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This is a comprehensive article with a list of verses from the Qur'an on the topic of lowering the gaze. The concept behind lowering the gaze is to avoid putting yourself in a situation which can lead one to following their desires to sin. The Qur'an mentions the importance of lowering the gaze in several verses, highlighting its significance in maintaining one's faith and purity. In this article, we have compiled all the verses we could find in the Qur'an that mention lowering the gaze, along with their translations and brief commentary (tafsir) by Maududi. Our aim is to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of what the Qur'an says about this important topic.
(24:30) (O Prophet), enjoin believing men to cast down their looks and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is well aware of all what they do.
29. The word ghadd means to reduce, shorten or lower down something. Accordingly, ghadd basar is generally translated as lowering the gaze or keeping it lowered. But the command of ghadd basar does not imply that the gaze should always be kept lowered. It only means to imply that one should restrain his gaze and avoid casting of looks freely. That is, if it is not desirable to see a thing, one should turn the eyes away and avoid having a look at it. The restriction of a restrained gaze is applicable only in a limited sphere. The context in which the words occur shows that this restriction applies to the men’s gazing at women, or casting looks at the satar of the other persons, or fixing the eyes at indecent scenes.
The details of this divine commandment as explained in the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are given below.
(1) It is not lawful for a man to cast a full gaze at the other women except at his own wife or the mahram women of his family. The chance look is pardonable but not the second look which one casts when one feels the lure of the object. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has termed such gazing and glancing as wickedness of the eyes. He has said that man commits adultery with all his sensory organs. The evil look at the other woman is the adultery of the eyes; lustful talk is the adultery of the tongue; relishing the other woman’s voice is adultery of the ears; and touching her body with the hand or walking for an unlawful purpose is adultery of the hands and feet. After these preliminaries the sexual organs either bring the act of adultery to completion or leave it incomplete. (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud).
According to a tradition related by Buraidah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed Ali: O Ali, do not cast a second look after the first look. The first look is pardonable but not the second one. (Tirmizi;, Ahmad, Abu Daud). Jarir bin Abdullah Bajali says that he asked the Prophet, What should I do if I happen to cast a chance look? The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: Turn your eyes away or lower your gaze. (Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Nasai). Abdullah bin Masud quotes the Prophet (peace be upon him) as having said: Allah says that the gaze is one of the poisonous arrows of Satan. Whoever forsakes it, out of His fear, he will be rewarded with a faith whose sweetness he will relish in his own heart. (Tabarani). According to a tradition related by Abu Umamah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If a Muslim happens to glance at the charms of a woman and then turns his eyes away, Allah will bless his worship and devotion and will make it all the more sweet. (Musnad Ahmad). Imam Jafar Sadiq has quoted from his father, Imam Muhammad Baqir, who has quoted Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari as saying: On the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, Fadal bin Abbas, who was a young cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him), was riding with him on the camel-back during the return journey from Masharal-Haram. When they came to a few women passing on the way, Fadal started looking at them. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) put his hand on his face and turned it to the other side. (Abu Da’ud). On another occasion during the same pilgrimage, a woman of the clan of Khatham stopped the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the way and sought clarification about a certain matter pertaining to Hajj. Fadal bin Abbas fixed his gaze at her, but the Prophet turned his face to the other side. (Bukhari, Abu Daud, Tirmizi). (2) Nobody should have the misunderstanding that the command to restrain the gaze was enjoined because the women were allowed to move about freely with open faces, for if veiling of the face had already been enjoined, the question of restraining or not restraining the gaze would not have arisen. This argument is incorrect rationally as well as factually. It is incorrect rationally because even when veiling of the face is the usual custom, occasions can arise where a man and a woman come face to face with each other suddenly, or when a veiled woman has to uncover her face under necessity. Then even if the Muslim women observe hijab, there will be non-Muslim women who will continue to move about unveiled. Thus, the commandment to lower the gaze or restrain the eyes, does not necessarily presume existence of a custom allowing the women to move about with unveiled faces. It is incorrect factually because the custom of hijab which was introduced after the revelation of the commandments in Surah Al- Ahzab included veiling of the face, and this is supported by a number of traditions relating to the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself. Aishah in her statement relating to the incident of the slander, which has been narrated on the authority of reliable reporters, has said: When I came back to the camp, and found that the caravan had left, I lay down and was overpowered by sleep. In the morning when Safwan bin Muattal passed that way he recognised me because he had seen me before the commandment of hijab had been sent down. On recognising me he exclaimed: Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajiun: To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return; and I awoke and covered my face with my sheet. (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Hisham). Abu Daud contains an incident that when the son of Umm Khallad was killed in a battle, she came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to enquire about him and was wearing the veil as usual. It was natural to presume that on such a sad occasion one is liable to lose one’s balance and ignore the restrictions of hijab. But when questioned she said: I have certainly lost my son but not my modesty. Another tradition in Abu Daud quoted on the authority of Aishah relates that a woman handed an application to the Prophet (peace be upon him) from behind a curtain. The Prophet enquired: Is it a man’s hand or a woman’s? She replied that it was a woman’s. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If it is a woman’s hand, the nails at least should have been coloured with henna! As regards to the two incidents relating to the occasion of Hajj, which we have mentioned above, they cannot be used as an argument to prove that the veil was not in vogue in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is because wearing of the veil is prohibited in the state of ihram. However, even in that state pious women did not like to uncover their faces before the other men. Aishah has stated that during the Farewell Pilgrimage when they were moving towards Makkah in the state of ihram, the women would lower down their head sheets over their faces whenever the travellers passed by them, and would uncover their faces as soon as they had passed by. (Abu Daud). (3) There are certain exceptions to the command of lowering the gaze or restraining the look. These exceptions relate to occasions when it is really necessary to see a woman, for instance, when a man intends to marry her. It is not only permissible to see the woman in such a case but even commendable. Mughirah bin Shubah has stated: I wanted to marry in a certain family. The Holy Prophet asked me whether I had seen the girl or not. When 1 replied in the negative, he said: Have a look at her; this will enhance harmonious relationship between you two. (Ahmad, Tirmizi, Nasai, Ibn Majah, Darimi). According to a tradition related by Abu Hurairah, a man wanted to marry in a family of the Ansar. