Purdah and Veiling

Veil is an Islamic Commandment

22 The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 Today you have gathered here to hold your Ijtima, today being its concluding day. These Ijtimas are held for the purpose of providing an opportunity to Ahmadi ladies and girls to sit together for religious education and training by listening to educational and reformative speeches and instructions so that they may overcome their inner weaknesses. Younger and older girls may also get the opportunity, along with reformation, to further enhance their educational prowess by participating in various educa- tional activities. Here a specific environment is provided in which they may identify more and better ways for their improvement and ponder over this matter. The future generation of a nation is never wasted nor does it ever experience decline when little girls, older girls and ladies gather at a location for the sole purpose that being in a purely religious and spiritual environment, they wish to participate in pro- grammes and wish to spend time and actually do spend time. In the current time, if any woman joins an assembly purely for the sake of Allah, for these virtuous objectives, it is the Ahmadi woman. Therefore, always be mindful of this status of yours. Benefit from the educational and spiritual repast that you have obtained from here and are still obtaining; for in it lies your salvation, in it is the salvation of your next generations and in it is the honour and salvation of your families. Veil is an Islamic Commandment English rendering of an address by the Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, given at the Annual Lajna Imaillah UK 2006 Ijtima (gathering) rendered into English by Shermeen Butt. 23The Review of Religions – January 2007 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT One should never be selfish and only concerned about oneself, one’s own needs, and one’s own feelings. Rather one should also be concerned about others and should make sacrifices for the needs of others. One should also consider the feelings of others and not just be aware of one’s own honour, but instead always be mindful of the honour of one’s family and the community. One should also be always mindful that ‘my’ God is All- Seeing, Who watches over me at all time, that I have an All- Knowing, All-Aware God Whose deep sight has knowledge of my inner-most recesses. He is aware of everything about me and that is why nothing can stay hidden from Him. He has sight of everything and He is aware of everything, He is aware of every single moment of mine, be it overt or covert. So when you declare that you are an Ahmadi Muslim woman, you should always be mindful that you need to constantly focus on those matters that Allah the Exalted conveyed to us through His beloved Prophet Muhammad(saw) If ever, for any reason, we lapse in remembering these matters, then, whenever we are reminded of them, we should respond in the manner that God’s good people do, about whom Allah the Exalted states: And those who, when they are reminded of the Signs of their Lord, fall not deaf and blind thereat. (Ch.25:Vs.74) Certainly an Ahmadi woman, who has a core of goodness in her heart that has so far kept her firm on Ahmadiyyat and who is a personification of sincerity, who has a devotion for faith, who has a connection of love and affection with the Ahmadiyya Khilafat, does not respond like the deaf and the blind when she is advised and counselled providing that she is a true Ahmadi – and this is what is expected of each Ahmadi when she is advised. So, as I have just said the outlook of each Ahmadi should be that she has have to focus on the matters that Allah 24 The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT and His Prophet(saw) have taught us. In this is the identity and dignity of a believer. You make your pledge but always be mindful of this pledge. When the Holy Prophet(saw) took the pledge of allegiance from women, he included some additional matters for women in it compared to the pledge of allegiance by men. This is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an where it draws attention to avoid shirk (associating partners with Allah) and avoid wickedness, it draws attention towards moral training of children and it is stated: …nor disobey thee in what is right…(Ch.60:Vs.13) There is no compulsion by Allah the Exalted that the pledge should be taken from everyone. However, if they become Muslim then it is obligatory to abide by the conditions that are essential for coming into the fold of Islam. The Promised Messiah(as) also enjoined the same to women whenever taking the pledge of allegiance from them. It may cross someone’s mind that ‘we are free’, especially in this environment, in today’s society everywhere. Well, remember that you are free up to a limit. However, as far as the commandments of the Shariah are concerned, you are not free. If you have joined the com- munity then you are bound, in any case, by the conditions, which are essential for an Ahmadi. You see, in the time of the Holy Prophet(saw) when these ladies took the pledge of allegiance the society was totally free. It had no rule of law and exceeded the present age in vices. There was a lack of education; there were just a handful of people educated to an elementary level. There was no concept of the existence of God, they only knew idols. They had no idea of an All Seeing, All- Knowing and All-Aware God. However, when they took the pledge of allegiance they brought about a revolution in their lives. Having come out of the darkness of ignorance and having gained 25The Review of Religions – January 2007 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT knowledge, it was a woman who became the means of spreading the light of knowledge. Fulfilling all the requisites of pardah (veil), matters of faith were taught to the high and the mighty