The Niqab (Veil) Ban & Maqasid al-Shari`ah


by Abdullah Hasan

Someone once said that a nation can wage perpetual war for perpetual peace. Absurd isn’t it? Well, recently a so-called progressive, democratic nation decided to “enforce freedom” by taking away a woman’s right to wear the niqab.

The French ban on face veils, which took effect yesterday, legislates what a French citizen can wear in public, and invokes the coercive power of law to impose such legislation.

As David Allen Green says in the New Statesman: “Of course, to use the criminal law in such a way is illiberal and inappropriate. It may well be that, in extreme cases, the law should intervene to prevent the use of disguises for criminal activity. There are those who believe public nakedness should be banned on the basis of public decency. But any use of criminal law to govern the wearing of certain clothes, regardless of any question of criminality or decency, must be a disproportionate interference with a person’s legitimate autonomy.”

I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. It is quite ironic that a country that promotes pluralism, a concept deeply rooted in secularism, attacks a minority of its population expressing their freedom of choice to wear what they want to wear. It was the religious and cultural intolerance of the papacy during the reformation periods that gave way to the emergence of the concept of secularism and pluralism. Has Mr. Sarkozy forgotten his own history?

But then I guess this is the flawed and quirky understanding of pluralism, where only the strongest group in society determines the cultural identity; hence the survival-of-the-fittest ideology comes into effect. If you want to use Mr. Bush’s language, “You either follow my way in everything or don’t get to have a way at all.”

Islam, through the concept of the maqasid al-shari`ah (maxims of sacred law), promotes a fair and just concept of pluralism. The five objectives of the shari`ah are: protection of religion, protection of the self, protection of wealth, protection of the intellect, and protection of honour. These engender all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, irrespective of their financial or political influence, the right to determine how they wish to live within the limits stipulated by God, the Supreme and the Sublime Master and Creator of the universe.

Islam protects the rights of non-Muslims to maintain their own cultural identity under the shari`ah. Below1 is a brief and cursory look into how the shari`ah protects the rights of non-Muslims under the Caliphate (a governance based on Islamic principles):

Protection from Outside Aggression: Non-Muslims have equal rights with Muslims in this regard. The Islamic governments must protect all its citizens, including minority non-Muslim groups, from outside aggression. It is stated in the Hanbali book of fiqh (jurisprudence), Matalib Ula An-Nuha: “The ruler of the Muslim community is bound to protect the non-Muslims and to save them from aggression. Should they fall into captivity, the imam [religious leader] must marshal all resources to secure their release and punish the aggressors against their lives and properties, even if they were the sole (non-Muslim) living in a remote village.”2

Protection from Inside Oppression: There are many verses, and more specifically prophetic instructions, on obliging the Muslims to protect and not harm their fellow non-Muslim citizens. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Those who commit an act of aggression against a member of the non-Muslims, who usurp his rights, who make any demand upon him which is beyond his capacity to fulfil, or who forcibly obtain anything from him against his wishes, I will be [the oppressed]’s advocate on the Day of Judgement.”3

The Prophet ﷺ also said, “I will be the opponent of one who harms a non-Muslim, and I will speak against those whom I oppose on the Day of Judgement.”4

He said in another hadith, “He who harms a non-Muslim harms me, and he who harms me, harms Allah.”5

Protection of Persons and Lives: Muslims agree that the lives, blood, wealth, and honour of the non-Muslims living among them are inviolate. The Prophet ﷺ said, “He who kills a mu’ahid [non-Muslim living amongst Muslims] will never smell the fragrance of paradise, the fragrance of which can be smelled from a distance of 40-year travel.”6

Protection of Property: Besides protecting the life of the non-Muslim, the Islamic state is bound to protect his property. Imam Abu Yusuf, in his book Al-Kharaj, has quoted the Prophet’s contract with the people of Najran: “Najran and its neighbouring area [are] in the security of Allah and His Messenger. The property, religion and churches of the inhabitants, as well as all possessions, whether much or little, are under the protection of the Prophet ﷺ.”7

Freedom of Embracing a Religion: Just as it preserves other rights of non-Muslims, Islam also protects their right to embrace a religion of their own choice. The Qur’an unequivocally states that Muslims cannot coerce people to embrace Islam.

