And Tell the Believing Women Not to Show off Their Adornment, Except for What is Apparent: ibn Taymiyah

Allah commands the believing women in surah al-Nur by saying:

وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا

… and tell the believing women not to show off their adornment except for that which is apparent [24:31]

The phrase “except for that which is apparent” has been explained in a number of ways by the salaf. The great scholar Abu’l-Faraj Ibn al-Jawzi summarized the different positions in his tafsir where he wrote:

قوله تعالى: ولا يبدين زينتهن أي: لا يظهرنها لغير محرم . وزينتهن على ضربين، خفية كالسوارين والقرطين والدملج والقلائد ونحو ذلك، وظاهرة وهي المشار إليها بقوله: إلا ما ظهر منها وفيه سبعة أقوال . ـ

Allah’s statement:

وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا

… and tell the believing women not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent [24:31]

meaning, to not display these things to non-mahrams. And there are two types of women’s adornment, or zeenah. There is the hidden zeenah such as ankle bracelets, earrings, bracelets, necklaces and so on, and then there is the apparent zeenah, which is what is being referred to in Allah’s statement here, and there are seven different opinions as to what this means:

أحدهما: أنها الثياب، رواه أبو الأحوص عن ابن مسعود; وفي لفظ آخر قال: هو الرداء . والثاني: أنها الكف والخاتم والوجه . والثالث: الكحل والخاتم، رواهما سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس . والرابع: القلبان، وهما السواران والخاتم والكحل، قاله المسور بن مخرمة . والخامس: الكحل والخاتم والخضاب، قاله مجاهد . والسادس: الخاتم والسوار، قاله الحسن . والسابع: الوجه والكفان، قاله الضحاك . ـ

1. Her clothing. Abu al-Ahwas transmitted this explanation from ibn Mas’ood, and in another narration he said that it meant her outer shawl covering.

2. Her hands, ring and face.

3. Her kohol [eye-liner] and ring. Sa’eed ibn Jubayr transmitted both explanations 2 and 3 from ibn ‘Abbaas.

4. Her qalban – that is, her bracelets, ring and kohol. This was the opinion of Miswar ibn Makhramah.

5. Her kohol, ring and henna. This was the opinion of Mujahid.

6. Her ring and bracelets. This was the opinion of al-Hasan.

7. Her face and hands, which was the opinion of al-Dhahhaak.

[Zaad al-Maseer 6/31]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee further organized the different opinions regarding this phrase in the beginning of his tafsir of this ayah where he wrote:

اعلم أولا أن كلام العلماء في هذه الآية يرجع جميعه إلى ثلاثة أقوال : الأول : أن الزينة هنا نفس شيء من بدن المرأة ; كوجهها وكفيها . ـ

The first thing to understand about this ayah is that the positions of the scholars regarding it all go back to one of three stances:

1) That the zeenah here is a woman’s body itself, such as he face and hands.

الثاني : أن الزينة هي ما يتزين به خارجا عن بدنها . وعلى هذا القول ففي الزينة المذكورة الخارجة عن بدن المرأة قولان : أحدهما : أنها الزينة التي لا يتضمن إبداؤها رؤية شيء من البدن ; كالملاءة التي تلبسها المرأة فوق القميص والخمار والإزار . والثاني : أنها الزينة التي يتضمن إبداؤها رؤية شيء من البدن كالكحل في العين . فإنه يتضمن رؤية الوجه أو بعضه ، وكالخضاب والخاتم ، فإن رؤيتهما تستلزم رؤية اليد ، وكالقرط والقلادة والسوار ، فإن رؤية ذلك تستلزم رؤية محله من البدن ; كما لا يخفى . ـ

2) That the zeenah is something apart from her body that is used to adorn it. Further building off this understanding, there are two different explanation of what this zeenah that is not the woman’s body itself is:

2a) That it is a form of adornment that even when it is displayed does not involve actually showing any part of her body, such as a full-body garment which a women wears over the other items of clothing that are already covering her upper-body, head and lower-body.

