As most readers of Communicating Across Boundaries know, since childhood I have known about the veil, whether it be the burqa or hijab. Many of my Pakistani Muslim friends wore the burqa, and I watched the hijab grow in popularity during our years in Egypt. I often defend this practice, feeling like the eyes and judgement of the west would best be turned inward rather than being a voice of disapproval toward a practice they know little about.
It was with shock however that I read an article sent to me by a friend on a recent fatwa (legal ruling) issued by a cleric in Saudi Arabia saying that babies should wear the face veil. ‘Burkas for Babies’ Saudi Cleric New Fatwa Causes Controversy
I immediately contacted one of my Muslim friends and asked her to guest post on her reaction to the article. This article is longer than usual but I urge you to read it – first off because many of you don’t know Muslims – you only know what you read in the newspapers or see on television. Second – I guarantee you will learn something and have a greater appreciation for a faith that may differ from your own.
|24:30||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.|
|24:31||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………..|
|33:59||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 and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.|
These are verses from the Quran. To understand these verses, we have to understand pre- Islamic, Arab society in Mecca. Mecca was the place of pilgrimage for the pre-Islamic polytheists, and Arabs from all over came here to worship, making it a very rich city. The Meccans were an arrogant people. Women and the poor were treated with little respect. Though men had wives and families, prostitution was rife. The rich noblemen visited prostitutes and when a son was born, they drew straws to claim the paternity of the child. Most newborn daughters were buried alive and women did not have any status whatsoever.
Into this scenario, Islam brought modesty and respect for women. Pre marital sex and adultery became crimes. It also established the girl child’s right to live. People were not allowed to kill their female babies. Earlier the Polytheist Arabs used to bury their daughters alive in the burning desert sands, post Islam their daughters had status. They could accept or reject proposals. They could also inherit half the property their brothers inherited, (this is because the money a girl inherits, is hers to spend. No one including her husband and children have any right to it. Moreover, she also receives her meher from her husband and he has to support her financially in every way. The brother on the other hand has to give the meher to his wife, support her from his income despite any wealth she has, support his children, any unmarried sisters and his widowed mother.) Therefore what the daughter receives compared to the son is fair and just. Men twist it to mean that a woman is less than a man in Islam, which is not true.
Islam also gave great emphasis to certain character traits, which had to be compulsorily developed in any Muslim, man and woman. Chief among these were modesty, humility, generosity, kindness, justice, fortitude and patience.
Many verses were revealed about these qualities. The verses which obligate modesty are the ones above among others from the Quran Chapter 24:30,31
Verse 30 exhorts men to lower their gaze and Verse 31 says the same to women. The verse for women goes further though, as it tells women to cover their bosoms and not to show their beauty and ornaments except what appears ordinarily, except to the men who are their mahram (close relatives one is not permitted to marry).
Ayat 59 in chapter 33, regarding the covering, was revealed when some women complained to the prophet of eve-teasing. Muslims lived in a mixed society much as they do now and as such it was a dress code that said “I am a modest believing woman”. Also any Muslim man would recognise a Muslim woman and protect her. A Muslim is certainly not supposed to molest her or make unseemly comments or passes. Nor, as per the previous verse, is he supposed to look with desire or lust upon a non-Muslim woman much less molest her.
There are those who say that women get molested because of the way they dress, but in Islam you are only responsible for your behaviour. When the Quran has told Muslim men they have to lower their gaze, then they have to lower their gaze, irrespective of how any woman is dressed. They are only responsible for their own gaze, not for any woman’s dress or lack of.
Men cannot take one verse and force it upon women and disregard another verse which relates to themselves. Islam simply doesn’t work that way. For all Muslims these are Divine decrees and not following any is a sin.
There are disagreements between those who interpret the verses of the Quran regarding the prescribed covering of women; according to the majority, hands and faces are not to be covered, while some insist that the woman has to be covered from head to toe. Covering though, does begin only after puberty. Women of Abrahamic faiths used to wear a robe and cover their hair in a scarf for millenniums, much as Muslim women do today.
No society or religion though, has ever asked babies to be covered. It is disgusting that a society that professes itself as religious, should in anyway, be so degenerate that innocent little babies are not safe from their lustful and depraved thoughts and actions. Looking at babies with sexual desire is so reprehensible, nobody can ever condone it. What happened to modesty and lowering of one’s gaze? Personally, I believe very strongly in the hijab of the mind.
There are some questions I am asking myself? Does a baby go out on its own? No, of course not! A baby can only go out when it is accompanied by an adult, usually the mother. In this case, how does a baby, which is accompanied by someone close to it, get molested outside the house? So where has this baby been molested and by whom and if it is someone close to it, even someone who by every law is its protector, then how would covering it up, help?
