Jumuah khutbah delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim on 2 September 2016 at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
The recent incident in France wherein a Muslim lady who was on the beach and fully dressed was surrounded by French police and fined for being “overdressed” and commanded to remove some of her clothing became international news and trended on social media for days.
This was as a result of a law that was passed to ban women from wearing the so called “burkini” on beaches.
Soon after this incident the French Constitutional court overturned the ruling as being clearly unconstitutional.
However the picture of this lady being harassed for being supposedly overdressed will be remembered in the books of history for many centuries to come as a reflection of the reality of the world we live in.
What is That Reality?
It’s a reality wherein two very different world views are at odds with each other.
A world view by itself seeks to offer a solution to the most fundamental questions that face a human being regarding our origin as human beings, our purpose and our destination.
The religious world view purports that our origin is from a Divine source whereas the opposite thereof being the materialistic world view purports that our origin is in reality by chance or accident.
IMPACT OF ISLAMIC WORLD VIEW
When your world view is the Islamic world view which is based on Tauheed or Oneness of Almighty Allah, then it is considered to be one that is stable and deep rooted from which sane and meaningful effects emanate.
The Quran compares it to a good tree:
أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَآء
“whose roots are firm and branches extend into the heavens” (Surah 14 Verse 24)
The opposite thereof being the materialistic world view is compared to an evil tree:
وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الأَرْضِ مَالَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ
“an evil tree pulled up from the earth’s surface; it has no stability” (Surah 14 Verse 26)
A sound world view brings psychological stability and contentment and removes fear of the unknown and motivates human beings to live a purposeful life.
Whereas a weak world view brings psychological instability that we will never really understand as it’s a completely different world that we religious people are rather unfamiliar with.
But just to give us a glimpse of the impact of a weak world view is to compare it to the psychological impact on a child who is made to feel unwanted.
His biological parents by chance met once and got carried away and got engaged in an act from which that child was born out of that moment of madness.
What is the psychological state of such a child who lives in the belief that he arrived in this world by chance and was not meant to be here and is unwanted.
Such a child lives a life feeling empty and carries serious psychological baggage.
A materialistic world view has that effect on the life of people who believe they are in this world by chance or accident – whether they are here or not makes little difference.
In their individual life, they internally suffer from a state of depression and seek to find contentment by acquiring as many material things as possible.
So life is about wearing the best clothes, driving the fastest cars, living in a lavish home and eating the best available food, etc.
And even after acquiring all of these, if they own 4 Rolex watches and a friend owns 5 Rolex watches, then their happiness and contentment in life is short by the equivalent of owning 1 more Rolex watch.
It sounds absurd, but that’s how it is!!
And on a global level if they don’t control the world then their happiness and contentment and value as a human being falls short by that which they don’t control or own.
A further effect of this psychological instability caused by a materialistic world view is that such people do the most ridiculous acts at times that causes them to become the laughing stock of the world – and that’s exactly what happened to France.
In an attempt to control the world, it has openly supported so called Muslim terrorists and when terrorists committed acts of terror against its own citizens, it responds by banning the wearing of a certain type of clothing for women.
And this ban had the opposite effect of turning the world against them and popularising the very burkini they banned as it became a hit in the fashion industry.
To demonstrate the ordinary citizens response to the laughable nature of the ban on the burkini, someone very eloquently wrote the following to a British newspaper. He says:
“No woman in a burqa or hijab or burkini has ever done me any harm. But I was sacked without any explanation by a man in a suit. Men in suits mis-sold me pensions and endowments costing me thousands of pounds. A man in a suit led us on a disastrous and illegal war. Men in suits led the banks and crashed the world economy. Other men in suits then increased the misery to millions through austerity. If we are to start telling people what to wear then maybe we should ban suits”.
Let me say something in brackets at this point – I am not in any way saying necessarily that it’s acceptable or Islamic for women to swim in a burkini in front of non-Mahram men – but recently it’s become a symbol of Muslim women.
In the recent Olympic games in Rio, cultural Islam was very much on display and under scrutiny.
We saw Muslim women competing and winning medals while being clothed in full hijab. This has opened the eyes of the broader world to realise that the hijab is not an impediment to progress or excellence as it’s always been made out to be.
But for the remainder of this khutbah I would like to revisit this institution of hijab to try to understand its eternal relevance and meaning beyond the basic common expression that hijab is a covering or protection for women. And since yesterday was Spring Day and people’s minds start looking forward to summer, perhaps this is an opportune time to reflect on this issue as a precursor to this time of the year.
DIFFERENT USAGE OF THE WORD “HIJAB”
In our time, when we use the word Hijab, the image that comes to our mind is the covering that a woman wears.
However, in the Quran, the term Hijab is used for different situations and similarly in the narrations we see the same.
