Islamic marriage advice and family advice

Can I See a Woman Without Her Hijab Before I Propose?

October 19, 2006

QUESTION:

Dear Wael,

Does a Muslimah have to take off her hijab before the prospective husband makes a marriage proposal?

- Riffat from USA


WAEL ANSWERS:

Dear Riffat, As-salamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah,

I assume you are asking because you are interested in a particular woman but you want to see her without her hijab before you propose.

The short answer is no, she does not have to take off her hijab and you should not ask her to do so.

Why is it necessary to see her hair? You can see face and her hands even with her hijab on, and you can get a general idea of her figure. If she is wearing niqab then you should definitely ask her to show her face, since there can be no attraction if you do not like her face. But this should be enough. Why should the color or style of her hair matter? Be modest and approach her with modesty.

I posted a recent article on Zawaj.com titled 7 Etiquettes of Seeking a Spouse: an Islamic Perspective. In that article this same issue was discussed by Imam Muhammad Nur Abdullah of St. Louis, Missouri, a member of the North American Fiqh Council. I will reprint a section of the article here, as it is quite relevant. Pay attention especially to the last part:

If you're looking for a spouse, lower your gaze

This may seem like a contradiction, but it's not. Looking for a spouse who has the right qualities and whom you are physically attracted to does not mean throwing out the obligation to lower the gaze for both sexes and leering or ogling the person.

"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do." (Quran 24:30)

    "And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms..." (Quran 24:31)

This perspective (staring or leering) would not be Islamically acceptable. Imam Nur Abdullah noted that looking at a potential mate is recommended according to the Hadith. Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah the Prophet said:

"When one of you asks a woman for marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so...." (Abu Dawud).

This means the two potential spouses can look at each other but not ogle or stare. Abdullah also noted that there is no limit on the number of times the two people can look at each other. However, both should fear Allah and remember the purpose of this is to satisfy the need for physical attraction to the person you are marrying. He also notes it is not permissible for a man to see a potential wife without Hijab, since he is not her Mahram (a relative with whom marriage is not possible, or legally her husband). Abdullah says seeing her face and hands are enough to determine attraction.

Whatever I have said that is true and good, Alhamdulillah, and whatever I have said that is wrong is from me and I ask Allah's forgiveness.May Allah guide you and bless you in all your affairs.

- Wael Abdelgawad, Zawaj.com and AskBilqis.com Editor

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15 Responses »

  1. Salam Alaikum,

    Another way of finding out more about your potential wife is to send a trusted female family member of yours to look at those parts of her body-with her consent-that you cannot or are not allowd to see, and report back to you.

    Masalam

  2. Salaamu Alaikum -

    Ya Ustadh Wael... may Allah forgive me for any disrespect... but it is to my understanding that you are completely permitted to see your prospective wife without her hijab when your intentions are sincere and pure. In the most famous example and reported saheeh in hadith Muslim - when a man had approached Rasulallah sallallahu alayhi wa salam and expressed his interest in marrying a woman, the Messenger's response was "have you seen her?" When he answered no, the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wa salam responded immediately by saying "Go and look at her first." In another hadith narrated by Abu Dawoud, the Prophet Muhammad sallallahy alayhi wa salam had said that one should indeed look at that which attracts him to marrying a woman. It is my (humble) understanding that this sincerely means only with sincere intention, with PERMISSION of the female, and she is not obligated to do so by any means, and he and she still have to maintain modesty as Allah is watching over (removing just the hijab). Personally I'd feel better if this was done with a chaperone.

    Although Allahu'aalim what the best approach is for us to do - however it seems apparent from this and some other hadith that men are permitted to do so before proposal.

  3. Brother naveedsmind, As-salamu alaykum,

    Of course you are free to disagree with me and I do not see that as disrespectful in any way.

    I am aware of the two ahadeeth you mentioned, and I quoted one of them in my original response. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked, "Have you seen her?" He did not ask, "Have you seen her without hijab?"

    1. Perhaps this man had only seen this woman from a distance, and the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was suggesting that he go and get a closer look.

    2. Perhaps he had never seen her at all, but only knew of her. It would not be so strange in the Arabia of that day (and even today, in some places) for a man to marry a woman he had never laid eyes on.

    3. Keep in mind also that Islam requires us to lower our gaze and not to look closely or directly at a woman, so even if this man had seen this woman in the marketplace or at the masjid, he would not have gotten a close look, and he would not have looked at her directly. So perhaps the Messenger of Allah is saying, essentially, in this case it's ok for you to look at her closely, to see her, so to speak.

    4. It would be humiliating and embarassing for a woman to remove her hijab for a potentian suitor, and then to be rejected. She would have to live with the knowledge that this man who is not her husband has seen her beauty and her 'awrah.

    So unless you have evidence that, "Have you seen her?" means without hijab, I stand by my original answer that the woman should not remove her hijab for any suitor.