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked him to have a look at the girl, for the Ansar usually had a defect in their eyes. (Muslim, Nasai, Ahmad). According to Jabir bin Abdullah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: When a person from among you wants to marry a woman, he should have a look at her to satisfy himself that there is some quality in the woman which induces him to marry her. (Ahmad, Abu Daud). According to another tradition emanating from Abu Humaidah and quoted in Musnad Ahmad, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that there was no harm in such a procedure. He also permitted that the girl may be seen without her being aware of it. From this the jurists have concluded that there is no harm in looking at a woman when it is really necessary. For instance, there is no harm in looking at a suspect woman when investigating a crime, or in the judge’s looking at a female witness, who appears in the court, or in the physician’s looking at a female patient, etc. (4) The intention of the command to restrain the gaze also implies that no man or woman should look at the private parts of the other man or woman. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: No man should look at the satar of another man nor a woman at the satar of another woman. (Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmizi). Ali has quoted the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: Do not look at the thigh of another person, living or dead. (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah).
30. Guard their private parts: Abstain from illicit sexual gratification and from exposing their satar before others. For males, the satar is the part of the body from the navel to the knee, and it is not permissible to expose that part of the body intentionally before anybody except one’s own wife. (Daraqutni, Baihaqi). Jarhad Aslami states that once he was sitting in the company of the Prophet (peace be upon him) with his thigh exposed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Do you not know that the thigh has to be kept concealed. (Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Muatta). AIi reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Do not expose your thigh. (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah). Not only is the satar to be kept concealed before others but even when alone. The Prophet has warned: Beware, never remain naked, for with you are those (that is, the angels of goodness and mercy), who never leave you alone except when you ease yourself or you go to your wives. So feel shy of them and give them due respect. (Tirmizi). According to another tradition, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Guard your satar from everybody except from your wife and your slave-girl. The questioner asked: Even when we are alone? The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: Yes, even when alone, for Allah has a greater right that you should feel shy of Him. (Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Ibn Majah).
(24:31) And enjoin believing women to cast down their looks and guard their private parts and not reveal their adornment except that which is revealed of itself, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their husbands, or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or of their own sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or the women with whom they associate, or those that are in their bondage, or the male attendants in their service free of sexual interest, or boys that are yet unaware of illicit matters pertaining to women. Nor should they stamp their feet on the ground in such manner that their hidden ornament becomes revealed. Believers, turn together, all of you, to Allah in repentance that you may attain true success.
31. The commandments of restraining the gaze for women are the same as for men. They should not glance intentionally at the other men, and if they happen to cast a chance look, they should turn their eyes away; and they should abstain from looking at the satar of others. However, the commandments relating to the men’s looking at women are a little different from those relating to the women’s looking at men. On the one hand, there is an incident related in a tradition saying that Umm Salamah and Umm Maimunah, wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him), were sitting with him when lbn Umm Maktum, a blind companion, made his appearance. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to his wives: Conceal your faces from him. The wives said: O Messenger of Allah, is he not a blind man? Neither will he see us nor recognize us. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) remarked: Are you two also blind? Do you not see him? Umm Salamah has clarified that this incident occurred at a time when the commandments about the observance of hijab had already been sent down. (Ahmad, Abu Daud, Tirmizi). This is also supported by a tradition in Muatta saying that a blind man came to see Aishah and she observed hijab from him. When asked as to why she observed hijab when the man could not see her, she replied: But I do see him. On the other hand, there is a different tradition from Aishah. In 7 A.H. a deputation of the Africans came to Al-Madinah and they gave a performance of physical skill in the compound of the Prophet’s Mosque. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself showed their performance to Aishah. (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad). In another case, we find that when Fatimah bint Qais was irrevocably divorced by her husband, the question arose as to where she should pass her Iddah (the prescribed waiting term after divorce or death of husband). The Prophet (peace be upon him) first told her to stay with Umm Sharik Ansari, but then instructed her to stay in the house of Ibn Umm Maktum, where she could stay with greater freedom as he was a blind man. He did not approve of her staying in the house of Umm Sharik because she was a rich lady and her house was frequented by the companions whom she entertained generously. (Muslim, Abu Daud). Read together these traditions show that the restrictions about the women’s looking at men are not so hard as about the men’s looking at women. While it is forbidden for women to sit face to face with men, it is not unlawful if they cast a look at men while passing on the way or see a harmless performance by them from a distance. There is also no harm for women to see the other men in case of real need if they are living in the same house. Imam Ghazzali and lbn Hajar Asqalani have also reached almost the same conclusion. Shaukani in his Nail al-Autar (Vol. Vl, p. 101) has quoted Ibn Hajar as saying: Such a permission in respect of women is also supported by the fact that they have always enjoyed this type of freedom in outdoor duties while they came out veiled when visiting the mosques, or moving in the streets, or during the journey, so that men may not gaze at them, the men were never commanded to use the veil so that women may not gaze at them. This shows that the commandments in respect of the two sexes are different.. However, it is not at all permissible that women should gaze leisurely at men and draw pleasure of the eye in doing so.
