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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 May 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Women, Veil and Equality


By Nastik Durrani, New Age Islam

May 10, 2013

It is not correct that only Islam is the religion whose followers make sure that their women wear Hijab or veil.

This tradition was also found in Mesopotamia, Samaria, Babylon, Ashurya and ancient Greece as the women there covered their heads before coming out of the house. Leaving the head uncovered was considered a major sin akin to adultery and such women were severely punished.

Ordainments for women to cover their heads are also found in Jewihd Talmud and Madrash for the completion of the Jewish Halaqa.

Hijab, (veil) is an old Jewish tradition which later turned into a religious rite. In both the situations, it is an established fact that this tradition was at its peak in the Jewish society.

Talmud makes veil obligatory for Jewish women. They are not allowed to venture out without the veil and on its violation; the husband has the right to divorce the wife without paying any alimony. According to Jewish rabbis, uncovering of the head by a woman is the same as exposing her sexual parts.

Dr Manheim Bareer who teaches Torah literature in the University of Joshua writes in his book “The status of Jewish women in the divine literature” that tradition of veil was an established one among the Jews and sometimes the veil covered the full face with only a hole left for one eye. Hadhrat Abbas also explains the verse regarding the full veil (Julbab) almost in the same sense.

Following are some views of Jewish rabbis and religious scholars:

        It is not befitting for the daughters of Israel to come out without their heads uncovered.

        The man who allows her woman’s head to remain uncovered is cursed.

        The woman who decorates her hair is the cause of starvation.

In the Jewish Shariah, prayers are not granted in the presence of a woman with uncovered head because it is considered vulgarity. This is the reason, for leaving their heads uncovered, Jewish women were charged 400 zozems. On the contrary, prostitutes were not allowed to cover their heads in the Jewish society so that free and slave women could be distinguished.

To the Jews, the status of the veil of the women is that of a perpetual expression of guilt that reminds the women of the great sin of eating the apple by our first mother Eve. That’s why Jewish women cover their heads religiously.

Orthodox Jewish women in some countries like Ukraine and Hungry would shave their heads and wrap their heads with a handkerchief to make it sure that the hair were not seen even inadvertently during the marriage rites.

When some of the husbands objected to this rite because it affected the beauty of the brides severely, the women in the 18th century started wearing wigs. However, unorthodox women only covered their head during religious rites.

On January 2008, a taxi driver in the American state Texas called Yasser Abdul Sayeed killed his two daughters, 17 years old Sarah and 18 years old Ameena because they refused to wear Hijab. He shot at his daughters when they were in a taxi outside a hotel.

Later, a 57 years old Pakistani taxi driver named Md Pervez in Toronto killed his daughter who like her fellow students did not wear Hijab.

A religious scholar of Iran named Ghulam Reza Hassani issued a fatwa during a Friday prayer that women not wearing the veil should be killed. He expressed his surprise on veil less women found alive in Iran after the Revolution.

In Taliban’s Afghanistan, veil less women were shot dead.

In the Arab peninsula, there was no tradition of veil before the advent of Islam. The custom of Hijab entered the Muslim society after migration to Madina and mixing of Muslims with the Jews.

 When the Muslims became powerful after the wars and male and female slaves became abundant, then the need for distinguishing between free and slave women and men arose. Therefore, free men shaved their moustache and grew a beard and women wore veil or Julbab (full veil). According to Tafseer Al Tabari, whenever Hadhrat Umar saw a slave woman wearing a veil, he would lash her so that the robes of the free women could be protected as the Jews did.

Following are the views of some religious scholars on the importance of Hijab.

1-The exegete of the Quran and the companion of the prophet (pbuh) Hadhrat Abbas says: “God has ordained the women of the believers to cover their faces and the heads with julbab and uncover only one eye.

2. Imam Yahya bin Salam Al Taimi Al Basri Al Qirwani says: Julbab is a robe with which the woman covers herself.

3. Imam Abu al Muzaffar Al Sam’ani says, “Women should cover her face, head and her whole body except her one eye.”

4. Imam Baghawi says: “The women of the believers have been ordained to cover their heads and faces with Julbab except one eye so that they can be identified that they are free women.”

