Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Zil-Hijjah / Muharram 1423 H
March 2003
Volume 16-03 No : 195
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Opinion


Misconception about Purdah
What is the second Major Sin?


Misconception about Purdah

Those women who have to go out to earn for their families cannot afford adornment.
Almost all village women fall in this category.
That is why they never observed Purdah while working outside their homes, and the Ulema never objected.

By Prof. Rafiullah Shehab

The MMA’s (Pakistan) extraordinary election success has led to discussions of many Islamic issues. One of these is the concept of Purdah for a Muslim woman. It started when the MMA’s women legislators took oath with fully covered faces. This was fully supported by the MMA Ulema, giving the impression that it was the real Islamic Purdah. This viewpoint is not only against the clear injunction of the holy Quran but also cannot be justified even by weak Ahadith and jurists’ edicts. This misconception about Islamic Purdah is due to almost all our Ulema claiming that a woman’s real place is her house, to which she must be confined. The majority of feudals follow this advice in letter and spirit, never letting their women even peep out of their houses. If they have to come out in some emergency, they are covered from head to foot.

This viewpoint was supported by the MMA women members. However in our society, this Purdah is confined to urban women only. Rural women enjoy complete freedom to work outside their houses without observing this Purdah. Almost all go out of their homes unveiled and in most cases their houses have no walls. Apart from running their households, they often help their men-folk in sowing and reaping of crops. They also go to towns unveiled for shopping and selling their goods. Nobody, not even the conservative Ulema, ever objected to their roaming in urban markets and streets. When the Ulema’s attention was invited to this, they argued their Islamic status was like the slave women of earlier ages. As they had to work outside their houses, they were exempted from Islamic Purdah to the extent of not being allowed to cover their heads.

The holy Quran contains clear injunctions about Purdah. It speaks of Muslim society where men and women often meet each other. How the men and women have to behave during these meetings has been prescribed in Al-Noor: 30-31: ‘Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make far greatest purity for them. And Allah is well acquainted with all they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty and not display their adornment except what appears thereof.”

Have we ever reflected that if the face was covered, what was the need of lowering the gaze? The holy Prophet (Pbuh), while explaining this injunction exempted from Purdah women’s faces, hands up to wrists and feet, according to the Ahadith reported by Hazrat Ibne Abbas, Hazrat Qatada and Hazrat Miswar bin Makhrama. A Hadith reported by Hazrat Ayesha (RA) said that the holy Prophet had clarified that when a woman comes of age, she should cover her body except her face, feet and hands up to wrists. According to another Hadith reported by her, the holy Prophet told her sister Asma when she appeared before him in thin clothes through which her body could be seen: ‘O Asma, when a woman attain puberty, it is not proper that any part of her body should be seen except this and this,’ and he pointed out to his face and hands.”

Imam Qurtabi after quoting all these Ahadiths maintains that it is practically difficult for a woman to cover these parts of her body always. That is why Islam allowed her to offer her prayers in the mosque without covering these parts, while performing Hajj, or when they leave their houses for taking part in any fruitful activity. Imam Abu Yousuf issued his edict according to this observation of Imam Qurtabi and exempted women’s faces, feet and hands up to their wrists from Purdah. The incident of Hazrat Kaab bin Malik’s maid, who took his goats grazing, has greatly influenced the jurists about covering various parts of a woman’s body while going out of their houses. The maid went to the jungle alone and there looked after the animals’ grazing all day long. In this period she found it practically impossible to cover all parts of her body. This practical example guides that a woman can go out of her house anywhere alone and take part in any secular activity. This incident in Sahih Bukhari has agitated the jurists’ minds. Without any authority, they claimed she was a slave and then differentiated between the Purdahs of free and slave women. They exempted slave women even from covering their heads.

This differentiation between the Purdahs of free women and slaves created doubts about the real position of Islamic Purdah. Some jurists confined this injunction to the women of Quresh, others included all the women of Arabia. Imam Ibne Hazam refused to accept these views. He declared that Islam is one religion and the injunction about Purdah equally applies to all believing women, free or slave. Actually what emerges is not the difference between free women and slaves, but that between a woman with adornment and one without. Those women who have to go out to earn for their families cannot afford adornment. Almost all village women fall in this category. That is why they never observed Purdah while working outside their homes, and the Ulema never objected. Ulema in various countries allow women to go out of their homes and take part in fruitful activities.

The Islamic knowledge of the MMA’s women members can be judged from the fact that while they added to Islamic injunctions about Purdah, they wore gold bangles that were jingling and visible all the way.

Courtesy
Nation
Lahore
December 27, 2002.

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What is the second Major Sin?

Murder

Allah says : And if anyone kills a believer deliberately, his recompense his hell, to remain therein forever. And Allah anger will be upon him and His curse and a great punishment will be prepared for him (al-Nisa 4 : 93) Allah messanger said : “You must ever revert to infidelity after my death and cut of one another’s heads. Allah’s Messenger said : Beware, if any one kills a man who has made a covenant, whose life is guaranteed, by Allah and His messenger, He has broken Allah’s guarantee, and may not experiences the fragrance of the garden, yet its odour can be experienced at a distance of 50 year’s journey.

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News Community Roundup Editorial Readers Comments Men, Mission and Machines Muslim Perspectives Investigation Community Initiative Face To Face Women In Focus Book Review Children's Corner Photo Feature Quran Speaks to You Hadith Our Dialogue Religion Cross Fire - S. Abdullah Tariq Muharram Readers Right Living Islam Quran & Science Opinion Islam-My Way Of Life Matrimonial Jobs Archives Feedback Subscription Links Calendar Contact Us

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