In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His final
Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihe wasallam)
As Salamu 'alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,
Niqab is the term used to refer to the piece of cloth which covers the face, only leaving the eyes visible. The main evidence from scholars who believe that niqab is obligatory comes from these verses of the Qur'an.
O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Qur'an Surah Ahzab 33:59
Surah An-Nur, Verses #30 and #31
‘And Say to the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, head cover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)
There are several hadiths which also state the importance of women wearing the niqab. One example is:
Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 8, Book 76, Hadith # 572
In the end of this very long hadith it quotes Anas (Radhiallaahu Ánhu) relates from Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) "and if one of the women of Paradise looked at the earth, she would fill the whole space between them (the earth and the heaven) with light, and would fill whatever is in between them, with perfume, and the veil of her face is better than the whole world and whatever is in it."
This shows that even the women of Jannah have veils and the word veil is what covers the face (niqaab). However, some scholars hold the view that the niqab is not obligatory in Islam (rather it is part of the Sunnah), since both women and men must lower their gaze but women can have their face uncovered. Therefore, the niqab has a place in Islam, since the Prophet's (saw’s) wives were required to wear them. In today's context, many women attempt to emulate the best of women to bring themselves closer to Allah (swt).
The legal debate surrounding banning the burqa and niqab:
There have been steps taken by various countries in Europe to ban the burqa and niqab, most notably in France.
In France it is argued that women who wear the burqa have been ‘oppressed’ into wearing it and thus it goes
against France’s secular values and ideals of Liberté, égalité and fraternité (Liberty, equality and brotherhood).
Another reason for the ban is that the burqa poses a security risk in banks and public places, if the full face
cannot be viewed. However these claims are false and unfounded. Security issues cannot be a justification in
this regard as the government can easily instruct women police officers to check the wearer’s identity. Secondly,
the ban actually serves to undermine French values of equality since women who wear the burqa are treated
differently to anybody else.
Thirdly, the majority of women who wear the burqa or niqab in Europe do so through their own free will, without coercion or oppression. Thus the ban is hypocritical since it violates the freedom of choice which is central to a democratic society. It is not the government’s place to step in and regulate dress code when people’s choices are not causing any harm to others. It was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, passed by the French National Assembly in 1789 and still held in high esteem by the French Fifth Republic of today, which taught us that
“Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else".
Furthermore, as discussed above, even though there is difference of opinion as to whether the niqab is obligatory in Islam, it is still an important part of the Islamic faith. Therefore, it can also be argued that the ban discriminates against freedom of religious practice and therefore violates Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Article 9 states:
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion :
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others
Although Article 9 (2) places limitations on this right in the interests of public safety, public order and for the protection of others, it would be absurd to suggest that the niqab or burqa is a direct threat to the safety or others, or limits the rights of others (neither has there been any incidents to reflect this). In fact, Islam can never be forced on others:
From a legal perspective, it does not matter whether the burqa/niqab is Islamic or not. The main issue now is that women are now compelled to remove it even if they want to wear it (or face a fine of up to 150 euros). On a practical level, this also seems very difficult to enforce. Does this mean fining or imprisoning every single woman who wears a burqa, thus draining taxpayers’ money? The ban is a shameful act in modern civilization which stigmatises one particular religious group in the same way as the Swiss minaret ban. Thus it should be condemned by all democratic forces and human rights champions.
“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error.” (Quran 2:256)
Allah The Almighty Says : O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness -- that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember. O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed, he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them. Indeed, We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe.} [Quran 7:26-27]
BISMILLAH AR RAHMAN AR RAHIM
“In the name of Allah, the all Merciful the all Compassionate.”
By Qaizer Sethi 22nd April 2011