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December 14th, 2015

Case Study 7: Hijab, the Niqab and the Beard! On the Faces or on the Minds? A Case of Mistaken Identity

Case Study 7: Hijab, the Niqab and the Beard! On the Faces or on the Minds? A Case of Mistaken Identity

7:26. O Children of Adam! Indeed We have sent down to you a garment which covers your shame [Arabic: sawātikum]…1

While addressing all Children of Adam i.e. both men and women, this verse lays down the basis of any article of dress in Islam, least of which covers your shame. The Quranic injunction for a garment essentially states that all those parts of the body, which, if exposed are a source of individual shame or embarrassment, must be covered. In the light of this fundamental guideline of Quran all wearers of Veil or Hijab under the pretext of Islam, have to ask themselves if exposing their scalp hair, forehead, ears or face is shameful. A universal answer is in the negative, rather on the reverse; all these are a source of one’s identity and dignity. If due to some cultural pressure or misinterpretation of Quran, the face and hair of a woman carry a shame that needs to be covered, then by implication, the faces and scalps of men are equally shameful, which too must be covered by equal standards that are applied on women. Contrary to general assumptions, Quran is liberal enough to allow for a personal choice for one to cover one’s head with Hijab, or the face with a Veil (Niqab) or a Beard.

Parts of the body which need garments to cover public shame are explicitly outlined in Quran and are limited to the private parts of both males and females and female bosoms. By reduction, Quran forbids uncovering of gender differentiating anatomical regions between men and women, which are none but sexual in their function:

23:5-6. And who guard their private parts, Except from their spouses, that is those whom they justly and rightfully own in proper wedlock, in that case they are not to be blamed.2

24:31. And tell the believing women … cover their bosoms…3

Additionally, as we will discuss below, the dress in Quran is not only to cover the nakedness, but also is a source of elegance and modesty, both at home and in public life for both men and women. Both males and females are expected to dress and adorn within limits that eliminates the basis of any unwanted insinuation, attention, ridicule or scandal mongering.

Globalization and the freedom of thought that it provides by breaking cultural boundaries, also gives us individual freedom to choose a dress of our liking. But, it becomes a problem when a given dress is worn and enforced in the name of Islam, for which the Quran gives no basis. The closest case that can be made for a Veil in the name of Islam is that it nurtures chastity. But this kind of chastity preservation is no different than the chastity belt of the Europeans in the dark ages.

The so called ‘Islamic veil’ and the Beard are nothing but a cultural baggage of the old world, mistaken as identity of Islam. No matter how one slices and dices the Quran, metaphorically or literally, there is neither mention of dress articles of Hijab or Veil nor covering of the heads nor the faces of women. But, if pursued in the cultural context, the practice of Veil is essentially perceived to maintain the modesty of women in public while preventing lustful glances of men. Instead of taking men to task, men seem to be given a leeway in their behavior, while putting women to misery. This is a safe deduction, because such women are unveiled in their homes and around their close family members including men. Of note is that in Quran, there is no home bound woman. On the reverse, in Quran, a woman is expected to be immersed in public life, all of which are the obvious deductions in the verses quoted later. At the same time what prevents the reverse lustful glances of females from behind their veils to the men around them?

40:19. He knows the treachery of the eyes even (when they commit sinful acts secretly) and what the hearts conceal.4

For our discussion we will differentiate, where needed, between a Hijab and Veil5. The term Hijab will be used to mean a headscarf that covers the head, part of forehead, the ears and the area around the neck. The Veil is just an extension of Hijab in that it additionally covers the face, and depending upon local culture, may or may not leave the eyes exposed. At times, both Hijab and Veil will be used interchangeably when the discussion is about any dress article that covers the head of the woman.

For the specifics of dress code that is misattributed to Islam, suffice is to read the relevant sections in the book ‘Religion of Islam’6 by Maulana Muhammad Ali that fully expunge face veil from a policy perspective, based upon Quran, Sunnah and Hadith.

The purpose of this chapter is different, which is to refute the underlying themes, both in the thought and culture that create the basis of the Hijab, the Veil and the Beard. Veil and its enforcement are essentially based upon the male chauvinistic tendencies, in which the male ego is guarded more than the modesty of the woman. In turn, women, the half of the population, pay a heavy price for the protection of that male ego, both, in limitation of their role in the society as well as their unwarranted isolation which prevents them from living their lives to the fullest. Both, the eyes and ears are not only anatomical features, but are gateways to the faculty of hearing and seeing that ultimately affect the thinking. Any impediment, both physical and intellectual, of these faculties to grow is factually against Quran:

67:23. Say, `It is He Who has brought you into being and made for you ears (to hear), eyes (to see) and hearts (to understand). Yet little thanks do you give!'7

