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Wearing a headscarf to recite Quran

Does a woman have to wear a headscarf while reciting the Quran?

 

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Wearing a headscarf while reciting Quran has no basis in the religion. It is noteworthy that in other religions women wear a headscarf (e.g Sikhism, Hinduism) to show respect. Due to many Muslims sharing geographical/cultural roots with these religions, the idea that a woman’s head must be covered to recite Quran seems to be rooted in culture. Cultures where covering the head is a mark of respect. 

 

Culture is based upon repeated traditions. Religion however is more scientific – it is based upon evidence and in this case, there is none.

Question about the headscarf

 

98b7b2ad-be35-4d81-ae9f-e8b2f50d8c00How am I to understand the narration related to the story of Ifk, when Aisha covered herself when the sahabi saw her? Isn’t this proof that women should cover their heads and faces? 

 

You refer to the following (I have only included the relevant part as the story of the ifk is a very long narration (from Bukhari).

 

وَكَانَ صَفْوَانُ بْنُ الْمُعَطَّلِ السُّلَمِيُّ ثُمَّ الذَّكْوَانِيُّ مِنْ وَرَاءِ الْجَيْشِ، فَأَصْبَحَ عِنْدَ مَنْزِلِي فَرَأَى سَوَادَ إِنْسَانٍ نَائِمٍ، فَعَرَفَنِي حِينَ رَآنِي، وَكَانَ رَآنِي قَبْلَ الْحِجَابِ، فَاسْتَيْقَظْتُ بِاسْتِرْجَاعِهِ حِينَ عَرَفَنِي، فَخَمَّرْتُ وَجْهِي بِجِلْبَابِي،

Safwan bin Al-Muattal As-Sulami Adh-Dhakwani was behind the army. When he reached my place in the morning, he saw the figure of a sleeping person and he recognized me on seeing me as he used to see me before ‘hijab’. So I woke up when he recited Istirja’ (i.e. “Inna li l-lahi wa inna llaihi raji’un”) as soon as he recognized me. So I covered my face with my jilbaab.

 

Firstly, A’isha mentioned Safwan bin Al Muattal recognized her because he was used to seeing her before ‘hijab’. Now, the ONLY verse (See 33.53) which mentions ‘hijab’ in connection to women is the verse about the wives of the Prophet.

 

Following on from this, in the same Surah – Surah Al Ahzaab, verse 32, Allah tells the wives of the Prophet  that they are not like other women and it is to go against the evidence if we take verses Allah (Azza wa jall) made specific to the wives and apply it to all women. 

 

Secondly, it is very relevant that we take note that A’isha said she covered her face with her jilbaab. She did not use the word ‘khimaar’ (which is used in common day Arabic to mean ‘a headscarf’. In other words, she used her clothing to cover her face as the verse had ordered people to interact with the wives of the Prophet through a screen/barrier.

 

In other words, the story of the ifk actually indicates the implementation of the verse of ‘hijab’ for the wives of the Prophet. It has nothing to do with covering the head.

The real meaning of ‘TAQWA’

The word ‘taqwa’ occurs in the Quran many times yet it a term which many Muslims find hard to understand/explain. Some claim it is ‘God-fearing’, others that it is ‘piety’  with many nuances offered in between.

 

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For its true meaning, we must look to the Quran itself to see what Allah has told us about it and subsequently why it is so important.

 

1). Taqwa is the opposite of forgetting Allah

 

Surah Al Hashr (verses 18 & 19):

 

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَلْتَنظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ – وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّذِينَ نَسُواْ اللَّهَ فَأَنسَـهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ أُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْفَـسِقُونَ

 

18. O you who believe! Have taqwa of Allah and let every person look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow, and have taqwa of Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.

 

19. And be not like those who forgot Allah, and He caused them to forget themselves. Those are the rebellious.

 

So, verse 19 informs us that Taqwa is the opposite of forgetting Allah – it involves remembering Allah.

 

2). Taqwa is acquired by worshipping

 

(Surah Al Baqarah, verse 21)

 

يَـأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِىْ خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

 

O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah), Who created you and those who were before you so that you may acquire Taqwa.