32. That is, they should abstain from illicit gratification of their sex desire as well as from exposing their satar before others. Though the commandments for men in this respect are the same as for women, the boundaries of satar for women are different from those prescribed for men. Moreover, the female satar with respect to men is different from that with respect to women. The female satar with respect to men is the entire body, excluding only the hand and the face, which should not be exposed before any other man, not even the brother and father, except the husband. The woman is not allowed to wear a thin or a tight fitting dress which might reveal the skin or the outlines of the body. According to a tradition from Aishah, once her sister Asma came before the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a thin dress. The Prophet (peace be upon him) immediately turned his face away and said: O Asma, when a woman has attained her maturity, it is not permissible that any part of her body should be exposed except the face and the hand. (Abu Daud). Ibn Jarir has related a similar incident from Aishah saying that once the daughter of Abdullah bin Tufail, who was her mother’s son from her former husband, came to her house on a visit. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) entered the house, he saw her but turned his face to the other side. Aishah said: O Messenger of Allah, she is my niece. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) remarked: When a woman reaches the age of puberty, it is not lawful for her to display her body except the hand and the face. (Then he indicated what he meant by the hand by gripping his own hand from the wrist so that there was hardly a breadth left between his grip and the palm of the hand). The only relaxation permitted in this connection is that a woman can uncover only that much of her body before her close relatives (for example, her brother, father, etc.) as is absolutely necessary for attending to the household duties. For instance, she can roll up her sleeves while kneading the flour, or tuck up her trousers while washing the floor.
The boundaries of female satar with respect to women are the same as the boundaries of the male satar with respect to men, which is the part of the body from the navel to the knee. This does not, however, mean that a woman should appear half naked before other women. It only means that while it is obligatory to keep the part of body from the navel to the knee duly covered, it is not so in case of other parts.
33. It should be carefully noted that the demands that divine law makes from women are not only those it has made from men, that is restraining of looks and guarding of the private parts, but it makes some other demands from them also, which it has not made from men. This shows that men and women are not identical in this respect.
34. Adornment includes attractive clothes, ornaments and other decorations of the head, face, hand, feet, etc. which the women usually employ, and is expressed by the modern word make-up. The injunction that this makeup should not be displayed before others is discussed in detail in the following notes.
35. Different interpretations given by different commentators of this verse have greatly confused its real meaning. All that is obviously meant is that women should not display their make-up and adornment except that which is displayed of itself and is beyond their control. This clearly means that women should not purposely and intentionally display their make-up, but there is no accountability if the make-up becomes displayed without any purpose or intention on their part; for instance, the head-wrapper’s being blown aside by the wind thus exposing the adornment, or the outer-garment itself which cannot be concealed but which nevertheless has attraction being a part of the female dress. This very interpretation of this verse has been given by Abdullah bin Masud, Hasan Basri, Ibn Sirin and Ibrahim Nakhai. On the contrary, some other commentators have interpreted the verse to mean all those parts of the body which usually remain exposed or uncovered and in this they include the hands and the face with all their adornments. This is the view of Ibn Abbas and his followers, and a large number of the Hanafi jurists have accepted it. (Ahkam-ul-Quran, AlJassas, Vol. III, pp. 388-389). Thus, according to them, it is permissible for a woman to move out freely with the uncovered face in full make-up and adornment of the hands.
We are, however, unable to subscribe to this view. There is a world of difference between displaying something and its becoming displayed of itself. The first implies intention and the second compulsion and a state of helplessness. Moreover, such an interpretation also goes against the traditions which state that the women never moved out with open and uncovered faces in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) after the commandments of hijab had been sent down. These commandments implied veiling of the face as well, and the veil had become a part of the female dress except during Hajj when one has to be in the prescribed state of ihram and keep the face uncovered. Another argument that is advanced in support of this view is that the hands and the face are not included in the satar of the woman, whereas satar and hijab are two entirely different things. Sanctity of satar is such that it cannot be violated even before the mahram males like the father, brother, etc. As for hijab it is over and above satar which is meant to segregate women from non mahram males; the discussion here relates to the commandments of hijab and not to satar.