Hiding, to any degree, of the ears, the eyes or the skin, the presumed acts of piety, is not a source of virtue in Quran. Rather, the intention and righteous behaviors drive one’s virtues:

2:177. It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West [–the outwards acts], but righteous is the one who believes in Allah, and the Last Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the traveller and to those who ask and to set slaves free and keeps up prayer and gives the due charity; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in the time of conflict. These are they who are truthful; and these are they who keep their duty.8

Hijab – The term Hijab as used in Quran has the following meanings to it:

Hajaba – To cover, veil, hinder anyone from access, shut out. Hijâb: Veil, curtain, screen; Barrier. Mahjûbûna: Veiled; Shut out; Blind. Hijâb (n.): Barrier. Mahjûbûn (pct. pic. m. plu): Blinds. (L; T; R; LL) The root with its above two forms has been used in the Holy Qur’ân about 8 times.9

Nowhere in Quran is the use of the term Hijab in context of an article of dress. The term Hijab is found in the following verses:

7:46. And between them [–the dwellers of heaven and hell] is a veil [Arabic: ḥijābun]10

17: 45. And when you recite the Qur'ân, We place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter, an impregnable screen [Arabic: ḥijāban],11

19:17. so she [–Mary] screened [Arabic: ḥijābun] herself from them.12

33:53. O you who believe, do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you for a meal, not waiting for its cooking to be finished — but when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken food, disperse — not seeking to listen to talk. Surely this gives the Prophet trouble, but he forbears from you, and Allah does not forbear from the truth. And [similarly] when you ask of them [–Prophet’s wife while they are in their homes] any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain [Arabic: ḥijābin]. This is purer for your hearts and their hearts. And it is not fitting for you to give trouble to the Messenger of Allah, nor to marry his wives after him ever. Surely this is grievous in the sight of Allah.13

The verse 33:53 is often quoted to justify Hijab for women. What is missed in the reading of the verse is that it speaks of protecting the privacy of any house hold and upholding of moral and good manners in settings in which a non-family member approaches the woman of the house for borrowing of a favor while the man of the house may not be there. Any transaction thereof may happen without face to face contact as home is a private space and not a public place. It is a burden on the visitor to create the space and barrier from the lady of house and not vice-versa. In the stated verse there is not even a remote reference to a screen or a traditional Hijab to be placed on the face of the lady of the house. Even if for the sake of an argument, no matter how twisted that there is an implied Hijab as a dress code in the verse, then that piece of cloth rather be on the face of the visitor – And when you ask of them any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain.

Additionally, another verse establishes spiritual relationship between wives of the Prophet and the believers – The Prophet is closer to the faithful than their own selves, and his wives are (as) their mothers…(33:6)14. How is it even possible for a mother to hide from her children?

38:32. He [–Solomon] said, `I prefer the love of good things because they make (me) remember (God), my Lord.' And (he remained busy in his devotion and prayer), when these (horses) disappeared (while passing by) behind the veil (of distance) [Arabic: ḥijābi],15

41:5. And they [–who turn away from Quran] say: Our hearts are under coverings from that to which you call us, and there is a deafness in our ears, and there is a veil [Arabic: ḥijābun] between us and you…16

42:51. And it is not granted to a mortal that Allah should speak to him, except by revelation or from behind a veil [Arabic: ḥijābin], or by sending a messenger and revealing by His permission what He pleases. Surely He is High, Wise.17

Veil – As we have seen above that there is no dress article of Hijab in Quran, equally there is no injunction of Veil. By some convoluted logic, Hijab is extrapolated from the term Khimar, which is discussed next.

Khamira/Khamara – To cover over, conceal, veil, hide, ferment. Khamar: Any intoxicating thing; Any fermented drink; Grapes; Anything that clouds or obscure and covers the intellect. It includes all intoxicating substances. It is devil’s work (5:90). It is wrong to say that the moderate use of wine or such things is allowed and that only drinking to excess is prohibited. The Companions of the Holy Prophet never made use of a drop of such things after the prohibition was made known. The Holy Prophet said, A small quantity of anything of which a large quantity is intoxicating is prohibited (Abû Dâûd 25:5). Wine is also called Khamar because it covers or obscures or affects the intellect or the senses, or because it agitates and excites the brain so as to make it lose its power of control. Khumur plu. of (Khimâr): Head cover, scarf, covering and specially a woman’s head veil, screen. Khamar (n.): Any intoxicating thing. Khumur (n. plu. of Khimâr): Head cover; Scarf; Covering and specially a woman’s head veil; Screen. (L; T; R; LL) The root with its above two forms has been used in the Holy Qur’ân about 7 times.18