5. Imam bin Abdul Salam says, “Julbab is the robe of women with which they cover themselves except one eye.”

Similarly, go through the rest 41 Hadiths that require our women to wear veil. All the commentaries are of Surah Ahzab, verse no. 59:

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.”

In the commentary of this verse, Ibn Katheer writes, “The adulterers of Madina would venture out at night. When they saw a woman in veil, they would say, ‘she is a free woman’ and did not disturb her and when they saw a veil less woman, they would attack her, saying, ‘she is a slave woman.’

According to most of the exegetes, verse No. 33 of Surah Ahzab was also revealed because the infidels had started harassing and teasing the women of the believers and the prophet (pbuh).

Therefore, women of the believers and the prophet (pbuh) were told to be at home and wear a veil so that they can avoid harassment and teasing. The Hijab was made obligatory only to the free women, not for the slave women. When Hadhrat Umar saw a slave woman in a veil, he beat her up and said, “Do you want to appear like free women?”

In 1659, the military commander of India Afzal Khan, before attacking Raja Shiva of Punjab, killed his 63 wives fearing that if he was killed in the battle, others might marry his wives. According to the Quran, Muslims were prohibited from marrying the wives of the prophet (pbuh) after his death.

Why is man hell-bent on killing the personality of women with Hijab and veil. Are the reason behind this the religious writings or is there any psychological issue behind it, say, man bears all the trouble to sustain the family and so he enjoys all the rights and the woman should blindly follow and obey him. Man wants to hide his women behind the veil so that he can imprison her in the house and put restrictions on her educational and economic independence.

In the eyes of the men, the women are a human-like species between human beings and animals whom he can beat drive out of his house by divorcing her at will and marry someone else. In other words, woman for him is nothing more than an object of sexual gratification and a child-bearing machine. In the heaven also, her status does not change. The man enjoys in the company of the houris and she remains subservient to the same former husband.

If the woman gets education and attains economic self-dependence, the manhood of man and his traditional superiority becomes endangered. In this situation, he cannot treat the woman like the slave women which has been his wont. That’s why the woman’s personality has to be eliminated under the veil and Julbab. It’s a potent psychological cure for the man. This is the factor that makes Taliban anti-woman to the point of exaggeration and they go out to eliminate them from the society with the Shariah-compliant weapons of Niqab and Hijab. The first thing they did after capturing power in Afghanistan was to close girls’ schools and colleges and make veil obligatory and the punishment for those violating it was death. Widows were prevented from doing jobs and were forced to remain indoors as a result of which thousands of women starved to death along with their children.

In December 2006, the Taliban killed a whole family in the eastern Afghanistan merely because they had tried to make their daughters educated in their homes. Before that, the Taliban had killed teachers including female ones for teaching children at their home. In Kashmir the Islamists threw acid on the faces of school going girls. In Algiers in 1998, the Islamists killed 300 hundred girls for going to school.

Real freedom is that of thought and intention as long as it is within the purview of the laws. The opponents of the women’s freedom use the same logic and argument which they use against the freedom of press, freedom of expression and all other freedoms. Look at the Muslim countries, you will find the women as the slaves of the men and the men as the slaves of the ruler. Men are an oppressor inside the house and the oppressed outside it. In the western countries, you will find governments implementing the laws of freedom and human rights and the respect and dignity of women seems touching its heights.

The western nations also have their own ethics and values. They love transparency and clarity and hate lies. They keep their word. The allegation against them that they are intellectually inferior to Muslims is baseless and unjust. If you think over the ethics of the Muslim societies, you will find that their ethics revolves round one thing and that is, woman. Muslim communities are obsessed with Burqa and virginity of women

The basis of the ethics of the west is intellectual and not religious. There is an entire book on Ethics by Aristotle in which there is not a single word about rewards and punishment in the Hereafter. Every thinker has pondered over ethics from the philosophical point of view. Without the right understanding and realization, ethics become a temporary situation and decays soon.

 In the west, the freedom of women and the end of slavery did not come about on religious grounds. The reason behind equality is also not religious. The end of apartheid and racism was also not achieved on religious grounds. All this happened because of the progress in political and economic sciences. In the west, equality was implemented only when the western nations became convinced that this equality was necessary for the progress and security of the society.