Attack Against Niqab: The Good in It

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You’ve probably already heard them by now, the unwelcome remarks of the French President and others regarding niqab.  To help us better understand the good in situations where hijab and niqab (and other aspects of Islam) come under attack, we wanted so share the following. The question below was asked in light of an intellectual campaign against niqab which arose in Egypt a few years ago. It was answered by Sheikh Abu Ishaq al-Huwayni, hafithahu Allah, a scholar of our times, and one of the famous students of al-Albani rahimahu Allah.

The Good in Itseedling

Question:

Sheikh, I’m troubled about the affairs of Muslims these days. There’s a fierce campaign against the niqab going on. Niqab is being attacked, as if there is nothing else wrong or ailing the Muslims except for the niqab, and the magazines are attacking Muslims and all that is Islamic. There are even famous Shuyookh attacking the niqab, and the prevalent phrase is that niqab is an “ignorant, outdated custom.” Sheikh, I would like you to comment on this fierce attack which has bothered us all.

Also, there is a sister whose husband is trying to convince her to take off the niqab, forcefully, while she’s completely convinced about wearing it. What should she do?

Answer:

I want to say something to assure the hearts of the believers. This must happen. Why? Because this is the “sunnah of daf’” [the “law of repelling,” of people pushing against one another to keep things in check] that awakens the heart and shakes it. And Allah mentioned the sunnah of daf’ in two locations in the Qur’an, both within the context of jihad.

The first place is in Surat al-Baqarah, after the story of Jaloot and Taloot. Allah subhanahu wa ta’la said:

وَلَوْلاَ دَفْعُ اللّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُمْ بِبَعْضٍ لَّفَسَدَتِ الأَرْضُ

وَلَـكِنَّ اللّهَ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

“And if it were not for Allah repelling one set of people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted, but Allah is full of bounty to the worlds.” [2:251]

Meaning, were it not for this pushing against others which keeps us in check, the earth would be corrupted and the people of truth would become lax. When a person lets go and is in a situation of perpetual peace, without strife, a type of lethargy occurs, a type of weakness. Allah ‘azza wa jall makes clear to us that this repelling must remain for the good of the earth.

So let anyone say whatever they will, but this pushing must occur. Why have people woken up and become alert to a lot of important issues? It’s because of this conflict. Islam – as I like to compare it – is like a bouncing ball. The harder you hit it into the ground, the higher up it rises. Don’t worry, because I see the matter [this attack against niqab] as a glad tiding and something very positive.

The second place that Allah mentions this is in Surat al-Hajj, also regarding the issue of fighting. After Allah says, “Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.” Allah ‘azza wa jall said after this:

وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ لَّهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ

يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّهِ كَثِيراً وَلَيَنصُرَنَّ اللَّهُ مَن يَنصُرُهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَقَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ

“For had it not been that Allah checks one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the Name of Allah is mentioned much, would surely have been pulled down. And indeed Allah will give victory to whomever vindicates Him. Surely Allah is Ever-Powerful, Ever-Mighty.” [22:40]

This is something normal, that a form of repelling occurs. And I see that the weight is easy for the sisters to carry today. For example, the sister who used to wear niqab thirty years ago [in Egypt] – we used to see this, we lived in those times and we saw them. When our sister used to walk in the streets in niqab, for example, everybody would gather on the balcony of those streets, men and women alike, and they would say, “I wonder if she’s walking backwards or forwards,” and “I wonder where her head is from the rest of the body,” mocking her.

This sister, if it had been ok for her to become negligent and let go, would it have ever been possible for the niqab to become as easy and widespread and as simple as it is to wear today? And would it have been possible for any sister to have been enticed by the beautiful and magnificent appearance that she could [also] cover her face? Of course not.

Then there must be endurance. If people did not endure and stand firm, the religion would not be passed on to those after them. For that reason, the religious rulings are a trust. A person must stand firm and feel honored that Allah ‘azza wa jall made him a pioneer in his position.

The matter today is more simple.

[…]

I also want to say that niqab is not just something that is placed over the face. Niqab is a value. [Just like] the beard is not just a few hairs on a person’s face, the beard is a value.

I know that some people say that this beard, or this niqab are “just a shell,” an outer covering, and by “shell” they mean something of no value. Ok, I’ll suppose that it’s just a shell, but I want to ask a question, a question which I know the answer to and which everybody on the face of the earth will answer just as I do: “Have you ever seen a core exist without a shell?”

I mean, a banana – could a banana ever be this way without its peel? An orange, an ear of corn, a grain of rice, a grain of barley, anything? A tree, with its bark, could the tree ever exist without a shell? This is something nobody would claim, there could never be a core without a shell.

So the few hairs on the face that people belittle, this is what covers the heart. And I have tragic stories I could tell. I’ll tell you one, without delving into the details, because it really doesn’t deserve it, but this is one of the things I’ve come across.

There was a young man who used to pray with us in the masjid, and he had a beard, and then I didn’t see him for a long time. After that, I suddenly met him a few years later, and his beard was still coming out, they were like grains of rice yet. He told me, “I need to talk to you about my problem,” and he took me aside and told me.

It was about [being infatuated with] the neighbor’s daughter, that kind of thing and the fruitless stories you all know about. “In the beginning,” he told me, “I couldn’t go out with her. How could I? Every time I went out with her, I thought, ‘Shame on you.’ I’d look in the mirror and say, ‘Shame on you, this isn’t right, you’ll distort the image of the beard.’ My heart did not dare let me go out with the girl until I’d shaved my beard.” And after that, he became just one of the people, part of the crowd, lost among them, wAllahu alMusta’aan.

As for a man with a beard, you’d never see him walking around with a woman without hijab, wearing tight, fitted clothes, or anything like that. This isn’t possible. You might find a bearded man walking around with a lady in niqab, holding her hand (although this is rare – I don’t know why they disown each other once they get married), but it’s possible. But nobody would ever doubt them.

A man with a beard and a woman in niqab, walking hand in hand across a bridge or in the street – any human being who saw them, would never tell you that they were lovers or dating, or anything like that. They’d say, well, he looks religious, and she looks religious, she must be his wife or his sister or his aunt, or any one of those.

I’m saying that this beard, it isn’t just a bunch of hair on a man’s face – it’s a covering for the heart, to protect the heart.

And the same is for the woman in niqab. I am certain that the woman in niqab, women without hijab even respect her. They respect her for the black she wears. You know that black is a very grand color? You even see people in high positions – their Mercedes are black. You don’t find their cars purple or white or red – you find them black. The cars of presidents and the like, you always find them black. Black is a very, very grand color.

There’s a man who tells me: “When my wife wears niqab, I really, really respect her. I feel like I’m in front of this great personality.” He knows that the niqab is something respectable.

And there is not a single female who wishes to wear niqab except that she is filled with awe for this type of dress she wears, regardless of whether on the inside she’s reached there yet, but the outside appearance is a grand one.

I want to assure you and say: This [attack on niqab] is something very, very natural. This pushing and this repelling pleases us greatly, because as soon as we let go and start living in the comfort and luxuries of this world, everything is lost. I want you to return to those who are suffering in this trial also, and remind them of these two ayahs that I call the ayahs of repelling, or the “sunnah of daf'”, in the Glorious Qur’an.

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The original question and answer video in Arabic can be found here.

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