In Quran, closest the term Khimar, which is confused with Hijab, refers to is the prevalent custom of headscarf in Arabs. Nowhere does Quran ordain to shroud one’s head with Khimar, the scarf or to befuddle it with Khamar – the intoxicant. Rather, Quran wants one to be clear headed, both literally and metaphorically:

45:23. Have you considered the case of him who has taken his own low desires for his god and whom Allâh has forsaken and adjudged as lost on the basis of (His infinite) knowledge, and whose ears and heart He has sealed and whose eyes He has covered with a veil? Who then will guide him after Allâh (has condemned him for his being given to evil ways)? Will you then pay no heed?19

Said terms do not ordain any covering, literal or metaphorical, for head or brain, male or female:

2:219. They ask you about intoxicants [Arabic: khumurihinna]20

5:90. O you who believe, intoxicants [Arabic: khamru]21

5:91. The devil desires only to create enmity and hatred among you by means of intoxicants [Arabic: khamri]22

12:36. And two youths entered the prison with him. One of them said: I saw myself pressing wine [Arabic: khamran]23

12:41. My two fellow-prisoners, as for one of you, he will serve wine [Arabic: khamran]24

24:31. And say to the believing women that they lower their gaze and restrain their sexual passions and do not display their adornment except what appears of it. And they should wear their [i.e. their existing] head-coverings [Arabic: khumurihinna] over their bosoms…25 – Before Islam women used to appear in public with their breasts partly uncovered. The khimar (pl. khumr) means a head-covering, and women were thus required to cover their breasts with a part of their head-covering.26

47:15. (Here is) a description of the Garden promised to those who guard against evil. Therein are streams of water (which is) unstaling, and streams of milk the taste and flavour of which does not change, and streams of juice extracted from grapes [Arabic: khamrin]…27

The tenets of the head coverings for women are only to be found in Judaism and Christianity. Jewish women cover their heads when visiting synagogues and scarf is part of regular dress of a nun. Fact is that the authority for covering a woman’s head is found in New Testament, not Quran, which symbolizes degradation of a woman below a man:

1 Corinthians 11:7–10. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.28

Beard – “…hadiths are quoted to justify the most extremes of behaviour. And the Prophet’s own appearance, his beard and cloths, have been turned into a fetish: so now it is not just obligatory for a ‘good Muslim’ to have a beard, but its length and shape must also conform to dictates! The Prophet has been reduced to signs and symbols – the spirit of his behaviour, the moral and ethical dimensions of his actions, his humility and compassion, the general principles he advocated have all been subsumed by the logic of absurd reduction.”29

Besides Veil, facial hair/beard and headwear also are becoming symbols of a Muslim. It is ironic that outward appearance is now regarded as the gateway to Islam. It is a sorry state that hereditary Islam has fallen into the same category where it can be identified by its dress or appearance just like a catholic priest or a rabbi. On the contrary, Islam stresses morality of intentions, behaviors and actions. Instead of following the principles of a dress code, a specific dress article or grooming has itself become the principle. It is a classic example of maintaining the outward shell of a religion while killing its soul that we find frequently mentioned in Quran in which extensive examples explain the decay that set in the Islam of the Israelites.

Beard is an outcome of not shaving. Quran has nothing to do with the personal choice to shave or not. Little does a Mullah know that the injunction not to shave is not in Quran but in Torah:

Leviticus 21:5 ‘They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh.30

The only reference in Quran for a beard is essentially of ridicule when Moses on his return from the Mount Sinai found the Israelites worshipping the cow effigy and he in a rage held his brother, Aaron, by his beard:

20:94. (Aaron) said, `O son of my mother! [–Moses] do not hold me by my beard nor (pull me) by my head. (If I was not strict to them it was because) I was afraid lest you should say, "You have caused a disruption among the Children of Israel and did not preserve my word".'31

While there is no authority in Quran for headwear or the beard, one finds references in Old Testament, for grooming standards and cultural values that they engender:

Leviticus 19:27. You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard.32

Jeremiah 14:3-4. Their nobles have sent their lads for water; They went to the cisterns and found no water. They returned with their vessels empty; They were ashamed and confounded And covered their heads. Because the ground is parched, For there was no rain in the land, The plowmen were ashamed; They covered their heads.33

Ezekiel 44:20. They shall neither shave their heads nor let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed.34

2 Samuel 10:4. Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.35

1 Samuel 21:13. So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.36

Enforcement of the Hijab, the Veil or the Beard in the name of Islam is essentially a fanciful conjecture. And, we know that Quran abhors such fancies in the matters of faith:

5:77. Say, `O People of the Scripture! do not exaggerate in (the matter of) your religion falsely and unjustly, nor follow the fancies of a people who had gone astray before (you) and had led many astray, and (now again) who have strayed away from the right path.37

