By Aazeen F. Kirmani
On Feb 9th 2022, the Times of India published an article by Zeenat Shaukat Ali, titled : Is wearing of hijab mandated by religion? Since the writer is the Director-General of Wisdom Foundation and has found mention in other places as a scholar of Islam one expected that the article would be a wisely written scholarly piece. Upon focused reading however it turned out that the article is not just ridden with factual errors , it also contains forty nine words directly copy pasted from Wikipedia. That our esteemed scholar was able to pull this day light robbery and the equally esteemed newspaper serving it on a platter (along with factual errors) to its readers speaks volumes about the credibility and validity of both.
The very first allegation made by Zeenat Shaukat Ali in the article is that ” Muslim scholarship has been negligent in setting the record straight on whether the Quran stipulates this form of dress or not.”
The difference of opinion among Islamic jurists is only in regard to the covering of face and hands. Some jurists include hands and face in a woman’s awra (parts that need to be covered) while some jurists do not include face and hand in awra. As for covering of the rest of the female body along with the head there is complete unanimity among the jurists and the record has been set straight centuries ago. Therefore, to allege Islamic scholars’ negligence in this area proves that the writer has never undertaken a detailed study of the topic she chooses to write about in a national level newspaper.
Further in the article Zeenat Shaukat Ali asks if ” a battle needs to be at all fought on the hijab issue where young, impressionable women are hostages to the dictation of clerics on the one hand and pawns to facilitate male patriarchy on the other?”
This I must say is the narrowest and possibly the most dishonest way of presenting the situation. Here the writer is suggesting that the protesting hijabi girls are victims to dictations of clerics and pawns in the hands of patriarchy. To put the blame on clerics and patriarchy is audacious. These students are victims of a fascist regime which is ruthlessly waging a battle against the Muslim identity. Covering up is the command of God ( remember, there is complete consensus of jurists on this) and the girls are fighting for the right to practice what they believe their God has commanded them to practice – a perfectly legitimate demand to make in a secular country. I would ask the self appointed saviours of Muslim women to sit down and take a deep breath. Terms like ‘hostages’ and ‘pawn’ do not suit young women who have refused to so much as flinch from their position even when their personal safety and educational future are both at stake.
Later in the article Zeenat Shaukat Ali has argued that “Prophet Mohammad recommended modesty and decency in appearance and dress. But to suppose that his recommendations enjoined a cloistered uniform for women in the present, is wholly opposed to the spirit of his reforms”
The above paragraph suggests that the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) brought about the reforms in a personal capacity and made the recommendations about the modesty and decency in his personal capacity. A clever selection of words seems to be the most remarkable talent the scholar of Islam Zeeenat Shaukat Ali has.
She has conveniently overlooked the fact that for believing and practising Muslims the recommendations of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) are the recommendations of God Himself. I am not a scholar and I depend on authentic Islamic scholars and jurists for my understanding and practice of Islam. One of the greatest authorities of Islamic jurisprudence is Hazrat Aisha (RA). If one truly cares about what the Holy Quran says about modesty and how the female companions of the Prophet (PBUH) brought the Quranic injunctions into practice one only needs to look at the life of Hazrat Aisha (RA).
In the final lap of her article Zeenat Shaukat Ali has written about the Muslim – majority countries that have banned hijab. In doing so she has copy pasted full forty-nine words from Wikipedia. To top it she changed the word niqab to hijab and ended up making her scholarly piece factually incorrect. About Tunisia her article says that it is “among the Muslim majority countries which have banned the hijab in public schools and universities or government buildings.”
However, Tunisia does not have a ban on Hijab but only on niqab – the face veil.
Zeenat Shaukat Ali has not only sought to undermine the struggle of the brave young female students of Karnataka she has also done a great disservice to the cause of Muslim women and Islam both.
However I as a hijabi Muslim woman remain confident that we are too many and too headstrong to be defeated at the hands of a fascist regime or pseudo scholars.