Dear scholars, As-Salamu `alaykum. How can we deal with the attitude of the West, particularly France, towards Muslim women’s hijab? They refuse to allow Muslim girls and women to wear hijab in their schools. Jazakum Allah khayran.
The European Council for Fatwa and Research, established in Britain in 1997, includes as its members a number of Muslim scholars who give fatwas to the Muslim communities in Europe, and other scholars in the Arab and Muslim world. The council started by tackling an issue of a paramount importance to the entire Muslim world, particularly the Muslims in France, that is, the refusal of France and Europe to allow Muslim female students to wear hijab in schools.
The Western countries discourage Muslim female students from wearing hijab, thus compelling them to neglect a religious obligation.
Muslim women are not to neglect such an obligation at any rate. Allah Almighty says: “And it becometh not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, he verily goeth astray in error manifest.” (Al-Ahzab: 36)
There is no scholarly difference with regard to Muslim women’s obligation to wear hijab.
Wearing hijab refers to covering the body except the face and hands—and according to some Islāmic schools of jurisprudence—the feet, too.
The obligation to wear hijab is proved by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Scholars unanimously agree upon that. The Muslim nation applied the obligation for 13 centuries. But following their invasion of the Muslim countries, the foreign occupiers imposed different ways of life on the Muslims, and this, in the long run, brought its effects and led the majority of the Muslims to deviate from the right path.
But with the Muslims’ increasing awareness of their religion, they have started to regain confidence in themselves and their religion and have returned voluntarily to the right path. Hence, many Muslim women abide by the obligation to wear hijab.
The European Council for Fatwa and Research states in that regard:
“There is no doubt that it is a religious obligation upon every adult female Muslim to wear hijab. It is enough to cite as evidence of that the following verses:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is clear, and to draw their veils over their bosoms.” (An-Nur: 31)
“O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, that so they may be recognized and not annoyed.” (Al-Ahzab: 59)
Religiously, morally, and constitutionally speaking, it is not lawful to prevent Muslim women from obeying their religion with regard to wearing hijab.
If European countries discourage Muslim women from wearing hijab, it does not befit France, in particular, to follow in their footsteps, forgetting that it is the very country that adopted and called in its revolution for establishing the principles of freedom, brotherhood, equality, and observance of human rights.
Every human being has the right to follow the teachings of his or her religion and seek to please his or her Lord. No one can compel him or her, under any circumstances, to give up his or her duties.
Wearing hijab is part and parcel of the Muslim woman’s religious freedom and personal freedom. The observance of such freedoms is prescribed in modern constitutions, international agreements, and the Declaration of Human Rights.
Besides, it is known that liberal secularism [which European countries claim] does not adopt a hostile attitude towards religious beliefs. Its stance on that is impartial. If so, and if they do not prevent women from uncovering parts of their bodies and wearing miniskirts, for instance, why should they discourage Muslim women from covering their bodies? By insisting on refusing hijab, they handle matters with double standards.
Atheistic secularism is what is hostile to religions in general and believes that religions are what draw peoples backwards.
What some French say about the hijab that it is a religious symbol [and, thus, may create religious differences in society] is not true at all. Symbols have no functions in themselves, as is the case with the yarmulke and the Star of David of the Jews, and the cross of the Christians.
As for hijab, it has a function in Islam; it is the means by which Muslim women cover themselves and keep their modesty.
No Western country has prevented the Jews from wearing the yarmulke or the Christians from wearing the cross, though such objects are symbols of religion. Why should they prevent the Muslim women from wearing hijab?
We call upon France, which takes pride in being the mother country of freedom, to respect Muslims’ beliefs and feelings all over the world and to accept the religious and cultural variety in its society. It should follow the example of the early Muslim civilization, which was tolerant to all religions, cultures, and people of different ethnic origins. Moreover, the early Muslim civilization gave the chance to people of other religions to give to building the Muslim civilization.
We also call upon the Muslim scholars and the much Islamic associations all over the Muslim world to declare clearly the opinion of the Shari`ah on the Muslim women’s hijab. We call upon them to support their sisters in the West, particularly in France, in defending their right to wear hijab.”