36. In the pre-lslamic days of ignorance, women used to wear a sort of head-band, which was tied in a knot at the rear of the head. The slit of the shirt in the front partly remained open exposing the front of the neck and the upper part of the bosom. There was nothing except the shirt to cover the breasts, and the hair was worn in a couple or two of plaits hanging behind like tails. (AI-Kashshaf, Vol. II, p. 90, and Ibn Kathir, Vol. III, pp. 283-284). At the revelation of this verse, the head-wrapper was introduced among the Muslim women, which was meant to cover the head, the breasts, and the back, completely. The way the Muslim women responded to this command has been described by Aishah in a vivid manner. She states that when Surah An- Noor was revealed and the people learned of its contents from the Prophet (peace be upon him), they immediately went back to their houses and recited the verses before their wives, daughters and sisters. There was an instantaneous response. The Ansar women, one and all, immediately got up and made wrappers from whatever piece of cloth that was handy. The next morning all the women who came to the Prophet’s Mosque for prayers were dressed in wrappers. In another tradition Aishah says that thin cloth was discarded and the women selected only coarse cloth for the purpose. (lbn Kathir, Vol. III, p. 284, Abu Daud).
The very nature and object of the command demanded that the wrapper should not be made out of fine and thin cloth. The Ansar women immediately understood the real object and knew what type of cloth was intended to be used. The Law-Giver himself clarified this and did not leave it to be interpreted by the people. Dihya Kalbi states: Once a length of fine Egyptian muslin was presented to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He gave a piece of it to me and said, Use one part of it for your shirt, and give the rest of it to your wife for a wrapper, but tell her that she should stitch another piece of cloth on the inner side so that the body may not be displayed through it. (Abu Daud).
37. This verse describes the circle in which a woman can move freely with all her make-up and adornment. Outside this circle she is not allowed to appear with make-up before the other people, whether they are relatives or strangers. The commandment implies that she should not display her embellishments outside this limited circle, intentionally or through carelessness. However, what becomes displayed incidentally, in spite of care and concern, or what cannot be concealed, it is excused by Allah.
38. Fathers’ include grandfathers and great grandfathers as well, both paternal and maternal. Accordingly a woman can appear before her own and her husband’s grandfathers just as she can appear before her own father and father in law.
39. Sons include grandsons and great grandsons from the male or female offspring. No distinction is to be made between the real sons and the step-sons.
40. Brothers’ include real and stepbrothers.
41. Sons of brothers and sisters include sons, grandsons and great grandsons of all the three kinds of brothers and sisters.
42. After the relatives, the other people are now being mentioned. But before we proceed further, it would be useful to understand three things in order to avoid confusion.
First, some jurists hold that the freedom of movement and display of adornment by a woman is restricted to the circle of relatives mentioned in this verse. All others, even the real paternal and maternal uncles, are excluded from this list and a woman should observe hiab from them because they have not been mentioned in the Quran. This is, however, not a correct view. Let alone the real uncles, the Prophet (peace be upon him) disallowed Aishah to observe hijab even from her foster uncles. A tradition quoted in Sihah Sitta and Musnad Ahmad on the authority of Aishah says that once Aflah, brother of Abul Quais, came to see her and sought permission to enter the house. But since the commandment of hijab had been received, Hadrat Aishah refused him permission. On this Aflah sent back the word saying, You are my niece: you were suckled by my brother Abul Quais’s wife. But Aishah still was hesitant whether it was permissible to appear unveiled before such a relative or not. In the meantime the Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived and he ruled that he could see her. This shows that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself did not interpret the verse in the way these jurists do that it was lawful to appear unveiled only before those relatives who have been mentioned in the verse and not before others. He interpreted it to mean that hijab need not be observed from those relatives with whom marriage is prohibited, for instance, paternal and maternal uncles, son-in-law and foster relatives. Hasan Basri from among the followers has expressed the same opinion and the same has been supported by Allama Abu Bakr al-Jassas in his Ahkam-ul- Quran. (Vol. III, p. 390).
Secondly, there is the question of those relatives with whom marriage is not permanently prohibited; they neither fall in the category of mahram relatives (that women may freely appear before them with adornment) nor in the category of complete strangers that they should observe full hijab from them as from others. What should be the right course between the two extremes has not been determined by the Shariah for such a course cannot possibly be determined. The observance of hijab or otherwise in such cases will inevitably depend on the mutual relationship, age of the woman and of men, family relations and contacts and other circumstances (e.g. residence in the same house or in different houses). The personal example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself in this matter gives us the same guidance. A large number of traditions confirm that Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, who was a sister-in-law of the Prophet (peace be upon him), appeared unveiled before him and no hijab, at least of the face and hands, was observed by her. This same position continued till the Farewell Pilgrimage which took place just a few months before the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him). (Abu Daud). Similarly Umm Hani, daughter of Abu Talib and a first cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him), appeared before him till the end without ever observing hijab of the face and hands. She herself has narrated an incident pertaining to the conquest of Makkah, which confirms the same. (Abu Daud). On the contrary, we see that Abbas sends his son Fadal, and Rabiah bin Harith bin Abdul Muttalib, a first cousin of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his son Abdul Muttalib before the Prophet (peace be upon him) with the request for a job, as they could not be married till they became earning members of the family. They both see the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the house of his wife Zainab, who is a first cousin of Fadal and is similarly related to the father of Abdul Muttalib bin Rabiah. But she does not appear before them and talks to them from behind a curtain in the presence of the Prophet (peace be upon him). (Abu Daud). Taking the two kinds of precedents together we come to the same conclusion as we have stated above.
