Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Should Non-Muslim women be obliged to wear a hijab when living in Muslim lands?
A Non-Muslim said she had to wear the hijab in Saudi Arabia, so I was curious about the Islamic position regarding non-Muslims living in Muslim lands. Aren’t non-Muslims free to practice their religion in Muslim lands and have no compulsion to follow
Please explain using any madhab. May Allah reward you.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
In order to answer this question, we must first distinguish between a Muslim majority country and a country who bases its government on the Sacred Law (sharia).
Just because a country has a Muslim majority and a Muslim leader, does not mean all the laws of that country are based on the Sacred Law of Islam.
Non-Muslims in Muslim Lands
Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah have mercy on him) said, “We were commanded to leave them (the Non-Muslims under Muslim rule) be and to practice as per their religion.”
This is a general principle: non-Muslims are left to worship, build their own places of worship, drink alcohol (because it is seen as permissible to them), sell alcohol amongst themselves, and transact amongst themselves according to their own conditions.
There are, however, many issues that are excluded from the above general principle.
The exception to the above principle is in regards to actions that may affect the Muslim society or that may cause corruption. Thus, if the sale of alcohol, for example, begins to spill over into the larger society and affect the purity of the Islamic environment, the Muslim leader may put restrictions on the Non-Muslims.
The same applies to clothing and covering one’s nakedness (‘awra).
Non-Muslim Women and the Hijab
Shaykh Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni mentions in his commentary of the Quran, Rawa‘i al-Bayan the following:
Is the Hijab obligatory for all women, Muslim and non-Muslim?
(His response is summarized as follows:)
The command and obligation of the Hijab apply solely to Muslim women.
Allah Most High says, “O Prophet! Ask your wives, daughters, and believing women to draw their cloaks over their bodies. In this way it is more likely that they will be recognized ˹as virtuous˺ and not be harassed. And Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Quran; 33:59]
The above obligation applies to every morally responsible Muslim woman, not the non-Muslim since we were commanded to leave them be.
Regarding the non-muslim woman, even though they are not obliged to follow the commandment of the Hijab, they should not be left to corrupt society by exposing their bodies publicly to men causing a disruption in the religious practice of the Muslim society.
This issue falls under the political discretion of the leader. They can rule that all women, Muslim and non-muslim, cover themselves sufficiently in public. [Sabuni, Rawa‘i al-Bayan]
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.