Sunday, January 31, 2010

Amina Wadud on the Hijab

"If you think the difference between heaven and hell is 45 inches of material, boy will you be surprised."

I've just finished reading Amina Wadud's book "Inside the Gender Jihad". I've always been very impressed with her writing - she is eloquent and writes beautifully, but also commands a lot of respect.  She is very (I mean very) well-learned and is really one of the top Western Islamic intellectuals around today.

She wears hijab, so I was interested to see how she came to that decision.  She is known for her hermeneutic, linguistic, and contextual analyses of the Qur'an and Sunnah, so I wanted to know what her interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunnah on hijab are.

She writes in the book that she does not see the hijab as an Islamic obligation. "I do not consider it a religious obligation, nor do I ascribe to it any religious significance or moral value per se.  It is certainly not the penultimate denotation of modesty, as mandated by the Qur'an, "the best dress is the dress of taqwa.

"Over the past several decades, the hijab has been given disproportionate symbolic significance both within and without Muslim communities. Like a sixth pillar, we cannot discuss Islam and gender without discussing the hijab. While overloaded with multiple meanings, it is often the single marker used to determine community approval or disapproval. Although sometimes random and coincidental, it is also burdened with different levels of volition by Muslim women."

She makes a very valid point: hijab does not necessarily provide a woman with respect or protection.  "Those who reduce women to their sexuality will continue to do so. In reality the hijab of coercion and the hijab of choice look the same."

"If a man respected a woman as an equal human being and not as an object of his sexual fantasies, then even a naked woman should be safe from male abuse." I think this is a great point - there is NO excuse for a man to disrespect a woman, no matter what she is wearing. And a good man will respect a woman whether she is veiled or not - the veil is not necessarily going to make a difference, and if it does, then he isn't the best of men.

"When a Serbian soldier in the rape camps can rip a two-year-old girl's body apart by raping her, it is obviously naive to assume that any amount of head-covering would have made any difference or created any real change in deep-seated male aberrations."

Wadud also discusses the fact that because she wears hijab, some women avoid her because they assume the hijab means silence and conformity.  Similarly, some women assume she is more religious than non-veiled women, something she also criticizes.

Finally, she writes, "Dubbing it the sixth pillar only shows its ability to divert attention from the issue of substance regarding modesty and relations between the sexes, like unrestricted male libido. The hijab is also a significant marker for the community approval or disapproval.  The paradox of my choice and devotion to wearing hijab without considering it obligatory means a significant duality of some strategic consideration for my various roles in the gender jihad."

Her arguments are interesting because she is not one of those scholars who sees the hijab as oppressive/looks at it condescendingly - she herself wears it.  She is simply pointing out that she does not see it as an obligation and that many Muslim women feel an immense amount of pressure to conform to this dress code, whether they believe in it or not.

I personally find it interesting how any scholar (Wadud, abou el Fadl) who says the hijab is not an obligation gets viciously attacked to the point of ridiculousness.  Why is it such a sensitive issue?

What does everyone think of her arguments?


Bahlool said...

she reminds me of those people who say they are not racist, cause they are themselves foreigners or those people who say they are not hatefilled towards islam, cause they were muslims before or they are muslims now. The hijab is an obligation and there are plenty of hadiths to proov that. Sunnah and hadith and the holy Quran are pretty clear on that issue.
To call her a scholar and not take up those scholars who really are scholars, those who have studied islam for 30 or 40 years and who say that hijab is an obligation, shows how we lift up those with low knowledge and drop down those who have the real knowledge. She wears the hijab so she can atack it without from within.

If the Hijab wasnt the veil that women wear, why is it consensus amongst all lagschools? Why is it something both shias and sunnis believe in to be obligation? 5 diff madhabs differ in every thing in life, except in this matter? Is it some kind of male conspiracy that goes over the lawschools in islam and that unites them? Doubtful.

You state:
" I think this is a great point - there is NO excuse for a man to disrespect a woman, no matter what she is wearing. And a good man will respect a woman whether she is veiled or not - the veil is not necessarily going to make a difference, and if it does, then he isn't the best of men.

