You have asked a question which is a very important part of our lives as Muslim women. We will try to answer it as simply as possible,Insha-Allah.
Allah says in Surah Ahzaab, verse 59 "Oh Prophet! tell your wives and daughters and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments (Jalaabeeb) over them, that is likelier that they be known and not harmed/annoyed......"
In order to understand a word in any language, we have to ask the experts of that language. The root word of "jalaabeeb" is "jalbab", which is used for things which cover completely.
Example: the darkness of night. When the darkness of night comes, there is no corner left which is bright, everything becomes covered in darkness. In the same way, jalbab is the garment that covers a woman from head to toe,
with nothing left open. (Lisanul Arab,V 1 - Al muhalla V 3).
We will now quote the sahaaba (R.A) who have explained the jalbab to us so clearly, that theres no room for confusion anymore. Ibne Abaas (R.A.) says under the explanation of the above verse "Allah commanded Muslim women
to pull this sheet on top of them, to cover their bodies, except one eye, when it is necessary for them to come out of their homes."
Imam Mohammed ibn Seereen says," I asked Ubaidullah Salmani RA the meaning of this verse and how the jalbab was used, he demonstrated it to me, by pulling a sheet of cloth over his head to cover his body, leaving only one eye uncovered."
It should be remembered that the sahaaba/ companions of the prophet Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam were the ones who witnessed the Qur'an being revealed, they witnessed how the prophet Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam
practiced on the verses revealed, who can give us better insight into following the Qur'an than the prophet Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam and his sahaaba?
And what about the wives of the prophet Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam who are our role-models, how did they follow the verses of Quran? Aisha (R.A.) was the wife of Nabi Sallallahu `alaihi wasallam. Once, she was left
behind by the caravan while returning from a journey. When she realized this, she thought it best to remain exactly where she was, the prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam
will soon realize she is not with them and come back for her. A few miles behind this caravan was a sahaabi, Safwan bin Mu'atal (R.A.), his job was to travel behind the caravan and pick up anything left behind. As he came
closer, he noticed someone sleeping, when he realized it was Aisha (R.A.) he said loudly, innaa lilaahi wa innaa ilayhi raajioon, upon hearing his voice, Aisha (R.A.) says I got up from my sleep and immediately covered my
face with my shawl. Safwan RA recognized her because he had seen her before the verses of hijaab were revealed. But since the verses had been revealed, she now covered her face.
Alhamdolilaah, all praise is due to Allah, who has made Islam so perfect and just, that there is no difference between how we practice on it and how the wives of a prophet practiced on it. There is no different rulings
for different people. Every Muslim/ Muslimah is the same, the only difference is in taq'wa.
There are so many Aayaat and Ahaadith on this subject, that books have been written in great detail on it. We would like to end by saying that if covering the face was not necessary, just an option for women to choose from, then the other aayaat of hijaab wouldn't make sense. For example:
1. If women were free to uncover the face, why does Allah ask the men and women not to look at each other and lower their gazes. (Surah Noor)?
How will we follow this command of Allah? If covering the face is not necessary, then neither should lowering the gaze.
2. If it was permissible to uncover the face, then why do we need permission before entering someone's home?
"Oh you who believe! enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission...." (Surah Noor)
This aayah is guarding the females of the home so that they are not looked upon by strange men.
3. Allah commands the women "... and make not a dazzling display (of yourselves), like the former times of ignorance...." (Surah Ahzaab) and also "...And tell the believing women that they lower their gaze and guard
their modesty and not display their beauty....." (Surah Noor).
Is the face not part of the beauty of a woman? In fact, it is a focal point of her beauty. I came across a survey last year which was conducted amongst the men. They were asked as to which parts of a female would first get their attention? 80% of them replied her face, eyes and lips would
attract them first, followed by her body.
4. Why would Allah command the men to ask for any need from behind a curtain? (Surah Ahzaab)
If a woman can uncover her face then why not just ask her face to face?
5. If a woman's face is showing then a man would not be captured by her voice on first impulse. But when a woman's face and body are concealed, Allah has further commanded her not to be complacent/sweet in her speech with the males. (Surah Ahzaab)
Allah has made all these rules for the betterment of mankind, not to make us upset or miserable. Parents make rules and regulations in their homes because of the love they have for their children. If someone says that a mother disciplines her child because of hatred or misery, we would
And Allah knows best.
Ask Alimah Team
Note: The rulings giving herein are based on the religious rulings of the Islamic Law and do not have any implications on the Law of the Country. The rulings given hereunder are specifically based on the question posed and should be read in conjunction with the question. AskAlimah.com site bears no responsibility to any party who may or may not act on this answer. AskAlimah.com site being hereby exempted from loss or damage howsoever caused. This answers may not be used as evidence in any Court of Law without prior written consent of the web site.