By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
20 May 2019
Dilemma facing Muslim females wearing Niqab/Burqa, the tip to toe body cover concealing the person's identity, must be reviewed from various aspects. But most importantly Muslims in the West, must resolve whether it is Quran's/Islam's ordinance or edicts of Religions?
It is stressed here that Islam which the Quran propagates as universal Code of life - is not similar to what various Churches propagate as their different theologies.
Brief Historical Overview
Muslim women's head and face covering became a dress mode decades after the compilation of the Quran. Muslims having followed the Book's ordinances contemplatively as required by it, had established an egalitarian and gender equitable society for a while. But soon regressed into stratified society of male dominated, minority ruling aristocratic wealthy class, establishing harim for their women; and the underclass majority slaving for them. This was in keeping with other dominant societies and their cultural and Religious practices to which the Muslims were exposed to and influenced by.
Importantly though, many of these regressive factors were diluted in practice or discarded by the West over times, as can be seen by how little influence is exerted today by Religions and traditions, having undergone many upheavals of change. Muslims on the other hand have become entrenched in Religions and visible in their practices, brought from 'back home', and so self inflict the majority's hatred.
In today's Islam-bashing -- the common-or-garden Islamophobia, it is the female Niqabi who bears the brunt of it in the West. Yet only very few of the front line female soldiers have come out to debate the issue in open that affects their sisterhood. Thus largely leaving the battle field open to the male counterpart to engage in it as they please.
Male conservative Religious element, for their vested interests have manipulated verses of Quran to consolidate their position by covering up the women. Hence all Muslims are branded by the 'other' under Islam of chauvinism; not withstanding that some of the Niqab is themselves insist that it is their religious duty, choice and Human Right to don it.
But HR has Reciprocal obligations. The reaction from others to ones action in society is an important feature. HR also carry an obligation of reciprocity. For example, the legislated Traffic Code compels us to drive a vehicle on a particular side of the road. Although it denies one the Right to drive on the wrong side if one wishes, but all law abiding citizens have an obligation to ensure the safety of other road users. This obligation is imposed by the State on all as a necessity in civilised society and that imposition is done under State's obligation to safeguard its citizens.
Additionally The Issues In The West Are:
Full face cover, just like balaclava is always associated with evil people such as bank robbers, be they male or female. Hence a despised element. When escorted by police, miscreants always try to cover their faces from media for that reason, to avoid recognition.
The fact that a fraction, however small, of the Muslim women conforms to full face covering, it is never the less confronting and considered alien by the majority 'other'. For in their midst it depicts inequality of female, in an enlightened society that is evolving there over centuries.
The wearing of Niqab generally is considered as display of overt “holier than thou” attitude of the wearer, looking down on the not so religiously inclined general public. The case in point is of a British convert Niqab in Luton England, confronting a normal decently dressed non-Muslim British lady reporter; accusing her of being dressed like a slut.
The overt demonstration of male/female segregation in public is commonly seen in the West as “oppression” of the female by misogynistic religion they equate to Islam.
In the current Islamophobic and terrorism laced atmosphere, the all important issue of Security of Nation, full body covering Niqab, balaclava, hood and helmets with dark visors that prevents identification of the wearer by law enforcing authorities has become THE important aspect and the Muslim female Niqabi, quite understandably so, is looked upon with suspicion.
And when tainted with all the above aspects, she becomes a dangerous person to be reckoned with... a potential terrorist.
These aspects are worthy of given serious attention by Muslims. The argument that there is no hard data to back the above assertions is not valid. There was the case of a Niqab wearing male gang of robbers caught on CCTV in Manchester jewellery shop and many other examples of Niqab cover used for the purposes of criminal acts. A male suicide jehadi wearing Niqab committing an act of terrorism is on record. These are just few examples. It therefore opens up the argument of Niqab's potential for committing terrorist acts and posing security threats. For authorities charged with maintaining security these are real aspects in today's highly charged atmosphere.
This then makes the subject too complex. Therefore it is discussed here only from the point of view of Quran's references vs Religious practice of face cover.
