relates to the time when one is a suitor for marriage at which time it is permitted to look.

  1. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.9.

  2. It is possible that someone presents an intellectual reason which nullifies this deduction by saying, for instance, what difference is there between the hair and face that one is obligatory to cover one and not the other. Thus, we reason by practice and someone else presents and intellectual reason. It is sufficient for the person who is referring to practice, even if it be through presenting a possibility, that they invalidate it there is a difference. If it were practical, Islam would have clarified it, but it did not want people to fall into difficulty.

  3. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.24.

  4. "Kafi", vol.5, p.539; and "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.24.

Does this not mean, then, that it is not permitted if one is not a suitor? Not only is it permitted but it has been stressed that it is better if one looks. For instance, they said a man wanted to marry a daughter of one of the companions who was a resident of Madinah. The Holy Prophet said to him, "Go and look and then marry. There is something in the eyes of the companions.1 The Holy Prophet told him to look first because the companions were from just one or two tribes and most of them had some kind of an eye defect. He told him to look first and then marry so that later he would not be disappointed.

Mugharyar ibn Shu'bay said, "I had sought to marry. The Holy Prophet said to me, "Have you seen her?" I said, "No. I have not". He said, "Go and see her because it will give strength to your marriage."2 Imam Ja'far, peace be upon him, said, "If one of you sought a woman for marriage, it is better if you see that woman, if your look is one of a suitor."3

When a tradition says that it is permissible as a suitor, then does this mean it is not permitted when one is not a suitor? If 'looking' as a suitor means that only the face and hands can be seen and nothing more, then it is limited that it is not at all lustful. This would mean that looking at other times is not permitted but this is not the way it is. It is permitted for a suitor to look at the face and the hair of a woman even the outline of her form, things that effect the form of a woman's body. It is more extensive and it is clear that which is permitted for a man who is suitor is not permitted at other times. They have also said that if a suitor be a serious one, even if he looks with lust, there is no problem.

1."Salih Muslim", vol.4, p.142. 2. "Jama' Tirmizi", p.175. 3. "Wasa'il", vol.12, p.58, "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.11, "Kafi", vol.5, p.365.


Now we will discuss the other exceptions, some relates to the extent of the hijab. There is another exception which relates to the number of individuals. Some have no debate and othes require a bit of explanation. The phrase, "reveal not their adornment", appears twice and both times it is accompanied by an exception. The first time it relates to the extent of the hijab and that which is not necessary to cover. The second relates to people before whom it is not necessary to cover, including those that are not exceptions, such as hair neck, chest, etc.

It first says, "Reveal not their adornment except such as is outward", I have explained this. "To cast their veil over their bosoms." We have also explained this. Again, "Reveal not their adornment except to their husband ..." There is nothing which is obligatory to cover before a woman's husband "..., their fathers, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, their brother's children and their sister's children." It is clear up to here. There is no debate about the relations mentioned. But, the, for more relations are mentioned and there is a discussion as to what is meant. "Or their women or what their owned women or such men who attend to them not having sexual desire or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts."

Does "or their women" mean all women? Or only Muslim women? Or women who live in their home and serve them? The third is highly unlikely and the possibility should not even be allowed that it be this because it makes no sense that among all women it only refers to women who work in their house. It would mean they would need to cover before women who are not their servants and clearly this is not so. One of the things which is certain from the beginning of Islam is that a woman is mahram to another woman. Thus one of the first two possibilities remain. First their women refers to all women. Thus there is no woman who is not mahram for another woman. But, if it is the second one, that is, Muslim women, then non-Muslim women are not mahram.

Of course this is something for which perhaps some have issued a religious edict about but it is not this way. Some say it is haram for a Muslim woman to become naked before a non-Muslim woman. The reason is that it is not permitted for any woman to describe the body of another woman for her husband; This duty itself is sufficient for Muslim women but other women do not follow this for it is permitted for a Muslim woman to uncover herself before them and show her body to them. It is either obligatory or approved for a Muslim woman not to become naked before a non- Muslim woman who may go to her own husband and describe the Muslim woman's physical qualities. At any rate, this is disapproved. It is difficult to say if it is forbidden because the verse itself does not say directly. 'Muslim women', Or what their "owned ones" is more difficult. Here there are two possibilities. One is that female slaves are referred to.

That is, it is not necessary for women to cover themselves from their female slaves or that it is not necessary for women to cover themselves from their slaves even if it be a male. This would mean that a male salve is mahram. Of course, this should not seem strange. If this were to be considered strange, stranger than this is that it is absolutely not obligatory for female slaves. That is, a female slave does not need to cover her head before anyone, her master or anyone else.

Here the verse refers to a woman and her own male slaves. If a woman has a male slave, is it obligatory for her to relate to him as a mahram or a non-mahram? This is one of those places where the traditions and the external form of the verse dictates that it is not obligatory to cover but the religious edicts lack harmony in this area. We say 'external form' of the verse because it is very difficult to consider female slaves in this verse. What about the female slaves of others? Her husband's female slaves? Others? What about women who are not female slaves? No. We could say other women are included in 'their women'. If we allow that it be related to free women, the meaning would be that among female slaves, only her own female slave are mahram.