Allah says, “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong…” (Qur’an, 2:256)

And He says, “[…] would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” (Qur’an, 10:99)

In addition to the covenant made by the Prophet ﷺ with the Christians of Najran, which placed them under the protection of Allah and His Prophet ﷺ and provided for the safeguarding of their wealth, religion and churches, the one made by `Umar ibn al-Khattab with the citizens of Iliya’ (Jerusalem) stated the Islamic ethos in regards to dealing with other religious groups: “This is the protection which the servant of Allah, `Umar ibn al-Khattab, the commander of the faithful extends to them (non-Muslims): “The safeguarding of their lives, property, churches, crosses, and of their entire community. Their churches are not be occupied, demolished, or damaged, nor are their crosses or anything belonging to them to be touched. They will not be forced to abandon their religion, nor will they be harmed…”8

Dress of non-Muslims: Under the Islamic law, non-Muslims are not obliged to wear the attire of the Muslims, nor will the state oblige them to conform to a specific dress code. The narrations from certain companions and Muslim leaders of the past obliging non-Muslims to wear certain colours or types of clothing should be understood in the light of social dictates and the needs of a given society as we have today that each profession in a society has its own specific dress, and not that Islam compels them to wear a particular clothing they may not desire.

The French ban of the face veil only demonstrates how some of the countries in the West are exhibiting an intolerant nature toward Muslims. If Mr. Sarkozy and others wish to promote freedom, democracy and liberty, then this move is very antithetical to these principles. This does nothing but give rise to the far-right and Islamophobia.

“Many secularists and liberals would prefer a world where individuals do not want to hide their faces a part of their social interactions; many secularists and liberals would welcome a world without any face veils. But for such a world to be imposed by legal force makes it a secular and liberal world not worth striving for.”9

I hope the French public will see how detrimental this is to their liberty and freedom.


  1. Summarised from Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s book: Non-Muslims in the Islamic Society.
  2. Al-Hanbal, Ahmad Ibn, Matalib Ula An0Nuha, Vol 2, pp. 602-603.
  3. Related by Imams Abu Dawud and Baihaqi in As-Sunan Al-Kubra, Vol. V, p. 205.
  4. Related by Al-Khatib, with a good series of transmission.
  5. Related by Imam At-Tabarani, with a good series of transmission.
  6. Related by Imams Ahmad and Al-Bukhari in Jizya, and by Imams An-Nisai and ibn Maja in Ad-Diyat, on the authority of ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar.
  7. Al-Kharaj, p. 72.
  8. Tarikh At-Tabari, Vol 3 p. 609, ed. Dar al-Ma’anf, Egypt.
  9. http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/04/face-veils-wrong-world-wear
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17 Comments

  1. 'Uthmān says:

    Thank you for a very timely and informative article. Barakallahu feek.

    So – just to clarify – does this mean that the ideal Islamic state would also tolerate Non-Muslim women who wear, say, mini-skirts or other overtly revealing clothing? The reason I ask is because I was rather taken aback by a comment made by Salma Yaqoob in her debate on the niqab against Taj Hargey (fantastic debate – Salma destroyed Taj hands down) where she said that she supports the right of women to wear min-skirts, but it turns out she may have been right after all…

    Another slightly off-topic question, but would the Islamic state legally enforce the Islamic dress code upon MUSLIMS? Or is that left outside the domain of the state but rather to the domain of the individual and their relationship with Allah? Sorry for all the questions, but I don’t usually get the opporunity to ask questions of this nature.

    Wasalaam.

  2. SZ says:

    Masha’Allah! A very well written article addressing many of the issues raised by the islamophobes as of late about Islam not allowing the “freedom of choice”, specifically non-muslims. Funny how one woman from Murfreesboro, TN (on the documentary/ show on CNN shown a couple of weeks back) said she expects muslims to “conform” to “our ways”! So much for freedom of choice!

  3. Ahmed says:

    Interesting points. But i think a core issue being missed is the apparent double standards incase of muslim opposition to the ban. How can a muslim support ban on bikinified clothing in muslim countries yet complain of their ban on the veil ?

    So if a ban of some sort is supported by either side on clothing than it as an issue of the secular vs islamic worldview, rather than bigotry.

  4. Nesima says:

    Good post, but the only problem is that French secularism is quite different from American. Pluralism is part of our democractic ideals of religious freedom and separation of church and state, however France practices laïcité, which doesn’t translate perfectly to secularism. American secularism is about allowing everyone to have the freedom of diversity and no promotion of one specific culture or religion, but still allowing and celebrating its presence and connection; France is about integrating everyone so no differences are made and everyone is “free” to be the same, thus “equal.” Laïcité wants an absence of religion even though France is traditionally Catholic. Basically anything non-Catholic would be divisive and attacking the unity of the citizenry.
    That’s why these kinds of discriminatory clothing bans are more accepted in France than they would be in the US (I would hope.)

