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Sabina’s Question

September 22, 2008

Sabina left a comment with some questions on my post “The Veil: A Critique” that I decided to answer in a separate post so as to preserve the conversation of Islam as a religion vs. the west as a society on that particular post.  In other words, go ahead and bait here 😉

This is Sabina’s comment translated:

Selam Samaha,
I have a few questions which I’d like for you to answer, if you believe they are (?).
I haven’t yet decided if I will wear hijab or not.  At the moment I’m leaning towards the idea that I will, but your posts sound convincing and I respect women who have after searching and reasoning decided that hijab is not their religious obligation.  Still, something is not clear to me.  If you do not wear hijab, do you wear it when you pray.  If you don’t wear it at home when you pray, do you wear it when you go to the mosque?  If you don’t wear it when you go to the mosque, how do you feel?
If you want, answer in English, I simply didn’t feel like translating this 🙂 .

Yes, I do wear a scarf when I pray, even at home.  However, the reason I wear a scarf during prayer is purely out of tradition and ritual, od mali nogu (since little feet) so to speak.  I think without a scarf I would feel out of my element and would be distracted from prayers but that’s not to say that if I had to that I wouldn’t get over it.

As far as wearing one in the mosque, I guess that really depends on which mosque it is.  Here in the US we have mosques which have separate areas for praying and separate areas for social events – in these types of mosques often I won’t wear a scarf but do find myself wearing one out of respect for a community’s traditions and rituals on occassion and quite honestly .. sometimes, sometimes I enjoy wearing a scarf but on most occasions by the end of the event I’ll find myself feeling suffocated by the way it is drawn under my chin, itchy, tugging at my hair somewhere and feeling awkwardly hot. 

In Bosnia, where mosques are usually one big prayer area – I would put my scarf on before walking into the mosque.  Again, this is out of ritual traditions and not based on any research that I have done.

Yes, I know of one hadith that states that a woman’s prayers are not heard without her scarf.  The hadith is not from the Sahih collection and I know that many of the hadiths from the collection it is derived from are questionable.  I’m not a scholar but I can not with any reasoning skills nor any personal experiences come to accept this hadith as the truth.

First off, if such is the case then woman is not created as an equal but yet as an imperfection that is only complete once it covers its hair.  No longer is the woman the god-fearing, devoted servant of Allah but rather it is this piece of cloth that makes her so.

Second, if it is stated over and over again in the Quran that men and women are created equal but most importantly equal believers then the addition of a scarf no longer makes her an equal believer before Allah and I can’t accept that god would create an imperfection.  The thought that god would need to not only strive but not achieve instead of absolutely create is unimaginable to me.

Third, if her prayers are only heard while her hair is covered that would mean that not only would women have to cover their hair during prayers and while they are out of their homes (for which different reasons are given for covering the hair) that would mean that she would have to cover her hair at all times, in her home and during sleep as no plea nor dua would be heard by Allah.  As a mother, as a woman who has found herself in different situations making duas and pleas for herself, for her hurt child, for her loved ones I’d like to think that those pleas and duas were heard and answered.  Am I so suseptible to a piece of cloth that the absence of one at any given time would have to place my safety, my children’s safety, my loved ones safety into the hands of a capable male who then possesses additional favors from Allah?

There are many things that we do that come from Hadiths, that we know how to do through the actions of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and his sunnah that we know we must do through the Quran but that are not explained in the Quran.  Wudu (the ritual ablution) and every prayer and its rakas are the best examples.  I don’t find myself questioning every aspect of everything that we do and in all honesty there are traditions, cultural practices that I enjoy that some may find to be a form of shirk.  For example, Hamdi and I were discussing Bosnian traditions on a thread at Umar Lee’s site.  I argue that many Bosnian cultural traditions are claimed to be ‘unIslamic’ and that certain groups would erase those traditions altogether.  There are points that Hamdi and I do agree on such as gatanje (fortune telling) and I for one am guilty of knowing how to read how the beans have fallen, decipher the coffee grains, analyze the cards that have been drawn and ughhhh I’ve got some pretty freaky ouija board stories (zvanje duha) but those things were a favorite childhood pastime of so many Bosnian teens and while it was all out of fun and none of it taken seriously on my part .. I do understand where the problem lies with those actions .. they are putting trust into something other than Allah.

However, when it comes to Ajvatovci – a centuries back Imam making 40 day prayers for water upon a droughted population and a rock splitting in two and providing that water upon the completion of his prayers Mystic Saint has a better explanation here – a now celebrated occasion by Bosnian Muslims.  I do not see that as shirk.  Some may argue that we as humans have made a saint out of a man but that’s not the way I see it nor is it the way that Bosnians see it.  It is Allah’s mercy that is celebrated.  It is a day that celebrates the power of prayer and devotion to Allah, a day that motivates people to renew their faith in Allah, that inspires them to prayer.

