Face Covering in Ḥajj

women with her face covered

Q

uestion:

In attending Ḥajj this year, I witnessed many other women who were covering their faces whilst in Iḥrām.  Prior to attendance, my husband and I attended some preparatory classes where the Sheikh mentioned that a woman shouldn’t cover her face when assuming Iḥrām.  However, when he was pressed on this point during the class, he back-tracked and said it was okay in some circumstances, citing a tradition from ‘Aishah – which I’ve heard many people repeat.   

So my question is two-fold: should a woman attending Ḥajj not cover her face as part of Iḥrām?  Does the tradition of ‘Aishah allow a permission for covering the face when men approach?

Answer:

  1. A central aspect of the rituals of pilgrimage is the assuming of Iḥrām.
  2. There is clear authentic evidence that the face should not be covered during pilgrimage.
  3. Although cited quite often, the tradition reported from Aishah is not authentic and thus cannot be used as a proof for departing from what the Prophet peace be upon him clearly instructed.

Reasoning:

  1. In his reporting of the Muwaṭṭā’, Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan ash-Shaybāni mentions the following tradition from Ibn Umar, commenting thereafter:

أَخْبَرَنَا مَالِكٌ حَدَّثَنَا نَافِعٌ أَنَّ ابْنَ عُمَرَ كَانَ يَقُولُ: مَا فَوْقَ الذَّقَنِ مِنَ الرَّأْسِ، فَلا يُخَمِّرُهُ الْمُحْرِمُ

قَالَ مُحَمَّدٌ: وَبِقَوْلِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ نَأْخُذُ، وَهُوَ قَوْلُ أَبِي حَنِيفَةَ، وَالْعَامَّةِ مِنْ فُقَهَائِنَا رَحِمَهُمُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى

Mālik reported to us Nāfi’ narrated to us that Ibn Umar used to say: ‘Whatever of the head is above the chin the person in Iḥrām must not veil it.’

Muḥammad said: We adhere to the verdict of Ibn Umar and that is the verdict of Abu Ḥanifah and our fuqahā in general, may Allah have mercy upon them.

  1. Mālik records another tradition attributed to Ibn Umar in his Muwaṭṭā, namely:

وَحَدَّثَنِي عَنْ مَالِكٍ عَنْ نَافِعٍ، أَنَّ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ كَانَ يَقُولُ لاَ تَنْتَقِبُ الْمَرْأَةُ الْمُحْرِمَةُ وَلاَ تَلْبَسُ الْقُفَّازَيْنِ

And Yaḥya related to me from Mālik from Nāfi’ that Abdullah ibn Umar used to say that a woman in Irām should wear neither a veil nor gloves.

  1. In his Ṣaḥīḥ, Bukhāri has the tradition reported from Ibn Umar, however this time it is connected to the statement from the Prophet (peace be upon him) regarding this matter.

حدثنا عبد الله بن يزيد حدثنا الليث حدثنا نافع عن عبد الله بن عمر رضى الله عنهما قال قام رجل فقال يا رسول الله ماذا تأمرنا أن نلبس من الثياب في الإحرام فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لا تلبسوا القميص ولا السراويلات ولا العمائم، ولا البرانس إلا أن يكون أحد ليست له نعلان، فليلبس الخفين، وليقطع أسفل من الكعبين، ولا تلبسوا شيئا مسه زعفران، ولا الورس، ولا تنتقب المرأة المحرمة ولا تلبس القفازين

Abdullah ibn Yazeed narrated to us al-Layth narrated to us Nāfi’ narrated to us from Abdullah ibn Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, he said: A person stood up and asked, O Messenger of Allah – what clothes may be worn in the state of Irām? The Prophet peace be upon him replied:

Do not wear a shirt or trousers; or any headgear or a hooded cloak; but if somebody has no shoes he can wear leather socks provided they are cut short off the ankles, and also, do not wear anything perfumed with Wars or saffron, and the Murima should not cover her face, or wear gloves.

  1. The ‘Murima’ refers to the woman who is in a state of Irām. Similar is also cited by Tirmidhi in his Sunan:

حدثنا قتيبة حدثنا الليث عن نافع عن ابن عمر أنه قال قام رجل فقال يا رسول الله ماذا تأمرنا أن نلبس من الثياب في الحرم فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم‏ لا تلبسوا القمص ولا السراويلات ولا البرانس ولا العمائم ولا الخفاف إلا أن يكون أحد ليست له نعلان فليلبس الخفين وليقطعهما ما أسفل من الكعبين ولا تلبسوا شيئا من الثياب مسه الزعفران ولا الورس ولا تنتقب المرأة الحرام ولا تلبس القفازين

Qutayba narrated to us al-Layth narrated to us from Nāfi’ from Ibn Umar, that he said: A man stood and said – O Messenger of Allah!  What clothing do you command us to wear in al-aram?  The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:

Do not wear shirts, nor pants, nor burnooses, nor turbans, nor Khuff – unless one does not have any sandals, then let him wear Khuff, but let him cut them below the ankles. And do not wear any cloth that has been touched by saffron or Wars. And the woman in Irām is not to cover her face, nor wear gloves.

