tenues-islamiques-burqa-burqua-bourka_5656759

This is an accompanying piece to my previous article – “The Unbearable Lightness of being Muslim” In that I article I explored identity, with the bouncing of point being the Niqab. As a form of preemption I anticipate some backlash from certain people about the application of the Niqab. So, I thought I’d approach this article from the Islamic perspective of wearing the Niqab and it’s eligibility.

The Fatwa below was originally written by Muhammad Al-Ghazali (1917–1996). A prominent Islamic scholar and Jurist from Egypt who is widely credited with reviving Islam for the contemporary era. He has also influenced a great many Islamic thinkers in the West, namely Khaled Abou Fadel. I must say, he is a goldmine of a common sense approach and rationality that rarely exists in the Muslim scholarly mind today.  He is sadly not widely translated into English. However, below is an effort from a friend and myself to bring his ruling to you.

Attached here is the original Arabic for your perusal. 

A brief foreword. The Niqab has been a topic of discussion for a long time. Especially now in the West, where it is identified as a sort of tome for the Muslim peoples. It’s always been a controversial topic as the necessity of it is often debated. In the West, there are more concerns about identifying people and the wholly ‘otherness’ of the object. I say object, because in effect that’s what you become. A dormant flat background colour. Not a human being.

Please bear in mind I am not discussing the freedom for a woman to wear what she wants. That is another discussion, and frankly a useless discussion for this topic. This is an Islamic opinion of the eligibility/ineligibility of wearing the Niqab.

Hopefully the below will go some way to provide evidence that the Niqab is merely a cultural hereditation.

The Conflict of the Niqab!

By Muhammad Al-Ghazali

We wish for two things for the modern Islamic awakening: the first of which is to steer clear of mistakes that have led the Ummah astray, stole away its strength,[1] and caused it to become a frenzied target for its enemies to vilify. The second thing: is to present a practical image of Islam which pleases those who seek it, erases fossilised inaccuracies and does justice to Divine Revelation.

I am saddened that some of those connected to this awakening have altogether failed in achieving both things, and have even caused people to fear Islam and enabled its adversaries to speak out against it.

Let us examine a number of conflicts that they have ignited, or rather the weak principles that form their foundations. Let us start with the battle of niqab!

I read a booklet in one of the Gulf states, in which its author states: ‘Islam forbade zina! Revealing the face is a cause of it, it is therefore haram due to the sinning that results from it!

I say: Islam ordered revealing the face in hajj and favours it during prayer. Does this ‘revealing’ in two pillars [of Islam] mean that [Islam] aims at sexual arousal and paving the path towards sin? How misguided is this argument!

The Prophet [PBUH] saw revealed faces during different religious seasons, within mosques and markets and never has it been narrated that he demand women cover their faces. Are you more concerned about your personal religion and honour than God and his Messenger?

Let us look at the Book of God and his Messenger to clarify the aspects of this subject.

  1. As the holy verse says: ” Say to the believers that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty (or chastity, literally: their private parts)” [An-Nur: 30] Do they lower their gaze to the back of necks? If faces are covered, what will believers avert their gaze away from?

Gadh [averting/lowering the gaze] is, obviously, applied when looking at faces. A man might see what he likes in a woman, and therefore he must not look again.  If for example, this happens we have the following guidance provided in this Hadith. God’s Messenger [PBUH] said to Ali [MABPWH]: “Ali, do not follow a gaze with another gaze, for the first gaze is yours while the second is not yours”.

  1. The Prophet [pbuh] saw those whose desire is aroused by a sudden look, and then the duty of a married person is to content himself with what he has. As Jaber narrated from the Prophet [pbuh]: “If one of you should see a woman he likes let him go to his family – e go to his wife – for that will relinquish his desire”.

If he does not have a wife, he should consider the word of God: “Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace” [An-Nur: 33].

Qadi Ayyad  told of the ulema of his time – as Shawkani narrated – that a woman is not obligated to cover her face when she is walking in the streets, and that men must avert their gaze as God ordered them.

