Women: Covering their face

Q677 :My wife and I have recently become Muslims. On visiting Madinah recently, my wife was told by a door attendant at the Prophet's Mosque that she must cover her face. He quoted the Qur'anic verse which may be rendered in translation; "Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and believing women to wear their outer garments over themselves [Added: some ulema in the Indo-Pak have translated as 'over their faces'.] " He told us that it was obligatory for a woman to cover her face. However, we read in a translation of a book written by M.N.Albani that for a woman to cover her face is preferable but not obligatory. Please comment.

A677 : Sheikh Albani is one of the leading authorities on Hadith in the Muslim world today. I know him personally and I can assure you that he does not hesitate to say what he believes to be the truth and to support it with evidence from the Qur'an and Hadith. Like every human being, he may make mistakes. In this particular instance, he is certainly right. He has written a book on the type of dress a Muslim woman should wear in particular. The book is well researched and the style is clear and easily understood. As for what the door attendant told you, I am afraid he has given the Qur'anic verse, he quoted to you, a meaning to fit his own view. I have no doubt that he means well, and that he does not recognize his mistake. The verse he quotes demands Muslim women to lengthen their dresses so that they are distinguished from other women. The type of dress with which it is concerned is the normal dress a woman wears. That dress cannot be made to cover her head, her face and her body. What the Qur'anic verse tells Muslim women is not to have their dresses short. They should lengthen them so as to cover their legs right down to their ankles. I have often quoted the Hadith which states that Asmaa', the Prophet's sister-in-law, once entered his home wearing a dress made of transparent material. The Prophet said to her: "Asmaa' when a women attains puberty, nothing should be seen of her body except this and this ( pointing to his face and forearms)." The way this Hadith is phrased means that the face and forearms of a woman may be seen by others. This clearly means that it is not at all obligatory for Muslim women to cover their faces. No one may force a Muslim, woman or man, to do something Allah has not imposed.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )