By Maulana Tahir Madani

Discussion on Hijab is rife nowadays. This is not only an issue in a State but its impact is there in the entire country and also at the international level. Different viewpoints are being expressed thereon. How an important Islamic social injunction has been targeted is indeed a matter of concern. It is the wisdom and prescience of Allah the Exalted that there arise aspects of goodness and welfare in what appears to be troublesome.

Islam prescribes a complete social system, and Hijab (Purdah or veil) is an important part thereof. The present case gives us an opportunity to explain and introduce to the masses the injunction of Hijab, trying to remove the misunderstanding and misinformation about it. One thing pleasant is that the row has raised Hijab awareness among our women and students and they are trying to understand the importance and need of wearing Hijab as well as its position in the Islamic Shari’ah. And good measures on their part to practise Shari’ah are also being reported. As in a democratic country people can exercise their right to protest, peaceful protests are being taken out. The issue is being hotly discussed in media as well.

Let’s think on one basic point of the issue. People ask if there is any commandment in the Qur’ān to do Hijab. There is indeed the injunction in the Qur’ān; however the question itself is baseless. As Hijab is an important part of Islamic Shari’ah, the question should be: is there any dictate in Shari’ah that enjoins Hijab?

Islamic Shari’ah does not comprise only the Qur’ān; the Qur’ān, Sunnah, Ijmāʿ (the consensus of Islamic scholars on a point of Islamic law) and Qiyās (the process of analogical reasoning applied in the interpretation of points of Islamic law not explicitly covered in the Qur’ān or Sunnah) – all form the nucleus of Shari’ah dictates. Therefore, to know a Shari’ah ruling on any issue, there should be call for a Shari’ah dictate, and not for a Qur’ānic dictate alone  because we follow the Qur’ān, Sunnah and the rulings the Islamic scholars deduce through the process of ijtihad (independent reasoning in Islamic law by an Islamic scholar to solve a problem).

There is a detailed discussion in Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) as to what are Adilla-i-Shari’ah (indicators of Shari’ah), wherefrom we deduce (the rulings of) Islamic Shari’ah. Shari’ah rulings are of two kinds. One, mansoos ahkam, the manifest orders declared in the Qur’ān and Hadith. And the other, ghair mansoos ahkam, which Islamic jurisprudents have ascertained through the process of ijtihad and qiyās. The secret of abdiyat (eternity) of Islamic Shari’ah lies in the fact that there is room open for ijtihad.

There are only a certain number of ahkam presented in the Qur’ān. The ahkam presented in Ahadith are also of a certain number. But ever new problems and challenges will rise till the Day of Judgement. To solve them the way open in Islamic Shari’ah is ijtihad. Many things are used to solve new problems and challenges. They are qiyās, istihsan (a jurist’s own judgment to determine the best solution to a religious problem), masalih al-mursala (considerations of public interest), urf (custom) and adat (habit). We deduce reasoning from aqwal-i-sahaba (sayings of Companions) and ijtihadat-i-sahaba (independent reasonings of Companions). We also look upon ma qabl Shari’ah (pre-Shari’ah) considerations. Thus there are many ways to deduce reasoning (to solve an issue in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah). Now it is clear as to what the sources of Islamic Shari’ah are.

As for the ruling of Hijab or Purdah, the Qur’ān presents it in a very explicit manner in Surah al-Ahzab: يٰۤـاَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ قُلْ لِّاَزۡوَاجِكَ وَبَنٰتِكَ وَنِسَآءِ الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ يُدۡنِيۡنَ عَلَيۡهِنَّ مِنۡ جَلَابِيۡبِهِنَّ (O Prophet! Say to your wives, daughters and all believing women that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments). It is obvious that this ruling is applied when a Muslim woman is to step out of home. The Qur’ān also presents the wisdom behind this injunction: ذٰ لِكَ اَدۡنٰٓى اَنۡ يُّعۡرَفۡنَ فَلَا يُؤۡذَيۡنَ ؕ وَكَانَ اللّٰهُ غَفُوۡرًا رَّحِيۡمًا‏  (This will be more conducive to their being recognised and not affronted. God is Much-Forgiving, Merciful). (Surah al-Ahzab, Ayat 59) We can see how clear and straightforward this injunction is.

