[Shamim A Siddiqi, New York]


INTRODUCTION: This is the age of specialization in each field on global level. Trade, commerce, science, technology, ideas, and concepts, human issues and challenges, all have attained new dimensions in the context of the modern age. Human needs are multiplying beyond the means that are at the disposal of man. Every thing is measured in terms of global needs and world market condition. Every country is trying to accommodate the world demand under the most competitive trade condition.  To meet the enormous rise in demand of the necessities of life, extraordinary competition has crept in favor of supply side economy.  Supply of goods and services must be accelerated to fulfill the rising demand in the world market. To balance the increasing demand, the production in each field must be augmented. This phenomenon naturally demands that all the available factors of production must be put to use or utilize in their totality to meet the rising demands of time both in short and long term periods.  Besides land and capital, the most important part that is played in production is the labor that includes both the gender. In support, it is advocated that Europe, Japan and the USA have progressed and ushered in the era of industrialization with complete participation of womenfolk in the process. Both the sexes when work together in fields, factories and offices, it increases the volume of production, double the income of the home, make the family solvent, help in raising the standard of living, thereby increasing the national wealth, the GNP and prosperity both at national and international levels..


The people advocating to abridge the gender gap in the fields of trade, production and various services give due emphasis that in this competitive modern world, womenfolk, especially in the Muslim societies where they are mostly living as “housewives” at home, must come out and work together and compete side by side with men in every walk of life. They advocate that the progress of the Muslim world hinges on fully utilizing Muslim women in the field of labor.


These advocates of liberalism or “gender equality”  would have been correct in their demand, had they shown to the world that all the “benefits” that I have enumerated above will be “available” to human societies without damaging the infrastructure of the family system and destroying the family values that are cherished most by all the three Abrahamic faiths? It would not have degraded the position of women as “cheap marketable” commodities and made the humans “greedy”.  It would have not filled the social environment with lust and sexism and imbibed the humans to run only after the worldly gains, name and fame as the end of life.  Had the condition been otherwise, it would have definitely invited the attention of the Muslim Ummah to get the womenfolk “liberated.” Had the moral degradation prevalent in the advanced societies not become the landmark of the industrialized nations, Muslims would have thought over it as the “surest mean” to progress and prosperity? Had the lusty environment of free mixing and working together of both the sexes under one roof not created the negligence of “child care”, the cost that the industrialized societies have paid and are paying enormously and not being multiplying alarmingly at an accelerated pace, Muslims would have brought their women to working field as Europe did at the advent of its industrial era?


This transformation of the society to “modernism” and dragging of our womenfolk to the four walls of factory, offices and market places is too costly, and full of pitfalls that it would dynamite the very structure of Islamic family system to the ground. This demand from the Muslim Ummah from the “liberals” and the so-called “modernist” is without understanding its chemistry and the purpose for which this Ummah is raised as the “middle” and the “best of nations.” These “ideologues” are just blindly running after what is being propounded or advocated by the western liberal societies and their stalwarts. Unfortunately, the western societies have lost the very objective for which man was created on earth: What is his or her purpose of life that he/she has to fulfill, come what may? It is totally obscured from the ken of their mortal eyes.


A Muslim man or woman is not merely a beast of burden but a conscious living being that has to deliver justice and peace to mankind, eradicate tyranny in all its forms, annihilate exploitation wherever it is found and whosoever is committing it and make this world an abode of peace for each and every individual. He looks after the entire human race as one from Adam and Eve to this day and takes care of its sufferings, irrespective of the fact whether he/she is black, white or yellow, rich or poor. Both individually and collectively, he/she stands for justice wherever he/she is and whatever he/she is doing. The Creator and Sustainer has assigned this model role to Muslim men and women who must fulfill it without fear.


