In the following Hadith, what does needs refer to?
Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “O women! You have been allowed by Allah to go out for your needs.”
What does ‘needs’ mean?
This narration is recorded in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim regarding Ummul Mu’minin Sayyidah Sawdah bintu Zam’ah (radiyallahu ‘anha). Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) had seen her out of the home and remarked that he was aware who she was [as she was quite tall]. When she returned and informed Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), he said, “Allah has permitted you to emerge from your homes for your needs.”
(Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 4795, 5237 and Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2170)
In this particular instance, she was leaving her home to relieve herself. ‘Needs’ in the Hadith in question refers to leaving the home to relieve one’s self.
Qadi ‘Iyad (rahimahullah) explains that the laws of hijab were very stringent for the wives of Nabi (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). They were not permitted under any circumstances to expose their faces nor their hands, nor were they permitted to leave their homes, despite being covered, except for when the need arose like to relieve themselves.
(Refer: Ikmalul Mu’lim, Hadith: 2170 and Sahih Muslim, with Al Minhaj, Hadith: 5633-5636)
‘Allamah Ibnul Mulaqqin and ‘Allamah ‘Ayni (rahimahumallah) have stated that for other women, besides the Ummahatul Mu’minin are permitted to leave for other permissible needs [like visiting relatives etc.] on condition that they have a simple outer appearance, wearing simple garments, are properly covered and without any fragrance.
(At Tawdih Li Sharhil Jami’is Sahih, vol. 23 pg. 135, Hadith: 4795 and ‘Umdatul Qari, Hadith: 4795)
Other commentators have mentioned that the Hadith in question explains that women are permitted to leave their homes to fulfil various needs like visiting parents and other relatives as well as other [permissible] needs.
(Refer: At Tawdih Li Sharhil Jami’is Sahih, vol. 25 pg. 145, Hadith: 5237, ‘Umdatul Qari, Hadith: 5237. Also see: Takmilah Fathul Mulhim, Hadith: 5624)
Note: The above is merely an answer to your question regarding the meaning of the narration in question. This should therefore not be viewed as a Fiqh ruling/fatwa. Kindly contact a Mufti/Darul Ifta for a fatwa on this matter.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows best.
Answered by: Moulana Suhail Motala
Approved by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar