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Face Covering in Islam

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Face covering is not obligatory in Islam and is not the shariah but the tribal values. Please comment.

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Muneeb

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The veil predates the revelation of the Qur’an, it was introduced into Arabia long before advent of Islam, primarily through contacts with countries, where the veil was a sign of social status.
Lelila Ahmed in Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate describes that the veil was apparently in use in Sassanian society, and segregation of the sexes and use of the veil were heavily in evidence in the Christian Middle East and Mediterranean regions at the time of the rise of Islam. 1
She further explains:
“Veiling was apparently not introduced into Arabia by Muhammad but already existed. Veiling was connected with social status, as it was used among Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Assyrians, all of whom practiced veiling to some degree. It is nowhere explicitly prescribed in the Qur’an; the only verses dealing with women’s clothing, aside from those already quoted, instruct women to guard their private parts and throw a scarf over their bosoms (Sura 24:31-32). Throughout Mohammad’s lifetime veiling, was observed only by his wives. Moreover, that the phrase “[she] took the veil” is used in the hadith to mean that a woman became a wife of Mohammad. It is not known how the customs spread to the rest of the community. The Muslim conquest of areas in which veiling was commonplace among the upper classes, the influx of wealth, the resultant raised status of Arabs, and Mohammad’s wives being taken as models probably combined to bring about their general adoption.” 2
“The term chador, which is the form of veiling most used in Iran today, means a tent, and has its roots in the pre-Islamic practice of ferrying wealthy women around in covered sedan chairs.” 3
“John Esposito, professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, writes that the customs of veiling and seclusion of women in early Islam were assimilated from the conquered Persian and Byzantine societies and then later on they were viewed as appropriate expressions of Qur’anic norms and values. The Qur’an does not stipulate veiling or seclusion; on the contrary, it tends to emphasize the participation and religious responsibility of both men and women in society.” 4
“In Islam ruh al-madaniyya (Islam: the Spirit of Civilization) Shaykh Mustafa Ghalayini reminds his readers that veiling pre-dated Islam and that Muslims learned from other peoples with whom they mixed.” 5
“Nazira Zin al-Din points out that veiling was a custom of rich families as a symbol of status. She quotes Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Maghribi who also saw in hijab an aristocratic habit to distinguish the women of rich and prestigious families from other women. Nazira concludes that hijab as it is known today is prohibited by the Islamic shari’a”. 6

References:

1- Ahmed, Leyla, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate , (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), p.5
2- Ibid., p. 56
3- Aslan, Reza, No god but God, (Random House Inc. New York , NY , 2005) p.65
4- John Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path,(Oxford University Press, 3rd Edition, 2005) p.98
5- Shaykh Mustafa al-Ghalayini, Islam ruh al-madaniyya(Islam: The Spirit of Civilization) ( Beirut : al-  Maktabah al-Asriyya ) 1960) P.253  
6- Nazira Zin al-Din, al-Sufur Wa’l-hijab (Beirut: Quzma Publications, 1928) pp.255-56

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But what about the concept , that face veiling is part of shariah?

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Muneeb

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Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali in his book Sunna Between Fiqh and Hadith 15 declares that those who claim that women’s reform is conditioned by wearing the veil are lying to God and his Prophet. He expresses the opinion that the contemptuous view of women has been passed on from the first jahiliya (the Pre-Islamic period) to the Islamic society.

“In many Muslim societies, for example in traditional South East Asia, or in Bedouin lands a face veil for women is either rare or non-existent; paradoxically, modern fundamentalism is introducing it. In others, the veil may be used at one time and European dress another. While modesty is a religious prescription, the wearing of a veil is not a religious requirement of Islam, but a matter of cultural milieu”.[1]
Refrence:
1. Ibid, p. 413

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Agreed.

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Muneeb

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Would someone like to comment on the extent of “parda” for a woman, in the light of Islamic teachings?

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Aamir Amin

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These are the conclusions that can be drawn from the verses of Surah 24: An-Nur: 30 and 31
1. The Qur’anic injunctions enjoining the believers to lower their gaze and behave modestly applies to both Muslim men and women and not Muslim women alone.
2. Muslim women are enjoined to “draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty”.
3. Although Muslim women may wear ornaments they should not walk in a manner intended to cause their ornaments to jingle and thus attract the attention of others.
The Qur’anic view of the ideal society is that the social and moral values have to be upheld by both Muslim men and women and there is justice for all, i.e. between man and man and between man and woman. Also to establish equality of man and woman in the sight of God who created them both in like manner, from like substance, and gave to both the equal right to develop their own potentialities. To become a free, rational person is then the goal set for all human beings.
In the matter of hijab, the conscience of an honest, sincere Believer alone can be the true judge, as has been said by the Noble Prophet: “Ask for the verdict of your conscience and discard what pricks it.”

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Where does the term “Parda” come from? Is it a Quranic term?

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Muneeb

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no it is not a Quranic term.

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In different cultures, the extent of parda observed by women is different. can we simply leave it on human conscience?
is it desirable for a lady to cover her head even if she is not wearing any jewlerry or any other kind of Zeb-o-zeenat? If it is desirable then of what nature and extent?

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Aamir Amin

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What d o you think Aamir?

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Aamir is asleep smile

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Maybe Aamir doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of the ladies.

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the quran says in surah nur chap :24,verse:31 that say to the believing women to lower their gaze and hide your private parts and dont show your beauty except those parts which are apparent(like eyes,hands etc)...so what you have to say about this?