Friday, May 27, 2011

The Ethics of Islamic Veil

In his Friday Sermon of 20 May 2011, Hadhrat Khalifatullah Munir Ahmad Azim (atba) of Mauritius spoke at length about the question of gender equality in the social order. Based on his deep insight, the Khalifatullah rejects the western notion that Islamic veil seeks to seclude women at the cost of her individual freedom and spiritual identity. He explains the profound moral precepts of Islam that seeks to promote family values and maintain a complex balance in gender relations in society- while restraining unhindered mixing of men and women, it does promote healthy interactions across the gender divide by observing the Islamic norms. He calls for abundant caution in the pursuit of addressing “any weakness (or) immoderation in the system” and asserts that the system is essentially rooted on the principles of “justice and equity, balance and proportion”.

Read the extracts from the Friday Sermon:

"...Islam permits women to work alongside with men, but only after having firmly instituted the Pardah. We must bear in mind also that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his Ummah: 'Go and seek (knowledge of) half of your Deen with this red-headed lady (that is, Aisha)'.

Thus, men and women, both of them are instructed by the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) to question Hazrat Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) concerning their religion, and Hazrat Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) had the duty as an Ummul’ Mumineen (Mother of the faithful) and as a guardian of the teachings of Allah to give such details of how to live one’s life to all the Ummah (be them men and women), and when she taught them, she always observed the Pardah; be it from behind a veil (a curtain), with the men one one side of the veil, and her on the other side, or she dressed herself correctly and veiled herself like Allah instructed in the Quran and addressed the men.

The effect of wearing the veil and observing Pardah is one of security, safety, honour and contentment. The true Muslim women (not Muslims by name only) lead a chaste, virtuous, exalting and respectable life rather than of dissatisfaction and discontentment. Islam has afforded her the happy home and peaceful life. They are free from worry and competition with men in the field and securing employment in the factories and business-centres. Thus they enjoy reverence and genuine domestic peace. The high fever of ever-changing fashion and passion for leading sensuous and luxurious life does not trouble her.

Islam is not only a true religion but also a social order, which enables the individuals to attain the cherished goal of material happiness and welfare in the present world and to prepare them for the next world through righteousness and virtuous deeds. The manifold blessings of Islam are inseparable from beauty of mind and strength of character. Islam is the infallible guide in the moral life and saves its followers from sinking into lower propensities and moral degeneration. On the contrary it enables the individual to attain real greatness of character and heights of spiritual life.

Islam never favours woman’s seclusion in any extravagant form. Seclusion or the Islamic veil system is defined as throwing a decent wrapper over the body from head to foot, and it is clear, that in this sense, it is not incompatible with a woman’s stepping beyond the threshold of the house, particularly when occasion demands, and when she obtains the consent of her husband or guardian.

Certain restrictions have, doubtless, been imposed on the freedom of her movements, as I have shown earlier. But this is due as much to moral considerations as to the fact, which has been so often ignored, that woman’s proper sphere of action and influence is her own house. Man, to go out with a view to earn a living for himself, his wife, and children; and the woman free from such cases, to remain at home, in order to watch over the trust committed to her, and to discharge her own responsibilities, as a mother and a wife – such is the Islamic conception of the relation between the two sexes.

Now the real Pardah of Islam along with the social system for whose protection laws of Pardah have been enjoined is before you. The various pillars of the system in harmony with which the pillar of Pardah has been provided are also before you. Man (and woman) has also been acquainted with the scientific facts on which this social system has been based. All people in different religions may examine these closely and point out any weakness, any immoderation in the system. They may also consider where in the system a reform may possibly be made on purely scientific ground, apart from the trends of a particular section of the people.

I assert on the basis of my insight that this system is based on the same principles of justice and equity, balance and proportion which one finds operating in the structure and order of earth and the universe, the atom and the solar system. This system is wholly free from excess and one-sidedness which is the inevitable weakness of human works. Man cannot return and improve it. If he tries to effect even the slightest alteration in it by use of his defective intellectual powers, he will upset its balance instead of reforming it".