How Are Believing Women To Behave With Un Related Men ?
In talking with un related men or strangers the believing women are informed about the type of behavior they should maintain. Allah informs us through the Nabi:
"O Women of the Nabi! You are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a recognized utterance." (33:32) With unrelated men, a woman may engage in a conversation but it should be within the limits ordained by the divine code and should not be directed as complacent speech.
Contrary to the claim of traditionalists, who maintain that a woman should be confined within the boundaries of her house, the Qur'an states that the confinement of women within the four walls of the house is a punishment for lewdness and obscenity. In other words, they might not have fornicated, but outwardly acted in a way or enticed men which might lead to illegal sexual acts. This is said in the following verse:
"And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them." (4:15)
Quite often the reason for confinement is justified by misinterpreting a verse in Sura Al-Ahzaab. However this verse which is misinterpreted to justify the confinement of women within the boundaries of their homes, contains the Arabic word "qarna", which simply means 'to be joined or linked, or connected with something or someone', and plainly refers to the injunction for women in general and the wives of the Nabi in particular, to maintain a link and connection with their homes and familes, such that they do not become neglectful of their domestic responsibilities and does not justify the practice of confinement.
"And be linked with your houses and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorance of yore; and establish Salat, and give Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanness from you, O people of the House! and to purify you a (thorough) purifying." (33:33)
Thus according to the Holy Qur'an, confinement is not the norm for women, but a punishment for certain offences. A woman may engage in activities outside of the house, but she has to maintain a link with her home and family and should not be neglectful of the responsibilities laid down for her by the divine code.
"NIQAB" NOT MANDATORY
While identifying the parts of a woman's body which should be covered, the Qur'an also gives us evidence to refute the claim of those who associate "Niqab" (Veils, 'Ninja style' face covers) as an ingredient of a women's dress code ordained by Allah.
The Example Of Mary
Mary the mother of Jesus (p) is mentioned in the Qur'an as the woman chosen and purified above all the women of all the worlds. "And when the angels said: O Mary! surely Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all the worlds." (3:42)
She has been called as an example for the believers and her conduct is called to exemplify:
"And Allah sets forth an example to those who believe . . . Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our inspiration and she accepted the truth of the words of her Sustainer and His books, and she was of, the obedient ones. (66:11-12)
In observing her behavior mentioned in the Qur'an, we see that as she appears from seclusion with young Jesus, her people recognized her. Now had she been wearing a "Niqab" to cover her face, her people would not have identified her immediately as she had appeared from seclusion. This informs us that she was not covering her face i.e. not wearing a "Niqab", as mentioned in the following verses:
"And she came to her people with him, carrying him (with her). They (having recognized her) said: 'O Mary! surely you have done a strange thing. O sister of Haroon! your father was not a bad man, nor, was your mother an unchaste woman.' But she pointed to him. They said: 'How should we speak to one who was a child in the cradle?' He (Jesus) said: 'Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet." (19:27-30)
Mary's recognition by her people indicates that she was not wearing a "Niqab" to protect her face from being seen.
In the Qur'an there is further evidence which negates the practice of wearing "Niqab". After Allah informs Nabi (SAW) about marriage with certain relations He further reminds:
"It is not allowed to you to take women afterwards, nor that you should change them for other wives, though their beauty be pleasing to you, except what your right hand possesses and Allah is Watchful over all things." (33:52)
In the above verse it is clearly mentioned that Nabi (SAW) was also in a position to see the "Husn" i.e. Beauty of women and this clearly establishes that women not related to the Prophet did not wear "Niqab" or veils to cover their faces when they used to appear in front of him. We must realize that attributing anything to Allah which He has not ordained is a very serious action on our part. Allah has informed us through His messenger that attributing anything to Allah which He did not made as an obligation is "haraam" i.e Forbidden, as the following verse states:
"Say: Surely my Sustainer has prohibited (made haraam) indecencies, those of them that are apparent as well as those that are concealed, and sin and rebellion without justice, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down any authority, and that you say against Allah what you do not know." (7:33)
"Niqab" has not been made mandatory by any verse of the Qur'an, it is a cultural practice of pagan tribes and unbelievers. The Qur'an also identifies unbelievers who used to cover them selves up with their garments. Allah informs us through Noah:
"And whenever I have called them that Thou mayest forgive them, they put their fingers in their ears, cover themselves with their garments, and persist and are puffed up with pride." (71:7)
What About "Hijab"?
The term 'Hijab' has become synonymous these days for a specific dress pattern of women, which is considered as an Islamic dress by many. However the Qur'an does not use this word to denote any kind of dress pattern for women. The type of dress code prescribed by the Qur'an for women (and men) has been discussed earlier, and this term does not occur in the Qur'an in that aspect. The Arabic word 'Hijab' comes from the root word (H-J-B) and it carries the meaning of:
A screen, Curtain, To hide, To conceal, Block from view, Wrap, Mask, To make inaccessible etc.
In the Qur'an this word has occurred only in the following verses in its root or derivative form:
This word has occurred in the Qur'an in the above verses only, and in none of the verses does it refer to any specific garment or dress for women or refer to any dress pattern for women. Following are translations of some of these verses:
"When thou dost recite the Qur'an We put between thee and those who believe not in the Hereafter a veil (HIJAB) invisible:" (17:45) Yusuf Ali'sTranslation They say: "Our hearts are under veils (concealed) from that to which thou dost invite us and in our ears in a deafness and between us and thee is a screen (HIJAB-UN): so do thou (what thou wilt); for us we shall do (what we will!)" (41:5) Yusuf Ali's Translation
"Between them shall be a veil (HIJAB) and on the heights will be men who would know every one by his marks: they will call out to the Companions of the Garden peace on you : they will not have entered but they will have an assurance (thereof)." (7:46)
It should be understood that the term 'Hijab' or any of its derivatives has not occurred in the Qur'an as a designation for any specific ingredient or pattern of women's dress.
We should strive to in-form and re-form our selves through Qur'anic guidance.