The Qur'an

Verse commentary

33.59 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Jilbab is a large sheet and idna' is to draw close and wrap up, but when this word is used with the associating particle ala, it gives the meaning of letting something down from above. Some modern translators, under the influence of the West, have translated this word "to wrap up" so as to avoid somehow the Command about covering of the face. But if Allah had meant what these gentlemen want to construe, He would have said: yudnina ilai-hinna and not yudnina alai-hinna. Anyone who knows Arabic knows that yudnina 'alai-hinna cannot merely mean "wrapping up. " Moreover, the words min jalabib-i hinna also do not permit of this meaning. It is obvious that the preposition min here signifies a part of the sheet, and also that wrapping up is done by means of a whole sheet and not merely by a part of it. The verse, therefore, clearly means : The women should wrap themselves up well in their sheets, and should draw and let down a part of the sheet in front of the face.
This same meaning was understood by the major commentators who lived close to the time of the Holy Prophet. Ibn Jarir and Ibn al-Mundhir have related that Muhammad bin Sirin asked Hadrat `Ubaidah as-Salmani the meaning of this verse. (This Hadrat `Ubaidah had become a Muslim in the time of the Holy Prophet but had not been able to visit him. He came to Madinah in the time of Hadrat 'Umar and settled down there. He was recognized as equal in rank with Qadi Shuraih in jurisprudence and judicial matters). Instead of giving a verbal reply Hadrat 'Ubaidah put on his sheet and gave a practical demonstration by covering his head and forehead and face and an eye, leaving only the other eye uncovered. Ibn 'Abbas also has made almost the same commentary. In his statements which have been reported by Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Marduyah, he says: "Allah has commanded the women that when they move.out of their houses for an outdoor duty, they should conceal their faces by drawing and letting down aver themselves a part of their sheets, keeping only the eyes uncovered. " The same explanation of this verse has been given by Qatadah and Suddi.
All the great commentators who have passed after the period of the Companions and their immediate followers have given the same meaning of this verse. Imam Ibn Jarir Tabari, in his commentary of this verse, says: "The respectable women should not look like the slave-girls from their dress when they move out of their houses, with uncovered faces and loose hair; they should rather draw and Iet down over them a part of their sheets or outer-garments so that no evil person may dare molest them." (Jami'al Bayan, vol. XXII, p. 33).
'Allama Abu Bakr al-Jassas says: "This verse points out that the young woman has been commanded to conceal her face from the other men; when moving out of the house she should cover herself up well to express chastity and purity of character so that people of doubtful character do not cherish any false hope when they see her. " (Ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. III, p. 458).
'Allama Zamakhshari says: "It means that they should let down a part of their sheet over themselves, and should cover their faces and wrap up their sides well." (AI-Kashshaf, vol. II, p. 221). 'Allama Nizamuddin Nishapuri says: "That is, they should let down a part of the sheet over them: in this verse, the women have been commanded to cover the head and face. " (Ghara'ib al-Qur an, vol. XXII, p. 32).
Imam Razi says: "What is mean is that the people may know that they are not promiscuous women. For the woman who covers her face, though the face is not included in the satar, cannot be expected to uncover her satar, which is obligatory to cover before the other man. Thus, everyone will know that they are modest and virtuous women who cannot be expected to do anything indecent." (Tafsir Kabir. vol. VI, p 591)
Incidentally, another thing that is proved by this verse is that the Holy Prophet had several daughters, for Allah Himself says: "O Prophet, enjoin your wives and daughters." These words absolutely refute the assertion of those people who without any fear of God make the claim that the Holy Prophet had only one daughter, Hadrat Fatimah, and the other daughters were not froth his own loins but by the former husbands. These people are so blinded by prejudice that they do not even bother to consider what crime they arc committing by denying the parentage of the children of the Holy Prophet, and what severe punishment will await them in the Hereafter. AII authentic traditions concur that from Hadrat Khadijah the Holy Prophet had not one daughter, Hadrat Fatimah, but three other daughters as well. The Holy Prophet's earliest biographer, Muhammad bin Ishaq, after mentioning his marriage with Hadrat Khadijah, says; "She was the mother of all the Holy Prophet's children except Ibrahim, namely Qasim and Tahir and Tayyib and Zainab and Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum and Fatimah." (Ibn Hisham, vol. I, p. 202).
The famous genealogist, Hashim bin Muhammad bin as-Sa'ib al-Kalbi, states: 'The first born child to the, Messenger. of Allah before his call to Prophethood was Qasim; then Zainab was born to him, then Ruqayyah, then Umm Kulthum." (Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, vol. I, p. 133). Ibn Hazam writes in Jawami' asSirah that from Hadrat Khadijah the Holy Prophet had four daughters, the eldest being Zainab, then Ruqayyah, then Fatimah and then Umm Kulthum (pp. 38-39). Tabari, Ibn Sa'd, Abu Ja'far Muhammad bin Habib (author of Kitab al-Muhabbar) and Ibn 'Abd al-Bart (author of Kitab al-lsti'ab) state on the strength of authentic sources that before her marriage with the Holy Prophet Hadrat Khadijah had two husbands, Abu Halah Tamimi by whom she had a son named Hind bin Abu Halah, and 'Atiq bin 'A'idh Makhzumi, by whom she had a daughter named Hind. Then she was married to the Holy Prophet and all the genealogists agree that from his loins she had the four daughters as stated above. (See Tabari, vol. ll, p. 411: tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, vol. VIII, pp. 14-16; Kitab al-Muhabbar, pp. 78, 79, 452;.9l-Isti'ab, vol. II, p. 718). AII these statements are authenticated by the Qur'anic declaration that the Holy Prophet had not one but several daughters.
"... will thus be recognized": will be recognized to be noble and chaste women from their simple and modest dress, and not w omen of ill repute from whom some wicked person could cherish evil hopes. ''.. are not molested": will not be teased but let alone.
Let us pause here for a while and try to understand what spirit of the social law of Islam is being expressed by this Qur'anic Command and what is its object which Allah Himself has stated. Before this in Surah An-Nur: 31, the women have been forbidden to display their adornments before others except such and such men and women, and "also that they should not stamp their feet on the ground lest their hidden decoration (ornaments) should be known." If that Command is read with this verse of AI-Ahzab it becomes obvious that the intention of the Command for the woman to cover herself well with the sheet here is to conceal her adornments from others. And, evidently, this purpose can be fulfilled only if the sheet or the outer-garment itself is simple; otherwise wrapping up oneself with a decorated and attractive sheet will defeat the purpose itself. Besides, Allah does not only command the woman to conceal her adornment by covering herself with the sheet, but also enjoins that she should let down a pan of the sheet over herself. No sensible person can take any other meaning of this Command than that it requires to conceal the face along with the concealment of the adornments of the body and dress. Then, Allah Himself states the reason for enjoining the Command, saying: "This is an appropriate way by adopting which the Muslim women will be recognized and will remain safe from trouble." Evidently, this instruction is being given to those women who regard flirtation and stares and evil advances by men as annoying and troublesome and not as enjoyable, who do not want to be counted among ill-reputed, immodest society girls, but wish to be known as chaste and modest domestic women. To such noble and pious women Allah says: 'If you really wish to be known as good women, and the men's lustful attention is not pleasurable but embarrassing for you, then you should not come out of your houses in full make-up like the newly-wed brides so as to display your beauty and physical charms before the greedy eyes of the people, but the best way for this would be that you should come out in a simple sheet fully concealing your adornments and covering your face and walking in a manner that even the jingle of your ornaments does not attract attention. The woman who applies herself to make-up and does not step out of the house until she has fully embellished and decorated herself with every adornment cannot have any other intention that to become the center of attention of all the men, whom she herself allures. After this if she complains that the greedy looks of the people cause embarrassment to her, and she does not wish to be known as a "society woman" and a "popular lady", but wants to live as a chaste house-wife, it will be nothing but a fraud. It is not the word of the mouth of a person that determines his intention, but his real intention is manifested in his act and mode of behavior. Therefore, the act of the woman who appears before the other then attractively itself shows what motivates her behavior. That is why the mischievous people cherish the same hopes from her as can be cherished from such a woman. The Qur'an tells the women: "You cannot be chaste women and society women at one and the same time. If you want to live as modest, chaste women, you will have to give up the ways that are conducive to becoming society women only, and adopt the way of life that can be helpful in becoming chaste women. "
Whether a man's personal opinion is according to the Qur'an or opposed to it, and whether he wants to accept the Qur'anic guidance as a practical guide for himself or not, in any case if he does not wish to be intellectually dishonest in interpreting the Qur'an, he cannot fail to understand its real intention. If he is not a hypocrite he will frankly admit that the Qur'an's intention is what has been stated above. After this if he violates any Command, he will do so with the realization that he is violating the Qur'anic Command, or regards the Qur'anic guidance as wrong.
That is, "Allah will forgive the errors and mistakes that were committed in the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, provided that you reform yourselves now when you have received clear guidance, and do not violate it intentionally."