Say to the believing women that they should lower their eyes and guard their chastity and not display their adornments – except for what normally shows – and draw their head-coverings across their breasts. They should only display their adornments to their husbands or their fathers or their husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons or their brothers or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons or other women or those they own as slaves or their male attendants who have no sexual desire or children who still have no awareness of women's private parts. Nor should they stamp their feet so that their hidden ornaments are known. Turn to God every one of you, believers, so that hopefully you will have success. (Surat an-Nur, 31)
In almost all translations the verse appears as, “...and draw their head-coverings across their breasts,” but the word “headscarf” actually does not appear in the original Arabic verse. The verse speaks of “covering.” We can see this more clearly from looking at the meanings of the original Arabic words:
“... draw their head-coverings across their breasts ...” (Surat an- Nur, 31)
“Waqul lilmu/minati yaghdudna min absarihinna wayahfathna furoojahunna wala yubdeena zeenatahunna illa ma thahara minha walyadribna bikhumurihinna AAala juyoobihinna wala yubdeena zeenatahunna illa libuAAoolatihinna aw aba-ihinna aw aba-i buAAoolatihinna aw abna-ihinna aw abna-i buAAoolatihinna aw ikhwanihinna aw banee ikhwanihinna aw banee akhawatihinna aw nisa-ihinna aw ma malakat aymanuhunna awi alttabiAAeena ghayri olee al-irbati mina alrrijali a“Waqul lilmu/minati yaghdudna min absarihinna wayahfathna furoojahunna wala yubdeena zeenatahunna illa ma thahara minha walyadribna bikhumurihinna AAala juyoobihinna wala yubdeena zeenatahunna illa libuAAoolatihinna aw aba-ihinna aw aba-i buAAoolatihinna aw abna-ihinna aw abna-i buAAoolatihinna aw ikhwanihinna aw banee ikhwanihinna aw banee akhawatihinna aw nisa- ihinna aw ma malakat aymanuhunna awi alttabiAAeena ghayri olee al-irbati mina alrrijali awi alttifli allatheena lam yathharoo AAala AAawrati alnnisa-i wala yadribna bi-arjulihinna liyuAAlama ma yukhfeena min zeenatihinna watooboo ila Allahi jameeAAan ayyuha almu/ minoona laAAallakum tuflihoona”wi alttifli allatheena lam yathharoo AAala AAawrati alnnisa-i wala yadribna bi-arjulihinna liyuAAlama ma yukhfeena min zeenatihinna watooboo ila Allahi jameeAAan ayyuha almu/minoona laAAallakum tuflihoona
” ya-dribna: ya-dribna: derived from the verb “daraba,” means “to strike, beat, leave (something), cover, close up.”
khumuri-hin-na: derived from “khamara.” “Khamra” means “wine, intoxicating.” In this verse the word means “covering.” It is generally used to mean “all kinds of covering, curtain, screen; shelter; pretext.”
juyoobi-hin-na: Plural form of the word “juyub.” It means chest, breast, pocket, chest area, cavity, collar.
Let us now look word by word at the part of the verse reading “wal-ya-dribna bi- khumuri-hin-na ‘ala juyoobi-hin-na,” translated as “...and draw their head coverings across their breasts.”
“Khimar” / Cover
The word “khumur” used as evidence for the headscarf covers a broad range of meaning, and is the plural form of the word “khimar,” meaning “covering,” and is derived from the root “khamara,” meaning “to cover.”
Dictionaries generally translate the word “khimar” as meaning “cover,” suggesting “anything which covers something.”
Therefore, the word translated as “head coverings” in the verse in fact means just a “cover”, and the word “head” appears nowhere at all in the verse.
“Yadribna” / To strike
This verb in the verse is translated by those who wish to portray the headscarf as being commanded in the Qur'an as, “that they should draw, that they should release.” The reason for that is to be able use the words “and draw their head coverings across their breasts” in order to justify their preconception that the verse refers to a headscarf already existing on the head. The fact is, however, that the verb means no such thing, and is properly used as follows:
The verb “yadribna” is derived from the root “daraba.” Daraba means “to strike, to beat, to leave, to cover, to close.” The verse is referring to the covering of the chest region with a covering when it says “that they should cover (walyadribna) their breasts (juyubihinna) with their coverings (bikhumurihinna).”
In the Qur'an the verb “yudnina” is used when the meaning purported is “that they should lengthen, release, or let down.” This verb however appears in no part of this verse.
“Juyub” / Collar opening
The word “juyub” is the plural form of the word “jayb,” which means “pocket” (it is used in the explanations such as “to open a pocket in a shirt”, “to put into a pocket” or “to remove from pocket”)
It is also used to mean the breast, bosom, heart, pocket, purse, opening.
The word “juyub” appears three times in the Qur'an. ”Juyub” is used in verse 31 of Surat an-Nur, while the singular form of the word, “jayb,” appears in two places in the story of the Prophet Moses (pbuh). It is used as follows in those two verses:
The singular form of the word “juyub”, “jayb,” appears twice in the story of the Prophet Moses (pbuh):
"Put your hand into your bosom (fee jaybika). It will emerge pure white, ... (Qur'an, 27:12)
Put your hand into your bosom (fee jaybika). It will emerge pure white ... (Qur'an, 28:32)
The word “juyub” in these two verses is used to mean the “bosom” of the Prophet Moses (pbuh). Looking at all these facts together, it is clear that when used together with the word “khimar,” the word “juyub” means to cover up the bosom. The verse contains no reference to “covering up the head.” Therefore, the true meaning of the passage generally interpreted to mean, “...that they should draw their head-coverings across their breasts,” is in fact, “that they should cover their breasts with their coverings.” The commandment in the verse refers to the covering of the breasts, not the head.
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Surat an-Nur Verse 31, 1st Part
Misleading or Incorrect Translations Based on Fabricated Hadiths
What Needs to Be Known about the Meanings of the Arabic Versions of Verses and Accuracy of Interpretations
Surat an-Nur Verse 31, 2nd Part
The Error of Making Adornments and Accessories Unlawful
How Is the Word “Ornament” Used in the Qur'an?
The Region Referred to in Verse 31 of Surat an-Nur
Fabricated Hadiths on the Subject of the Head-Covering and Their Internal Inconsistencies
Forbidden Things Are Not Left Obscure in the Qur'an
The Desire to Shut Only Women and Their Bodies Away
Surat al-Ahzab Verse 59
Espousing the Head-Covering but Never Mentioning the “Jilbab”
A Muslim Woman Knows How to Dress in Accordance with the Qur'an