So i should respect a prostitute? I should respect a thief, a murderer, a pornstar? You assume that there is no difference if a woman is veiled or not but at the same time you say that if a man has a certain view on veil or on unveiled women, then he is a bad man. So a dress shouldnt make a woman less or more good but a mans opinion on that matter should make a man less or more good?
In every culture dressing and nakedness are seen as two opposites between good and bad people moraly. We live nowdays in a western world where they respect a woman more if she is naked then if she is veiled and i see the atacks on the veil on a daily basis.
A lot of the veiled women do a lot of bad things, even though they are veiled, but in the end the veil is soemthing the holy Prophets wives were wearing. So either we assume that he and his family were differend from us in clothing or we say that we follow the sunnah and hte rules and follow their example.

I got a question to you, do you see the veil as an obligation or not? Cause i have been following your texts a pretty long time now and it seems that you see it as not an obligation.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Bahlool: thanks for commenting.

"To call her a scholar and not take up those scholars who really are scholars, those who have studied islam for 30 or 40 years."

She too has studied for 30 or 40 years, knows fluent Arabic, has studied in different Islamic countries, and has studied fiqh, sharia'h and other branches of Islamic law. What, for you, constitutes an Islamic scholar? If she has done what most Islamic scholars have done, why is she at a "lower level", as you say?

"o i should respect a prostitute? I should respect a thief, a murderer, a pornstar?"

You should not decide whether or not to respect someone based on what they wear. A murderer has committed an act - judge him/her based on that, not on what they are wearing. And yes, if a man decides to respect a woman ONLY because she is veiled, and to disrespect a woman because she is NOT veiled - yes, I see that as a problem.

Yes, the Prophet's wives veiled. Wadud is not saying we should not veil. She is simply saying, from her own analysis, that it is not a requirement.

I did not want this post to lead to a discussion of whether I think the veil is obligatory or not - I wanted to discuss Wadud's views, and I also wanted to understand why it is such a sensitive issue. Your response sounds pretty heated, which proves my point - why do people react so strongly when we discuss the hijab, but not when we discuss being good to one's neighbour, eating healthy or being respectful to the elderly?

Candice said...

I really enjoy her point of view and tend toward believing hijab is not obligatory (Islamic, yes. And beneficial, too). So I feel similarly. And I don't feel she wears it only to be able to bash it with more credibility!

It's crazy how important hijab is to a lot of Muslim people. Even though they probably wouldn't admit to making it an unofficial 6th pillar, I think we could call it that. And yeah, after your first comment, we can definitely say you have proof that it's a crazy-sensitiv topic!

Anonymous said...

I agree with what she says ... I didn't know she wore hijab herself but then thinking about it every picture of her I saw was with hijab. ;)
There is more to Islamic history than just the madhabs that exist today. There were many scholars and jurists with differing views about hijab in history ... but that's suppressed.

"Why is it such a sensitive issue?"

I think on one hand it's seen as a 'symbol' to show that Muslim women are better than the non-Muslims, and to differentiate them ... also it's a reaction to colonialism, because there were those that viewed it as a backwards practice and thought Muslim women/countries could only advance if the women unveiled (such a silly idea, IMHO).

"She is simply pointing out that she does not see it as an obligation and that many Muslim women feel an immense amount of pressure to conform to this dress code, whether they believe in it or not."

That's very true, and I agree with her.

"The hijab is also a significant marker for the community approval or disapproval. "



ModestJustice said...

And I too, wonder what the first commenter means by saying Wadud is a 'lesser' scholar. For centuries, there have been mainly (if only) MALE scholars and just because there's a 'consensus' doesn't necessarily means it (an opinion) is right.
And I think we should all have a level of respect of each other as individuals, that's the only way we, in turn, can be respected :/

Ooh and can I second what Aynur said?

LK said...

Oh she is fascinating I'd love to read more from her.

I too don't see the scarf as an obligation but I see internal hijab as an obligation and some form of covering the rest of the body. I think we are obligated to dress modestly but modesty does not require covering of the hair in all places in the world. Modesty is somewhat relative to culture. (ex some places you must wear abaya, other countries simple wide leg jeans and a tunic).

