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The Islamic Veil: Ethics and Prudence

Continuing the series of sermons on women’s struggle for dignity, identity and equality in society and the larger Islamic teachings that provide a framework to address these complex questions, in his Friday Sermon of 23 August 2013, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius provides illuminating guidance on the ethics and prudence of the Islamic veil as a moral choice for women (and men). 

Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

O children of Adam! We have indeed bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment.” (7: 27).

 “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves (part) of their outer garments. This is the best way for them to be recognized and not be abused. And Allah is really Most-Forgiving and Most-Merciful.” (33: 60)

 “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment...” (24: 32)

The ISLAMIC VEIL has always been the subject of debate in several countries which is said to be modern with liberal thoughts. The West and countries adopting European cultures around the world see the Muslim woman as a prisoner and without having any dignity, just by the way they dress, the way they cover themselves from head to toe.

As we have seen last week in my Friday Sermon (on 16 August 2013), women in Western countries still lead the struggle to regain a semblance of dignity and equality with men; Dignity and equality that Islam has since long already granted them since its advent. Unfortunately, while perceiving Islam as a religion that stifles women in long dresses, the so-called modern woman lost dignity and the true sense of the value of a woman and the dignity/modesty which is her true identity. However, if she focuses on both the history and the lives of pious women before Islam, she will observe that the veil, that dressing from head to toe was the identity of the woman, not as a hindrance for her freedom but that modest/pure dressing up (covering her body well) is her true identity. The example of the Virgin Mary (Hazrat Mariam (May Allah be pleased with her)) is a most accurate example. If women in general, regardless of their religious affiliation follow the example of the Virgin Mary, then they will be identified with the Muslim woman as Mary (May Allah be pleased with her) plays the role of the perfect woman in her piety, purity and modest, moral and spiritual dress.

Unfortunately, the liberal way of dressing of the people in the West attracts people more and therefore modest clothing has lost its place in society. This is this same freedom that is the root of adultery and infidelity and ungodliness among women. See for yourself the moral level of the countries that have encouraged this freedom. Is this freedom and renunciation to wear the veil contributed to their progress in the path of chastity? The pious Muslim woman, who is preserver of her modesty, of her body stands up to the world community to demonstrate the beauty of the teachings of Islam through the clothing that God has granted her. Alhamdulillah.

As for the men of the so-called modern and liberal society, they have become like horses without flanges, they fear neither God nor believe in the Day of Judgement. They love the pleasures of this world. So how to change this petty perception which they have of the woman on her way to dress modestly without attracting the languid gaze of men towards her?

For that the moral condition of men must first have to be corrected, for many problems, if not most, are related to the immorality of men. The Holy Quran, whose guidelines take into accounts all requests and weaknesses of human nature, teaches us a very noble settlement: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty. This will purify their souls.” (24: 31).

Hazrat Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The lack of modesty in a person makes him ugly.” A person–whether a woman or a man, is ugly when he is shameless. People who are engaged in despicable occupations have a disgusting and despicable appearance. Similarly, women who lose their modesty because of some of their movements gradually become less attractive.

The Promised Messiah Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (upon him be peace) meanwhile has shown symptoms of the disease and put his finger on the root of the problems. If the reform of men is made and if the women feel safe in their companies, that is to say, they (that is, these men) can dominate their passions, at that moment we could discuss whether women should adopt the ‘Pardah’ or not. For the moment, and this since the revelation of the Quran is an ideal that every Muslim and every human in general must struggle to achieve.

The Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised the woman to protect herself from the eyes of men, except those authorized by Allah, like her husband, her father and so on, and that she preserves her innocence through covering herself well before leaving the house for some work or need.

Women not protected by decent clothing are like baits for the vicious ones. In the current circumstances the freedom to reveal her body would be to like to introduce sheep to the lions.

The Promised Messiah Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (upon him be peace) said: “For smart people it is very clear that most human actions are influenced by his soul instigator to evil. Men are so carried away by their passions that they forget the wrath of Allah. Where they see pretty young women, they do not hesitate to throw bad looks on them. Also there are women who, under the influence of their bad relationships, set their sights on men.”

The spirit of ‘Pardah’ encompasses both chastity and honesty. Whether you are a man and woman you must care for your chastity and teach it to your children. In fact, this high moral quality is a shield against sin. Surely the Islamic Pardah is modesty. If you protect your modesty, the angels of God will remove you from all forms of evil and sin as the best ‘Pardah’ is based on modesty and self-esteem. If you protect your modesty, your sense of living in harmony with the commandments of Allah, then Allah will be your protector against the satanic temptation which is always there to make you deviate body and soul from Allah.

But when it comes to life or death, so do not hesitate by modesty. Hesitation would result in shame or loss of modesty. In fact to any rule there are exceptions which Allah quite understands. Here, the sense of shame is totally different. In a time when all other men give their lives in times of war or jihad, if someone chooses to retreat from it because of a so-called ego, then at this moment his conduct is despicable and shameful.

So the sense of self-esteem should be understood according to the circumstance. Children should not be educated in order to make them timid or cowardly. They must not fall back in front of their responsibilities. They must be willing to fully participate in charitable activities. It is a defect to hesitate to take part in a good cause. So mothers need to teach the true meaning of dignity and self-esteem in their children, that is to say the legitimate pride in the right actions and shame and repugnance for the wrong deeds. Thus, the ‘Pardah’ will then establish by itself.

It is easy to identify women and girls who observe the Islamic ‘Pardah’. They have a quiet manner, are at ease and full of dignity. As against them, the behaviour of some women and girls is shocking. Girls aged ten or twelve years or those (girls and women who are) older, they do not hesitate to shake hands with foreign men. It is amazing that at this age ‘Pardah’ has not yet been explained and introduced to them. They are attracted by the lifestyle of others and this vanity and ostentation that they show today are likely to make them become the hopeless women without dignity and self-esteem of tomorrow.

The European trend and perception of freedom have permeated drastically the women in Islam. Attractions posed by this so-called freedom, which is in fact the Satanic work at work, ways and means which Satan does not hesitate to find to divert people from Allah’s path, give Muslim women nowadays vain perception of freedom which they unfortunately find attractive. They then choose to follow the approach of the liberal woman who shamelessly offers herself in a lawless and faithless world. But the truly devout women, they are the preservers of the Quranic laws, and whatever happens, they make efforts to establish the laws of God and to obey them (that is to say, the laws of God) while dealing with men on a daily basis, whether at their workplaces and public places.

So the sense of modesty should be inculcated from early childhood. Sometimes it happens that a lady taken unawares is forced to shake hands with a man and she does so swiftly while disgusting the gesture. This is understandable. But it is not proper to take pleasure to shake hands here and there, with just anybody because it is fashionable. This practice destroys modesty and shame of our society.

Insha-Allah, I will continue on the same subject next Friday. May Allah help us, men and women to keep the Islamic Pardah, whether physical, moral and spiritual, Let us become true examples of modesty and chastity so that Allah may be pleased with us, and we walk slowly toward building a world that respects men and women as equals and who guard their chastity for a pure generation until the Day of Judgement. Insha-Allah, Ameen.


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