In a news item, sometime back, Dr Zakir Naik is reported to have said, “Everyone has different levels of modesty. There were tennis players who wore long skirts and performed just as well. But personally, I support Sania Mirza as she prays five times a day, so the skirts she wears can be ignored.”
I admire the Dr. Naik and his speeches. But that should not mean that everything he says is sacrosanct. He is human after all, and prone to errors. Let us therefore examine his reported quote in Qur'anic light and see whether it is in conformity with the divine guidance. For, the Qur’an calls those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed as suppressors of Truth, oppressors and transgressors [verses 5.44, 5.45 and 5.47].
Allah has indeed given mankind the freedom, in this life, not to go by the way laid down in the Qur'an. By giving the freedom, Allah is only testing mankind. So is Sania being tested. If she fails the test, the responsibility for the consequences is entirely hers. But the matter of punishing her, for any breach of the divinely laid down dress code, lies with Allah. Since she comes from a country, and goes to such countries to play tennis, which have nothing against her dress in their penal codes, Muslims can do nothing legal to prevent her from wearing her short dress.
Nevertheless, since Sania Mirza has gained fame and wealth, she has become an icon, and her actions are liable to be copied by others. Other Muslim girls may think, if Sania can do it, why not they? Muslim scholars are therefore duty-bound to examine her actions, and publicly condemn them if they are against divine stipulations.
Verse 24: 31 clearly lays down that a woman should so cover her body as not to display its charm in public. She is moreover asked, in that verse, not to stamp her feet so as to reveal her hidden charm. As anyone can see, Sania, playing in full public glare with her short body-clinging dress, is clearly contravening those divine stipulations. Muslim scholars are duty-bound to bring this fact to the notice of all Muslims the world over, although they are in no position to prevent her from continuing to play thus.
In the circumstances, it is surprising that an eminent Islamic scholar like Dr Zakir Naik should say the skirts, Sania wears, can be ignored. She may be praying five times a day, but Allah condemns those who obey some divine stipulations, and disobey others [refer verse 2.85].
Mohammad Shafi Aga