The requirements of Hijab, Veil and Beard as articles of faith are extra-Quranic fatwas of Mullahs. This is where the lines are blurred between a Mullah, a Priest and a Rabbi. To the Mullah, Quran admonishes against attributing to it any cultural inventions, including the infamous face veil and home bound women etc., all of which invariably are restrictions on women alone:

7:33. …and (He forbids you also) to associate with Allâh that for which He has sent down no authority, and to say concerning Allâh that which you do not know (that it is in fact said by Him).’38

Quran ridicules the blind followers of such dogma pushers and all those who take such edicts at par with word of God:

They take their doctors of law and their monks for lords besides Allah (9:31).39 – This does not mean that they took them actually for gods; the meaning is that they followed them blindly in what they enjoined and what they forbade, attaching to them a Divine dignity. Muslims who accord a similar position to their ulama, spiritual leaders or saints are guilty of the same error.40

Those doctors of law who invent nonsense in the name of a religion and attribute it to Allah, Quran banes them in plain language:

2:79. Woe, then, to those who write the Book with their hands then say, this is from Allah; so that they may take for it a small price. So woe to them for what their hands write and woe to them for what they earn.41

Fact is that when the dogma mongers are confronted with authority from Quran negating their arguments for a Hijab, the Veil and a Beard, invariably it invokes their anger. No too surprisingly Quran also states the same about their reaction:

22:71-72. And they serve besides Allah that for which He has not sent any authority, and of which they have no knowledge. And for the unjust there is no helper. And when Our clear messages are recited to them, you will notice a denial on the faces of those who disbelieve — they almost attack those who recite to them Our messages. Say: Shall I inform you of what is worse than his? The Fire. Allah has promised it to those who disbelieve. And evil is the destination.42

Chasity is the goal and the Dress only one of its means – If Islam stands for modesty and chastity then for sure it also stands against ‘chastity belts’ and Masquerade Balls. The former is forced chastity, with or without intention of chastity of those that it is enforced upon. The latter can be non-chastity of intent under a veil. Veil, voluntary or enforced, which isolates a person from social life, is a concrete attempt in a ‘mobile’ monasticism:

57:27. …And We placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him [– Jesus], but as for monasticism they invented it themselves, We did not enjoin it upon them…43

In the stated verse, Quran clearly implies that it is a misconception that monasticism and self-renouncement leads to God. Veil and Hijab are a case in point. At least this verse rejects isolationism in the name of Islam. If the purpose of a veil is to promote chastity, then instead of a silly veil, Quran mandates chastity of thoughts and actions, one hidden, other open for both men and women:

6:151. Say, `Come, I will rehearse to you what your Lord has made binding on you; [i] it is that you shall associate not anything as partner with Him, [ii] and that you shall be good to parents, [iii] and that you waste not your children because of poverty. It is We Who make provisions for you as well for them too. [iv] (Allâh has also enjoined upon you that you) approach not indecencies, whether open or hidden, [v] and that you kill no soul which Allâh has made sacred, except in the cause of justice.' This has He enjoined you with, so that you may (learn to) abstain (from evil).44

7:33. Say, `Verily, My Lord has forbidden all (acts of) indecency, open and hidden, and every (kind of) sin and aggression, which is never justifiable;…45

After establishing the above parameters, open and hidden, of thought and action as prerequisites for decency, Quran admonishes against attributing to it any dogmas, including the Hijab or the Veil or the Beard:

7:33. …and (He forbids you also) to associate with Allâh that for which He has sent down no authority, and to say concerning Allâh that which you do not know (that it is in fact said by Him).’ 46

In its commands, Quran also mandates that while enforcing its injunction for decency in the society (He forbids you also) to associate with Allâh that for which He has sent down no authority, and to say concerning Allâh that which you do not know (that it is in fact said by Him). Hijab, Veil and Beard, find no authority in Quran.

One of the purposes of Quran is to promote collective social (Public) health so that morality and decency in the society is nurtured. Such attributes can emanate from voluntary rejection of unchaste intentions and behaviors and not from enforcement of chastity belts, nor from the Veil. Quran lays out the law of moral purity based upon intention to be pure:

24:21. O you who believe! do not follow the footsteps of satan. He that follows the footsteps of satan (should remember that) he (- satan) surely enjoins immorality and indecency. But for the grace of Allâh and His mercy (that rests) upon you, not one of you would ever have been pure, but Allâh purifies him who wishes (to be purified). And Allâh is All-Hearing, All- Knowing. 47

Besides explaining the relationship of the type of person and the corresponding deeds, Quran declares that good and bad are consequences of personal choices. Quran in its arguments creates intellectual space in the society for virtuous people by outlining the psycho-social principle governing their virtuous behaviors and vice versa:

