By: Alexandra Kinias
When the Egyptian newspaper Al-Massa published on May 25th, 2012 an article about Al Azhar’s endorsement to Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid’s PhD thesis on Sharia and Law, which stated that veil is not an Islamic requirement (fard), not much reaction to this controversial news was reported. Ranked at the bottom of the government publications that had lost credibility with the public, Al-Massa newspaper is hardly read by Egyptians. In May, the news media and Egyptians were already tangled with the presidential race and an article in Al-Massa was the last thing anyone would pay attention to. Rashid had previously written an article for Rosa Al Youssef magazine in 2009 where he had explained the reasons behind his arguments. Since Rosa-al-Youssef’s main audience are seculars, not much attention was given to Rashid’s article. They already knew it.
The World Muslim Congress blog translated Rashid’s article on which his thesis was based:
In his thesis, Rashid stated that hijab is not an Islamic requirement (fard), and that the interpretation (tafseer) of the verses (ayat) and the circumstances during which they appeared had led to the widespread misunderstanding about the so-called ‘Islamic Hijab’, denoting covering the head, of which there is absolutely no mention in the Quran.
Yet some have misconstrued the intent and correct interpretation of the Sharia, refusing the logic and sequence of its appearance, abandoning the proper methods of citing and interpreting of the verses (ayat), their historical background and reason for them. They have done so either intentionally, or with good intention but with lack of the essential analytical savvy.
This hijab issue imposed itself on the Islamic and non-Islamic psyche, and thus becoming the defining factor, meaning, and nature of the Islamic faith to non-Muslims, which led some non-Islamic nations to consider it a divisive political statement. In consequence to the resulting friction, some female students have been expelled from universities and jobs, only due to their adherence to this false belief, thereby attaching to Islam a non existent requirement.
So inconsistent and misguided have the proofs of the supporters of the hijab theory been, that it would sometimes take the form of khimar or jalabeeb, which distanced them from what they meant by head cover, which is indicative of their restrictive set of mind.
‘Hijab’ was mentioned in verse (ayah) 53 of Al Ahzab, where it signifies ‘wall’ or ‘what prevents view’ and it was in regards to pure “ummuhat al mo’mineen” where a “hajib” is to be placed between them and any men.
As for verse (ayah) 31 of Al Khimar – Sourrat al Noor, that is also a redundant claim, as the intent here is the cover of the breast and neck – the background here is the covering of the breast whose exposure is un-Islamic, and not what is now understood by hijab for the head.
And in regards to the historical background of verse (ayah) 59 of Sourrat al Ahzab was to distinguish between the pure and the promiscuous whores and slaves.
Finally, in the mis-use of the Hadith about Asma’a, daughter of Abu Bakr, when she walked in on the prophet (pbuh)s gathering, and he ordered her to not expose her face or palms – this Hadith is not a binding Hadith, as it is one of al AHaad and not one of the consistent, or the connected confirmed.
Exactly two months after the article was published, and with Mohamed Morsy the Islamic candidate elected president, the article was once again revived. Not only has it started a heated argument, but when an official from Al Azhar was confronted he denied that the institution had ever accepted such thesis, not to mention that it had awarded its researcher a PhD.
The argument that the veil is not an Islamic requirement is not new. It had been previously discussed by scholars, but naturally views from secular scholars are always discredited. This was the first time that a religious scholar from Al Azhar openly discussed it. With the re-emergence of the article, sited by multiple newspapers, this time it caught the attention of the readers and created a controversy between those who believe in it and those who don’t. The battle that has been going on for a while is now taking center stage.
With the rise of political Islam, veiling is used as an indicator to monitor the infiltration of the Islamic ideology into the societies where the Islamists are pushing to dominate. It is obvious from the way women are using the veil that, as long as the number of scarves adorning the heads of women are increasing, it doesn’t really matter whether women wear it for cultural or religious reasons.
By preaching to the masses, who are mostly illiterate and uninformed, that hijab is a religious requirement and wrongly including it as the sixth pillar of Islam, the more women cover their heads, and that brings them closer to the Islamization of the society, which in turn will hand them the keys to the gates of their resurrected Caliphate. Women are being threatened and warned about God’s punishment for keeping their heads uncovered. They wear the veil not knowing that they are in fact being manipulated by the Islamists to accomplish their objectives.
Indeed covering the head is embedded in many cultures and women are free to choose whatever dress is suitable for their traditions and circumstances in which they are living in. However, it is not correct to enforce it on women as a religious duty. Women should not be threatened to wear it. They should not be warned of divine punishment that by uncovering their heads they are committing a sin against their creator.
More articles about Islam and the veil:
History of the veil: Part One : Veil in the ancient world
History of the veil: Part two : Veil in pre-Islamic Arabia
History of the veil: Part Three: Early days of Islam