I enjoy the scarf myself but I think way too much pressure is put on women to wear it. Sometimes you simply cant, especially if you live in the west and need to work. Its a beautiful thing, it is. But obligatory, I'm not so sure. Recommended, totally. But one should not have to feel like they have committed adultery everytime they go to work without a scarf on. That kind of guilt is just too much.

Anonymous said...


I don't know what makes you think a "revealing" woman is more respected in the West, so I'll ignore that comment as I am sure you are exaggerating or being sarcastic or watching too much western t.v.


I agree with Aynur. I also agree with your reply to Bahlool.

I think it is a sensitive subject because people want uniformity and conformity in religion, not difference. When conservatives are confronted with people acknowledging that they think, feel, believe, and practice differently, and DON'T feel bad about it, well, it gets people riled up. :)

I love Amina Wadud, I think she is completely legitimate as a scholar, and I find it interesting that people are quick to invalidate someone as "less than" all because of a piece of cloth. People with FAR LESS knowledge or years of study somehow think they know she is wrong because of her stance on hijab...


I always ask that, and never seem to get a real answer.

Jaz said...

The character of Islam is modesty, and the hijab contributes to this but it is not the 'be all' and 'end all' of modesty.

Did Khadija ever wear the hijab? I remember that when Aisha was accused of adultery with a companion of the Prophet after he found her when she was lost, that this was before the days of the hijab. So that would have been after the death of Khadija. I may be wrong about this, though.

You can't mention Islam without mentioning the hijab it seems, yes the prophets wives did wear hijab but the prophet himself covered his head and body when he left the house. The prophet wore his beard long. Is such a fuss made about muslim men?

I know that most literature available says that Muslim women do not wear the hijab because anyone told them to, but they do it because God told them to. That might be true for most, and Islamically this is the case... but there are many husbands and families who would not see their women without hijab. I know my husband thinks my choice of dress has as much to do with him as it has to do with my personal religious choice.

Hijab is seen as a community responsibility rather than a personal choice. It's very over-emphasised in my opinion.

Stimulus said...

Good topic :)

But I think she's missing the main point of Islam. Islam is submission of our souls for Allah (that's the meaning of the Arabic word Islam). Submission carries many meanings, but the most significant ones are faith and belief in Allah, and that what He says is true, and that He knows more than us, humans - and basically more than human brain power. Keeping that in mind, we can sometimes question Islam's orders, and think about them, and ask ourselves why? And why not? (e.g. the hijab, why is it obligatory?) - but this questioning will never ever override FAITH in Allah. I hope you see what I mean.

I believe the hijab is obligatory because the Quran and the Sunnah (sayings of the prophet SAAW) say it is, not because my brain explains to me that it should be obligatory. If my brain also explains it then that will be an additional benefit, a bonus - if it doesn't, then I'm sure Allah will reward me even more because I am doing something solely to submit to His orders. I am worshipping Him, not a colleague of his, debating his orders.

Having said that, Amina Wadud does explain some aspects of the hijab. I totally agree with her when she says that a veiled women is not necessarily a better women (it might be just a mask, fake). However, "la taziru waziratun wizra ukhra" - meaning just because one thing is sometimes done in a wrong way doesn't mean that particular thing is wrong.

For instance, we have Jihad in Islam (I'm talking about the killing and fighting Jihad, not the one of the soul). I believe in Jihad - we should fight back if an enemy tries to take our country. However, we can also do it very wrongly (e.g. Sept 11 - killing of thousands of innocent people). But just because application of Jihad was wrong in this instance does not mean that the concept itself is wrong.

To conclude: I think Wadud should firstly rely on the Quran and Sunnah to see whether something is an obligation or not. If those are not clear, then, and only then, should she start giving her own explanations and conclusions - remember, her thinking and intellectual skills will never reach Allah's knowledge.

If she already discussed the hadeeths and Quran and concluded that they don't necessarily deem the hijab an obligation, then that's an additional discussion we'd have to have. Hope that's clear?

Stephanie said...

I find her interesting and maybe someday will get around reading her. I bought another one of your book recommendations (The Great Theft), but it's still sitting on my desk. So busy!

