The Burqa of Myths

Society is struggling to understand British Muslim Women and their role in our community. People’s common misconceptions about their religious rights and their cultural norms get much publicity from the press and Islamophobes. This veil over reality is slowly becoming the accepted view of the general public, and this will only get worse unless Muslims, particularly women, are vocal about the truth. Unfortunately who can blame the general public for their confusion when British Muslims themselves are toiling through their self identity? British Muslim women are anxious (at times rebellious) to fling off the shrouds cast by first generation immigrants, hoping to make things clearer for their children. This article will clarify the religious take on aspects of Women’s Rights. And is it hoped that the role models in history of the righteous amongst us will clear the fog around the myths perpetrated by culture, tradition and many in the media.

Muslim Women, Smashing Stereotypes
Let us start with the way the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) treated women around him and the way they treated and acted with him. These women of the community were outspoken, stood up for their rights, and were actively part and parcel of the society around them. They held their leaders, and their men to account. They were an integral part of worship1, congregation2 and celebration3. They were brave, creative, wise, intelligent and foresighted8A. Truthfully, without them Islam would surely not be one of the largest religions in the world. Furthermore, they ensured the rights of others were seen to8.

We cannot have credible Islamic History without the flourish. iconic women that made it so. It would be difficult to understand the revelation of God without Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her, RA) the wife of the Prophet PBUH. She was the first to believe in it, and the one who supported the Prophet PBUH through the most difficult years. She was an established self-sustained business woman many years his senior.

Their religion in the 6th Century, granted them rights to lands4,5, commerce17 and wealth. Indeed, difficult not to

Aisha RA narrated 200 Ahadith that led to the Fiqh and Sunnah we have today. 1400 years ago she was a pioneer because as a woman she could read, write and taught classes to men. She received political figures and was a ‘medical practitioner’. She offered so much to her community.

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Visualise Khalid bin Waleed the legendary general and warrior, fighting in battle and yet he is dying of thirst. It is superfluous to appreciate the fighter without appreciating the woman that arrives with a water skin to quench his thirst? The women were present in historical battles nursing the wounded, carrying the dead for a burial and some even fought6! During the life of the Prophet PBUH there were daily sermons and congregational prayers that men and women both attended. Yet the women of the times were outspoken enough to demand more time from the Prophet PBUH regarding women’s expression of faith7. They refused to suffer in silence. They raised genuine concerns and pursued cases of interest, in whatever area that proved to be.

Lost and Culture





In the Golden Age of Islam, knowledge and indeed women were forefront in their positions and impact on society. The decline of this era, partly due to Muslims in general losing their greatest ally, faith, and internal strife, led to the Mongols and the Crusades finishing off what little remained. Much of history was destroyed, women forgot their rights, and influences of other religions became tradition and the accepted norm.

Sadly much of the treatment of women is what has existed in tradition, be it from the Indo-Pak subcontinent, or adopted identity from the culture of Saudia Arabia. In India Islam was renewed in Muslims with a zealous rebellion against the British colonisation as a rejection of western influences including the woman’s ‘boldness’, nonetheless this way of thinking has been ingrained in those Muslims over many generations.

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Symbols of Oppression?
There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower. ( ‫ , سسسسسس سسسس‬Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #256)

Women who choose to cover cannot be oppressed. Choice can never be oppression. Nor does Islamic dress symbolise radicalism, extremism, islamicism (which is not a word) or whichever ‘ism’ is fashionable these days.

Ok, so covering your hair is strange. Wearing the face veil ( niqab), or clad head to foot in black robes is not your average sight down the road. But just because we don’t see this stuff all the time doesn’t mean we should fear it in ignorance. That’s the path that led to women being burnt at the stake because the freaked ones cried “Witch!”. It’s akin to the fear and lack of control that gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan. When Muslim girls come of age, an acceptance of the Laws of God is symbolised in their choosing to cover14.
O Children of Adam! (includes men, who should also dress modestly and cover from the navel to the knee.)We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover yourselves (screen your private parts) and as an adornment; and the raiment of righteousness, that is better. Such are among the Ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah, that they may remember (i.e. leave falsehood and follow truth ). ( ‫ , فارعألا ةروس‬Al-Araf, Chapter #7, Verse #26)

