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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

To Cover or Not to Cover, was it ever a question?

When I was in the Uni, never mind how long ago.....there use to be a group of Muslim women who were fond of knocking from door to door giving sermons. Whatever topics discussed or lectured, without fail, a simple talk on, say, "Heaven for women, by way of staying subdued" would impendingly end up with the mention of “perempuan wajib pakai tudung or else......” . They came to my room once, and never did came back because I gave them my version of Islam, clad in my shorts and tee shirt, and I reckon they must have thought that it was too time consuming attempting to convert Satan herself.

There on, to my observations, in many if not most places, women who do not cover their heads are more often met with scrutinizing eyes, like those who possess telekinetic powers to move things or bend metals. It's like the rest of the sisters who covers their heads are silently trying trying to do these bare headed women a favor by moving a piece of cloth from out of nowhere to fly and drape the heads that are uncovered, via telekinetics. Yes, a gaze can sometimes give you that impression. In fact my nurses at the hospital rarely do not cover their heads and to my surprise, I hardly recognize them when we bumped into each other outside because, quite a number do not wear tudung outside the hospital premises. I reckon that they wore the tudung out of pere pressure from "the system", in a desperate attempt for social acceptance.

Muslims have put emphasis on Hijab to an extent that it is Haram for a woman to show her hair in public, some, to even non Muslim women, and there are some, even to Muslim women who do not cover their heads up. Hijab is more important than say, respecting time and being punctual, because, as long as my memory serves me well, there were sermons given depicting the visit of Muhammad to heaven and hell whereby, there he saw many women who in their lifetime did not cover their hair, being tortured in hell. Basically, even if a woman has good ethics, generous with charity etc, she would still end up in hell because all the good things that could change the world, do not count as she is forfeited for not covering her head. Yes, it is THAT important. So here are the verses in the Quran that says it is HARAM (prohibited) for a woman to not cover her hair, and verses that says it is WAJIB (synonym=fard/obligatory) to cover their head.

There you go....NONE. Nadaaaaaa.....nil....nahey...illek......mowwa...tiada.....No, you did not miss anything. You did not see wrongly, nor suffer from any sudden onset cataract or partial blindness, nor is there anything wrong with your notebook that you did not see the ayat I posted. That is because, I did not post any since there IS no ayat in the Quran that says it is HARAM for women to not cover their heads. Funny thing is, there is no ayat ordering women to cover their heads up either. In fact, there is no mention about head covering whatsoever. Hmm.....

Incidentally, my uncle was former Mufti Besar and during the 80s, when "tudung" was begining to make it's debut, I asked him regarding the matter and he told me that there are no such verses in the Quran that enforces women to cover their heads (in fact his wife and daughters were going around with long skirts and without tudung, until everyone started insisting it is necessary and they felt they needed to oblige society by wearing it. ), but if society requires us to do so, than it is best that we respect the code of dressing. I never did, although very tempted to ask him "what if the code of dressing is undressing, like some tribes in Africa?" because my uncle believed in the OTS system (one tight slap system; term introduced by Harith Iskandar) that can cure all obstinacy and even dark humor.

There are , however, verses regarding or mentioning the head covering. I will post all and let you be the judge of it.

There are 7 verses regarding “Hijab” (a term use to mean 'covering one's head') in the Quran and they are (My reference for this bit is from Syed Ali Akbar's book, “Things in Common” , which by the way, I highly recommend you to purchase, and not kept to collect dust on the shelf, but read because it is worth reading.):

1. “Between the dwellers of hell and heaven there is a HIJAAB ( barrier)” 7:46

  1. “Between believers and disbelievers, there is a HIJAAB (barrier) 17:45

  2. “Mary ( mother of Jesus) took a HIJAAB (barrier) and stayed apart form her folk” 19:17

  3. “Men must speak to the Prophet's wives from behind a HIJAAB (barrier)" 33:53

  4. “Solomon was preoccupied with the good things until they became hidden behind a HIJAAB (barrier)" 38:32

  5. “The disbelievers say to Prophet 'between us and you is a HIJAAB (barrier)" 41:5

  6. “God does not speak to any human except from behind a HIJAAB ( barrier)." 42:51

There are other verses implying hijab as partition/veil and these are:

1. “O you who acknowledge, do not enter the prophet's homes except if you are invited to a
meal, without you forcing such an invitation. But if you are invited, you may enter.
you finish eating, you shall leave, without staying to wait for a hadith. This used to
the prophet, and he was shy to tell you. But God does not shy away from the truth.
If you
ask his wives for something, ask them from behind a barrier. This is purer for your
and their hearts. It is not for you to harm God's messenger, nor you should marry
wives after him. This is a gross offense with God.”
  1. “When thou dost recite the Quran, We put between thee and those who believe not in the Hereafter, an invisible veil (hijab)" 17:45

  2. "And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty, that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brother's sons, or their sisters' sons,or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss" An Nur verse 31.
Refering to verse 31 of Surah An Nur, unless someone had mistaken their heads for their bosoms (chests), this verse tells women to cover their chests. And if men thinks even if women covers their chests, that it is okay to stare at them boobs, think again because God knows what is in that filthy brains of yours. Prior to verse 31 of an Nur, verse 30 says;

"Say to the believing men, that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do."