    • Muslima2 says:

      Laicite came about as a response to the perceived oppression practiced by the hereditary nobility and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in France in the 18th Century. I say “perceived” only because the people on the other side of the argument did not see themselves as oppressors. This might seem to us like willful blindness, but we are looking back from a distance of almost 300 years.

      The extent to which the Catholic Church and the ruling class in France were entwined cannot be exaggerated. The French monarchy was, and in some circles still is, highly mythologized. If the Revolutionaries were going to succeed in toppling the monarchy, the Church and its belief system had to go as well.

      So there were events like the atrocity at St. Denis, where many graves were demolished and bones scattered, as well as the utter destruction of irreplaceable works of art. This was a tragedy on more than one level.

      So laicite has much to do with the attempt to rid France of the Catholic Church as a means to shifting the belief system of an entire nation. It is more similar to the Cultural Revolution in China in some ways than to the American Revolution, to which the French Revolution is more often compared. But there were many significant differences.

      It has never been against the law in the US for a person to wear clerical clothing, or for a nun to wear her habit in public, whereas in France there was a brief time when it was the equivalent of suicide for a priest to go outdoors dressed like a priest.

      And even today, in the French public schools (state run), students are not allowed to wear things that demonstrate Christian belief or Jewish belief, so it is not only the niqab that is banned, it is any article of clothing or jewelry that asserts a particular religious belief.

  5. Ahmed says:

    - Is it right that a country which proclaims freedom, secularism & liberty only provide those values to a particular culture or section of society ? Shouldn’t these countries then redefine accurately these values that they project and enforce as “modern standards” to rest of the world ? Do these countries now even have any moral basis to lecture say Iran or Saudi Arabia, with regards to these values ?

    – Is it right that muslims complain when they themselves would not agree with such values in the first place ? On what basis than should muslim demand their religious rights in foreign countries if ideas like “secularism”, “liberalism” are not acceptable to muslims ?

    In all, i think it comes down to working out a solution within the framework of the countries laws rather than indulging in “Islam alllow so & so…” argument. Similarily non-muslims in muslim countries should find a solution within the framework of Islamic laws. And than finally is the big need for muslim philosophers to show that Islamic system is superior to the secular liberal system in every front. Otherwise people even in muslim countries would choose a secular or other foreign system over a Islamic system through “peoples revolutions”.

  6. Ahmed says:

    Another quite important issue is the need for muslims to integrate and harmonise Islam with the culture they live in and not create a provocative threatening unbalanced unordered ghetto state. It is quite ridiculous for a muslim citizen of France to walk with a saudi arabian clothing. There needs to be more creativity among muslims especially women. If any of the old muslim societys are looked at we can see how they payed much attention in harmonizing islam with the culture. Even languages that were fused with arabic were created for this purpose.

  7. sumaiyah says:

    i hate the fact that france has banned the niqab they’ve already arested 2 sisters… i couldnt stand that if UK did that or banned the hijab. inshallah the ‘no niqab’ law will be abolished

  8. Muslimah says:

    most of the companies give you a list of what not to wear …No tank tops …no blue jeans …no mini skirt ….yet when u cover up completely they got issues ….subhannallah ..

  9. Assalamu Alaikum,

    The khitab (address) in the qur’an to cover is for the believing women and not Non Muslim women. Therefore, it is obligatory for Muslim women to cover themselves. Non Muslim women do not need to wear the hijab or anything like that but, off course; all women must cover their ‘awrah in public. We find in the society of the Prophet not all women were covering with the complete hijiab like the slave women, the elderly etc.

    The ruler or the society may oblige non Muslim women not to wear certain types of clothing as suggested by some comments if they feel that this contravenes public decency etc.

    Allah Knows Best

  10. 'Uthmān says:

    Wa ‘alaykum as-salaam wa barakallahu feek for the reply.

    I was under the impression that the ‘awrah of a woman encompasses her whole body, excluding the hands and face (according to the majority)? Is this not the case? I guess not since you said that Non-Muslim women don’t have to wear hijab, but still have to cover their ‘awrah. What ‘awrah are you referring to here?

    I understand that it is obligatory in Islam for Muslim women to cover themselves. My question is, would this be legally enforced by the state? Or would the state leave it up to the individual (who would still be incurring sin, of course, if they didn’t cover)?

    JazakAllah Khayr once again.

  11. 'Uthmān says:

    Salaam, there’s some other things I’ve just thought of. You wrote: “The ruler or the society may oblige non Muslim women not to wear certain types of clothing as suggested by some comments if they feel that this contravenes public decency etc.”

    Do I understand that this point isn’t intrinsically a part of the Shari’ah, but is rather part of the domain in which the Shari’ah is silent and leaves it up to mankind to legislate?