Any system of production or distribution that deprives the Muslims of this dominant character has no place in the Muslim world. All efforts that put this paramount goal of Muslim Ummah in jeopardy will prove abortive and will never succeed, as it is not akin to Islam and its temperament. It is, therefore, desirable that I must share with readers the position that the Muslim women on this earth hold and what are her obligations in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah that she must accomplish. To what extent, she is permitted to go along with the demands of the modern age and where it would be suicidal for a Muslim to jump into the quagmire of the “liberalism” and the abyss of the so-called “progressivism” and where she must stop.  It needs elaboration and that goes as follows.




1. Endowment of different capacities: Allah (SWT) created man and woman and, in His infinite mercy, endowed each of them with different talents, capacities, qualities of heart and mind, mood and temperament, weaknesses and strength, likes and dislikes, many a times in contrast and sometimes complementary to each other. Each is to live, survive and add to the benefit of human society in accordance to his or her faculties, taste and aptitude. It causes variations in human conducts, behavior, input and output and gives it the complexion of a rainbow. If we put all of them together in one “basket”, it would be a “Zulm” [oppression] on each gender, as none will get the proper “environment” to use and promote his or her various talents and capacities for the purpose for which they are separately endowed to each.


2.  Continuity of human specie: These variations are to fulfill different purpose of life that is assigned by the Creator and Sustainer to each gender. Man is muscular in body frame, hard in stature, laborious in action, possessing greater stamina, patience and tolerance to struggle and sustain the continuous pains and strains of life to earn bread and butter honestly for himself and his family and explore and undertake extremely dangerous and challenging jobs to develop the human society to new heights. Equally, he has to struggle hard for establishing the authority of his Creator and Sustainer, the Kingdom of God on this earth, in a continuous process, and is always in need of new blood and talents to replenish the outgoing generation. Thus, the “job” assigned to opposite gender, womenfolk, is equally quite important and delicate. It is full of risks and pains to bear, rare and nurture the human species to provide the valiant explorers, discoverers, “fighters” for the cause of truth, justice and peace everywhere – the Da’ee Ilallah. She, in her most natural way, “produces” working hands for every field of life to maintain the continuity of human struggle alive and advancing persistently towards meeting the needs of the time. That is why her body frame is weak, tender and bears the capacity to breed new “generation” for the development of the human society to a sustained progress and new heights of morality. It is such a gigantic, tremendous and onerous task that she nurtures with her blood, tears, toils and extreme sacrifices that her opposite gender cannot even dream of it. This is her monumental contribution to human society. Boys and girls or any human society cannot pay this “favor” of “Mom” back in any form.


3. Different assignments to each:  Thus, both the sexes have quite different nature of assignments from the Creator and Sustainer and they must carry out the same without any interference or overlapping and disturbance in their performance. While the womenfolk are carrying the baby, their condition is very pitiable. They bear it for about nine months, go through  extreme labor pains at the time of delivery, feed and nurse it for about two years and then educate and develop the baby into a useful character, productive and promising human being to replace his father, the older generation, when grown up with all his or her talents and energies. The mother helps inculcating in the child the requisite qualities of man or that of woman as the case would be, imbibing in him or her, the fundamental human and family values that we all cherish. If the women become working partners of men in factories, offices and working places, the process of “replacement” will hamper.  It shows that the domain and scope of both the sexes and genders are different, well defined by the Lord of this universe and independent of each other. Human society will become disbalanced, “progress” will be limping and the objective of the creation of man as discussed earlier will starve tremendously if she is deprived of fulfilling her part in the growth of honest and healthy human society in the most natural environment of her sweet home. In its wake, only humanity will suffer, “justice and fair play” will be rarely visible in human actions and deeds as we see today all around within the advanced countries of Europe, America, Middle East and the world at large. Can any human tragedy be far greater than what the West has created by its own hands is bent upon to spread that menace to the Muslim lands too?          


