The purpose of the veil can be derived from the following verses of the Quran:
33:32 Do not be soft in your speech (in a way that may excite men to feel an eager desire for you or lust after you), lest in whose heart is malice (and is devoid of soundness and rectitude) should be excited to feel a desire for you or lust after you.
33:33 Do not show or display (fineries or ornaments or) beauties of your form (or countenance) that may excite a man’s lust
Two key terms used in 33:32 and 33:33 underscore the whole purpose of veil. The first key term used in 33:32 is “takhdaAAna bialqawli”تَخْضَعْنَ ِبِالْقَوْل , which means to speak in a way that may excite a man to feel an eager desire or lust after you. The key term used in 33:33 is “tabarrajna tabarruja” تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ , which means to show or display (fineries or ornaments or) beauties of your form (or countenance) that may excite a man’s lust. This explains the entire purpose of veil which is to take upon such a disposition and attire that may not excite men to feel an eager desire or lust for women and vice versa.
The details of the veil for women are given in the following verses:
24/31 And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their chastity and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them spread their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having any desire or need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! So that you may be successful.
One of the key phrases in the above verse is,
“walyadribna bikhumurihinna AAala juyoobihinna”,
وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ
Women should put their KHUMUR on their JUYOOB
- Al-Mufradaat fi Gharib-ul-Quran
- Lughat-ul-Quran by G.A. Parvez
- The Dictionary of Quran by Abdul Manan
- Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon
There are many different words for veils in Arabic. HIJAAB and NASEEF both mean veil in general sense. Moreover, RIDA, IZAAR, MIQNA’A, MILHAFA, all are different kinds of things used to cover the body or wrap on the body. But Allah has used specifically KHIMAAR here and has not said:
Women should put their HIJAAB on their JUYOOB
Women should put their NASEEF on their JUYOOB
Women should put their RIDA on their JUYOOB
But Allah has specifically used the word KHUMUR and said
Women should put their KHUMUR on their JUYOOB.
This means that women should spread the veil, with which they cover their heads, on their bosoms [instead of letting the KHIMAAR fall on the back of their shoulders].
The covering of the face has nowhere been enjoined upon women in the Quran. Quran says to men, whichever among women you like you could marry them (4:3). Beauty is one of the aspect of women that affects the liking or disliking of a man. This also has been alluded to in the Quran (33:52). It is stated about the Nabi (PBUH) that he could not marry again, nor could he bring any more wives to replace the present ones no matter how much their beauty appeals to him (33:52).
Another point to consider is that if concealing the face had been necessary, then why were men directed to keep the eyes downcast? It may be argued, that when it is directed that ‘Zeenat’ be concealed, then as the face is the more prominent place of beauty, it should be hidden first. However, the Quran itself enjoins: Cover your adornments except those parts which remain open inevitably (24:30), and it then describes method of covering which does not include the face but bosoms.
Having said that, it cannot be over emphasized that there must never be the slightest gesture, which can arouse any wrong expectations in the mind of the opposite party, because Allah always knows about the dishonest glances and intentions (40:19). The aim of all restrictions and regulations is the making of character. Lewdness or immorality does not only refer to wrong doings concerning sexual intercourse, but the thought or desire of wanting to do so also comes under it, because it basically affects character.
33/59 O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
“Jalbab” is a loose outer garment/cloth that is worn over one’s clothes when going out. “Khimar” and “Jalbab” are mentioned in the Quran to be used for the purpose of veil. However, the cut and style of these can be adapted to the social mode as long as it serves fully the purpose of the veil as elucidated in the Quran.