  1. At one Eid the Prophet [pbuh] addressed womenfolk –the Eid prayer venue was attended by both men and women, as per the instructions of God’s Messenger – and he said to them: “Give to charity, for the majority of you are the logs of hellfire”. A woman with sa’fa cheeks, sitting in the midst of the women, asked: why are we as you described? He said: “Because you complain too much and deny livelihood”. The [Prophet] [pbuh] means that many women deny the husband’s right, and deny what he does at home, and you only hear them complaining!

The narrator adds: they started giving of their jewellery, throwing into Bilal’s robe of the their earrings and rings! The question is: how did the narrator know that the woman had sa’fa cheeks? An asfa’ cheek is one that has a mixture of red and dark skin – this is only because her face was revealed.

In another narration: I saw the women with their hands throwing jewellery into Bilal’s robe. Neither the face is an awrah'[intimate parts] nor is the hand an awrah’.

  1. Some people have claimed that: the order to reveal the face in Hajj or in Prayer means that it must be covered outside of that arena, therefore a woman must wear Niqab and gloves!

We say: If God ordered pilgrims to uncover their heads during ihram does that mean heads must be covered outside of ihram? Says who? Whomever wishes so can cover his head or uncover it.

  1. Sahel ibn Muath reported that ” a woman came to God’s Messenger [pbuh] and said: God’s Messenger, I came to grant myself to you. God’s Messenger raised his gaze to her and focused it, and then dropped his head – he did not answer her – when she saw that he had no interest in her, she sat down…”

In another narration one of the Sahaba betrothed her, and he did not have a dowry, and the Prophet told him: find even a metal ring!

And the story ended by him marrying her.

The question is: what did he raise his gaze to and what did he focus it on if she were wearing a Niqab?

  1. Ibn Abbas reported that “al-Fadel was accompanying God’s Messenger [pbuh] when a woman from [the tribe of] Katha’m came over – to inquire – and al-Fadel kept looking at her, and she at him, and God’s Messenger would turn al-Fadel’s face to the other side… She said God’s Messenger, God has ordered his worshippers to perform Hajj, you have come while my father is an old man that cannot ride [or maybe cannot rest], can I perform Hajj on his behalf? [The Prophet] replied: yes… This was at the Farewell Pilgrimage, i.e. no Hadith followed that would negate it.
  2. Aisha narrated and said: women believers would attend the Fajr Prayer with the Prophet, wrapping around them their garments – their bodies covered by what resembles a cloth – and then they would return home when they are done with the prayers, unrecognisable in the dusk – in other words if it were not for the darkness of dawn they would have been recognised because their faces are revealed.
  3. However, the holy words of God, “they should draw their veils over their bosoms” [An-Nur: 31], require reflection. If the requirement is to draw their veils over the face it would have said explicitly ‘draw their veils over their faces,’ if covering the face is the symbol of the Islamic society and the Niqab has this enormous stature attributed to it.In the practical application of this understanding. Women had to create burqas or other forms of veils for the lower half of the face so they can walk, pulling the veil from atop would disrupt the eyes and make seeing impractical. Thus, we see that the ayah has does not have a provision for covering faces!

There is no doubt that some women in Jahilia [the age before Islam], and even during the age of Islam used to cover their faces while keeping the eyes uncovered, this practice is a cultural act of traditional and not an act of worship, there can be no act of worship without a text decreeing it.

  1. Further evidence: a woman came to the Prophet [pbuh], called ‘Um Kholad’ who was wearing a Niqab. She was asking about her son, who had been killed in battle. Some of Prophet’s companions told her: you have come asking about your son wearing a Niqab? The good woman answered: if I have lost my son I have not lost my modesty!!

The companions were bewildered at the woman’s Niqab. This is evidence that the Niqab was not an act of worship

  1. Some could argue that: the narration by Aisha n, she said: “riders would pass by us while we were in ihram, if they were by us we would pull our djelbab over our heads on our faces, once they pass us we reveal them”. Our response is that this is a weak hadith in terms of isnad (chain), strange in terms of matn (content), it cannot be used as evidence.

