Saturday, 26 February 2011

The niqab: a reader’s rejoinder to the Grand Moofti

Free will is an awesome thing. It allows humans to behave in accordance with their own beliefs, subject to any restrictions placed by law. An individual can be a vegetarian or teetotaller simply based on her belief about what is morally correct.
So it is with the niqab, or full face veil. The niqab is worn by some Muslim women who believe it is Islamically ordained. Other women shun even the simple hijab.
Last year I wrote an article in which I quoted the former head of Al-Azhar University to support the notion that the niqab is 'overkill.' My post elicited a spirited and detailed response from a reader. While I stand by my opinion, I do appreciate (positive or negative) feedback from readers.   
A Yemeni woman wearing the niqab
In the interest of debate, I reproduce the entire email below. Please note that I have made no adjustments of any sort to the original, e.g. the grammar, choice of words, typos and spelling remaining exactly as in the email.
Unfortunately, the author did not wish to reveal her name. Hence, I have coined a pseudonym for the author, found at the conclusion of the piece.  

"Assalamualakum brother in Islam,
It seems that you take in Sheikh Tantawi's fatwas readily just like every typical muslim in Singapore. He's a sheikh so anything goes. Al-Azhar for your information is not a fantastic Islamic University like everyone in Singapore/Malaysia/South East Asian region claimed it to be. There's alot of bid'ah in their teachings. In fact it's getting more secular by the day like Turkey. And anybody who claims that niqab has no relationship with Islam is clearly ignorant. And below is the evidence including references from hadith, Qur'an (interpretation of the verses by the sahaabah who has been given the glad tidings of paradise)and Islamic scholars:
1 – Evidence from the Qur'aan
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers or their brother's sons, or their sister's sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allaah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful"
[al-Noor 24:31]
The evidence from this verse that hijab is obligatory for women is as follows:
(a)       Allaah commands the believing women to guard their chastity, and the command to guard their chastity also a command to follow all the means of doing that. No rational person would doubt that one of the means of doing so is covering the face, because uncovering it causes people to look at it and enjoy its beauty, and thence to initiate contact. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "The eyes commit zina and their zina is by looking…" then he said, "… and the private part confirms that or denies it." Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6612; Muslim, 2657.  
If covering the face is one of the means of guarding one's chastity, then it is enjoined, because the means come under the same ruling as the ends.  
(b)      Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "…and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)  …". The jayb (pl. juyoob) is the neck opening of a garment and the khimaar (veil) is that with which a woman covers her head. If a woman is commanded to draw her veil over the neck opening of her garment then she is commanded to cover her face, either because that is implied or by analogy. If it is obligatory to cover the throat and chest, then it is more appropriate to cover the face because it is the site of beauty and attraction.  
(c)       Allaah has forbidden showing all adornment except that which is apparent, which is that which one cannot help showing, such as the outside of one's garment. Hence Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "…except only that which is apparent …" and He did not say, except that which they show of it. Some of the salaf, such as Ibn Mas'ood, al-Hasan, Ibn Sireen and others interpreted the phrase "except only that which is apparent" as meaning the outer garment and clothes, and what shows from beneath the outer garment (i.e., the hem of one's dress etc.). Then He again forbids showing one's adornment except to those for whom He makes an exception. This indicates that the second adornment mentioned is something other than the first adornment. The first adornment is the external adornment which appears to everyone and cannot be hidden. The second adornment is the inward adornment (including the face). If it were permissible for this adornment to be seen by everyone, there would be no point to the general wording in the first instance and this exception made in the second.
2 – Evidence from the Sunnah that it is obligatory to cover the face
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "When any one of you proposes marriage to a woman, there is no sin on him if he looks at her, rather he should look at her for the purpose of proposing marriage even if she is unaware." Narrated by Ahmad. The author of Majma' al-Zawaa'id said: its men are the men of saheeh.
The evidence here is the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said there is no sin on the man who is proposing marriage, subject to the condition that his looking be for the purpose of proposing marriage. This indicates that the one who is not proposing marriage is sinning if he looks at a non-mahram woman in ordinary circumstances, as is the one who is proposing marriage if he looks for any purpose other than proposing marriage, such as for the purpose of enjoyment etc.
If it is said that the hadeeth does not clearly state what is being looked at, and it may mean looking at the chest etc, the response is that the man who is proposing marriage looks at the face because it is the focus for the one who is seeking beauty, without a doubt.  
When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded that women should be brought out to the Eid prayer place, they said, "O Messenger of Allaah, some of us do not have jilbaabs." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "Let her sister give her one of her jilbaabs to wear." Narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim.
This hadeeth indicates that the usual practice among the women of the Sahaabah was that a woman would not go out without a jilbaab, and that if she did not have a jilbaab she would not go out. The command to wear a jilbaab indicates that it is essential to cover. And Allaah knows best.  
It was narrated in al-Saheehayn that 'Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray Fajr and the believing women would attend the prayer with him, wrapped in their veils, then they would go back to their homes and no one would recognize them because of the darkness. She said: If the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw from the women what we have seen, he would have prevented them from coming to the mosques as the Children of Israel prevented their women.  
A similar report was also narrated by 'Abd-Allaah ibn Mas'ood (may Allaah be pleased with him).  
The evidence from this hadeeth covers two issues:  
1 – Hijaab and covering were the practice of the women of the Sahaabah who were the best of generations and the most honourable before Allaah.  
2 – 'Aa'ishah the Mother of the Believers and 'Abd-Allaah ibn Mas'ood (may Allaah be pleased with them both), who were both known as scholars with deep insight, said that if the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had seen from women what they had seen, he would have prevented them from coming to the mosques. This was during the best generations, so what about nowadays?!  
It was narrated that Ibn 'Umar said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Whoever lets his garment drag out of pride, Allaah will not look at him on the Day of Resurrection." Umm Salamah said, "What should women do with their hems?" He said, "Let it hang down a handspan." She said, "What if that shows her feet?" He said, "Let it hang down a cubit, but no more than that." Narrated by al-Tirmidhi; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.  
This hadeeth indicates that it is obligatory for women to cover their feet, and that this was something that was well known among the women of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them). The feet are undoubtedly a lesser source of temptation than the face and hands, so a warning concerning something that is less serious is a warning about something that is more serious and to which the ruling applies more. The wisdom of sharee'ah means that it would not enjoin covering something that is a lesser source of temptation and allow uncovering something that is a greater source of temptation. This is an impossible contradiction that cannot be attributed to the wisdom and laws of Allaah.  
It was narrated that 'Aa'ishah said: The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in ihraam. When they came near us we would lower our jilbaabs from our heads over our faces, and when they had passed by we would uncover our faces. Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1562, classed as saheeh.
 The words "When they came near us we would lower our jilbaabs from our heads over our faces" indicate that it is obligatory to cover the face, because what is prescribed in ihraam is to uncover it. If there was no strong reason to prevent uncovering it, it would be obligatory to leave it uncovered even when the riders were passing by. In other words, women are obliged to uncover their faces during ihraam according to the majority of scholars, and nothing can override something that is obligatory except something else that is also obligatory. If it were not obligatory to observe hijab and cover the face in the presence of non-mahram men, there would be no reason not to uncover it in ihraam. It was proven in al-Saheehayn and elsewhere that a woman in ihraam is forbidden to wear the niqaab (face veil) and gloves.  
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: This is one of the things which indicate that the niqaab and gloves were known among women who were not in ihraam, which implies that they covered their faces and hands.  
These are nine points of evidence from the Qur'aan and Sunnah.  
The tenth is:  
