Are we creating
too much fuss over a trivial matter - hijab?
Riyad Nadwi Responds to the Oxford Hijab Conference
of 28th February 2004.
was argued by some Muslims in the conference that
hijab is a small component of Islamic practice when
compared with the full spectrum of what it means
to be a Muslim in the West and therefore the uproar
in the Muslim community about hijab is disproportionate
I am afraid, is an extremely shallow understanding
of the issue. If we accept that there is no difference
between wearing hijab and not wearing it, then by
implication it would mean that we must also accept
a monumental change in the way we relate to Quran
and hadith in general (usul al-fiqh). To
all intents and purposes, this would constitute
laying the foundation for an artificial reformation
of the entire structure of our jurisprudential principles.
This is exactly what the pro-Israel activists have
been trying to achieve for several decades. We should
note here the keenness with which Daniel
Pipes  quotes Bencheikh
when he argues that the reforming and liberal trends
that he hopes will emerge in France can be "transferable
to the Muslim world as a whole." (Daniel
Pipes review of Marianne et le Prophète:
L'Islam dans la France laïque (by Soheib
issue is not just about hijab. It is about setting
a precedent. Such a precedent would then be
used as a catalyst to dictate to us the terms of
our commitment to the Quran and the way we relate
to our entire scholastic heritage. This could lead
to a situation in which we are eventually presented
with a list of verses in the Quran which would be
'unacceptable' to read.
Some Muslims have been arguing that hijab
is an obligation on Muslim women purely as the result
of a scholastic heritage dominated entirely by men.
It has been argued that the recent participation
of some Muslim women scholars has brought about
a 'liberation' from the old, 'oppressive' rulings.
We are therefore led to believe that the obligation
of the hijab can be interpreted in a more
lax way, to the extent that it may not even be an
obligation after all.
way of correction, it is crucial for Muslims to
realise that our scholastic heritage includes thousands
of female scholars and that (their) traditional
rulings are based on sound principles rather than
political correctness. In fact, there is an Alim
here in Oxford who is in the latter stages of compiling
an encyclopaedia of more than ten thousand female
hadith scholars, some of whom were teachers
of Imam Bukhari, amoung others. Ten thousand
women scholars - and that is in only one
discipline (hadith). It is therefore a sign of gross
ignorance for people to argue that the Islamic sciences
are built entirely on male scholarship and that
women scholars are only now beginning to participate.
This is another major 'spin' on our heritage.
a Muslim community, we must not become an easy target
for the 'spin' doctors. It is time for them
to stop interpreting our generosity and hospitality
as idiocy. My advice to the Muslims of Britain and
Europe remains that we should explore the motives
of every politician and their advisers whenever
they make an attempt to interfere with our faith
and we need to demonstrate our complete rejection
of this ban with consistency.
Riyad Nadwi, M.A., Ph.D.
29th February 2004
Please also read Shaikh Riyad Nadwi's response to
Dr Harris's lecture at the Oxford Hijab Conference".
See review at Daniel Pipes website: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/861