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'.
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?

What exactly do the words
"normally shown" mean?

This phrase in 24:31 is an integral phrase that contributes to the meaning of the whole verse.
God is instructing women to cover their beauty spots except what is "normally shown" of it. So what exactly is what is "normally shown" of a woman's beauty spots?
The correct answer can only be the Quranic answer.
Sadly, those who do not believe God's assurance that the Quran has all the details (6:114), and that it provides explanations for all things (16:89), have sought the meaning of this phrase by consulting other sources such as the hadith, fatwas of clerics or simply the opinion of their local Imam.

Or do you have
some book in which you are studying? Do you have in it whatever you choose? 68:37-38

The more lenient among the non-Quranic interpretations quote a hadith in which it is alleged that when prophet Muhammad was asked as to what a woman should cover of her body, he said that all the body of the woman is to be covered except the face and the hands.
The most extreme opinions state that women have to be covered from head to toe apart for two 2 small holes in her niqab/burka from which she can see!

If we leave these non-Quranic sources aside and consult the Quranic verdict, we find that God gave us the answer by stating various reasons for which clothes are necessary for us to wear:

1- God made clothes available to us so that we cover our private parts:

O Children of Adam, We have brought down to you
garments to cover your private parts, as well as for adornment, yet the garment of reverence is the best. These are some of God's signs, perhaps they will remember. 7:26

God made clothes available to all people (male and female) for the purpose of covering the private parts. Wearing clothes for the purpose of adornment is also mentioned in 7:26 but since adornment is a voluntary matter, it need not enter our analysis of 24:31. The instructions in 24:31 are mandatory on women and not voluntary.

2- God made clothes available to us in order to keep us warm:

And He created the livestock for you.
They provide you with warmth and other benefits, and from them you eat. 16:5

Clothes are made out of the skins of animals and the wool of sheep and so on. These clothes keep us warm.
The two reasons above are the only reasons mentioned in the Quran for which God made clothes necessary for us to wear. It therefore follows that any parts of the body that do not fall under either of the two categories above are parts that are not required to be covered, and can therefore be classified as "normally shown".

When we consider women's hair, is the hair among what are called
"private parts"? The answer is no.
Apart from global areas with freezing conditions, do women in normal circumstances feel cold in their hair? The answer is no.
Therefore, the hair of the woman does not fall under either of the above two reasons for which parts of the body need to be covered. The hair of the woman is therefore among the parts of her body that are "normally shown".

This analysis was based entirely on Quranic evidence and Quranic logic. The Quran, as always, provided us with all the evidence and clues we needed to better understand the meaning of what is
"normally shown".

For more related information please see the following page:
Does Islam require women to be covered from head to toe?