The Manipulation of 24:31

And say to the believing women to lower their gaze and to guard their private
parts and not to show their beauty spots except that of it which is normally
shown. They shall also cover their cleavage with their 'khimars'.


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

However, traditional scholars insist that God issued a command for women to cover their hair. They refer to 24:31 to make their 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 women to covering their hair, but in reality they are enforcing their culture on women and claiming it is 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 is a khimar. A curtain is a khimar, a table cloth that covers the top of a table is a khimar, a blanket can be called a khimar and so on. Equally, an item of clothing, be it a dress, a blouse, a scarf or any other item of clothing can be called a khimar, because it covers the body.
The word khamr, which is used in the Quran for intoxicants, has the same root as khimar. Khamr (intoxicants) is given that name since it covers the mind.

Traditional translators, influenced by hadith and culture, claim that khimar in 24:31 has only one meaning, and that is veil or hijab! As a result, 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 blouse, a scarf and so on to cover their cleavage/bosoms. The command in 24:31, regardless of the meaning of the word khimar, is to cover the bosom and not to cover the hair.

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

As mentioned, 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/bosom. Here we have:

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

The command is only obligatory in relation to the subject and never the tool.
If the obligation was for the tool as well God would have said:
'cover your cleavage and your hair 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 in the Quran, so it is not rational to imply for one moment that God would give us vague commands which lack precision and clarity.

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, unless it is because God did not make it mandatory to cover what is above the cleavage?

Finally a mention must be included regarding the words:
"not to show their beauty spots except that of it which is normally shown."

Somehow, scholars managed to manipulate these words as well, to imply that women must be covered from head to toe!
The immediate question is: what are the parts of the body which people (in general) and women (in particular) normally cover, and thus, which parts would be described as "normally shown"? When we have defined what is normally covered, it follows that the remaining parts of the body are what is referred to as "normally shown", 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 for 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 shown".
To imply that the words "normally shown" 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, would God be careful to make the command to cover the "cleavage"? Surely the cleavage would be covered if women covered all their body? If that was what God demanded, 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 information please see the following related page:
Does Islam require women to be covered from head to toe?