The Methodology of Islamic Beliefs

The Methodology of Ahlus Sunnah in Establishing Islamic Beliefs

Excerpted from Aqeedah Fillaah

By Shaykh Umar Sulayman Al-Ashqar


Translated and annotated by A. Idris Palmer

Are we to have Iman in the Punishment of the Grave? Or the Howdh, or the Meezan, etc., all of which are aspects of Islamic belief? And what can we affirm among these things and what can we deny?

1–The scholars of the Pious Predecessors have stated that everything which Allah has informed us of, or His Messenger () has informed us – which has reached us via an authentic narration – is obligatory to have Iman in it and total trust (tasdeeq). They make no distinction between mutawatir or ahad;[1] if it is authentic, one must affirm one’s beliefs on them both without differentiation. Allah ta’ala says: “And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, leave it, and fear Allah, Indeed Allah is severe in punishment.” [Al-Hashr, 59:7] Imam As-Suyuti (رحيمه الله) states in Miftah Al-Jennah: “Whoever rejects an authentic hadeeth, be it in statement or in action, as a binding proof, has disbelieved and has stepped outside of the fold of Islam and will be raised with the Jews and Christians or whichever disbelieving sect that Allah wills.”

2–A second group is weak in distinguishing between authentic and weak narrations from the Messenger (), and they take any narration as a proof, even if it is weak or fabricated. For example, Paradise is at the feet of mothers; and Seek knowledge even unto China – both weak hadeeths. “…We have gone from the lesser Jihad to the greater Jihad or I am the House of Wisdom and Ali is its Gate – both fabricated hadeeth. It is obligatory therefore, for one to verify the authenticity of a hadeeth before using it as a proof, whether for ‘aqeedah or sharee’ah; as one could attribute to the deen of Allah what is not of it, and thereby establish one’s deeds on false principles.

3–A third group makes it a point to reject scriptural evidence, i.e. Qur’anic texts, as well as hadeeths which affirm certain aspects of Islamic belief; they allege that “scriptural proofs cannot establish certitude and do not help one to achieve desired Iman nor do they confirm anything in ‘aqeedah.”[2] Such people occupy themselves in even denying established truth: “Scriptural proof is a wide field which allows many abrupt changes without leading to any conclusion.”[3] This is a statement so absurd that one shouldn’t even waste time in refuting it, as it is in total contradiction to the understanding of the consensus of the Ummah. If the science of the Qur’anic texts were a wide field which allows abrupt changes, how then could it be the Speech of Allah to mankind? And how could ‘aqeedah not confirm anything regarding the Speech of Allah and His Messenger? Glorified is Allah from such a preposterous lie.

4–A fourth group comprise those who reject as evidence authentic ahad hadeeths in aspects of ‘aqeedah. They only use the Qur’an and mutawatir hadeeths as evidence. They never affirm any belief from either the Qur’an or hadeeth unless it is a definite scriptural text.[4] If it is not (by their definition) a ‘definite scriptural text’ they consider it impermissible to use as evidence. The scholars of the past have spoken about this type of belief, and some of the scholars of usool have quoted them. Such a belief is spreading currently among some Muslims, to the point that such people forget the truth and begin to make outlandish claims. The scholars both past and present have not flagged in speaking out about the corruption and error of such a belief, and exposing the misunderstandings of its adherents.


The textual proof for accepting Al-ahad hadeeth as authoritative Shariah evidence

A number of texts have been written on the obligation of using al-ahad hadeeths as authoritative sharee’ah evidence for establishing Islamic beliefs, among them the statement of Allah ta’ala:

1) “It is not befitting for the believers to go out (in Jihad) all together, of every group of them, a party (ta’ifah) should go forth from among themselves that they (who are left behind) be taught the deen of Islam, that they may admonish their people when they return to them, so that they may guard themselves (from evil).” [At-Towbah, 9:122]

This verse urges the clans, kinfolk and the believing people of various regions and lands to send forth a party from every group in order to have people understand their faith so that they in turn may return to their people and admonish them. In fact, the word ta’ifah in Arabic means to designate one or more persons, whereas those “(who are left behind) be taught the deen of Islam” includes their understanding both ‘aqeedah and ahkam; nay, understanding their ‘aqeedah is more important than understanding ahkam. Imam Abu Haneefah in Fiqh Al-Akbar and Ash-Sha’fai’ in his Risalah, and others have also elaborated on this point. Abu Haneefah states in Fiqh Al-Akbar: “This verse shows clear proof for the obligation of accepting al-ahad hadeeths in matters of ‘aqeedah.”

2) “O you who believe, if a sinful person (faasiq) comes to you with any news, verify it…” [Al-Hujuraat, 49:6] This verse shows proof that if a person is not sinful, he must be taken as trustworthy if he comes with news, as it is not obligatory to verify the report as it is understood that the reporter is trustworthy.

3) What is related in the Sunnah regarding the explanation of the verse, “…of every group of them, a party should go forth…” It is authentically narrated in Al-Bukhari from Malik ibn al-Huwirth who said, “We came to the Prophet () and we were youths of equal ages and we stayed with him for twenty nights. Allah’s Messenger () was very gentle and when he realized our longing for our families, he asked us about those whom we left behind. When we informed him, he said, Go back to your families and stay with them and teach them and order them to do good deeds.”[5] If this is not an example of accepting hadeeth al-ahad for issues of ‘aqeedah, then this example has no meaning.

4) In both Sahih Muslim and Al-Bukhari, the people of Yemen once greeted the Prophet (), and said to him, “Send us a man who will teach us the Sunnah and Islam,” He thereupon took Abi ‘Ubaydah by the hand, saying “This is the most trustworthy of this Ummah.”[6] If the testimony of one narrator were not sufficient, Allah’s Messenger (), would not have dispatched other sahabah–singularly–as representatives to various lands. Such as Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mu’adh ibn Jabal and Abi Musa Al-Ashari as narrated in the hadeeths in Al-Bukhari, Muslim and other texts. And there is no doubt that these men understood Islamic beliefs in totality.

Exposing the misunderstandings[7]

A clear difference exists between those who assert that authentic proofs benefit one’s Islamic beliefs and those who allege that al-ahad hadeeths, scriptural texts and mutawatir hadeeths which are not ‘definite’ do not benefit one’s Islamic beliefs. Those who allege the latter base their arguments on conjecture (dhunn). And conjecture is not permissible to use as evidence in this area, as based on the statement of the Most High:

“They follow nothing but a guess and their own desires.” [An-Najm, 53:23] and the statement: “Indeed conjecture is no substitute for the Truth.” [An-Najm, 53:28] And other verses in which Allah censures the mushrikeen who follow conjecture.[8] The above verses refute the pretext of such people as the speculation in the verses is not referring to ‘giving someone the benefit of the doubt.’ As the texts refute and reject arguing by conjecture in issues of belief.

This is the type of speculation which Allah censures in His saying, “They follow nothing but a guess” which means doubt, conjecture and speculation, all of which are defined in ‘An-Nihaayah’, ‘Al-Lisan’, and other classical Arabic dictionaries. “Dhunn: Doubt which you perceive about something, to assert and judge by it.” This is the type of doubt about which Allah reproaches the mushrikeen, and which He confirms by His statement, “They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie.” [Al-An’am, 6:116]

Therefore, to entertain doubt is falsehood, which is nothing more than baseless precaution and speculation. Because when conjecture was proscribed for the mushrikeen, this was conjecture in its general sense, which would mean it is not permissible to use it for ahkam either. Just as Allah makes vile the mushrikeen practice of following conjecture, and then completely forbids it. Allah does not differentiate between ‘aqeedah and ahkam. As Allah shows clearly in various Quranic verses that the speculation which the mushrikeen follow includes statements of ahkam as well: “Those who took partners (in worship) with Allah will say, If Allah had willed we would not have taken partners (in worship) with Him, nor would our fathers,[9] and we would not have forbidden anything (against His will).[10] Likewise belied those who were before them, (they argued falsely with Allah’s Messengers) till they tasted of Our Wrath. Say: Have you any knowledge (proof) that you can produce before us? Verily you follow nothing but guess and you do nothing but lie.” [Al-An’am, 6:148]


Refutation of those who claim that al-ahad hadeeth are not acceptable in ‘aqeedah

The scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have from the earliest times refuted those who do not accept al-ahad hadeeths in ‘aqeedah. To summarize some of their positions:

1–The statement that alleges that al-ahad hadeeths are not reliable in ‘aqeedah, is the statement of a heretical innovator; it has no basis at all in the sharee’ah. And every statement which is similar to this is similarly rejected.

2–Their statement regarding the essence of ‘aqeedah [i.e. that al-ahad hadeeth have no Shareeah pretext] and that their path, that is that ‘aqeedah advances the idea of decisive proof, [mutawatir hadeeths] and prohibits one from taking al-ahad hadeeths in ‘aqeedah, has no evidence at all.

3–If one could find a decisive proof, it would have to be proof that al-ahad hadeeths are not reliable evidence for ‘aqeedah based on the understanding and explanation of the Companions and likewise, those who came after them from the Pious Predecessors.

4–This position contradicts the erudite methodology which the Companions were upon; as on many occasions, when they accepted a narration from the Messenger (), they did not ask him to assert its authenticity nor reject the statements of their brothers with the argument that the hadeeth which he narrated was hadeeth al-ahad.

5–The proofs which verify the obligation of taking proofs from the Qur’an and the Sunnah includes beliefs (‘aqa’id) and legislative rulings (ahkam). To categorize these proofs by separating legislative rulings from beliefs when they are ahad, is to categorize where there is no categorization.

6–Allah ta’ala ordered His Messenger () to clarify the Message. It is well known that the clarity of the Message establishes the proof on the Messenger, and by it one attains knowledge. If the narration of one person could not result in the transmission of beneficial knowledge, reports conveyed by al-ahad would not have occurred. Indeed, it is proof that by al-ahad one acquires beneficial knowledge.