So, I  do cherish traditions and understand that those traditions can draw us closer to Allah.  I also understand that traditions can be unIslamic, against Islam’s very nature so I do find myself questioning things when they seem contrary to everything Islam stands for in my heart.  I ask myself a few questions – am I hurting myself, is this practice worship of something other than Allah, is my following this tradition assisting in hurting others.

When it comes down to it, wearing the scarf outside of home doesn’t hurt me.  I see it as obeying the commands of other than Allah’s absolute commands and I see it as assisting in the hurting of others.  The latter is a complex argument that maybe I will get into in another post at another time.

Up until now, I’ve always thought that wearing the scarf during prayer and in mosque, neither hurt me nor anyone else nor did it assist in hurting another but, Sabina, your questions and Hamdi’s arguments in regards to shirk have me wondering.  Am I actually hurting others with my acceptance of a tradition that may have no basis in Islam?  Is this practice actually a form of shirk?  Are we passing off powers to an inate object, this piece of material?

So, to conclude, while I am wearing it now during my prayers and in the mosque – I now have to find the basis for why as I’m no longer confident that I’m not hurting anyone else with this practice.

Links, people, links!  I need links, references to books, scholars, articles emailed to me .. go ahead drive me crazy with info and arguments and discussion (just forgive me if I’m not commenting here – I still do read all of the comments through email.)

13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2008 4:52 am

    I love this post (and agree with much of it)! I think your writing approaches this in a very real and practical way!

  2. September 23, 2008 11:22 pm

    Salam and thank you Fatemeh! I really appreciate your comments – I’m not sure if I’ve had the opportunity to tell you that before – and way to go over at Muslimah Media Watch – so many wonderful articles! I just read Ethar’s article on shame and I’m going to have to link to it in the near future.

  3. Pepe permalink
    September 26, 2008 2:00 pm

    did you avoid the Sahih hadiths that point toward hijab’s fard-ness for a reason?

  4. October 3, 2008 3:59 pm

    Pepe – no, I guess this probably should have started with the reason I do not wear a scarf when out in public but time is short these days and this question was put forth and I didn’t want to ignore it. The issue in this case is regarding wearing a scarf during prayer in which – as far as I can tell there are not any sahih hadiths that address this.

  5. UmmA permalink
    October 11, 2008 12:34 am

    Read this…it maybe beneficial…

  6. hamdy permalink
    October 20, 2008 3:38 pm

    The definition of shirk is to give the rights of Allah to other than Allah. If one understands that, then it becomes clear that the only one who is being hurt by shirk is the one who does it. The Qur’an is clear that it is an unforgivable sin. However, it is a bit more complicated than that and I could never say that you actually became a mushrik when you tossed beans or whatever, because there are a lot of factors at play like ignorance, doing it, as you say, without taking it seriously. So while these things are forms of shirk, I would never say that you became a mushrikah while doing them. I am very happy to see that you recognize the seriousness in these things. Fortune telling is a type of shirk because only Allah knows the unseen and the future, so we cannot ascribe this attribute to anyone other than Him.

    As for Ajvatovica, I didn’t say it is shirk. Frankly, I don’t know much about it and I would always give Muslims the benefit of the doubt and assume that no shirk is going on. However, it is known that the practice has non-Islamic origins. The legend started with the Bogomils and it remained with us. To adopt a practice like this is obviously wrong, for so many reasons. That is one of the ways how Christianity got so messed up, they didn’t see anything wrong with adopting pre-Christian practices. Secondly, we aren’t allowed to make up our own pilgrimage sites. Thirdly, we aren’t allowed to make up our own ways of worshipping Allah. It is His right, so He tells us how to worship Him. We can’t just decide to invent new forms of worship, because we don’t know how He wants to be worshipped. Ajvatovica isn’t sanctioned by the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    As for the hijab issue… First of all, you would have to see if the hadith you were talking about is sahih. If it is, then why in the world would one not accept it? I mean, think about it. If it is sahih, then it means that the Prophet said it. How could any Muslim in his right mind reject something he said? If it a weak hadith, then it is a whole other issue.
    But nevertheless, there is concencus among the scholars of ahl al-Sunnah (including the Bosnian ulema, ask any efendija or consult your ilmihal) that a woman needs to wear a hijab for her prayers to be accepted. An islamic principle, as explained by the Prophet himself, states that a concensus among the scholars means that it is definitely a part of Islam since the whole Ummah wont agree on something wrong. Now, to deny the obligation of hijab based on ones own logic isn’t very logical, especially if the arguments are (with all due respect to you, my sister) as flawed as yours. For instance, to say that the wearing of hijab implies that a woman is imperfect is so far-fetched that, frankly, I’m surprised you went there. For the prayer to be accepted, there are certain conditions etc. Consult your ilmihal and look up “uvjeti za namaz” – conditions for prayer. One of them is to be properly dressed. Does it say anywhere that this applies only to women? Men have to cover their private parts as well! Furthermore, the Prophet said that the men should also wear nice looking clothes as well. Does this mean that the man is imperfect just because he has to cover his private parts (and beyond that) for prayer? Should I feel inferior because the Prophet told me to dress nicely when I stand before God? I am astonished that you read these things into the practice of hijab for prayer, when in fact it is clear what it’s there for. Everyone should cover him or herself when standing in prayer before God. That’s common sense. The fact that the woman covers her hair, and the man doesn’t have to, shouldn’t be a problem. First of all, it is a commandemnt from God. He is the most Wise and He knows what is best. Secondly, there is a difference between a man and a woman, so there will be differences in things like these. I will be a little blunt here, but the following illustrates the point. Is it the same thing if a man would pray wearing pants and covering his waist, exposing his chest, and if a woman does the same? Would you feel comfortable performing salat topless?

