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The Command to Announce your Entrance to Someone's House

Now we will discuss the Quranic verses and after we clarify what traditional commentators have explained about the verses, then with the help of traditions which have been narrated on this topic and the edicts of the religious jurisprudents on this issue, it will become clearer. The verses relating on the hijab are found in Surah Nur and Surah Ahzab. We will mention all of them.
We will begin our discussion with the verses from Surah Nur. Of course the verses which relate directly to the hijab are verses of 30 and 31 of Surah Nur but there are three verses before this which are more or less introductory to the hijab and relate to this issue.

"O believers, do not enter houses other than your houses until you first ask leave and salute the people thereof; that is better for you; haply you will remember."1 This verse describes the duty of a man who is not mahram, to the house of another person, that is, the house of a person whose wife is not mahram to him. Of course, there are rules regarding those who are mahram and we will mention them later. Also there are some places where it is not particular to those who are mahram. It relates to how a person who wants to enter the house of another should do.

To begin with, let me say that during the Age of Ignorance before the Holy Quran was revealed, the present situation of houses did not exist with locks, etc. Doors are closed basically because of the fear of thieves. If someone wanted to enter, he would ring the doorbell or use the knocker. In the Age of Ignorance this situation did not exist. It was more like the situation in villages. People like myself who lived in the village know that there were basically no doors shut. The doorst to the courtyard are always open. In many places it is not even the practice to lock the doors at night. In Fariman a village near Tehran where I live I do not remember the door to the yard being closed even once and there was very little theft.

History shows that, in particular in Makkah, they often did not even put doors for a house. In Islam a law was passed that a person never owns the houses of Makkah. Of course, there is a difference of opinion among the religious jurisprudents. The Imams and the Shafe'ites agree that in Makkah, the land cannot belong to anyone person. That is, it belongs to all Muslims and the land of Makkah cannot be bought and sold. The houses belong to all the people. It has the ruling of a mosque. In Surah Hajj it says that the people who live there and the people who come from outside that area are all the same.

These rents which people get today in Makkah neither agrees with the Shi'ite jurisprudence nor with much of the jurisprudence of Sunnis. It must have an international ruling. They have no right to establish limits there and not allow a person to enter. It belongs to him but he has no right to prevents others from entering. The person has no right to close off an empty room. Of course, if a person is using it, he has priority.

The first peson who gave the order for doors to be placed on the houses was Mu'awiyah. This had been forbidden to be done to the houses of Makkah. This was the general situation.

It was not the custom among Arabs in the Age of Ignorance to announce that they wanted permission to enter. They felt it was an insult to seek permission to enter. The Holy Quran says in another verse, if you go and seek permission and it is not granted, return. This may be considered to be an insult by some but this emphasis in the Holy Quran is one of the introductory aspects of the hijab because every woman in her own home is in a situation that she does not want to be seen or she does not want to see a person. A verse was revealed. "And when you ask his wives for something, ask them from behind a curtain (hijab)"2

Thus, a person must first seek permission to enter and then in agreement with the owner, the person enters even if the other party knows that he wants to enter.

The Holy Prophet said, "In order to announce yor entrance, recall God's name in a loud voice. I later realized the words 'ya Allah' that Muslim say, for instance, to enter, is the implementation of this command.

Thus, announce and how much better it is when this announcement is made by the recitation of God's name. The Holy Prophet continuously did this and he was asked, "Is this a general ruling that we should use when we enter our sister's house, our daughter's house, our mother's house?" He said, "If your mother is getting undressed, would she want you to see her then? They said, "NO." He said, "Then this same ruling holds for one's mother's house. Do not enter without announcing your entrance."

When the Holy Prophet would enter, he would stand behind the door of the room in a place where they could bear his vioce and would call out, "Assalamo alaikum ya ahlal bait". He said, "if you hear no answer, perhaps the person did not hear you. Repeat it again in a loud voice. Repeat for a third time if you receive no response. If, after the third time that you announce yourself, you hear no response, either that person is not home or the person does not want you to enter; Return". The Holy Prophet did this and many stories have been narrated about this, such as when he wanted to enter his daughter's house, he would call out salutations in a loud voice. If she resonded, he would enter. If he called out three times and received no response, he would return.

There is something here to note which is the difference between dar and bait in Arabic. Dar is that which we call courtyard and they call a room as bait. The Holy Quran refers to bait, that is, when you want to enter the room of a person. Since the doors to the courtyards were open, the courtyard clearly did not assume an area of privacy. That is, if a woman was dressed in such a way that she did not want anyone to see her, she would not be so dressed in the courtyard. She would go into a room. The courtyard has the ruling of a room. The door is closed and it normally has high walls. Women still consider the courtyard to be, to a certain extent, a place of privacy. Now dar has the ruling of bait because bait basically means the place of privacy where a woman does not want a strange person to see her.

"This is purer for you." That is, the commands We give are better for you, contain goodness, are not illogical.

"Know that this is good."

"And if you do not find anyone therein, enter it not until I leave is given to you and if you are told 'return'. That is purer for you; and God knows the things you do." "There is no fault in you that you enter uninhabited houses wherein enjoyment is for you. God knows what you reveal and what you hide."3 This was very difficult for the Arabs to understand. To seek permission when they wanted to enter a house was itself difficult and then to be told to return and to return was next to impossible. It was an insult.

In the verse, "there is no fault in you ...", an exception arises. Does this ruling apply whenever one wants to enter any or only a person's residence. The Holy Quran says this is not a general ruling and only applies to someone's home.

A home is a place of privacy, the place of one's private life but if it was not, there would be need to seek permission. If there is, for instance, a caravanserai and you have business, do you have to seek permission, etc. No. Here it is not necessary to enter by seeking permission. What about a public bath. There is no need here. "There is no fault in you ..." if it is not a place of residence in which you have business. "God knows what you reveal and what you hide."

From the word, 'uninhabited', one can understand that the philosophy of why a person cannot enter the home of another without announcing it first is because of the wife as well as the fact that the home is the place of one's privacy. Perhaps there are things which one does not want someone else to see.

Thus, when a person enters the privacy of another's home, the entrance must be announced. A person must, in some way, announce that he wants to enter even if the person knows that the other has allowed him to enter. He is your friend. He knows that you are going to enter. You know that he is totally in agreement with your entering.Still, you should realize that you are entering upon his privacy.

1. Quran, 24 : 26.

2. Quran, 33 : 53.

3. Quran, 24 : 27-28.

Adopted from the book : "On the Islamic Hijab" by : "Murtaza Mutahhari"

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