  1. After mentioning this narration, in his usual inimitable style he comments: ‘Abu Esa said this ḥadith is ḥasan Ṣaḥīḥ and acted upon by the people of knowledge.’
  2. In the Muḥalla, Ibn Ḥazm cites a tradition that is recorded from Abu Dāwud in his Sunan, where Ibn Umar refers to the Prophetic words as being a prohibition:

حدثنا أحمد بن حنبل حدثنا يعقوب حدثنا أبي عن ابن إسحاق قال فإن نافعا مولى عبد الله بن عمر حدثني عن عبد الله بن عمر أنه سمع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم نهى النساء في إحرامهن عن القفازين والنقاب وما مس الورس والزعفران من الثياب ولتلبس بعد ذلك ما أحبت من ألوان الثياب معصفرا أو خزا أو حليا أو سراويل أو قميصا أو خفا

Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal narrated to us Ya’qub narrated to us my father narrated to us from Ibn Isḥāq, he said, Nāfi’ the mawla of Abdullah ibn Umar narrated to me from Abdullah ibn Umar that he heard the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him prohibiting women in Iram to wear gloves, niqāb and to wear clothes with dye of wars or saffron on them. But afterwards they can wear any kind of clothing they like dyed yellow or silk or jewelry or trousers or shirts or shoes.

  1. One should note here the explicit mention in this narration of wearing both gloves and the niqāb.
  2. Taking all this authentic evidence together, we can reasonably conclude that a Murima – the lady assuming the state of Iḥrām for pilgrimage, should not be covering her face. That much is quite clear from the evidences outlined thus far.  To seek to try and dispute that and engage in fanciful acrobatics is clearly not within the spirit of the law, neither constituting an act of virtue or piety, nor adhering to the general command to obey the Messenger (peace be upon him).
  3. Separately, for those who would argue that the face of the woman constitutes ‘awrah, such traditions do pose a problem, as it would then suggest there is a contradiction, since the tradition states quite clearly that the face shouldn’t be covered – thereby, in their view, exposing the ‘awrah of the woman. We would hasten to add that this is not a position which we adopt and the Deen is far above containing any such contradictions.

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

Do they not then ponder on the Qur’ān? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy [4: 82]

  1. Turning to the tradition of ‘Aishah, we note that this is quoted quite widely. What is not mentioned though as a matter of routine, is that the narration is not authentic.  The full tradition was recorded by Abu Dāwud in his collection of Sunan:

حدثنا أحمد بن حنبل حدثنا هشيم أخبرنا يزيد بن أبي زياد عن مجاهد عن عائشة، قالت كان الركبان يمرون بنا ونحن مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم محرمات فإذا حاذوا بنا سدلت إحدانا جلبابها من رأسها إلى وجهها فإذا جاوزونا كشفنا

Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal narrated to us Hushaym narrated to us Yazeed ibn Abi Ziyad reported to us from Mujāhid from ‘Aishah, she said: Riders would pass us when we accompanied the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him while we were in Iḥrām.  When they came by us, one of us would let down her outer garment from her head over her face, and when they had passed on, we would uncover our faces.

  1. This tradition is weak (ḍaef) and reliance shouldn’t be placed upon weak traditions. Nor for that matter should they be quoted in part, giving the semblance that they are authentic when in fact they are not.  The problem with this particular narration rests in his channel of transmission, isnād.  In Siyar ‘Alam an-Nubula’ (The Lives of Noble Figures), adh-Dhahabi notes that: ‘Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal said that Hushaym didn’t hear from Yazeed ibn Abi Ziyād.’
  2. In his acclaimed work on the sciences of ḥadith, Ibn Ṣalāḥ set out that there is censure in relation to narrating weak ḥadith without isnād, by saying that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, giving the impression that it is authentic and soundly established. Generally, the scholars of ḥadith didn’t tolerate such laxity of reporting in this regard particularly concerning the legal ḥadith, i.e. those relating to matters which are obligated or prohibited.
  3. We humbly ask Allah to grant the acceptance of Ḥajj from you and your spouse.

 

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