24:26. The evil and impure deeds are (a characteristic) of impure people and the bad and impure people are (inclined) towards the bad and impure deeds. Similarly good and pure deeds are (a characteristic) of good and pure people and the good and pure people are (inclined) towards good and pure deeds. It is they (- the good and pure) who are innocent of all that they (- the accusers) may allege (about them). There awaits them protection and an honourable and generous provision.48

In promoting chastity in the society, Quran first focuses on the means of individual chastity for which, among other reasons, it enjoins recitation and meditation on Quran while observing the prayers:

29:45. Recite (preach, follow and meditate on) that which has been revealed to you of the Book (– the Qur'ân) and observe Prayer. Verily, Prayer restrains (the observer) from indecency and abominable things and loathsome deeds and from all that runs counter to reason and moral sense. Yet of all, the greatest thing is that Allâh will remember you and help you rise to eminence. And Allâh knows all that you do.49

Chastity can only be nurtured with chaste intentions and chaste environment. It has its roots in individual modesty. In order to prevent indecency, open and hidden, while expecting each gender to participate in public life, Quran addresses both men and women:

24:30. Tell the believers to restrain their looks (in the presence of women not closely related to them and so lawful for marriage) and guard their chastity. That is purer and best for them. Surely, Allâh is Well-Aware of what they do.

24:31. And tell the believing women to restrain their looks (also in the presence of men who are not near of kin and so lawful for marriage) and guard their chastity …50

While ensuring gender equality in public life, Quran prescribes a certain mode of dress for women, which in turn ensures their gender neutrality outside of home. The above verse continues:

24:31. … and not to disclose their (natural and make-up) beauty except such as cannot be helped (and is apparent) [as governed by the local customs and need of the hour e.g. in presence of a physician or in contemporary security checks] and draw their head coverings [that is still part of regular dress in certain cultures, and thus use it to] cover their bosoms [to avoid any sensuality that may be perceived. Note – head covering itself is not a must as it is more cultural than religious. The main purpose is to avoid low neck lines], and they should not display their beauty [of their figure] save to their husbands or to their fathers or to their fathers- in-law or to their own sons or to the sons of their husbands or to their own brothers, or to the sons of their brothers or to the sons of their sisters or their women (who are their decent companions) or to their bondsmen or to such of their male attendants as have no sexual appetite or to such young children as have yet no knowledge of the frailties of women. And let them not strike (the ground with) their feet so that which they (must) hide of their beauty or adornment [and to possibly avoid unnecessary attention to the jingle of their jewelry that is culturally worn around ankles]) may become known. And (O believers!) turn to Allâh; one and all, that you may attain (true happiness and) your ultimate goal. 51

The verse 24:31 gives a broad leeway taking into consideration the local customs which can change with time or need of the hour, e.g. in medical or security checks. Men and women are expected to lower their gaze viz-a-viz each other. If there are interposing veils between them, then the injunction to lower the gaze become superfluous. Lowering of gaze by itself implies that there is no veil between them. In the hadith of Asma,52 elder sister of Aisha – the prophet’s wife, who once wore a thin dress while visiting Aisha, the Prophet turned his face away, not lowered his gaze alone, points to necessity of dress to cover the nakedness of the body, else lowering the gaze would had sufficed for the prophet. The above verse essentially neutralizes the unintended sexual energy between genders. Besides the outward decorum, women are told to keep their voice firm; else they might be perceived weak and taken advantage of:

33:32. O wives of the Prophet [as model of character for others]! you are like no other women, if you would guard against evil, so be not soft in speech lest he who carries a disease in his heart should feel tempted, and you should speak decent words in a dignified tone.53

In the verses quoted so far there is an implicit public life for women which outline their behavior outside their homes. The following verse makes their public role even more explicit:

4:32. And do not covet the favours which Allâh has bestowed on some of you to excel others. Men shall have the share of the fruit of their labour, and for women is the share of the fruit of their labour. You had better seek from Allâh His bounty. Verily, Allâh has perfect knowledge of all things.54

In the verse 4:32 it is plainly clear that opportunity for labour and returns from labour for both men and women are at par without any distinction, though women may choose not to work, because:

4:34. Men are the maintainers of women, with what Allah has given some of them above others and with what they spend out of their wealth… 55

In Quran, chastity is a super-set of virginity. The best public policy for preserving the chastity is the institution of marriage, which is repeatedly emphasized in Quran as a societal duty, and is obvious in the following verses as well:

24:32. Arrange marriages for those of you who are single and for your male and female slaves as are deserving and fit (to lead a married life). If they are poor Allâh will grant them means out of His bounty; Bountiful is Allâh, All-Knowing.56

