It is not compulsory for Muslim women to cover their faces or wear burqas that cover even their feet and wrists, Pakistan's constitutional Islamic body ruled on Monday.
The Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body that advises Pakistan's legislature on Islamic laws, held its 200th meeting on Monday in Islamabad, where chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani stated that women need not cover their faces.
The ruling is a significant move for Muslim women, who are often asked to cover their faces with the niqab as a religious norm.
The Islamic council maintained that there was no law under Sharia that makes it binding for women to keep their faces covered behind a veil.
"Covering the face and other parts of the body is not mandatory. But still it is good to follow ethics and have a careful attitude in society," Maulana Sheerani, who belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) told Pakistani media.
However, the Council of Islamic Ideology said that in case of 'threats of mischief', it was necessary for women to cover their faces.
He, however, did not explain what he meant by 'mischief'.
The issue was taken up by the Islamic body reportedly because of complaints by Pakistan's interior ministry that women were not getting themselves registered for the computerised national identity cards as it required them to show their faces for photographs, according to Dawn.
In the same meeting, the council maintained that girls and boys should be educated separately, calling co-education an 'unhealthy practice'.
The Council of Islamic Ideology, however, also stated that transvestites had rights to family inheritance and said parents should not discard them.