So as Ayatullah Mutahhari beautifully outlines, you get verses in the Quran like the one that refers to the setting of the sun in the story of the Prophet Solomon. One day he was reviewing his army – like any ruler should. So Surah Saad Verse 31 and 32 says:
إِذْ عُرِضَ عَلَيْهِ بِالْعَشِيِّ الصَّافِنَاتُ الْجِيَادُ
“When there were brought before him in the evening light-footed courses,”
فَقَالَ إِنّـِي أَحْبَبْتُ حُبَّ الْخَيْرِ عَن ذِكْرِ رَبّـِي حَتَّي تَوَارَتْ بِالْحِجَابِ
“Then he said: ‘Verily I love the love of good things, (these horses), for the sake of the remembrance of my Lord, (the watching of parade continued) until they (the horses) got hidden in the veil (hijab).”
Or in medical terminology, the diaphragm separating the heart from the stomach is also called ‘hijab’.
Or in the advice given by Imam Ali (a.s) to Malik Ashtar, he states, ” …do not prolong your seclusion (hijab) from your subjects, for a ruler’s seclusion from his subjects is a kind of constraint and (results in) a lack of knowledge of affairs. Seclusion from them cuts rulers off from the knowledge of that from which they have been secluded”.
And interestingly, when the specific use of the word “hijab” is used in the Quran, it relates to the wives of the Prophet (sawa) wherein the Believers are told that if they ask them something, that they should do it from behind a “hijab” or “curtain “.
And then, the aspects that actually relate to the intended meaning of “Hijab” are referred to without the specific use of the term “Hijab”.
HIJAB IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO OUR WORLDVIEW
In the greater scheme of things, Hijab is directly related to our world view.
Our very existence is a dependent existence. This entire universe has been created in pairs whereby each creation, beside being permanently dependent on Allah, also has a need for its opposite to complete this pair, otherwise it is incomplete.
In the well known verse 36 of Surah Yasien, Almighty Allah says:
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ الأَزْوَاجَ كُلَّهَا مِمَّا تُنْبِتُ الأَرْضُ وَمِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَمِمَّا لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ
“Glory be to Him Who created pairs (of) all things, of what the earth grows, and of their selves and of what they do not know.”
This verse says everything has been created in pairs and then gives some of the most obvious examples of those pairs but also leaves the remainder unknown. But the point is critical – the fact that everything has been created in pairs – that is Allah’s perfect system that’s in operation.
In our journey to perfection, when we have a spouse, then our chances of reaching the greatest levels of perfection is more.
And our need for a spouse even extends into the next world…part of the enjoyment of Heaven is that we will enjoy it with a spouse…we won’t be enjoying Heaven alone – because we have been created in a manner that we need a spouse.
Thus the same Surah Yasien Verse 55 and 56 says:
إِنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْجَنَّةِ الْيَوْمَ فِي شُغُلٍ فَاكِهُونَ
هُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُمْ فِي ظِلاَلٍ عَلَي الأَرَآئِكِ مُتَّكِئُونَ
“Verily the inhabitants of Paradise that day are busy in rejoicing,”
“They and their spouses shall be in the shades, reclining on raised coaches;”
When your world view is a materialistic world view then because such people are so self-centred and whose purpose in life is a weak purpose, getting married is not a priority, having a family is a meaningless burden and if they have a relationship with another human being then it does not matter if it’s from the same sex as the purpose is pure material enjoyment and a partnership to share the demands of life, nothing much else.
But for those with a Divine world view, the relationship established in marriage to the opposite gender is a necessary part of spiritual growth and is an institution from which a family is born and is an institution that must be protected at all costs.
This desire that exists between a man and woman extends all the way to the end of their life. Initially it might manifest in physical attraction but it is nurtured through natural acts of kindness to each other and contributing to each other’s joint spiritual growth that keeps this relationship alive.
In this relationship, men have a responsibility to give direction to the family unit and thus display a sort of power in the process.
Women on the other hand bring psychological stability and love to the family unit.
These two attributes bring balance to the family unit.
Then, as Sheikh Ali Shomali so beautifully says in his discourse on Hijab, that:
“Allah (swt) has both attributes of Glory (sifat al-jalal) and attributes of Beauty (sifat al-jamal). The power of a man and the love of a woman are manifestations of these two important attributes of Allah (swt). Man manifests the Glory of Allah (swt) more and woman manifests His Beauty more.”
HIJAB IN TERMS OF INTERNAL VS EXTERNAL RESPONSIBILITIES
Tomorrow Insha’Allah should be the first Thil Hijjah (we will confirm tonight) which is a date that reminds us, according to narrations from history to be the date on which the sacred marriage took place between Imam Ali (a.s) and Lady Fatima (a.s).
