Women wearing the ‘niqab’ in public
Issued by the authority of Islamic High Council of Australia
Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May Allah raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad and the ranks of Prophets Adam, Noah, Ibrahim, Musa (Moses) and ^Isa (Jesus) and the rank of their brethrens in prophet-hood, their righteous followers and their companions:
Darulfatwa, Islamic High Council of Australia, being a peak body representing many Islamic organisations, had conducted a meeting with numerous religious leaders of different ethnic background to discuss the issue arisen lately concerning the women wearing the ‘niqab’ in public and suggested the following:
Australia is a multicultural society that welcomes people from all over the world. Australia has always been a country in which Muslim women have felt free to practice their religion, fearing no harm or discrimination.
Unfortunately, the issue of women wearing the ‘niqab’ in public has recently been polarised by the biased media from one side and the extremist views from the other.
It must be noted that Islam is a religion of moderation that does not accept racism or extremism. As for the ‘niqab’, one should not be involved in any debate concerning whether or not a woman should be allowed to wear it in public before knowing what Islam says about it.
Ayah 31 of Surat an-Nur means: “and that they (i.e.women) should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appears thereof”. The great companions; ^A’ishah, Ibn ^Abbas, Sa^id Ibn Jubayr, ^Ata’ and others interpreted ‘except what ordinarily appears thereof’ as referring to the face and hands.
Therefore, Allah ordered women to conceal of their bodies that which is unnecessary to be revealed, and allowed them to reveal that which they ordinarily used to show and there was a need to reveal it. The Islamic revealed rules are so easy and simple and since revealing the face and hands is needed for women, the scholars agreed that women are not prohibited from revealing them.
Moreover, when praying, women are not obligated to cover their faces. Thus, if whilst performing this act of worship they are not obligated to cover their faces, then so to when they are not performing an act of worship. Also, when performing Hajj or ^Umrah with millions of people from all over the world, women are prohibited from covering their faces. If this is the case when performing this act of worship, then uncovering the face whilst in public should not in any way be classified as a forbidden matter.
The scholars of Islam amongst the four schools of thought (Ash-Shafi^iyy, Al-Hanafiyy, Al-Hambaliyy and Al-Malikiyy) have unanimously agreed that Muslim women are allowed to unveil their faces in public and that men are prohibited from looking lustfully at them. Among the scholars who stated such a fatwa are:
Qadi ^Iyad in his explanation of ‘Sahih Muslim’.
Ibn Hajar Al-Haytamiyy in two of his books namely ‘Al-Fatawa Al-Kubra’ and ‘Hashiyat Sharh Al-‘Idah’.
Ibn Jarir At–Tabariyy, the interpreter of the Qur’an in his Tafsir.
As-Sarakhsiyy in his book ‘Al-Mabsut’.
Muhammad ^Illaysh Al-Malikkiyy in his explanation of the book ‘Mukhtasar Khalil’.
Ar-Raziyy in his Tafsir.
Moreover, they gave many examples about the need to look at the face of a woman for the purpose of witnessing specific transactions and dealings. Therefore, Australian Muslim women should not feel that by unveiling their faces when asked by government officials they are compromising their religious belief.
As for the obligatory ‘hijab’ upon women, it is a generic term used to define the obligation of covering all the body except the hands and face. As long as the woman has covered all her body except the hands and face, she has fulfilled the obligation of the hijab.
In conclusion, Australia has always been a country in which Muslim women have felt free to practice their religion, fearing no harm or discrimination , the hijab fits comfortably in the Australian climate and society. In addition, Australian Muslim women should not find any problem unveiling their faces when asked by government officials.
Therefore, it would be problematic for the government to pass a legislation that would prevent everyone from covering their faces whilst in public, including motorcyclists and some Muslim women who choose to cover their faces (which is an optional deed, not an obligation).
Dr. Sheikh Salim Alwan