Surat an-Nur verse 31, 1st part
In almost all translations the verse appears as, “...and draw their head-coverings across their breasts,” but the word “headscarf” actually does not appear in this verse. The verse speaks of “covering.” We can see this more clearly from looking at the meanings of the original Arabic words:
ya-dribna: derived from the verb “daraba,” means “to strike, beat, leave (something), cover, close up.”
khumuri-hin-na: derived from “khamara.” “Khamra” means “wine, intoxicating.” In this verse the word means “covering.” It is generally used to mean “all kinds of covering, curtain, screen; shelter; pretext.”
juyubi-hin-na: Plural form of the word “juyub.” It means chest, breast, pocket, chest area, cavity, collar.
Let us now look word by word at the part of the verse reading “wal-ya-dribna bi-khumuri-hin-na ‘ala juyubi-hin-na,” translated as “...and draw their head coverings across their breasts.”
“Khimar” / Cover
The word “khumur” used as evidence for the headscarf covers a broad range of meaning, and is the plural form of the word “khimar,” meaning “covering,” and is derived from the root “khamara,” meaning “to cover.”
Dictionaries generally translate the word “khimar” as meaning “cover,” suggesting “anything which covers something.”
Therefore, the word translated as “head coverings” in the verse in fact means just a “cover”, and the word “head” appears nowhere at all in the verse.
“Yadribna” / To strike
This verb in the verse is translated by those who wish to portray the headscarf as being commanded in the Qur’an as, “that they should draw, that they should release.” The reason for that is to be able use the words “and draw their head coverings across their breasts” in order to justify their preconception that the verse refers to a headscarf already existing on the head. The fact is, however, that the verb means no such thing, and is properly used as follows:
The verb “yadribna” is derived from the root “daraba.” Daraba means “to strike, to beat, to leave, to cover, to close.” The verse is referring to the covering of the chest region with a covering when it says “that they should cover (walyadribna) their breasts (juyubihinna) with their coverings (bikhumurihinna).”
In the Qur'an the verb “yudnina” is used when the meaning purported is “that they should lengthen, release, or let down.” This verb however appears in no part of this verse.
“Juyub” / Collar opening
The word “juyub” is the plural form of the word “jayb,” which means “pocket” (it is used in the explanations such as “to open a pocket in a shirt”, “to put into a pocket” or “to remove from pocket”)
It is also used to mean the breast, bosom, heart, pocket, purse, opening.
The word “juyub” appears three times in the Qur’an. ”Juyub” is used in verse 31 of Surat an-Nur, while the singular form of the word, “jayb,” appears in two places in the story of the Prophet Moses (pbuh). It is used as follows in those two verses:
"Put your hand into your bosom (fee jaybika). It will emerge pure white, ... (Qur'an, 27:12)
Put your hand into your bosom (fee jaybika). It will emerge pure white ... (Qur'an, 28:32)
The word “juyub” in these two verses is used to mean the “bosom” of the Prophet Moses (pbuh). Looking at all these facts together, it is clear that when used together with the word “khimar,” the word “juyub” means to cover up the bosom. The verse contains no reference to “covering up the head.”
Therefore, the true meaning of the passage generally interpreted to mean, “...that they should draw their head-coverings across their breasts,” is in fact, “that they should cover their breasts with their coverings.” The commandment in the verse refers to the covering of the breasts, not the head.
The word “juyub” in verse 31 of Surat an-Nur means “breast” and the word “khumur” means to cover. The verse is referring to covering the breasts.
There is nothing in the verse about covering the head.
Misleading or incorrect translations based on fabricated hadiths
In order to be able to produce a commandment referring to the “headscarf” from verse 31 of Surat an-Nur, various misleading interpretations have sometimes been employed by commentators while translating the verse. The aim behind that is to be able to adapt the verse in the light of fabricated hadiths that we will be analyzing soon (surely the verse is beyond that). The main misleading interpretation in question was brought about by the mistranslation of “… that they should draw their head coverings…”