Fabricated hadiths on the subject of the head-covering and their internal inconsistencies
Some commentators have attempted to make verse 31 of Surat an-Nur compatible with fabricated hadiths by making additions or through misleading translations in an attempt to include the concept of the headscarf. The false hadiths in question maintain that when the verse was revealed, Muslim women cut up their skirts and covered their heads with them. According to this illogical claim, a woman's breasts and legs remained uncovered, but she had her head covered.
As we have seen with all the evidence, verse 31 of Surat an-Nur, which some people try to portray as evidence for the headscarf, in fact contains no reference to the word “head-covering” at all. However, with the inclusion of some false hadiths into the literature of Islam, this misconception has spread and come down to the present day. The false hadiths fabricated by fanatics are riddled with significant flaws of logic and contain many inconsistencies. Let us now have a look at some examples:
Aisha (ra) said: “When verse 24:31 was revealed, the women of the migrants from Mecca took their garments and tore pieces of cloth from the edges of their skirts and covered their heads with them.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud, Beyhaqi, VII, 88)
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: May God have mercy on the early immigrant women. When the verse "That they should draw their veils over their bosoms" was revealed, they tore their thick outer garments and made veils from them.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 32, Hadith 4091)
Satiyya binti Shayba narrates this memory she heard from Aisha (ra): We were with Aisha, talking about Quraishi women and their virtues. Aisha: Verily, Quraishi women have some virtues. But, I swear by God, I have never seen any women more virtuous than the women of Ansar who believed in the Book of God strongly and firmly. When the verse of the Surah Light they should draw their veils over their bosoms was revealed, believer men went to their homes reciting that verse. They read the verse to their wives, daughters, sisters and other relatives. Each woman made headscarves out of their clothes, by believing and affirming the Book of God. The next morning, the women performed the prayer of fajr (the early Morning Prayer). It looked as if there were crows on their heads. (Sahih Bukhari, Tafsir Sura (The Commentary of the Surahs) 24:12; Sunan Abu Dawud, Libas (Cloth): 29)
As we have seen, these hadiths all claim that when verse 31 of Surat an-Nur was revealed, Muslim women immediately tore pieces from their skirts and wrapped them round their heads. That is where the first violation of logic begins. Now let us look at the flaws of logic in these false hadiths and how they conflict with the Qur’an:
1. As we have already seen in detail, the term in the verse “... they should put their coverings across their bosoms” refers to women covering their breasts. The hadiths in question, however, say that when this verse was sent down Muslim women immediately cut pieces from their garments and covered their heads with them, not their breasts; yet the verse says nothing about covering the head. None of the hadiths in question says anything Muslim women obeying the actual command in the verse, covering up their breasts, in other words.
2. According to the description here, women tore pieces from their own skirts, but instead of covering their breasts, as commanded in the verse, they wrapped them round their heads. In order to agree with the mistaken interpretation of “draw down their head-coverings,” the pieces they cut from their skirts must have been so large that they were able to cover their heads and also descend to their chests.
3. The first thing that comes to mind here would be the state of these torn skirts. Since the piece they cut was enough to cover their heads and chests, their skirts must have turned into modern-day miniskirts, and their legs must have been exposed. According to this description, the women’s chests and legs are exposed, but they have covered their heads. Yet as we have seen with all the evidence, verse 31 of Surat an-Nur was revealed “only” to tell women to cover their breasts.
4. We have already seen how some commentators interpret the term “draw down their head-coverings” in such a way as to justify their idea of an “already existing head-covering.” They make that claim in order to justify the idea that the verse contains the word “head-covering” and maintain that the women addressed by the verse are already wearing head-coverings. The fact is, however, that the false hadiths in question claim that the women made head-coverings for themselves by cutting up their skirts when the verse was revealed. How it is that these false hadiths, which the commentators in question regard as their main support, conflict so much with their own accounts?