7–An inescapable fact regarding this concept of invalidating the acceptance of hadeeth al-ahad under any circumstances in matters of ‘aqeedah, is that it is an idea which developed long after the time of the Companions who heard narrations directly from the Prophet (); because the hadeeths which reached people before the time of textual compilation came by way of ahad narration. As for those hadeeths which came by way of mutawatir narration, they are few; nay, they are lesser than a few.

8–This saying which claims that one does not act upon al-ahad hadeeths, In reality includes both ‘aqeedah and action; as by not accepting al-ahad in matters of belief negates the hadeeth itself. How then could one accept al-ahad for ahkam?!

9–The scholars of al-usool (the fundamentals of belief) never expressed agreement on this statement–as Shaykh Shaltoot alleges. Al-Imam Malik, Ash-Shaf’aee, the companions of Abu Hanifah, Dawud ibn Ali and his companions like Ibn Hazm are all in agreement that al-ahad narrations contain beneficial knowledge. Among those who have written about this include Hussain ibn Ali Al-Karabeesi, Al-Haarith ibn Asad Al-Mahasabi and Al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la of the Hanbalees.


The Islamic beliefs which are affirmed by hadeeth al-ahad

Before we finally disprove the allegations of this issue, we will cite the summary of Islamic beliefs which are rejected by such people as a consequence of them being based on al-ahad narrations.

1–The narrations regarding the Prophethood of Adam (عليه السلام) and other Prophets whose Prophethood is not cited in the Qur’an.[11]

2–The superiority of our Prophet Muhammad () over every Prophet and Messenger.[12]

3–His () supreme intercession on the Day of Gathering.[13]

4–His () intercession for those of his Ummah who committed major sins.[14]

5–His () miracles–every one that is enumerated in the Qur’an–amongst which includes the miracle of the splitting of the moon, as it is related in the Qur’an along with the explanation of the verses, including rejecting clear, authentic hadeeths which cite the splitting of the moon.[15]

6–Hadeeths which narrate the beginning of Creation,[16] the characteristics of Angels and Jinns, how both Paradise and Hell are already created[17] and that the Black Stone is from Paradise.

7–His () distinctive characteristics, of which As-Suyuti has compiled in his book, Al-Khasa’is Al-Kubra.

8–The certainty that the ten people guaranteed Paradise [Al-Ashura Al-Mubasharoon] are among the dwellers of Paradise.[18]

9–Iman in the questioning by the two angels, Munkar and Nakeer in the Grave.[19]

10–Iman in the Punishment of the Grave.[20]

11–Iman in the Contraction of the Grave.

12–Iman in the Meezan (Scales of Balance) on the Day of Resurrection.[21]

13–Iman in the Sirat.[22]

14–Iman in his () Howdh (pond) and that whomsoever drinks from it will never desire thirst again.[23]

15–The entrance of seventy thousand people from his () Ummah, without any reckoning.[24]

16–Iman in everything which has been authentically narrated in hadeeths regarding the description of the Day of Resurrection, the Gathering and the Resurrection and all its characteristics not mentioned specifically in the Qur’an.[25]

17–Iman in Al-Qadha’ and Al-Qadar, its good and its bad, and that Allah ta’ala has written for every person his good or his evil, his prosperity or his adversity.[26]

18–Iman in the Pen which wrote the measure of everything.[27]

19–Iman that those who commit major sins will not be in the Fire forever.[28]

20–Iman that the souls of the martyrs are contained in green birds in Paradise.[29]

21–Iman that Allah has prohibited the earth to consume the bodies of the Prophets.[30]

22–Iman that Allah inspires the angels to inform the Prophet () of the salaams conveyed by the people of his Ummah.

23–Iman in every aspect of the Signs of the Hour, such as the appearance of the Mahdi, the descent of Isa (عليه السلام) and the appearance of the Dajjal, etc.

Not every one of these beliefs is narrated via hadeeth al-ahad, on the contrary, among them are mutawatir hadeeths. However, such people who reject these beliefs are devoid of knowledge of the Sunnah–both collectively and individually–as they believe in rejection of every one of these beliefs. Nevertheless, the hadeeths narrating the appearance of the Dajjal, the Mahdi and the descent of Isa ibn Maryam are all mutawatir hadeeths as the scholars of hadeeth have clarified.

What is more catastrophic is that such people even reject beliefs which are narrated via mutawatir, (yet are narrated in the Qur’an)–by alleging that the proofs of these texts are non-conclusive as we previously mentioned regarding the statements of Shaykh Shaltoot. Thus they refuse to affirm that the Muslims will see their Lord on the Day of Resurrection even though the Qur’an clearly affirms this: “Some faces that Day shall be Nadhirah (shining and bright); Looking at their Lord (Allah)” [Al-Qiyaamah, 75:22-23] Mutawatir hadeeths also affirm this occurrence.[31]


The Islamic ruling on those who reject al-ahad narrations

As-Safarani narrates a statement from Ishaaq ibn Raahwiyyah who pronounces kufr on one who rejects al-ahad narrations. Others from the Salaf such as Imam At-Tahawi, Al-Barbahari, Ibrahim ibn Ahmed ibn Shaaqila and others share this view.[32] However, it is safer to say that whoever takes a path that rejects authentic hadeeths of the Messenger (), which affirm Islamic beliefs, is proceeding on a path of clear error. And one fears that such a person who deviates due to his rejection of these hadeeths, Allah will afflict him with misguidance: “And let those who oppose the Messenger’s commandment, (i.e., his Sunnah, legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements, etc.) beware, lest some Fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, catastrophes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant, etc.) befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them.” [An-Nur, 24:63]


[1] By definition, mutawatir hadeeths are those which are narrated by such a large number of people, that it is impossible for them to have unanimous agreement on a lie from the beginning of a chain of narration to its end. Al-Ahad refers to those hadeeths of a slight degree lower than mutawatir.

[2] See Al-Islam, ‘Aqeedah, wa-Shareeah, by Shaykh Mahmood Shaltoot, p. 53.

[3] ibid.

[4] They mean by ‘definite scriptural text’: the Qur’an and mutawatir hadeeths. Yet ‘definite scriptural text’ implies that it does not carry an alternative meaning; i.e. it does not require any explanation.

[5] Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, no. 352, p. 266.

[6] Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1292-1293.

[7] See Al-Hadeeth Hujjah bi Nafsi and Wujub Al-Akudh bi Ahadeeth Al-Ahad fil Aqa’id wal-Ahkam, both by Shaykh Nasiruddin Al-Albani, see also Al-Usool Al-Itiqaad by Shaykh Umar Sulayman Al-Ashqar.

[8] Surah Yunus, 10:36 & 66.

[9] This is ‘aqeedah.

[10] This is ahkam.

[11] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 341-458, no. 543-694.

[12] Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1230, no. 5655.

[13] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, no. 556, p. 350-352; vol. 8, p. 369-371, no. 570-571; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 133-135, no. 381-396.

[14] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 369-373, no. 569-574.

[15] Al-Qamar, 54:1-2; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 533-534; vol. 5; pp. 132-133; vol. 6, pp. 364-366; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1467-1468, no. 1230-1231.

[16] Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1462, no. 6707.

[17] Al-Imraan, 3:131 & 133; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 304, 305 & 312.

[18] They are: The four Rightly Guided Khalifs, i.e., Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman & Ali; Talhah ibn Ubaydullah, Zubair ibn Al-Awwam, Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Sa’id ibn Zaid, Abdurahman ibn Auf, & Abu Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah. See Sahih Al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim.

[19] Al-An’am, 6:61, Az-Zumar, 39:42.

[20] Al-An’am, 6:93; At-Towbah, 9:101; Al-Muminoon, 23:100; As-Sajdah, 32:12; Ghafir, 40:46; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 1, p. 141; vol. 2, pp. 210-213, 220, 225-226, 249-250, 254-260; vol. 4, pp. 57-58, no. 77; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, no. 6857-6870, pp. 1489-1491.

[21] Al-An’am, 6,:160; Al-Kahf, 18:105; Al-Anbiya, 21:47; Al-Muminoon, 23:102-103; Al-Zilzal, 99:7-8; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 6, no. 253, p. 225; vol. 9, p. 489-490, no. 343; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 113, no. 343.

[22] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, no. 577.

[23] Al-Kauthar, 108:1; Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 378-386, no. 58; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1236-1240, no. 5680-5712.

[24] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 359-361, no. 549-551; Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, pp. 140-142.

[25] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, pp. 347-348, no. 529; Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1463, no. 6708-6709.

[26] Sahih Muslim, vol. 4, pp. 1391-1394.

[27] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 8, p. 388; Sunan Abu Dawood, no. 4700.

[28] Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, pp. 119-21, no. 355-361; Sunan Abu Dawood, no. 4839.

[29] Al-Baqarah, 2:153; Al-Imraan, 3:169-171; Sahih Muslim, vol. 3, no. 4651, p. 1047-1048.

[30] Sunan Abî Dâwûd no.1047, Sunan al-Nasâ’î no. 1374, and Sunan Ibn Mâjah no. 1636

[31]Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, p. 114-119, no. 346-354.

[32] Shar’ Al-Aqeedah Tahawiyah, vol. 1, p. 343; Iqamatul Burhan fil Rudd ala man Ankar Khurooj al-Mahdi wal Ad-Dajjal wa Nuzool al-Masih fi Akhir az-Zaman, pp. 8-10.


The Requirements of Women’s Hijab

In Accordance with the Qur’an, the Authentic Sunnah and the Practice of the Pious Predecessors

Compiled by A. Idris Palmer


All praise is due to Allah; we praise Him and seek His aid and His forgiveness. And we seek refuge in Allah from the evils of our own selves and from our evil deeds. Whosoever is guided by Allah, there is none to misguide him. And whomsoever He misguides, there is none to guide him. And I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship in truth but Allah, Who is alone, without any partner. And I bear witness that Muhammad ibn Abdullah is his slave/servant and His Messenger.