and this seal of authority was attained from the Holy Prophet(saw) when he said that if you wish to acquire one half of the knowledge of faith, learn it from Ayesha. History mentions a lady by the name of Hadhrat Khaula who set an example in the battlefield. Maintaining the sanctity of her pardah (veil), she displayed great courage and bravery and freed her imprisoned brother from the Roman army. When Madinah was attacked by the disbelievers, the men dug up a ditch and thus protected the town. The women took the responsibility of the protection of the homes and when the Jews sent one of their men to spy and find out from which direction they could attack, no man came to contend with this spy, but it was a woman who thrashed him, tied him up and threw him out. When the Muslims retreated in the Battle of Uhud, it was the women who played an exemplary role for the honour of the faith and for the love of the Holy Prophet(saw). They were a model of sincerity. This bravery, courage, knowledge and sincer- ity was inspired by following the teaching of Islam and by practising it in their daily lives. Therefore, always remember that if you selflessly adopt the teaching of your faith and try and follow all the commandments of Allah, and concentrate on the worship of Allah, honour of faith and sincerity will be inculcated in you and you will be free from all sorts of complexes. If you do not, then having submerged yourself in the razzle-dazzle of this world you will be lost like materialistic people. So, just as the women of the time of the Holy Prophet(saw) brought about a revolution in themselves in that they became true Muslims, became muminaat (believing women), became qanitaat (obedient women), became ta’ibaat (women who are 26 The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT pure and chaste), became abidaat (devout women who worship Allah); you too have to follow in their footsteps and in following in their footsteps you will have to adhere to the teaching of Islam. If you do not adhere to it then you cannot be acknowledged as Muslims. If you do not strengthen your faith and do not protect yourself from the ills of the society then you cannot be called muminaat (believers). If you do not set high examples of obedience then you cannot be called qanitaat and if you do not focus on worship of God at all time, then you cannot be called ta’ibaat and abidaat. Therefore self-reflect on what you claim and what you actually do, carry out some self- assessment. Always have the objective of the creation of man in the forefront of your mind. Seeking of Allah’s pleasure should be your goal, set out great big targets and goals for yourself; identify those high objectives that you need to move towards. Once you have big targets in sight, you will truly endeavour to reach them. Mothers should reflect on and assess themselves; in this way you can improve yourself as well as reform the next generation and can morally train them in a good manner. Today society is attacking Islam from all directions; today each Ahmadi little girl, each older girl and each woman needs to actively participate in its defence just as the women of earlier times did. Otherwise you will be held accountable over what you did about the task that was entrusted to you and as to your claims and your actions. Today Islam is being attacked with reference to women. The great issue that is being raised these days is that of hijab, scarf or burqa. No matter what lengths men go to in order to explain and clarify why there is pasrdah (veil) in Islam, no matter how many justifications they present, if anyone can rightly and correctly respond to this, it is a practising and pious Ahmadi woman. So, rather than being entangled in any sort of complex, convey this like a courageous Ahmadi woman to your surroundings and your society with your practice and in practical terms and rationale, saying that this Qur’anic commandment is for our respect and is there to restore our esteem and is not an imprisonment. Note the state of these people! On the one hand they object against Islam that it compels and is harsh and on the other hand they themselves interfere in the personal matters of others. If a woman wishes to take a [head] scarf, wishes to wear hijab, what problem do they have? Currently the majority of Muslim women who have not accepted the Promised Messiah(as), with no practical remnants of faith, do not observe pardah (veil). Islam does not penalise them in any way, there is no law to punish them. However, what right have people of other religions to opine that laws should be made against the observance of pardah (veil), of [head] scarf, head covering of those who do so in compliance with religious teaching? They may say in future that your attire is not quite right, do not wear shalwar and kameez, wear dresses or jeans or a long skirt or something like that, because we have an objection. Then there will be further objection and they could say wear shorter dresses, wear mini skirts and then finally go naked. These people have no right to trifle with the honour of any woman. It is you who have to respond to them in that. Who are they to interfere in the private matters of others? It should be conveyed to them that this too is a matter of denying one’s freedom. One’s clothes are a personal matter. Why are they trying to deny one the freedom of choice of clothes? However, as they are in government and have power and are in authority, they consider their unwarrantable and foolish point of view as great wisdom. Be prepared! The Ahmadi woman has to maintain her honour as well as respond to each of such objections. 