The Hijab is generally accepted to cover the entire body except the hands and face11. In different countries and individuals this is exhibited in beautiful variety:

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Girls are encouraged to decide for themselves to take the ‘hijab’. It is only when you choose to do it yourself, that you are rewarded for your faith. Every action is judged by intention7. Nuns take a covenant with God to remain chaste (pure of faith). The Hijab (covering up) is taken for similar reasons that Nuns cover up. Muslim women’s garments/hijab also represents her covenant to remain chaste by agreeing to stay within the boundaries set by God10 as well as identifying her as a practicing Muslim. Alongside such chaste intentions is also a growing ‘feministic’ view that the Islamic dress empowers women to participate fully in society. It liberates those who wear hijab from attitudes that objectify them as sexual objects. Should Muslim women have to flaunt their sexuality in order to be listened to, or taken seriously? Their individuality stems from their mind. Their opinions, their thoughts - they speak for me. Therefore some women find the Burqa (long black gown) or Niqab (face veil) liberating in a society where more and more emphasis is placed on the sexuality of a woman. Having to conform to the pressures of what is acceptable for the way women should look and dress is something liberal women are happy to be without. In conclusion, the choice to dress how a woman wishes is entirely up to the individual. This freedom is a basic human right. The British public, over time has been conditioned to fear forms of covering, thanks to fear-mongering lead by the media and irresponsible politicians. We don’t think twice about not being able to see the face of a woman we speak to on the phone, and converse very happily with her. But our conditioned response to a heightened awareness of covering, has left British Society demonising and imposing sanctions on women with Niqabs and Burqas. What makes us human is we feel and hurt. Our outer garments do not make us human. We are at liberty to learn and benefit each other, should we make that choice.

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Marriage Choices & Individuality
Islam stresses the importance of social relations. How we live with each other as people, as a family and within our society. Marriage is the foundation of family which in turn is the fundamental building block of society. Women not only have the right to choose their marriage partner8,9,10 but the marriage must have her explicit free consent8A. Upon entering marriage women are also entitled to retain their maiden name - this is symbolic of her unique identity.
A woman named Khansa bint Khidam (RU) once came to the Prophet (SAW) and complained: "My father has forced me to marry my cousin in order to raise his own status (in the eyes of the people)." The Prophet (SAW) told her that she was free to dissolve this marriage and choose whoever she wished to marry. She replied, "I accept my father's choice, but my aim was to let the women know that fathers have no right to interfere in the marriage." (Ahmad, An-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah). 8

Together with all the required provisions for her welfare and protection at the time of marriage, Islam additionally gives the women the right to a dowry (Mahr)5. This is a gift from the husband symbolising his love and affection, and providing independent financial means to his wife. The ownership of her wealth does not transfer to her in-laws, father or husband upon marriage but is entirely at the disposal of the woman. Marriage of the faithful thrives on love, understanding and respect, not bitterness, resentment and anger. There is a strict divide between religion and culture. Forced marriages are wrongly linked with and are a cultural baggage. Indeed in some cultures men feel threatened by intelligent women, their ability to choose or speak out and feel the need to stifle her rights. Within Islam the religion, a woman has her own free will. If she can be judged independently of a man, she is responsible for her own choices and therefore her own actions. She should seek strength from her God given rights, speak out and request the help of others in the family and society around her just as women around the Prophet PBUH did. Islam is above culture. Islam recognises culture - but supersedes it. Culture is the language you speak, the style of clothes you wear, the way you cook your food. Islam is a way of life, guidelines by which a Muslim lives their life in a moral and cohesive manner.

