"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to guard their

private parts, and not to reveal any of their ‘zinatahhunna’ (beauty spots)

except what is normally apparent, and to draw their ‘khumurihhinna’

(their khimars) over their ‘juyoob’ (cleavage/bossom)"

24:31

The starting point for this inquiry is to address the following questions:
Do we see the Arabic words 'shaar' (hair) or 'raas' (head) in 24:31? The answer is no.
Are there any words in 24:31, or anywhere in the Quran, which address women and which say in plain words “cover your shaar (hair) or raas (head)? The answer once again is no.

However, traditional scholars and Imams insist that God issued such a command for women to cover their hair and they refer to 24:31 to make such claim.

The fact that the words 'hair' and 'head' are not found in 24:31 should be sufficient for any unbiased reader to conclude that there cannot be a command to cover parts of the body if these parts are not mentioned in the first place.
Nevertheless, traditional Muslim scholars manipulated the words in 24:31 in order to enforce the covering of the hair on women, but in reality they are enforcing their culture on people and claiming is it Islamic!
It is thus the aim of this paper to analyse 24:31 in detail. In the light of the Quran it can be shown that their claims are all based on manipulated interpretations of the text in 24:31.

Their claim
:

They state that the word ‘khimar’ in 24:31 means head cover, and thus they state that this word alone makes it obligatory for all women to wear a khimar to cover their hair.
Here it is necessary to analyse two issues:

1- What is the correct meaning of the word khimar?
2- Is there a command in 24:31 for women to cover their hair?

1- What is the correct meaning of the word khimar?

The Arabic word khimar means cover. Any cover can be called a khimar such as a curtain, a dress, also a table cloth that covers the top of a table is a khimar, also a blanket can be called a khimar and so on. The word khamr, which is used in the Quran for intoxicants, has the same root as khimar. Both words mean that which covers. The khimar covers a window, our body, a table and so on, while khamr is that which covers the mind. Traditional translators, being influenced by Hadith and culture, claim that khimar in 24:31 has only one meaning, and that is veil or hijab, and thus they mislead women into believing that 24:31 commands them to cover their hair! The fact that the word khimar can mean any cover, and not just head cover, is a matter which can be verified by consulting any Arabic dictionary.
In 24:31 God is telling women to use their khimar (cover/garment), which could be a dress, a coat, a shawl, a shirt, a blouse, a scarf and so on to cover their cleavage/bosoms.

2- Is there a command in 24:31 for women to cover their hair?

For a start, we note that the words ‘head’ and ‘hair’ are not found in 24:31.
In addition, we must differentiate between two components in the wording of 24:31.
God says to women to draw their khimar (garment) over their cleavage/bossom. Here we have:

1- The subject of the command, which is the cleavage/bossom
2- The tool, which is the khimar.

The command is only obligatory in relation to the subject and not the tool.
If the obligation was for the tool as well God would have said:
“cover your hair and cleavage with your khimar”
God is not short of words, nor is God vague in the commands He decrees for us.
God will hold us accountable on the Day of Judgement to the commands He gave us, so it is not rational to imply for one moment that God would give us vague commands which lack precision and certainty.

To further demonstrate the difference in obligation between the command and the tool, reference can be made to 5:4. In 5:4 God tells us that we can eat what our trained birds of prey catch for us. Does this mean that all believers are commanded to own or use a trained bird of prey for what they eat?
Obviously not, for even though the trained birds of prey are mentioned in 5:4 (as a tool), yet the message of 5:4 is related only to how God made it lawful for us to eat the catch of trained birds.
Similarly, in 24:31 all women are obliged to obey the command to cover their cleavage/bosom. As long as the woman covers her cleavage she would have obeyed God’s command in 24:31. She can use any garment she is wearing (tool) to cover her chest (subject of the command).

In addition, the command to cover the cleavage/bosom also proves that there is no obligation to cover what is above the cleavage/bosom (neck, head and hair). If these parts above the bosom are also to be covered then why would God single out the cleavage/bosom?
This rationale proves once again that the Quranic command to cover the cleavage/bosom indicates that there is no obligation to cover what is above the bosom, that being the neck, head and hair.

Finally a mention must be included regarding the words:

not to reveal any of their ‘zinatahhunn’ (beauty spots) except what is normally apparent

Somehow, the scholars managed to manipulate these words as well to imply that the woman must be covered from head to toe.
This claim can be easily refuted by analysing these words.
The immediate question is: what are the parts of the body which people (in general) and women (in particular) normally cover, and thus would be described as "normally apparent"? When we have defined what is normally covered, it follows that the remaining parts of the body are what is referred to as "normally apparent", or normally uncovered. In general, people cover the following:

1- People cover their private parts in order to maintain righteousness (
7:26). For women this would include all parts of the body which have sexual connotation such as the private parts, the backside, the chest, thighs and so on. It is for this purpose that God commands women in 33:59 to lengthen their garments so as not to be too revealing.

2- People also cover their bodies in order to keep warm. In warm climates people would only cover what is included under item 1 above, which would be the minimum clothing required but also with maintaining righteousness, while as in colder climates people would cover more of their bodies depending on the severity of the weather.

The above two points define what parts of the body would normally be covered under the words “normally apparent”.
To imply that the words “normally apparent” mean all the body, as some Imams preach, is yet another manipulation of God’s words.
If God wanted the woman to cover all her body God would not have bothered with words such as the “cleavage” nor with “what is normally apparent”! God would have simply said “cover all your body”. But for God to single out specific parts of the body for covering is the proof that God never required women to cover all their bodies.
For more info please see the following related page:
Does Islam require women to be covered from head to toe?