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Is covering compulsory for Muslim women?

August 19, 2009 9:49 AM · Sadia Raheem - Miami Muslim Women's Examiner
Muslim Woman wearing the Niqab

This topic is one of which not only debated amongst the non-Muslim population but also more-so the men and women of Islam. On a personal level, as a Muslim Woman (converted) I support niqab.  I do not however, view it as obligatory. I know a lot of sister's who have chosen the niqab who are very dear sisters to me so please don't think I am against them or their choice. I also know a lot of muslim women who don't wear any head covering, whom I am very close to. They are striving to cover and may Allah (swt) increase their imaan and give them strength to overcome their personal struggle ameen.

A Muslimah who wears hijab is not better than one who wears niqab and vice versa. Nobody is better than the next except in taqwah (piety, fear of Allah) Allah Most High does not care about our wealth, our beauty or lack of it, etc. What He cares about is what is in the heart such as niyyah (intention) and the deeds. In Saheeh Muslim it is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Allaah does not look at your outward appearance and your wealth, rather He looks at your hearts and deeds.” (Hadith No. 4651)

Every Muslim woman will be judged on the Yawm Al-Qiyama (Day of Judgement) concerning what they understood about the command of veiling. So let us leave the judgment to Allah Most High, who is the best of judges.

"The Quran does not suggest that women should be veiled or they should be kept apart from the world of men. On the contrary, the Quran is insistent on the full participation of women in society and in the religious practices."
(Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D)

One of the verses in the Quran protects a woman's fundamental rights. Verse 59 of Surah Al-Ahzaab reads: "O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when outside) : so that they should be known (as such) and not molested".

Although Hijab and modesty are mandatory for Muslim women, as Muslim women we are required to cover the shape of our body's and not expose our sexuality as to protect us and portray our devotion to Islam. it is ultimately a woman's choice to wear any garment  beyond what is mandatory (such as niqab or burqa etc..)and no one should make judgement on doing so or not. This judgement is left to Allah swt alone.

According to the Quran, the reason why Muslim women should wear an outer garment when going out of their homes is that they may be recognised as "Believing" women and differentiated from streetwalkers for whom sexual harassment is an occupational hazard. The purpose of this verse was not to confine women to their homes, but to make it safe for them to go about their daily business without attracting unsavory attention.

Older Muslim women who are past the prospect of marriage are not required to wear "the outer garment". "Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage, there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not wanton display of their beauty; but it is best for them to be modest; and Allah is One Who sees and knows all things". (24:60).

Morality of the self and cleanliness of conscience are far better than the morality of the pardah (covering). No goodness can come from pretence. To say that men impose covering on women is the same as saying that they suspect their mothers, daughters, wives and sisters of being potential traitors to them. Muslim men meet non-Muslim women often who are not veiled and treat them respectfully, this has nothing to do with reasoning behind the choice to cover for Muslim women. It remains a personal choice based upon their individual Imaan (belief, faith)

Muslim women remained in mixed company with men until the late sixth century (A.H.) or 11 th century (CE). They received guests, held meetings and went to wars to help their brothers and husbands, and they defended their castles and bastions.

It is part of the growing feeling on the part of Muslim men and women that they no longer wish to identify with the West, and that reaffirmation of their identity as Muslims requires the kind of visible sign that adoption of conservative clothing implies.

For these women the issue is not that they have to dress conservatively, but that they choose to. In lran, Imam Khomeini first insisted that women must wear the veil and chador (full body covering), but in response to large demonstrations by women, he modified his position and agreed that while the chador is not obligatory, MODEST dress is. This has been adapted in most countries governed by Islamic Law.

There is a poem that I hold very dear, I feel that it describes me as a Muslim Woman very well;

I am a Muslim woman
by Jenn Zaghloul

I am a Muslim woman, Feel free to ask me why, When I walk,
I walk with dignity, When I speak I do not lie.
I am a Muslim woman, Not all of me you'll see. But what you should appreciate, Is that the choice I make is free.
I'm not plagued with depression, I'm neither cheated nor abused, I don't envy other women, And I'm certainly not confused.
Note; I speak perfect English, Et un petit peu de Francais aussi, I'm majoring in Linguistics So you need not speak slowly.
I run my own small business, Every cent I earn is mine, I drive my Chevy to school & work, And no, that's not a crime!
You often stare as I walk by, You don't understand my veil. But peace and power I have found, As I am equal to any male!

I am a Muslim woman, So please don't pity me! For God has guided me to truth, And now I'm finally free! (c)1999 Jenn Zaghloul

Indeed, all praises are due to Allah swt, we praise Him, seek His Aid and beg for His Forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil in our souls and from the bad consequences of our deeds. Whomever Allah guides, no one can lead that person astray and whomever Allah leads astray no one can guide that person. I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah Who is alone and without any partners and I bear witness that Muhammad (saws) is His slave and final Prophet and Messenger sent to mankind. And certainly the most perfect speech is the Speech of Allah and the finest guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (saws).

This article is not meant to serve as a fatwa (legal opinion) as I am not qualified to issue fatwas. I also need to make it clear that I don't follow a madhab (Islamic school of thought) and I respect the four imams just as much as I respect the scholars of today. I don't blindly follow the scholars, I follow the Quran and Sunnah that they follow. Whatever I have written that is true is from Allah alone while anything that is false is from myself and shaytan. May Allah forgive me and have mercy on me, ameen.  

Sadia Raheem Email Sadia

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Sadia Raheem is an Examiner from Miami. You can see Sadia's articles at: ""

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