    Nowhere does it say that a womans dua isn’t heard by Allah if she doesn’t wear a scarf. You have confused different issue. What it refers to is the fiqh of salat. For the salat to be accepted, one must have wudu, one must be properly dressed, etc. It has nothing to do with dua.

  7. hamdy permalink
    October 20, 2008 4:01 pm

    I just re-read the ending of your post and understood it now for the first time.

    No, it is not shirk for you to wear the scarf. You are not obeying the commandments of other than Allah. Why? Because hijab is prescribed in Islam. The scholars of ahl al-Sunnah agree on this point, which makes it a legitimate Islamic practice (per the hadith of the Prophet). Additionally, the Prophet explained in a hadith that a woman should cover everything except the hands and the face. If you wear the scarf, you are obeying God through His Prophet.

    I have to make another point.
    A hadith isn’t declared to be true or wrong based on our reasoning skills and our personal experiences. What determines if a hadith is authentic or not is an examination of the chain of narrators, etc. If it becomes clear that a hadith is authentic and can be traced back to the Prophet, we as believers should accept what he says. He is our prophet, we are his followers.
    Also, what determines if a tradition or practice is un-Islamic isn’t what we feel. Something may feel good, but it can still be wrong. Christians worship Jesus, Hindus worship a plethora of gods, and that makes them feel good. We have to go to the Qur’an and Sunnah to determine what is right and wrong. Feelings have their place in Islam, no doubt. But they don’t determine issues like these. For 1400 years, Muslims have agreed that wearing the hijab is prescribed for women. To come now and say that all of the Muslims have been wrong for all of these years clearly implies that the Prophet didn’t convey the message properly and that God revealed an unclear religion. That’s why the Prophet said that the Ummah will never agree on something wrong, because if they did that would mean that no one among mankind is upon the complete truth from God and another prophet would have to be sent so they could be guided again. But Muhammad is the last prophet.

    There is a reason why Bosnians are Hanafis. A layman who hasn’t done the proper research shouldn’t come to his/her own conclusions based on what his/her heart says. It is much safer to pick up an ilmihal and take it from there. If one wants to do the proper research and study the religion to find out the details of the rulings of Islam, that’s great! If that is what you want to do, I would encourage you to do that. Reis Ceric, for instance, went to al-Azhar, that would be a good place to start 😉

  8. October 20, 2008 10:57 pm


    1. The hadith about women’s prayers not being accepted without a scarf IS NOT sahih.

    2. Ajvatovici as far as I know is about Ajvaz Dedo who was Muslim – wiki aritcle – – I realize it is a wike article but one of the links states that legend has it that he was brought to Bosnia by Sultan Fatih. Feel free to post links that show this to be a bogomil practice but let me also add that the Quran does not say that Allah accepts only the prayers of a Muslim over a non-Muslim nor that a non-Muslim can not go to heaven etc. – again the moral here is the devote nature of the action and the effect of that prayer. For the sake of argument – we’ve always been proud of being bogomils, of searching for the proper faith and finding it .. so this makes memorializing the event just as important.

    3. It’s not a hijab issue per se. It’s a scarf issue. Is the scarf part of hijab and that is a very long complex argument. To simply say that all of the ummah agrees that the scarf is a part of hijab may be accurate but it ignores the big picture. There are two verses and some hadiths. Whenever the subject is approached – you still have a varying degree of agreeing on whether one verse was intended for the prophets wives or all women .. often a scholar will state that one was for the prophets wives but another for all Muslim women. So, if you take each verse individually you do not have concensus.

    4. Point number 3 brings me to the shirk portion. Here in the US we were not taught that the scarf was fard .. it was not considered fard and there were rulings that were refered to. This is a more recent phenomenon of the past two decades that the insistance is that the scarf is fard. Consider point number 1 and I have to question whether the scarf is fard for prayer because it most certainly isn’t refered to in the Quran – nor is a scarf directed to be on the hair anywhere in the Quran at any time – during prayer or not.

