Niqab in western countries

I am a married sister who wears the niqaab (due to being told it is compulsory to wear) and has been wearing it for the past 3 years. However recently I have learnt that to cover the face is actually not part of the auwra (according to Imam Abu Hanifa), but due to current conditions(fitna) one should wear the niqaab. I totally understand and agree with this point when in many Muslim countries, but my question is does the same ruling apply in non-Muslim lands, when on many occasions one is verbally and emotional abused for wearing the niqaab making day to day life very difficult (by no fault of the niqaab but by peoples lack of understanding about Islam.)
I understand that Allah ordered women to be covered for their own safety and being free from harassment, and I feel that wearing the hijaab and juba attains this as no body bothers you in that way in this country, however by wearing the niqaab I sometimes feel un safe due to fear of abuse from non-Muslims, as I have experienced both verbal and physical attacks in the past (due to living in an English dominated area.)
This issue has left me confused and distressed due to different opinions of many scholars, and has often left me in tears on not knowing what to do.
Please could you give some clear guidance in this issue, if I am required by Allah to wear the niqaab, and if by not wearing it, will it make me sinful?

In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful.

Answer

Allah states in the Quran: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the women of the believers, that they should draw their outer garment (Jilbab) over their persons. That is more proper, so that they may be recognized and not be bothered.  And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Surah al-Ahzab, 59)
The awrah (nakedness) of a woman in front of a non-mahram (those with whom marriage is lawful) consists of the whole body except the face, hands and feet. (Raddul Muhtar, Vol 5, P261)

Niqaab (face cover) according to the scholars is not part of the awrah. However, wherever there is an apprehension of fitnah or temptation then it will be compulsory for a woman to cover her face.

Allamah Ibn Abedeen Shami has said: (“A young woman will be prevented from exposing her face) not because it is part of the awrah, rather (for the fear of temptation.”) (Raddul Muhtar Vol 5, P261)

The above ruling would apply whether in a Muslim country or not. However it is a well established principle of Shariah that in extreme and desperate situation unlawful things become lawful. (Al-Ashbah wan-Nazair, P 43)

Allah has stated in his Holy Book: “Any one who disbelieves in Allah after establishing his belief except him who has been compelled but his heart is content with faith. (Surah Nahl: 106)

From the above ayah and the principle of Shariah it is clear that certain things under extreme and desperate situation become lawful. Therefore in the situation mentioned above if the threat is considered immediate and real then one may be excused from wearing the niqaab. However it becomes compulsory on an individual to migrate when one is not able to freely practice his/her religion.

And Allah knows best.

Sayeedur Rahman

Darul Ifta, Birmingham

If required please click on the hyperlink below to see a detailed article on the topic of hijaab.

http://www.daruliftabirmingham.co.uk/hijab.htm

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