See where this would lead to. Female slaves are mahram for men but a free woman has to cover herself from these very slave women. It is clear that this is not so. The verse means both male and female slaves. The reason is clear. Since the male slaves work inside the house and covering before them would cause great difficulty, the are mahram. There are a great many traditions to this effect.

"Or such men as attend to them, not having sexual desire", are men who have no designs on women, men who are impotent and have no need for women. It is like mentally retarded individuals who do not distinguish these things. Another possibility has been given by commentators. Some have said those who have no physical needs for women include the eunuchs and they are mahram. There are many traditions to this effect. They were allowed within the harems and were considered as women because they had no sexual need for women.

Some have said that this also includes the poverty stricken and needy. What was the criterion? Those who said that the distinguish between the sexes and they do not comprehend the attractive force which exists in women, they are like children. Those who said it also included the eunuchs have said that the main emphasis is upon 'lack of sexual need'. That is, the criterion is not being retarded but rather not having the sexual need for women. Those who said it includes the needy and poverty-stricken have said those who have no physical need for women. They are like the eunuchs or if not eunuch, they are under such circumstances that they have forgotten sexual desires. Of course, it is very unlikely that this latter group be accepted. It is clear that there are mentally ill who have no sense of discernment. The highest form would be those who become like a neunch.

"Or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts". Does this mean the children of the ages of 7 or 8 or 10? Or does it mean children who still do not have power, that is, have not reached puberty? The second has been taken by the religious jurisprudents and edicts issues accordingly. Until the time of puberty, they are mahram and after that time they are not mahram.


"Nor let them stamp their feet so that their hidden ornament may be known." Arab women stamped their feet so that their silver or gold anklets would make sounds and things hidden would appear. They are told not to do this, not to do something to draw the attention of others towards them. Thus in women's relations with unrelated non- mahram men, they should not do anything to draw attention towards themselves whether it be in the way they walk, in the way they talk, in their perfume or cosmetic. We had mentioned collyrium, for instance, it was an exception but it should not be so severe that it stimulates men and attracts them twoards her; and all should return to God ..., a command from God. Remember God. Return of God. God is aware of intentions. If we consider exceptions they are all upon the condition that one's intentions be pure.




"O you who believe! Let those your "owned ones" and those of you who have not reached puberty ask your permission (before they came to your presence) at three times: before the ritual prayer of dawn and when you put off your outer garments at noon; and after the late night prayer; three times of undressing for you outside these times it is not wrong for you or for them to move about attending to each other; thus does God make clear the signs for you, for God is All-knowing, All-wise. But when your children reach puberty let them (also) ask for permission as do those senior to them (in age).

Thus does God make clear His signs for you for God is All-Knowing, All-wise. Such women as are menopausic and have no hope of marriage, there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not a wanton display of their beauty; but it is best for them to be modest; and God is All-hearing, All- knowing."1 These three verses mention two or three exceptions. One of the exception is in the first verse which we had previously

  1. Quran, 24 : 58-60.

related, "If you enter houses, say salam ...". No one has the right to enter the house of another without first announcing one's entrance and receiving permission; even a child has no right to enter the house of his mother or sister without permission. It is only the husband who does not need to announce his arrival. Home is a place where a woman considers to be her place of retreat and she is usually dressed in such a way that she does not want anyone but her husband to see her as such. In the past the doors of homes were kept open and they were not considered to be places of retreat. The places of retreat were particular only to the rooms. It can be said that the ruling which previously related to rooms now rules for a house. It is customary now to have the door or the home closed and a woman may even consider her courtyard to be part of her place of retreat unless others have view into it.

We have previously mentioned this ruling. There is no exception to it, whether a son is going to his mother's house or a daughter is going to her father's hosue, they must receive permission to enter the part that is considered to be a retreat.

We had another issue in the next verse about people who are exceptions so that women do not need to cover before them. The amount of hijab that is required for people who are not mahram, their fathers ... or their women or "owned ones" or children ... and, then we discussed whether ti meant only male slaves or included female slaves as well. We pointed out that the external form of the verse reveals those who are the exceptions and traditions, in particular, Shi'ite traditions, have said that they are the male servants. But the other problem is that among the Islamic scholars, perhaps, there are very few people who have issued an edict saying that male slaves are mahram within the home. That is, the ruling is that it is not necessary for women to cover themselves before them because they are taken as mahram but the external meaning of the verse is clear and the traditions say the same.

In these verses there are other exceptions about what the right hand owns and children because we had the exception that in the place of retreat of women, every one, except her husband, must seek permission to enter. Here two other groups are mentioned as exceptions to this rule other than at the special times mentioned in the Holy Quran; first is "owned ones" and second are children before they reach puberty.

Now, as to "owned ones" let no one think that because there are no longer any slaves, there is no need to discuss this. No. We do not want to mention a duty of a slave here, but Islamic precepts in regard to slaves should be understood and if a person wants to reason from the verse itself, he can expand this ruling to include other than slaves.

