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Question: What is the ruling regarding the niqab (face veil) during hajj? I wear the niqab and is it permissible to keep the it on when and after I assume Ihram?

Ihram has certain restrictions and these restrictions vary according to genders. As for a female, it is forbidden for her to wear a face veil or gloves in a state of ihram. As reported by Bukhari on the authority of Ibn Umar, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “No woman shall wear face veil or gloves in a state of Ihram!” Based on this evidence, vast majority of scholars and jurists consider it forbidden for a woman to wear a face veil during ihram. However, an exception has been made, if she finds herself in a situation where men are directly staring at her, in which case she is allowed to draw her scarf partially over her face, if she removes it as soon as the men have passed. This was done by the wives of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Having said this, I must rush to point out that you are not allowed to wear face veil always in ihram; by doing so you are violating one of the clear restrictions of ihram as explicitly stated in the hadith mentioned above. Since the laws of the shari’ah originate in the divine wisdom, it is worth considering the specific intent of the above prohibition in regards to face veil during ihram. Although not explicitly stated anywhere, it is not hard to surmise that in the absence of such a restriction, it would be next to impossible for men and women to identify themselves in such a massive crowd in hajj, where they are constantly interacting with one another. This wisdom can also be extended to situations where identification is an important consideration to reckon with. In these times of corruption, where often people disguise themselves to conceal their identities, wearing face veils by Muslim women may not be recommended at all. It is worth pointing out here that the vast majority of scholars and mufassirin (the Qur’an commentators from early times to this time) are of the view that women are not mandated in Islam to cover their faces and hands, and while stating this position some of them have pointed out the need for women to identify themselves as one of the stated purpose of the Shari’ah. May Allah help us all to look at the wisdom of the divine laws and practice them with understanding—aameen.

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