4. Position of Women:  In the sight of Allah and His Prophet (S) the position of womenfolk as mother” is three times more significant than that of the father. The paradise has been placed under the feet of mother as the hadith of Rasulullah (S) goes. In the domain of Iman and deeds, however, both the genders are equal. The Qur’an confirms this position eloquently in the Verse 97 of Surah Al-Nahal”:


“Whosoever does right, whether male or female and is believer, him [or her] verily We shall quicken with good life, and We shall pay them recompense in proportion to their best of what they used to do”


“And their Lord had heard them [and He said]: Lo! I suffer not the work of any worker, male or female, to be lost” ….                                                                                                                                [Al-Imran: 195]


See how eloquently Allah treats the women at par with men in Verse # 35 of Surah Al-Ahzab [Chapter 33]:


“Men who surrender unto Allah and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who preserve (in righteousness) and women who preserve, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember – Allah had prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.”


How vividly Allah maintains equilibrium in both the genders, totally contradicting the “allegation” that Islam does not treat women at par with men. In fact, both the sexes will get equal reward from their Lord if each fulfills the demands of his/her Iman and accomplishes his or her natural assignment dutifully in their respective fields. Both domains are equally important. One cannot be sacrificed for the sake of “convenience” for the other. The role of mother is however, of much more importance in building the human society on healthy, honest and constructive lines. It is the mother that builds and produces the future leadership of mankind. It was the mothers who helped in creating the new nation of Macedonians to revenge their defeat at the hands of King Dara of Iran. Alexander was only one of them to revenge their defeat within twenty years. If the human society is to fulfill its historical, progressive and natural role, it must leave the womenfolk alone to play their sacred part in building the society on honest lines, producing trustworthy characters to that effect and helping the humans to attain the very objective for which they are created on earth – glorifying their Lord and filling the earth with Justice and fair play.


5.  Negligence of children:  If, the mother ceases to function her responsibilities, if she is hampered to do her natural assignment on regular basis, if it is neglected, or the job is handed over to “baby-sitters”, the “day care centers” or “foster homes”, the baby will not get the proper requisite education, nursing and the look after that only the lap of the mother can provide. If the ideal institution  of motherhood’s “care and concern” is missing, generations after generations will grow in unnatural circumstances, unhealthy environment without the warm love and caresses of mother, society will create only “unhealthy children”, “run-away generations” “undependable, untrustworthy, arrogant and reckless characters” with no or little love for family values, cohesive relations and tender feelings for others. Only “machine-man” will come out of educational campuses to serve as “fodder” for “push-button” military technology, factories and “clerks” or assistants for offices. This is the stage where the western societies have already reached and are now “conspiring” in the name of “gender equality”, “freedom for women” and “family planning” to bring the Muslim societies too to the same deplorable condition.


6. Conspiracy against Muslim family system: The demand of “liberal” forces, both of the East and West, is extraordinarily loaded with the “conspiratorial” concept to damage the solidarity of the family system of Islam, the only thing that is left with the Muslim societies “somehow” intact and it feels proud of it. The West has already destroyed its family system and is very much eager to destroy the reminiscent of Islamic culture left in our homes and family traditions. It is using the “good offices of the United Nations through holding conferences in Egypt and Beijing [September 1995] and passing resolutions that the womenfolk of the underdeveloped societies, especially of the Muslim countries, must be brought in line with the so-called advanced societies of Europe and America. It reminds me the story of a clever fox whose tail, by an accident, was cut off. He was now campaigning throughout the length and breadth of the “forest” that all the “animals” must cut down their tails, as it is “useless”.  The West that has unfortunately destroyed its family system, degraded itself to some liberal slogans, lost the “natural” beauty and modesty of its womenfolk and the inherent values that we cherish most is desirous to see the Muslim Ummah standing on the same footings. The logic goes that if everyone is “naked” in the Hammam [bathroom], who will raise the fingers on those who are naked? It is their “game-plan” and they are determined to implement it in the Muslim world by hook or by crook even by applying “coercive” means through UNO and the mono-superpower of the time. Muslims must be aware of it and resist it by all the means at their disposal. One of the hopes of their revival is the “role model” of our mothers. They must preserve and protect its sanctity at all cost.       