As we pointed out, the verse said no one has the right to enter the home of another without first announcing it except those who are your slaves and children who have not yet reached puberty. These people are exception to seeking permission to enter a woman's retreat unless it occurs at the three speical times mentioned. The three times mentioned are times when a woman is most often not wearing her normal clothes. One of the three times is before the dawn prayer when she has first woken up and has not yet fully dressed. They have no right to enter without announcing their entrance. Another time is the middle of the day when it is very hot, when you come home nd take off your clothes. They must seek permission to enter. The third is at night ater the night prayer which is the time for going to sleep.

In sum up, at times other than when a woman normally takes off her clothes, and is a time of rest, they can enter without permission. Then the verse itself analyzes this. If you recall, two weeks ago, we mentioned these exceptions other than the husband; perhaps a father can also be included who is mahram, a women's father-in- law and perhaps one's husband's son for which exceptions exist for covering various areas such as the face and hands. It is not the criterion that, at other times, are stimulating areas and a man whose eyes fall on the body of a woman or on her face presents a danger. But if we extend these criteria further, we will create difficulties. We have mentioned this.

Here, there is one sentence which shows why these are exceptions because it is their work to 'move about attending to each other's. A child who has not yet reached puberty, who is within the house, is continuously moving about. If the child has to continuously seek permission, it is very difficult. Thus, only at the special times should these exceptions seek permission. And, now another issue. In the verse, "owned ones", are the female or male slaves? We said male slaves. In this area, again the tradition have said this. In Kafi it has been recorded from Imam Sadiq, "What is meant is male slaves who do not have to seek permission except at the three times." Not female slaves because women are mahram to women. They asked, "Do women need to seek permission at these three times?" He said, "No. It is not necessary."

There is another tradition in which it is questionable if female slaves are meant but male slaves are clearly indicated. It can be said that men are meant and not women in this verese because here the pronoun is exclusive to the masculine. They are the slaves of these women and we could say, perhaps, only women are meant but the here the masculine plural appears. That is, those men who are your slaves do not need to get permission other than at those three times. Thus they are clearly mahram and does this abrogate the other? No. Whatever is said in the other verse that male slaves and children who have not reached puberty are mahram is the same here. These two, then, correspond and this also corresponds with was has appeared in the traditions, in particular, Shi'ite traditions. Of course, they do not conform with the religious edicts.

Let us move beyond this. Those who are "owned ones" must not seek permission and also sons who have reached puberty except at three times.

The masculine plural is referred to and not women. Their work is to move about attending to each other; thus does God make clear the signs for you ...".

"When your children reach puberty' they must always seek permission to enter. Thus does God make clear His signs for you. The two exceptions which we had, one was in relation to male slaves and the other in relation to children who have not attained puberty. The third exception is 'such women as are menopausic'.


In the previous section, it was said that women had to cover themselves and not reveal their adornment except that which is outward and what is meant is the face and hands. In the next sentence they are told to cover their necks with their scarf except, women who are menopausic.

If we compare this verse to the previous one, it is clear that women have two layers of clothes, the outer and the inner. In the former verse, "when you take off your outer garments" is again referred to here. Thus a woman can take off her outer garment. Beyond this? No. They can take off their outer clothes but they must not draw attention to themselves.

Even though all of these exceptions exist, it is better if a women does not show herself to a man. It is better if a man does not look at a woman. These exceptions are because of needs that may arise Islam is not a religion which wants to cause fault or blame to its followers. When there is no necessity or need or difficulty, it is better to observe hijab.

As I mentioned before, perhaps there is a class that men and women want to attend. Both will benefit from it but they do not need to be in the same room. It is better if they are in separate rooms. Here, at the same time that woman has reached a certain age is an exception, it is still better if they do not, for instance, take off their outer garment and they remain like other women. God is knowing.


We have two more verses in surah Ahzab which we will refer to and then we will end our discussion on the hijab.

One verse relates to the particularities of the wives of the Holy Prophet. Before Islam, in the houses of the people, according to the custom, there was no hijab. There was complete intermixing of men and women. The people were, then, not accustomed to announcing their entrance. They would enter the home of the Holy Prophet unannounced and go through all of the rooms and if they were invited to dinner, it would be hours before they left. They would stretch out their legs and begin to hold long discussions. This bothered the Holy Prophet and he was embarrassed to ask them to leave. Then verse 33:53 was revealed: "And when you ask (his wives) for something you want, ask them from behind a curtain (hijab).

That makes for greater purity for your hearts and theirs."1 Whenever the 'ulama referred to the verse on the hijab they meant this verse and the word hijab itself means screen or curtain. The word hijab here has nothing to do with the word hijab which we refer to when we say women should cover such and such parts of their body. Thus this has nothing to do with our discussion and refers to people who should not enter the house of the Holy Prophet without announcing their entrance and if they want something, they should take it from behind a curtain.

  1. Quran, 33 : 53.