Manners for Man-Woman Interaction (Part 3/3) - Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan

Manners for Man-Woman Interaction (Part 3/3)

The stand of Maulana Maudoodi:

Maulana Maudoodi is one of those scholars who have influenced the educated Muslims of today, the most. The authors of this book are personally indebted to Syed Maudoodi as their religious spirit and an inclination to reflect upon Deeen in the light of the Quran and Sunnah are basically due to the influence of his writings. However, it is a fact that every person is vulnerable to commit mistakes except the Prophet of God. Since, the authors of this book disagree with the viewpoints of Syed Moudoodi; his stand would be analyzed with all respect for him.

Syed Maudoodi has expressed his views on this topic in “Pardah”, “Women and religious issues”, “Tafheem-ul-Quran vol-3”, “Tafseer Al-Nur and vol-4 Tafseer Al-Ahzab.” His views in this regard can also be studied Rasail-o-Masail” in a scattered manner.

Syed Maudoodi’s concept of Pardah can be described through the following points:

  1. The real significance is attached to Al-Ahzab-32-33 and 59 in the context of ‘Pardah’. According to these Quranic verses, a woman has to cover the whole of her face. At the most she can keep her one eye open.
  2. She will cover her head and bosom from the men of the closest circle except her husband even inside the house.
  3. A woman shall cover her face from all men except those from the closest circle.
  4. Shariah has a vague policy about a woman’s relatives who are neither in her closest circle nor perfect strangers.
  5. The instructions in Al-Nur, basically deal with the exceptions like some extra-ordinary situation. Normally a woman has to cover her face.

Now we analyse the viewpoints of Syed Maudoodi:

As we have already made it clear in detail that the verses of Al-Ahzab 32-33 and several others besides them are exclusively about the wives of the Holy Prophet. The Quran addresses them under:

          “Wives of the Prophet! You are not like ordinary woman”.

          Syed Maudoodi opines that this address is like the admonition of a father to his child when he says:

“You are not like the street children”.

There is a remarkable difference between this example and the style of Quran. If the Quran had used the words as under:

“Wives of the Prophet! You are not like the notorious or street women” ,there could have been the possibility of generalizing their sense. But the Quranic words, ‘ordinary women’ mean that there is a difference between the Prophet’s wives and ordinary women.

Syed Maudoodi’s next argument in this context is that there is nothing in particular for the Prophet’s wives in all the next Quranic instructions rather they are all for ordinary muslim women. Whe have already explained that the prayer and alms taxes are the only two things towards which even the Apostle’s attention has been drawn distinctively though every one knows that some of the orders for them are different from those meant for the whole Ummah. So far as rest of the instructions are concerned like, “do not be too complaisant in your speech” “stay in your homes” ‘do not display finery as used to be done in the former days of ignorance” and “bear in mind the revelations of Allah which are recited in your houses” , they are all related to the Prophet’s wives. Unlike this, instructions for ordinary Muslim women have been revealed through the same Surah and Al-Nur in particular.

          Syed Maudoodi, in this context did not consider that God is not hostile to our faith and practice that He uses words of one kind which conveys the sense otherwise. If God intended to issue these instructions to all Muslim women, He would have rather used the words of Verse-59, “Prophet enjoin your wives, your daughters and the wives of true believers” over here as well. If God has not used these words in verses 30-32, there must be some sound reason for that.

          Maulana Maudoodi interprets verse 59 of Al-Ahzab that women should wrap their Jalbabs around their bodies so as to cover their faces while going outside their homes. At the most they can keep one or both their eyes open to see the way.

          The Maulana has not paid the attention towards the context of this sentence. He did not consider the justification of the criticism upon hypocrites and the revelation of this verse. Secondly, why did the Quran not use the commonly known word of ‘Niqab’ if it wanted women to cover their faces whereas several women used to cover their faces even in that society. Thirdly, why did the Quran not clearly asked women to cover their faces, if it wanted to do so. Instead the words used are, “draw their Jalbab round them”, which have a wider connotation. Fourthly, what do the adjacent words, “so that they may be recognized and not molested” mean? Is it necessary to cover one’s face in a society where a woman who wraps herself with Jalbab and leaves her face uncovered is considered noble and not molested?

          Through the above Question, we intend to point out that it is important; to reflect upon every word and keeping the whole context of an order in mind while deriving an instruction from the Quran. This is the only way to understand the wisdom and the wider sphere of every instruction.