2b) That it is a form of adornment which when displayed does involve showing some part of her body, such as the kohol applied to one’s eyes. If this is the correct meaning, then that entails actually being able to see her face or a part of it. Other examples would be henna or rings, which would mean that one can see her hand, or earrings, necklaces and bracelets, for being able to see these would mean that one is able to see those parts of her body, obviously.

[Adhwaa’ al-Bayaan 5/511. The sheikh goes on to mention and weigh the evidences for each position in a very beneficial discussion for anyone who is able to access it]

Sheikh Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Khalil, one of the long-term students of sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen and a professor of Fiqh at the University of Qasim, wrote the following in an effort to address the apparent disagreement regarding this ayah, specifically focusing on the seemingly conflicting statements of two of the Sahabah most well-known for their knowledge of the Qur’an – ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbaas and ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood:

يرى ابن تيمية أنه لا يوجد خلاف حقيقي بين ابن عباس وابن مسعود في تفسير قوله تعالى {ولا يبدين زينتهن إلا ما ظهر منها} ـ

It was the view of ibn Taymiyah that there was no real conflict between ibn ‘Abbaas and ibn Mas’ood regarding the explanation of Allah’s statement:

وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا

and tell the believing women not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent [24:31]

حيث قال: ابن مسعود ومن وافقه؛ هي الثياب، وقال ابن عباس ومن وافقه: هي في الوجه واليدين مثل الكحل والخاتم. ـ

As ibn Mas’ood and those along with him said that this was referring to one’s clothing, while ibn ‘Abbaas and those with him said that it refers to what is on the face and the hands, such as kohol [eye-liner] or rings.

وابن تيمية يرى أنه لا يوجد خلاف حقيقي بينهما : (فابن مسعود ذكر آخر الأمرين وابن عباس ذكر أول الأمرين) ـ

But ibn Taymiyah held that there was no real conflict between these two statements, “for ibn Mas’ood mentioned how things came to be while ibn ‘Abbaas mentioned how things had been initially.”

قلت : ويقوي هذا المذهب أن ابن عباس نفسه فسر آية الحجاب{ يدنين عليهن من جلابيبهن} بقوله: «أمر الله نساء المؤمنين إذا خرجن من بيوتهن في حاجة أن يغطين وجوههن من فوق رءوسهن بالجلابيب، ويبدين عينا واحدة» وهذا ينسجم جدا مع كلام ابن تيمية ويقويه. ـ

I say: This position is strengthened by the fact that ibn ‘Abbaas himself explained the ayah of Hijab

يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ

to cover themselves with their jilbaabs [33:59]

by saying, “Allah commanded the believing women to cover their faces with jilbaabs starting from the top of their heads and cover one of their eyes whenever they leave their homes to attend to some need.” This fits perfectly with what ibn Taymiyah said and strengthens his position.

قال ابن تيمية مقررا أنه لا يوجد خلاف بين ابن عباس وابن مسعود : ( وحقيقة الأمر: أن الله جعل الزينة زينتين: زينة ظاهرة وزينة غير ظاهرة وجوز لها إبداء زينتها الظاهرة لغير الزوج وذوي المحارم. وكانوا قبل أن تنزل آية الحجاب كان النساء يخرجن بلا جلباب يرى الرجل وجهها ويديها وكان إذ ذاك يجوز لها أن تظهر الوجه والكفين وكان حينئذ يجوز النظر إليها لأنه يجوز لها إظهاره ثم لما أنزل الله عز وجل آية الحجاب بقوله: {يا أيها النبي قل لأزواجك وبناتك ونساء المؤمنين يدنين عليهن من جلابيبهن} حجب النساء عن الرجال وكان ذلك لما تزوج زينب بنت جحش فأرخى الستر ومنع النساء أن ينظرن ولما اصطفى صفية بنت حيي بعد ذلك عام خيبر قالوا: إن حجبها فهي من أمهات المؤمنين. وإلا فهي مما ملكت يمينه فحجبها. فلما أمر الله أن لا يسألن إلا من وراء حجاب وأمر أزواجه وبناته ونساء المؤمنين أن يدنين عليهن من جلابيبهن – و ” الجلباب ” هو الملاءة وهو الذي يسميه ابن مسعود وغيره الرداء وتسميه العامة الإزار وهو الإزار الكبير الذي يغطي رأسها وسائر بدنها. وقد حكى أبو عبيد وغيره: أنها تدنيه من فوق رأسها فلا تظهر إلا عينها ومن جنسه النقاب: فكن النساء ينتقبن. وفي الصحيح أن المحرمة لا تنتقب ولا تلبس القفازين فإذا كن مأمورات بالجلباب لئلا يعرفن وهو ستر الوجه أو ستر الوجه بالنقاب: كان الوجه واليدان من الزينة التي أمرت ألا تظهرها للأجانب فما بقي يحل للأجانب النظر إلا إلى الثياب الظاهرة فابن مسعود ذكر آخر الأمرين وابن عباس ذكر أول الأمرين) مجموع الفتاوى (22/ 110) ـ

