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Purdah and Islam

  • Date Submitted: 02/23/2012 02:53 AM
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Purdah and Islam

Women are not required to observe the kind of purdah many say they must in our society.

By Anees Jillani

A FOREIGN journalist friend working in Pakistan was per plexed after visiting the family of Salmaan Taseer’s assassin near Islamabad. She was intrigued that the men from the assassin’s family while talking to her did not look at her even once.
She is not the first westerner who has mentioned this, as many regard this either as an insult or a sign that the other person does not like her. This is also unlike what the same woman experiences in the streets when nearly everybody stares at her. So how does one explain this phenomenon?

The Holy Quran says that “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do” (24:30).
It also states: “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 husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or 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 shame; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. … (24:31).

The cited verse clarifies many things. For instance, it is not stated that the women should cover their faces. If their faces had to be covered then there was no reason for them and for the men to lower their gaze.
Secondly, they are directed not to display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear. This direction can be interpreted in many ways. One interpretation could be not...

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