27 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – January 2007 Why do some women, despite being Ahmadis, suffer from some complex or the other? Someone has informed that a woman said that if my daughter does not wear a scarf or wears jeans and other such clothes, do not say anything to her, she is most decent. How is she decent? She does not befriend boys, she is independent and knows what is good for her and what is not. Well, this is tantamount to damaging the moral training of children. Today if she does not befriend boys it could happen tomorrow. Today if she is not involved in any bad habit, then taking advantage of the freedom she has, she may get involved in something bad. If she is independent, knows what is good and bad for her and is independent in the matter that she does not have to observe pardah (veil) according to Islamic teaching then the Community too is free. The administration of the Community is also free. The Khalifa of the day possesses the right, more than the rest, to expel from the Community those who are not going to obey the basic Qur’anic commandment. Even when you join a worldly club, its membership has its own rules and regulations, and if these are not complied with, one’s membership is terminated. Faith is a bond with God, it’s a pledge of allegiance and if you act against its obvious and clear teaching and refuse to practise its teaching and if you or your daughter has the right not to observe pardah (veil) then I too have the right, borne out of the right you have, to expel such noncompliant [people] from the Community. I would be doing so because of the commandment of Allah and for this reason no one should have any complaint. Here I advise the administration that the first step in this should be to review that no girl, no woman, who does not observe pardah (veil) is an office-holder. If there is no pardah (veil) – observing person in a majlis (branch) then such a majlis should be attached to a nearby neighbouring majlis or if it has someone who has little 28 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 knowledge but observes pardah (veil), work should be entrusted to her. If there is no one who practises pardah (veil) according to the Islamic commandment – that is covering the head and the hair – and there is no neighbouring majlis then such a majlis should be closed down altogether. I am hopeful however that this frightening situation, the worst case scenario of which I have mentioned, would not exist anywhere, Insha Allah. With the grace of Allah the Community has numerous ladies who excel in piety. If not among the older women then I notice that from among young women there are those who are free from hypocrisy, who do not indulge in any form of hypocrisy. There are some who have been affected by their home environment but there are many others who are firm on piety more than their elders. They try and observe hijab. A programme has been made for MTA [Muslim Television Ahmadiyya] which has not been shown yet but I was watching the recording. In it one of our young women who is also a teacher said that as far as her job is concerned she covers her head in school because she does not wish to impart to the children that she has a hypocritical attitude and has double standards in that children would see her with a scarf outside and would wonder why she does not wear it in the school. In any case pardah (veil) is an Islamic commandment. In a discussion it was mentioned that one of our teachers of small children does not cover her head in school. That is fine, there is no harm where the children are young and there are women around, one does not have to cover one’s head. However, it is possible that the young woman who said that she covers her head in the school as well has older children in the school. Anyway pardah (veil) is an Islamic commandment as well as the dignity of an Ahmadi woman and young woman and it is their sanctity as well. The sanctity of the Ahmadi woman is upheld through this and it is essential to maintain it. However, remember 29 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – January 2007 that along with the scarf, the lower garment should also be loose because the commandment is that beauty not be displayed. Some young women outside the Community can be seen with the scarf, perhaps as a reaction to why they are prevented from wearing it, but they wear jeans and blouse. There is no point in this pardah (veil). This is hypocrisy. Pardah (veil) should be such that it is a covering and is dignified as well. I have been informed that some women were sitting somewhere and an office-holder said to the other that due to the current state of affairs they should now somewhat relax their pardah (veil), that so much severity should not be maintained. That is fine, you may relax, just as I said before, they may exercise their right and I will exercise my right. It cannot be that you go on exercising your right but tell me that I should not exercise my right. Regardless, I have to put into effect the commandment which Allah the Exalted has given us in the Holy Qur’an. If not, then the door is open, as I said, whoever wishes to leave, may do so. I do not understand; what is the reason for this complex, what is it, why is it? There are the local British women. Elsewhere in Europe they become Ahmadis as well. There are young women coming in the fold of the Community. They have started waering the scarf and have started covering their heads. However, some among you suffer from an inferiority complex. A young English woman came to meet me who has recently become an Ahmadi. She would not have been used to the scarf or hijab, yet she was wearing a decent hijab. These people are accepting this beautiful teaching to put it in practice while some of our ladies are prone to inferiority complex. What more other than Inna lillah can be said on this! If someone entertains the thought that with this kind of strictness the Community will decrease, that people will start fleeing the Community, then remember that 30 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 the Community will never decrease. Even if all such women leave it is Allah’s promise