By Ibrahim B. Syed, New Age Islam
09 November 2016
In my previous communication I wrote that
the Qur’an aims to eliminate all sources of temptations and enticement in
society, and does not want women should bear the brunt of the burden in this
process. However, the vast majority of Muslim men want that women should be
covered from head to toe except perhaps for one roaming eye, and men may
happily swagger around undisturbed by scrumptious female parts. Worst of all,
this fundamentally male-indulgent view is presented as God’s unquestionable
In this context I quoted from the book of
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl who is an accomplished Islamic jurist and scholar, and
a Professor of Law at the UCLA's School of Law where he teaches Islamic law. He
is a world renowned expert in Islamic law who previously taught Islamic law at
the University of Texas, Yale Law School and Princeton University. A
high-ranking Shaykh, Dr. Abou El Fadl also received formal training in Islamic
jurisprudence in Egypt and Kuwait.
My quote is not directed at any individual
directly or indirectly.
Abou El Fadl argues that in contemporary
Muslim society people tend to become authoritative by imposing a single
viewpoint to the total exclusion of others. Shariah (Islamic law) is then
invoked to quash debate by people who are themselves not adequately qualified
to do so.
To counter this trend Fadl wrote the book
"And God Knows the Soldiers" (University Press of America, pp.204,
2002), noting that it was his aim to “challenge those who invoke the moral
weight of Islamic law to their side as a way of foreclosing the debate. The
message of this book is: "If you carry Islamic law as a weapon to silence others,
you better know how to use it.” (p.20)
In America the scholars and writers follow
Islamic guidelines of etiquette:
FLAMING which is name calling, personal attacks, and character assassination.
2. STICK TO THE
FACTS or at least label speculation as such.
There is no doubt the Islamic Research
Foundation International, Inc., respects opposing points of view and people
have a right to espouse those points of view. It is my understanding that the
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc., has a bedrock policy to
encourage critically constructive discussion and debates. However, discussion
should be based on facts and not become shrill and emotional or make
uncomplimentary remarks about individuals.
I have been taught that a strong scholar is
like a mighty rock who is not shaken but allows the winds of criticism to pass
by. A weak debater, lawyer or scholar makes a case with speculative thinking,
subjective interpretation and forgets the guidelines of etiquette.
This is a good discussion and extremely
important to debate with sincerity as people's lives are at stake. We need to
distinguish between the tenets of Islam and cultural customs. My intention is
to engage in a scholarly discussion and not to ridicule those who oppose my
points of view.
Islam does not mandate or prescribe any
specific type of dress. Thus, as long as the dresses are not revealing or too
tight, cultural variations can add tremendous diversity in the fulfilment of
Hijab, a terminology that is NOT to be found
in the Qur'an or Hadith in the context of dress code.
A word-for-word translation of the Qur'anic
text (Surah 24: 31) will prove my point:
- and should draw
Bi-Khumurihinna - with their head covering
Alaa Juyuubihinna - across their bosoms
A Muslim scholar wrote “Surely a female
dress covers all of the body except the hair and the face. The verse forcefully
commands that these beautiful parts and features should not be displayed to the
stranger, but only to the husband and very close relatives." (Source: Dr.
Bashir Ahmad, "Veil/Hijab Becoming a Symbol of American Muslims" in
Pakistan Link, August 26, 2005)
The words "except the hair" are
the author's own subjective interpretation which he cannot provide proof as
these are the Qur'anic words.
The scholars who read ‘The Message of
the Qur'an’ ( published by Dar al-Andalus Ltd, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar,
1980) wrote, "Muhammad Asad's translation and commentary is widely
considered the best in the English language, renowned for its intellectual
insight and frequent reference to classical commentaries such as Zamakshari.
Asad's interpretation to be the most bona-fide and coherent, it is scrupulously
referenced so he does not give his opinion rather quotes some of the greatest
scholars after the manifestation of the Qur’an such as Zamakshari, Ibn Kathir
as well as Qurtubi to name a few."
Some Muslim scholars are under the
impression that the Arab women used to roam around with their head and bosoms
totally uncovered; and the Qur’anic verse (24:31) instructed them to pull their
‘Khimar’ from their back onto their exposed bosoms. This assumption is
correct as it is based on historical facts.