And the narrations state that when the marriage took place between Imam Ali (a.s) and Lady Fatima (a.s), they came to an agreement regarding sharing of responsibilities.
Very broadly speaking, Imam Ali (a.s) proposed that he will take care of all the duties outside the home and Lady Fatima (a.s) agreed to take care of all the duties inside the home.
This agreement made Lady Fatima (a.s), who is the Leader of the Women of the Worlds, very pleased.
Because it was aligned to the purpose of our life to have active involvement in your primary function.
Of course women are allowed to perform external duties and go out to work and so on but it does not absolve her of her primary function inside the household.
What did this arrangement achieve?
It ensured that the beauty of a woman, who is the manifestation of the Jamal or Beauty of Almighty Allah, primarily serves the family unit from the inside…and is not primarily used to serve outsiders like is the case in the world we live in!
HIJAB AS A UNIVERSAL STANDARD OF MANIFESTING MORALITY
One of the philosophical issues promoted by materialists is the idea that morality is something that is relative and is determined by historical context and the society you live in.
This idea basically means that nothing is universal and can change if we simply change our outlook.
However, a review of the standards followed by those who believe in a Divine world view shows that Hijab in a principle sense as it relates to the covering of a woman was practised by all the major religions and that glimpses of that practise is still very evident in the lives of religious Jews and Christians.
Furthermore, from an Islamic perspective we find that the Quran’s reference to Hijab is not in the form of something new, but it’s in the form of perfecting their existing practise and upholding of the Institution of Hijab.
Thus by way of example we read in Surah Ahzab Verse 59:
يَآ أَيُّهَا الْنَّبِيُّ قُلْ لاَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَآءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلاَبِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَي أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلاَ يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً
“O’ Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they draw their veils close to them…”
Here it’s quite obvious that the women were already wearing a veil…this verse simply perfected how they should wear it.
And we find similar examples within the Ahadith wherein the Prophet (sawa) rectifies the Hijab which women were already wearing.
So Hijab in the form of how you dress has been around forever due to its relation to a universal standard of morality.
HIJAB IN HUMAN INTERACTION
Then on another level Hijab is institutionalised in terms of human interaction, particularly interaction between non-Mahram men and women.
So we are required to regulate and control the use of one of Allah’s great gifts to human beings, being the ability to see.
So believing men are first commanded to lower their gaze as they are the ones with supposed “power ” and would use it inappropriately if presented with an opportunity.
And women are too secondly commanded to lower their gaze.
But this lowering of your gaze is not restricted to “supposedly looking down” when you walk in the street and run the risk of a car knocking you down as your gaze is lowered…
Rather it involves inculcating a behaviour that is reflective of covering all of your physical and non physical powers which could wrongfully attract you to that beauty (which is a reflection of Allah’s Beauty) for which you have no right.
So while wearing external Hijab is important, don’t pollute it by exchanging inappropriate conversation with the opposite gender.
And this inappropriate conversation is not restricted to the contents of what you say but also relates to “how” you say it – it should not be in a seductive fashion.
In fact the Quran gives strict commands to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (sawa) regarding how they speak to strange men.
In Surah Ahzab Verse 32 it says:
يَآ نِسَآءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِنَ النّـِسَآءِ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلاَ تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلاً مَعْرُوفاً
“O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the (other) women if you are in awe of Allah, then be not soft in speech lest he in whose heart is disease aspire (at you) and speak honourable words.”
How often is it not the case that religious people fall in the trap of breaking the family unit due to not observing this aspect of Hijab as they don’t control how they speak to the opposite gender?
How often don’t we see in our very own broader Muslim community how Scholars end up getting involved with (and marrying in the end) the very women that came to seek their counselling for their personal problems.
Lady Fatima (a.s) taught us through her practical conduct in the most sublime fashion how every aspect of Hijab should be observed.
Thus on one occasion a blind man asked permission to visit Lady Fatima (a.s) to which she agreed but first put on her Hijab.
The Holy Prophet (sawa), in order to illustrate her (a.s) level of understanding asked her:
“O Fatimah! Why are you observing hijab when this man is unable to see you?”
She (a.s) replied: “He cannot see me but I can see him and he can smell my fragrance.”
In response to this great answer, Prophet (sawa) said:
“I bear witness that you are part of me”!
And then there are a whole host of commands in the Quran and Islam that regulate male-female relations, like the following:
1. When you come to someone’s house, first knock and seek permission to enter, if they tell you to come some other time, then go back;
2. Children should not enter their parents room without knocking at certain times;
3. Specific commands to protect your private parts;
4. You are not allowed to shake hands with the opposite gender; and
5. Women should not display their adornment; etc.
You might even be surprised that Islam regulates “hijab” for men from the aspect of how they dress beyond what we commonly think the boundaries to be.