Thirdly, in cases where the relationship itself becomes doubtful, hijab should be observed even from the mahram relatives. Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Daud have related a case where Saudah, a wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him), had a brother born of a slave woman. Utbah, the father of Saudah and the boy, left a will enjoining his brother, Saad bin Abi Waqqas, to look after the boy as a nephew for he was from his own seed. When the case came before the Prophet (peace be upon him), he rejected the claim of Saad, saying: The boy belongs to him on whose bed he was born; as for the adulterer, let stones and pebbles be his lot. But at the same time he told Saudah to observe hijab from the boy because it was doubtful whether he was really her brother.
43. The Arabic word nisa-i-hinna means their female associates. Before we consider what women are exactly meant, it is worth noting that the word used here is not annisa, which merely means women, but nisa-i-hinna which means their female associates. In the former case, it would be quite permissible for a Muslim woman to appear unveiled before all sorts of women and display her adornment. The use of nisa-i-hinna, however, has circumscribed her freedom within a specific circle. As to what specific circle of women is implied, the commentators and jurists have expressed different opinions.
According to one group, the female associates mean only the Muslim women; as for the non-Muslim women, whether zimmis or otherwise, they are excluded and hijab should be observed from them as from men. Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and Ibn Juraij hold this opinion and cite the following incident in support thereof: Umar wrote to Abu Ubaidah: I hear that some Muslim women have started going to public baths along with the non-Muslim women. It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she should expose her body before the women other than of her own community. On receipt of this letter Abu Ubaidah was much upset, and he cried out: May the face of the woman who goes to the public baths to whiten her complexion be blackened on the Last Day! (Ibn Jarir, Baihaqi, Ibn Kathir.
Another group, which includes Imam Razi, is of the view that female associates are all women without exception. But it is not possible to accept this view as in that case an-nisa should have sufficed and there was no need to use nisa-ihinna. The third opinion, and this appears to be reasonable and nearer the Quranic text, is that their female associates mean those familiar and known women with whom a woman usually comes into contact in her daily life and who share in her household chores, etc. whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. The object here is to exclude those women from the circle who are either strangers and whose cultural and moral background is not known or whose antecedents are apparently doubtful, which make them unreliable. This view is also supported by the authentic traditions which state that zimmi women used to visit the wives of the Prophet (peace be upn him). The real thing to be considered in this connection would be the moral character and not the religious belief. Muslim women can meet and have intimate social contacts with noble, modest and virtuous women, who come from well-known and reliable families even if they are non-Muslim. But they must observe hijab from immodest, immoral and vulgar women even if they happen to be Muslims. Their company from the moral viewpoint is as dangerous as of other men. As for contacts with un-known, unfamiliar women, they may at the most be treated like non-mahram relatives. A woman may uncover her face and hands before them but she must keep the rest of her body and adornments concealed.
44. There is a good deal of difference of opinion among the jurists about the correct meaning of this injunction. One group holds that this refers only to the slave girls owned by a lady. Accordingly they interpret the divine command to mean that the Muslim woman can display her adornment before a slave girl, whether she is an idolatress or a Jew or a Christian, but she cannot appear before a slave man even if he is legally owned by her. For purposes of hijab, he is to be treated just like a free male stranger. This is the view of Abdullah bin Masud, Mujahid, Hasan Basri, Ibn Sirin, Said bin Musayyab, Taus and Imam Abu Hanifah, and a saying of Imam Shafai also supports this. They argue that the slave is not a mahram to the lady. If he is freed, he can marry his former owner. Therefore the fact of his being a slave cannot by itself entitle him to be treated like the male mahrams and allow the lady to appear freely before him. The question why should the words those in their possession which are general and applicable to both slaves and slave girls, be restricted to mean only slave girls, is answered by these jurists like this: Though the words are general, the context and background in which they occur make them specifically applicable to slave girls only. The words those in their possession occur just after their female associates in the verse; therefore one could understand that the reference was to a woman’s relatives and other associates; this could lead to the misunderstanding that the slave girls perhaps were excluded; the words those in their possession therefore were used to clarify that a woman could display her adornments before the slave girls as before her free female associates.