7.  Segregation - no free mixing: It is in this context, the domain and scope of each gender is well defined. It would be a clear violation of the laws of nature when both the sexes are allowed to free mixing and attend together in school, colleges, university campuses, national and international functions, rallies and programs. It becomes a matter of trial and temptation for both the sexes. It would be unnatural to put them together and then ask them to act, live and behave like “saints and hermits.”  It is in the interest of the society and that of the womenfolk and generations to come that they “purposefully” remain segregated, attached to their families, work in their own fields and protect the family values and its sanctity. The modesty and the honor of their husband are vital and it is worth more than a “kingdom’s fee”. They must fully concentrate to follow the ideals of “replacement” as propounded above with promising and ennobling generations in a continuous process. This is the best solution to stop the moral degradation that we are observing predominantly in advanced societies of the world but unfortunately, the West is behaving like that legendary “fox” persistently in connivance with the UN and the “arrogant” superpower of the time.  


Now the question arises as what are those fields where our womenfolk should try their luck. What are the programs that they can pursue? What education can they get and in what fields? What honest means of living can they select for their living, if they have no choice but to go for it? How can they be the most productive part of the society living within their natural bounds? What restrictions the Shariah has imposed on their movements?  On correct diagnosis of these bounties and limitations hinges the fate of Ummah in the current millennium. The onward discussion will cover these subjects at length, Insha Allah, starting with the concept of Hijab as its base





From the foregoing discussion, it is crystal clear that both genders have a set goal of objectives to perform within their respective jurisdiction. Each sex has been endowed accordingly. The equilibrium in the human society can be maintained only when the opposite sexes do not overlap each other’s rights and privileges and fulfill their respective responsibilities meticulously without any interference from outside in the name of unwanted and unrealistic propaganda campaign for “liberalism”, “women freedom” or “feminism.”


Now, before elaborating the scope and limitations of “Hijab”, it is desirable that I must spell out what the Shariah wants from Muslim women as what to cover and what not or what does not constitute as part of Hijab. People very often confuse this issue without understanding the permissible limits prescribed by Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (S). As a result, they very often transgress the limits ordained by Allah, either by keeping the womenfolk closed behind the four walls of the home and denying some of her basic rights and privileges or making them “free” to move around like “society girls”. Both the extremes are unjust and are contrary to the provisions of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Rasulullah (S).


Two important Qur’anic terminologies that define the jurisdiction and the condition for “matured” women to follow while at home or going outside are “Zeenah” and “Hijab”. Both are supplementary and complementary to each other. Let us elaborate the scope and limitation of each.


I. “Zeenah”- its meaning and concept: Allah (SWT) in Surah Al-NOOR ordains the womenfolk to lower their gaze, be modest and do not display their adornment [Zeenah] except that which is apparent.


“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and be modest, and to display their adornment only that which is apparent, and draw their veil [or apron – long and loose cloth that keeps the body totally covered or unexposed] over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husband’s fathers or their sons or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons or sisters sons or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know naught of women’s secrets. In addition, let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.”           

                                                                                                                                                 [Al-Noor. 24:31]


It must be noted that in the earlier verse of the same Surah, Allah has first exhorted Muslim men to lower their gaze and be modest. Therefore, it must be clear that equally there are certain restrictions for men too. However, it is imperative that the above quoted verse must be understood in conjunction with the following explanation:


