Is veil an Islamic requirement, or not?

Article written by Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid and published in Rosa-Al-Youssef magazine in 2009: Veil is not an Islamic requirment.

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

10 thoughts on “Is veil an Islamic requirement, or not?

  1. It is good to know that Al-Azhar still produces some clerics with some critical thinking. What Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid did, interpreting the Quranic verses by properly placing them in historical context is the right way to go about it.
    Many secular scholars have already called for the same methodology, namely the prominent Islamic academic, Dr. Muhammad Sa’id al-‘Ashmawi. But of course, he’s been labeled a heretic and he has been on the Islamist militants’ ‘hit list’ for years now. Mercy me.

  2. Thank you for this. I am convinced of what is said. That is why I do not cover my head (hair). It would be interesting to know about the Naqab too which appears to be increasing by the minute.
    Many thanks again

  3. I was initially happy to read this news but now predictably there are claims coming in that the entire thing was a hoax, and that the good Sheikh doesn’t actually exist. I wish someone could help clear this whole thing up once and for all – I have absolutely no doubt that hijab is NOT a requirement in Islam – but if it’s true that the whole story about the Sheikh and the PhD was made up, then this would really be a blow to our cause.

      1. Good to know, thanks! I have had people send me links to websites that claim the Sheikh is fictional and doesn’t actually exist bla bla bla, and implying that just because al-Azhar denied the whole story then it MUST be a hoax. Wow, these people will stop at nothing to insist that women must wear hijab. If you have any further info or links to prove these people wrong about the Sheikh, please do share!

      2. No the Sheikh is not fictional. In an interview with a newspaper he mentioned that he had obtained his PhD in 1993 and not recently as it has been circulating. This link has a photocopy of his certificate. I can not verify its authenticity, yet the article that he wrote about the subject dates back to 2009. I tend to believe that what he said is true because all who had researched the issue came up with the same conclusion.

      3. Thank you so much for this Alexandra. I will post that link in the comments section of the website that sought to discredit him ( I find it disturbing that what I term the ‘bigot brigade’ would stoop so low as to totally deny the man’s existence. I have had some nasty messages from people who are unable to accept the truth simply because this whole thing is giving them cognitive dissonance. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that al-Azhar are choosing to act so dishonestly over this whole issue, since they have been dishonest about so many other matters regarding Islam.

  4. HIJAB

    In 24:31, God is asking the women to use their cover (khimaar, being a dress, a coat, a shawl, a shirt, a blouse, a tie, a scarf . . . etc.) to cover their bosoms, not their heads or their hair. If God willed to order the women to cover their heads or their hair, He would have simply said, “Cover your hair.” God is neither vague nor forgetful! God is precise [for example 4:11-12], God does not run out of words. He does not wait for a scholar to put the correct words for Him!

    [Adopted from “Islam: The True History and False Beliefs” [Ch.14] by Shabbir Ahmed, M.D., Florida]

  5. Why the veiling of women carrid on until now ?? Remember after all the history you all mentioned the Middle East in the beginning of the last century started to take a more relaxed attitude towards veiling , I think what ruined it and revived the Islamic hardliners Is the creation of the state of Israel which claimed Palestine in religious ideology of the promise land, if the Arabs were behaving with more civilised Western values picture frame of mind the world would have seen the Jews as backwards thinkers with fals occupations , but for their plans to succeed they had to motivate the Islamic propaganda and creat the islamophopia for the British and American to occupy the Middle East religion always used to contrôlé people since the Pharos times , the extreme behaviour of violence have nothing to do with any religion it’s a political weapon worse than a nuclear bom you can see it with the creation of alqaida , Isis and bocko haram plus many others and defragmentation of the countries they occupied look at iraq Syria , gaza, Egypt and all the Middle East countries it’s about multi national companies who wants contrôlé of resources and strategic occupation against other big powers , poor displaced people hold into religion because they have no faith in humanity , power and wealth doesn’t have nationality or country , they think they have the right to contrôlé Earth the new type of Romans
    Women and children in the 21century according to United nation human traffickers for prostitution and slavery going on with all the civilance from satellite and all the cameras that surround us only useful when want our money for speeding ticket , forget the veil most women I know wear it out of choice , some out of real religious belief , and out of respect to traditions , it doesn’t matter who started it Jewish women and nuns coverd them selves before Islam ,the whole thing might have started innocently and humans complicated it , lit think of better ways to bring some peace to this earth constructive thinking please xxxxxx

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