The Muslim women, who conform to face covering, and their male backers, often insist that Niqab is Islamic ordinance to maintain female purity and virtue. Religion accepts cultural, custom and rituals as its edicts and erroneously attributes it to Quran. The problem is basically that of understanding the difference between the two. Therein lies a very important community dilemma. Islam and Religion, which are two separate and often contradictory entities juxtaposed indiscriminately even by scholars.
Quran's - Islam's View
Quran often uses existing customs and practises to demonstrate and explain its commands. Mankind was practising it as an age old custom of gauze veil as upper class status symbol and rough sac hood over the head for punishment of criminals. The Book therefore uses it as familiar example but to negate it:
10 -26: For those who do right is a goodly reward, yes, more than in measure. No darkness nor shame shall cover their faces! They are companions of garden, they will abide there forever.
10-27: But those who have earned evil will have reward of like evil: ignominy will cover their faces......Their faces will be covered as it were with pieces of like darkness of night. They are companions of the fire, they will abide therein for ever. Note the difference.
12-107: Do they then feel secure from the coming against them of the covering veil of the wrath of God...Refer also to 80-40 to 42.
2-7: God has sealed their hearts and hearing and there is a covering over their eyes...
The face covering applies for evil people as God's punishment of both genders in Quran. It is therefore unfathomable as to how Niqab becomes a commendable hood of purity and virtue, only for women, in Religion?
Head-Wrap Or Hair Cover For Women
The Quranic term Hijab, used to give it Islamic cover, concealing the hair of the Muslim female, is just a beautifully colour coordinated head-wrap; which has always been a simple scarf. Religious men, bald headed or not often wear elaborate turban or cap for the purpose.
Hair is referred twice in Quran; in the ritual of hajj 2-192, and again grouped together with fleece/wool in 16-80. Quran it appears has nothing to say of concealing of hair -- beard, lock, tress and wig, dyed or not as good or evil.
The verses of Quran, for example 7-31,32, 33 that encourage mankind to use the beautiful gifts of adornments and sustenance that the Creator has provided and to be thankful for it, but to shun extravagant display, indecency and pride. There is no restriction in Quran on such things. This is another example of contradiction between Quran's commands and Religious edicts.
It can be surmised that the dominance of men over women, which was always there and is so today to certain extent in human societies; Muslim male has consolidated it for its selfish ends from Quran:
(4-34): Ar-Rijaalu Qawwaamuna A'lan Nisaa as meaning “Men are established (as authority) over their women”, to keep her 'in place' by isolating her from her rightful space by covering her up.
It matters not that Quran amply specifies dress code for modesty for both males and females with due emphases on female bodily attraction to the opposite sex, that should be covered for modesty and good manners 24-30, 31 etc. Nothing special in that. Many a societies in the world prescribe it and have designed a dress mode accordingly, but hardly if any of them cover the whole female persona head to heel so as to obliterate her identity in public, as does the Niqab and Burqa.
Such overt display of piety and put-up holiness is frowned upon in Quran. It dislikes all excesses 107-6, 4-171 etc. It extols Natural balanced harmonious system in its ordained ad-Deen, as it exists in entire creation 30-30.
Falsely propagated as ordained by Quran, modern Hijab is a upgraded scarf, totem of Religion. For that reason it causes consternation in public. However it does not pose any threat to security as the wearer is fully identifiable facially. The ban in some countries on security basis is therefore misguided.
Quran's symbolism for “evil” people destined to “hell”, is falsely construed under Religious edict as virtuous attire for female only. Plus Niqab can be potential apparel for criminals and terrorists and poses a threat to Security for Law enforcement authorities. On these basis therefore there should be no objection to universally banning it.
Muslims with their Religious displays in public are partly contributing to the hatred of Islam and themselves. Yet these practises are contrary and alien to Islam. The Believers of Quran have to resolve this dilemma to live in harmony and be welcomed in their chosen homelands in the West. It is an ethical, moral and legal obligation on them to make a paradigm shift in their lives, for:-
Talaatum Haye Daryaa Hee Say Hai Gohar Kee Seraabi.
A regular contributor to NewAgeIslam.com, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer
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