Issued: September 15 2002
Publisher : RoselYousef publishing House (Golden Books series)
Author : Ekbal Baraka ,chief editor of "HAWAA" the first and most
popular weekly for Arab women.Columnist in Al Ahram daily.
A leading writer in a number of Arabic papers and issued 20 books since
The issue of the veiling has caused a great controversy among muslims
all over the world since the mid seventies when veiling spread among
muslim women as a sign of adhering to the instructions of the Quran.
�The veil: A new Vision� is a book that expresses the viewpoint of a
modern Muslim woman, living in the third millennium, towards the veil.
It deals with the subject with courage and objectivity, referring to
verdicts and fatwa of the old generations of jurisprudence with a
critical and fresh eye.
The book was preceded by a number of articles in Al Ahram daily and
Rosel Yousef weekly, that aroused a lot of comments by readers, and
caused a vast controversy among intellectuals.
� The veil: A new Vision" is an attempt at understanding and defending
Islam with regards to a crucial issue that has never been settled among
The book contains an introduction by the author , 8 chapters on Hijab:
in history, Hijab in the Holy Quran, Hijab in the Prophet Mohamed's
narrations, Hijab and Muslim identity ,Hijab and Chastity , Pros and
cons plus 2 chapters : a historical background, Slavery before and after
ABSTRACT of �The veil, a Modern Viewpoint�
"The veil "by Ekbal Baraka
The veil in History
In ancient times fighting never stopped among tribes and peoples. The
conquerors occupied the land, killed men, and captivated women and
children of the defeated tribes and slavery was the universal social
system among all peoples. All societies were divided into two social
classes: free and slaves.
While men went away for hunting and fighting their women were exposed to
rape and kidnapping.
The Assyrians (in Iraq) were harsh fighting people who lived on raiding
on other tribes and invading their lands, they were the first people to
impose the veiling on their women.
As means of protection of their kinswomen, they interned them behind
locked doors (the Harem), and made them cover their bodies from head to
heels with a uniform (a veil over loose robe) when they had to go out.
The veiling distinguished free women from bondmaids, and enslaved women
who were forbidden from wearing that uniform.
In their penal code: slave-women who covered their hair or bodies and
men who saw a slave woman wearing the uniform of a free woman and did
not report to the authorities were to be flogged with a whip fifty
The veil in the Old Testament
It was mentioned in Genesis chapter 24 (64-65)
�And Rebecca lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off
the camel. For she had said unto the servant, what man is this that
walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said it is my
master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself.�
And in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 (5-13)
�Every man prayeth or prophesieth having his head covered dishonoreth
his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head
uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she was
�For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be
shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.�
Then the veiling spread as a habit among women of most kingdoms: Persia,
Troy, Sparta, Byzantium, etc�
The veil in Islam
Muslim women in the days of Prophet Mohammed and his companions until
the end of Omayyad dynasty used to accompany and help fighting men in
And when the Muslim Arabs invaded Persia they adopted their custom of
the veiling and concealing their women and called it the Harem.
Persians predominated the Abbasside state and their habits and thoughts
prevailed Islamic jurisprudence, so the veiling was made compulsory for
all women, as a religious, obligation (rite) imposed with verdicts
(Fatwa) by Muslim jurisconsults.
Women�s dress is mentioned twice in the Holy
1. (Al Ahzab 33-59) Prophet Mohammed is commanded to tell his wives and
daughters and women of the believers to draw their cloaks (the veils)
all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves), hence they might be
distinguished and not annoyed (harassed or seduced), better that they
should be known as respectable women.
2. (Al Noor 30-31) Prophet Mohammed is commanded to tell believing men
and women to cast down their gaze and keep away from adultery (avoid
looking at forbidden parts and protect their private parts (genitalia),
women to cover the openings of their robes by their the veils and
refrain from showing off their ornaments to others than kinsmen.
3. All over the Holy Quoran women�s head or hair is not directly
mentioned, nor is there an obligation of a certain uniform, and women
are considered to be completely equitable to men: both are commanded to
be chaste and modest, and keep away from adultery.
4. Nevertheless, old generations of Muslims compelled women to follow
the example of the Prophet�s wives who were ordained to the veiling by a
verse (53 & 59 Al Ahzab) in the Koran.
Wives of Prophet Mohammed are considered to be mothers of all believers,
and the Muslims were ordained to keep distance and show reverence to
them by addressing them from behind curtains. The meaning of the word
the veil all over the Holy Quoran is a curtain or partition not a
garment. Mothers of believers were ordained to be pious and speak nicely
and with modesty, rest at home, go out only when necessary, refrain from
over adornment, keep praying, giving alms and obey God and his Prophet.
This is God�s will to keep them and all the household of Mohammed far
above sins and impurity.
Although men and women were asked to follow example of the Prophet and
obey his traditions, no verse in the Holy Koran invokes women to follow
or imitate the Prophet�s wives.
The veil in the Hadith (Prophet�s narrations)
In the Hadith three narrations are attributed to Aisha, the Prophet�s
1. One narration states that he said �It is not good for an adult woman
to reveal any part of her body except face and hands �
2. Two narrations stating: �It is not correct that an adult woman
reveals her body except face and half her arm �.
The first narration (face and hands) is open to suspicion because it was
quoted by one man attributing it to Aisha whom he had not been
contemporary with. The other two narrations contradict the first and
were ignored by most jurisprudents because they allow woman to reveal
half her harm.
Although the first narration is uncertain and not mentioned in five (out
of six), of the Veritable Books of the Hadith (Al Sehah) the orthodox
Muslims refer to it all the time and make it a proof that the Hijab (the
veils and loose robes) an obligation on Muslim women.
The first hadith (narration) of revealing face and hands is rejected by
the Hanabila, followers of Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, founder of one of the main
sects in Islam, who considered it fictitious and uncertain, and were in
favour of the Niquab only (covering a woman from head to heels). The
Hanabila insist that every part of a woman�s body, even her nails and
voice, is an Awra.
Since the mid-seventies fundamentals have reiterated verdicts of old
generations of jurisprudents, and the veiling has been forced on Muslim
women as a sign indicating Muslim identity , distinguishing Muslim women
from non-Muslims. For political reasons, contemporary jurisprudents
abstain from giving their own explanation of the Quran (Ijtihad), or
issue verdicts that agree with the modern mentality, which has changed
completely after the 10th century in which the door of Ijtihad had been
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