Does Islam command the Muslim woman to wear a veil, and what are Islam's rulings on a woman's right to an education and a career?

31 Aug

1. The attire that Islam imposes upon the Muslim woman is that she appears in a decent and respectable mien in order to save her from any unpleasant remarks or from being harassed by irresponsible youths or men. Thus the Muslim attire for women is to safeguard their honor and dignity and does not hinder their movement or activity. Islam does not command women to cover their faces with a veil or to wear gloves; this custom belongs to certain communities and Islam is in no way responsible for it. Conservative and decorous attire is not only a virtue of Islam, for it is also considered a virtue in Christianity. Christian nuns wear clothes that cover their hair and their body, leaving only their faces and hands uncovered, and the Gospel commands women to cover their hair when praying. Furthermore, when a woman, irrespective of her status, whether she be the wife of the Head of a Western state or a famous film star, is admitted into the presence of the Pope in the Vatican, she must cover her hair.
2. Islam definitely does not deprive women of an education. On the contrary, it urges both men and women alike to seek knowledge and acquire learning. The Prophet said: "Seeking knowledge is an obligation imposed upon every Muslim man and woman". The history of Islam records the achievements of many women who excelled in religious sciences, literature, and poetry. When the Prophet married Hafsa, who had just begun to study the rudiments of reading and writing, he entrusted Al-Shafaa Al-Adawiyya to teach her to improve her hand writing and reading. ‘Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s wife, was far more learned than many of the Companions of the Prophet, who recommended that she should be consulted on religious matters, for she was very well versed in all branches of religion, in addition to her knowledge of literature and the principles of the lineage of the Arab tribes, which was a recognized science in that era.
3. Islam does not prevent any woman from working and having a career. She has the right to work provided that she needs to work and that she chooses the type of work which suits her experience, ability and qualifications. There are no religious laws which prevent a woman from being educated or from working. During the lifetime of the Prophet many women were engaged in various activities such as assisting the troops during the battles and treating the wounded, in addition to carrying water and food to the men who were fighting.
4. It is essential to differentiate between the laws of Islam, which safeguard and protect the dignity and safety of women, and the ancient pre-Islamic traditions and customs, which prevented women from being educated or taking part in any activities. Islam, which honors women and grants them their due, is concerned with the development of a woman’s character, since that enables her to be a more capable and efficient mother and wife who will accordingly be able to play her role in raising a strong generation capable of developing their society, thus increasing the welfare of community.

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