The other group holds that the words those in their possession include both the male slaves and the slave girls. This is the view of Hadrat Aishah, Umm Salamah and some learned scholars of the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and also of Imam Shafai. They do not argue merely on the basis of the general meaning of the words, but they also cite precedents from the Sunnah in support of their view. For instance, the incident that the Prophet (peace be upon him) went to the house of his daughter, Fatimah, along with his slave Abdullah bin Musadah al-Fazari. She was at that time wearing a sheet which, would leave the feet exposed if she tried to cover the head, and the head exposed if she tried to cover the feet. The Prophet (peace be upon him) felt her embarrassment and said: No harm: there are only your father and your slave! (Abu Daud, Ahmad, Baihaqi on the authority of Anas bin Malik). Ibn Asakir has stated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had given that slave to Fatimah, who brought him up and then freed him. (But the man turned out to be an ungrateful wretch; in the battle of Siffin, he was the bitterest opponent of Ali and a zealous supporter of Amir Muawiyah). They also quote the following words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in support of their stand: When any of you agrees to a deed of emancipation with her slave, and the slave has the necessary means to buy his freedom, she (the owner) should observe hijab from him. (Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Ibn Majah on the authority of Umm Salamah).
45. The literal translation of the text would be: those from among the men who are your subordinates and have no desire. The obvious meaning is that apart from the mahram males, a Muslim woman can display her adornment only before the man who satisfies two conditions: firstly, he should be in a subordinate capacity, and secondly, he should be free from sexual urges either due to advanced age, impotence, mental weakness, poverty or low social position, so that he cannot cherish the desire or have the boldness to think evilly of his master’s wife, daughter, sister or mother. Anybody who studies this injunction in the right spirit with a view to obeying it, and not for the sake of finding ways and means of escaping from or violating it, will readily appreciate that the bearers, cooks, chauffeurs and other grown up servants employed these days in the houses do not fall in this category. The following clarifications given by the commentators and the jurists of this point would show the type of men envisaged in the verse. According to Ibn Abbas: This implies a man who is a mere simpleton and has no interest in women. According to Qatadah: A poor man who is attached to you merely for his sustenance. According to Mujahid: A fool who only needs food and has no desire for women. According to Shabi: The one who is a subordinate and entirely dependent on his master, and cannot have the boldness to cast an evil look at the womenfolk of the house. According to lbn Zaid: The one who remains attached to a family for such a long time that he is regarded as a member brought up in that house, and who has no desire for the women of the house. He is there merely because he gets his sustenance from the family. According to Taus and Zuhri: One who does not cherish the desire for the women nor has the courage to do so. (Ibn Jarir, Vol. XVIII, pp. 95-96, Ibn Kathir, Vol. III, p. 285).
The best explanation in this regard is the incident that happened at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which has been quoted by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Nasai and Ahmad on the authority of Aishah and Umm Salamah. There was a certain eunuch in Madinah who was allowed free access to the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the other women of the city, on the assumption that he being incapable of sex was free from the sexual urge. One day when the Prophet (peace be upon him) went to the house of his wife, Umm Salamah, he heard him talking to her brother, Abdullah bin Abi Umayyah. He was telling Abdullah that if Taif was taken the following day, he should try to have Badia, daughter of Ghailan Thaqafi. And then he started praising Badia’s beauty and her physical charms and even went to the extent of describing her private parts. On hearing this, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: O enemy of Allah, you seem to have seen her through. Then he ordered that the women should observe hijab from him and he should not be allowed to enter the houses in future. After this he turned him out of Madinah and forbade the other eunuchs also to enter the houses, because the women did not mind their presence, while they would describe the women of one house before the other men of other houses in the society. This shows that the word incapable of sex desire do not merely imply physical impotence. Anyone who is physically unfit but cherishes sex desire in the heart and takes interest in women can become the cause of many mischiefs.
46. That is, the children who do not yet have their sex feelings aroused. This may apply to boys of 11 to 12 at the most. Older boys start having sex feelings though they may still be immature otherwise.
47. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not restrict this injunction to the jingle of the ornaments, but has derived from it the principle that besides the look, anything which tends to excite any of the senses, is opposed to the objective for which Allah has forbidden the women to display their adornment. Therefore, he ordered the women not to move out with perfumes. According to Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Do not stop the bondmaids of Allah from coming to the mosques, but they should not come with perfumes. (Abu Daud, Ahmad). According to another tradition, Abu Hurairah passed by a woman who was coming out of the mosque and felt that she had perfumed herself. He stopped her and said: O bondmaid of Allah, are you coming from the mosque? When she replied in the affirmative, he said: I have heard my beloved Abul Qasim (peace be upon him) say that the prayer of the woman who comes to the mosque with perfumes, is not accepted till she purifies herself with a complete bath as is done after a sexual intercourse. (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Nasai). Abu Musa Ashari has quoted the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: A woman who passes on the way with perfumes so that people may enjoy her perfumes, is such and such: he used very harsh words for her. (Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Nasai). His instruction was that women should use scents with bright colors but light odors. (Abu Daud). Similarly the Prophet (peace be upon him) disapproved that feminine voices should enter the ears of men unnecessarily. In case of genuine need the Quran itself has allowed women to speak to men, and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wives themselves used to instruct people in religious matters. But where there is no necessity, nor any moral or religious objective, the women have been discouraged to let their voices be heard by men. Thus if the imam happens to commit a mistake during a congregational prayer, and he is to be warned of the lapse, the men have been taught to say Subhan-Allah (Glory be to Allah), while the women have been instructed to tap their hands only. (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Nasai, Ibn Majah).
