New Age Islam
Mon Aug 03 2020, 10:45 AM

Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 Sept 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

An Open Letter To Pakistani Ladies: Is Wearing The Head-Ear-Chin Wrap Around Style Of Hijab Closer To Piety? A Probe (Ijtihad) and Soul Searching







-              This is in response to Tazeen Javed’s article: A Woman’s Clothing Is Her Own Business

By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009

 One may wonder what kind of hypocrisy has possessed the Muslim ladies in Pakistan that of all the things expressly Islamic (charity, generosity, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, fair wages to the domestic hands, good deeds, excellence in lawful pursuits, unremitting jihad for developing once potentials, eschewing greed, arrogance and bigotry for example), they are debating today about the configuration of ‘hijab.’ Did their mothers and grandmothers ventured out in public without proper hijab? Have they suddenly become conscious of the sexual appeal of their head, ear and chin – that the present day model of medieval nun style headgear represents? Don’t they realize the very gaze (Nazar) of a woman can be far more provocative than her head, ear or neck? Have they not heard the popular Indian songs – “nazar ka teer maara jo, muhabbat usko kehten hain”; “aankho hi aankhon may ishara ho gaya” and the likes – there are hundreds of such songs. No wonder the Qur’an asks men and women to guard their gaze (Nazar in Urdu) (24:30).

Traditionally Pakistani women, as in the subcontinent, wear Quamiz, Pyjama and Dupatta to observe the hijab – that is to hide their private parts - God given constitutional charms (Zeenat) in public. Those who want to reconfigure the hijab into the medieval nun style head-ear-chin wrap-around should be free to do so while those who want to stick to their traditional Quamiz-pajama-Dupatta should carry on with their traditions. The real hijab is in the gaze (24:30) after covering the Zeenat (God given structural beauty) (24:31) and not in covering or revealing head, ear and chin or what is normally apparent of the body (maa zahara minha, 24:31).

However, those who think the medieval nun style headgear is more conducive to purity, must give up their luxurious life style which does not go with the lifestyle of the pious nuns they are trying to emulate. The modern Pakistani women in its flourishing cities live in posh houses - fully tiled or carpeted, well lit with electric lights, lamp shades, and chandeliers; often centrally air-conditioned, with all kinds of modern furnishings in all rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, lobby and what have you. They avail of numerous utilities and services from gas, electricity, telephone, cell phone, I-pad, I-pod, Internet, to insurance, modern banking and safe electronic cash. They visit beauty parlours where the attendants virtually bathe them with all kinds of exotic lotions and perfumes for their personal beautification. They shop in glittering malls, move in plush cars, go on grand vacations, throw lavish parties and enjoy all kinds of recreations and entertainments. They also avail of by far the best quality of medical services and partake of finest cuisine that no medieval nun would have ever dreamt of. In a word, the personal life of a modern Muslim lady of this era – Hijabi or non-Hijabi, Pakistani or Arab is incomparably more comfortable and luxurious than that of the medieval nun they are trying to emulate. 

And if the nun-style Hijabi women think that they are emulating the nissa al bait (the women folk of the Prophet’s household) they are fooling the world or being knowingly hypocritical. Tradition tells us that in those days men and women mostly possessed only one piece of clothing with which they barely wrapped themselves around. There was such an acute scarcity of cloth that women, including those from the Prophet’s household had to use practically the same swathe of linen during their periods by sparingly and selectively rinsing off the stains [Sahih al-Bukhari, English translation by Mohsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, Vol.1, Acc.305, 309, 348-358, 360, 361, 366]. It will be a grand mockery to lead an unimaginably more luxurious life than the azwje mutahhirin and then wear a medieval nun-style head-ear-chin overwrap to emulate them, though conceivably those pious ladies never wore such superfluous coverings. 

The truth is, until the advent of Islam, women were oppressed and subjected to various forms of restrictions in practically all the major civilizations. Therefore, all the Christians (including the Romans and Greeks), Zoroastrians, pagans and Hindus who embraced Islam brought notions against women from their previous religions. This inevitably influenced their interpretation of Qur’anic exhortations on modesty. With time, this gave rise to imposition of varying restrictions upon women, including their full veiling, medieval nun style head-ear-chin over-wrap  and segregation when outside the house – a custom borrowed understandably from “the Greek Christians of Byzantium, who had long veiled and segregated their women in this manner” [Karen Armstrong, Islam, A short history, New York 2002, p. 16.].

Hence, wearing a medieval nun-style head-ear-chin overwrap or simply the traditional modest dress must be left to personal choice and the external environment and dressing norms. None should claim any piety or expect any divine blessings for observing any particular style of hijab as long as they conceal their Zeenat (private parts/ God given structural beauty) and guard their glances (24:30-31).

