Ḥijāb and The Erosion of Ḥayāʾ

by | 15 Apr 2024 | Fiqh, Research & Articles, Tazkiyah

In recent years, it has been observed that the Muslim Ummah is experiencing an influx of fitan (trials and tribulations). It is becoming extremely difficult to hold firmly onto the pure and pristine teachings of Islām. A large number of Muslims, with the support of some corrupt “scholars”, are beginning to question the orthodox and traditional practices of our pious predecessors, and a new, unorthodox, watered down version of Islām is now being propagated. It reminds one of the following sayings of our beloved Prophet, Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wasallam):

“Islam began as something strange, and it shall once again return to how it began, as something strange, so glad tidings to the strangers” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)

“A time shall come upon the people in which the one among them who is steadfast upon his religion will be like the one clutching onto a burning ember.” (Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī)

One such fitnah (pl. fitan) is the steep decline in modesty (ḥayāʾ) and the misconstrued conception of ḥijāb.[1] Up until just a decade or so ago, it was unimaginable to witness a male scholar delivering Islāmic talks while addressing a mixed crowd of men and women. However, the tides have now changed drastically, and this is being normalised. It is extremely unfortunate to see this practice being justified by individuals who the masses view as ʿUlamāʾ. At times, it is seen that these very same ʿUlamāʾ become entangled in the snares of shayṭān and end up engaging in the various levels of zinā. May Allāh protect us.

The Ṣaḥābah (companions of the Prophet) were the most pious and pure of humans after the Prophets (ʿalayhim al-salām). Similarly, the noble wives of our beloved Prophet were amongst the purest of all women to ever set foot on this earth. They were honoured with the title: “The mothers of the believers” by Allāh in the Noble Qurʾān. One could never even entertain the mere thought that they would ever commit zinā. Despite this, Allāh instructed the Ṣaḥābah:

وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِنْ وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ، ذَلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ

“Furthermore, (with respect to his wives) whenever you ask them for any article, then ask them from behind a veil. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts.” (Sūrat al-Aḥzāb)

If the Ṣaḥābah are being commanded to ask the mothers of the believers from behind a veil, then how can it be permissible for men and women to mix for Islāmic talks, charity dinners, and fundraising events? Then we are left wondering why Allāh’s help is not with us.

Anas (raḍiyallāhu ʿanh), who would serve the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) and who was a young adolescent at the time when this verse was revealed, says that, after the revelation of this verse, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) barred him from entering his room and drew the curtain. This was an indication that he was not permitted to enter from then onwards.

We find the same example of modesty in the story of Mūsā (ʿalayhi ’l-salām) mentioned in the Qurʾān. (see Sūrat al-Qaṣaṣ).

On one occasion, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) was seated with his two wives, Maymūnah and Umm Salamah (raḍiyallāhu ʿanhumā), when ʿAbdullāh ibn Umm Maktūm (who was a blind Ṣaḥābī) approached, and this was after veiling (ḥijāb/niqāb) had been commanded. So, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said to his wives: ‘Veil yourselves from him’ (i.e. retreat behind the curtain). ʿĀʾishah (raḍiyallāhu ʿanhā) asked: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! Isn’t he blind such that he cannot see us or recognise us?’ The Prophet responded: ‘Are the two of you also blind? Can you not see him?’ (Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī)

The scholars of Ḥadīth state that it is from taqwā (piety) that a woman does not look at men just as a man should not look at women. Both have been instructed to lower their gazes. (see Sūrat al-Nūr) More details on niqāb and lowering the gazes can be found here.

If we analyse closely the incident of ifk (slander against the mother of the believers ʿĀʾishah raḍiyallāhu ʿanhā), we observe the level of ḥayāʾ (modesty) displayed by the Ṣaḥābah. They lifted ʿĀʾishah’s carriage assuming she was inside. They did not peak in to check if she was within, nor did they speak to her to confirm. Later, when she was spotted by Ṣafwān ibn Muʿaṭṭal (raḍiyallāhu ʿanh), even then the two of them did not speak. He made her sit on the camel while he himself walked ahead of her, holding the camel’s rope. Though the hypocrites (munāfiqūn) seized this opportunity to accuse her of zinā, Allāh revealed ten verses declaring her innocence, exonerating her of the vile, slanderous accusations.

Many such examples can be gleaned from the lives of the companions and our pious predecessors, displaying modesty and the importance of avoiding unnecessarily intermingling with the opposite gender. The books of fiqh (Islāmic law) are replete with texts prohibiting such. Some individuals claim that merely being in the same room with the opposite gender is not regarded as “free-mixing”. The following text from al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāziyyah is sufficient to dispel this misguided notion:

ولو أذن لها بالخروج إلى مجلس الوعظ الخالي عن البدع لا بأس به ولا يأذن بالخروج إلى المجلس الذي يجتمع فيه الرجال والنساء وفيه من المنكرات.[2]

“If he (the husband) permits her (his wife) to attend a religious gathering that is free from innovations, then it is fine. However, he should not allow her to attend a gathering where men and women gather and where sins take place.”

Further texts can be found here.

May Allāh guide the Ummah to the correct understanding and protect each one of us from falling into the traps of Shayṭān. Āmīn.


(Mufti) Bilal al-Mahmudi

14 Ramaḍān 1445 / 25 March 2024

[1] My dear friend, Muftī Zameelur Rahman has recently translated a lengthy risālah by Muftī Muḥammad Shafīʿ (may Allāh have mercy on him) which has been published by As-Subah Academy. Anyone who wishes to read a detailed book on the topic should acquire a copy and benefit from it.

[2] الفتاوى البزازية، ج ١، ص ١٣٩. دار الكتب العلمية



Subscribe to our mailing list and receive the latest posts directly to your inbox.

You have been subscribed. Please check your email to confirm your subscription.