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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 7 Jun 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Hijab in Sunan Abu Dawud: Head Cover (Hijab) For Muslim Women Is Not Mandated In the Qur’an

By Ibrahim B. Syed, New Age Islam

07 June 2019

    Hijab (head cover) for Muslim women is not mandated in the Qur’an. If it is, it is only the subjective interpretation of an Ayah (verse) on the part of the reader. Hence many Islamic Scholars say that according to Hadith, a woman should cover her whole body, except her face and hands. Majority of the Muslims do not know in which Hadith this is mentioned. A very limited number of Muslims know that this is in Sunan Abu Dawud. The English translation of Sunan Abdu Dawud is in three volumes. Again nobody ever mentions that it is in Volume Three. Actually it is in Volume 3, Book XXVII and Chapter 1535, and Hadith number 4092, titled “How Much Beauty Can a Woman Display?" For the benefit of the readers the exact Hadith is reproduced below:

    (4092) ‘A’isha said: Asma’, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (May peace be upon him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.3523

Abu Dawud said: This is a Mursal tradition (i.e. the narrator who transmitted it from ‘A’isha is missing) Khalid b. Duraik did not see ‘A’ishah).

[3523. When a woman reaches the age of puberty, she must observe Purdah and have a thick veil which conceals her beauty. She may unveil her face and hand up to the wrists. In modern times some scholars have prohibited to unveil face out of precaution.]

It is very interesting to note that no one- neither the Muslim Scholars nor the Muslim Ummah ever pointed out that this Hadith is a m u r s a l Hadith or weak Hadith, although it is imperative that when one uses a weak Hadith for any reason then one should explain it to the people that this is a weak Hadith. What is a Mursal Hadith? First of all what is Hadith?

Hadith is an Arabic word, which in its real sense means a tale, speech, chat, conversation or communication. In a technical sense, Hadith or Tradition means all the sayings, deeds, decisions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and his silent approval of the behavior of his companions and descriptions of his personality. Each Hadith is prefaced by a chain of narrators called Al-’Isnad. Al-’Isnad was the chain of people through whom the Hadith was transmitted. The second part of the Hadith is Al-Matn, the content, which reports the teaching or the incident. Every Hadith or Tradition must have a chain (‘Isnad) as well as the Text (Matan). 

There are three main categories of the Hadith called (1) As-Sahih or the Authentic Hadith (2) Al-Hasan or the Good. Some of its narrators have been found to have a weaker memory in comparison to the narrators of Sahih Hadith, and (3) Ad-Da’if or the Weak. This refers to that Tradition in which there is some problem in either the chain of transmission, in the proper understanding of the transmitter or in its contents, which may be in disagreement with Islamic belief and practice.

Ad-Da’if Traditions are further divided according to the degree of problems with their reporters (Ruwaat) or in the text (Al-Matan) of the reports. A few of these divisions are as follows:

a) Al-Mursal: A Hadith in which a Tabi'i (those who succeeded the Sahabah or companions of the Prophet (pbuh) transmits from Rasulullah (pbuh) directly, dropping the Sahabi from the ‘Isnad.

b) Al-Munqati: A Hadith going back to the Tabi’i only.

c) Al-Mu’dal: A Hadith in which two continuous narrators are missing in one or more places in the ‘Isnad.

d) Al-Mu’allaq: A Hadith in which one or two transmitters are omitted in the beginning of the ‘Isnad.

In Shari’ah or Islamic Law only the authentic (Sahih) and good (Hasan) Ahadith (plural of Hadith) are used in deriving the rules. The weak (da’if) Ahadith have no value for the purpose of Shari’ah.

 As stated above that Imam Abu Dawud himself said that this is a Mursal tradition (i.e. the narrator who transmitted it from ‘A’isha is missing). What I interpret is that the narrator of this Hadith is Khalid b. Duraik who did not see 'A'ishah (Radhi AllahuAnha (May Allah be pleased with her)). As this is a weak Hadith, it has no value for the purpose of Shari’ah, that means no Muslim or Islamic Republic or government can pass laws punishing a Muslim woman who does not observe Hijab, particularly covering the hair on their head. This is not being practiced in the so-called Islamic countries where religious police are threatening Muslim women who do not observe Hijab, with their canes. 

I have all along maintained in my arguments that Islam emphasizes on modesty in the dress of Muslim women, but no where it mandates the wearing of Hijab (head cover). As a matter of fact modesty in dress is also required on the part of the Muslim men.

In the matter of Hijab, the conscience of an honest, sincere Believer alone can be the true judge, as has been said by the Noble Prophet: "Ask for the verdict of your conscience and discard what pricks it."

Islam cannot be properly followed without knowledge. It is a rational law and to follow it rightly one needs to exercise reason and understanding at every step.

Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D is President of Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.


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