It was narrated from Aishah that Asma bint Abi Bakr entered upon the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) wearing a thin garment. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) turned away from her and said: “Oh Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it is not proper for anything to be seen of her except this and this,” and he pointed to his face and hands.”
[Sunan Abu Dawud (Darussalam Publishers, 2007), volume 4, p. 422, The Book of Clothing, chapter 31: “What a woman may show of her beauty,” Hadith number 4104. Classed as Da’if by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair Ali Za’i. Imam Abu Dawud said: “This Hadith is Mursal. Khalid ibn Duraik did not meet Aishah. (And Sa’eed bin Bashir is not strong (in narrating)).”]
The Hadith is weak by itself but authentic due to supporting narrations and is used as evidence for this matter . . . It was authenticated by Sheikh Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 2, p. 774, number 3458.
Sheikh Al-Albani explains reasons behind this Hadith’s authenticity in great detail: “. . . (The narration’s chain is) Bashir from Qatadah from Khalid ibn Duraik from Aishah. Ibn Adiy added that he (Khalid) once attributed it to Umm Salamah instead of Aishah. Abu Dawud said after citing it, ‘This Hadith is Mursal. Khalid ibn Duraik did not meet Aishah.’ Also, Sa’eed ibn Bashir is weak according to Hafidh ibn Hajar in At-Taqrib. However, this Hadith has been reported via other ways that strengthen it:
- A Mursal report recorded by Abu Dawud (no. 437) from Qatadah with an authentic chain that includes neither ibn Duraik nor ibn Bashir: ‘Indeed, once a young girl reaches menses, it is not right for her to expose except her face and hands to the wrists.'
- At-Tabarani (in Al-Kabir 24/143/378 and Al-Awsat 2/230/8959) and Al-Bayhaqi recorded via ibn Lahi’ah from Iyadh from Abdullah from Ibrahim bin Rufa’ah Al-Ansari from his father from (he believed) Asma bint Umays that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) entered Aishah’s house while she had with her sister Asma bint Abi Bakr, who was wearing wide-sleeved clothes (see the report in question for the remainder of this Hadith’s text) . . . There is no doubt that a report by ibn Lahi’ah does not go below the level of Hasan when it has supportive narrations, as is the case here . . .”
(Jilbab Ul-Mar’at Il-Muslimah pp. 58-59)
Therefore, we can see that the correct view is that the Niqab is recommended, and not obligatory.
Sheikh Al-Albani's knowledge of the Shawahid (supporting narrations in Hadith) was something which was uncontested to by other scholars of his day. Sheikhs Ibn Baz and Uthaymeen even testified to this. While some Hadith scholars would only grade the single Hadith, Sheikh Al-Albani would take into account all supporting narrations of the Hadith. So some Ahadith are authentic due to other texts with the same meaning, so please take note of this. This made his methodology more correct versus other scholars of his day.
However, wearing the Niqab is better. Sheikh Al-Albani said:
“Whoever adheres to the obligation, it is good enough; and whoever does the recommendation, it is better.” (Jilbab Ul-Mar’at Il-Muslimah, p. 28, which is a Preface to the 2nd Edition)