Covering of the eyes

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The phrase "covering of eyes" is found in Genesis 20:16. It is translated literally in Young's Literal Translation. The King James Version inserts the definite article "the", absent in the original text. Almost all other versions treat it as a figurative expression, and translate it according to the meaning, not the individual words.

The verse[edit]

The verse appears when king Abimelech of Gerar is speaking to Abraham and his wife Sarah whom he had taken as his wife thinking her Abraham's sister:

וּלְשָׂרָה אָמַר, הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי אֶלֶף כֶּסֶף לְאָחִיךְ--הִנֵּה הוּא-לָךְ כְּסוּת עֵינַיִם, לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר אִתָּךְ; וְאֵת כֹּל, וְנֹכָחַת.

The King James Version translates as follows:

And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.

One commentator[1] has interpreted the phrase as implied advice to Sarah to conform to a supposed custom of married women, and wear a complete veil, covering the eyes as well as the rest of the face, but the phrase is generally taken to refer not to Sarah's eyes, but to the eyes of others, and to be merely a metaphorical expression concerning vindication of Sarah (NASB, RSV), silencing criticism (GWT), allaying suspicions (NJB), righting a wrong (BBE, NLT), covering or recompensing the problem caused her (NIV, NLV, TNIV, JB), a sign of her innocence (ESV, CEV, HCSB). The final phrase in the verse, which KJV takes to mean "she was reproved", is taken by almost all other versions to mean instead "she was vindicated", and the word "הוא", which KJV interprets as "he" (Abraham), is interpreted as "it" (the money).

Abimelech's statement to Sarah about the giving of 1000 pieces of silver is interpreted in the midrash[citation needed], and sometimes elsewhere[citation needed], as a curse and re-translated "... his eyes", in order to interpret it as the reason for Isaac's later blindness in his old age. Such a curse was seen as righteously carried out, since Abraham's deliberate deceit was to blame for Abimelech's innocent error, and hence its visitation on Abraham's son was considered just. More modern critical readings view it[citation needed] simply as an instruction to purchase a veil for Sarah, so that she would be clearly identified as being married, in which case it forms a sly reproach against her for not already wearing one.

The Jewish Encyclopedia[2] agreeing with the general view, namely that the phrase has nothing to do with a material veil, states that Abimelech wants his wrongdoing overlooked in exchange for silver in a kind of ransom (kofer-nefesh, similar to the Teutonic Weregild).

In Arabic countries[edit]

Covering of the Eyes(Arabic:غطاء العین) is a veil which covers the eyes, as well as the rest of the face. This kind of veil was traditionally worn by married Muslim women in the middle ages. Some Salafi women in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and UAE and parts of Iran may still continue to wear eye-veils, but even in those countries this practice is no longer widespread.

In the modern world, Salafiyyah is the only Islamic school of thought and jurisprudence that believes that a woman’s awrah in front of unrelated men is her entire body including her face and hands.[3] [4] [5][6] [7][8] [9] [10] [11][12]

Other groups exclude the face and the hands from the awrah parts.[13] [14] However, the eye-veil issue is regarded differently by the various Salafi scholars and has continued to arouse debate between Salafi scholars particularly in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudi scholars hold the opinion that it is permissible for a woman to show her eyes.[15]

However, recently, the religious authority in Mecca, Mohammad Habadan called on women to wear veils that reveal only one eye, so that women would not be encouraged to use eye make-up.[16] The cleric has insisted that the one-eye niqab was prescribed in the following traditions:

  • Ibn Sireen has said: “I asked ‘Abīdah as Salmaani about the statement of Allah: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their Jalābīb all over their bodies…” So he took his garment and covered his head and his face but he covered his left eye, leaving the right eye exposed. Then he drew his garment from above making it close to his eyebrow, or upon his eyebrow.
  • Ibn Abbas has said: “Allah commanded the believing women, when going out of their homes for some need, to cover their faces from above their heads with their Jilbābs, leaving one eye to see the path.”

Some other Saudi scholars have argued that the reason women permitted to show one of their eyes was that, if they did not, they could not see the way- and that there is no need to expose the eyes in the modern world as women can cover their eyes with nets or sheer layers so as not to be a cause of attraction without having their vision restricted. [17] Another Saudi Shaikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen has remarked: “If you say that it is allowed for women to wear Niqab and uncover their eyes and look out from behind the Niqab, within a short time the hole in this niqab would widen to include the eyebrows, forehead and cheeks, then the cover would decrease until the whole face is exposed. This is well known to be the way of women, so shutting the door to that is the best way.”[18] [19]

Saudi Niqabs consists of an upper band that is tied around the forehead, together with a long wide piece which covers the face, leaving an opening for the eyes. Many also have two or more sheer layers attached to the upper band, which can be worn flipped down to cover the eyes or left over the top of the head.

Contrary to common belief, eye veils do not generally restrict vision any more than a dark pair of sunglasses would. Although a person looking at a woman wearing a niqab with an eyeveil would not be able to see her eyes, she is able to see out through the thin fabric.

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "article name needed". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. 

  1. ^ Covering of the eyes in The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, by Matthew George Easton M.A., D.D, 1897
  2. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainKaufmann Kohler (1901–1906). "Atonement". In Singer, Isidore; et al. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. 
  3. ^ Mohammad Nasir (March 23, 2007). "In Defense of The Obligation of Niqab". Seeking Ilm. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  4. ^ Al-Mutaqqun (March 7, 2008). "Revelation of Al-Hijab". Mutaqqun. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  5. ^ Fiqhus Sunnah
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Niqāb - Introduction BBC - Religion and Ethics. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 14 April 2007.
  8. ^ Matter of Choice BBC - Religion and Ethics. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 14 April 2007.
  9. ^ Hillel Zain (March 7, 2008). "Awrah". Mutaqqun. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  10. ^ Hillel Zain (March 7, 2008). "Guide to Hijab". Salimin. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  11. ^ Abdullah Atif Samih (March 7, 2008). "What is Awrah?". Mutaqqun. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  12. ^ Marfuqi, Kitab ul Mar'ah fil Ahkam, pg 133
  13. ^ "Understanding the Face Veil". Muhajjaba. March 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  14. ^ "Why Wear Niqab?". Muhajjaba. March 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  15. ^ Muhammad Al-Munajjid (March 7, 2008). "Woman Showing Her Eyes". Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  16. ^ "Saudi cleric favours one-eye veil". BBC. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  17. ^ "On Covering the Eyes". The Niq. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  18. ^ "On Eye Veil". Islam Q&A. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  19. ^ "Kohl". Islam Q&A. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-02.