24:33. And those who find no (means of) marriage should (exercise restraint and) keep themselves chaste until Allâh grants them means (to marry) out of His grace and bounty. (There is another commandment,) as for those of your bondsmen (or women) as ask for a written contract (of freedom for themselves on payment of ransom), write this (deed of manumission for them) provided you find good capabilities in them and give them out of Allâh's wealth which He has given you. (Another commandment for you is that,) with a mind to gain (by this unrighteous means) the benefits of the present life do not constrain your slave-girls to unchaste life (by keeping them unmarried) when they desire (to marry) to preserve their virtue. But if anybody forces them (to abstain from marrying and to become unchaste) they will find, after they are forced, that God is Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful.57

In the verses 24:32-33, even slaves, males and females, are to be married. However, it is a separate topic as to how effectively Quran abolished slavery within one generation after advent of Islam, without resorting to civil wars that United States endured.

Quran acknowledges the spectrum of chaste and unchaste tendencies in a society. There will always be a segment in the society that will deliberately draw attention towards itself and in the process provoke harassment, no matter how much uncalled for. Thus to prevent the harassment of chaste women outside their homes Quran gives a remedy:

33:59. Prophet! tell your wives, your daughters and women of the believers that (while going out of their houses) they should draw lower upon them the portions of their (loose) outer coverings from over their heads on to their bosoms (so as to veil therewith the arms, the neck, the hair and ornaments worn over them). This practice is more likely to help them to be distinguished (from other women who make a display of their beauty and ornamentation) and so saves them from trouble. Allâh is Great Protector, Ever Merciful.58

In the stated verse, there is no mention of head coverings as mistakenly assumed in general understanding and practice. It only focuses on outer coverings to be drawn over the clothes that otherwise might have been revealing of form and figure of the body. Said verse also has historical context for women living in a hostile environment, where their appearance, stance and gait are scrutinized and can they be sexually taunted or harassed, and if not, then at least gawked at. When early Muslims were in exile in Medina, the local poets from opposing tribes are on the record for their compositions of sensual ridicule of Muslim women. One such poet, Ka'ab bin Ashraf, using his poetry even instigated the Battle of Uhad in which Makkans attacked Medina in the third year of migration.  As to how far Ka'ab went in his personal attacks against Muslim women can be deduced by the following verses that he composed in which he sexually insulted Lubaba – Umm al-Fadl bint al-Harith. Of note is that Lubaba is the second woman to embrace Islam after her friend Khadija (Prophet’s first wife), and twenty years before her husband Abbas (Prophet’s uncle) became a Muslim. It is she who came to the defense of Abu-Rafi, Abbas’s freed Muslim slave, who was overjoyed by news of victory of Badr for which he was being tortured by Abu-Lahab (Prophet’s uncle and brother of Abbas), she split open Abu-Lahab’s scalp with a strike, who then died a week later of unrelated causes.59 Ka'ab wrote:

Are you off without stopping in the valley
and leaving Umm Fadl in Mecca?

Out would come what she bought from the pedlar,
her bottles, henna and hair-dye.

What lies between elbow and ankle is in motion
when she tries to stand up and does not.

Like Umm Hakim when she was with us,
the bond between us strong and unbreakable.

She is the one Amirite [-her tribe] who bewitches my heart,
and if she wished, she could cure my sickness.

The glory of women and of a people is their father,
a people held in honour, true to their oath.

Never did I see the sun rise at night till I saw her
display herself to us in the darkness of the night!60

The verse 33:59 continues into the next where sexual harassment of women is mentioned:

33:60. If the hypocrites, those who carry a disease in their hearts and the scandal-mongers (who circulate false rumours to cause agitation) in the city, do not give over (their evil designs and stop their activities), We shall (one day) make you exercise authority over them, then they will not dwell long in this (city) with you (as your neighbours).61

Nowhere in Quran is there an injunction to enforce Veil as a dress code; rather it mentions only the guidelines for modesty. How can one enforce such a specific code in a secular work environment or on non-Muslims? Appropriate clothing is integral to modesty:

7:26. O Children of Adam! We have given you a raiment that covers your nakedness and is a source of (your) elegance and protection. Yet the raiment that guards against evils, that is the best (of robes). That is one of the commandments of Allâh so that they may attain eminence.62

As far as chastity is concerned, it is in intentions and actions, which is the raiment that guards against evils, that is the best (of robes). While elucidating modesty and dignity for both men and women, Qur’ân actually mandates that both genders pay attention to their elegance:

7:31. O Children of Adam! look to your elegance (by dressing properly) at every time and place of worship, and eat and drink but exceed not the bounds, for He does not love those who exceed the bounds.63

Thus, the whole mankind is addressed in Quran when it states to look to your elegance (by dressing properly) at every time and…eat and drink but exceed not the bounds in either liberalism or conservatism of dress because He does not love those who exceed the bounds. While enforcing dress code at times Muslim societies get carried away beyond reason into conservatism that Quran abhors and on the reverse encourages the society to adorn itself and to be elegant:

