A debated matter in contemporary society, which has evolved overtime, is the mounting question of liberty and freedom of women in Islam, with specific reference to the veil. In saying that, the controversial issue of the covering of the head will be discussed with close reference to the Quran, Authentic hadith, scholarly consensus (ijma^) and scholarly articles, particularly talking about the evolution of the matter as well as political, cultural, social and religious perceptions that associate with the Islamic veil.
The veil is generally classified into two types; the hijab, and the niqab/burqa. To differentiate between the two, the hijab is the veil that covers the head, and the niqab/burqa is the veil that either covers the face excluding the eyes, or covers the complete face. Some claim that the covering of the complete face is an obligation within the Islamic faith, except she who is in the state of Hajj, or Prayer. In a hadith stated by Abu Dawood in his Sunan, about Islamically accepted clothing “^A'ishah, Ummul Mu'minin, (the most knowledgeable woman in the Muslim nation), narrated that when her sister Asma', the daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Messenger of Allah, (peace be upon him), wearing thin clothes, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), turned his attention from her and said which means: “O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, she is not allowed to show of herself except this and this”, and he pointed to her face and hands.” (Hassan, 2004) In this authentic hadith, it is evident that the Muslim female is not obligated to cover the face, as this judgment was not specified by the Prophet for the state of Prayer and hajj only.
Abu Hayyan Al-Ghamati stated in his book Al Bahr Al Muhit, a Qur’anic interpretation, that in the era of ignorance (jahiliyyah), Women were not obligated to cover their heads, and if they did, their ears and necks would be uncovered. (Al-Ghamati, 1910) From this, one can gather that covering the head completely was an obligation on the nation of Muhammad, which is the people who came after him, until the Day of Judgment. Allah revealed to the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, in Surat An-Noor, ayah 31, what means: “[O Prophet] tell the believing women to restrain their gaze (the forbidden look) and to guard themselves from sinning (fornication or adultery) and not to display excessive jewelry and make up (to prevent seduction) except what is normally revealed and to draw (extend) their khumurst (Hijabs) over their chests.” (Al-Ghamati, 1910) It is from this, one gathers that the veil is an obligation upon the accountable Muslim woman that she covers that which Allah has ordered her to. To be classified accountable, one must be pubescent, sane and has heard the call of Islam.
Hoodfar in her text The veil in their minds and on our heads talks about the citing of Surat An-Noor, and how it does not directly state that the veil is an obligation upon the Muslim woman....