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. (Qur'an, 4:31)
"Misinterpretations Regarding “Women's Adornments”
Another subject that God draws our attention in verse 31 of Surat an-Nur is women's “adornments.” The passage in the verse that reads, ”... so that their hidden ornaments are known” means that they should not display their breasts, and is not a reference to their heads.
However, this is reflected very differently in some hadiths and in some commentaries on the Qur'an through additions in parentheses or the distortion of the meanings of words. Let us have a look at these:
The Idea that Women Are Instruments of Trial
The true meaning of the first part of the word “zeenatahunna” in this verse is “adornment or ornament,” and the suffix “hunna” indicates that this is being addressed to women.
In their own opinions, some scholars say, “Women's bodies are decorative and attractive, for which reason the verse is referring to their entire bodies.” From that starting point they claim that women should cover all their bodies up; in truth, the verse is actually saying no such thing.
Some people come up with a very different interpretation to what the Qur'an is saying and say, “This refers to the parts of the body where beads and decorations are displayed, for which reason it is unlawful to look at the regions where these are displayed.” Others go even further and say, “It is unlawful to look at a woman's cut hair or nail clippings.” They then go on to produce very odd ideas such as, “Looking at just one part usually leads to looking at the whole.” (Ibn Hajar, al-Zawajir)
Even though the verse is perfectly explicit, countless very different and odd interpretations have been produced from the term ”... so that their hidden ornaments are known.” These interpretations vary according to people's way of thinking, and sometimes depending on their perspective toward women. Mindsets that seek to shut women away, pacify them, make them ugly and keep them away from society and humanity, to make them second-class citizens and – may God forbid - turn them into entities that live only to serve men and not God, have tended to want to eliminate women entirely by means of the single word “ornament.” Through these false interpretations of verses of the Qur'an, many people have departed from the essence of the faith and have regarded the Qur'an as an incomprehensible book, and when these additions have been taken together with fabricated hadiths, the result has become an interpretation of faith very different to that seen in the Qur'an.
However, the term “hidden ornaments” in the verse is very clear, and refers to two areas that are kept hidden, the sexual organs and the breasts.
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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