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Is the Veil Obligatory? 

Adil Salahi

Arab News, 1/13/04

Q. You have said more than once that women are allowed to go out with their faces and hands uncovered. If so, may I ask whether Saudi women wear the veil that covers their faces and gloves to cover their hands on the basis of tradition?

M.O.A. Sulaiman

A. This column is intended to answer questions in the light of Islam. It is not intended to go into the reasons and motives of peoples actions and their background. When we want to arrive at the Islamic ruling concerning any action, we have to look at evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah. We must also realize that everything is permissible, or halal, unless we have clear evidence to make it otherwise. Such evidence comes in the form of a statement either in the Quran or in the authentic Sunnah. No other evidence is admissible as a basis for a ruling.

The veil, which normally signifies a dress code that requires women to cover their faces and hands, in addition to the rest of their bodies, is not limited to Saudi women. It is seen almost everywhere, including European and American countries. Moreover, most Saudi women do not conform to the veil when they travel abroad. Women who wear the veil do so either out of conviction that it is an Islamic requirement, or they are compelled to wear it by the force of tradition or family pressure. There is no doubt that some scholars today maintain that it is obligatory. However, these are a small number compared to the vast majority of scholars in the Muslim world who maintain that neither the face nor the hands are included in the parts of her body that a woman must cover.

Why do we have such a divergence of views? The answer is simple. The scholars who support the veil maintain a very restrictive reading of the Quranic statement that deals with womens appearance, which occurs in verse 31 of Surah 24. Scholars have always differed on numerous questions, and their differences did not cause any problems.

What we need to understand is that when such differences occur, a person needs to know the basis of each point of view and choose the one which he finds better founded on more solid evidence. When we speak about the veil, i.e. a woman covering her face in public, we find no clear cut statement in the Quran or the Sunnah to support it. On the other hand, we find much clearer evidence to confirm the other view that a woman should cover all her body, with the exception of her face and hands, when she goes out or in the presence of men whom she can marry.


Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.