The Islamic community is convinced that Shariah orders the covering of certain parts of the body, which in the language of the fiqh is called aurat. The basis of the law is the letter of an-Nur, verses 30 and 31, together with al-Azhab, verses 33 and 59. There are many who believe these verses quite clearly determine the limits of aurat for men and women. Where as, when examined, these verses represent moral suggestions of a general nature, such as: orders to conceal from view, not show off decorations, and veil the open parts of the body, together with not intentionally behaving in a flirtatious or tempting manner. In order to be clear on this, we quote a verse from the An-Nur letter mentioned above:
" Say to men of faith: They should restrain from view and guard against shame; because that which is so is holier for them. Truly Allah knows what they do. Say also to women of faith: They should restrain from view and guard against shame, and they should not make visible their decorations, except those, which usually are visible. And they should cover their chest with a veil." (An-Nur : 31)
The wording of this verse is quite general; because of this there are a variety of views of interpreting it among Ulama (religious teachers). In the interpretation of the book al-Jami' li Ahkam al-Qur'an, written by al-Qurthubi, there are various views about the meaning of this verse. For example, the intention of wa la yubdina zinatahunna (showing off decorations). What is meant by decoration? Is it a type of necklace, earring, or bracelet? Or does the body of a woman itself constitute decoration? Is the face included in the body decoration that must be covered or not? What about the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet?
To obtain a more complete comprehension of these aurat verses, we need to refer to another basic law, among others, the hadiths of Nabi Saw. The Ulama have varied views on the quality of hadiths, and even in understanding them. The hadiths which are often turned into bases to determine the limits of women's aurat are found in Jami' al-Ushul, a hadith which is quite complete and well-known, written by Ibn Al-Atsir.
Narrative hadith of Abu Dawud, at-Turmudzi and Ibn Majah. From Aisyah ra, Nabi Saw spoke, "Allah does not accept a women's prayer unless she wears a cloth covering her head."
This hadith is often turned into a basis to say that women's heads are aurat, which must be covered in prayer, as well as outside of prayer. But, in the criticism of sanad (the chronological order of texts) it is found to be a manner of judgement. At-Turmudzi and Ibn Hibban considered this hadith authentic, while al-Hakim considered this hadith to be weak. (see: az-Zai'li, Nashb ar-Rayah, Vol. II, p. 295).
In interpreting this hadith, there are a variety of views, because the wording is not explicit. The majority of fiqh Ulama (scholars of the laws pertaining to Islam), are of the opinion that only the head of a woman is considered aurat, and the head does not include the face. Others feel that outside of prayer, a woman's face is included in the category of the head, which is aurat, and thus, she is also obligated to cover her face. Other views consider the face as aurat, with the exception of the eyes.
Besides that, more moderate views by the majority of Ulama allow women workers - at that time t