Ibn Taymiyah affirmed that there was no conflict between ibn ‘Abbaas and ibn Mas’ood by saying:

The reality of the situation is that Allah has made two types of zeenah: 1) a zeenah which can be displayed, and 2) a zeenah which cannot be not outwardly shown, and it is allowed for her to display the first type to others besides her husband and mahrams. Before the ayah of Hijab was revealed, women used to leave their homes without any jilbaab, and so men would be able to see their faces and hands. So, at that time it was permissible for a woman to display her face and hands, and at that time is was permissible for a man to look at them since it was permissible for her to show them. But then, when Allah revealed the ayah of Hijab with His saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ

O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to cover themselves with their jilbaabs. [33:59]

then women veiled themselves in the presence of men. And that was revealed when the Prophet married Zaynab bint Jahsh and he unfurled a curtain, and later when he chose to wed Safiyyah bint Huyayy in the year of Khaybar, the people said, “He veiled her, so she must be one of the Mothers of the Believers,” for if he had not done so, then that would have meant that she was a slave, but he did veil her. And Allah also ordered that the wives of the Prophet not be asked for anything [by men] except from behind a partition [c.f. 33:53], and the Prophet commanded his wives and daughters and the believing women to cover themselves with their jilbaabs.

And a jilbaab is piece of cloth. Ibn Mas’ood and others referred to it as a shawl, and it is most commonly referred to as a covering garment. It is a large covering garment which covers one’s head as well as the rest of her body. Abu ‘Ubayd and others relayed that it is drawn over a women’s head so that nothing shows except for her eyes. And a niqab – face covering – is one type of this, as the women are veiling their faces with it.

In Saheeh al-Bukhari, it is mentioned that a woman in ihraam [i.e. one making Hajj or ‘Umrah] should not wear the niqab or gloves.

So, if women are commanded to wear a jilbaab so that they would not be recognized – and the jilbaab is a covering of the face, or covering the face with a niqab – then the face and hands are part of the zeenah which they have been commanded to not display to unrelated men. So, there is nothing else after that for unrelated men to look at except for the outer garments. So, what ibn Mas’ood mentioned was the later situation, while what ibn ‘Abbaas mentioned was the initial situation.

[Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa 22/110]

[As found on the Facebook page of Sheikh Ahmad al-Khalil here]

See also: Different Categories of Tafsir from the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: Five Distinguishing Features of the Tafsir of the Companions: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh

See also: Transmitted Explanations of the Qur’an: al-Zarkashi

See also: Why Study the Sayings of the Salaf?: Muhammad Bazmool

See also: Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

See also: Marriage and Divorce in the Qur’an Series

3 thoughts on “And Tell the Believing Women Not to Show off Their Adornment, Except for What is Apparent: ibn Taymiyah

  1. Pingback: Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Why do the Mufassiroon differ?: Ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Reasons Why the Tafsir of the Sahabah Differed: Muhammad Bazmool | Tulayhah

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