Women: Dress code and covering the faces

Q679 :May I point out some statements given in the answers by you which do not seem to tally with each other. They concern the way Muslim women should dress in public. At one point, you say that a woman's dress must not be an attraction and that its colors should not be such as will attract the attention of other people. This is perfectly understandable. However, you have said on several occasions that a woman's face need not be covered. In my humble view, both dress and face can be highly attractive. Indeed, the face can be much more so. I request clarification.

A679 : I must admit that the question of whether a Muslim woman should cover her face or not is a thorny one, not because we do not have clear instructions by the Prophet about it, but because people choose to take inflexible stands on it. However, it is not up to any person to impose on another something which Allah has not required of him as a duty. There may be all the right arguments supporting the view that what is advocated by some people is of benefit to the individual and the community. But the fact that Allah has not chosen to make it compulsory means that no one can make it so. Any Muslim who chooses not to do it violates no rule or principle of Islam. Having considered the question of women's dress in all its aspects and having read all the arguments supporting the view that a woman must cover her face, I can state categorically, without any equivocation, that Muslim women are not required by their religion to cover their faces. That is my clear belief and I can say that this is what I have learned from great and famous scholars, past and contemporary. When we describe the dress of a Muslim woman and outline what is required, we also state clearly that the dress itself must not be eye-catching. The very concept of propriety, which must always be observed by Muslim women, makes it clear that the outfit of a Muslim woman must not be eye-catching. In other words, when she passes by, she should not make other people's faces turn to look at her. You are confusing this requirement with a woman having an attractive face. It is the simple fact that she cannot do anything about how Allah has created her. If she is attractive she should thank Allah for that. But we do not read anywhere in Islamic teachings that a woman with an attractive face must cover her face. What we read is that a Muslim woman should maintain the normal Islamic standards of propriety. Whether she is attractive or not, the fact that she maintains these standards is sufficient to ensure that she is treated with respect and that people recognize that there is a virtuous woman who implements a profound faith. May I say that there are some women who look more attractive when they cover their head than when they put their head-dress off. Could we say to such women that they should not cover their heads? It is not the attraction which makes the rule. The rule is there to be implemented by all women. They should not take a positive action in order to attract men to look at them. That is what is meant by having a dress which is not eye-catching. But a woman's face is the one which Allah gave her. She must not wear makeup when she goes out in public so that she does not positively attract the attention of others. Similarly, she does not wear an eye-catching dress. When she has observed the rules, that is all that is required of her. I hope this clarification is satisfactory.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )