Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher
Asalamu alaykum. My question is if it is fard for women to wear the niqab. I was told that the Sha'afi women of Tarim, Hadramawt,Yemen wear the niqab. What is the ruling on this? If it's not fard then what is the ruling of the niqab? Should I wear it or not considering that I live in Europe?
In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
I pray this message finds you in good health and excellent iman.
I do apologize for the delay in responding.
Your question is a good one.
According to the Shafi'i School, it is obligatory for women to cover all of their bodies when they go out, including the face and hands. Most Hanafi scholars concur.
However, as Reliance of the Traveller, a Shafi'i text, mentions: some Hanafi scholars make a dispensation that permits a woman to uncover her face and hands.
Nowadays, many scholars, especially those familiar with Western societies, agree that the focus for women should be on observing correct hijab, that is, covering everything except for the face and hands. For many sisters, this is a difficult enough struggle. To require sisters in the West to veil their faces would not be realistic given the climate and times.
I have heard from students of Shaykh Nuh Keller, who is a Shafi'i scholar and translator of Reliance of the Traveller, that women should not wear niqab in the West because it can lead to harassment and act as a barrier to da'wah (inviting people to Islam).
Yes, the women of Tarim do wear niqab. However, the environment of Tarim is worlds apart from that of Europe and America. What sisters are able to do in Tarim may not be completely feasible or replicable for those of us in the West.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Whatever you decide, may Allah Most High bless and protect you.
And Allah knows best.
I am enclosing some relevant articles from SunniPath's Fiqh Archives:
"Is it necessary to wear niqab? Isn't the hijab enough?"
"Hijab vs Niqab: Sustainable Islam"
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