The Veil debate

// October 27th, 2006 // Blog

Comment made on Women of Faith blog, 27/10/2006.

Salaams all

Alhamdulillah, although i wear the khimar and jilbab, i do not observe the veil. A part of me would like to, but then another part reassures the first that it is not an obligation so let's not go crazy. Waswasa time!

To quote David Cameron, here's my “ten pennies” worth:

I am all for debate. I do not think that we as muslims should shy away from debate – especially if we have certainty that Islam is the truth as revealed by Allāh, al-Hakim. Of course if one has doubts or questions it is best to discuss them first with knowledgeable people before jumping in at the deep end, in order not to cause fitnah to oneself.

However, i think both sides are avoiding the real issues. Once again the politicians have jumped onto the anti-islam band wagon and once again muslims have responded in a highly defensive manner saying “everything is good, don't question us!”.

I'll restrict my criticism to my sisters in Islam so as not to appear biased. Plus we all know enough about dodgy politicians!

Alhamdulillah, i believe in the niqab, and the right and duty of a muslimah to observe it, if it is her wish. But i disagree with the claims that it does not interfere with a sisters ability to communicate. It clearly does. In fact, it is meant to. Think about it. Allāh has created us with the ability to accurately “read” people's thoughts and emotions from simply looking at their face. We don't realise how dependent we are on this means of communication until we are denied access to it. Hence the use of “smilies” and emoticons when chatting online. The niqab is an effective barrier to free communication and i believe this is part of it's success in protecting a woman's honour – perhaps more than simply hiding her beauty, as we can't all claim to be supermodels! Well, i certainly can't! If we can't see a person's face, we can't assess their personality, thus we avoid speaking to them. A perfect way to prevent fitnah in society.

The argument would be “why only veil women?”. Well the obvious answer is “because Allāh said so”. Alhamdulillah, we can try and explain the wisdom knowing that in the end Allāh knows best.
We all know a woman's nature is very different to that of a man's. Allāh has bestowed upon women one of His most beloved attributes, that of Mercy. Of course men are capable of being merciful, but of the two genders mercy and gentleness is by far more innate to women than to men. It allows us to develop special bonds with the people in our lives, especially our children. Men have been given the responsibility of earning for their families. This means they have to face the fitnahs of life outside the home on a daily basis. Thus Allāh has equipped them with certain attributes such as physical strength and an ability to be emotionally detached. A woman's gentle nature is not greatly compatible with the harsh realities of the outside world. The home is her ideal refuge, a space where she is in charge and can be herself. However, if one must venture outside then one must arm oneself with taqwa and the hijab. It allows a woman to combat the difficulties of life outside the home whilst maintaining her natural femininity. The message to society is: i'm a muslim woman who has some business to attend to so leave me alone to get on with it. Her family and friends are the only ones to fully realise the beauty of her spirit and charm, thus elevating her status in their eyes. To them, she is their secret, special someone.

I hope my analysis of feminine nature didn't seem too patronising. I am fully aware of the inner-strength that women possess. However, true strength lies in knowing one's weaknesses. Whether we like to admit it or not, us women are emotional creatures. Depending on the context this can be a great boon or a great burden. Anyone who has experienced PMT can tell you that!

Anyway, my overall point is that niqabi sisters have a right to work and contribute to society, but they must realise that the niqab is a barrier to effective communication by design. Living in a non-muslim society will mean that there are a lot fewer opportunities for women-only environments where one can remove the niqab to allow free-flowing interaction. Until measures are taken to change this, niqabi sisters may have to sacrifice their right to work in the fields they wish to. But a sacrifice for Allāh is never in vain.

I'll end with the usual disclaimer: any good is from Allāh, al-Haqq and any errors from me. And Allāh knows best.



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