48. Turn towards Allah: Repent of the lapses and errors that you have been committing in this regard so far, and reform your conduct in accordance with the commands given by Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him).
49. It would be useful to give here a resume of the other reforms which the Prophet (peace be upon him) introduced in the Islamic society after the revelation of these commandments.
(1) He prohibited the other men (even if they are relatives) to see a woman in privacy or sit with her in the absence of her mahram relatives. Jabir bin Abdullah has reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Do not visit the women whose husbands are away from home, because Satan circulates in one of you like blood. (Tirmizi). According to another tradition from Jabir, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should never visit a woman when alone unless she has a mahram relative also present, because the third one would be Satan. (Ahmad). Imam Ahmad has quoted another tradition from Amir bin Rabiah to the same effect. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself was extremely cautious in this regard. Once when he was accompanying his wife Safiyyah to her house at night, two men of Ansar passed by them on the way. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stopped them and said: The woman with me is my wife Safiyyah. They said: Glory be to Allah! O Messenger of AIlah, could there be any suspicion about you? The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Satan circulates like blood in the human body; I was afraid lest he should put an evil thought in your minds. (Abu Daud).
(2) The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not approve that a man’s hand should even touch the body of a non-mahram woman. That is why while administering the oath of allegiance, he would take the hand of the men into his own hand, but he never adopted this procedure in the case of women. Aishah has stated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never touched the body of any other woman. He would administer the oath verbally to them; when this was done, he would say: You may go, Your allegiance is complete. (Abu Daud).
(3) He strictly prohibited the woman from proceeding on a journey alone without a mahram or in company with a non-mahram. A tradition from Ibn Abbas has been quoted in Bukhari and Muslim saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave a sermon and said: No man should visit the other woman when she is alone unless she has a mahram also present, and no woman should travel alone unless accompanied by a mahram. A man stood up and said: My wife is going for Hajj, while I am under orders to join a certain expedition. The Prophet said: You may go for Hajj with your wife. Several other traditions on the subject, emanating from Ibn Umar, Abu Said Khudri and Abu Hurairah, are found in authentic books of traditions, which concur that it is not permissible for a Muslim woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day that she should go on a journey without a mahram. There is, however, a variation with regard to the duration and the length of the journey. Some traditions lay down the minimum limit as 12 miles and some lay down the duration as one day, a day and night, two days or even three days. This variation, however, neither renders the traditions unauthentic nor makes it necessary that we should accept one version as legally binding in preference to others. For a plausible explanation for the different versions could be that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave different instructions at different occasions depending on the circumstances and merit of each case. For instance, a woman going on a three-day journey might have been prohibited from proceeding without a mahram, while another going on a day’s journey might also have been similarly prohibited. Here the real thing is not the different instructions to the different people in different situations, but the principle that a woman should not go on a journey without a mahram as laid down in the tradition quoted above from lbn Abbas.
(4) He not only took practical measures to stop free mixing of the sexes together but prohibited it verbally as well. Everyone knows the great importance of the congregational and the Friday prayers in Islam. The Friday prayer has been made obligatory by Allah Himself; the importance of the congregational prayer can be judged from a tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him), which says: If a person does not attend the mosque without a genuine reason and offers his prayer at home, it will not be acceptable to Allah. (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah, Daraqutni, Hakim on the authority of Ibn Abbas). But in spite of this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) exempted the women from compulsory attendance at the Friday prayer. (Abu Daud, Daraqutni, Baihaqi). As for the other congregational prayers, he made the women’s attendance optional, saying: Do not stop them if they want to come to the mosque. Then at the same time, he made the clarification that it was better for them to pray in their houses than in the mosques. According to Ibn Umar and Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Do not prohibit the bondmaids of Allah from coming to the mosques of Allah. (Abu Daud). Other traditions from Ibn Umar are to the effect: Permit the women to come to the mosques at night. (Bukhari, Muslim, Trimizi, Nasai, Abu Daud). And do not stop your women-folk from coming to the mosques though their houses are better for them than the mosques. (Ahmad, Abu Daud). Umm Humaid Saidiyyah states that once she said to the Prophet (peace be upon him): O Messenger of Allah, I have a great desire to offer my prayer under your leadership. He replied: Your offering the prayer in your room is better than your offering it in the verandah, and your offering the prayer in your house is better than your offering it in the neighboring mosque, and your offering the prayer in the neighboring mosque is better than offering it in the principal mosque (of the town). (Ahmad, Tabarani). A tradition to the same effect has been reported from Abdullah bin Masud in Abu Daud. According to Umm Salamah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: The best mosques for women are the innermost portions of their houses. (Ahmad, Tabarani). But when Aishah saw the conditions that prevailed in the time of the Umayyads, she said: If the Prophet (peace be upon him) had witnessed such conduct of the women, he would certainly have stopped their entry into the mosques as was done in the case of the Israelite women, (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud). The Prophet (peace be upon him) had appointed a separate door in his mosque for the entry of women, and Umar in his time had given strict orders prohibiting men to use that door. (Abu Daud). In the congregational prayers the women were instructed to stand separately behind the men. At the conclusion of the prayer, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers used to remain sitting for a while so that the women could leave the mosque before the men. (Ahmad, Bukhari). The Prophet (peace be upon him) would say: The best row for the men is the front row and the worst the last one (nearest to the women’s row); and the best row for the women is the rearmost row and the worst the front one (just behind the men’s). (Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmizi Nasai, Ahmad). The women joined the Eid congregational prayers but they had a separate enclosure from men. After the sermon the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to address them separately (Abu Daud, Bukhari, Muslim). Once outside the Mosque the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw the men and women moving side by side in the crowd. He stopped the women and said: It is not proper for you to walk in the middle of the road; walk on the sides. On hearing this the women immediately started walking along the walls. (Abu Daud). All these commandments clearly show that mixed gatherings of the men and women are wholly alien to the temper of Islam. It cannot therefore be imagined that divine law which disallows the men and women to stand side by side for prayers in the sacred houses of Allah, would allow them to mix together freely in colleges, offices, clubs and other gatherings.