It is to be understood clearly that Purdah and Burqua are not one and the same thing. There is a clear commandment to maintain Hijab. And to do so, Burqua or a piece of cloth like scarf or any other method can be adopted. So Burqua is only a way to do Hijab. And it is not necessary that Hijab can be observed only with Burqua. However, the order to do Hijab is very explicit and has been given with utmost emphasis.

The history of Islam bears evidence to the fact how Muslim women have been practising Purdah. The reason behind it is that in Islamic scheme of things modesty and chastity holds very much importance. Whether men or women, it is phenomenally important that they maintain and protect their honour chastity, and modesty. In this regard, many ahkam and preventive measures have been prescribed; one of them is the injunction of Purdah. This is an issue related to her personal freedom and choice as well. Everyone has freedom in this regard. This is also a Constitutional right to practise one’s Shari’ah. Then, if a Muslim girl or student practises Hijab, there should be no objection to it.

The need is to acquaint the world with the wisdom behind the injunction of Purdah. This is not oppression of women. Muslim women can perform all (social and professional) activities with Hijab on the head. They get education, higher education, and render umpteen services to society. They have been doing so right down the ages. Hijab is no barrier in the way of their education or progress and advancement.

Some misunderstandings are raised about the injunction of Purdah. Some people say this injunction was limited to the wives of the Prophet ﷺ. Anyone can see how clear the words of this injunction in the Qur’ān are: “O Prophet! Say to your wives, daughters and all believing women that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments.” Then how can this injunction be limited to the wives of the Prophet ﷺ?

One more point in Islamic Shari’ah to be understood is that certain ahkam are given in specific cases but the wisdom behind and implication thereof are described in a general manner. The Shari’ah principle is that if the implication of a hukm is general, the hukm itself becomes general. For example, addressing the wives of the Prophet ﷺ, it was said وَقَرْنَ فِیْ بُیُوتِکُنَّ (and stay in your homes 33:33) or وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِنْ وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ (and if you were to ask the wives of the Prophet for something, ask from behind a curtain, 33:53) or فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِٱلْقَوْلِ (do not be too complaisant in your speech, 33:32). These injunctions were given to the wives of the Prophet ﷺ, directly addressing them. But its implication has been described: ذٰ لِكُمۡ اَطۡهَرُ لِقُلُوۡبِكُمۡ وَقُلُوۡبِهِنَّ (that is more apt for the cleanness of your hearts and theirs, 33:53). Thus, it is clear that cleanness is desirable for every Muslim woman (and man) and not only for the wives of the Prophet ﷺ.

This is also an opportunity to convey the fact as to what the consequences of obscenity and not maintaining Purdah in society are. The scenario prevailing in the western society is there before the world. When obscenity and Hijab-lessness was allowed to go common in the name of freedom there, you can see how families have fallen prey to disintegration, how the new generation is going wayward, and how the various social ills are raising their heads.

To our women and mothers and daughters, the lives of the Mothers of Muslims are exemplary. اَلنَّبِىُّ اَوۡلٰى بِالۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ مِنۡ اَنۡفُسِهِمۡ​ وَاَزۡوَاجُهٗۤ اُمَّهٰتُهُمۡ (Surely the Prophet has a greater claim over the believers than they have over each other, and his wives are their mothers, 33:6).

The need is to be steadfast in adherence to the guidance of Islamic Shari’ah.

[Extracted from the Juma Khutbah (Friday sermon) Maulana Tahir Madani delivered at Masjid Ishaat-i-Islam, New Delhi on Friday, 18th February 2022]

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