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.