The strange thing is that this rejected hadith is promoted by Niqab supporters despite the fact that they reject another hadith which is in a better shape than the one mentioned above. The hadith of Aisha that says that Asma’a bint Abi Bakr went in to see the Prophet [pbuh] wearing almost transparent garments, He turned away from her and said: “Asma’a, if a woman reaches a time when she gets her period it is no longer acceptable to see anything of her except this; and he pointed to his face and hands”.

We know that this is a mursal hadith, but it has been strengthened by other narrations, and it is stronger than the hadith mentioned before it.

  1. A stronger evidence for the allowed revealing of the face: Muslim narrates that Subay’a bin al-Harith was widowed of her husband while she was pregnant. In a few days she gave birth. She fixed herself up, and beautified herself for suitors! Abu al-Sanabel, one of the Sahaba, visited her, and said: ‘why do I see you [having made yourself look beautiful]? Maybe you want to get married, by God you can only get married after four months and ten days.’

Subay’a said: when he told me that, and wrapped myself up with my clothes at the evening and came to the God’s Messenger [pbuh] and I asked him about that, he told me [literally: gave me a fatwa] that I was released when I gave birth! And told me to marry if I want to.

The woman had eyelined eyes, and coloured hands [henna], and Abu al-Sanabel is not one of her maharm who can see her zina [makeup/beauty] by virtue of his relation to her. All details point at an environment where revealing faces is the norm!

This happened after the Farewell Pilgrimage [the last time the Prophet performed hajj], there is no room for repealing a ruling or revoking a revelation. I know there are those who reject everything we said here, some representatives of Islam are even more pessimistic than Ibn al-Roumi[2]! They look at the blessings of life and the afterlife through doubling the veils and obstacles barring sexuality.

God knows, although I stand firm by my opinion, that I hate contradictions and deviation. I like walking along with the jama’a [the group], and I compromise and let go of my point of view, of which I am convinced, in order to maintain the Nation’s unity.

So, is what I said an opinion held by me alone?

No. It is the opinion of the four major fuqaha’a [scholars/imams], and the opinion of the leading imams of interpretation.

Those who oppose revealing the face support a weak position, and act, in all of the women’s causes, in a manner that shakes the spiritual, cultural, and social being of a nation which has been devoured by ignorance and crookedness when it condemned the woman to a moral and scholarly death.

There are scholars of the four major madaheb [Sunni sects] that are of the view that a woman’s face is not an awrah. I record here quotes from the most prominent interpreters from amongst the followers of these sects: Abu Baker al-Jasas – a Hanafi – said in his interpretation of God’s words “they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof” [An-Nur: 31]: “Our companions have said: the meaning is the face and the palms, for eyeliner is the beautification of the face, and henna and rings the beauty of the palm. If looking is permitted at the beauty of the face and the palm then, without a doubt, that allows looking at the face and the palms.

Al-Qortobi – who is a Maliki – says: “since the usual case for the face and the palms is their appearance in convention and worship, which is in prayer and hajj, it is therefore accurate to say that the exception [in the aforementioned ayah] is applicable to them…”

Al-Khazen – a Shafi’e – states interpreting the exception in the aya: “Saeed ibn Jubair, al-Thahak, and al-Aouza’i all said: the face and the palms”.

Ibn Katheer – a Salafi – says: “it is probable that Ibn Abbas and those who followed him wished to interpret ‘what appear thereof’ as the face and palms, and this is the mashhour with the Jumhoor [the most well-known within the majority of scholars[3]].

Ibn Qudama – who is a Hanbali authority – in his book ‘Al-Moughney’ says: “the woman is an awrah in her entirety except the face, and there are two narrations in relation to the palms”!!

We conclude with the opinion of Ibn Jarir al-Tabari in his Tafsser Kabeer: “The most reasonable of opinions is that of those who have said – about the exception mentioned regarding the allowed beauty of the woman – that it means the face and palms, and this includes eyeliner, rings, bracelets, and henna… We have said this is the strongest of positions because the consensus is that each prayer covers his awrahs during prayer, and the woman can reveal her face and palms in prayer and cover all other parts of her body. Revealing what is not an awrah is not haram…”.

The Hanafi madhab adds revealing the feet to the face and hands, for the sake of practicality.