  4. Salam Alaikum,
    Ya Ustad Wael,i will be engaged soon to my cousin. He wishes to see my hair,he did not say if he will change his decision or anything but the point is that he wishes to know how i look like without Hijab.Alhumdulillah,he never objected to my hijab...he has always seen me in Hijab Alhumdulillah.So in every case I dont have to show my hair? He doesnt live here,i will send him only one or two pictures of me without Hijab.But as you said its haram,can you advise me how to tell him kindly that i can't,as Allah has not permitted me.As if it is haram,i do not wish to let any non-Mahram to see my hair even if it is my own fiance,and at the same time i want to handle the situation sensibly.Jazakallah khair for reading my question.

  5. I think it should be allowed for him to see without the head covering if necessary this will cause him to turn away from his wife after marriage. All women have different textures of hair and lengths. Its not just about the colour. Hair varies from ethnic group to ethnic group. I have heard directly from a shaykh who teaches with an international institution that he believes that a man should be able to see a woman as she appears in her home with her family because women nowadays enhance themselves with many fake things like fake eyelashes and fake hair, even though wigs are not permitted.

  6. I have heard several arguments regarding the looking upon a woman without her hijaab if one intends marriage, however not one person has provided a proof that this practice was consistent with the practice of the Sunnah (ie that the Prophet (p) did this, advised it or allowed it).

    Further the Qur'aan itself forbids this, thus to put ones culture or family values ahead of the Qur'aan without proof that this is a halal practice one has stepped out of the bounds of Islamic practice, and into the world of cultural practice. If you do not know then ask those who know, and certainly the great scholars of Islaam have not endorsed this practice to my knowledge.

    In addition I am not aware of any proofs which testify that the Sahaabah or the Tabi'een allowed this or engaged in this practice, and would ask that anyone endorsing this practice please post your proof, or otherwise refrain from encouraging something which on its face goes directly against the Qur'aan itself.

    Finally there is absolutely no valid reason that a man should be able to see the awrah of a woman whom he is not married to, as this constitutes seeing her in a state of nakedness in violation of Qur'an and Sunnah.

    Also using the logic presented above, that seeing the hair will help him decide if she is beautiful enough, or desirable enough, one could take this logic even further and argue that if she should take off her hair as a way to prove her beauty, why should one stop at the hair?

    A sister has no obligation to prove her beauty or desirableness outside of what the Qur'aan have allowed (ie. what normally appears of the hands and face), and without a sound proof from, Qur'aan, authentic ahadeeth, or even a fatawah from one of the scholars people should refrain from encouraging this practice as it violates the Qur'aan in many ways, least of which is "to make halaal that which Allah has made Haraam", without knowledge.

    I certainly defer to the opinion of Wael, and Allah knows best.

  7. Salaam

    One brother I know found out on the day of nikah that his wife had a triple chin - he told me had he seen his wife without hijab then he would not have gone ahead .

    Just goes to show that looks can be deceiving. Reading a lot of comments on this thread talking about how vulnerable it leaves a sister if she uncovered only to be rejected. How about the brother? Isn't he vulnerable after finding out after nikah?

  8. Asalamalay Kum,

    What do you mean by staring? Does that mean to look at each other in the eye or does that mean focusing on a specific part of his/her body for 30 seconds?

    Masalam

  9. I've seen a sister on a matrimonial site, she looked pretty in her hijab but she had a really wide face and big for head which was a turnoff, luckily she was open enough to share her photo without hijab too so I declined. I think it's important to show herself without hijab fir practicality. Nothing worse than marrying someone and finding that they werent attractive without makeup or had a potato shaped head

    • La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. People like you are exactly the reason sisters should NOT share their photos without hijab. Imagine the sister's embarrassment after exposing herself to you, then you say, "Thanks, but no thanks." And now here you are, exposing her faults before the world, with no shame whatsoever. I would say that woman should consider herself very fortunate that she did not end up with someone like you.

      Your comment is so shallow and unkind.

      So there is "nothing worse" than marrying someone and finding she has a potato shaped head? Really? How about marrying a beautiful, physically perfect woman and then finding out she is deeply narcissistic and cares nothing for your well being, or likes to insult and argue all day long, or is unfaithful? You might be wishing you had married with woman with the imperfect form but good character.

      Wael
      IslamicAnswers.com Editor

  10. I don't understand why some men are so fixated on seeing the women's hair it's just hair! It's not the actual person people can still be beautiful in all other ways hair is nothing. If Allah wills it could go. So even if u see her hair before marriage it could fall out after marriage. What will u do then?!?!?

    • It's true for both men and women. People marry for chemistry and companionship. Having hair implies good health, having thick hair implies really good health and people are attracted to it. There are many bald guys that get rejected by girls because the girl wants a guy with hair. There are guys that are the same and will reject a girl based on her hair. Sure her personality is great but that makes a good friend there still needs to be chemistry.

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