    Also, is there not an opinion amongst the scholars that Non-Muslims are also obliged to follow the subsidiary rulings of Islam, as indicated by some of the verses in Surah Muddathir?

  12. mutumainah says:

    Thanks :) nice article and picture

  13. Ajarat says:

    Why the Burqa ban concerns YOU…XX…every Woman!

    France’s ban of the niqab/burqah in public institutions did not necessarily come as a surprise to many because it had been talked about for a while. BUT when the first woman was fined, personally, I was shocked; I thought this day would never come.

    About me; no, I do not wear the niqab, Yes, I am a Muslim woman BUT no, I don’t think this is an issue that only concerns Muslim women.

    A national law for 2,000 women! Seriously? It baffles me that a government will go through the pain of imposing a national law to ostracize 0.0032% of the French population. Are they that much of a threat to the rest of the country?

    A hoodie and sunglasses covers the face and may just as well obstruct the view of a person who wears them so the argument in that regard, is null and void. The rights of the women to wear the burqa are in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that has the signature of France on it.

    Seriously though, why does a government think it is okay to interfere in a woman’s closet, and fine them for what is in it? Islam aside, it is quite rude, very rude and again, highly hypocritical. If we must not force women to wear the burqa then we must not force those who wear it to take it off.

    Whether we realize it or not, the burqa ban is a subtle message to all women that indeed men can decide what we should and should not wear. Ironically, it is hypocritical at best. Although the rights of only a few women have been taken away, in the future, another right will be taken away from another group of women; except we stand together against this law.

    If we know anything about history, we know that the words of Martin Niemoller are true; we must defend the rights and integrity of everyone at all times.

    First they came for the Muslim women in Niqab/Burqa,
    And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Muslim woman in Niqab/Burqa
    …………………………………………………………………………………..
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    ………………………………………..
    Then they came for me
    And there was no woman left to speak out for me

    You fill in the blanks!

    • abd rahman says:

      Yes, agree.
      And we Muslims should also respect others, whether they wear Hijab or not. Some may follow words of Allah in His Quran and dismiss hearsays like hadiths.

      In the Quran, Hijab is NOT an obligation.

      God NEVER short of words to give clear instruction.

      Three Basic Rules

      FIRST RULE : THE BEST GARMENT

      [7:26] “O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of GOD’s signs, that they may take heed.”

      This is the BASIC rule of DRESS CODE in the Quran. This is the first rule in WOMEN DRESS CODE in Islam (Submission). What is inside your heart is more important for God that the dress you wear.

      SECOND RULE : COVER YOUR BOSOMS

      The second rule can be found in 24:31. Here God orders the women to cover their bosoms whenever they dress up. First, let us review some crucial words that are always mentioned with this topic, namely “Hijab” and “Khimar”

      THE WORD “HIJAB” in the QURAN

      “Hijab” is the term used by many Muslims women to describe their head cover that may or may not include covering their face except their eyes, and sometimes covering also one eye. The Arabic word “Hijab” can be translated into veil or yashmak. Other meanings for the word “Hijab” include, screen, cover(ing), mantle, curtain, drapes, partition, division, divider.

      Can we find the word “Hijab” in the Quran??

      The word “Hijab” appeared in the Quran 7 times, five of them as “Hijab” and two times as “Hijaban,” these are 7:46, 33:53, 38:32, 41:5, 42:51, 17:45 & 19:17.

      None of these “Hijab” words are used in the Quran in reference to what the traditional Muslims call today (Hijab) as a dress code for the Muslim woman.

      Hijab as it appears in the Quran has nothing to do with the Muslim Women dress code.

      HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

      While many Muslims call “Hijab”, an Islamic dress code, they completely ignore the fact that, Hijab as a dress code has nothing to do with Islam and nothing to do with QURAN.

      In reality “Hijab” is an old pre-Jewish tradition that infiltrated into the hadith books like many innovations that contaminated Islam through alleged Hadith and Sunna.

      The traditional Arabs, of all religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims used to wear “Hijab,” not because of Islam, but because of tradition. In certain areas of the world, men are the ones who wear the hijab while in others the women do.

      THE WORD “KHIMAR” in the QURAN:

      “Khimar” is an Arabic word that can be found in the Quran in 24:31 It is the word that the interpreters or translators use to claim that head cover is in the Quran. “Khimar” means, cover, any cover, a curtain is a Khimar, a dress is a Khimar, a table cloth that covers the top of a table is a Khimar, a blanket is a Khimar..etc. Most of the translators, obviously influenced by Hadith (fabrications) translate the word as VEIL or head cover, and thus mislead most people to believe that this verse is advocating the covering of the head.