Rational examination and analogy which form the basis of this perfect sharee'ah, which aims to help people achieve what is in their best interests and encourages the means that lead to that, and to denounce evil and block the means that lead to it.
If we think about unveiling and women showing their faces to non-mahram men, we will see that it involves many bad consequences. Even if we assume that there are some benefits in it, they are very few in comparison with its negative consequences. Those negative consequences include:
1 – Fitnah (temptation). By unveiling her face, a woman may be tempted to do things to make her face look more beautiful. This is one of the greatest causes of evil and corruption.  
2 – Taking away haya' (modesty, shyness) from women, which is part of faith and of a woman's nature (fitrah). Women are examples of modesty, as it was said, "more shy than a virgin in her seclusion." Taking away a woman's modesty detracts from her faith and the natural inclination with which she was created.  
3 – Men may be tempted by her, especially if she is beautiful and she flirts, laughs and jokes, as happens in the case of many of those who are unveiled. The Shaytaan flows through the son of Adam like blood.  
4 – Mixing of men and women. If a woman thinks that she is equal with men in uncovering her face and going around unveiled, she will not be modest and will not feel too shy to mix with men. This leads to a great deal of fitnah (temptation) and widespread corruption. Al-Tirmidhi narrated (5272) from Hamzah ibn Abi Usayd from his father that he heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, when he was coming out of the mosque and he saw men mingling with women in the street; the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to the women, "Draw back, and do not walk in the middle of the road; keep to the sides of the road." Then the women used to keep so close to the walls that their garments would catch on the walls because they kept so close to them. Classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami', 929  
Adapted from the words of Shaykh Muhammad ibn 'Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) in Risaalat al-Hijaab.  
And Allaah knows best.
This is a fatwa issued by one of the most famous and prominent Islamic scholar in history, Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen. Are you suggesting that Sheikh Tantawi's fatwa should be heeded before the big scholars of Islam. Afterall Sheikh Tantawi is just another sheikh. He's not even a scholar and we know that he's been hired by the West to corrupt the religion from within. Go watch youtube videos of how the West hire 'Islamic Scholars'. They even admitted that if they can't take muslims out of their religion, they will change Islam itself. How? By hiring these so called Islamic scholars. And even if niqab is not obligatory, he has no right to force a woman to unveil herself. And I bet they forgot to add a remark he passed to the girl as soon as she removed her niqab. He said,' You're not even that attractive, why the need to put it on' Anybody who says this especially one who claims to be a sheikh and pass bodgy fatwas should be flogged. He has a lot to answer for on the day of judgement. Issuing a fatwa with ignorance. And creating hatred amongst the muslims. Imagine how many muslims are criticising our muslim sisters who are brave enough to put on the face veil despite the challenges facing them from the 'muslims' and non-muslims. I have studied on it, not from my own interpretation of the Qur'an but rather from the interpretation of the sahaabah found in hadiths and explanation by Islamic scholars. I do not think that it is obligatory but it is DEFINITELY Islamic. Niqab is Islamic. And those who label niqabis as deviated has surely wronged themselves and their sisters. Stop trying to please the West and stop apologising for your religion. And oh 'Grand' Mufti? What a joke. Only Allah (SWT) is grand."
Fatima Niqab binte Abdullah
Received by email on February 20, 2011


  1. Hi Imran -- I may be presumptuous but could Ms Fatima a convert to or revert of -- looking from another angle -- Islam?

    From my experience and observations of "new" Muslims over the years, they seem to take the Quran in its strictest interpretations.

    Add to the fact that Ms Fatima's "last name" or it could be her father's after all is Abdullah. Something that is unique or peculiar to SE Asia apparently, for converts / reverts of Islam.

  2. Hi Ange,

    Nice to hear from you again.

    Converts often tend to be 'holier than the Pope' when it comes to practising their 'new' religion. Still, I hesitate to make any assumptions about the author of this rejoinder. Also, do note that the name ascribed to the author is a pseudonym (chosen by me). The author was unwilling to stand behind the opinions using her real name, preferring the anonymity of a pen name.

    I have noticed the fascination of converts in SE Asia with the name 'Abdullah.' I believe it is based on the name's Arabic meaning: 'Abd Allah' = servant of Allah.

    I look forward to hearing from you again.

    Kind regards,