FATWA: Question on the evidence of hijab from a brother

Dear Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl,

 

I really appreciate the work you're doing. I had a question about your 

fatwa on the hijab (head covering). It's an understatement to say that 

the issue is controversial and as you rightly mentioned in your Hijab 

tapes the issue is in the present moment not open to rational discourses.

 

The question of the hijab is seen by many muslims and traditional 

scholars as something not up for discussion and anybody trying to 

undermine its complete obligation is either a heretic or an apostate. 

 

One recent example is Sheikh Ali Gomma who said any women denying its 

obligation is an infidel.  My question is not whether you think a person 

is an apostate or not for denying the hijab but on the sources you used 

for the fatwa you issued and the opinions in your book "And God knows 

the Soldiers". You state there was an early minority opinion that 

viewed the the hair and calves of free women as not an 'awra. Can you 

state some jurists names? You state in your recent fatwa that when it 

came to working women jurists would often allow them to uncover their 

heads or would contend that they wear attire that would not encumber 

their livelihood. Can you provide a couple of Jurists here as well?

 

I hope these questions don't sound polemical to you. My intentions are 

really not that. I just can't find anything on the internet regarding 

these views except yours and all other sources are a condemnation of 

people who doubt the complete obligation of the hijab (even views that 

claim that the neck is not awra are dismissed).

 

The issue has kind of caused a spiritual crisis in me (although I'm a 

guy) because of the significance traditional scholars seem to put on it. 

I hope you can find the time to answer my questions.

 

Best regards,

(Name Withheld for Privacy)

 

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Response:

 

Dear Brother,

 

Al salamu 'alaykum. I pray that Allah (SWT) grants you peace, serenity, and understanding.

 

Thank you for your message regarding hijab. If you will permit me, I have a number of points that I pray you will reflect upon.

 

1. You asked for the names of jurists on this matter or that. This is not how the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence works. When discussing questions of positive legal commands, we do not engage in a reductionist process of score-keeping through the counting of names. I would suggest that you read my book, Speaking in God’s Name, carefully. In addition, I would highly recommend my other book, Reasoning with God. My sincere and heartfelt advice is that you reflect upon both books and the point I am making here will become evident to you. 

 

2. I highly recommend that you listen to the entire halaqa that I gave on hijab. In this approximately 5-hour halaqa, I go through various sources and adilla. With all due respect to Ali Gomma, after the well known massacre in Rabaa, Egypt, I will not comment further on his opinions. May God forgive and guide us all.

 

3. This matter should not cause you a spiritual crisis. Your qadar is that you were created a male and so, there is no argument of taklif upon you. If, as I explained in Speaking in God’s Name, you find that the evidence does not lead you one way or the other, or that the matter remains inconclusive in your mind, the most you can do is tawaqquf (suspend judgment) and pray for our poor sisters who must wrestle with a predominantly patriarchally interpretive culture. 

 

May God guide us to enlightenment, duty, and wisdom.

 

Wa al-salamu 'alaykum.