While I'm personally of the opinion that it is obligatory, I in no way get offended by the opionion that it is not. In fact I find it refreshing that their are dischordant voices out there because that's what keeps Islam alive and breathing, rather than stagnating. I want a religion that continues to stimulate me intellectually, not okay this is how it is so believe it because they (the scholars) said so. I completely agree with her remarks regarding it being the sixth pillar and a kind of litmus test for piousness. Such a shame that we're so utterly obsessed with women's bodies.
Just curious though. Does she say then why she wears the hijab? Surely it isn't for the hot sweaty feeling you get in the summertime.

Shahirah Elaiza said...

Love the topic of hijab. In fact I've raised it a couple of times in my blog and I think people are getting bored =P But anyhoo, I do think hijab is an obligation even though I myself do not wear it at this point of time. I really want to someday though...because I have faith in God, Islam, the Prophet peace be upon him and his Sunnah, and authentic hadiths. The Prophet peace be upon him was once quoted to have said: "If the woman reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but
this --- and he pointed to his face and hands."

It all comes down to what women feel comfortable with... if a woman doesn't feel comfortable wearing it, then don't because the whole point is not to make her feel miserable but to make her feel secured and at peace. And what she truly feels in her heart is between her and her Creator so let it be.

I think you just gave me an idea for yet another blog post about hijab =) I'll let you know once it's up!

Mrs. S said...

I think that Wadud is challenging us to do two things; the first is to be personally accountable and the second, to think critically. Us Muslims haven’t really risen to the occasion in regards to these two acts of rational thought lately, so it is not surprising that there is such a volatile reaction to her arguments in regards to hijab.

I agree with many of her arguments, and even those that I disagree with I can see her point. I particularly enjoy her use of the sixth pillar. It never ceases to amaze me that “Muslims” who do not pray, abuse their families, drink alcohol and barely know the al-Fatiha will not hesitate to publically berate or lecture a woman on the necessity of al-hijab.

GTFrenzy said...

I think everyone covered what I was about to write. I too believe hijab is a sensitive issue because most muslims are adiment on conformity and less open to difference of opinion. Just look at the issue of how to pray, or listening to music, or gender segregation generate huge divisions and animosity.

In like reading Wadud books, she allows me to think. I totally agree with Mrs. S last statement!

nisa said...


For me personally I believe the hijab is obligated. Muslim ladies wear the hijab during prayers - all the body is covered except face & hands. So if that is what aurat is, then that's the way outside of prayer as well.

Here's a link if anyone's interested .

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Candice: I lean towards the same thing - that it isn't obligatory. And I definitely love her idea of it as the 6th pillar.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Aynur: I definitely agree that the madhabs are not on the level of the Qur'an or even Sunnah - they are basically the opinions of certain scholars. Also, there used to be hundreds of madhabs, so these four were not even sacred back then. It annoys me when people ONLY rely on madhabs, while ignoring other interpretations.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Modest Justice: "For centuries, there have been mainly (if only) MALE scholars and just because there's a 'consensus' doesn't necessarily means it (an opinion) is right."


At some point most people thought slavery was okay, so a mass opinion does not make it right.
And yes, it really is a problem for me that only male scholars have been interpreting Islam.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

LK: why do you feel it is recommended?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: the question of who is an authority in Islam is really important. I'm sure maaaaany Muslims would not consider Wadud an authentic scholar for some reason (her sex maybe?) She has studied extensively and fulfills most of the prerequisites of most (male) conservative Islamic scholars. So I wonder what the problem is.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jaz: I am not sure if Khadija wore hijab but if she did cover her hair I don't think it was because of Islam. There are also historical reports that say some women in pre-Islamic Arabia were bare-chested, which could explain why the Qur'an says women should cover their chests.

I think a lot of men feel pressured to encourage their wives/daughters to cover, because of social and community pressure, like Wadud said.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stimulus: Amina Wadud does not come to her conclusion through brain power only - her main method is looking at the Qur'an and Sunnah. Many Muslims read the Qur'an and do NOT see that God is saying women should cover their hair. Amina Wadud is one of these.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stephanie: "While I'm personally of the opinion that it is obligatory, I in no way get offended by the opionion that it is not."

That is very refreshing! Unfortunately, many veiled women do get offended, not to mention a lot of Muslim men.