7: 32. SAY, ‘Who has made unlawful Allâh’s beautiful things of adornment and elegance which He has produced for His servants and the delicious and pure things of (His) providing?’ Say, ‘They are primarily meant for the believers (and for the disbelievers too) in this present life (but) exclusively for (the believers) on the Day of Resurrection [in a metaphorical sense].’ In this way do We explain the Messages for a people who would know. 64

Thus, who has made unlawful Allâh’s beautiful things of adornment and elegance which He has produced for women that the veil, Niqab, tries to prevent? At least from women’s point of view, it would be a fallacy that the world is for men only and to overcome their fetish and guilt to gawk at women, men have to force women to wear Niqab. Instead of veil, Quran states in the verse, requoted:

7:33. Say, `Verily, My Lord has forbidden all (acts of) indecency, open and hidden, and every (kind of) sin and aggression, which is never justifiable; and (He forbids you also) to associate with Allâh that for which He has sent down no authority, and to say concerning Allâh that which you do not know (that it is in fact said by Him).’ 65

Say, `Verily, My Lord has forbidden all (acts of) indecency, open and hidden, and every (kind of) sin irrespective of Niqab, and aggression, which is never justifiable to enforce Niqab. Niqab being a point and case where (He forbids you also) to associate with Allâh that for which He has sent down no authority, and to say concerning Allâh that which you do not know (that it is in fact said by Him).’

Preserving privacy, which is also integral to chastity, Quran lays out the following guidelines:

24:27. O you who believe! do not enter houses other than your own unless you have obtained willing permission and (mind!) you should greet the inmates of these (houses). That is better for you. You have been given this commandment that you may be heedful.

24:28. But if you find nobody in them do not enter therein, unless you have got (from the owners or the rightful care-taker previous) permission. And go back if you are told to go back, that would be pure and best for you. Indeed, Allâh is Well-Aware of all that you do.

24:29. It is no sin on your part to enter (freely) non-residential houses wherein your goods are lying [–places of business]. And Allâh knows all that you profess and all that you conceal.66

Privacy even within the family environment is to be respected:

24:58. O you who believe! it is binding on those whom your right hands possess (domestic servants) and those (of your children) who have not reached the age of puberty to ask your permission (before coming into your private rooms) in three instances, before the morning Prayer, and when you lay aside your clothes due to the heat (in summer) at noon and after the night Prayer. These are three times when your privacy should be respected. At other times no blame shall lie on you or on them (if they come to you without permission), for they have to move about (waiting upon you) some of you (attending) upon others (according to need). That is how Allâh explains to you His commandments, for Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

24:59. When the children among you reach the age of puberty they (too) should seek permission (to come to your rooms) just as those (elderly people mentioned) before them do. That is how Allâh explains to you His commandments and Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

24:60. And (as to the elderly spinsters who are past child-bearing age and) who do not hope for sexual intercourse, it is no offence for them to lay aside their outer garments provided they do not do it to display their beauty. But if they abstain (even from that) it is much better for them. Indeed Allâh is All-Hearing, All- Knowing.67

Thus, Quran not only gives the definition of modesty, it also outlines methods and public policy to enhance it. No dress code in Quran limits, rather encourages, each gender to be fully immersed in a productive public life. In can be safely deduced that the emphasis of Islam is to create a society in which each adult is connected with ties and perceives others through outcomes of a marriage, in which each adult male or female, barring a few exceptions, is married, and each person carries a relationship of belonging to a family as either a husband, a wife, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a sister or a brother. No one is alone to be left as a target of harassment by others. A woman in Islam carries a dignified and loving existence as a wife, a mother, a daughter and a sister.

With the discussion so far, we revisit one of the verses quoted earlier:

7:26. O Children of Adam! We have given you a raiment that covers your nakedness and is a source of (your) elegance and protection. Yet the raiment that guards against evils, that is the best (of robes). That is one of the commandments of Allâh so that they may attain eminence.68

Clearly, Quran defines basic standards for a dress – raiment that covers your nakedness; the purpose of dress which is to be – a source of (your) elegance and protection, both from the weather and any unwanted attention; goal of a dress – so that they may attain eminence.

Face veil defies the requirements of a dress in verse 7:26 i.e. it neither covers the nakedness nor is a source of elegance; yet in present times is a source of scrutiny for security purposes, thus denying any protection, except possibly against sunburn.  The Veil has yet to provide eminence in the work place, because it is a barrier to work in the first place.

