MUSLIM WOMEN AND THE CONCEPT OF THE VEIL
DR. ZEENAT SHAUKAT ALI
There is no suggestion in the Quran where women are asked to lead a cloistered existence or be kept apart from world affairs. On the contrary the Quran references to the participation of women in all respectable enterprises and professions are clear. It is often forgotten that in early Islam women were political activists, went to war, defended the nation, nursed the wounded, gave sanctuary to men, participated in debates, were scholars and legalists contributing to society as their male counterparts.
Yet it is claimed by some traditionalists that the basis of the mandate for segregation and seclusion of women are found in the primary sources of Islam, the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. Since such arguments are tendentious it is necessary to quote directly from Quran, an authentic Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad.
Undoutedly modesty of both outlook and appearance is recommended in the Holy Quran. Hence, with regard to gender one verse of the Quran speaks of both men and women to be modest. It should be noted that the first verse on modesty of outlook is addressed to men. “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty (sexuality) that will make for greater purity for them.
Such moral and formal requirements for both men and women are intended to enable both to mix together for individual and social purposes comfortably, and to communicate and co-operate through the human intellect without being distracted by physical charms. It would be meaningless to require such precautions if segregation was the social rule of the Islamic society as some may think.