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Balancing Kinship and Purdah

It just seems that recently all around me I am hearing the same thing being spoken about. Somehow, everyone (sisters) seems to be looking for an answer with regards the important aspect of Purdah/wearing of the niqaab. It seems that some are finding it difficult on wearing the niqaab and maintaining segregation whilst others want segregation but experience resistance from either in-laws or their families. I am not a scholar in any way but just felt the need to share some advices from someone who has been in a similar position and can understand the dilemma that a woman faces and the way such a battle can cause such hostility.

Let us first and foremost look at what Shariah demands from us. What does our Rabb Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala and our beloved Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasallam) ask of us. In the Quraan we are told:” ‘And when ye ask of them (the wives of the Prophet Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts.’ (Verse 53 Surah Ahzaab).  There are many more Quraanic Aayaat and Ahaadeeth that apply to this issue.

The ones who are asking questions or are having problems with issues relating to the wearing of the Niqaab are often those who are already wearing the niqaab (Alhamdulillah) and understand the importance of this beautiful injunction of the Shariah. They wholeheartedly accept that every law and command of Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala is there to protect one and all.

Where the problem/hardship comes along is that others who are around us do not understand the whole concept of donning the niqaab. They view Purdah as merely the covering of the face along with the rest of the body. They assume that once a woman dons the niqaab she is now in “Purdah” and free to live life as she may have been doing before.

However the mere donning of the niqaab does not fully fulfil the obligation of Purdah. True Purdah is that we keep within our homes and only emerge out of necessity. Allah Ta’ala states in the Qur'aan “And remain within your homes and do not make an exhibition (of your selves) like the displays (of the immoral women) of former times of ignorance." (Verse 33, Surah Ahzaab). Here we are commanded by Allah Ta’ala that the best place for a woman is her home. And when a woman does need to go out then she should be keeping herself modest and away from men as much as she can.

So how much importance do we give to this command of Allah Ta’ala? Are we wearing the niqaab but still going to study in a mixed gender environment? Are we wearing the niqaab but still attending all weddings and immoral functions that are held today? Are we wearing the niqaab but still working alongside other men? I have no intention to insult or upset anyone but the truth of the matter is that we have all (myself included) steered very far away from what true Purdah for a woman is, i.e. that she stays away from men completely!

Hazrat Anas Ibn Malik (radiallahu anhu) says that the Holy Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Verily, there is a (special) morality of every religion. And the (special) morality of Islam is modesty."(Ibn Majah). We have also been advised in the Hadeeth that once you lose modesty, then do as you wish. May Allah Ta’ala enable us all to inculcate within ourselves the beautiful quality of true modesty which is a quality that both beautifies as well as protects a woman.

And when a woman wishes to follow the commands of Allah Ta’ala and stay away from weddings and immoral functions then she is frowned upon by her family and friends and is accused of not maintaining family ties or of “trying to be too strict”!!! Remember my sisters who are facing this dilemma, bring to mind that there is no obedience to the creation in the disobedience of our Creator Allah Ta’ala. Our first “worry” should be “Is my Allah Ta’ala pleased?” If we just keep this in mind when making a decision on whether we should attend a function or not, then immediately the answer is self evident.

People do not understand or do not want to understand that good family ties can only be established when the laws of Shariah are upheld. We fool ourselves into thinking that good and happy families with a strong bond of muhabbah can only be achieved when we all are able to sit together as a family and eat together as a whole family, i.e. brothers and sisters-in-law all eating together. We feel that by everyone getting together, sitting together and having a good laugh etc, then we are one big happy family. No, how can true happiness ever come our way when Allah Ta’ala’s laws are being violated? We are only fooling ourselves. There is absolutely no need for a woman to maintain any ties with a ghair mahram man. In fact we learn from the Hadeeth that the brother-in-law is like death for a woman. Her duty is to maintain good relations with the women folk of the household and by doing this she is fulfilling her duties of Silah Rahmi (keeping good family ties).

We cannot and should not give in to the unislamic expectations of those around us. Just ponder and reflect that we are answerable for our deeds and they are for theirs. No one is going to stand up for us when we are questioned by Allah Ta’ala.

What we should keep in mind is that any refusal of attending any unislamic function should be done with the best character being displayed. One should not present a harsh, proud or arrogant attitude. Rather, one should humble oneself and make effort to draw the next person into admiring this most beautiful institution of Purdah. What one can achieve through good character and kind words is amazing! Who knows, perhaps the family member or friend may be so affected by the polite manner in which one maintains one’s principle that she also begins to adopt Purdah.

Once a person makes a firm resolve not to attend, she must understand that criticism will come her way. Turn to Allah Ta’ala for help; cry out to Him to aid us when the criticism comes our way. Always maintain good character and make effort to show others that you are ever so willing to maintain family ties but not in a mixed environment. For example, the Ulema suggest that we visit the relatives whose functions we cannot attend prior to or after the function. Take a gift or something small. Share kind words with them and ask if you can help them in any way. Keep in mind that people will criticise and accuse us but focus on the fact that one is keeping Allah Ta’ala happy and nothing else matters. Just remember “You can’t please everyone”!!

Many of us find the criticism very difficult to handle, but reflect and realise that we are not here to please people, for whatever we do we will still not make others happy. Also from my own experience and that of others, remember if we are consistent in staying away from Haraam functions, then eventually people will leave us alone and in fact they will admire our commitment. Also, if we are mothers then aren’t we showing a beautiful example to our children? We are making the pathway for the children to practice on Deen easier Insha Allah by our small efforts.

Also reflect and ponder on what sacrifices the Sahabah (radiallahu anhuma) made for Deen. They sacrificed their lives and their families; they shed their blood and at times parted with their loved ones just so that Allah Ta’ala and His beloved Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasallam) were pleased. What little sacrifice are we making in comparison? Just staying away from a Haraam environment? Just putting up with a bit of criticism? Just missing out on a bit of fun?

A very good thing was said to me when I was once faced with alot of hostility and verbal abuse from family members and I could not believe the things that were being said about me and about Purdah and many of the things that were said were totally unislamic and against Shariah. At that time I spoke to an Alim and he said we should think that the Sahabah use to fight with their lives to protect the Sunnah and they valiantly fought so that Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasallam) would not get injured. By us taking all this verbal abuse, we should think that we are shielding our beloved Habib (salallahu alayhi wasallam) from these arrows of what they are saying against his beautiful Sunnah. How beautifully put!!!

I certainly do not advocate the breaking up family ties or the development of hostility, but my intention is purely to give little encouragement for those who want to strive in maintaining segregation and adopt true and pure Purdah. The two aims can be jointly achieved if the correct limits are maintained. Remember our akhlaq (good character) should be kept foremost in mind when we deal with others. As well as Akhlaq, remember that we should never be apologetic about the beautiful Laws of Allah Ta’ala; they are there for our protection. May Allah Ta’ala be pleased with us all and enable us to practice upon what has been written. Ameen

~ Submitted by Talabul Elm ~


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