It's because God is well acquainted with all that we do and think,that He made sure He left us with no loopholes. So guys, stop staring at our boobs and get on with life...Oh, by the way, allow me to digress by saying, the word "boob" actually means, "stupid awkward person", or it could also mean "mistake or blunder", take a look HERE . So I guess the word "boobs" is derived from the word "boob" because, well, most of the time, men becomes stupid that could lead to danger, when they stare too long at women's breasts. Needless to say the plural version of 'boob' could only mean double stupor ergo jeopardy...It's no wonder God told women to hide their breasts from men's gaze and men to stop searching for lucky sightings.....there, I said it. Now we can all go back to the Quranic stuff?

In the Quran Index, by Afzalur Rahman, listed under "veil" is the Al Ahzab 32-33, as below:

[32] O Consorts of the Prophet! ye are not like any of the (other) women: if ye do fear (Allah), be not too complaisant of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech (that is) just. [33] And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance: and establish Regular Prayer, and give Regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye Members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless.

I suppose this verse is listed under "veil" in reference to the bit that says "and stay quiet in your houses" , 'veil' in this context means 'to segregate/separate'. Interestingly though, a translation from the same verse by Edip Yuksel is as below, (and the footnotes that explains the translation)

So, resuming with #5 is the surah Al Ahzab verse 32: (translation by Edip Yuksel)

"O wives of the prophet, you are not like any other women. If you are righteous, then do not speak too softly, lest those with disease in their hearts will move with desire; you shall speak in an honorable manner.*

[Footnote: Prophet Muhammad was one of the most successful political and military leaders in history. His revolutionary leadership in theology, philosophy, culture, economy and politics, put him on top of the list of a prominent Western historian, Michael Hart, in the "History's 100 Most Influential People." Muhammad received a great opposition from the oligarchy of the Meccan theocracy. He had also some opposition in his own city-state. Besides violent campaigns to eliminate him and his supporters, he would occasionally become the target of defamation
campaigns. Many conspired to embarrass and defame him through his wives. Indeed, this verse
distinguishes Muhammad's wives from other Muslim women. Muhammad's wives were asked to be more careful not to provide ammunition for the negative propaganda of regressive forces who wished to stop the progressive movement that started with the light of the Quran.]

Then, it continues with (33:33)

"You shall settle down in your homes, and do not be about like the olden days of ignorance. You shall hold the contact prayer, and contribute towards betterment, and obey God and His messenger. God wishes to remove any affliction from you, O people of the sanctuary, and to purify you completely."*

Footnote : One of the verbs in this verse can be understood in two ways, depending on the inclusion or exclusion of the letter W. Traditional commentators read it "wa QaRna" (and they should settle), derived from the root QRR, meaning to settle, sit down, etc. They translate the phrase as "sit in your homes." This translation followed by generalization of the instruction has been used as one of the reasons for why Muslim women should be confined in her homes. We prefer reading it as WaQaRna, which comes from the root WQR, which means acting in an
honorable, kind, and dignified manner. (See 48:9; 71:13). Our reading would not be accurate if the verb was spelled, QaRaRna, from the root QRR. (See7:143; 14:26,29; 22:5; 23:13; 27:61; 38:60; 40:39,64). It is evident that Muhammad's wives had their separate income and wealth.

6. In Surah Al Ahzab verse59;
"O Prophet! tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. "

or in an easier way to comprehend;

"O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of those who acknowledge that they should lengthen upon themselves their outer garments. That is better so that they would be recognized and not harmed. God is Forgiver, Compassionate."
(translation Edip Yuksel)

And that ladies and gentlemen, is just about all the verses pertaining to hijab/veil that one may find in the Quran.

