Wednesday, 25 November 2015

‘Hijab’- an analysis of modern view

A modern view about commandment of ‘hijab’ restricts this commandment for women to covering only chest of women’s body excluding face. This modern view is held by a Pakistani religious scholar. Let us analyze this view in the succeeding lines.
Regarding ‘hijab’ of women, the most relevant Quranic verses are stated below:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their head covers over their bosoms……” (al-nur-31).
This verse clearly commands Muslim women not to display their adornment, except what is apparent; (it may be appreciated that it is natural as well as artificial adornment) and the method to do it is to draw their head covers over their bosoms. It is obvious if head cover is drawn down from the head to cover the bosoms, all parts of woman’s body adornment- head, face and bosoms- are covered. It may be appreciated that word ‘yazrib’ means ‘to draw’. But according to the modern view under discussion, the head cover is not to be drawn from the head; rather it is to be drawn from the neck to cover the bosoms, leaving the face uncovered. But this modern view overlooks the fact that face is one of the most important parts of a woman’s adornment. If face is left uncovered, woman’s adornment cannot be concealed completely. The exception of ‘what is apparent’ does not mean what is uncovered; rather it means what is apparent despite covering e.g. body contours etc.
However, this verse may be interpreted in different ways, creating ambiguity in one’s mind.  But it is the quality of Quran that meanings contained in a verse are safeguarded by other verses of Quran. It is true in this case as well; the meanings contained in verse al-nur-31 are safeguarded/ supported by the following verses as well:  
“And those who harm/ torture mentally believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin. Prophet (s.a.w.w), 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 identified (as Muslims) and not be tortured. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (al-ahzaab-58-59).
The verse 59 clearly states for Muslim women to bring down over themselves part of their outer garments. The outer garments are those which are wrapped around the body. This verse is stating that a part of outer garment should be brought down (from the head) over the woman’s body; it means the woman should cover her face with her outer garment.
But according to modern view under discussion, this commandment is not permanent; rather it is conditional. The condition has been described in verse 58 which states those who harm/ torture mentally Muslim men and women, through baseless allegations, are slanderer and sinner. Therefore, in verse 59, Muslim women have been directed to cover their bodies (when they step out of their homes) including their faces so that they may be identified (as Muslim) and may not be tortured mentally through baseless allegations. According to modern view, the injunction of ‘hijab’ contained in verse 59 applies only if Muslim women, by stepping out with naked face, are likely to receive mental torture through baseless allegation. If women do not have to face baseless allegations, they do not have to cover their face.
This modern view is not tenable due to the following grounds:
Firstly, the injunctions contained in verse 58 and verse 59 are exclusive to each other. The verse 58 states that a person leveling baseless allegations on Muslim men and women is sinner and slanderer; whereas verse 59 states about providing an identity to Muslim women by directing them to cover their bodies including their faces. It may be appreciated that provision of identity to Muslim women through ‘hijab’ (including ‘hijab’ of face) is a permanent consequence of ‘hijab’; whereas avoiding baseless allegation is not a permanent consequence of ‘hijab’; women may be or may not be able to avoid baseless allegation through hijab. What I mean is that the primary consideration behind direction of ‘hijab’ (including of face) is providing Muslim women with an identity (which is a permanent consequence of ‘hijab’) but avoiding baseless allegations is a secondary consideration behind direction of hijab (including ‘hijab’ of face). Therefore the modern view which takes injunction of ‘hijab’  contained in verse 59 as conditional to situation (of likelihood of baseless allegation) mentioned in verse 58, is not tenable. The basic objective of hijab (including of face) is to provide Muslim women with an identity.
Secondly, even if commandment of hijab (including of face) is based on condition of likelihood of baseless allegation, women have to observe ‘hijab’ (including of face) in all societies because no society is present or has passed in the history or will pass in the history (most likely) where women have not faced or will not face likelihood of mental torture due to naked face. It may be appreciated the basic thing forbidden in verse 58 is to met out mental torture to Muslim men and women and this mental torture is the result of ‘what has not been earned by them’ ; this what has not been earned by Muslim women includes not only reasons of baseless allegation but also (among others) reasons of evil eyes cast upon their naked face. Given the human instinct, no human society can exists where an evil eye may not be cast upon a woman with naked face and resultantly may not expose such woman to mental torture. Therefore Muslim women have to observe ‘hijab’ (including of face) in all societies. 

Thirdly,  Quran has not mentioned that commandment contained in verse 59 is conditional to situation described in verse 58. It is totally self-assumption to seek any conditionality between verse 58 and verse 59. If the Quran subordinates any verse to any other verse, such fact is made clear through grammatical construction of the relevant verses (it is like we subordinate a subordinate clause to a principal clause in English language); whereas grammatical construction of verse 58 & 59 does not create any such subordination.  On the other hand, exclusiveness of commandments contained in these verses is obvious. In fact, verse 59 starts with a new "raku"; it also implies that main theme of the two verses is different. It is true that scholars differ on many points of interpretation of the Quran; but such difference of opinion has to be based on some principle of grammer or principle of  interpretation. Nobody should  differ due to his whims based  on NO grammer rules or NO valid principle of interpretation of the Quran.The issue of principal and subordinate clause has to be seen through principles of grammer; no verse can be declared as subordinate clause against the principles of Arabic grammer.
In the light of foregoing, we may conclude that commandment of ‘hijab’ (including of face) for Muslim women is not conditional to the likelihood of exposing to mental torture in case of keeing their face naked. The commandment of hijab (including of face) is a permanent direction which aims at providing the Muslim women with a distinct identity and as such Muslim women have to observe hijab (including of face) whether or not there is likelihood of incurring mental torture due to naked face.   

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