Wadud says she wears the veil so she can reinvest new meanings into old symbols - she is voluntarily wearing something most Muslims see as an obligation.
She also mentions that she has always liked to dress modestly.
Finally, and I find this sad, she points out that she is taken much more seriously in most Muslim circles.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Shahirah: I like your point about the woman being comfortable - if she is pressured to veil then it may lose its significance or symbolism. Same for women who are forced to veil, e.g. in Iran or Saudi Arabia.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Mrs. S: very true! Muslims who do everything they shouldn't will still criticize a woman who is not veiled! It really is amazing. But I think it may go back to the practice of seeing women as the carriers of tradition/religion.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nisa: on another blog a while ago (can't remember where) I read the following point: we do wudu before prayer but we don't do it before we go shopping, for example. So if we wear hijab during prayer why should we assume that we should always wear it? I just don't think it is a good enough argument on its own.

Welcome to the blog!

coolred38 said...

Ive personally never understood why a woman feels she must cover her WHOLE body and head etc when performing prayers...God sees you naked in the shower...havin sex with ur husband...sitting on the toilet...just to be blunt ...prayer is the most beautiful of those actions...yet we must HIDE ourselves when performing it?

Doesnt make sense to me.

And the belief that God requires us to be "dressed in our best" when facing him doesnt hold water...God requires our "best dress" be righteousness...not a head to toe billowing cloth.

But if it makes you feel better to wear it while praying then wear it...but dont infer that it is required cause GOD SAID SO.

God is not nearly as interested in the sexual allure of the female body as men (and some women) would have us all believe...and so the hair on our heads down to our ankles are fairly safe under his watchful gaze.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

cairo - you said in reply to Jaz "I am not sure if Khadija wore hijab but if she did cover her hair I don't think it was because of Islam. There are also historical reports that say some women in pre-Islamic Arabia were bare-chested, which could explain why the Qur'an says women should cover their chests."

Greek women also had to cover their hair. It was extremely common in many societies.

nisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nisa said...


well you need to be free from hadath to pray. it's a requirement. shopping don't have that requirement. :)

hopefully i can explain. covering the aurat is a requirement for all muslims - men & women - in everyday life [Quran 7:27]. So what is the aurat? as a guide, it is the parts you cover during prayers. that is what aurat is. thus, it is the same part muslims are obligated to cover when going shopping etc.

Only Allah Knows Best. والله أعلم

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Coolred: "God requires our "best dress" be righteousness...not a head to toe billowing cloth."

I agree...I think in the end it is more about our inner modesty, but of course people can't judge that so they have to focus on something they can actually see, e.g. hijab.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Aynur: yeah and I heard that a lot of Jewish and Christian women used to cover their hair as well.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nisa: thanks for posting! Where did you get that definition of "aurat" from?

Sara said...

wow I have never heard of her but after reading this post I definitely want to read that book!!

I am currently reading playing cards in cairo by hugh miles and...well he said hijab was first made an issue in Egypt as soon as the Brits came...1882! because they officially declared it the main obstacle between Egypt and civilization...

So yes I think it's a very important political tool of polarization.. if that makes sense.

nisa said...

Salam. & TQ too :)

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:

Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (PBUH) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands. [Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 32 No 4092]

Only Allah Knows Best. والله أعلم

NiDa said...

There are things I agree with, and there are things I disagree with. If we look at the general consensus of Islamic scholars, it becomes very apparent that hijab IS an obligation – and we draw these arguments directly from the Qur’an and the Sunnah – not some random scholar’s “opinion.” When we look at this issue we have to go to the root and extract the main arguments from within the most credible sources of Islamic jurisprudence – that is again the Qur’an and Sunnah. Does it say anywhere in the Qur’an that women should be uncovered? Does the prophet peace be upon him ever advise the women of the ansar to take off the veil as it is better for them? Of course not. Why? Because it is an obligation to distinguish oneself as a Muslim woman, to cover ones awrah and be known as a righteous believer!

