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May Allah reward you. Could you tell me what hijab is.What is compulsory – to veil the face completely or to leave the face uncovered and cover only the hair. If sisters work with people in this environment a would think that a veil could be a hindrance. please advise.

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Asslaamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah
All scholars are unanimous that the Hijab is the covering of the whole body for a woman including her hair. Where the scholars differ is that is the face, hands and feet part of the Awrah?

Firstly let us look at the evidence of the Hijab;
..And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and adornments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their head veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers…} (24:30-31)

Also,{O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons…that they should be known and not molested} (33:59).

The Holy Prophet said, upon him blessings and peace: “…If the woman reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but this and this” — and he pointed to his face and hands.

And our Mother `A`isha, Allah be pleased with her, said: “When a girl reaches puberty she must cover whatever her mother and grandmother must cover.”

`A`isha also said: “By Allah, I never saw any women better than the women of the Ansar (i.e. the women of Madina) or stronger in their confirmation of Allah`s Book! When Surat al-Nur was revealed — {and to draw their `khumur` over their bosoms} (24:31) — their men went back to them reciting to them what Allah had revealed to them in that [sura or verse], each man reciting it to his wife, daughter, sister, and relative. Not one woman among them remained except she got up on the spot, tore up her waist-wrap and covered herself from head-to-toe (i`jtajarat) with it. They prayed the very next dawn prayer covered from head to toe (mu`tajirat).”

And Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, upon him and her peace, ensured that even in her funeral the shape of her body remained unseen by strange eyes!

Allah be well-pleased with the women of the Ansar and the Muhajirin.

Covering the face, hands and feet for women. According to the Hanafi Madhab, this is also an obligation. However, scholars do differ on this view. What is clear is that where there is fitna (tribulation) present then the woman must also cover her face. As the face signifies beauty it could lead a man to think or do evil. However, where there is less chance of fitna then the face need not be covered.

I have been advised the following from some of my Shaykhs; In the west during day to day activities one does not need to have their face, hands and feet covered. As the west sees this as alien it is more inclined to put non muslim women off Islam, as they cannot see themselves in that situation. The Niqab is designed to cause less distraction, however, in the west it can be the central source of attraction. However, where there are Islamic gatherings and a chance for men and women to cross each other`s paths then it is Compulsory to observe the Niqab, as religious men are attracted to religious women.

If a woman is travelling to the east then the Niqab should be observed as this is the norm and will cause less fitna.

Men should observe the very simple command of Allah and this is to `lower the gaze;.

Shaykh Gibril writes the following;
The niqab type of hijab is not compulsory generally speaking but it can be compulsory specifically speaking. If fitna is feared wherever one goes because of unwanted attention then the right decision is to wear it. In such a case it is definitely piety and taqwa. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim spoke of five different types of jihad:
1. Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one`s lower self)
2. Jihad al-shaitan (jihad against shaitan)
3. Jihad al-fasiqeen (jihad against wrongdoers)
4. Jihad al-kuffar (jihad against unbelievers)
5. Jihad al-munafiqeen (jihad against hypocrites)

An American brother commented on the above on the MSA forum in 1995:
“Does any man think that he fights his ego better than women?

Though it is fard for women to cover themselves, show me one practicing Muslim woman who is not only fighting her ego, but [also] practicing all 5 of the jihads mentioned above, by wearing her hijab in public. That is because everyone hates that, including shaitan, nafs, the fasiqeen, the kuffar and the munafiqeen. She is like the mujahid waving the flag of Islam high in the land of non-believers, in the land of shaitans and evil-doers. And though the shari`ah is not so strict asking men to wear Islamic clothes, nonetheless, in doing so, the women are doing a big and difficult jihad, better than men who have never fought, though the women have not fired one bullet! May Allah bless them and strengthen their himmah.” Amin. Hajj Gibril
I hope the above clarifies the situation.
Allah knows best
[Answer provided by: Muhammad Salim Ghisa]