Question: What is the Islaamic hijaab?
Answer: The Islaamic hijaab is for the women to cover everything that is forbidden for her to expose. That is, she covers everything that she must cover. The first of those bodily parts that she must cover is her face. It is the source of temptation and the source of people desiring her. Therefore, the woman must cover her face in front of those men that are not mahram. As for those of who claim that the Islaamic hijaab is to cover the head, shoulders, back, feet, shin and forearms while allowing her to uncover her face and hands, this is a very amazing claim. This is because it is well-known that the source of temptation and looking is the face. How can one say that the Sharee’ah does not allow the exposure of the foot of the woman while it allows her to uncover her face? It is not possible that there could be in the Esteemed, Wise and Noble Sharee’ah a contradiction. Yet everyone knows that the temptation from uncovering the face is much greater than the temptation that results from the uncovering of the feet. Everyone also knows that the most sought after aspect of the woman for men is the face. If you told a prospective groom that a woman’s face is ugly but her feet are beautiful, he would not propose to such a woman. However, if you told him that her face was beautiful but her hands, palms, or shins were less than beautiful, he would still propose to her. From this one can conclude that the face is the first thing that must be covered. There are also evidences from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of our Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam). There are also statements from the Companions, the leading Imams and the great scholars of Islaam that indicate that it is obligatory for the woman to cover all of her body in the presence of non-mahram men. This obviously indicates that it is obligatory upon the woman to cover her face in front of such men. However, this is not the place to quote all those authorities.
And Allaah knows best.
[Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, Fataawa al-Mar.ah]
Published: 6 February 2000