Following this narrative, we hasten to explain that the Islamic community, with what God has decreed for it of clothing and general conduct manners, is different to the European community – in its two halves, the Christian and the communist – this community is closer to materialism and more inclined towards fevered hedonistic liberalism.

Clothes that are tailored to arouse not to cover, beauty is for the street not the home, integration knows no limits or fear of God, khalowa [being alone with someone] is available to all those who want it, the law does not see zina as a crime if it were consensual!! Families are almost reduced to ink on paper…

Islam is something else completely different to this reckless non-muslim direction. Have we built the community, based on God’s hodod [limits], well?

We have presented a revolting image of Islam. In a speech by one famous preacher he said[4]: “the woman leaves her home to her husband or to her grave”! Then he mentioned a hadith: a woman’s father fell terminally ill, she asked her husband for permission to visit him, and he refused! When [her father] died she asked [her husband] for permission to attend the funeral and be with the family when concession went out, he refused… the preacher said: when she mentioned this to God’s Messenger he told her: God has forgiven your father his sins because you have obeyed your husband!!

Is this how our religion should be presented? A prison for women in which she cuts the ties God has ordered her to maintain?[5]

I received a letter from a student whose father had prevented her from attending college, she said: “my father tells me and my sisters: “God has buried you alive; I will not allow you what you want of going out and about!”

This is the father’s idiotic understanding of the ayah: “And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance” [Al-Ahzab: 33]

[1]                He is referring here to Aya 46 of Al-Anfal: “And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere“.

[2]               Not to be confused with the famous poet, Rumi. Ibn al-Rumi is an Abbasid era poet, known for his extreme pessimism and rejection of earthly life.

[3]               Mashhour literally means famous, and jumhoor literally means public. In fiqh jumhoor is used to refer to the majority of scholars.

[4]               The full text of the Hadith as narrated by Abdullah ibn Hamed from Thabit from Anas: “A woman was married to a man, her father grew sick, she came to the Prophet [pbuh] and said: O Messenger of God, my father is sick, and my husband won’t allow me to visit him in his illness! The Prophet said to her: Obey your husband! Her father died, she asked her husband for permission to pray over him [attend burial], her husband refused to allow her to attend the prayer! She asked the Prophet and he told her: Obey your husband! So she obeyed her husband and did not pray over her father. The Prophet [pbuh] told her: God has forgiven your father because of your obedience to your husband…!! This hadith is not known by the narrators of the sehah [the books of hadith usually referred to by the singular: sahih, meaning true, accurate, strong], and it cuts what was ordered to be kept! It diminishes gratitude for the parents, and its goal is that a woman never leaves the house, a goal rejected by Islam, for a sahih hadith provides: “God has allowed you to go out for your needs [in pursuit of your errands/needs]”.

[5]               A reference to the ‘family ties’ or ‘womb ties’, and important duty in Islam is to maintain good family relations, especially towards your parents and direct relatives.

————————————————————————–

[1]               The full text of the Hadith as narrated by Abdullah ibn Hamed from Thabit from Anas: “A woman was married to a man, her father grew sick, she came to the Prophet [pbuh] and said: O Messenger of God, my father is sick, and my husband won’t allow me to visit him in his illness! The Prophet said to her: Obey your husband! Her father died, she asked her husband for permission to pray over him [attend burial], her husband refused to allow her to attend the prayer! She asked the Prophet and he told her: Obey your husband! So she obeyed her husband and did not pray over her father. The Prophet [pbuh] told her: God has forgiven your father because of your obedience to your husband…!! This hadith is not known by the narrators of the sehah [the books of hadith usually referred to by the singular: sahih, meaning true, accurate, strong], and it cuts what was ordered to be kept! It diminishes gratitude for the parents, and its goal is that a woman never leaves the house, a goal rejected by Islam, for a sahih hadith provides: “God has allowed you to go out for your needs [in pursuit of your errands/needs]”.

[1]           A reference to the ‘family ties’ or ‘womb ties’, and important duty in Islam is to maintain good family relations, especially towards your parents and direct relatives.

Advertisements