I originally compiled this essay years ago as an article for now defunct Al-Hijra magazine. The essay blends works by the late Shaykhs Abdul Aziz Ibn Baz, Nasiruddin Al-Albani and others who have written extensively on the issue of hijab. Because this essay was originally done as a magazine article, many of the footnotes were minimized for the sake of brevity.

Finally, as has been the case with a number of my other essays, this one has been copied and re-posted on dozens of websites without my foreknowledge or any accreditation to me as the original author. Nevertheless, I seek only Allah’s mercy for whoever may have been guided by it. This updated version attempts to concisely enumerate the basic requirements regarding Muslim women’s dress (Hijab) as stipulated by the Shari’ah (Divine legislative law) of Islam.

To Proceed:

The Arabic term Hijab, by definition encompasses not only dress and covering the body, but also methods of behavior before members of the same and/or opposite sex, thereby promoting privacy for females while prohibiting loose intermingling between males and females, and thus promoting modesty, decency, chastity and above all, respect and worship of Allah.

Minor jurisprudential differences exist among Islamic scholars regarding the actual number of the requirements because of varying methods used by them in codifying. The ones mentioned here represent those agreed upon by the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholars and are all solidly backed by firm evidence taken from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the practice of the Sahabah (the Companions).

The First Requirement:

The Extent of Covering

The dress worn in public must cover the entire body except what has been specifically excluded, based upon the following proofs:

Allah Ta’ala says:

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِى إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِى أَخَوَتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـنُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّـبِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُوْلِى الإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُواْ عَلَى عَوْرَتِ النِّسَآءِ وَلاَ يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُواْ إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعاً أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts from sin and not show of their adornment except only that which is apparent, and draw their head covers over their necks and bosoms and not reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women (i.e., their sisters in Islam), or their female slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants free of physical desires, or small children who have no sense of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah altogether, O you Believers, in order that you may attain success. [An-Nur, 24:31]

The word زِينَتَهُنَّ zeenahtahun (their adornment) in the ayah above, includes both (a) that which Allah has adorned, i.e., the woman’s natural and/or physical beauty, and (b) that with which they adorn themselves, i.e., jewelry, eye shadow, attractive clothing, hand dye, etc.

Surah An-Nur specifically spells out the commands concerning the fact that a woman’s natural beauty and her adornments are to be concealed from strangers except by (1) What may show due to accidental or uncontrollable factors such as the blowing of the wind, etc., and (2) What has been exempted (see explanation at end of this section). The word بِخُمُرِهِنَّ khumur (pl. of khimar, i.e. ‘outer garment’ in 24:31) refers to a cloth which covers the head (including the ears), hair, neck and bosom. The esteemed mufaasir (Quranic interpreter) Al-Qurtubi explains:

“Women in the past used to cover their heads with the khimar, throwing its ends over their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest bare, in the manner of the Christians. Then Allah commanded them to cover those parts with the khimar.”

Allah states further in this ayah:

…And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment

The women in the time of the Prophet () wore anklets which could be employed to attract attention by stamping their feet, thereby making the anklets give a tinkling sound. Allah forbids this practice. Moreover, the verse shows that the legs and ankles are to be covered as well. Some contemporary Hanafi scholars are of the view that a woman can display her feet, a portion of her forearms and her ears; however there is NO authentic proof from the practice of the Prophet () or his Sahabah to uphold such a view.

Amongst the authentic hadeeth which clarify this is the following:

Ibn `Umar (رضي اللہ عنه) reported that the Messenger of Allah () said: On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will not look at the man who trails his garment along out of pride. Umm Salamah (رضي اللہ عنها) then asked: What should women do with (the hems of) their garments? He replied: Let them lower them a handspan. She said: Their feet would be exposed! He then said: Let them lower them a forearm’s length but no more. [Reported by At-Tabarani-Sahih]

The ayah of Surat An-Nur likewise lists in detail those with whom a woman is permitted to be more at ease. Furthermore, the ayah from Surat Al-Ahzab 33:59 orders Muslim women to draw their jalabihina جَلَـبِيبِهِنَّ (outer garments) about themselves when they go out. Abu Dawood related that `Aishah (رضي اللہ عنها) said:

“After this Aayah was revealed the women of the Ansar appeared like crows. (Because of the color and shape of the cloaks they wore).”

Hence, an outer garment or cloak must be worn by a Muslim woman whenever she goes out in public or if she is in the presence of strangers within her own home or the home of a close relative. Slight differences have arisen among the scholars concerning the precise meaning of …except only that which is apparent… from Surah An-Nur which according to Ibn `Abaas (رضي اللہ عنه), includes:

The face, the two hands, and rings. This view is shared by Ibn `Umar, `Ata’a, and others from the Tabi’een. [Tafseer Ibn Kathir]

Also, Imam Ash-Showkani states concerning this same ayat, that it includes:

The dress, the face, and the two hands”; Ibn `Abaas and Qatadah (رضي اللہ عنهما) have stated: “The adornments include eye shadow (i.e., Kuhul), bracelets, hand dye, and rings and it is permissible for women to (uncover) them. [Fateh Al-Qadeer]

The major point of difference among the scholars concerns the hadeeth of Asma’ (رضي اللہ عنها) i.e., that the face and hands need not be covered; a number of the scholars have maintained that the face and hands must also be covered as it was the practice of the wives of the Prophet () and the wives of the Sahabah to cover themselves completely according to authentic hadeeth. The above point has been a topic of debate amongst the scholars both past and present and will be dealt with, Insha’Allah at the end of this essay.