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Women and their Society
All those around her should seek to support her and uphold what is right, if they are God-fearing. Muslims especially should know if they allow injustices, by not speaking out today they will reap those seeds in the hereafter. Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you avoid justice; and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do. ( ‫, سسسسسس سسسس‬ An-Nisa, Chapter #4, Verse #135)

Furthermore the society around these women, respected and valued them:
Narrated Al-Qasim: A woman from the offspring of Ja'far was afraid lest her guardian marry her (to somebody) against her will. So she sent for two elderly men from the ansar , 'AbdurRahman and Mujammi', the two sons of Jariya, and they said to her, "Don't be afraid, for Khansa' bint Khidam was given by her father in marriage against her will, then the Prophet cancelled that marriage." (See Hadith No. 78) (Sahih Bukhari Book #86, Hadith #99)

They gave a platform to the women’s concerns, their choices and their final decision. This was normal in the Prophets society. For reasons other than faith, people see wealthy gains from marriages, or status improvements. They forsake their God for the worldly gains.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be losers. (Sahih Bukhari, Wedlock, Marriage)

We see that 1400 years ago, Muslim women were amazing. They left legacies for the people of the future who would remember them gratefully, for the actions that gave fuel to their inspirations. How little they would have achieved if they were limited to leaving the house (as some narrow minded scholars of Fiqh suggest) twice in their life for marriage and death! These were women who stood alongside their men, thereby making things easier for them. They were not ignored, or avoided like the plague. They were an integral part of society because they were valued. Islam is a religion of character. It sets out standards for people to live morally, with all the relations around them be it wife, sister, daughter, aunt, niece, neighbour and friends. Being good and showing kindness, understanding and value coupled with piety and worship is called Righteousness.15,16
"O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them - except when they have become guilty of open lewdness. On

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the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike something and Allah will bring about through it a great deal of good." [Noble Quran 4:19] Narrated Masruq: Abdullah bin 'Amr mentioned Allah's Apostle saying that he was neither a Fahish nor a Mutafahish. Abdullah bin 'Amr added, Allah's Apostle said, 'The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.' (Sahih Bukhari. Book #73, Hadith #56).

Throughout the history of time, you will find Muslim women that steered politics, learned to read and write, gave to charity, nursed the sick, engaged in businesses, trade and war. Taught men, advised men and supported men. They challenged leaders, shaped society, made great men and changed history. All was accepted of society in that time. They were all great women. They were resilient, dynamic, creative and inspiring and they never gave up. And all this while, they were having children, caring for the household and supporting their husbands. All of this was as a result of their rooted faith. They were not unworldly mystics, they did not hold society in contempt, they were not selfish. They were close to Allah and that made them of unsurpassable benefit to society.
“Among my followers the best of my men are those who are best to their wives and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a thousand martyrs. Among my followers, again, the best of women are those who assist their husbands in their work and love them dearly for everything, save what is a transgression of Allah’s laws.”

If you want to learn how to make a difference: Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK Muslimah – Make a Difference Become a School Governor Muslim Women Helpline: 020 890 48193 Forced Marriage Unit: 0207 008 0151. Muslim Sisters Haven: 024 6727 2878 Editor’s note: If theirs is anything good from this article it is from Allah, all the mistakes are mine. Email FAO Unaiza:

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1. Narrated 'Aisha: The believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the
fajr prayer with Allah's Apostle, and after finishing the prayer they would return to their home and nobody could recognize them because of darkness. (Sahih Bukhari Book #10, Hadith #552)

2. Narrated Ibn Umar: One of the wives of Umar (bin Al-Khattab) used to offer the Fajr and the
'Isha' prayer in congregation in the Mosque. she was asked why she had come out for the prayer as she knew that Umar disliked it, and he has great ghaira (self-respect). she replied, "What prevents him from stopping me from this act?" The other replied, "The statement of Allah\'s Apostle (p.b.u.h) : 'do not stop Allah's women-slave from going to Allah s Mosques' prevents him." (Sahih Bukhari Book #13, Hadith #23)

3. (140) Narrated Anas bin Malik: Once the Prophet saw some women and children coming
from a wedding party. He got up energetically and happily and said, "By Allah! You (i.e., the ansar) are the most beloved of all people to me." (Sahih Bukhari Book #62, Hadith #109)

0. Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children's (Inheritance): to the male, a portion
equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half. For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased Left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases ('s) after the payment of legacies and debts. Ye know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by Allah. and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise. (‫ةروس‬ ‫ , ءاسنلا‬An-Nisa, Chapter #4, Verse #11)

4. “And give to the women (whom you marry) their Mahr (obligatory bridal-money given
by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it, and enjoy it without fear of any harm (as Allah has made it lawful)” Qur’an [An-Nisa:4]