          Syed Muadoodi has quoted the opinions of Ibn Abbas and some other interpreters of the Quran while explaining this verse. Ibn Abbas is the significant of all others but this attribution to him can not be accepted as true because he had never met Ali Ibn Talha. So far as the rest of the interpreters are concerned, the Maulana has differed with all of them on several places in Tafheem-ul-Quran (the reference of the interpretation of Al-Tin will be sufficient). It should be kept in mind that all the reference quoted by Syed Maudoodi related to the unsafe places.

          The second point related to Syed Maudoodi’s concept of ‘Hijab’ is that a woman should conceal her head and her bosom in front of all close relatives except her husband even within the house (Pardah:284)

          All six narratives presented by the Maulana as an argument in favour of this viewpoint are weak. The most prominent Muslim expert in Hadith of the modern era, Allama Nasir-ud-Din Albani has discussed in detail on the infirmity of all these narratives in his book, “Hijab-ul-Miratul-ul-Muslima” and declared them as very weak. We have discussed about it briefly before. On the other side it is proved through Al-Nur and the true narratives of the Bukhari and the Muslim that a woman can come before her close relatives with all her finery in a frank manner but Syed Maudood’s attention did not catch it.

          Syed Maudoodi’s third point is that a woman will cover her face from all men except from those in the closest circle. He has tendered his arguments in Tafheem-ul-.Quran vol-3 page381-382. in this context. First he has quoted the incident of Ayesha and argues that the Prophet’s companion could identity her because he had seen her before the instruction of ‘Hijab’. It is obviously an incident related with a wife of the Prophet and the instructions relating ‘Hijab’ in Al-Ahzab were related exclusively for the Prophet’s wives. Thus it can not be generalized for other Muslim women. Next, the Maulana bases his arguments upon the incident of Umm-i-Khallad though it is a weak narrative. At the third stage he quotes the incident in which the Prophet enquired whether it was the hand of a man or a woman. The Maulana argues that the concerned woman was sitting behind the curtain because the instruction about Hijab had been revealed prior to that incident. Whole of this narrative is weak. If we accept it true, even then it just proves that some women used to take Hijab during that period. It has already been told that several women used to observe Hijab and took veil even before the advent of Islam.  Islam neither ordered to follow it nor forbade to do so.

          Next, Syed   Maudoodi bases his argument on the narrative of Ayesha in which she narrates that she covered her face along with Prophet’s wives when men encountered them on their way to Makkah for Hajj. This is also a weak narrative and has a conflict with all other narrative relating to the instructions regarding Hajj. It is clear through them that a woman should not cover her face in the state of ‘Ahram’ (the dress during Hajj). Several narratives with the similar sense are recorded in the Bukhari, Nisai, Abu Daud, Masnad Ahad, Baihaqi and other books of Hadiths. If this narrative is accepted as true even then we must keep in mind that the instructions of Hijab for the Prophet’s wives were different form those for other women. Naturally the women traveling with the Prophet were his wives.

          Thus all narratives quoted by the Maulana are weak except the one relating the incident of IFK which was exclusively about a wife of the Prophet.

          Since Maulana Maudoodi was a writer of extraordinary calibre, at times he used to offer the arguments which appear forceful in the surface reading but a minute study ensues conflicting results. For example, the Maulana has quoted a narrative from the Bukhari and Tirmizi in support of his argument in Tafheem ul Quran vol-3 page 381. According to this narrative, at the time of the last Hajj of the Prophet, the first cousin of the Prophet, Fazal Bin Abbas stared at the face of a woman while she was asking something from the Prophet. As this narrative indicates that the woman had her face uncovered, therefore the Maulana pleads that she was in the state of Ahram and a woman is disallowed to cover her face in that condition. This argument is absolutely wrong. It is recorded in Tirmizi that the particular incident took place after the ‘Qurbani’ (the slaughter of animal at the time of Hajj). It is noteworthy that the restriction of Ahram is lifted after the Qurbani.

          Similarly, quoting the restriction upon the women not to wear gloves or veil on their faces, the Maulana pleads that this exemption was granted just because the order of Hijab had already been issued (Pardah 318-319). In fact neither in the Quran nor through even the weakest narratives the wearing of gloves or taking of veil is proved. Factually speaking, both these trends were in practice even before Islam. Islam did not issue any order affirming them or denying them under normal circumstances. However, observance of these practices were forbidden during the state of Ahram as it was a token of humility before God and an apparel of indigence.

