Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verse 60
Adopted from the book: "The Light of the Holy Qur'an - Interpretation of Sura an-Nur" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani & a Group of Muslim Scholars"
60. "And (as for) women advanced in years, who have no hope of marriage, it is no sin for them if they put off their (outer) clothes in such a way as not to show adornment. And if they refrain themselves, it is better for them; and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing."
Islam rules are in accord with realties, necessities, needs, and social abilities. Therefore we should slacken it for an old woman who does not have inclination for husband and does not apply cosmetics.
Thus in this verse an exception for the ordinance of the veil of women is mentioned by which exempts old women from this ordinance. It says:
"And (as for) women advanced in years, who have no hope of marriage, it is no sin for them if they put off their (outer) clothes in such a way as not to show adornment...."
In fact, there are two conditions for this exception:
1. Reaching an age in which there is usually no hope of marriage in them. In other words, they have lost any sexual attraction completely.
2. They should not have any cosmetics when they take away their veil.
It is clear that with these two conditions there will be no mischief when veil is discarded in them. For this reason Islam exempts them from this ordinance.
It is also obvious that its purpose is not to be naked and to take off all clothes, but it means to remove outer garments that in some narrations it has been interpreted into veil (chador) and scarf.
In a tradition Imam Sadiq (a.s.) about this verse says: "The purpose (of it) is veil (chador) and scarf." The narrator says he asked Imam: "Before every one?" Imam said: "Before every one, but she must not apply cosmetics and she must not wear adornments." 121
Some other narrations with the same content are narrated from Imams, Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.). 122
It is added at the end of the verse implying that yet if they refrain and cover themselves it is better for them, because from the view point of Islam the more a woman observes her veiling and chastity, she will be more admirable, pious, and pure. The verse says:
"... And if they refrain themselves, it is better for them;..."
Since some old women may misuse this calculated and lawful freedom and so have possibly improper talking with men and have impure thoughts altogether, in the end of the verse, as a warning, it says:
"... and Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing."
He hears what is told and He knows what is in the hearts and what is in minds.
In short, the matter of veiling is one of the stable and necessary ordinances of Islam, but the issues of how the veil should be is depended on the matter of not stirring sexual desires and saving chastity and modesty.
So, the principle that this group of women are excepted from the ordinance of veiling is not a matter of discussion among Islam scholars and learned people, because the text of the Qur'an expresses it, but there are some words about its characteristics, including: the age of these women, in what age the ordinance of 'women advanced in years' covers women.
In some Islamic narration, it has been interpreted as old women. 123 While in other narrations it has been interpreted as women retirement from marriage. 124 But some Islamic jurists and commentators think that it means the end of menstruation, the age of barrenness and people's reluctance to marry such women. 125
Apparently, all of these meanings refer to one reality that women must get so old that no one would like to marry them, although some of such women may rarely get married.
Moreover, about the part of the body that these women can show, there are some different interpretations in Islamic Traditions, while the Holy Qur'an says vaguely that there is no problem for such women to take off their garments, of course, their outer clothes.
In some narrations we read the answer of this question that which garments can be taken off; Imam Sadiq (a.s.) has said:
"Chador." 126 While in other narration it has been interpreted as chador and scarf. 127
Apparently, there is no inconsistency between these Islamic traditions. The purpose is that there is no problem for such women to uncover their head and to bare their hair, neck, and face. Even in some traditions and jurists' words, the wrist is exempted, but we have no reasons about more than this very extension for its exemption.
Anyway, all of these are for the time that such women do not apply cosmetics, and to cover their hidden adornments as others are enjoined to do. Also they must not wear garments that attract attentions and, in other words, they are permitted to go out without (chador) and scarf while wearing a simple garment and without applying cosmetics.
Yet, this ordinance is not obligatory, but if they do veil themselves as other women do, it is more preferred, as it is explicitly mentioned in the end of the verse, because there is the possibility of deviation and offence in such people, although very rarely.
121. Wasa-'il-ush-shi-'ah, the book of An-Nika-h, Vol. 14, P. 147, Ch. 110
122. For more explanation refer to the above book (the same reference)
123. Wasa-'il-ush-shi-'ah, Vol. 14, the book of An-Nika-h, C.110, Tradition No. 4
124. The above book
125. Jawa-hir Vol. 29, P.85 and Kanz-ul- 'Irfan, Vol. 2, p.226
126. Wasa-'il-ush-shi-'ah, the book of Al-Nekaah, C.110, Tradition No.1
127. The above book, Traditions 2 and 3
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