1. Historical background: This verse 31 of Al-Noor was revealed to Rasulullah (S) on return from Ghazwah Mustalak that took place in Sha’ban, sixth year of Hijrah when the hypocrites allegedly “accused” Aisha (RA) and Allah revealed her innocence through this Surah. It was in this background Allah (SWT) prescribed various rules and regulations to check the spread of false rumors and sex-oriented stories [or sex scandals] whether true or untrue that surcharges the atmosphere of a society leading to sexual anarchy. The formal and primary instructions, in this respect, were earlier given through Surah Al-Ahzab verses 59-60. The final directives from Allah were delivered through this verse of Al-Noor in order to keep the society pure and free of the environment that promotes promiscuity, nudity, lewdness and sexual anarchy that in turn affects the modesty of both the sexes and makes the society demoralized and corrupt. We have to evaluate, under these conditions, as how to do justice with our womenfolk and know what it permits and what does not.  What the Muslims have unnecessarily denied to their womenfolk and what the protagonist of feminist campaign demand is more than what is permitted by the Creator and Sustainer. Let us find out the balance in between the two extremes that this verse wants to establish in human society, especially that of the Muslims.


2.  This verse connotes that Allah and His Prophet (S) have not laid down any restriction on the movement of women except a few that I will pinpoint later on. Thus, this Ayah categorically gives tacit permission to womenfolk to go out. However, when they go out, they must maintain the necessary decorum and decency to keep the society free of sex attraction and safe from moral degradation. It means their going out is subject to certain restrictions that they have to maintain in the vital interest of the objective for which the opposite gender is created. Any restriction other than that is human innovation and it must be discarded outright. If she observes those given restrictions, she has every right to go out if she needs to go to meet the necessities and urgencies of life.


3. The restrictions are to keep her gaze low, guard her modesty and cover her:”Zeenah” unexposed to other’s gazes. Here: Zeenah” stands for “decoration” that includes her ornaments, dress and other decorations that women folk do adore their hands, faces and feet. It can be termed as the “make-ups”. It should not be exposed to anyone except the few exceptions that are spread out in the Verse itself.”  It naturally includes her body parts, which are decorated or beautified ether by attractive garments, ornaments artificial decorations or coquettishness.


4. The few exceptions are: their husbands, fathers, husbands fathers, their sons,  sons of their husbands, brothers, sons of brothers, sons of sisters, women of their acquaintances, their slaves, those individuals who have no desire [for women], and those children who are not yet aware of women’s secrets. In short, all relations that is Haram [prohibited] for women plus the aged ones and kids. It also includes uncles [from both sides], son-in-laws and foster [sucking] brothers. [Tafhimul Qur’an, Note # 42 of Surah Al-Noor]


It includes face and hands unto wrist. It is permissible under “ Ma Zahara” that which is exposed automatically or without any intention with movements. Here Scholars differ: some take it as part of “Hijab” and recommend that these are parts of the body and must be covered while others opine to their expose under the situations that are unavoidable. [Ref: Tafseer Surah Al-Noor: Ma’raful Qur’an - Mufti Mohammad Shafi]


5. Other restrictions They should not walk coquettishly on the ground so that it discloses their hidden decorations except that which is exposed unintentionally or in natural course. They must avoid using fast fragrance, unnecessarily speaking loudly to make their voice known to men, meeting in seclusion or traveling with non-mahram men and co-mixing of both the sexes at public or private places. The Qur’an and Ahadith 0f Rasulullah (S) are very clear in this respect.



II. “Hijab”: The significance of “Hijab” should now be judged in the overall perspective of the foregoing elaboration, describing the status of women in Islam and the “jobs” that are assigned to her by the Creator and Sustainer in perfecting the process of “replacement” that she must accomplish within the natural bounds as prescribed in Islamic Shariah. The people who cry against “Hijab” in Europe, America and elsewhere in the so-called “progressive” societies, in fact, do not understand the philosophy behind it. Hijab is a symbol of hope, determination and a declaration to live as Allah ordains, to struggle for the objective for which humans are created and to continue its specie to the “prescribed” perfection unhindered.


