This is apropos of the article ‘Muslim women and modernity’ by Asghar Ali Engineer (April 9). This article, some of the writer’s previous articles and many other people have for long propagated the view that covering the face or wearing a ‘niqab’ is a pre-Arab tradition, that it is wrongly associated with Islam, that it has nothing to do with covering the face, and that it is a means to subjugate women.
I agree that the ‘niqab’ is a highly sensitive topic and given the zeal with which human rights’ organisations are working for the uplift of women these days, speaking in favour of it will draw a lot of ire. However, someone has to expose the truth.
True, on the issue of covering the face, there is a lot of difference of opinion among scholars regarding its status in Islam, and whether it is obligatory (‘farz’) or liked (‘mustahab’). Here I will not argue which one it is because sufficient matter can be found.
However, I will bring to attention the point that a difference of opinion among religious scholars has arisen on multiple issues in Islam like certain actions during prayers and prayer timings, but this difference of opinion can and should not become a reason for one opinion being adjudged un-Islamic.
Similarly, to cover or not to cover the face is one such issue (and three of the four great Imams have deemed covering the face necessary), thus to label the ‘niqab’ a pre-Arab tradition, un-Islamic and a means of subjugating women would be wrong/ unfair.