I start with the name of Allah, Praise be to Him; the Lord of the Worlds, the Merciful to the believers and the non-believers in this world, the Merciful to the believers only in the Hereafter. Praise be to Allah, the Creator of everything, Who is Knowledgeable about all things, and their true Owner. Praise be to Allah, Who enabled us to gather here today.
Thereafter, Allah ordered the woman with the obligatory covering, and so it is an obligation on her to follow His orders, in this matter and in all matters, and she is sinning if she does not.
Before I go on to talk about what Allah ordered as the obligatory covering for the woman I would like to talk briefly about what is more important than that–the first obligation of all people, men and women alike, which is for one to have the proper belief in Allah and His messenger. Believing in Allah properly is the greatest right of Allah on His slaves and their first obligation and the one which, if not fulfilled, the person does not have any reward on the Day of Judgement. It is very possible, and we see cases of it around us where a woman might be covered from head to toe, until nothing is showing from her at all, yet, in her heart she does not have the proper belief in Allah,–therefore she is not Muslim. Should she die on that state, what will her choice of dress help her? Nothing. The one who dies a non-Muslim is a loser on the Day of Judgment.
What does it mean to have the proper belief in Allah? When we say la illaha illallah, which is the first part of the Testification of Faith, it means: “I firmly believe and declare that nothing deserves to be worshipped except Allah, who is the Creator of everything.” It is a simple statement—yet has so much meaning. By saying la illaha illallah, we are testifying that it is Allah whom we worship, that Allah is the Creator of everything, and that He needs none of his creation, and He resembles none of His creation, hence He is not a body, He is not a soul, He is not illumination or light, He does not exist in the heavens, or in any place–rather He exists without a place. Allah is the Creator of place. He existed in eternity before He created any of the places like heaven and the earth and the skies and Paradise. He existed in eternity without a place, therefore it is not logical or proper to say that after Allah created the place, He became in need of it. What is in need is not God.
Allah is attributed with all the proper befitting attributes and is clear of any attributes not befitting to Him. His attributes do not change, they do not increase and they do not decrease. What changes is a creation. He is attributed with Power–He has power over all things. He is attributed with Will–whatever Allah willed to be shall be and whatever Allah did not will to be shall not be. Good and evil, alike, are by the knowledge, will, and creation of Allah. He is attributed with Hearing, Sight, and Speech. However His hearing is not like the hearing of the creatures, nor his sight like the sight of the creature, nor his speech like the speech of the creatures. He is the Creator of everything, and is unlike anything. A famous Scholar of Islam (Dhun Nun al Misriyy) stated: “Whatever you can imagine in your minds, Allah is different from it.” Because your imagination is a creation of Allah, and Allah is not like His creation.
The meaning of the second part of the Testification of faith: Muhammad-Rasul Allah, is I know believe and declare that Muhammad, the son of ^Abdullah, the son of ^Abdul Muttalib, from the Quraysh tribe is the slave of Allah and His Messenger to all the creation. In witnessing this statement, one in admitting the belief in all the prophets and messengers of Allah-who were many. All the prophets were truthful and all of them were attributed with befitting attributes. All of them were clear of blasphemy, enormous sins, small abject sins, before and after prophethood.
So, the one who has the proper belief in Allah and His messenger and dies with that belief is the winner on the day of Judgement. After the belief, what is next on the person is to perform with the obedience and refrain from sinning–all in obedience to Allah, our Creator. We firmly believe in that/ what Allah ordered us to do and ordered us not to do is full of wisdom, whether or not the person can comprehend that wisdom. But, regardless of whether or not we can understand that wisdom, we perform the obedience and refrain from sinning out of our firm belief in Allah and hoping for the reward in our deeds. Also, we know that the Prophet was truthful in all he conveyed from Allah, and once we know that the Prophet ordered with one matter, we are sure that the benefit lies in that matter–whether or not one can see the wisdom in it. We are certain that since the Prophet ordered the women with the obligatory covering, there is a benefit in this order for the woman herself, for the Muslim community she is a part of , and for the society at large
To talk about the benefits of this order of covering for the woman would take another entire lecture, and we will not go into those benefits now, rather just briefly talk about the obligation itself.
