Fatwa: # 43580
Category: Jurisprudence and Rulings...
Date: 12th February 2020


Why are there separate rules for free women & slaves with regards to Hijaab?


Assalam Alaikum, 

My question was about the hijab in Islam. As I understand, the Mizaaj of Shariah is modesty and haya. That is why we have such strict guidelines on protecting gaze. Women wear jilbab and hijab and are discouraged from even going to the masjid due to possible fitnah. All this Islam does and rightfully so.

My first question is then why did Islam throughout its history (until about 70 years ago) allow slave women to go outside the house without hijab or jilbab? I do not understand the point of going to one extreme with free women and then on the completle opposite extreme with slave women, if the goal is to create a modest society. How is this in accordance with the Mizaaj of Shairah, and why would Shariah force a slave woman to not cover up even if she wanted to. 

My second question is that is that Muslim liberals and modern 'scholars' now jump on this idea and say that Islam never intended to create such strict segregation in the first place, and use my points from the previous question as evidence! They also use the hadith of Umar RA, where he used to force slave women to take off hijab/jilbab telling them to not resemble free women, as further evidence for this claim. These liberal 'scholars' then say that the main purpose of hijab/jilbab was to differentiate between slaves and free women and because slaves no longer exist, women do not need to wear these garments as long as the rest of their body is properly covered! 

Please take your time but do answer this question as this is causing much fitnah here in the West. I personally know of cases where women took off their hijab due to these 'scholars' because to our layman minds, they do seem to have a point. Please clarify our confusions. 

May Allah bless you,

Jazakllah Khair


In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful 
As-salaamu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullaahi wa-barakaatuh

We summarize your query as follows. You enquire why is there one extreme view regarding free women and another opposite extreme view regarding slave women. You also regard the slave women going outside the house without covering to be against the mizāj (temperament) of shame and modesty in Sharīah.

At the outset, it should be noted that shame and modesty are among the core teachings of Islām. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has emphasized on shame and modesty.

See the following Hadīth:


قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «الحياء خير كله» قال: أو قال: «الحياء كله خير

صحيح مسلم: 64) (

Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “Hayaa (modesty) is only goodness”

(Saheeh Muslim, 64)


وَعَنِ اِبْنِ عُمَرَ ‏-رَضِيَ اَللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا‏- قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏ صلى الله عليه وسلم اَلْحَيَاءُ مِنْ اَلْإِيمَانِ (مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ)

Ibn 'Umar (Radiyallāhu Anhu) narrated that Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) mentions:

“Haya (modesty, bashfulness, etc.) is a part of Faith. (Agreed upon)


قال ابن عمر: «إن الحياء والإيمان قرنا جميعا، فإذا رفع أحدهما رفع الآخر

(مصنف ابن أبي شيبة: 25350)

Ibn 'Umar (Radiyallāhu Anhu) narrates that “Hayaa (modesty) and Imān are partners, if any one of them is removed, then the other is also removed”

Islām would not advocate a situation against shame and modesty. This includes slave women. A slave woman is required to maintain her modesty. That is why if a slave woman commits fornication, she too would be punished similar to how a free woman would be punished.

See the following Hadith:

أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ حَدَّثَتْهَا أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ "‏ إِذَا زَنَتِ الأَمَةُ فَاجْلِدُوهَا فَإِنْ زَنَتْ فَاجْلِدُوهَا فَإِنْ زَنَتْ فَاجْلِدُوهَا فَإِنْ زَنَتْ فَاجْلِدُوهَا ثُمَّ بِيعُوهَا وَلَوْ بِضَفِيرٍ ‏ وَالضَّفِيرُ الْحَبْلُ (صحيح البخاري: 2555)

Aishah (Radiyallāhu Anha) narrated that Rasulullah )Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “If a slave woman commits fornication then whip her, and if she commits fornication then whip her, and if she commits fornication then whip her, then sell her even if that is for a rope.  (Sahih Bukhari: 2555)


These punishments and laws serve as a deterrent against evil and immorality thereby maintaining the chastity and morality of society as a whole. Both free women and slave women have been commanded to maintain their chastity. However, the Sharīah recognizes differences between the two. It is thus incorrect to assume that Islām adopted an extreme opposite position with regard to the shame and modesty of slave women.