In my perspective, should covering a woman's head is THAT important, as it is made to become what it is today, would it not make more sense that god would have mentioned and reiterated it in a few verses , like other redundant verses that God felt important to repeat in order to emphasize/reiterate His statements? So how did this escalated to the point that in some parts of the world, women are even killed for not covering their heads. It is not even mentioned once that women need to cover their heads in the Quran, and Quran is a complete reference as mentioned in the the surah 5:3,

"Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject Faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. "

and in Surah An Nahl:89;
"One day We shall raise from all Peoples a witness against them, from amongst themselves: and We shall bring thee as a witness against these (thy people): and We have sent down to thee a Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to Muslims"

and in Al An'am:37;
"There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have We omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end."

And God had emphasized that His guidance is the only guidance, as stated in
Al-Baqarah verse 120,
"Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: "The Guidance of Allah, that is the (only) Guidance," wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor Helper against Allah.

Again, He was consistent in telling us who we should follow, in Al-A'raf: verse 2-3 :

[2] A Book revealed unto thee - so let thy heart be oppressed no more by any difficulty on that account - that with it thou mightest warn (the erring) and teach the Believers.
[3] Follow (O men!) the revelation given unto you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends, or protectors, other than Him. Little it is ye remember of admonition.

If one were to take a stroll on the streets of, say, Batu Feringgi, you cannot help but notice women clad in what we call as "purdah" walking around, never alone, most of the time with their presumably husbands who are busy looking at other women instead of the interesting goods sold in the little tents along both lanes. By their attitude and language (not to mention that signature perfume, basically bleaching my nostril hair), one can safely assume that they are from the middle east. As for the middle east women, I cannot decide whether to admire their tolerance/endurance towards the male manipulation, or to take pity on them. In Saudi Arabia, it is prohibited for women to drive, albeit, there are times when I'd loose my temper as I drive on the roads of KL, at that transient moment, I tend to agree with the Arabs, forgetting that I myself is a woman (trust me, I don't drive like a pussy, so to speak). Malaysian women tend to follow the Arabs, not understanding that the root reason to Arabs wearing purdah, is to cover themselves from dust storms. Their fashion sense never did evolved after that.

There was a time when Malaysians were into Purdah, especially during the Al Arqam era. I remember back in Uni, there was one night whereby I entered an elevator which had it's light blacked out. I remembered how my hair stood up when I heard soft whisperings the instance the door closed. That was the longest trip from ground floor to first floor that I've had in all my life because I thought I had turned into Joan of Ark, at the least, a price one has to pay for having good imagination. Of course it turned out to be my friends who were headed to the same lecture hall for our lecture, clad in full purdahs. They giggled as I told them they spooked me with the whisperings as I thought I've had a close encounter with the third kind....Needless to say, there were question marks on other students' faces as I arrived into the lecture hall, clad in my jeans and t-shirt, chatting with three "ninjas", as they were referred to, cruelly.

So where did this idea of purdah came from then? That is why you should read Syed Ali Akhbar's book "Things in Common" because that is where I learn the history of purdah. Apparently, the word "purdah" (means partition or seclusion) originated from an Indian word, at a time of Hindu Rajputs, which means a portion of a premise, a women's section where dancing girls, concubines and mistresses, are conveniently tucked away .(and we all thought all the ultimate fun happened in Moulin Rouge, just coz they made it into a blockbuster film!!). Here, these women can run around naked if they want to because it's a prohibited area with the exception of the Maharajas. So, when these, needless to say beautiful women go into town, they were clad in our famous "ninja suits" so as not to be recognized. Honestly, if you are a harlot, ( in a non political sense of it) would you want to be recognized?

What's the take home message then? We are all going to die at some point. Would we want to carve the fate of our after life with trusting words that we hear/listen from others, mouth to mouth without checking first? Everyone can say anything they like in the name of God, even killing innocent lives if need be, in order to attain self interests. But at the end of the day, we (individually) and only we alone will be doing the bit about answering to God, and no one else. Are we going be that gullible lot who fall into that category of "those who knows not and knows not he knows not - let's just follow what others' say ? I don't think that that is a wise idea. I suggest we all check the sources ourselves and where better place to check it than to refer back to the Quran, the words of God Himself? Perhaps, in the process, we may rediscover Islam, not as a deen (way of life) by chance, but as a deen by choice...........
...Click here to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.....


taxy said...

Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!

Now would you mind terribly to delve into the subject to "Honour Killing"? Somehow, reading this topic, those two words kept popping up in my head. I'm sick, I know.

pah nur said...

Thank you..thank're so kind, bow...bow....bow...thank you..Let me enjoy my 2 seconds fame before the Persatuan Pedagang Fabrik Malaysia sues, for damage causing plunge of fabric market price due to my post.

I will try researching on "honor killing". No, you're not sick, even I want to dig deep into this matter. So stay tuned.....