They conflict with their own accounts because the faith of those who wish to add false commandments to Islam other than the true commandments found in the Qur’an are full of profound flaws of logic. Since all superstitious accounts clash with the Qur’an, they all involve great contradictions. The deceptive interpretations produced solely in order to justify the idea of the head-covering in verse 31 of Surat an-Nur, even though the verse is perfectly clear and easy to understand, show the scale of what is happening. The interpretations made in the light of the false hadiths in question and the conclusions produced from them are all quite terrifying:
In the Sha’afi and Hanbali schools, the entire female body is without exception a region that needs to be covered up (including the face and hands). In the Hanafi and Maliki schools, the hands and face can be left uncovered, so long as that does not lead to sedition (Sabuni, Tafsirul Ayatil Ahkam 2/154,155). As-Suddi: “The woman shall veil one of her eyes and the portion of her face corresponding to that part of the uncovered eye. Only one eye may be left open.” Abu Hayyan: “Such had been the custom in Andalusia. Only one eye of the woman was seen.” (Abu Hayyan, al-Bahr al-Muhit). Sha’afi imams prohibited even glancing at a woman’s nail clippings (Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, What Is Lawful and Unlawful in Islam 2). According to one widespread account, the covering made a binding duty for a woman by Islam also includes her face (Fiqh us-Seerah). Another source described how a woman should look at a man as follows; “It is not permissible for a woman to look at the chest, back or legs of a strange man, even if she has no fear of temptation. Temptation caused by the face is greater than that caused by the feet, the hair or the legs. Since it is unanimously agreed that looking at these parts is forbidden, then it must, a fortiori, be forbidden to look at the face.” (Sabuni, Rewai 2/156).
The terrifying mind of the fanatic can only feel at ease when women are completely covered up: For some people however, even that is not enough, and a woman who covers up every part of her body should then incarcerate herself at home as well. It is impossible to produce such radical and frightening interpretations from the verses of the Qur'an, which gives freedoms to women and describes whom they can behave freely in front of and in front of whom they need to cover their private parts. Yet the false hadiths we have been looking at have made this possible, and these people have been able to go so far as to make their own additions to the verse and turn women into phantoms, covered from head to foot, whose nail clippings it is even forbidden to look at. This example is highly illustrative in terms of seeing the scale of the fanatic mindset.
Let us also remember here that the hadith collection refers to men and women purifying themselves from the same bowl in the time of our Prophet (pbuh). (See Sahih Bukhari, Wudu 43; Sunan Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Taharah 39; Sunan ibn Majah, Taharah 36; an-Nasai, Taharah 56) Since the areas purified are the feet, the arms as far as the elbows, the face and the head, it appears from the hadiths that women were alongside men and had their heads uncovered. However, the one unifying feature of the otherwise fractious fanatics is that they completely ignore those hadiths that do not suit them.
Since our sole guide is the Qur’an, and the accounts given in the Qur’an are as explicit as can be, women being present alongside men with their heads uncovered is a behavior entirely compatible with the Qur’an.
Forbidden things are not left obscure in the Qur’an
In looking at the fanatic mindset that produces the idea that “even a woman’s nail clippings are forbidden,” it is important to clarify one important point: God has revealed what is forbidden with very clear and unequivocal descriptions in the Qur’an. For example, Muslims learn that it is forbidden to eat pork in the verse “He has only forbidden you carrion, blood and pork and what has been consecrated to other than God…” (Qur'an, 2:173). There is no question of a Muslim being unsure, of two minds or in need of interpretation and comment regarding the commandment “He has forbidden you…” Another example concerns interest. This is definitely forbidden for Muslims in the verse, “God has permitted trade and He has forbidden usury.” (Qur'an, 2:275). Nobody can enter into a debate on the subject in the face of the verse or try to claim that “interest is indistinguishable from business.”
Therefore, we learn what is forbidden directly from the verse itself, not from the deductions of various commentators, comments added in parenthesis or fabricated hadiths. Verse 31 of Surat an-Nur is crystal clear in that sense. Yet the commentators’ error of adding interpretations in parenthesis to verses has been made many times, particularly with regard to this verse. For example, some commentators, influenced by the imams of schools and making up their own provisions, add the words “... apart from such visible areas as the face and hands” to this verse in parenthesis. Yet in Islam, if all areas “... apart from the hands and face” had to be covered up, there is no doubt that such an important subject would have appeared in the Qur’an in the most unequivocal of terms and our Almighty Lord would have made it abundantly clear and in no uncertain terms. In the same way that we have no doubt that pork, usury or adultery are forbidden, so we would also have seen this in the Qur’an; yet no such way of dressing is described in the Qur’an. It appears only in the accounts of some commentators.