 

In other words, you worship Allah and a by-product is taqwa. Worship is everything Allah has told us to do.

 

3). ‘Taqwa’ is something Allah gives.

 

In Surah Muhammad (verse 17), Allah states:

 

وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْاْ زَادَهُمْ هُدًى وَءَاتَـهُمْ تَقُوَاهُمْ

 

And as for those who accept guidance, He increases them in guidance and bestows upon them their Taqwa.

 

4). Allah defines the qualities of those who have taqwa in Surah Al Baqarah (verse 177):

 

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ ءَامَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ وَالْمَلَـئِكَةِ وَالْكِتَـبِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَءَاتَى الْمَالَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ ذَوِى الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَـمَى وَالْمَسَـكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَوةَ وَءَاتَى الزَّكَوةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَـهَدُواْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِى الْبَأْسَآءِ والضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

 

It is not Birr (righteousness) that you turn your faces towards east and (or) west; but Birr is the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to Al-Masakin (the poor), and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set slaves free, performs As-Salah, and gives the Zakah, and who fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment (disease) and at the time of fighting (during the battles). Such are the people of the truth and they are Al-Muttaqun.

 

So, here Allah tells us those who have taqwa believe in Allah, the Day of Judgement, angels, books and prophets and then this is coupled with action – namely, giving in charity, freeing slaves, prayer, zakah, keeping promises and having patience.

 

Using these verses, the meaning of ‘Taqwa’ becomes clear:

1). It is remembering Allah.

2). It is acquired through worshipping.

3). Allah increases your taqwa when we do the right actions.

4). Those who have taqwa have the correct beliefs and carry out good deeds. 

 

The best word in the English language for a concept that is based upon remembering Allah, making sure you have the correct beliefs and making yourself worship Allah would be ‘vigilance’, a higher level of awareness.

 

 

Taqwa’ then, is to be ‘vigilant’, not physiologically (as you would if you feared a physical danger) but, in a spiritual/psychological sense.

 

Now, once we understand ‘taqwa’, we also realise its significance.

 

Imagine the case of someone we will call ‘Ahmed’. Ahmed thinks he will worship more and become a better Muslim once he has a higher lever of eemaan. This goes against what Allah says about taqwa. In fact, Ahmed must make himself worship more and when he does the good deeds, Allah will increase his level of taqwa. Taqwa is in fact the cornerstone of eemaan.

 

Now, ‘Ramla’ is a Muslim who believes but doesn’t really worship much. She believes those who are better worshippers or ‘more practising’ are that way because Allah has chosen them and given them stronger eemaan. Again, this is not the correct understanding. Ramla needs to make herself worship more and Allah will increase her in taqwa and subsequently, eemaan. It is a cyclic process – the more you do, the stronger a Muslim you become and the more you will keep doing.

 

In conclusion, ‘Taqwa’ is mentioned so many times in the Quran. It is the cornerstone of our belief in Islam and to understand it correctly is vital. We now know that in order to gain it, we must be vigilant of Allah and this vigilance makes us worship better. By way of that worship, Allah will increase our ‘taqwa’ (vigilance) and we will continue with the cycle of doing good.

 

May Allah (Glorified be He) make you, dear reader of the Al Muttaqqeen.

 

Due diligence when translating the word of God

I recently had discussions with a group of people who don’t study the Quran. They only rely on their scholars. Their reasoning is that “the Quran admits to its own ambiguity”, and “only a chosen few can correctly understand it”.

I was in utter shock at this assertion. Where, I enquired, does the Quran “admit to its own ambiguity?”

“Why, in Surah Aal-Imran verse 7, of course” was the confident reply. “This verse further states that only Allah and those well-grounded in knowledge understand the interpretation of many verses in the Quran” was their claim.

Someone showed me the translation of this verse. Lo and behold, that’s what the translation stated!!! I quickly whipped out my phone, fired up my browser, and searched for the verse (see it here). Most English translations (I’m surprised at how many English translations now exist) use words such as allegorical, ambiguous, unspecific,  unclear,  and metaphorical to describe Allah’s verses. Out of the approximately 40 translations I looked at, only 4 used the word “similar”, which by the way is the correct translation, to describe the verses.