One thing I’d like to point out is that her quote:
"When a Serbian soldier in the rape camps can rip a two-year-old girl's body apart by raping her, it is obviously naive to assume that any amount of head-covering would have made any difference or created any real change in deep-seated male aberrations."
…is completely irrelevant and quite ignorant in my opinion. Being a Bosniak Muslim, I can tell you that of course Serbs killed and raped Muslim women/girls whether or not they wore hijab – but this is a much more complicated issue and she is simplifying it in this context to say well hijab wouldn’t have stopped a Serb from raping girls, therefore it doesn’t really serve its intended purpose! In a state of war, what you wear on your head is insignificant – most women were not even allowed to cover in the former Yugoslavia – they were forced to take their veils off, and as for the Serbs, it only mattered if you had a Muslim name. Much like Hitler didn’t really investigate whether or not a Jew wore the yamaka they were still being killed – but this fact that they were killed despite what was on their head doesn’t void its religious absolutism and importance.

Umm Aaminah said...

A'salaamu alaikum. I believe hijab is mandatory because I have read/studied on my own, taken the opinion of those with more knowledge, and felt it was correct in my heart.

Without inner modesty however, you are just mocking the rules of Allah. The hijab/headscarf itself does not make you modest; your intention and actions do and then your hijab hides your beauty (or crazy hair day!) from the world. I also think hijab is important because it shows the world we are Muslim women and this was also in the hadith, that we should cover ourselves so we were known as believing women.

I think it is a sensitive issue because the media has made it such. I am sure there were no debates on this one hundred, two hundred years ago. During the time of the Crusades European women began to wear more modest headcoverings to emulate the muslim women the soldiers encountered. Now because of the almost total lack of modesty (in speech, in dress, in actions)in modern times, hijab highlights the differences between Muslims and non-muslims.

I have never heard debate on the issue of Mennonites or Amish women covering themselves for example, and although they are not as strict in the head cover, in general they appear and act much more modest than many Muslim sisters. Think of the current trend in the Gulf ("camel humps" under hijab, thick make-up, glittery abayaat) and you will see what I mean. ;-)

So my two cents: we should wear our hijab because Allah swt has instructed us to do so. We can see the benefits of it but that is really secondary. It's about our submission (as Stimulus said) not about our ability to reason and agree with Allah swt's commands.

Wa Allahu alim...

coolred38 said...

"I think it is a sensitive issue because the media has made it such."

I disagree with that as I KNOW it is a sensitive issue because MUSLIMS have made it so....and because of the abusive behavoir of Muslims towards women that dont wear hijab or not enough...the things that those Muslims do to Muslim women are what get the media interested....AND THEN the media makes an issue of it.

God mentions the dress code twice in the Quran...once in reference to women..once in reference to "righteousness" being the best form of clothing a Muslim can wear. Neither time mentions a head covering as part of a required part of that dress code. Period.

Hijab, the word, is used in the Quran 9 times...none of those references refer to woman and head coverings.

From ALL the subjects God mentions numerous times throughout the Quran...He ONLY mentions the importance of modest clothing ONCE...which would give the average Muslim some sort of idea that clothing is not THE most important thing God is trying to teach us....but when it comes to Muslim women it certainly ranks up there right at the top as THE most important issue hands down that Muslims concern themselves with.

Too bad they dont take Gods view point on it and give it the concern and diligence it deserves but place it in its rightful spot of importance compared to other isues that certainly deserve our attention and concern.

Anonymous said...

NiDa - I thought that hadith you quoted by Abu Dawud is considered 'weak', because it's Mursal.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - that comment was directed at Nisa, not NiDa. :p My apologies.

Bahlool said...

Her scholarship has nothing with her sex to do. Muslims have had great scholars, that were female. The question is why believe her and disbelieve thousends and thousends of scholars who have said that hijab is obligatory and who have said that in 1400 years?

As someone stated, why would the family and the wives of the Prophet wear veil if its not obligatory? We say we follow the sunnah of the Prophet, that means the way and the thinking of him.
Women and men have to guard their private parts.
Someone said that i watch too much western teve, ignorance is a bliss..I have lived in the west in differend countries all my life. I have hardly any friends who are muslims and i know and see what happens.
We live in a society that thinks its freedom and right to show your bodys private parts.
Has nothing to do with tv.

We have to use the logic Allah has given us:
1. There are plenty of "scholars" who say this or that thing, we have to compare that to what better and bigger and more knowledgble scholars have said. To choose to believe her just because she is female (that is exactly what you guys are saying, cause as Cairo said, she has problems with men interpreting islam since many centuries).