The topic of the Veil once invoked the humor of Akbar Allahabadi (d. 1921), an Urdu poet from India:

Bay pardah nazzar aayeen joe chund bebe-yaan
Sighting of unveiled women

Akbar zameen mein ghayrat-e-quomi say garh gay-aa
Induced a chauvinistic guilt in Akbar (-the poet)

Poo-cha joe oun say aap kah pardah woh kaya hua
When I asked – what happened to your veil?

Keh-nein lugeen keh uqqal pay murd-oon key parh gay-aa
Women retorted, it’s now veiling the minds of the men

One cannot but agree with the response of the women. It is men, who mostly create, dictate and enforce dogmas. Veil is one of such dogmas. It can be safely extrapolated that Islam is nowhere to be found in a Hijab or a Veil or a Beard, though all three could be found in Islam of some cultures.

Note: There are many interwoven ideas drawn from ‘The Exegesis of the Holy Quran’ as Explained by Nooruddin, but could not be quoted due to their diffuse nature.
1 Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (Author), Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Translator)

2 Al-Muminun – The Believers: Nooruddin
3 Al-Nur – The Light: Nooruddin
4 Ghafir – Granter of Protection: Nooruddin
5 What's the difference between a hijab, niqab and burka? Link:
6 ‘Religion of Islam’ by Maulana Muhammad Ali – Chapter 6: Marriage – Veil, Decent Dress; Chapter 10: General Regulations – Clothing.
7 Al-Mulk – The Supreme Power: Nooruddin
8 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
9 Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p. 113
10 Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
11 Isra – The Night-Journey: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
12 Maryam – Mary: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
13 Al-Ahzab – The Allies: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
14 ibid
15 Sad – The Truthful God: Nooruddin
16 Ha Mim, also called Fussilat: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
17 Al-Shura – Counsel: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
18 Dictionary of The Holy Quran, (c) 2010, Abdul Mannan Omar, p. 166
19 Al-Jathiyah – The Fallen on the Knees: Nooruddin
20 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
21 Al-Maidah – Food: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
22 ibid
23 Yusuf – Joseph: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
24 ibid
25 Al-Nur – The Light: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
26 Footnote c (31-2) of verse 24:31 – Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
27 Muhammad – Muhammad: Nooruddin
29 RETHINKING ISLAM by Ziauddin Sardar, Professor of Postcolonial Studies, London, The Dawn, No. 7, 2002, p. 7-8, Surname. Link pdf:
31 Ta Ha – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
37 Al-Maidah – Perfect Man! be at Rest: Nooruddin
38 Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
39 Al-Bara’at – Immunity: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
40 Footnote c (31) of verse 9:31 – Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
41 Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
42 Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
43 Al-Hadid – The Iron: Nooruddin
44 Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin
45 Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin
46 ibid
47 Al-Nur – The Light: Nooruddin
48 ibid
49 Al-Ankabut – The Spider: Nooruddin
50 Al-Nur – The Light: Nooruddin
51 ibid
52 Narrated Aisha (the Prophet's wife): Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (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. Abu Dawud, Book 32, Number 4092
53 Al-Ahzab – The Allies: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
54 Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
55 ibid
56 Al-Nur – The Light: Nooruddin
57 ibid
58 Al-Ahzab – The Allies: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
61 Al-Ahzab – The Allies: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
62 Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
63 ibid
64 ibid
65 ibid
66 Al-Nur – The Light: Nooruddin
67 ibid
68 Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz

3 Responses to “Case Study 7: Hijab, the Niqab and the Beard! On the Faces or on the Minds? A Case of Mistaken Identity”

  1. I recall reading about a court case in Pakistan, during Zia-ul-Haq's time or perhaps shortly afterwards, in which the judge said to the claimant: Although there is no coroborating evidence to support your claim, I accept that you are telling the truth because you have the appearance (waza qata) of a Muslim.

    Once in England two groups of Pakistani Maulvies of rival sects had a fight in a mosque and both were arrested by the police. My late mother was called in as interpreter. She realised that a bearded man for whom she was interpreting was obviously lying. So she said to him: Please tell the truth and don't shame our community by lying. He replied, pointing to his beard: Would I lie with this beard? My mother said: Yes, there are plenty of people with beards who tell lies.

  2. This is really great. Thank you for this.

  3. "O children of Adam, We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame and (clothing) for beauty; and clothing that guards against evil (libas-ut-taqwa)— that is the best." (7:26)

    This seems to be the judgment of the Quran in the dispute that we have today between two sides in regard to women's clothing. One side believes that clothing for women is only for covering shame, and so they exceed the limits in that (after face veil, some are even wearing gloves on hands). The other side believes that clothing for women is for displaying beauty, which includes wearing revealing clothing. The Quran here says that clothing is for both of these physical purposes simultaneously. It then adds that the real clothing, without which you are neither modest nor looking elegant, is a good character — a restraint in what you do (taqwa), which makes you look beautiful.