The Second Requirement:


The garment should be sufficiently thick and opaque so as not to display the skin color and form of the body beneath it. Delicate or transparent clothing does not constitute a proper covering. The Sahabah were very stern on this and regarded scanty clothing in public as an indicator of a woman’s lack of belief. Al-Qurtubi reports a narration from `Aisha (رضي اللہ عنها) that some women from Banu Tamim came to see her while wearing transparent clothing. `Aishah said to them: “If you are believing women, these are not the clothes of believing women.” He also reports that a bride came to see her wearing a sheer, transparent khimar, whereupon `Aisha (رضي اللہ عنها) said: “A woman who wears such clothing does not believe in Surat An-Nur.”

Moreover, the following hadeeth makes this point graphically clear. Allah’s Messenger () said:

There will be in the last of my Ummah (nation of believers), scantily dressed women, the hair on the top of their heads like a camel’s hump. Curse them, for verily they are cursed. In another version he said: …scantily dressed women, who go astray and make others go astray; they will not enter Paradise nor smell its fragrance, although it can be smelled from afar. [At-Tabarani and Sahih Muslim]

“Scantily dressed women” are those who wear clothing which reveals more than it conceals, thereby increasing her attractiveness while opening the path to a host of evils.

The Third Requirement:


The clothing must hang loosely enough and not be so tight-fitting as to show the shape and size of the woman’s body. The reason for wearing a garment which is wide and loose fitting is that the function of Muslim women’s clothing is to eliminate the lure and beauty of her body from the eye of the beholder. Skin-tight body suits, etc. may conceal the skin color, yet they display the size and shape of the limbs and body. The following hadeeth proves this point clearly:

Usamah ibn Zaid (رضي اللہ عنه) said: Allah’s Messenger () gave me a gift of thick Coptic cloth he had received as a gift from Dahiah Al-Kalbi, and so I gave it to my wife. Thereafter the Prophet () asked me: Why didn’t you wear the Coptic cloth? I replied: I gave it to my wife. the Prophet () then said: Tell her to wear a thick gown under it (the Coptic garment) for I fear that it may describe the size of her limbs. [Narrated by Ahmad, Al-Bayhaqi, and Al-Haakim]

The Fourth Requirement:

Color, Appearance and Demeanor

Allah ta’ala says:

ينِسَآءَ النَّبِىِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَآءِ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلاَ تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِى فِى قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلاً مَّعْرُوفاً

O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women; if you fear (Allah), then do not be too pleasing of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should feel desire (for you). [Al-Ahzab, 33:32]

The reason for the revelation of this verse is not the fear of distrust nor misbehavior on the part of the women, but rather to prevent them from speaking invitingly, walking seductively, or dressing revealingly so as to arouse sexual desire in the heart of lecherous and evil men.

Seductive dressing and enticing speech are the characteristics of ill-intentioned women, not Muslims. Al-Qurtubi mentions that Mujahid (رضي اللہ عنه) said:

Women (before the advent of Islam) used to walk about (alluringly) among men.” Qatadah (رضي اللہ عنه) said: “They used to walk in a sensuous and seductive manner.” Maqatil (رضي اللہ عنه) said: The women used to wear an untied cloth on their heads, while provocatively toying with their necklaces, earrings and other ornamental jewelry.

Furthermore, Allah has commanded women not to display their beauty, meaning both natural and acquired beauty. Allah commands the believing women thus:

وَلاَ تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَـهِلِيَّةِ الاٍّولَى

…And do not make a display of yourselves like the displaying of the ignorance of long ago… [Al-Ahzaab, 33:33]

A garment which is intended to conceal a woman and her beauty from public view cannot be a thing which enhances her beauty. Therefore, the garment cannot contain bright colors, bold designs or shiny and reflective material that draw men’s attention to the wearer. The Arabic word above تَبَرُّجَ At-Tabarruj, means not only “to display oneself” but also “to spruce up one’s charms for the purpose of exciting desire”.

Imam Adh-Dhahabi says in his book Kitab Al-Kaba’ir (The Book of Major Sins):

“Amongst the deeds which a woman is cursed for are displaying the adornments she wears, wearing perfume when she goes out, and wearing colorful clothes…”

Hence, the Muslim woman is encouraged to wear muted, somber colors and to avoid bright designs, patterns and colors.

