Hijab and Niqab in the Quran

· Islam, Myths

This article seeks clarification.

The Hijab

Hijab Hijan 1








The Hijab


Niqab niqab 1









The Niqab

Burka Burka 1









The Burqa

The above are pictorial definitions of the hijab, niqab and the burka for clarification to non-Muslims.

The Qur’an is the revelation from the Almighty, the All-Wise, Who created human beings both men and women in His infinite knowledge and might. The Qur’an showed the right path in all matters to generations that went before, as it continues to do to those present today. However, to understand the Qur’an and what Allah expects of us, we must look at the Qur’an itself.

Since the Qur’an is the Book sent down by the creator of human beings, Allah, we logically follow that Allah has laid all His commandments and way of life in the Qur’an compatible with the way He has created human beings and their nature.

Over the centuries, in the name of Islam, some of the most concealed ways of dressing has been suggested for ‘Muslim’ women by clergy, who consist mostly of men. According to them, the “best” way of dressing for a woman involves, in their chosen words, to appear as a black “crow”, concealing every part of her including the face, eyes, hands and feet in black drape. In this way, even the simplest shape or form of a human being’s appearance is taken away from a woman and she is reduced to a ‘mere shadow’.

Though different levels of dressing for women was suggested, this is said to be the ‘best level’ according to them. They also teach that the eyes also be covered with the veil! visible yet in this picture!

Does the Qur’an command the covering of hair for women (“Hijab”)?

The word “hijab” is never used in the Qur’an in the context of women’s dress. This word is used only in its general meaning of “barrier” in other contexts (eg. 17:45), but never in women’s dress or modesty. Yet it has developed completely unique applications among the majority. There is no use of the word ‘hijab’ in terms of women’s dress in the Qur’an.

One part of a verse of the Qur’an has been attempted to be shown to command the covering of hair. This is the 31st verse of Surah An-Nur quoted as follows:

وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ
(Qur’an 24:31)

“Tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts, and that they shall not flaunt their beauty except for what appears (naturally) from it, and let them put forth their covers over their cleavage” (Qur’an 24:31)

The portion used to mean cover the hair is the underlined portion above (وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِن َّ ). It should be understood that the ordainment, or the commandment here is for a believing woman to cover her cleavage. It is not commanding her to cover her hair. The word “hair” does not appear in the Arabic. The Arabic word translated as “covers” for the Arabic word خُمُرْ / ‘khumur’ (plural of ‘khimar’), should be translated with due regards to several factors. These include:

(1) The logical understanding on the nature in which Allah created the human head (ears need unobstructed passage for optimal performance, and hair on head is part of “natural” human pleasantness that we cannot do without {more later}).

(2) The Arabic root for the word, shares meanings with more general “covering” or “concealment” and not just headscarf.

(3) The immediate context within the verse, which is ordering the covering of the cleavage only (عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنّ), with no mention of hair (indicating the ordainment is not in the type of apparatus used, but in the covering of low neck-line). Even if it means ‘headscarves’ worn at the time, the command is not in the type of clothing used to cover the cleavage (headscarf), but to cover the cleavage. The usage of the word is determined by the readily available method at that instance, variable by other means in other parts of the world, or by any means such as a higher neck dress. 

(4) It can be observed that men tend to cover all their chest and women reduce their neck-line in society in order to show-off feminine grace. Therefore, in order to tackle the common habit, a commandment to cover the cleavage area is a strong logical reason for the verse than the hair.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense to conclude that the intention of “وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِن َّ / and let them put forth their covers over their cleavage” is to order believing women to ensure the cleavage area is covered and not the hair.

although Allah classes generally all of woman’s body as “zeena” / beauty, the hair however, is considered to be in the Quranic ‘exception’ in verse 24:31, ‘except for what appears naturally from the zeena/beauty’, in the portion, “they shall not flaunt their zeena/beauty except for what appears (naturally) from it (the zeena/beauty) / َّ إِلا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا.

Does the Qur’an Command covering of the Face (“Niqab”) ?

There is absolutely no indication of this in the Qur’an.  It is obvious that such a command would conflict with the nature and intentions of the designs of the human head, and Allah’s commandments are in harmony with His creation. Hearing, breathing, speech, eating and facial expressions, all have been designed and concentrated on the head so that it be left uncovered at all times – the head is designed intentionally to be exposed for all these systems to perform without deterioration. It is paramount to bear in mind once again, that Allah does not command against His purposes in design.

A verse used by some people, in an attempt to convince the face veil is 33:53, where believing men are told to speak to the prophet’s wives from behind a ‘barrier’. This verse has nothing to do with covering the face. See The Claim that Qur’an 33:53 Commands Women to Wear Niqab.

[33.53] O you who believe! do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you for a meal, not waiting for its cooking being finished– but when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken the food, then disperse– not seeking to listen to talk; surely this gives the Prophet trouble, but he forbears from you, and Allah does not forbear from the truth And when you ask of them any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain; this is purer for your hearts and (for) their hearts; and it does not behove you that you should give trouble to the Apostle of Allah, nor that you should marry his wives after him ever; surely this is grievous in the sight of Allah.



People with ill intentions, who seek to find justifications for their personal cultures and agendas will go to any lengths to find a Quranic verse they can use to promote their prejudiced views. It is necessary for a true believer to remain sincere and objective, and use an unbiased approach to Allah’s verses to dispel the myths. The above sorts of people depict a twisted view of religion and devotion to Allah, keeping people away from reading the Qur’an directly, thinking over it, and surrendering to Allah the true Quranic way.

Therefore to conclude, there is no requirement to cover the hair in the Qur’an for women. There is also no requirement for the face veil. The human head has eyes, mouth, nose and ears, all of which are designed to be left unobstructed at all times – i.e. the head is intended by Allah to be left uncovered, and the Qur’an remains in harmony with this. [1]

Niqab is not required in the Islamic Law

Allah says in the most Holy Quran “And Say to the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (see the explanation below), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna” (Surah An-Nur, Verses #30 and #31) [2]

Note: “…and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…” [al-Noor24:31]:

“’…and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…’ means that they should wear the outer garment in such a way as to cover their chests and ribs, so that they will be different from the women of the jaahiliyyah, who did not do that but would pass in front of men with their chests completely uncovered, and with their necks, forelocks, hair and earrings uncovered. So Allaah commanded the believing women to cover themselves,


[1] Hijab and Niqab in Islam: http://www.quranicpath.com/misconceptions/hijab_niqab.html

[2] Niqab is not required in Islamic Law: http://www.islamicweb.com/beliefs/women/Niqab_not_required.htm

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