The laws pertaining to free women and slave women are different. Freedom and slavery are opposite to one another. The rules of both will also be different. You have interpreted these differences as extremism coming from both ends. Whereas, the reality is that Sharīah has placed both in their respective positions. Each individual plays a role in society. The Sharīah has prescribed laws after taking these roles into consideration. Slave women did not cover themselves because their role required them to carry out multiple types of manual and physical labor. If the rules of Hijāb were to be applied, it would cause them severe haraj (difficulty).[1] This is also why the awrah of a man is less than that of a woman. Men often find themselves doing physical and manual labor when earning a living. To earn a living for the family is the role of a man. Commanding men and slave women to cover their entire bodies at all times would cause them severe haraj (difficulty).


You state that according to the liberals, the purpose of Hijāb, etc. was to distinguish free women from slave women.

This deduction is fundamentally flawed and lacks understanding of the basic principles of Sharīāh. The purpose of the laws of Hijab was never to distinguish between free women and slave women. The purpose is to close all avenues of evil and immorality. See the following verse:

وَلَا تَقۡرَبُوا۟ ٱلزِّنَىٰۤۖ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ فَـٰحِشَةࣰ وَسَاۤءَ سَبِیلࣰا (سورة الإسراء:32)

Do not even approach fornication for it is an outrageous act and an evil way. (Surah al-Israa: 32)

The Qurān commands men to lower their gaze from looking at the opposite gender. Allah Ta’ala says:


قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ سورة النور: 30)

 “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. (Surah al-Noor: 30)


وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ (سورة النور:31)

And say to the believing women that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts and must not expose their adornment. (Surah al-Noor:31)


يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ (سورة الأحزاب: 53)

Oh Rasulullah )Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw down their jilbāb (shawls) over them. (Surah: al-Ahzāb: 53)

عن عبد الله، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، قال: المرأة عورة، فإذا خرجت استشرفها الشيطان (سنن الترمذي: 1173)

It was narrated from Abdullah (Radiyallāhu Anhu) that Rasulullah )Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “The woman is one who should be concealed, so when she goes out, the Shaitan seeks to tempt her. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi: 1173)

It is clear from all the above that Sharīāh has closed all doors leading to evils and immorality. If these laws were not there, then the doors of evil and immorality would be wide open. Imagine a society with no segregation. Imagine a society where females talk to males with soft and alluring tones. Do these liberals suggest that all these laws be set aside just because we don’t have slave women? If women do not adhere to the laws of Hijāb and segregation, then they will fully subject themselves to evil and immorality. That will lead to rape, abortion, break up of homes, etc. and a host of many evils.

Hereunder are a few points regarding statistics of fornication:

1.     It’s widely reported that 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will participate in an extramarital affair at some point during their lifetime. [2]

2.     A recent survey of teen-agers reported that 67% of those surveyed (beginning with age 13 and ending with 18) had engaged in a sex act by the age of 18. At least 75% of the TV shows, situation comedies, talk shows, interviews, not only condone unmarried relationships (living together unmarried--live-in boyfriend or girlfriend) but engage in the sexual act or a replica of it, on their shows. Seinfeld, Friends, Frazier, ER, Caroline, and others and Oprah goes along with it all.[3]

3.     60% of all adults consider living with someone of the opposite gender without being married  a morally acceptable behavior.”[4]

4.      While nearly 66% of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30, 53% of births to women under 30 occur outside marriage, and only 59 percent of all-American women are married when they have children.[5] 


Statistics on abortion:

1.      It has been estimated that 25 million unsafe abortions take place each year.[6]

2.      In 2008, approximately 1.21 million abortions took place in the U.S., down from an estimated 1.29 million in 2002, 1.31 million in 2000 and 1.36 million in 1996. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions have occurred in the U.S. (AGI).


3.      Approximately 890,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2016— In 2017, the highest percentage of pregnancies were aborted in the District of Columbia (37%), New Jersey (32%), and New York (31%). In 2015, unmarried women accounted for 86% of all abortions. Women in their 20s accounted for the majority of abortions in 2015 and had the highest abortion rates.[7]


Consequences of rape:

1.     Nearly one in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration or alcohol/drug-facilitated completed penetration.

2.     In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them

3.     Campus Sexual assaults One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. 63.3% of men at one university who self-reported acts qualifying as rape or attempted rape admitted to committing repeat rapes.

You may refer to the following link:


These are the consequences of not adhering to the laws of Hijāb and segregation of sexes. Liberals who advocate discarding the practice of Hijāb would imply advocating fornication, adultery, rape, abortion etc. The above explanation is sufficient to answer the liberals.