      In 24:31 God is asking the women to use their cover (khimar)( being a dress, a coat, a shawl, a shirt, a blouse, a tie, a scarf . . . etc.) to cover their bosoms, not their heads or their hairs. If God so willed to order the women to cover their heads or their hair, nothing would have prevented Him from doing so. GOD does not run out of words. GOD does not forget. Those who see the head cover in this verse lost their focus of the verse. The verse is ordering the women to be sure to cover their upper chest. The verse does NOT order the women to cover their heads or hair. Even if you accept their interpretation of the word Khimar to mean head cover, the verse is not ordering the women to cover their head but to cover the opening of the chest in their dress. If God wills, He would have given the order clear, cover your heads, but He did NOT. God does not wait for a Scholar to put the correct words for Him!

      THIRD RULE : LENGTHEN YOUR GARMENTS

      The first regulation of DRESS CODE for Muslim women is in 7:26, the second is in 24:31 and the third is in

      33:59

      “O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the wives of the believers that they shall LENGTHEN their garments. Thus, they will be recognized and avoid being insulted. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.” 33:59

      In 33:59, God sets the other regulation for the dress code for the Muslim women during the prophet’s life.

      Although the verse is talking to the prophet which means this regulation applies to the time of the prophet, just like the order in 49:2, the description fits the spirit of Islam (Submission in English), and can teach us a great deal.

      In this verse, God, DELIBERATELY, said, tell them, to lengthen their garments, and never said how long is long. God could have said tell them to lengthen their garments to their ankles or to their mid-calf or to their knees, but HE DID NOT. He did not, OUT OF HIS MERCY, not because HE FORGOT as God does not forget. God knows that we will be living in different communities and have different cultures and insists that the minor details of this dress code will be left for the people of every community to hammer for themselves.

      It is clear from the above verses that the DRESS CODE for the Muslim women (Submitters) according to the Quran is righteousness and modesty. God knows that this modesty will be understood differently in different communities and that is why He left it open to us to decide for ourselves.

      CONCLUSION:

      God, the Most Merciful, gave us three basic rules for the Dress Code for Women in Islam (Submission),

      (1) The BEST garment is the garment of righteousness.

      (2) Whenever you dress , cover your chest (bosoms).

      (3) Lengthen your garment.

      While these three BASIC rules may not sound enough for those who do not trust God, the TRUE believers know that God is ENOUGH. God could have given us more details to the point of having graphs, designs and color rules, but He , the Most Merciful, wants to give us exactly these very basic rules and leave the rest for us. After these three basic rules every woman is more aware of her circumstances and can adjust her dress for her situation. Any addition to these basic Quranic rules is an attempt to correct God or improve on His merciful design.

      We have no obligation to follow but God’s rules, just as His messenger did all the time. Innovations and fabrications that added thousands of rules to the women dress code are nothing but idol-worship and should be refused.

      • abuhanzolah says:

        Dear Bro Abd Rahman

        Your words are lenghty but sadly to say, you have missed the most important thing in your so called deduction/conclusion. The masdar of this Deen is not the Quran only. The main masdar of this Deen is the Quran and The Ahadith. They complement each other, and explained each other. Thus if you want to understand the Deen, read and learn both.

        Don’t just use your own brain to deduce the rulings in the Deen, diminishing the efforts of all our salafus soleh and all our beloved scholars of fiqh, past and present. Learn the usul fiqh and then you can make your own fatwa.

        Unless you are the one who deny the second masdar of the deen that is the hadith (as can be seen in your own words “In reality “Hijab” is an old pre-Jewish tradition that infiltrated into the hadith books like many innovations that contaminated Islam through alleged Hadith and Sunna” , then I ‘ve got nothing to say, coz u among those who rejected the Sunnah nauzubillah min zalik.

        And if you among them, then may I ask you how do you pray? What do you recite during the solat? What do you do recite in other postures of the solat? The hai’ah in your solah? All of these things are not explained in the Quran. Good luck then.

        Regards
        ابو حنظلة محمد زهري

  14. raheem says:

    To Uthman, I have had the same questions to ask, funny that you asked them, thank you. And reading your flow low questions too really hit the hammer on the head!! I really love this site and the articles, nice job as always suhaibewebb.com staff writers.

    Brother Uthmam, search you-tube for an interview with Dr Tariq Ramadan and Br Sabir Ally. Br Sabir has a program called, ” Let the Quran speak”, and he had Dr Tariq Ramadan on there and he was asking him about that those particular issues, worth watching. I am not to tech savvy, so I don’t really know how to post links and stuff, lol, but try looking and that interview might answer some off those QUESTIONS.

    Hopes this helps. Salaams.

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