2. What do the hadiths and hte quran say?

3. What did the family of the Prophet say and do?

I as shiamuslim have several ulamaa to choose between who interpret religion on a day to day basis. Some of them are more knowledgble and i have issues with this woman because she is unknown. Where did she study? What books has she written. What proof does she have for her views? Why does she go against thousends of ulamaa and their view?
We shouldnt let our feelings decide what is true and what is false but use our aql.
As for me beeing heated lol..i discuss such issues on a day to day basis and i havnt let my feelings take over for ages, so no i have no issues with this post but i have isuses with the fact that some here choose to interpret dozens of hadiths and differend ulamaa and think they are less knowledgble then this lady. I would like to know what islamic university she has studied at and who were her teachers.
We have differend groups who state they have scholars, but we need to ask ourselves are they really scholars with knowledge?

Bahlool said...

Sorry but i recall the issue with her leading prayer, i have no issues with that..but to call her a scholar of islam because she studied in some american university in Cairo doesnt make her a muslim scholar. We have had many women and men like her who have chosen to let their ignorance of islam decide their actions (look at the quranists, wahabis, khawarij and so forth).

I think i prefer to believe in the thousends of great ulamaa who have studied this issue in a more reliable athomsphear

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara - I definitely agree. It's funny & sad how many negative things the British brought with them...:/

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nisa - as Aynur pointed out, I've heard that that hadith is not classified as sahih?

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

NiDa: welcome to the blog :)

"and we draw these arguments directly from the Qur’an and the Sunnah – not some random scholar’s “opinion.” Amina Wadud, as I said, also draws her arguments directly from the Sunnah and Qur'an, as do other scholars who say the hijab is not an obligation.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Umm Aaminah: welcome to the blog :)

"I think it is a sensitive issue because the media has made it such."

Yes, that is true but Muslims have also made it such. Most conservative scholars and sheikhs constantly talk about the veil and most Muslim men do have an opinion on it which they are very happy to share. So I think the focus has come from both the media and the Islamic community.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Coolred - I completely agree - I think Muslims have also made it a big issue. It's rare to meet a Muslim man who doesn't have an opinion on why a woman should veil. The judgements also come very fast when they meet women who do not believe in hijab.

What REALLY interests me is that, like you said, the Qur'an mentions the subject of physical modesty ONCE...yet is is somehow one of the most important things for women??? Hmmmm!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Bahlool - yes, and that is your choice. What annoys me is that Muslims who believe what you do often try to impose this view on people who don't agree. Why so much judgement on women who choose not to veil?

Bahlool said...

Cairo i dont have issues with ppl who have or have no vails, but i find it strange that people try to claim that veil is not obligatory, when the learned people, the really learnede people, when the Quran and hte Hadith state otherwise.

Its like the issue with homosexuality. We have some muslims who claim that the story of Prophet Lot didnt speak of gays but of men who raped boys..they try to interpret the story of the Quran, the hadiths and the views of the ulamaa on homosexuals, to fit their cause, in the same way it feels with those who try to make veil sound like not an obligatory part of islam.

If you have a veil or not is up to you, i have relatives who have dropped the veil, i didnt bother much, but the second they tried to say they knew more about islam or they had proof, i got into a discussion with them. After a bit of discussing they realised that they have no proof, it was just their personal view.
Ijma says that veil is part of islam, that the Quran states so, that the hadiths state so and that the sunnah states so. If you or others dont wish to put the veil on, be my guests, its up to you, but the second you or others claim you know better then the scholars or better then the majority of the muslim ummah, then it becomes a matter of judgement.

Ask yourself, what would be the reason for thousends, yes hundreds of thousends of ulamaa who say that veil is obligatory? Do they all conspire to put women down? Whats the reason that they say what they say? It sounds a bit unlogic to think that some few know better then we the rest who claim its obligatory..
Islam frowns on liars, why would the ulamaas lie?

Logic conclusion:
1)a few know better then the majority of the ulamaa and the majority of the muslims

or 2) the ulamaa and the majority lie
or 3) the few who say its not obligatory, are ignoring some facts and proof to suit their own agenda.
Is there any other explenation?