This point should serve also as a reminder to Muslim men who are in positions of responsibility for their women, that Allah’s Messenger () has warned in an authentic hadeeth narrated by `Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn Al-`Aas (رضي اللہ عنه) that amongst the three individuals who would not enter Jennah (Paradise) would be: Ad-Dayooth, who is contented with obscenity within his family. i.e., a cuckold- a man who permits the women for whom he is responsible, such as his wife, daughter, etc., to engage in illicit sexual relations or to display their beauty to men, thereby stimulating sexual desire.

The Fifth Requirement:

Difference from Men’s Clothing

The clothing of a Muslim woman must not resemble the clothing of men. The following two hadeeth help to explain this.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ لَعَنَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الرَّجُلَ يَلْبَسُ لِبْسَةَ الْمَرْأَةِ وَالْمَرْأَةَ تَلْبَسُ لِبْسَةَ الرَّجُلِ ‏.

Abu Hurayrah (رضي اللہ عنه) said: Allah’s Messenger () cursed the man who wears women’s clothes and the woman who wears men’s clothes. [Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah-Saheeh]

`Abdullah ibn `Umar (رضي اللہ عنه) said he heard Allah’s Messenger () say: The man who resembles a woman and the woman who resembles a man is not of us (i.e., not of the believers). [Ahmad and At-Tabarani-Saheeh]

Additionally, Abu Dawood relates a narration from Umm Salamah (رضي اللہ عنها) which shows that the Prophet () forbade women to bundle their khumoor on their heads in such a way as to resemble the turban of a man. Western Muslim sisters should pay specific attention to this point since regretfully this has become a widespread practice amongst them.

The Sixth Requirement:

Difference from the Clothing of Unbelievers

Her clothing must not resemble the clothing of unbelievers. This is a general ruling of the Shari’ah which encompasses not only dress but also such things as manners, customs, religious practices, festivities, transactions, etc. Indeed, dissimilarity with unbelievers is a precedent that was established by the first generation of Islam. The following two hadeeth and statement of `Umar (رضي اللہ عنه) will help to clarify this position:

`Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn Al-`Aas said: Allah’s Messenger () saw me wearing two saffron-colored garments, so he said: Indeed, these are the clothes of kuffar (unbelievers), so do not wear them. [Sahih Muslim]

عَنْ ابْنِ عُمَرَ قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ ) رواه أبو داود (اللباس / 3512) قال الألباني في صحيح أبي داود : حسن صحيح . برقم (3401)

`Abdullah ibn `Umar (رضي اللہ عنه) said: Allah’s Messenger () stated: Whoever resembles a people is one of them. [Abu Dawood]

Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (رضي اللہ عنه) related that `Umar (رضي اللہ عنه) told him: “…I shall not honor those whom Allah has dishonored, nor esteem those He has humbled, nor bring close those whom He has kept afar.” [Ahmad]

The Seventh Requirement:

No Vain or Ostentatious Dressing

The woman’s dress must not be an expression of ostentation, vanity or as a status symbol by being excessively showy or expensive, nor must it be excessively tattered so as to gain admiration and fame for being humble. Ibn `Umar (رضي اللہ عنه) reported that Allah’s Messenger () said:

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، – قَالَ فِي حَدِيثِ شَرِيكٍ يَرْفَعُهُ – قَالَ ‏”‏ مَنْ لَبِسَ ثَوْبَ شُهْرَةٍ أَلْبَسَهُ اللَّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ثَوْبًا مِثْلَهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ زَادَ عَنْ أَبِي عَوَانَةَ ‏”‏ ثُمَّ تُلَهَّبُ فِيهِ النَّارُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Whoever dresses for ostentation in this world, Allah will dress that person in a dress of humiliation on the Day of Resurrection, and then set it on fire. [Abu Dawood]


The Niqab (Face Veil): Between Mustahab (Recommended) and Wajib (Mandatory)

The esteemed Quranic commentators At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, Ash-Shanqeeti and others have elaborated on the form of Hijab or Jilbab i.e., “outer garments” as viewed by the Companions of the Prophet (), as well as the circumstances surrounding the revelation of Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:59 where Allah says:

يأَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ قُل لاًّزْوَجِكَ وَبَنَـتِكَ وَنِسَآءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَـبِيبِهِنَّ ذلِكَ أَدْنَى أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلاَ يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً

O Prophet, Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their outer garments about themselves (when they go out). That is better so that they may be recognized and not molested. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. [Al-Ahzab, 33:59]

They state that when the believing women used to go out at night (wearing ordinary clothes) to answer the call of nature, some hypocrites tried to annoy them, thinking the women were slave girls. The women thereby would scream out loudly causing these hypocrites to flee. Thereupon Allah (عز و جل) revealed this Ayaat. Al-Qurtubi states that the Jilbab is “a cloth which covers the entire body…Ibn `Abaas and `Ubaidah As-Salmani have said that it is to be fully wrapped around the women’s body, so that nothing appears but one eye with which she can see.” The Tabi’ee, Qatadah (رضي اللہ عنه), stated that the Jilbab should be wrapped and fixed from above the forehead and made to cover the nose, (although the eyes are to show) and the chest and most of the face are to be covered.