A Qur'anic scholar should know "Asbab
Un-Nuzool" causes or reasons for revelations (of the Qur’anic verses).
On Surah, An-Nur 24: 31, Muhammad Asad
gives the translation "… let them draw their head-coverings over their
bosoms." In his commentary No. 38, he wrote, "The noun Khimar
(of which Khumur is the plural) denotes the head-covering customarily
used by Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam. According to most
of the classical commentators, it was worn in pre-Islamic times more or less as
an ornament and was let down loosely over the wearer's back; and since, in
accordance with the fashion prevalent at the time, the upper part of a woman's
tunic had a wide opening in the front, her breasts were left bare. Hence the
injunction to cover the bosom by means of a Khimar (a term familiar to
the contemporaries of the Prophet) does not necessarily relate to the use of a Khimar
as such but is, rather, meant to make it clear that a woman's breasts are not
included in the concept of "what may decently be apparent" of her
body and should not, therefore, be displayed."
The word Khumur (singular, Khimar),
is generally understood to be a head-covering worn by both male and female
Arabs at the time of the Prophet. Some
Muslims had discussions about whether or not it is permissible to wipe over a
head-covering when making ablution for prayer refer to the Prophet wiping over
his Khimar. (Source:brandeis.edu/projects/fse/Pages/veilinglink1.html)
"When the pre-Islamic Arabs went to
battle, Arab women seeing the men off to war would bare their breasts to
encourage them to fight; or they would do so at the battle itself, as in the
case of the Makkan women, led by Hind at the Battle of Uhud…….While modesty is
a religious prescription, the wearing of a veil is not a religious requirement
of Islam, but a matter of cultural milieu." (Cyril Glasse: The Concise
Encyclopaedia of Islam. Harper and Row Publishers, New York, N.Y., 1989, p. 156
and p. 413).
My main contention is that covering of hair
for a woman is not mandatory as written by many scholars including Shaykh Zaki
Badawi. Dr. Zaki Badawi (head of the Muslim Council in London, England and the
Chairman of the Council of the Mosques and Imams) wrote, "The Hijab veil
(which covers all of a Muslim woman's hair) is also not obligatory"
Parents have problems in some Gulf
countries where the education ministry, the teachers' union and the students'
union had all fallen under Islamist control. One mother described what happened
when she moved her 11-year-old daughter to a new school: "After about
three months she said: 'Mummy, I want to wear Hijab'." The mother,
thinking she was too young for Hijab, asked her why. A teacher had said the
girl's hair would be burnt on Judgment Day if she did not wear it.
Years of research on Hijab (head cover) has
convinced me to make a challenge. The challenge is for any one (Muslim or
non-Muslim) to prove that the Qur'an mandates the women to cover their hair.
India born Dr Ibrahim B. Syed is a doctor in nuclear medicine sciences
from john Hopkins university and is is a founder and president of the Islamic
research foundation international inc., Louisville. He contributed this article
Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic
Website, African Muslim
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Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in
America, Muslim Women in
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Islamic Hijab as detailed below is mandatory
& does exist in Qura’n & authentic Ahadees, the devout & pious Muslim
Khawateen do observe this with their own free will & do not consider it
something imposed on them by men.
Whatever be reputation, knowledge &
interpretation of some scholar, it is a fact Islam mandate for women when they
go out or even in home before Na Mehram, the entire body from head to toe
should remain covered means hair & skin not visible & also covered such
that the body curves should not be visible. Only the face & the hands below
the wrists are allowed to be open. This is as per Qura’n & as per Sunnah. There
is no doubt in it.
The entire face also to be veiled is the
extremist view & their imposed practice in some parts of the world, however
it may not be mandatory but if someone observe willingly there is no sin in
Agreed, “Islam does not
mandate or prescribe any specific type of dress. Thus, as long as the dresses
are not revealing or too tight, cultural variations can add tremendous
diversity in the fulfilment of this guideline.”
Identical conclusion as tabled below
is reached in my joint exegetic work referenced below, based on textual
scrutiny of the related Qur’anic verses 24:30/31 using the Qur’anic
“She (A woman) is therefore asked to dress modestly, commensurate to
the prevailing custom, and to bear herself in a non-provocative manner. Wearing
of any external head to toe veil, covering of head, and gender-based
segregation are not specified.”
Ch. 24.2, Essential Message of Islam,