          Next, Syed Maudoodi says that the nature of Hijab cannot be determined in case of the men in the second circle like first cousins because it has not been determined by Shariah (Tafheem ul Quran vol-3, 338). He further creates confusion for the reader by presenting paradoxical and conflicting narratives in this context and forming an unclear opinion about it.

          It is a pity that the Maulana could not get the original point. If he had studied verses 27-31 of Al-Nur with an insight he would have known that the Quran has left no ambiguity in this matter. The Quran says very clearly that a woman can sit, converse and dine with these relatives with the observance of the restrictions like keeping modesty in her eyes, protecting her chastity and concealing her finery. It is worth noticing how the Quran could left the complicated and delicate issue of man-woman co-relation unsettled.

          Far as the narratives are concerned, there is no conflict among them. Unfortunately, Syed Maudoodi has related even weak narratives without taking their validity into account. In fact true and reliable narratives are either under Al-Ahzab pertaining with the Prophet’s wives or under Al-Nur pertaining with ordinary Muslim men and women. If all true narratives are studied in the light of the Quranic instruction, they offer no conflict at all.

          Next, Syed Mauddodi expresses that all instructions revealed through Al-Nur are related with exceptions, the real instruction has been revealed in Al-Ahzab which, the Maulana relates with the covering of face. While explaining the instruction of keeping modesty in one’s look the Maulana says.

          “No body should have a misunderstanding here that women were allowed to move with their faces uncovered this is why they were ordered to have modesty in then looks and keep their eyes low. If the covering of face had been ordered before, there was no wrong both logically and historically. It is wrong logically because despite the enforcement of the order of Hijab for face, there could be a possibility of a man-woman encounter” (Tafheem ul Quran vol-3, 381).

          It is strange that the Quranic Surahs declared as clear and vivid instructions by God right in their beginning are being acknowledged by the Maulana as pertaining with exceptions. On the contrary the verses declared by God as dealing with exceptions are being acknowledged by the Maulana as the verses carrying real orders. Let us see what the first verse of Al-Nur says:

“This is Surah which we have reveled and sanctioned, proclaiming in it clear revelations, so that you may take heed.” (Al-Nur-24,1)

“The words further used by the Quran do not deal with exception as well. For example verse 27 dealing with the social manners starts as under:

“Believers, do not enter the dwellings of other people until you have asked their owners permission…….”

          After the entrance is made and men and women sit together, the Quran orders in clear terms and without any exception;

“Say to the believing men and women to turn away some of their gazes and to restrain their sexual desires.”

          In fact the whole Surah tells it so explicitly that its instructions are for all Muslims and it has been revealed so that the Muslims should be taught the manners for man-woman correlation. It is a pity that the Maulana has not been able to interpret and explain this Suhah on so many places. For example it is clear if we read verses 58-61 with their context that all of these instructions are about the man-woman correlation. They also carry the instruction that they may dine together if they desire. This instruction is so clear that every learner of the Quran would understand it in its true context.

          Unfortunately, the Maulana misinterpreted that this instruction is merely for men. Such misunderstanding on the part of Maulana Maudoodi confused the whole matter.

          Unlike this the exceptions are declared by Al-Ahzab itself and make it clear from the very first verse that it basically deals with the marital affairs of the Prophet and his wives. Therefore the first verse of Al-Ahzab starts as under:

“Prophet, have fear of Allah, and do not listen to the unbelievers and hypocrites”

Verse-6 of the same Surah says:

“The Prophet has greater claim on the faithful than they have on each onther. His wives are their mothers.”

“O Prophet, say to your wives…………..”

          Verse 30 warns the Prophet’s wives that they would be doubly punished in case of a sin and doubly rewarded if they do well.

          Verse 32 says:

“Wives of the Prophet, you are not like other women.”

          This is the usual tone of Al-Ahzab. Wherever ordinary Muslims are addressed in this Surah, the reason and the nature of occasion for this address has been made clear. For example women have been informed that wearing of ‘Jalbab’ is a preventive measure at unsafe places.

“This is more proper, so that that they may be recognized and not molested”

          Through the above discussion we have, briefly offered a criticism on Syed Maudoodi’s viewpoint with regard and respect for him.