5. Naseeba Bint Ka’ab Bin Awf Al Ansariyah, of Bani Mazin Tribe, Woman of Distinction, Umm
Amarah, A Heroine of Islam:

1. (56) Narrated Abu Said: A woman came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Men
(only) benefit by your teachings, so please devote to us from (some of) your time, a day on which we may come to you so that you may teach us of what Allah has taught you." Allah's Apostle said, "Gather on such-and-such a day at such-and-such a place." They gathered and Allah's Apostle came to them and taught them of what Allah had taught him. (Part of: See Hadith No. 341, Vol. 2) (Sahih Bukhari Book #92, Hadith #413)

2. A. Khansa Bint Khidam said “My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this
match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace). He said to me “accept what your father has arranged.” I said “I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.” He said “then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.” I said “I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s matters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them). (Fathul Bari Sharah Al Bukhari 9/194, Ibn Majah Kitabun Nikah 1/602).

B. Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: "A virgin came to the Prophet (pbuh) and mentioned
that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophet (pbuh) allowed her to exercise her choice. (Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud, Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 11, Number 2091)"

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C. Narrated Khansa bint Khidam Al-Ansariya: that her father gave her in marriage when
she was a matron and she disliked that marriage. So she went to Allah's Apostle and he declared that marriage invalid. (Sahih Bukhari Book #62, Hadith #69)

3. Narrated Al-Qasim: A woman from the offspring of Ja'far was afraid lest her guardian marry
her (to somebody) against her will. So she sent for two elderly men from the ansar, 'AbdurRahman and Mujammi', the two sons of Jariya, and they said to her, "Don't be afraid, for Khansa' bint Khidam was given by her father in marriage against her will, then the Prophet cancelled that marriage." (See Hadith No. 78) (Sahih Bukhari Book #86, Hadith #99)

10. Narrated 'Aisha: I asked the Prophet, "O Allah's Apostle! Should the women be asked for
their consent to their marriage?" He said, "Yes." I said, "A virgin, if asked, feels shy and keeps quiet." He said, "Her silence means her consent." (Sahih Bukhari Book #85, Hadith #79)

11. (15) Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the
Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands. (Abu Dawud Book #32, Hadith #4092)

12. Narrated 'Umar: I heard the Prophet saying, "The reward of deeds depends on the
intentions, so whoever emigrated for the worldly benefits or to marry a woman, his emigration was for that for which he emigrated, but whoever emigrated for the Sake of Allah and His Apostle, his emigration is for Allah and His Apostle." (Sahih Bukhari. Book #58, Hadith #238)

13. Narrated Thabit Al-Banani: I was with Anas while his daughter was present with him. Anas
said, "A woman came to Allah's Apostle and presented herself to him, saying, 'O Allah's Apostle, have you any need for me (i.e. would you like to marry me)?' "Thereupon Anas's daughter said, "What a shameless lady she was ! Shame! Shame!" Anas said, "She was better than you; she had a liking for the Prophet so she presented herself for marriage to him." (Sahih Bukhari. Book #62, Hadith #53)

14. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts and
not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers or their brother's sons, or their sister's sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.

15. ( ‫ , رونلا ةروس‬An-Noor, Chapter #24, Verse #31). 16. It is not Al-birr (piety, righteousness) that you turn your faces towards east and (or)
west (in prayers); but Al-birr is (the quality of) the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to Al-Masakin (the poor), and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set slaves free, performs As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat ), and gives the Zakat, and who fulfil their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment (disease) and at the time of fighting (during the battles). Such are the people of the truth and they are Al-Muttaqun (the pious - See V.2:2).

17. ( ‫ , ةرقبلا ةروس‬Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #177)

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18. “Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk,
orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful.” [An-Nisa, Chapter #4 Verse #36]

19. "And in no wise covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than others: to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn..." [Noble Quran 4:32]
References of Hadith taken from References from the Qur’an taken from the Yusuf Ali Translation. References of history taken from Hesham Al-Awadi (Historian) Women Around the Beloved:

Further Reading: Women Around the Beloved, Lectures by Hesham Al Awadi,

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