Under “Hijab” a woman is free to move out, covering both her head and her body so that her “Zeenah” does not attract the opposite sex and becomes a “fitna” [nuisance] for the society. With these restrictions, she can attend her education, do shopping for the necessities of life and earn her own “bread and butter”, if there is no body to look after her and her children. She can possess and inherit property [and she must as it is her right granted by Allah], hold bank balances and run her own businesses. This freedom is a “necessity” [a “Zaroorah”] and not to be taken as “unrestricted” freedom to work side by side with men. Under these circumstances, she will go out with honor and dignity and men will have to respect her with their gazes down, if she comes across with the opposite gender “casually” here and there. It has no resemblance with working side by side in factories, offices, workshops and malls as a “decoration” piece for the opposite genders throughout the day and round the year. Thus, Islam creates an equilibrium that maintains the requisite freedom to womenfolk for the development of her own personality and at the same time protects the society from making it “mobile” sex symbols that destroy her modesty and lead the people to sexual anarchy and moral degradation. The liberal societies of the East and the West that are “crying” for women’s freedom confirm to have reached to this miserable plight, a quagmire of their own creation.       


III. The basic question: It shows that Islam does not permit free mixing of sexes in an environment that is free for all. The very concept of Hijab demolishes the entire edifice of “modernism” by providing dignity to our womenfolk in every walk of life. All the restrictions are the virtual protections of their position in the modern world.  Therefore, when they come out of their house, they are fully covered. They do not roam about for “window-shopping”, attracting the opposite sex to their charm and attraction and thus, become “fitna” [trouble] for the society and its modest growth. However, the question arises that when they are equal partners in life, how can they fulfill their responsibilities as its independent constituent with all the limitations hanging over their heads. What contribution they can make to the healthy growth of human society while compulsorily in “Hijab”, and fully covering their “Zeenah” with no exposition except their face, hands and that, that cannot be avoided from automatic exposition?


* Significance of women and their role: As discussed earlier, Allah has given the womenfolk different qualities of heart, mind and a body with a different “charter of demands” that she has to fulfill to make her a useful, complementary and an integral part of human progress. To accomplish her distinguished and destined role, she needs perfect education in her special fields that deal with human history, social sciences, children psychology and knows very well how to breed, nurse and look after her kids. She knows how to keep the home environment congenial to children and how to be a model mother to inspire the baby to be the most effective “replacement” when he/she is grown up. She knows how to keep the home environment clean, modest looking, free from tension and a “heaven” for her husband who is fighting outside the hard battle for his honest living, building a pure society free of all corruption and exploitation, struggling relentlessly to establish the authority of his Creator and Sustainer in the body politics of the land and making every effort to keep the future of humanity ever bright and hopeful. If she can do so much, it would be the most magnificent contribution of Muslim women. That would be their most cherished “freedom” and greatest “contribution” to human society towards its march to justice end peace. The entire objective of her creation will suffer immensely if she is deprived of her this most natural part to play towards the reconstruction of human society on the lines it is ordained by Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (S).


The advocates of “modernism” want to snatch away this pride performance from Muslim women and rob them of their “real” beauty and objectivity on earth. Let the Muslim Ummah give the truthful  freedom to its women that is being denied due to “ignorance” of  admissible limits under Islamic laws, protect its edifice from perpetual attacks by the cruel “modernist” of the Muslim Ummah who are only dancing on the tunes of the so-called liberal democracies and capitalistic economies that are built on Godless creeds. The future of Muslim Ummah must be saved from these tragic “encroachments” and naked “atrocities” against Islamic culture and civilization. This situation is full of challenges and, I am sure, our Muslim women will encounter it successfully when they are fully aware of what their Allah wants from them and how they are to live on earth with what onerous responsibilities on their shoulders, perhaps much more significant than the Muslim men do. The hand that cradles the baby is the hand that rules the world. The significance of “Hijab” is to be understood in this perspective.



Shamim A Siddiqi

June 28, 2004