          The view point of Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi:

Now we shall analyze the stand of Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi, another eminent scholar of Muslim world. Mufti Shafi was a great scholar belonging to the Hanafi school of thought. He enjoined the special status of “Mufti-e-Azam Pakistan”. “Ma’arif-al-Quran”, Tafseer of the Quran written by him is one of the great tafseers of the modern era and a learner of the Quran can never overlook it. He has described his view on the subject in Vol-7 through tafseer of Al-Ahzab. We shall criticize his viewpoint with regard and respect for him. He believes in three categories of Hijab. In the first and the most desirable category, women should stay at home and their bodies and their movement should be concealed from the eyes of men. In the second category, they should cover whole of their bodies with the help of a big cloth whenever they step out of their homes for some need. They can keep just one eye open to see the way or they should affix a net in the portion of cloth facing their eyes. In the third category, they can keep their faces and hands open while going out of their homes. Mufti Shafi believes that though last category is admissible according to Imam Abu Hanifa yet it carries risk and is therefore discarded by the scholars of Hanafi school of thought. Therefore, this last category is no more admissible.

          He bases his argument on the verses 32-33 of Al-Ahzab in the context of the first category. Without giving any detail about these verses which are entirely related with Prophet’s wives, he expresses that they carry orders for all. Further all incidents quoted by him in this context belong to the Prophet’s wives. Two narratives of the three quoted by him tend to give sense as if the order for staying at home was meant for ordinary women too. But all three narratives especially the last two are very weak.

          In support of the second category he offers the interpretation of Abdullah Ibn Abbas rcorded by Ibn Jareer as an argument. We have already proved that this reference is very weak.

          In the third category of Hijab (which he believes to be discarded) he argues on the basis of the narrative of Abdullah Ibn Abbas.

          Here arises a very interesting situation that needs our attention. It is noteworthy that two paradoxical opinions are attributed to the same companion of the Prophet. One opinion attributed to Abdullahh Ibn Abbas is the same quoted above. There is another opinion attributed to him which is quite contrary to the previous one. It says that a woman is allowed not only to keep her face and hands open rather she may not conceal any finery worn upon them. It has been related by Syed Maudoodi in a satirical and interesting style to him as under.

          “To him a woman may reveal her face with her adorned lips, eyes full of collyrium, coloured cheeks and hands adorned with bracelets, rings and bangles to other men. This reference is related by Abdullah Ibn Abbas and his disciples and has been accepted by a large faction of the Hanafi school of thought.” (Tafeem-ul-Quran vol-3,386)

          Is noteworthy that Ayesha also believes that a woman is not bound to cover her face and hands while going out of her home. The most prominent expert in Hadith in the present era Allama Albani says:

          “These contrasting views have been recorded by Ibn Jareer in his Tafseer Vol.18, 84. Ibn Jareer adopts the view that exception pertains with hands and face both. Thus he believes the interpretation of those scholars closer to reality who mean this exception to be about face and both hands with collyrium, hair dye, ring and bracelets. In the course of the interpretation of this verse the above quoted opinion of Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Ayesha and other companions of the Prophet is true.” (Hijab-al-Mira’at-ul-Muslimah Fi kitab wal Sunnah)

          While discussing the third category of Hijab, Mufti Shafi says that category should be considered as oblished as there is a risk of mischief in it. Now no woman should open her face and her palms in front of any man other than those included in the closest circle.

          It therefore seems appropriate to know what the risk of mischief is and what is the general temperament of Islam on such occasions. Islam has one important principle that it is based on convenience. The Quran says:

“Allah desires your well-being, not your discomfort.” (Al-Baqara-2,185)

“He has laid on you no burdens in the observance of your faith. (Al-Hajj-22.78)

“Allah would lighten your burdens, and man was created weak.” (Al-Nisa-4, 28)

“Allah does not wish to burden you.” (Al-Maida-5,6)

          While relating the justification of the ProphetHood of Muhammad (sws), the Quran tells the one reason is that Jews had made their religion very rigid. Their scholars and jurists had laid several restrictions on them. (They also had a belief in the risk of mischief). God therefore sent His Prophet to abolish these restrictions:

          “He (the Prophet) relieves them (the Jews converted converted to Islam) of their burdens and of the shackles that weigh upon them.” (Al-A’raf-7,157)

          This is why the Prophet said:

          “Deen is easy to adopt”

          And gave the principled instruction:

          “Give convenience to people. Do not put them in trouble.”

          In this context, Ayesha, while describing the life of the Prophet told that he used to adopt the easier option among  the two admissible things.

          Through the above quoted instructions of Islam it becomes clear that we should not, as principle, impose instruction just for the fear of violation in any injuction. Rather more and more convenience should be created for people as rule. Where the words of the Quran or Hadith give vest meanings, the one according convenience should be adopted. If sternness is the stance there is a possibility that people refrain from acting upon even the clear instructions of the faith rather they might turn rebellious to the religion.