Hazrat Umar (Radiyallāhu anhu) did order slave women to uncover themselves and not to imitate free women. Hereunder is the Hadīth in reference: [8]

عن أنس أن عمر ضرب أمة لآل أنس رآها متقنعة قال اكشفي رأسك لا تشبهين بالحرائر

It is narrated from Anas (Radiyallahu Anhu) that Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) hit the slave women from the family of Anas ibn Malik (Radiyallāhu Anhu) when he saw them covered and said, “Uncover your head and do not resemble the free women.”[9]

1.     The laws of Hijāb and segregation were revealed to Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) long before the reign of Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu). The orders of Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu)  are not the basis of the laws of Hijāb. Hence, the laws of Hijāb for free women were not subject to slave women uncovering themselves. The covering of free women was an independent rule for free women based on shame and modesty.


2.     The laws of Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) were probably due to administrative reasons. Free women ought to remain in their homes and not emerge unnecessarily. If slave women cover themselves like free women and move about freely outside the homes, that might potentially influence free women to also emerge from their homes, thus defeating the injunctions of the following verse:


وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَي (سورة الأحزاب: 33)

“ Remain in your houses and do not display your beauty as it was previously displayed in the Time of Ignorance.” (Surah al-Ahzaab: 33)

Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) thus advised slave women not to imitate free women in order to avoid confusion of free women emerging from their homes.

There were other administrative reasons and wisdoms behind Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) for a slave woman not imitating free women.

However, that has nothing to do with discarding Hijāb and segregation and in free women.

And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best.

Akhyar Uddin 

Student, Darul Iftaa 

Buffalo, New York, USA 

Checked and Approved by

Mufti Ebrahim Desai.



تبيين الحقائق شرح كنز الدقائق وحاشية الشلبي (6/ 19) [1]

قال الولوالجي - رحمه الله - والحكم في النظر والمس والحمل والإنزال مع أمة غيره كالحكم في النظر والمس مع المحارم؛ لأن للإماء ضرورة في إبداء مواضع زينتها الباطنة من الأجانب؛ لأن الأمة إنما تشترى لأجل خدمة داخل البيت وخارج البيت فتكون متشمرة للأعمال متجردة داخل البيت وخارج البيت فتكون مكشوفة في هذه المواضع داخل البيت وخارجه فلو حرم عليها إبداء هذه المواضع من الأجانب وحرم على الأجانب النظر إليها لضاق الأمر على الناس، وما ضاق أمره اتسع حكمه كما في المحارم، وكذا في المس ضرورة؛ لأن أمة امرأة الرجل تحتاج أن تخدم زوج مولاتها، وتغمز رجله، وكذا أمة الابن تحتاج أن تخدم أبا الابن فمست الضرورة إلى الإباحة،

حاشية الطحطاوي على مراقي الفلاح شرح نور الإيضاح (ص: 241)


"للحرج" من حيث أنها تباع وتشرى وتخرج لحاجة مولاها في ثياب مهنتها عادة فاعتبر حالها بذوات المحارم في حق جميع الرجال


      [2]   https://www.beliefnet.com/love-family/relationships/6-fatal-consequences-of-adultery.aspx



      [3]    https://famguardian.org/Subjects/SexualImmorality



     [4]       http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=2



      [5]        http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/rvlg_sections/PornographySin.html



    [6]    https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/abortion-facts/



    [7]    https://abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/


روح المعاني — الآلوسي:33 الأحزاب-59   [8]

