Question: Is it compulsory for Muslim women to cover their faces while observing the rules of covering, or should they only cover their body and hair rather than the face?
Women do not have to cover their faces with a veil, niqab or other types of covering. We can understand it by the following verse and hadith:
In the 52nd verse of chapter Al-Ahzab, it is commanded to Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) as follows:
“It is not lawful for you to marry other women after this, nor to change them for other wives even though their beauty attracts you, except those whom your right hand possesses. And Allah is the Watcher of everything.” (Al-Ahzaab/ The Allies 33:52)
A woman’s beauty can attract a man only if he sees her face and therefore this verse proves that the faces of women can be visible/uncovered. (Abubakr al-Jassas, Ahkam-ul-Qur’an, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut, 1335 h., v: 3, p. 316.)
The following hadith also serves to demonstrate a similar situation:
“Umar once said: “Be careful, do not increase the mahr of women.”
A woman with swarthy-red cheeks responded: “Is this your opinion, or did you hear it from the Messenger of Allah? We find the opposite of your claims in the Book of Allah. He commands:
“And if you decide to divorce a wife in order to take another, do not take away anything of what you might have given the first one, even if you had given her a cantar (i.e. a great amount) of gold. Would you take it back by slandering her and committing a manifest offense?” (An-Nisa/ The Women, 4:20)”
Umar got confused for a moment and then said: “Everybody is more understanding than Umar, even women in their houses…” “
Since it is mentioned that the woman had swarthy-red cheeks, her face was not covered.