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Is it Permissible to Show Hair to, Not Just Any Suitor, but Your Future Spouse?

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

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QUESTION: I have heard from my Hanafi teachers that it is impermissible for a woman to show her hair to a suitor, that those who say it is permissible are using a very weak opinion. My husband, however, says that the mashaikh only say this to the 'aam people who may misuse the ruling (to see the hair of every girl that they are not even serious about). His family is mashaAllah very pious, and his brother is becoming a mufti under the tutelage of Mufti Taqi Uthmani. His brother actually told my cousin that it would be permissible to request to see a girl's hair. Also, another one of my husband's brothers saw the hair of his future wife beforehand (when he was reasonably convinced he would be marrying her), and my husband's sister showed her hair (only once) to her future husband (though normally she is in niqab). (Note: they did not do these things with any one else they were considering; only the people they *actually* eventually married). I am very confused. Do people like our respected Mufti Taqi Uthmani allow for this? Perhaps Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam or someone else familiar with him could reply?


In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

Looking at someone one intends to marry is not merely something that is permissible, rather it has been encouraged by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace).

Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates: I was in the company of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) when a man came and informed him that he had contracted to marry a woman of the Ansar. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to him: “Did you cast a glance at her? He said: No. He said: “Go and look at her, for there is something in the eyes of the Ansar”. (Sahih Muslim, no. 1423)

Sayyiduna Mughira ibn Shu’bah (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that he proposed to a woman for marriage. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to him: “Look at her, for it may produce love between you.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no. 1087, Musnad Ahmad, Sunan Nasa’i & Sunan Ibn Majah)

Sayyiduna Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “When one of you proposes to a woman for marriage, then if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so.” (Sunan Abu Dawud and Musnad Ahmad)

The great Hadith and Shafi’i Fiqh scholar, Imam al-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“…In the Hadith (of Abu Hurayra mentioned first) there is recommendation of looking at the face of the woman one is intending to marry. This is the opinion of our (Shafi’i) School, the School of Malik, Abu Hanifa, all the scholars of Kufa, Ahmad and the majority of the Ulama. Qadhi (Iyadh) has narrated from a group (of scholars) that it is disliked but that is incorrect and contrary to the clear text of this Hadith, and contrary to the consensus (ijma’) of the Ummah…Then, it is permitted for him to look at her palms and face only, for they are not considered to be part of the nakedness (awra), and also because by looking at the face, one is able to determine her beauty or otherwise and by looking at her hands one is able to determine the chubbiness of the body or otherwise. This is the opinion of our School and the view of most others.” (al-Minhaj Sharh Sahih Muslim, p. 1068)

Mulla Ali al-Qari, the great Muhaddith and Hanafi Imam, states in his renowned Mirqat al-Mafatih, quoting from Allama Teebi that the meaning of the Messenger of Allah’s (Allah bless him & give him peace) statement “if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so” (in the Hadith of Jabir recorded by Imam Abu Dawud, quoted earlier) is either wealth, status, beauty and religion (deen).” (Mirqat al-Mafatih, 6/198)

Thus the above explanation by Mulla Ali al-Qari quite clearly refutes the interpretation some people make with regards to the Hadith of Jabir, in that one may look at whatever may induce one into marrying. If such general permission is given, people will demand to see all sorts of body parts.

Thus, the above is quite clear in determining that, it is only permitted for one to see the hands and face of the woman one is intending to marry. This permission is also subject to certain conditions.

Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:

“It is recommended ……to look at the woman before marriage.”

Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains the above by stating:

“Meaning, even if there is desire (shahwa) but this is when one genuinely believes it is possible to get married to her.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 3/8, Kitab al-Nikah)

Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states in another place:

“If one fears desire (shahwa) or has a doubt (m: in attaining desire), then one will be prevented from looking at the face of a non-Mahram woman. Thus, the permissibility of looking is restricted to not having desire otherwise it will be unlawful (haram). This ruling was in their times, in our times however, one will be prevented from looking at a young woman (m: regardless of whether one fears desire or otherwise). The exception for looking and not touching is when there is a need, such as for the judge, witness in the court…and for the one who intends to marry, even with desire but only if one’s intention is to implement the Sunnah (m: and fulfil one’s objective of marriage) not to fulfil one’s desires (m: by looking without really wanting to marry).”

Allama Ibn Abidin, the commentator of al-Haskafi’s Durr al-Mukhtar, mentions the following points in his commentary of the above text:

1) There is nothing wrong in looking at someone one is intending to marry even with desire (shahwa) due to the Hadith of Mughira ibn Shu’ba (Allah be pleased with him) where the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Look at her, for it may produce love between you” and because the aim is to fulfil the Sunnah of marriage and not desire.

2) It is not permitted to touch the face and hands of the woman even when one does not fear desire, for there is no real need for that.

3) The need is only in looking at the woman once, thus more than once would not be allowed, for cases of need are restricted to the actual need. (m: However, if one was uncertain and undecided by looking at her once due to some reason, such as not looking at her properly, etc, then one may look again. This, however, should not be merely having another go at the whip; rather one should genuinely think that marriage is highly likely)

4) Permissibility of looking is only to the hands and face

5) If it is not possible to look at the woman or one wants descriptions of parts of the body that are other than the hands and the face, then one may send a female relative (such as a mother or sister) to look at her and then describe her to him.

6) A woman may also look at the man whom she intends to marry even if there is a fear of desire, rather this is more important. The reason being is that the husband will be able to divorce her whenever he wants if he dislikes her, but the wife cannot do that. Thus, it is very important that she looks and is content with him. (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, ‘Bab al-Mass wa’l Nadhar fi Kitab al-Hadhr wa’l Ibaha, 6/370)

Thus, to sum up, it is not only permitted but recommended to look at someone one is intending to marry. This, however, is only when one is seriously contemplating marriage with her, and that marriage is possible and likely. This permission is even in the case where one (the man or the woman) fears desire (shahwa), if the right intention is there. Merely fulfilling the desire to look will be unlawful.

It will not be permitted for the man and woman to remain alone in seclusion (khalwa), for there is no need for that. Being alone with a non-Mahram is unlawful (haram) or at the least prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) and must be avoided.

Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “A man must not remain alone in the company of a woman, and a woman must not travel except that her Mahram is accompanying her.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 2488)

If one decides to marry someone, it is for the man permitted to look at the woman’s face and hands only. This is the opinion of the majority of the scholars (jumhur), including the Hanafis, as mentioned earlier. Some individual scholars (such as Imam al-Awza’i, Ibn Hazam and Dawud Zahiri) did permit looking at other than the hands and face but this is not the mainstream opinion.

As far as the opinion of Mufti Taqi Usmani (Allah preserve him) is concerned, I have not heard anything directly from him, but it is clearly mentioned in his Dars Tirmidhi (3/351) that one is only permitted to look at the hands and face.

And Allah knows best

Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK

[Source: SunniPath]


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