Dima Marlina said...

Hello everyone, i'm dima, from malaysia.

i myself have questioned the absolute obligation of the hijab many times, especially when i was in a religiously-strict school (NOT A RELIGIOUS SCHOOL) and wearing the hijab (tudung, is what we call it), long-sleeves, long pants/skirt and socks was compulsory at all times (exp in the dorms). Of course, my questioning among friends was mainly met with silence as if i was a heretic.

2 years after that, i continued wearing the hijab partly because i was used to it by then and partly because of personal rebellion. but i admit to the initial feeling of moral superiority...because like others have said, ppl wearing hijabs are somehow 'more islamic'. the inverse is also true; those who dont wear hijab are somehow 'modern' and 'liberated'. sad. although nowadays i do my best to see ppl as individuals, it really doesnt help when they in fact do fit in the stereotypes.

i'm still on the fence about the whole issue...personally i prefer for fellow muslim women to wear the hijab.

Anyway, i wish for you to visit my blog about a recent incident in my country : caning of muslim women & men for extramarital sex.

khadija said...

Salam Everyone,

Sis Bahlool. You keep on repeating about how hijab is obligatory because it is from Quran and hadeeth. Yet, up till now, you have not given any clear proof from Quran or hadeeth themselves that hijab is obligatory. Yes, all the ulama say it is obligatory. Which is basically the point: It's the ulamas who say so; not Allah (Quran) or Prophet (Hadeeth Saheeh).

Everytime people say hijab is from Quran and hadeeth, they will go back to saying all madhab says so. As a muslim, I am more interested with what God and the Prophet has to say. Not what those who claim what God and Prophet are saying.

There is a reason why those four are called madhab... it's because they are just that: OPINIONS. Schools of thoughts.

I repeat: I want evidence from Quran itself and/or hadeeth saheeh itself where covering every single strand of your hair is mentioned (as how the ulamas are claiming). That's it. It's very simple English, really.

I mean if ulama or whoever says that GOD Himself says women should cover each strand of hair, then please, show me where it says in the Quran. Because that is the only source of God's words.

That said, if you want to talk about what prophet's wives wore- then how about what prophet himself wore? Why talk about you should follow sunnah of prophet- and then the focus is given to women? Prophet is a man, should not men themselves be more of a subject than women? I.e. Should not men be more pestered about covering their head and wearing a beard and wearing loose garments like the prophet does? Instead of saying, we muslims should follow the prophet, and then addresses it to the women ONLY and I really mean, ONLY.

Yes, I repeat. Why must women follow the prophet (and then you point out his wives)- yet men themselves need not follow prophet himself? Why must women differentiate that they are muslims by covering their hair and even adopting arabic dresses like abaya- but men need not differentiate themselves as muslims by wearing arabic headgear and beard and a robe? How comes women should look muslims, but men can blend in with the non-muslims in terms of looks?

How comes?

My point is, your argument that women are obligated to cover their hair just because the prophet's wives do so does not hold water SIMPLY BECAUSE if that is the case, then men would have been obligated (even moreso than us women, if I may add) to cover their head as well because that was how the prophet dressed.

MaD. said...

MashALlah, lovely blog, fantastic thread of conversation. Keep it going.

I agree 100% with sister Khadija above, who make a very strong comment, mashALlah, and sums up my thinking on this issue.

Zahra Lives said...

with my own struggle to wear or not wear hijab, I think it is a sensitive issue because it is a very visible marker of if a woman is muslim or not. You;ll hear many times if a woman is unveiled and says I am muslim, a person may say about her "OH I didnt even know she was muslim" and as some of my friends say " Look Zahra why cant you be like her, she is not so muslim, she wants to look sexy" This puts a person in a sensitive spot. If I wear hijab it shows I am muslim, if I dont I dont appear so muslim? People will get the idea that I am muslim but not so much because I choose to be sexy? I wonder why Amina Wadud does choose hijab myself if she does not consider it obligatory, perhaps her answer would help me come to terms with myself and understand if I will continue to wear it or not. Lovely article by the way, very thought provoking. I love Amina Wadud's thoughts and writing.