Just like women, men too must not wear clothing that is inappropriate, tight fitting and showing off their body.
There is no technical rule that men must cover their whole body in the manner in which women are required to do, but in order for facilitating that women do not fall into sin by looking at a man’s body, it had been recommended by our ulama that men should cover their entire body and should refrain from wearing “short-sleeve” shirts and clothes that show off their body.
HIJAB IS A DISPLAY OF HONOUR
Everything that I have said thus far is very important. However there is one further aspect of Hijab that must be emphasised and that is that Hijab is a display of the honour shown to women.
Our relationship with Almighty Allah is a spiritual one. Allah created this world and is not in any way affected by desires which we are affected by….as He created these powers.
But when a woman stands before her Lord, even though she is all alone in her home wherein she wears no Hijab, yet when she stands before her Lord, she must wear full Hijab.
If Hijab was simply a protection from unlawful external interaction, then why is full Hijab required when performing salaah. So much to the extent that a woman must be very particular that her hair is not purposefully exposed under her scarf or even her arms or lower parts of her legs don’t get exposed.
All of these particular practises need to be observed when standing in your Mihrab of Ibaadat.
This is all due to the honour that Almighty Allah has accorded to women.
And the greater your spiritual status, the greater your observation and keeping of Hijab.
And we see this in the Quran regarding Lady Maryam (a.s) how she was particular about Hijab even when two angels appeared before her (though they were in the form of men)…but she immediately responds by saying:
قَالَتْ إِنّـِي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَنِ مِنكَ إِن كُنتَ تَقِيّاً
She said: ‘Verily I take refuge in the Beneficent (Allah) from you! if you are God-fearing.” (Surah Maryam Verse 18)
Lady Maryam (a.s), a Lady of such great status is particular about her interaction even with angels.
And when Lady Fatima (a.s) was buried, how particular was she not regarding how her body must be covered so that others don’t see her at all.
Thus we find that when women pray or visit the shrines of the Imams or the shrine of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), as a show of honour to them, they observe Hijab in a very particular manner.
And all of this manifestation of Hijab comes in the light of our Divine world view.
So with the commencement of the Month of Thil Hijjah soon, we are again particularly blessed with a period in which to be recipients of Almighty Allah’s special favours.
Though it is commonly related to the month of Hajj and perhaps at times people think that there is little relationship in it for those who are not performing Hajj this year, it’s actually the other way round.
Two of the great aspects of the Hajj – being the sacrificial aspect and the Day of Arafah are both events that we all can connect to from far.
Thus it’s highly recommended to fast on the 9th of Thil Hijjah and to sacrifice the specified animals on the Day of Eid.
Narrations state that if someone was unable to achieve the forgiveness of Almighty Allah on the Night of Qadr in Ramadaan, then the next best possibility is the Day of Arafah.
This gives us a vivid view of the importance of this month.
But these days are also a remembrance of Prophet Musa (a.s) being summoned by Allah for 40 nights from 1 Thil Hijjah until 10 Muharram.
And it’s a month related to the Ahlul Bait (a.s) in different ways which include the great Eids of Ghadier and Mubahilah.
Insha’Allah we will separately post the recommended actions for this month on our social media pages for all to benefit from it.
On the international scene we still witness the Saudi war on Yemen continuing.
Sad news this week has been that a Saudi airstrike has destroyed a major house in the northern Yemen city of Saada, killing its owner, Shi’ite Imam Saleh Abu Zainah, and 15 other civilians, all members of his extended family.
The imam, his family, his two sons and their families all died in the attack.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, its Federal High Court turned down a request by the detained Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, seeking his immediate release from detention by the Department of State Service (DSS).
El-Zakzaky, who is the leader of the Islamic movement in Nigeria has been in detention since December last year with his wife, after a violent attack by Nigerian Army.
Hundreds of people were reportedly killed in the attack.
Why was his application turned down? Because the court, which serves the interests of the government found a loophole in the application saying that Sheikh Zakzaky’s lawyers did not follow the proper process.
So like the Quran says when Prophet Yusuf (a.s) requested release after being unjustly imprisoned:
فَلَبِثَ فِي السّجْنِ بِضْعَ سِنِين
“So he remained in prison for a few years” (Surah Yusuf Verse 42)
On the local front for the past 2 weeks we have seen across the country the launch of the Madina Institute’s Centre for Non Violence and Peace Studies.
It’s an initiative which appears to have received widespread support and appears to have noble objectives.
And the keynote addresses at the launch certainly appeared to reiterate that message.
From my point of view I think on overall it’s something very good and pray that the actual broader Ulama fraternity lives up to the aims of this initiative as the sectarian reality on the ground will take a long time to repair.