(5) He permitted the women to make modest use of the make-ups, even instructed them to do so, but strictly forbade its overdoing. Of the various types of make-up and decoration that were prevalent among the Arab women in those days, he declared the following as accursed and destructive of communities:
(a) To add extra hair to one’s own artificially with a view to make them appear longer and thicker.
(b) To tattoo various parts of the body and produce artificial moles.
(c) To pluck hair from the eyebrows to give them a special shape, or to pluck hair from the face to give it a cleaner look.
(d) To rub the teeth to make them sharp or to produce artificial holes in them.
(e) To rub the face with saffron or other cosmetic to produce an artificial complexion.
These instructions have been reported in Sihah Sitta and in Musnad Ahmad on the authority of Aishah, Asma bint Abu Bakr, Abdullah bin Masud, Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Abbas and Amir Muawiyah through reliable narrators.
After having the knowledge of these clear commandments from Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him), a Muslim has only two courses open before him. Either he should follow these commandments practically and purify himself, his family life and the society at large of the moral evils for the eradication of which Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) have given such detailed commandments, or if due to some weakness he violates one or more of these commandments, he should at least realize that he is committing a sin, and regard it as such, and should abstain from labeling it as a virtue by misinterpretation. Apart from these alternatives, the people who adopt the Western, ways of life against the clear injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah, and then try their utmost to prove them Islam itself, and openly claim that there is no such thing as hijab in Islam, not only commit the sin of disobedience but also display ignorance and hypocritical obstinacy. Such an attitude can neither be commended by any right-thinking person in this world, nor can it merit favor with Allah in the Hereafter. But among the Muslims there exists a section of modern hypocrites who are so advanced in their hypocrisy that they repudiate the divine injunctions as false and believe those ways of life to be right and based on truth, which they have borrowed from the non-Muslim communities. Such people are not Muslims at all, for if they still be Muslims, the words Islam and unIslam lose all their meaning and significance. Had they changed their Islamic names and publicly declared their desertion of Islam, we would at least have been convinced of their moral courage. But in spite of their wrong attitudes, these people continue to pose themselves as Muslim. There is perhaps no meaner class of people in the world. People with such character and morality cannot be unexpected to indulge in any forgery, fraud, deception or dishonesty.
(7:26) 0 Children of Adam! Indeed We have sent down to you a garment which covers your shame and provides protection and adornment. But the finest of all is the garment of piety. That is one of the signs of Allah so that they may take heed.
15. By referring to an important aspect of Adam and Eve’s story, the attention of the people of Arabia of those days was drawn to the evil influence of Satan upon their lives. Under Satan’s influence they had begun to see dress merely as a shield of protection against the inclemencies of the weather and as a means of adornment. The basic purpose of dress to cover the private parts of the body – had receded into the background. People had no inhibition about the immodest exposure of the private parts of their body in public. To publicly take a bath absolutely naked, to attend to the call of nature on thoroughfares, were the order of the day. To crown it all, in the course of Pilgrimage they used to circumambulate around the Ka’bah in stark nakedness. Women even surpassed men in immodesty. In their view, the performance of religious rites in complete nudity was an act of religious merit.
Immodesty, however, was not an exclusive characteristic of the people of Arabia. Many nations indulged in it in the past, and many nations continue to indulge in it even now. Hence the message embodied in these verses is not directed just to the people of Arabia. It is rather directed to all men. Mankind, which is the progeny of Adam, is warned against this particular aspect of Satanic influence on their lives. When men show indifference to God’s Guidance and turn away from the Message of the Prophets, they virtually place themselves at the mercy of Satan. For it is Satan who makes them abandon way’s that are consistent with true human nature and who leads them to immodesty in the same way he did with Adam and Eve. Were man to reflect on this, it would become quite evident that when he is deprived of the guidance of the Prophets, he cannot even appreciate, let alone fulfil, the primary requirements of his true nature.