I received a very polite comment from a kind reader of my blog. He/She commented that Karen Armstrong's view of the hijab totallly opposes with the Quran. So in my post today i will try to the best of my ability, from what i have found out from my references of the Quran, to address the comment. I have to qualify that i am NOT a trained theologist nor am i a religious scholar. I'm here to just give my views, and if any of my views are inconsistent with any of the readers' views, feel free to comment. I don't wish to instigate any argument, but a debate in an intellectual fashion would be greatly appreciated.
First, let us consider Armstrong's viewpoint of the hijab:
"We should pause to consider the question of the hijab, and the Muslim institution of the veil. It is often seen in the West as a symbol of male oppression, but in the Qur'an it was simply a piece of protocol that applied only to the Prophet's wives."
In this statement, there is a slight misapprehension toward the wearing of hijab. According to Armstrong, the hijab is 'simply a piece of protocol that applied only to the Prophet's wives.' While that is partly true, its is written in the Quran:
"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss. " An-nur: 31.
From this verse, it is clearly stated that the believing women should guard their modesty by dressing decently by "drawing veils over their bosoms". The term believing women, logically, should also encompass the prophet's wives and his family members. Hence, saying that the veil is only a protocol that applies to the wives of the prophet is, in my opinion, a misconception.
In the chapter of Al-Ahzab Allah emphasised again:
"O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the 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 Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful." Al-Ahzab:33
From these verses itself, my opinion is inclined that the wearing of the hijab do not only apply to the prophet's wives, but also to the believing women i.e. muslimah. My take is probably, Armstrong might have her own interpretation of the verses. Allahua'lam.
Regarding isolation, Armstrong opposes the view of seclusion saying that 'Muslim women are required, like men, to dress modestly, but women were not told to veil themselves from view, nor to seclude themselves from men in a separate part of the house.' There is some truth in this assertion. While she did not specify the relationship of the 'men' to the muslimah, there are certain boundaries that has been set, which allow the muslimah to not seclude herself from certain male counterparts whom she have relation with. This is explained in the verse as quoted above,
"they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex." An-nur:31.
Hence, while it is uncontestable that a muslimah should not reveal her aurat to a male whom she do not have relations with i.e. non-muhrims, there are some cases where seclusion in the household from men is unjustifiable. Allahua'lam.
I hope that from the references above to support my viewpoints managed to address the quotes in my previous post. Suppose, if there are any further interpretations, please by all means post it up as a comment. May we benefit from such intellectual debates and given the gift of true knowledge from Allah, Insya'allah.
Thank You for reading.