I could see why this group that I was having discussions with, after having read these translations, felt that using the Quran as evidence is problematic – because, according to them, the verses are allegorical and open to interpretation.

Please answer 3 questions

I would like to ask you, dear reader, to answer 3 questions that you’ll find addressed to you throughout this article. I’d like to understand what your thoughts are about my explanation of the meaning of this verse.

How to understand the Quran

Allah says:


(وَلَقَدْ جِئْنَاهُم بِكِتَابٍ فَصَّلْنَاهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ هُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (7:52


We have come to them with a book which We have explained with knowledge – a guidance and mercy for people who believe.

So Allah has made sure that He Himself provides explanations for the verses in the Quran. This message has been repeated elsewhere in the Quran as well, e.g. 11:1 and other places.

So the best way to understand the Quran is to compare verses with other verses. When you reconcile verses with other verses, you arrive at the truth.

Two additional principles

You also need to:

  • Look at verses in full – looking at a partial verse shows that you’re not trying to really understand it but maybe trying to twist its meaning. It’s OK to quote partial verses for brevity only if you have studied the complete verse. 
  • Look at verses that occur before and after the verse you’re looking at – this will help set up the context of the verse you’re looking at.

So here is question #1 for you, dear reader. Do you agree that the first thing to do to understand the Quran is to reconcile verses with other verses, look at verses in full and establish context by look at verses occurring prior and after a particular verse?

I understand that ahadith need to be referred to as well but the first step is to do what I have described.

My sources

To ensure that my explanations don’t contain glaring errors, I have corroborated them with Tafseer At-Tabari, Ash-Shanqeetee’s tafseer and the author of www.iconoclast.online.

Correct translation of verse 3:7

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

He is the One that sent down upon you the book. From it are established verses – these are the foremost of the book. And others [verses] are similar to each other. So as for those in whose hearts is deviance, they follow what is similar of it – wanting to cause trials of faith and wanting the unfolding of its events. And no one knows of the unfolding except Allah. And those well-founded in knowledge say, “We believe in it [the book]. It is all from our Fosterer.” But no one reflects except the steadfast.

Whoa!!! :mindblown:

This is obviously very different from all the currently available English translations. The translations out there are a case of “the blind leading the blind”. They aren’t following the correct principles as I explained above.

Key concept

Muhkam is not the opposite of mutashaabih (the words are in bold in the Arabic text above). Muhkam describes some verses and mutashaabih describes the rest of the verses.

Let me give you an example. I might say the following about Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

Many parts of Covey’s book are very insightful. The rest of the book is very engaging.

Insightful and engaging don’t have to be opposites of each other. They’re just different adjectives used to describe Covey’s book.

Anyway, Allah says about His book:

(ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ(2:2

That is the book in which there is no doubt. A guide for the very vigilant.

He also says:

(الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا(18:1

All praises are for Allah, the One Who sent down on His slave the book and did not put in it any crookedness.

I know that I won’t find any allegorical verses which are open to interpretation. On the contrary, I can use the correct principles to understand God’s explanation of His own verses.

What is Allah saying to us in verse 3:7?

Our questions are:

    • Are there other verses with a similar meaning?
    • What is verse 3:7 conveying to us?

We find the same concepts and themes mentioned in 2:26, 74:31, 22:52-55 & 9:124-125.

When we look at all these verses together, we see the main themes that Allah talks about are:

  • Allah sends down verses.
  • Some people don’t believe in these verses for various reasons and are misguided.
    • These people try to create doubts in other people’s minds and try to misguide them.
  • Yet other people believe – no matter what – and these are the guided.

Breaking it down

Let’s look at the meaning of the most pertinent words in verse 3:7 :

1. مُّحْكَمَاتٌ

This word occurs twice more in the Quran.

وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَتْ سُورَةٌ فَإِذَا أُنزِلَتْ سُورَةٌ مُّحْكَمَةٌ وَذُكِرَ فِيهَا الْقِتَالُ رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ نَظَرَ الْمَغْشِيِّ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الْمَوْتِ فَأَوْلَىٰ لَهُمْ 47:20

 

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ وَلَا نَبِيٍّ إِلَّا إِذَا تَمَنَّىٰ أَلْقَى الشَّيْطَانُ فِي أُمْنِيَّتِهِ فَيَنسَخُ اللَّهُ مَا يُلْقِي الشَّيْطَانُ ثُمَّ يُحْكِمُ اللَّهُ آيَاتِهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ 22:52

It is mind-boggling to see people translate muhkam as “clear” in 3:7 whereas in these other verses, it is translated as “established” (I’ll let you look up the translation yourself). In the Arabic language, muhkam doesn’t mean clear. I’m not going into linguistics here. I’m saying that it’s abominable to take a word and translate it to something not supported by the language AT ALL. Would you like it if I said that although your name is, for example, “Raheem” I’ll translate it to “clear”? I know that Raheem is derived from ra-ha-ma but I’ll still translate it to “clear”. That’s preposterous! The word مُّحْكَمَاتٌ is derived from the word ha-ka-ma. When has ha-ka-ma ever meant clear?!!

When you look at related verses, you understand the meaning of this word. The correct translation would be to use words like established, fixed, firm, permanent, commandment etc. Verses become established because Allah sends commandments down in them and once Allah sends a command, there is NO WAY of escaping the command and no changing it in any way.

This is question #2 for you, dear reader. Reading this, do you think muhkam means clear?

2. مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ

This word occurs in 2:25, 2:70, 2:118, 4:157, 6:141, 13:16, and 39:23 in addition to 3:7. How can it mean allegorical in any of them?

2:25 – Is fruit allegorical?

2:70 – Is a cow allegorical?

2:118 – Are hearts allegorical?

4:157 – Was Jesus’ situation allegorical?

6:141 – Is pomegranate allegorical?

13:16 – Is Allah’s creation allegorical?

This word never means allegorical. You can’t just make up translations!

In 39:23 Allah describes the majority of the Quran as mutashaabih. To understand this, you have to look at 2:25 and you’ll realize what this means. “The Quran is mutashaabih” means that when you read a passage of the Quran, you think to yourself, I’ve come across this before. Yet it’s not the same, but similar, because there’s always a different lesson and different details contained in passages that seem like they’re the same. That’s the meaning of mutashaabih.  

3. تَأْوِيل

This word occurs approximately 17 times which you can find by using the link here:

https://www.alfanous.org/en/aya/?sortedby=score&recitation=14&query=تأويل&fuzzy=True&translation=en.transliteration&page=1&unit=aya&view=default

Ash-Shanqeetee says: “We have already mentioned that the meaning of this word is: The truth of a situation to which it arrives. And that is the meaning of this word as it is used in the Quran.

Let’s look at some of these verses to see why he asserts that this is the meaning of the word:

7:52-53 are the most important verses in understanding the meaning of ta’weel because in these verses Allah explicitly talks about the ta’weel of the Quran.

Allah says:

‘We have come to them with a book which We have explained with knowledge – a guidance and mercy for people who believe. They don’t wait except for its [the book’s] unfolding (ta’weel). The day that its unfolding (ta’weel) arrives, the ones who ignored it before will say, “Our Fosterer’s messengers came with the truth. So do we have any intercessors so that they can intercede for us? Or can we be returned so that we can do actions other than the actions that we used to do?” They have caused a loss to themselves and what they used to fabricate went astray from them.’

Allah says that the day of the ta’weel will arrive. It does not mean “the day of the interpretation”. It means the day when its events will unfold. That’s how Allah always describes it – the day when, what people didn’t believe in, will actually happen. It does not mean – the day when it will be interpreted.

Now we understand why Ash-Shanqeetee asserted what he asserted.

Where does the full-stop/period go?

People have divided themselves into two camps with regards to whether to pause when reciting this verse. Do I pause after “And no one knows of the unfolding except for Allah”? Or do I recite it as ” And no one knows of the unfolding except for Allah and those well-founded in knowledge”?

If you understand that ta’weel means unfolding of events, you know where the period/full-stop goes –  only Allah know of the unfolding.

So here goes question #3. Having read the above, would you pause after “And no one knows of the unfolding except for Allah”?

Due diligence

It seems like it takes a lot of effort to explain every verse and every word within a verse in the manner that Allah intended. But once you follow the correct principles, it is very easy to understand Allah’s words.

Those who take it upon themselves to teach people the Quran, or translate it for them, have an obligation to strive in a manner as is Allah’s right upon us. Due to the negligence of many translators, there are now groups of people who think the Quran is mainly allegorical and unclear. That’s blaspheming against our Creator and contradicting many verses.

I would love to hear your comments. I ask Allah to show us all the right path and bless us with the strength to follow it instead of outsourcing our religion to others.

Questions on the headscarf

1). There’s a Hadith that clearly states that a women should cover all of herself, except for her face and hands. Aren’t your assertions that a woman shouldn’t wear a scarf going directly against this Hadith?

 

May Allah reward your efforts to uncover the truth about this issue. The hadith you mention is in the collection of Abu Dawud:

 

Aisha said, “Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of God (pbuh) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of God turned his attention from her and said, “O Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her except that she displays parts of her body except this and this,” and he pointed to the face and hands.

 

Now, this hadith is categorised as weak because it is ‘mursal’. In other words there is a gap in the chain of narration – the narrator never met A’isha. Hence, Abu Dawud declared it weak. I realise that more recently, Sheikh Albanee decided it was ‘saheeh’ or authentic as he used it as proof that Muslim women are NOT required to cover the face. He asserted that this hadith must be authentic because it would then explain ‘except that which is apparent’ (the verse in Surah An Nur, which you can find here).

 

In other words, the categorization of ‘saheeh’ was not based upon an analysis of the chain but because he felt it fitted his understanding of the issue. So, it is still weak and cannot be used to base our actions upon. 

 

2).  How am I to understand the narration related to women going to Hajj at the time of the Prophet, when they covered their faces when men passed by? Isn’t this proof that women must cover their faces and heads?

 

The collection of Abu Dawood has this statement from Aisha, the wife of the Prophet:

 

عن عائشة قالت : ” كَانَ الرُّكْبَانُ يَمُرُّونَ بِنَا وَنَحْنُ مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مُحْرِمَاتٌ ، فَإِذَا حَاذَوْا بِنَا سَدَلَتْ إِحْدَانَا جِلْبَابَهَا مِنْ رَأْسِهَا عَلَى وَجْهِهَا ، فَإِذَا جَاوَزُونَا كَشَفْنَاهُ ”

 

Narrated Aisha, “The riders would pass us while we were in ihram with the Messenger of Allah. When they got close to us, one of us would draw her jilbaab from her head over her face. When they passed by, we would uncover our faces.

 

This account, however, contradicts the following hadith from Bukhari:

 

The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “The woman in the state of Ihram should not cover her face, or wear gloves.”

 

How can it be that the wives of the Prophet covered their faces in ihram when he clearly stated that a woman should not cover her face or hands and he was with them at this time? Obviously there is a problem with the authenticity of Abu Dawud’s account (The collection of Abu Dawud is deemed less authentic compared to Bukhari). So, we cannot use the account attributed to A’isha as credible evidence.

 

Some argue that this Hadith in Bukhari means women did cover their faces normally. However, by that same token, would these same ‘scholars’ claim that when Muslims were told in the Quran not to approach the prayer while intoxicated (4.43), it meant they were usually drunk? Of course not! 

 

If you would like more information about the issue of ‘covering the face’, please look here

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The Muslim headscarf – NOT Allah’s religion

B8BB95CA-2376-416B-A838-628B4640B3FBFor centuries, most of the clergy have claimed women must (at the very least) wear a headscarf. Women’s dress is probably the most talked about issue both in the Eastern and Western world and the headscarf is now synonymous with a woman’s religion.

 

Before we look at the evidence, we need the context, the backdrop – if you like. The culture of the Arabs at the time of the Prophet; the people were scantily clad and often exposed their private parts.* Keep this in mind as you read on.

