Veil: A Fundamental Human Right and an important Religious Duty
By: Laiq Ahmed Atif, President Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta
One the common and most loving fruit of human life is the freedom and liberty. Man of all the ages remained fond of this so delicious and valuable fruit.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations also gives a great importance to this subject and declares that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
This fundament human right is meant to be practiced without any discrimination, in all the member states. This human right permits of showing Christian crucifixes, minarets of mosques as well as wearing of veil, just to name a few.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat believes that a person’s choice of dress is a personal matter. Islam teaches modesty for both men and women but underlying all Islamic injunctions is the Qur’anic principle that ‘There is no compulsion in religion’. Thus if a woman, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, chooses not to cover her head then that is her right but on the other hand if a woman, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, chooses to cover her head or face then that too is her right and ought never to be interfered with.
The Holy Quran prescribes the veil for Muslim women and explains the reasons and wisdom behind it and it points out the benefits which can be gained by following them. One of the verses of the Holy Quran which deals with the subject of the veil is found in Chapter 24, where God, the All-Mighty says:
“And say to the believing women that they restrain their looks and guard their private parts and that they display not their beauty or their embellishment except that which is apparent, thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms…….” (24:32)
This verse directs the believing women to restrain their eyes when they happen to face men and to guard their chastity and also not to display their beauty and embellishment, whether it is natural or artificial, except in the family.
As for the Islamic veil, far from being a burden on women, it is blessing for them. Explaining the wisdom behind this commandment Allah says:
“O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw close to them portions of their loose outer coverings. That is nearer that they may thus be distinguished and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.” [33:60]
This commandment is not only for women alone, but Islam also gives a similar commandment to men that “Say to the believing men that they restrain their looks and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well-aware of what they do.” (24:31)
So it is clear that both men and women share equally the responsibility of observing this injunction. They should both restrain their looks when facing each other or, in other words, they should observe the Veil of the eyes.
It is true that some Muslim women observe these teaching of Islam in such a manner that they have put on themselves some burdens that Islam did not prescribe. The purpose of veil is to give women respect, honour and peace and not to burden them. And Islam teaches a very moderate veil to provide protection to women, and it does not say that women should be kept only at home or that they should wear those kinds of garments which even cover their eyes, hands, feet etc. and create problems even to walk easily in the streets, but says you must remain moderate in your talks and actions.