The Prophet informed us that the unlawful nakedness (^awrah) of the woman, or that part which must be covered when she is in front of any marriageable man, is her entire body, with the exception of her face and her hands. The boundaries of the face are from the normal hairline to the chin, lengthwise, and from the ear to the ear width-wise, and so this area is the face. The neck of the woman and her ears are not part of her face, and must be covered. The hands are from the wrists to the fingers, and what is above the wrists must be covered.
In Sunan Abu Dawud, there is the hadith of the Prophet, when Asma’ the daughter of Abu Bakr entered and she was not dressed properly, the Prophet turned away and told her what means: <<”Ya Asma’, once the woman reaches puberty, it is not allowed that anything would be seen from her except this and that” and he pointed to the face and the hand.>>
In Surat an-Nur, Ayah 31: Allah revealed the ayah about the hijab, or the proper covering for the women. Ibnul-Jawziyy, al-Qurtubiyy, and most of the famous interpretors of the Qur’an reported that Ibn ^Abbas, whom the Prophet gave the title ‘the Explainer of the Qur’an’, and ^A’ishah, the wife of the Prophet, explained the words إلا ما ظهر منها illa ma thahara minha, in that ayah by the face and the hands. Hence in the ayah, Allah informed us that the obligatory covering for the woman is her whole body-except for what may be exposed, which is the face and the hands.
Also in the ayah it mentions, walyadribna bikhumurihinna ^ala juyubihinna, which means to take the right side of the khimar (which is the head covering) and wrap it over to the left side, to cover the juyub (which is the opening of the dress at the neck area)—i.e., to cover the neck area—and it does NOT mean that it is an obligation that the khimar (the head covering) MUST be long enough to cover the bosom of the woman.
Shamsud-Din ar-Ramliyy also reported in his book, that the condition for the thing to be called covering, is that it blocks seeing the color of the skin underneath, even if it shows the shape. So showing the shape of the awrah is not haram,–haram meaning that the doer of this act deserves punishment, rather it is makruh, which means that if it is done, there is no punishments deserved, but if one would leave it out, or not do it, for the sake of Allah, there is reward for him in that. Muhammad ^Ulaysh, who is a Malikiyy scholar, said it is makruh , disliked, to wear what shows the shape of the ^awrah, whether as a result of its thinness or tightness or being wrapped around the body, or belting it on the body, because it is against the norm and against the customs of the Salaf.
And then covering the face is not an obligation on the woman. We know this from the hadith of the Prophet, when he was in Hajj and a very beautiful woman came to him to ask him a question. Next to the Prophet was al-Fadl, the son of ^Abbas. Al-Fadl and this woman were looking at each other. So the Prophet turned al Fadl’s face, away, he did not tell that woman to go and cover her face. And Ibn ^Abbas said this was after the ayah of the hijab was revealed. Had it been an obligation on that woman to cover her face, the Prophet would have ordered her with that rather than turning al Fadl’s face away.
So the conclusion is that the ^awrah (unlawful nakedness) of the woman in front of the ajnabiyy man is her entire body except her face and the hands to the wrist, and this is known from the Book of Allah and the hadith of the Prophet. It is permissible for her to uncover the face and the hands, (means that she is allowed to do that, with no sin if she does that), However, covering her face and hands is better for her, and she has reward for doing so. Covering with what conceals the color of the skin underneath is obligatory, and showing the shape of the body is disliked (makruh), and it is rewardable for the person to wear what covers both the color and the shape.
With this we come to the end of this part of the program. We ask Allah to enable us to perform the obedience and refrain from sinning. We ask Allah to let us die as Muslims.
And Allah is clear of all non-befitting attributes and Allah knows best.