 

As usual, I will let the evidence speak for itself and you can make up your own mind but prepare to be shocked.

 

I always start with the Quran – There are 2 verses in the Quran about how Muslim women should dress in public. The first is in Surah Al Ahzaab (59):

 

يأَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ قُل لاًّزْوَجِكَ وَبَنَـتِكَ وَنِسَآءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَـبِيبِهِنَّ ذلِكَ أَدْنَى أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلاَ يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً

 

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to lower their Jalabeeb over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known so as not to be harmed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

 

So, this verse commands:

 

1). All Muslim women to ‘lower’ their ‘jalabeeb’

The majority of ‘scholars’ claim the jalabeeb (plural of ‘jilbaab’) means to cover from head to toe. Some even include the eyes/one eye. They equate ‘jalabeeb’ in this verse with a cloak worn by modern day Muslim women. They present no evidence whatsoever to back up their claim. However, anyone with common sense will understand that the ‘jalabeeb’ here refers to something the women already owned. It simply refers to clothing/garment.

 

So, in other words, Allah told the women to cover more of their bodies than they currently were (remember the culture of the time!)

 

2). Women were commanded to lower their ‘jalabeeb’ so that they could be recognised as Muslims and as a result, not harmed.

 

Another significant point to note here is that many translations of the Quran wrongly translate ‘fa la yu’dhayn’ as ‘not be molested’, immediately connecting the concept of covering to sexuality.

 

The verses just before this one, using the same word (yu’dhoon), tell us about ‘harming’ God, the Prophet and the believing men and women. Common sense would dictate that it is obviously not anything sexual being suggested here – you cannot ‘molest’ God. 

 

In summary, this verse commands women to cover up their bodies more than they had been at that time to be different from the pagans. It is general. The specifics came later in the 2nd verse.

 

The 2nd verse is from Surah An Nur (31):

 

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلاَ يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلاَّ لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِى إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِى أَخَوَتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـنُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّـبِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُوْلِى الإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُواْ عَلَى عَوْرَتِ النِّسَآءِ وَلاَ يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُواْ إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعاً أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

 

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and cover their private parts and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent, and to draw their covers all over their Juyub 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 women, or their right hand possesses, or the Tabi`in among men who do not have desire, or children who are not aware of the nakedness of women. And let them not cover their legs so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.

 

Now, as mentioned, this verse is very specific. It includes:

 

1).  Women must cover their private parts (just like men are commanded in the verse prior to this one) and not expose them except that which is apparent. ‘That which is apparent’ is defined differently by ‘scholars’ – Some claim it is what is necessary to see (ie. one eye/eyes) while others propagate it is the face. BUT it is obviously related to the covering of the private parts. In other words, it means cover up the private areas except that which is impossible to hide (eg. the size of the hips or bottom).

 

2). Their ’juyub’ (plural of ‘jayb’) must be covered – this refers to covering the chest area/breasts/cleavage. Again, ‘and not to reveal their adornment except that which is apparent’ means cover the chest with fabric except that which is impossible to hide (eg. size of bust). The covering of the chest may be relaxed in the company of the list of people which follows.

 

‘Scholars’ claim the ‘khumr’ mentioned here means ‘headscarves’ but linguistically, the root خمر – also used to refer to ‘alcohol’ in the Quran – means ‘cover’. It is only over time that the word has now evolved to imply a headscarf when the Quranic meaning is the original one. Here, it means ‘cover with clothing/fabric’.

 

3). Their legs must be covered in a way which doesn’t make what they are covering visible/apparent. In other words, clothing must cover the legs and not be so tight/transparent that there is nothing left to the imagination.

 

This part of the verse is commonly translated as ‘And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment’ but the verb used here is the same verb as is used to state the chest must be covered (ضرب). Therefore, in the same verse, about the same topic, it has to mean the same thing.

 

Anyway, how would stamping your feet reveal anything except the sound of anklets? Any claims to this are based on shaky evidence.

 

The Quran makes it very clear. Women are commanded to cover their private parts, their chests and their legs. In other words, to dress modestly. So, where is the command to wear a headscarf ?

 

Well, put frankly – it isn’t in the Quran.

 

Despite all the attention given to how Muslim women dress, there is NO book on women’s dress in the collections of ahadith. In fact there is actually more information about men’s dress (eg. Gold, silk, covering the private parts)! So, it cannot be found in ahadith either. Surely, if the women covered their heads, we would have some evidence about how and when they wore it.

 

So, in conclusion, the headscarf does not seem to be based upon evidence and Allah’s religion. The reasons for it differ between communities and time periods in history. It is a concept intertwined with symbolism/recognition, belonging, misogyny, patriarchy, and culture. I am not the first to state this view and am sure will not be the last.

 

Sometimes, the truth is a bitter pill to swallow but our religious practices must be based upon evidence and our Lord’s commands, not what makes us comfortable because we are used to it. The headscarf is not a woman’s religion. It’s a direct result of centuries of misogyny, patriarchy and culture. More recently, it is now associated with belonging/recognition and even liberation. The solution to this is my answer to most problems in life – Knowledge. Muslims (men and women) need to know the real religion instead of relying on the mere opinions of clerics. It will be a tough road to begin with but we owe it to ourselves and to future generations. May The Almighty guide us all.

 

*If you read the Quran in it’s entirety (verses about covering the private parts) alongside ahadith about dress (easily found online), this becomes very clear.

 

 

 

 

Detangling the Muslim beard

C8F42E55-B1F7-4150-8C48-FFC0AA3436DEDepending upon the clergy to define our religion for us has led to different beliefs about a Muslim man’s beard. There are, broadly speaking, three different opinions:

 

1). The beard is not part of the religion.

2). It is only a recommendation and so is purely a matter of personal choice.

3). It is an obligation and must either be left to grow without cutting/trimming or be at least a fistful in length.

 

Disagreements between Muslims because there are differences between the ‘scholars’. 

 

Just as Muslim women are judged by how they dress, Muslim men who trim or shave their beards are also subject to criticism from other Muslims. Stereotypically, the longer the beard, the greater the piety of a man. Of course, like many stereotypes out there, this isn’t actually the case.

 

So, what is the truth about the beard?

 

The evidence is found in Ahadith:

 

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ خَالِفُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ، وَفِّرُوا اللِّحَى، وَأَحْفُوا الشَّوَارِبَ ‏”‏‏.‏

 

Ibn `Umar said, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Do the opposite of what the pagans do. Grow the beard and cut the moustache short.’ (Bukhari)

 

There are other versions of this hadith with the same meaning. Men were ordered to keep the moustache short and to grow a beard. The rationale behind the beard is also given in the short hadith – to be different from those who were disbelievers in Islam.

 

So, those who place themselves in groups 1 and 2 above – believing that the beard is not a part of the religion are clearly GOING AGAINST the evidence. The terms used in the hadith are imperative, ordering an action (I have highlighted these).

 

On the other hand, those (in group 3) who claim the beard must be a certain length or never cut/trimmed have NO EVIDENCE. They use the following statement about Ibn Umar cutting his beard below a fistful and argue that the Companions knew the religion better than us.

 

Nafi’ said, ‘Whenever Ibn Umar performed hajj or umra, he used to hold his beard with his hand and cut whatever remained outside his hold’. (Bukhari)

 

I do not dispute that the Companions knew the religion better than us but there is a difference between a personal habit and following the command of Allah and His Prophet. Clearly, due to there not being any evidence from the Prophet or the Quran about the length of the beard, leaving a fistful after hajj/umra was the practice/habit of Ibn Umar. It was not a command of the Prophet and there is a lack of evidence that the Prophet himself grew his beard in this way.

 

So, in conclusion, once we move away from the opinions of the clergy, the truth is easy to see; A Muslim man has been ordered to grow a beard to be different from those of other faiths. It has absolutely nothing to do with how pious one is nor should it be used as ammunition against a person if the scarf/beard is missing. Tearing someone down is so much easier than lifting them up. Yet, as Muslims we aspire to leave the easy option behind us and struggle for what is right.