The question of health too occurs to me. Lack of Vitamin D is very common in many countries among women who are either housebound or then cover themselves completely. How would the bones of a child develop if they were covered from head to toe when they were outside? How would a growing child play and enjoy all the things that is a child’s right by the innocence of their nature, to enjoy? I follow my religion because it makes a lot of sense to me and when something goes against nature’s design, which I only think of as God’s Design and Plan, then it doesn’t make sense to me. Covering any human being up in a way that will deprive them of their nutritional and health needs doesn’t make sense to me.
Instead of bundling women and children and even babies, should not some way be found instead to control the lusts of men, which are not just uncontrolled, but crossing every limit of decency? Shouldn’t the protectors of faith see to it that the right teachings are received by Muslim men, so that as believing men such a thought doesn’t even enter their heads.
Instead of punishing women by pushing them behind burqas, even the Quran has not prescribed for them and punishing babies, why don’t these learned protectors of faith, find a way to teach the men who practice these pervert acts that go against the laws of God, Nature, and man the right religion?
The writer of this post is a poet, photographer, and contemplator of life. She blogs at Weaving Tapestries.
- Burqas for babies (freethoughtblogs.com)
- Muslim cleric calls for babies to wear burqas (radio.woai.com)
11 thoughts on “Guest Post – A Response to “Burqas for Babies””
Thank you for sharing such a clear and articulate post on the broader and often-misunderstood topic of modesty. This helps me better understand where Muslims are coming from on the subject.
thanks for sharing your friend’s obviously thought out and sincere response ~ wouldn’t it be wonderful if her writings were paid attention to by those in power?
Thank you for reading Carol :).
I second what others have written here in response to a compassionate, knowledgable and illuminating guest post. I’m grateful to you, WeavingTapestries, for communicating so articulately and so respectfully across the boundaries of ignorance that exist when we don’t know or understand that which is different. My gratitude to you! And while I am troubled by a fatwah urging that babies be fully covered and for reasons you offered here, I am aware that the veil is meaningful and important to many women who wear it. I am the child of Irish immigrants here in the US, and I pray for the universal development of the characteristic of Mercy expected of Muslims. May it be so for all people, of all faiths, everywhere.
I’ll say Amen to your prayer. We so need Mercy in this world. God has certainly filled human hearts with this divine quality and practising it, takes us closer to Him. The only problem is that it is buried deep under selfishness, but If we allow it to, it will certainly overflow.
Thank you so much for such a great post! I was fascinated with the historical and Koranic perspective you outlined. Thank you for taking the time to cover the issue so thoroughly.
My favourite line you wrote was, “I believe very strongly in the hijab of the mind”. So much of what we do, how we act, what choices we make comes from our minds. Our minds must be guided and guarded by God himself. The character traits that are so important to Muslims, as well as to many others—mercy, modesty, humility, generosity, kindness, justice, fortitude and patience–these begin in our minds, in our souls, in our hearts.
I wasn’t aware of this issue, that of Burqas for Babies….but I commend these religious leaders to you WeavingTapestries. These leaders need to remember the basics that you so gently reinforce. It’s time for them to put on the hijab of the mind and with it mercy, kindness, and justice. I ache for these little girls who’s freedom and innocence, frivolity and mischief will be hidden by a black cloth.
Thank you again for such a brilliant passionate piece.
Thank you for reading Robynn. Of course every action originates as a thought and it is important to keep the mind clean and pure, difficult though it may be. In Islam the ‘Neeyaa’ or neeyat as they say in Urdu, which means intention, is all important.
Character traits important to Muslims are universal. I forgot another very important one which is righteousness. Thoughts words and deeds have to be based upon righteousness.
I know it will not come to burqas for babies, as it is only one man’s idea and it has been frowned upon by many, but I would not put it past some men, to force their little ones into it. Just hope it doesn’t come to that, for certainly no baby can develop without a healthy dose of Vit D. Just the thought of it is so painful.
What is more painful though, is the thought of these innocent wee things suffering molestation. Sometimes the evil in the world is just too painful to bear. I know that most of the society there is very God conscious and moral but even if one child is hurt, it is one too many.
Thanks for the invite Marilyn and thank you Debby and Helena for reading. I just wanted to add ‘Mercy’ also to the other important characteristics Muslims have to develop. There are others but mercy is very important because through it, we learn to be kind to others and also to forgive.
I also wanted to say something more here, I am not condemning a society or people for being lustful, indecent or out of control, what I am addressing is a particular cleric’s, particular fatwa and his reasons for passing it.
“The Sheikh tried to back his assertion with claims of sexual molestation against babies in the kingdom, quoting unnamed medical and security sources”.
My condemnation in this post, of the society, is based on that.
I also appreciated the history and while I was reading, started having the same thoughts that your guest arrived at at the end, greater education for the men is necessary rather than imposing yet again another restriction on others.
Thank you so much for providing this guest post. It was great to see the verses pertaining to this as well as getting some history. Very interesting and helpful.