عَنْ عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعالى عَنْهُ أنَّ غَيْرَ الحُرَّةِ لا تَتَقَنَّعُ، أخْرَجَ اِبْنُ أبِي شَيْبَةَ عَنْ قِلابَةَ قالَ: كانَ عُمَرُ بْنُ الخَطّابِ لا يَدَعُ في خِلافَتِهِ أمَةً تَتَقَنَّعُ ويَقُولُ: القِناعُ لِلْحَرائِرِ لِكَيْلا يُؤْذَيْنَ، وأخْرَجَ هو وعَبْدُ بْنُ حُمَيْدٍ عَنْ أنَسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعالى عَنْهُ قالَ: رَأى عُمَرُ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعالى عَنْهُ جارِيَةً مُقَنَّعَةً فَضَرَبَها بِدِرَّتِهِ وقالَ: ألْقِي القِناعَ لا تَتَشَبَّهِي بِالحَرائِرِ، وجاءَ في بَعْضِ الرِّواياتِ أنَّهُ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعالى عَنْهُ قالَ لِأمَةٍ رَآها مُقَنَّعَةً: يا لَكْعاءُ أتَشَبَّهِينَ بِالحَرائِرِ؟
وقالَ أبُو حَيّانَ: نِساءُ المُؤْمِنِينَ يَشْمَلُ الحَرائِرَ والإماءَ، والفِتْنَةُ بِالإماءِ أكْثَرُ لِكَثْرَةِ تَصَرُّفِهِنَّ بِخِلافِ الحَرائِرِ، فَيَحْتاجُ إخْراجُهُنَّ مِن عُمُومِ النِّساءِ إلى دَلِيلٍ واضِحٍ اِنْتَهى، وأنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أنَّ وجْهَ الحُرَّةِ عِنْدَنا لَيْسَ بِعَوْرَةٍ فَلا يَجِبُ سَتْرُهُ ويَجُوزُ النَّظَرُ مِنَ الأجْنَبِيِّ إلَيْهِ إنْ أمِنَ الشَّهْوَةَ مُطْلَقًا وإلّا فَيَحْرُمُ، وقالَ القَهْسَتانِيُّ: مُنِعَ النَّظَرِ مِنَ الشّابَّةِ في زَمانِنا ولَوْ بِلا شَهْوَةٍ وأمّا حُكْمُ أمَةِ الغَيْرِ ولَوْ مُدْبِرَةً أوْ أُمَّ ولَدٍ فَكَحُكْمِ المَحْرَمِ فَيَحِلُّ النَّظَرُ إلى رَأْسِها ووَجْهِها وساقِها وصَدْرِها وعَضُدِها إنْ أمِنَ شَهْوَتَهُ وشَهْوَتَها. وظاهِرُ الآيَةِ لا يُساعِدُ عَلى ما ذُكِرَ في الحَرائِرِ فَلَعَلَّها مَحْمُولَةٌ عَلى طَلَبِ تَسَتُّرٍ تَمْتازُ بِهِ الحَرائِرُ عَنِ الإماءِ أوِ العَفائِفِ مُطْلَقًا عَنْ غَيْرِهِنَّ، فَتَأمَّلْ


البحر الرائق شرح كنز الدقائق ومنحة الخالق وتكملة الطوري (1/ 287)

 وقد أخرج عبد الرزاق بإسناد صحيح عن عمر - رضي الله عنه - أنه ضرب أمة متقنعة وقال اكشفي رأسك لا تتشبهي بالحرائر في توضيح المالكية، فإن قيل لم منع عمر الإماء من التشبه بالحرائر فجوابه أن السفهاء جرت عادتهم بالتعرض للإماء فخشي عمر أن يلتبس الأمر فيتعرض السفهاء للحرائر فتكون الفتنة أشد وهو معنى قوله عز وجل {ذلك أدنى أن يعرفن فلا يؤذين} [الأحزاب: 59] أي يتميزن بعلامتهن عن غيرهن، وظاهره أنه يكره للأمة ستر جميع بدنها ولا يخفى ما فيه وعلى كل تقدير ينبغي أن يقال يستحب لها ذلك في الصلاة ولم أره لأئمتنا بل هو منقول الشافعية كما ذكره النووي والأمة في اللغة خلاف الحرة،


مصنف عبد الرزاق الصنعاني (3/ 136) [9]



Follow Mufti Ebrahim Desai’s official Twitter handle: @MuftiEbrahim


Latest Tweet:


‘Do not focus too much on empowering the brain & outward appearance. Focus on inculcating values in your heart.’


DISCLAIMER - AskImam.org questions
AskImam.org answers issues pertaining to Shar'ah. Thereafter, these questions and answers are placed for public view on www.askimam.org for educational purposes. However, many of these answers are unique to a particular scenario and cannot be taken as a basis to establish a ruling in another situation or another environment. Askimam.org bears no responsibility with regards to these questions being used out of their intended context.
  • The Shar's ruling herein given is based specifically on the question posed and should be read in conjunction with the question.
  • AskImam.org bears no responsibility to any party who may or may not act on this answer and is being hereby exempted from loss or damage howsoever caused.
  • This answer may not be used as evidence in any Court of Law without prior written consent of AskImam.org.
  • Any or all links provided in our emails, answers and articles are restricted to the specific material being cited. Such referencing should not be taken as an endorsement of other contents of that website.
The Messenger of Allah said, "When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen."
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]