The Muslim woman’s attire are viewed by some non-Muslims as oppressive because, it is claimed, the jilbab represents the inferior status of woman, that they are compelled against their will or that it inhibits their participation in public life. This view is not born of an understanding of the divine wisdom for legislating the dress and nor from the positive effects that accrue from its adherence. Rather, the origins of such thinking are the abuse of women by some Muslim men which Islamic law itself denounces or the stereotypical perceptions of role of women in Islam. Islamic law views men and women the same in their
The disparity in the rules arises not from a discriminatory view of any one gender but the fact that Islamic law recognises that there is a gender difference and hence prescribes rules accordingly. The great majority of rules apply equally to men and women due to their identical nature and but differ in a few cases due to the gender dissimilarity. Thus, Muslim women wear the jilbab to remain modestly attired in public life and feel that it enhances their worth rather than diminish it. Its practical effects are also appealing to women who feel they can confidently participate in the outside activities such as work and study free from the disrespectful glances of men. So far from obstructing women’s social participation the jilbab actually facilitates it by empowering and liberating her from unwanted sexual advances and thereby promoting an atmosphere which is conducive to the social interaction of men and women.
Appendix I: legal verdict (fatwa) of Mufti al-Kawthari:
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Allah Most High says:
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons. That is most convenient that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful”. (Surah al-Ahzab, 59).
The above verse is clear in determining that it is obligatory (fard) upon a woman to cover herself with a jilbab. This leaves us with a question, what is a jilbab?
It is stated in Lisan al-Arab:
“Jilbab, plural of Jalabib: an outer garment or a cloak with it a woman covers her head and chest. And it is said: It is a long cloak that covers a woman completely”. (Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, 2/317).
Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) states:
“Jilbab is long cloak that covers a woman from her head to her feet”. (Ruh al-Ma’ani, 22/88).
The above and other interpretations of Jilbab are clear that a jilbab is the outer garment that women must wear when emerging in front of strangers. This garment must be wide, loose, and modest and covers the body completely.
After the revelation of this verse, many female Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) used to emerge outside their homes with complete reticence as though birds were sitting on their heads. They used to cover themselves with long black cloaks. (See: Ruh al-Ma’ani, 22/89).
Therefore, a woman must cover her self with a loose and modest cloak when emerging in front of strangers. This may be a traditional veil (burqa) or some other garment.
And Allah knows best