    5. Read this post:

    6. Reis Ceric’s own wife Azra never wore a scarf within the mosque in Northbrook unless she was praying. It was only after they left that she did this. Reis Ceric has also talked about the Quran not stating the need to cover the hair when he was out here in Chicago. I’ve spoken to many Imams in Bosnia that take this opinion.

    (I’ll get to your other comments on other threads tommorow or very soon)

  9. Philip permalink
    October 22, 2008 11:34 pm

    “4. Point number 3 brings me to the shirk portion. Here in the US we were not taught that the scarf was fard .. it was not considered fard and there were rulings that were refered to. This is a more recent phenomenon of the past two decades that the insistance is that the scarf is fard. Consider point number 1 and I have to question whether the scarf is fard for prayer because it most certainly isn’t refered to in the Quran – nor is a scarf directed to be on the hair anywhere in the Quran at any time – during prayer or not.”

    this is very interesting because as far as i know the 4 sunni schools (i am assuming your sunni) all agreed that covering the hair was fard. (with some going a lot further)

    can i ask where you do get your opinion about this from?

  10. Philip permalink
    October 22, 2008 11:43 pm

    hmm my response didn’t go through for some reason. Anyways what do you base your opinons on hijab on, any scholars or schools of thought?

  11. hamdy permalink
    October 25, 2008 3:37 am


    1. I’m curious what your reference is for that?

    2. Well, just look at the Bosnian version of that wikipedia article:
    It mentions the bogomil origins. I never said that the prayer of a non-Muslim wont be heard, that has got nothing to do with my argument. What I said was that we shouldn’t adopt non-Islamic practices. We worship God according to the way He told us, we don’t adopt quasi-Christian religious practices and make them a part of our faith. I explained why in my earlier comment.

    3. As far as I understood it, this post and my comment was about the scarf during prayer. Everyone agrees that it is mandatory during prayer. It isn’t complex at all. Can you mention any mainstream scholar who says that it is okay not to wear the scarf during prayer?
    And if you still want to go there… There is concencus that the scarf is part of hijab. No scholar said that it was exclusive for the Prophet’s wives. Some may have said that the niqab (feredza) was exclusive for his wives, but all of the four madhhabs agree that only the face and hands may show, if not less.

    4. All of the Sunni schools agree that scarf is fard. A US organization cannot overturn a 1300+ Muslim concensus. The Qur’anic verses cannot be divorced from the historical and exegetical context. If you go down that road, then consider how various terrorist groups can use some verses to justify acts of terrorism. Now, if you look to the historical and exegetical context (for instance, read the classic tafsir of ibn Kathir) it will become clear that the relevant verses do indeed tell women to cover, at least, everything but the face and hands. The Sunnah makes it even more clear and removes any doubt one may have about this, hence the concencus among the four schools.

    5. Unfortunately, you display some misunderstandings of the hadith sciences in that post which makes it hard for me to respond to what you wrote. For instance, you lament the supposed unacceptability of classyfing hadiths today. Only there is no such prohibition. Qualified people are still free to check the authenticity of various hadiths. Some very famous modern day scholars who did that are of Albanian origin. You are free to do that yourself after you have gone through the proper education and training in hadith sciences.
    Also, no one has given the status of perfection to the Prophet’s companions. It’s hard to respond to a post like the one you linked to when your assumptions, which you base your arguments on, are false. Now, the collective body of the companions will not agree on something wrong. This is something obvious, because if they were to agree on something wrong that would mean that at one point the entire Ummah would have agreed on something false and no one would be guided. In such a case, there would be a need for a new Prophet who could show the truth and that isn’t possible as Muhammad is the last Prophet.

    6. My understanding was that your post was specifically about the scarf during prayer. If that is the case, then the practice of Azra proves my point, no?
    Is there a source you could point to so I can see what exactly the reis said about the scarf and the Qur’an?

    But anyway, my question to you is the following:

    If the scarf isn’t compulsory, then what kind of God would keep humankind in complete misguidance for 1300+ while promising that His revealed religion contains the complete guidance? Why was the complete Ummah misguided for so many years until a group of people could finally bring the light to us, a light which incidentally seems to be adapted to the cultural context of the people who brought it to us? Or is it just a coincidence that the people who now say that it isn’t fard come from a part of the world where the scarf is highly criticized?

  12. October 28, 2008 4:10 pm

    Hamdy and Philip – I’ll be back in a few days to properly respond but I think that it might be best to reread my post as the whole point of the post is that I have never researched this particular subject and the logic provided is the basis for why I need to research it.


  1. Friday Links — September 26, 2008 « Muslimah Media Watch

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