          An eminent scholar of Hanafi School of thought, Mufti Ghulam Sarwar Qadri writes on this topic as under:

          “Respectable companions of the Prophet like Ibn Abbass, Qatawa and Mujahid and some of their successors have declared covering of face as exception through the words, ‘draw their shawls close round them’ in the verse of Hijab and the same is easy for Ummah. The Prophet teaches to create convenience for Ummah to the maximum possible extent and not make their way difficult……….. it clearly means that only those orders should be told to people which are easy to follow so that they may observe them easily. If a religious order has two shades, the simpler one should be taught to the people. If the difficult aspect is told to the people, they might consider Islam as a difficult religion and non-muslims would also have a reservation before embracing Islam. If they refrain from embracing Islam only because of their considering it a difficult religion, the people who paint religion as such would be responsible for that.”

          Next Mufti Sarwar Qadri answers to Syed Maudoodi’s stance on the incident of IfK and same is answer to Mufti Shafi’s logic as both these scholars have the same opinion on this subject:

          “So far as the logic offered by Syed Maudoodi is concerned that Ayesha concealed her face in front of Safwan, we have already expressed through the reference of Sunan Abu Daud and Imam Qazi taken form ‘Sharh-i-Muslim of Imam Navavi that the covering of face is exclusively for the Prophet’s wives and other women are not bound to follow it.” (Pardah ki Shari Haisiyet- Mahhama Al-Bir July 1993)

          The above discussion and the analysis conclude that three categories of Hijab mentioned by Mufti Shafi are not proved by the Quran and Suhhan.

          Answer to the intellectual misunderstanding:

          This book has been written with the objective to make the Islamic point of view clear on general matters. This is why the discussions on philosophy, history and logic have been avoided intentionally. However, one rational point in favour of covering the face of women is presented so frequently that it needs being noticed. According to this logic, a woman exhibits her real sensual appeal through her face. Therefore her face should be covered in order to save her from any risk of mischief from men. It is a wrong logic. A woman’s face may reflect her aesthetic quality but it does not express sensuality. Obviously, a man gets an aesthetic pleasure through the sight of her face but the sensuality may only be the outcome of a wild imagination of a sexually perverted man. Such men must be warned of consequences rather than to impose restrictions upon women. In fact, sensuality is reflected in a woman’s naked body, tight dress and inviting beautification. There is another aspect of the same issue. Some men do have natural attraction in their faces? Is there any instruction for such men or for men at a particular age to cover their faces? It seems justified that such men should also be instructed to cover their faces to avoid any risk of mischief if women are asked to do so. The third aspect of this issue is that if the risk of mischief is the parameter, all men and women should remain veiled as well in order to prevent the risk of homosexuality.

          In fact face reflects the personality and covering of face makes an individual lose his or her entity. This is not the requirement of the religion from men and women both. It should only be done when one desires to conceal one’s identity.


          This chapter can be summarized through the following points:

  1. A woman has no restrictions upon herself in her closest circle. (Al-Nur:31)
  2. Every one should seek their permission before entering the room of a married couple when they are alone (Al-Nur:58-59)
  3. Men and women having mutual interaction like friendly relations, kinship, business contacts or the similar must visit each other after having sought permission of the owner of the house and introduced themselves. They need not seek permission at public places (Al-Nur: 27-31)
  4. Men should wear modest and civilized dress and reflect modesty through their eyes and style on such occasions. (Al-Nur 27-31_
  5. The women should also put on civilized and modest clothes. They should not disclose their finery on such occasions, if any, except that which are mormaly open like hands and face. They should put their shawls on their bosoms and avoid stamping their feet in walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets. There should be modesty in their eyes and grace in their style. (Al-Nur:27-31_
  6. The lame people of the society can be kept in homes like other members of family. (Al-Nur:61)
  7. Men and women may dine together or separately when they meet one another. (Al-Nur 61)
  8. There should not be a show of any misconduct if men and women stranger to each other have an encounter somewhere. (A.-Nur: 90, Al-Muminum:3)
  9. Women should wrap a big cloth around their bodies and head and over their clothes while going at unsafe places. They should wear such a modest dress that they may be recognized as respectable women and not molested. (Al-Ahzab 58-60)
  10. The Prophet’s wives had distinctive instructions in the context of Hijab issued though Al-Ahzab: 6, 30-34, 53,60


Courtesy: The family of Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan


Author : Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan
Uploaded on : May 17, 2016
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