and in accordance to it He will grant new people. The British women who have joined are very sincere and in future too you will see that it will be from these people that love will exude. They will love Islam and Islamic teaching. There are many others, like the one I just mentioned who met me yesterday, who are present here in front of me who have become Ahmadi of their own accord and have gone on to develop in their Ahmadiyyat. Here you have your Sadr Sahiba. She too is not a Pakistani, she is German. But she observes pardah (veil), wears burqa and does not have any complex. So, as I said this lady is probably an office-holder who wants relaxation in pardah (veil). The fact is, the way I understand it is, basically she wishes to object to my being strict about pardah (veil). People like these who speak in ambiguous words, are hypocritical! Take hold of yourself. To the new Ahmadis who are coming in from these nations I say do not look up to those who are born into Ahmadiyyat yet do not want to abide by the Islamic teaching. You should come forward and be models for these people. Come forward and spread the beauty and merits of Islam and Ahmadiyyat in this environment. Pardah (veil) and modesty has always been the teaching of each religion in each age. The Qur’anic mention of the two women of Mosaic time who stood to one side and did not take their animals to drink water did so out of modesty in that they would go forward when men would be done. Consider chastity a part of faith and that is what we have been taught. Christian women used to cover up in early days. They wore modest clothes. The Bible mentions the teaching of pardah (veil) in many places. If today the Christians do not observe pardah (veil), and you are being influenced by them, well, they are forgetting their religion. If they remembered their faith and practised it then 31 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – January 2007 many evils which are now com- mon among these people would end. Here I will give a few references from the Bible for the satisfaction of those who have a complex, you might have heard these before, but here they are again. ‘A woman must not wear man’s clothing nor a man wear woman’s clothing for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.’ (Deutronomy Ch.22:Vs.5) ‘Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain, but the woman who feareth the Lord shall be praised.’ (Proverbs Ch.31:Vs.30) Then it is written: ‘I also want women to dress modestly with decency and propriety not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes but with good deeds appropriate for women who profess to worship God.’ (Timothy Ch.2:Vs.9-10) ‘Any man who prays or prophesies with anything on his head, he disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head. It is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself then she should cut off her hair, but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled since he is the image and reflection of God but woman is the reflection of man.’ (Corinthians Ch.11:Vs.4-7) Whereas they object against Islam, incidentally it appears that it is they who consider men superior to woman for man has a status while woman has none. Anyway this was just a digression and cannot be discussed here now. Having seen all this you should feel stronger. Derive greater strength in that you practice your 32 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 teachings, which are the beautiful teachings of Islam, which connect one to the Living God. Whereas the Western world is bereft in terms of religion as it has forgotten the guidance of its religion, you should say to them that rather than speak against us, write articles about us, make laws, give statements, pay heed to yourself. Rather than uncover our heads which we cover happily, cover the heads of your women in accordance with your teachings. I reiterate that rather than say that there should be relaxation in pardah (veil) or to say to me in ambiguous words that I am strict in the matter of pardah (veil), get rid of your inferiority complex. Practise the teaching that God has given us. God has asked both men and women to avoid what is bad. The teaching is for men to restrain their looks first before enjoining women to do so. As compared to woman, man is bolder in nature. That is why women are enjoined, that, although both are commanded to restrain their looks and guard their private parts, however, due to man’s nature, it is better for you to cover your beauty so that you may be protected from the coveous eyes of men. Some people also raise the objection that earlier Khalifas were not so strict in terms of pardah (veil). So I shall read our some references for your assurance. The Promised Messiahas) stated: ‘As in Europe, people are urging for uncovering. However, most certainly it is not appropriate. This very freedom in women is the root of disobedience and indecency. Just consider the moral state of the countries that have allowed this kind of freedom. If due to their freedom and uncovering, their chastity and piety have increased then we shall concede that we are in the wrong. However, the matter is clear that if man and woman are young and there is freedom as well as an absence of pardah (veil), 33 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – January 2007 how dangerous their co- mingling would be. It is in human nature to look covetously and to be often overcome by passion of the self. If even within pardah (veil), excesses happen and disobedience and inde- cencies committed, what would happen where there is freedom?’ Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) said in this regard: ‘The pardah (veil) according to the Shariah which is confirmed through the Holy Qur’an is that a woman’s hair, neck and face including the ears are covered. Pardah (veil) can be observed in compliance with this com- mandment, in accordance with local situation and clothing in different countries.’ He then says: ‘The entire part upwards of the joint of the hand is included in pardah (veil)’ There is a most severe statement by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih III(ru). Listen to it attentively. During an address to Lajna in Norway he said: ‘I ask those ladies who do not consider [observing] pardah (veil) necessary here, what service have they rendered Islam by aban- doning pardah (veil)? Today some say that they should be allowed not to observe pardah (veil) here. Next they will say that they should be allowed to bathe in the sea and lie on the sand unclothed. Next they will say that permission should be given to procreate before marriage. I shall say then be prepared to enter Hell. Put yourself right before Allah’s wrath descends.’ Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV(ru) said: ‘I felt that in most parts of the world pardah (veil) is disappearing as if it never existed. The resultant, most 34 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 horrific destruction stands staring the nation in the face and there is no awareness of this destruction. Parents, with their misdeeds and negligence, are casting the next generation in a social hell and there is no one who cares for them. This situation is getting so critical in the entire world that I thought if the Ahmadis do not take on the banner for the defence of Islam most promptly in their hands, the matter could exceed all limits.’ He also said: ‘Then there are ladies who have to go out but they go out with make-up on. What relevance has make-up with work/employment?’ He said: ‘Women think that in this world where pardah (veil) is diminishing, if they go to their friends wearing burqa, they will say that they belong to old times, that they are crazy, have gone mad, for this is not the age for burqa! Men too are troubled by this although they forget that self-respect and respect from others is borne out of one’s own character and clothes have no significance in respect of the world. If one has high character one’s respect is generated and this respect should at first be generated in one’s own self.’ He also said: “Girls who are brought up here [this is a London sermon or address to Lajna] are mentally confused. They think that it is outdated to cover one’s hair and is a huge backwardness. For this reason they move towards Allah half-heartedly rather than whole-heartedly. In actual fact they are saying that ‘O God accept us in this way alone. We have a dupatta (scarf) on but it is the way that Jews wear their skull cap (the kippah). 35 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – January 2007 Please accept this incom- plete step in Your direction’. If you do every-thing for the sake of God then all this is inappro-priate. Remember that the most attractive feature of a woman is her hair, in particular when it falls to the front. I have observed some girls pull their dupatta on the heads in a way that makes the hair fall to the front.’ He also said: ‘Consider whether you care more about Allah the Exalted or people.’ So these were the statements by the Promised Messiah(as) and various Khalifas. This notion has developed among certain people that such and such Khalifa did not say so and such and such Khalifa is saying it. The first thing is that you are making negative conjectures about Khalifas without knowledge, implying that, God forbid, they did not want to implement Allah’s basic commandments. I have read out the statements of all the previous Khalifas. Those of you who had this mis- understanding and suspicion in their minds, even if it was in the mind of just one person, it should be removed. Secondly, in certain situations one Khalifa lays stress on one issue while the other on another issue. Therefore to maintain that an earlier Khalifa said this about this matter and you should also do the same is restricting Khilafat and is discourteous to it. It shows that you made your bai’at (pledge) only under pressure of the society, parental pressure, pressure from husband or pressure from children and that it is not from your heart. If it was from your heart then the pledge you make to obey all good decisions would be apparent to you and you would never have cause to say why is this decision made and why is not that decision made. Let me make it clear once again that if you wish to be associated with the Community of the 36 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 Promised Messiah(as) – I partic- ularly address those few people here who say such things – then adherence to the Holy Qur’an and the clear commandments of the Holy Prophet(saw) will be required. Then, just as the Promised Messiahas said, duplicity will not do; either fear Allah or fear people. Today it is the requisite of each Ahmadi woman’s honour that rather than be scared of people in today’s society when hatred against Islam is being generated, when mischief is afoot, she declares over and over again that no matter how many restrictions they may place, they cannot take away this beautiful teaching from our hearts, our faces and our practice. If you people are distancing yourselves from religion, are falling in the pit of destruction, we are not prepared to fall in this hell with you. Rather we pray that God saves humanity from its bad deeds and their dreadful conclusion. Come and join us and having joined us try and seek Allah’s pleasure by adhering to His commandments for therein is inner peace for you and the salvation of your future generations. I hope that each honourable Ahmadi woman whose heart has ever entertained the slightest doubt about any Divine commandment shall claw it out of her heart and shall join in with the true muslimaat, mominaat, qanitaat, ta’ibaat and abidaat. May Allah make it so. Ameen 37 VEIL IS AN ISLAMIC COMMANDMENT The Review of Religions – January 2007