A more elaborate discussion on the theme is presented in the following article that those who have some unanswered questions may consult for enlightenment:

Any Fatwa Imposing Full Face Veil (Burqa Niqab), Headscarf on Muslim Women as a Religious Requirement is Anti-Qur’anic

Any Fatwa That Approves a Complete Hidden Face (Burqa) For Muslim Women Is Non-Islamic کوئی فتویٰ جو مسلم خواتین پر مکمل چہرے کا پردہ(برقع نقاب) کو بطور مذہبی ضرورت مسلط کرتا ہے،وہ غیر اسلامی ہےکوئی-فتویٰ-جو-مسلم-خواتین-پر-مکمل-چہرے-کا-پردہبرقع-نقاب-کو-بطور-مذہبی-ضرورت-مسلط-کرتا-ہے،وہ-غیر-اسلامی-ہے/d/6409

Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.




Total Comments (25)

  • 25 .
    Sonika Rahman.They say 'dair ayad durust ayad' At least a Muslim lady responded. My question is on what basis can Muslim women expect attaining closeness to God or piety by meticulously covering their hair, ear and chin. Do they think in today's world these parts of the their body have any sex appeal when all non-Muslim women leave their face (hair, ear and chin) exposed. Rather than trying to groom themselves to the ideals of excellence that the Muslim women achieved in the early centuries of Islam - they copy the head-gear of medieval none as a mark of distinction. They maintain the lifestyle of the queens and princess of the medieval Byzantine, but appropriate the headgear of their nuns as a symbol of religiosity. As a Muslim I feel utterly ashamed. My wife does wear a scarf but she does not religiously hide her chin and ear and hair as though they were parts of her zinat. And if your alim says, 'Well O women you put ornaments on your head and ear and below your chin and since in Urdu language ornament is zinat, you must hide them.' Then what happens if bold Reshma does not wear any ornament at all: she has to cover no part of her body. Please dont make a joke of your faith. Serve humanity, Share your wealth with the needy, Strive for excellence in lawful pursuits, fully develop your God given intellectual faculty to make top notch doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects, accountants, academicians, musicians, sportswomen and what have and do not reduce the all-embracing message of Islam by inordinate emphasis on your sexuality by hiding those parts of your face that are normally exposed. May I request you to read the following article for your fuller enlightenment  on the subject.

    Any fatwa imposing full/face veil (burqa/niqab), headscarf on Muslim women as a religious requirement is anti-Qur’anic.

    PS Can you get other Muslim women to read the article and post their comments.
    By muhammad yunus (1) 02/10/2012 01:54:36
  • 24 .
    Younus saab @ I completely agree with  you that the stylish Hijab has become such a fashion statement! But this is also Important for us To Understand…………
    What is exact hijjab in the Islam?  A hijab is a covering for the head and shoulders that is worn by Muslim women. While the hijab is common attire among female followers of Islam, there are few mentions of a hijab in the Quran. Many Islamic scholars interpret the verses that are in the Quran to mean a woman must cover her head, while other scholars argue against the interpretation. Other books, such as the Hadith of Sahih Bukhari, do mention that a woman must cover her head, but these books are not part of the Quran. One specific verse in the Quran, when taken literally in translation, says that women must cover their ornaments, such as jewellery, and cover their bosoms.
    It is also true and difficult to release old cultural habits and mores. But, there simply isn't a way not to see hypocrisy in cultural habits when you live in a democratic society that demands equal rights for women. We should have modesty in hijjab not hypocrisy.
    By Sonika Rahman 01/10/2012 17:01:38
  • 23 .

    Yoginder Sikand Ji: I am confused with your remarks. I thus seek your indulgence in advance; hope you will forgive me for my expressing my thoughts candidly. Sometimes, it is difficult for ordinary lay persons to comprehend the hidden nuances in intellectuals’ statements.

    You have exposed your heart's cherished desire in the sentence," i'll choose a strawberry pink sarong and bottle-blue blouse! And you? !!!! maza karo yar". But I failed to realise whether this desire is visualising your wife or someone else. If it is in view of your better half then ok; otherwise it is not a decent imagination as women are not objects of entertainment'
    By Raihan Nezami 29/09/2012 00:49:11
  • 22 .
    mohammed yunus, I presume you are referring to sarmad and his poetry....hai na?
    By yoginder sikand 25/09/2012 20:52:17
  • 21 .
    Dear yoginder sikand ji. I was also thinking to change my name because it creates confusion for me too. Some time commentators address Mohammed Yunus(1) but I jump there. That is bad on my part.
    I start with immediate effect. I will be "rational" now onwards.
    By mohd yunus 25/09/2012 12:02:16