Furthermore, it has been authentically related in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Muwatta of Imam Malik and the Sunan of Abu Dawood that the Prophet () forbade women from covering their faces and hands during their performance of Salat or while in a state of Ihram. This indicates clearly that wearing the face veil (niqab or burqa’a) was a common practice during the time of the Messenger of Allah (), and not as some people claim, a cultural practice that appeared years later.

Among the proofs used by the scholars regarding the face veil are the following: `Aishah (رضي اللہ عنها) said: “May Allah bestow His Mercy on the first Muhajirat (emigrants). When Allah revealed:

يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَـبِيبِهِنَّ

…and draw their outer garments about themselves (when they go out)… they tore their (material) and covered themselves with it.” [Al-Bukhari]

Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, known as “Amir Al-Mu’mineen in Hadeeth” has explained that يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَـبِيبِهِنَّdraw their outer garments about themselvesmeans: “covered their faces.” [Fateh Al-Bari].

Additionally, after the battle of Khaybar, the Prophet () married Safiyah bint Huyai (رضي اللہ عنها). The Muslims said amongst themselves, “Will she (Safiyah) be one of the Mothers of the Believers (i.e., wives of the Prophet) or just what his right hand possesses (i.e., slave girl). Some of them said: If he () makes her observe Hijab, then she will be one of the Mothers of the Believers, and if he does not make her observe Hijab, then she will be what his right hand possesses. So when he departed (for Medina), he made a place for her behind him (on his camel) and made her observe Hijab” [Al-Bukhari]

The issue of the niqab has continued to arouse extended controversy and debate between `Ulama (scholars) and fuqaha (jurists) both past and present concerning whether it is wajib (mandatory) or Mustahab (favored by Allah سبحانه و تعالى) for the woman. And whether she subsequently falls into sin by exposing her face or not. Each of the two sides clings to their own opinions which they support with evidences from the Quranic ayat, the Prophetic hadeeth and the practice of the Sahabah and their views.

One of the views on this is that the niqab is legally binding on the woman-she who abandons it is a sinner. It says that the woman’s face which she is ordered not to reveal to non-relatives is definitely part of the `auwrah. The other view says that the niqab is simply recommended and encourages the woman to cover her face; however, it does not place it on the level of mandatory. Consequently, this opinion does not consider the woman falling into sin when she exposes and unveils her face as long as in doing so, she has not applied facial makeup.

The dispute continues between the two viewpoints and takes, on certain occasions, bitter aspects. The advocates for making the face veil mandatory accuses the other group of following their own desires. While the other group accuses their opponents with being obstinate fanatics. The matter is much broader than this and does not require accusations of obstinacy or of following the desires but rather requires reaching Ijtihad (judgment based on the Shari’ah) and following dalil (proof from the Shari’ah) to the best of one’s ability.

To give the benefit of the doubt in such a situation is better and most befitting for the Muslim, limiting the points of difference and narrowing the gap of disagreement are two factors which are sought after. I do not want in this rush to take a side with one group over the other; nor to validate the proofs of which I see the truth in this issue. Rather the aim is, as I said, to narrow the controversy and to highlight the points agreed upon. Thereby, we may adopt them and work on spreading them. As for the point of disagreement-it will remain under the category of Ijtihad whose advocate will be rewarded whether he attains truth or was mistaken.

First: Since the two views agree upon the legitimacy of the niqab, that it is a consummate perfection for a woman and more virtuous for her, as well as closer to the aims of the Shari’ah-which is to prevent fitnah, and is an obstruction to excuses as well as severing the path of those who follow their lusts, it is therefore more appropriate, that the efforts should be directed to encourage wearing the niqab, and to motivate people towards it. And to show and explain its virtues and merits. This implies that covering the face with the niqab should be the general rule and uncovering the face the exception.

Second: In spite of the fact that there are differing views on the Islamic ruling regarding whether the niqab is obligatory or recommended, it is undoubtedly one’s duty to unify the call for it and cooperate as much as possible in urging young women about its necessity and to limit their desire to expose their faces as much as possible. Indeed, it is merely gracious according to both parties. Not as is happening now between opposing sides which is to leave the matter loose and dangling, through the claim that the niqab is only mustahab, and being aloof from spreading the call for it. This is indeed an inversion of the truth and poor judgment in the matter.

Hence, my fellow Muslims, when you are asked: what is the form of the hijab according to the Shari’ah, especially from a woman who loves the Deen?, You should urge and encourage her to wear the Niqab-even if you are of the opinion that it is only mustahab.

Lastly: We truly hope from Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) for the day when all believing women rush to cover their faces with full contentment of their souls and desire for their deen is the strongest of desires. This is a hope which, without any doubt, is shared with me by those who are of the opinion of it being mustahab and those who are of the opinion of it being wajib.

I pray that Allah (عز و جل) guide us along the Straight Path, and protect us from deviation after having guidance. And may Allah bless the Leader of His Messengers, Muhammad (), his family and his companions, and all who follow in their footsteps until the Final Hour, Ameen.