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By Ibrahim B. Syed

President, IRFI (Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.)

Louisville, KY


The word “Hijab” appeared in Holy Qur’an seven times - five of them as “Hijab” and two times as “Hijaban,” – (Holy Qur’an 7:46, 33:53, 38:32, 41:5, 42:51, 17:45 & 19:17)

Hijab in the Qur'an means curtain or Barrier.


The modern perception of Hijab is headscarf. For some Hijab is a veil that covers the hair, ears, neck,  and the bosoms.


For many it is a Command from Allah (SWT) to cover the hair, the ears, neck and the bosoms, from the interpretation of the following verses:


Surah An-Nur, Verses #30 and #31 (This tafseer is Agreed upon by Ibn Kathir, Al-Qurtabi and At-Tabari)
‘And Say to the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, head cover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) 

The critical command  is "to draw their veils  all over Juyubihinna"

What is Juyubihinna?

To know the  meaning of "Juyubihinna" one can read the 17 interpretations of the Qur'an at

The Literal meaning is " collar opening in clothes/chests"

Yusuf Ali : 'bosoms'

Pickthall   : 'bosoms'

Arberry    : 'bosoms'

Shakir: 'bosoms'

Sarwar: 'breasts'

Khalifa: 'chest'

Hilali/Khan: ( i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.)

H/K/ Saheeh: 'chest'

Malik: 'bosoms

QXP (Quran As It Explains Itself of Dr. Shabbir Khan): 'bosoms'

Maulana Ali: 'bosoms'

Free Minds: 'cleavage'

Qaribullah: 'neck'

George Sale: 'bosoms'

JM Rodwell: 'bosoms'

Muhammad Asad: 'bosoms'

In the above interpretations, Hilali and Khan standout for interpreting 'Juyubihinna' as

"their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc"

Obviously they got this interpretation from Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi and Al-Tabari's Exegesis as cited above.

The question is what was the size of the Khimar when the verse 24:31 was revealed?

On Surah, An-Nur 24: 31, Muhammad Asad gives the translation "… let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms." In his commentary No. 38, he wrote, "The noun khimar (of which Khumur is the plural) denotes the head-covering customarily used by Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam. According to most of the classical commentators, it was worn in pre-Islamic times more or less as an ornament and was let down loosely over the wearer's back; and since, in accordance with the fashion prevalent at the time, the upper part of a woman's tunic had a wide opening in the front, her breasts were left bare. Hence the injunction to cover the bosom by means of a khimar (a term familiar to the contemporaries of the Prophet) does not necessarily relate to the use of a khimar as such but is, rather, meant to make it clear that a woman's breasts are not included in the concept of "what may decently be apparent" of her body and should not, therefore, be displayed."

The word  khumur (singular, khimar), is generally understood to be a head-covering worn by both male and female Arabs at the time of the Prophet.  Some Muslims had discussions about whether or not it is permissible to wipe over a head-covering when making ablution for prayer refer to the Prophet wiping over his khimar. (Source:



Was it possible to cover body, face, neck and bosoms with the Khimar?


No one has ever demonstrated  (practically) how one can cover hair, face, neck, bosoms and body using a khimar?  Furthermore if a woman covers the face with the khimar, how was it possible for a woman to walk and perform her other activities.  If the answer is to use a transparent Khimar so that a woman can see thro' her way, then the purpose of the command to cover the bosoms is defeated.


Scholars are learned and give their opinions but we   Muslims  should  use our God given critical thinking ability  to  either accept their opinions and practice them or reject them. No one can say  what the scholars of Qur'an  (particularly Ibn Kathir,  Qurtubi and Al-Tabari) say   is sacrosanct  and unchangeable. Even scholars of old realized that their opinions were not set in stone and could change with the times. It is a pity  that some scholars even  these days tend to worship scholarly opinion rather than use their own brains and discover  the  truth for themselves.  Even though Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi and Al-Tabari  agreed on the definition/interpretation of 'Juyubihinna'   it   doesn't mean  only  their interpretation should be used.   For several centuries all scholars used to agree the world was flat and then one man came along and claimed it was round…they demanded he recant that claim or face death.  Hence sometimes the group or majority can be wrong and  truth is not necessarily in the majority.


I sincerely thank Hidayath Basha of Hyderabad, India  for brining it to my attention the Following website:




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