Hijab is a choice, not a symbol of subservience

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By Abdul Sattar Shaik 

Further to the flippant remarks of “Education institutions becoming religious centers” made by the education minister of Karnataka” concerning the six girls who are protesting for their right to wear a Hijabs at the pre-university college campus in the district of Udupi. The drama that is being unfolded here, has caught the attention of national and Internation media, where the college authorities are relentless to allow the girls to wear the Hijab and continue their education at college since they consider the Hijab as a religious symbol and not within the code of uniform which the college adheres to.

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The issue needs to be looked at from the point of view of, what are the limitations, and to what extent educational institutions like schools and colleges who have a code of uniform can decide, what is permissible to wear and what’s not permissible? Since the constitution of India guarantees every citizen the right to wear what they wish to, as per their choice. But, does it imply that one can wear a bikini to the college, and how appropriate would it be to wear one at a place where one undergoes education?

On this purview, education institutions have every right and authority to mandate a code of uniform that doesn’t altercate the conducive atmosphere of the school where a certain decorum is to be followed by the students who study there. Especially those educational institutions like the Pre-University college of Udupi, who are apprehensive about pupils wearing an outfit of their choice based on the pretext of freedom of choice.

Throughout the colonial period; which also brought English education to the subcontinent, there were hardly any institutions that imposed any uniform on the pupils, that compromised their religious obligations. They were freely allowed to come in their traditional outfits as per their customs since in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like India it was too superficial to impose a dress code which the British understood.

The Hijab on the other hand is an obligation on Muslim women ordered in the Quran, that represents an embodiment of modesty and piety. And a majority of Muslim women wear it as part of their religious obligations. Like a nun who would wear a scarf over her head and how the Sikh women and men wear a turban as part of their faith, and how a sadhu who remains covered with a piece of cloth barely covering his torso.

What education institutions are failing to understand is, if someone goes above the bar of what they have set as a code of uniform; is not breaching the bar. But it’s rising above the bar with merit. Suppose the school instructs that a girl student must wear something that covers her from neck to feet and if tomorrow the girl covers her head along with those set of instructions given by the school, it doesn’t imply that she is breaching the code of uniform. There is something that we always categorize as “Above expectations” in every institution, which the hijab perfectly fits in this category, fulfilling every nuance of modesty.

The educational institutions do not have any right to reprimand the pupil for wearing a Hijab on the pretext of breaching the code of uniform of their institution. Rather they should be silencing those fellow pupils who want to compete and challenge the idea of Hijab stating: If they have the right to wear a Hijab, we have the right to wear anything of their choice as well. The educational institutions should completely support the idea of girls wearing Hijab at schools and colleges because the Hijab is within the spirit of the constitutional laws.

In situations where the education institutions feel that students are abusing the right of choice to wear anything that they wish by challenging the code of uniform of the educational institutions. then the courts should decide what is more appropriate for wearing and what can be classified as modest by the institutions. Since many institutions have their own bar of modesty and no commonality or definition to define what modesty is.

1 COMMENT

  1. The burqa is not a part of Islam but an element of Pre-Islamic Jahiliat Arab culture.
    There is a great difference between Muslims and Islam recited by Gabriel and preached by Mohd, what you see today is corruptions introduced by the Islamic caliphate post death of Mohammed.

    Yet still it is claimed by todays Muslim that the wearing of it is a part of Quranic teaching, this is lies of Muslims.

    The source of Islam is the Quran rather than Muslim culture. Muslim culture is a social phenomenon or corruption which has adopted arab pre Islamic Jahiliat doctrines.

    The word ‘burqa’ was in use in Arabia before the advent of Islam in the first quarter of the seventh century. At that time the word ‘burqa’ meant a piece of clothing that was used as a protection, especially in winters. The well-known Arabic dictionary Lisan al-Arab gives us two examples of its use during the pre-Islamic period: the first, as a cover for animals during the winter season and the second, as a covering chaadar, like a shawl for village women. Although the word ‘burqa’ existed in the Arabic vocabulary at that time, the Quran did not use the word ‘burqa’ for women’s purdah.

    History shows that the present veil or burqa first came into vogue in Persia. When Islam entered Persia, a complete civilisation was already in existence there. Many things were introduced into Islamic culture from the Persian culture. For instance, the word Khuda instead of Allah, the word Namaz instead of Salat. Similarly under the influence of Iranian culture burqa was adopted by Muslims. Gradually it was Islamised and became a part of Muslim culture.

    At present Muslims use the term ‘hijab’ as equivalent to ‘burqa’ but the word ‘hijab’ is likewise not used in the Quran in this sense. ‘Hijab’ literally means curtain. ‘Hijab’ is used in the Quran seven times, but not in the sense that is prevalent among the Muslims today, that is, it is used in its literal sense of ‘curtain’ .

    Regarding women’s purdah, two words have been used in the Quran: jilbab (33:59) and khimar (24:31). But again these words are not used in their present connotation. It is a fact that both words have a similar meaning, that is, chaadar or duppatta, that covers the body of a woman and not her face. So it is very clear that the present ‘burqa’ or ‘hijab’ are not Quranic terms; both are part of Muslim culture and not part of Quranic commandments.

    According to the Hanafi and Maaliki School of fiqh, three parts of a woman are exempted from satr (body covering ). These three are wajh, kaffain, and qadmain. That is, face, hands and feet. According to the Shariah, women are required to cover their body with clothing which is not tight fitting and not meant to attract others. (Chapter 24, verse 31, Tafsir Usmani)

    It is noteworthy that the well-known Arab scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Naasiruddin al-Albani , clearly endorses the above-mentioned position of the Shariah in his book on this subject, Hijab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah fil Kitab was-Sunnah (The Veil of a Muslim Woman). He goes on to say that it is clear from the Quran, the Hadith and the practice of the companions and the tabiun (companions of the Prophet’s companions) that, whenever a woman steps out of her home, it is incumbent upon her to cover herself completely so as not to show any part of her body except the face and the hands.
    The religion of Islam focuses on spirit rather than on form. It lays emphasis on pious thinking and value-based character. According to Islam, Muslims must purify themselves in terms of ethics. Muslim women must develop themselves in terms of spirituality; they must develop their own feminine personality rather than imitate men and must play a constructive role in society rather than become objects of entertainment.
    During the Prophet’s time, Muslim women were active in different fields, such as agriculture, horticulture and social work. But at the same time, they constantly preserved their feminine character. In the early history of Islam there are many such incidents which show that a woman has equal freedom as that of man. In this respect there is no difference between the two. A woman enjoys the same freedom as a man in Islam . Islamic literature mentions some pious women who have played a highly creative role in their society, like Hajira , the wife of the Prophet Abraham; Mariam, the mother of Jesus Christ; Khadija, the wife of the Prophet of Islam; Aishah, the wife of the Prophet of Islam. These women, accepted as models in the society of believers, are good examples for the women of today.

    In conclusion, I would like to add two relevant references: One from the Quran and the second from the Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet). The Quran refers to men and women in these words: “You are members one of another” (3:195). This means that men and women, although created different in gender, are complementary to each other. Let us take the other reference. The Prophet of Islam said: “Men and women are two equal halves of a single unit.” (Musnad Ahmad) This is the best expression of gender equality.

    To understand the prevalence of Hijab in Muslim society in the present times it is necessary to keep in mind that there is a difference between Islam and Muslims. Islam is a name of an ideology while Muslims are a community which has its own culture, which keeps changing owing to various circumstances.

    Another thing Quran also instructs same purdah for men why dont men then where the Burqa why they only force women to wear Hijab and Burqa.

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