The niqab. Some see it as a beautiful, modest way to cover yourself so that you may feel more grounded and connected with Islam and Allah, but others see it as a social restriction, oppression, or a source of fear. What is more violent, a female wearing a piece of cloth over the lower half of her face so that she can feel more comfortable and modest or the person who emotionally or even physically rips the cloth from her and leaves her feeling exposed?
First, examine the reasons why someone would choose to wear niqab.
- Belief that it is Islamically correct/ permissible to do so
- They may be shy and it helps them feel more comfortable around people
And now reasons that are given on why we should not wear it:
- Security issues/rules set by schools, businesses and buildings where they may live
- Safety issues, fear of attacks, threats, etc.
- Niqab is banned where they live/will be fined for wearing it
- Hostility by people around them
- Personal reasons/they may feel that niqab holds them back
Now, look at what Islamic scholars have to say about niqab:
- The correct view as indicated by the evidence is that the woman’s face is ‘awrah which must be covered. It is the most tempting part of her body, because what people look at most is the face, so the face is the greatest ‘awrah of a woman. This is in addition to the shar’iah evidence which states that it is obligatory to cover the face.
- A woman is obliged to cover her face in front of anyone who is not her mahram (blood relative to whom marriage is forbidden). From this we learn that the face is the most essential thing to be covered. There is evidence from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the views of the Sahaabah and the imams and scholars of Islam, which indicates that women are obliged to cover all of their bodies in front of those who are not their mahrams.
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…”
I believe this passage shows evidence that not only are abaya and niqab permissable for all Muslim females who wish to wear them, but is proof that we should be wearing them when we are able. Today, we see many Muslims that place greater emphasis on fashion, the latest styles, and looking sexy than they do on trying to understand and learn what their religion requires of them. Abaya and niqab is a privilege, you must ask yourself whether you want your entire body and face judged by men and women without your consent or would you rather take the time to understand and appreciate the niqab and abaya as a source of protection and let only your family and the special people in your lives see what is hidden.
“There will be women who will be dressed but they will be naked. Their heads will be like the humps of camels. They will not enter Jannah and will not even smell the scent of Jannah while it can be smelt from a far distance.” [Sahih Muslim]
It is very sad that those of us who try our best to dress modestly and enjoy wearing abaya and niqab cannot do so in public because we live in places that may be unsafe for us to do so because of the hostility of others. It is more acceptable in our society to wear revealing clothes that expose cleavage or other body parts because media and society puts forth the image that we should dress and behave provocatively because that is what will make us an attractive woman that men will value. But do men really see the value of a female when all he cares about is what he can see of her body visually? Muslim and Non Muslim men alike will look at women who expose themselves in front of them, it's only their human nature; but should those of us that wish to cover ourselves be seen as lesser individuals and pushed aside because we do not publicly show men what they could possibly have if they choose us?
Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Modesty brings nothing but good.”[Sahih Bukhari]
"Even after Surah an-Nur ayah 31 had been revealed, ordinary Muslim women continued to wear niqab with the approval of the Prophet (sAas). This has specifically been mentioned for Umm Khallad (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 14 #2482), Asma bint Abu Bakr (Muwatta Book 20 #20.5.16), and some Qurayshi women who were visiting the Prophet (sAas) (Sahih Bukhari Book 54 #515). As well, the fact that the Prophet (sAas) had to tell women not to wear niqab and gloves in ihram (Sahih Bukhari Book 29 #64) means that niqab and gloves were well-known and worn by a substantial number of sahabiyat (rAa). Clearly this form of extra modesty has the approval of the Prophet (sAas) and that is another reason that it is sunna."
"The descriptions of the dress of Ummahat al-Muminin (rAa), of the way that the jilbab was worn when Surah al-Ahzab ayah 59 was first revealed, and of the extra-modest dress worn by some of the sahabiyat (rAa) all clearly and unambiguously point to a face-cover. This makes niqab the specific form of extra-modest dress set by the Shari'a. As such, it is sunna as well as mustahabb."
One of the most common false allegations about niqab that is given is that it makes women appear and be less important than men. In fact, the total opposite is true. Allah never said that men had faces so beautiful that they should be covered. But Allah did know that because of human nature men would stare at a beautiful womans face until either she was able to get out of his line or vision or her husband or father made the man stop staring! Personally, I have always hated being stared at. It makes me feel very uncomfortable and I freeze up and just want to hide.
Honestly, alot of Muslim girls do things I do not understand at all. I don't have to repeat the proof of how we should dress modestly and cover ourselves, we all know about that by now. Or at least we should. What confuses me is when girls will show their entire body but not their face. You can get on instagram at any given time and see photos of girls showing off their pretty outfits, sexy dresses, etc. but then they will have their hand covering their face. If you are really that concerned about who might recognize you why don't you put on your hijab and use your abaya to cover yourself instead of leaving it open so the entire world can see your cleavage or whatever else you are trying to show. Yeah, I know, most of these girls only care about who might recognize them and say something to their family more than they spend time worrying about what they should be doing that's right in the eyes of Allah. Another thing that bothers me is when other girls tell me "I look up to *insert name here* as a Muslim and she doesn't cover so I'm not going to either." That's just straight up ignorance to me, if that person you look up to is going to jump off a bridge are you gonna jump to? It's basically the same thing, they are disobeying Allah's orders to cover their hair and bodies and you are going to disobey as well because you care more about the person you look up to and fashion that what Allah has commanded you to do.
I fully love the niqab and think that it is very beautiful. Over the years I have tried on different types and styles of the niqab until I found my favorite one, which is like the one in the photo above. This style originates from the Najd region of Saudi Arabia. For those interested in reading about the history of some types of niqab and abaya I highly recommend the book The Art of Arabian Costume by Heather Coyler Ross, she did a great job researching for the book while she lived in Saudi Arabia and I have learned so much from her writings including that basically every style of niqab, abaya, and jalabiya that I have always liked originated in the Najd region. Out of all the different types I have tried it is the most comfortable for me and the easiest, although niqabs that cover only the bottom half of the face may be pretty at times they also come untied or unpinned easily while moving around during the day.
My main attraction to the niqab when I first became interested in it is how it removes almost all of the chances of men and women scanning your face as soon as you walk by in search of flaws or to try to figure out what nationality you are or even what family you come from for some women who live in places where what family you come from means more than what type of moral values you actually hold.
Although I cannot wear niqab in public where I live I would like to try wearing it the next time I visit a Muslim country Inshallah. Practically every time I go to a public place I feel bare because I want to be fully covered from head to toe but cannot because of fear that I will be attacked. It definitely is a spiritual jihad, seeing my reflection while wearing hijab or niqab greatly intensifies my awareness of my actions and my faith. Inshallah niqab will be part of my future and I will be able to wear it freely as I choose.
What about everyone else? I am curious to know what your thoughts and beliefs are on niqab :)