Bismillah-al-Rahman-al-Rahim - In the name of God, the most Beneficent, the All-Merciful

The Question of Hijab These Days 

We gratefully acknowlege and thank the Zaytuna Institute for permission to reprint this.

After the tragedy of September 11, many Muslim women have been feeling a sense of fear, and, unfortunately, some have even experienced aggression due to the misdirected backlash that  has resulted from the tragedy. According to Shaykh Hamza, as per the advice of Shaykh Abdallah bin  Bayyah, if a woman is certain or feels a high  probability of danger when outside of her home,  particularly in some areas of this country, then the best place for her at this time is in her home. If she  must go out by necessity and feels a real sense of  fear, then in such circumstances, especially if she does not have a male to protect her, she is permitted by shari'ah to protect herself. Necessities have their own rulings. Much of the Prophetic Law of Islam is based upon maslahah, or the Common Good, and it is rational and merciful. The essential reason for the ruling of hijab is to protect women. Since wearing the hijab may not serve that purpose these days in some areas and may in fact put a woman in danger, then the ruling changes under such circumstances. A fatwa written by Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah concerning this is being  translated for distribution and will hopefully be available as soon as it is ready. 

Another aspect of this issue is that Muslims should not knowingly elicit wrong actions such as harm and  harassment from others because in Islam there is a very strong emphasis on Muslims not being the cause of fitnah for the disbelievers. In fact, there is a verse in the Qur'an in which the believers seek protection from this: "Our Lord! Do not make us a  trial for those who disbelieve, and forgive us, our  Lord! Surely, You are the Mighty, the Wise" (60.5).  Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah stressed that this ruling is not something new based on ijtihad but that this is, in fact, based upon the hukm of Allah  (an injunction on all Muslims regardless of school of  thought). In the circumstances mentioned above, Shaykh Hamza suggests as an alternative that  Muslim women consider wearing hats, etc. The point is that a woman does not have to go out  looking obviously like a Muslim these days if she feels she would be the object of harm and  harassment. 

Shaykh Hamza recommends that, at this time in particular, we redouble our efforts to reach out to  others and to educate them about Islam. He notes that, generally, the response has been positive;  many of our fellow Americans are sensitive to the present situation and are troubled by bigotry and hate crimes. 

He also advises the following: 

-doing a great deal of istighfaar 
-increasing prayer on the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam 
-calling on Allah by His name "al-Latif
-reciting the Du'ah an-Nasiri 
-reciting the adhkar found in The Prophetic Invocations by Imam al-Haddad 
-reciting the hizb of Imam an-Nawawi 
-performing each salat with Hudur (presence of  mind and heart) 
-praying for all of humanity 

The following is an excerpt from a question and answer session from a talk given  by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (called America's Tragedy) at the Zaytuna Institute in Haywood California (U.S.A.) 
Q:How should women wear the hijab?
Shaykh Hamza: I think that the area that we are in [the Bay area in California] is probably one of the safest areas in America, but there are other areas where it is dangerous. Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah gave a fatwa, and it was a very good, sound fatwa. His point was that if Muslim women were in danger of being harmed or accosted, they should not go out, and if they have to go out, he said that they are not obliged to wear the hijab. That is what he said. He gave all his usuli proofs for it, so I would stipulate with that that if there are dire circumstances, then that is a dire rukhsa from a person with a valid license in Islamic law because Islam is an intelligent religion. The laws are there to serve human beings; we are not there to serve the law. We are there to serve Allah, and that is why whenever the law does not serve you, you are permitted to abandon it, and that is actually following the law. That is where the confusion lies because people do not realize that. The law is for our benefit, not for our harm. Therefore, if the law harms us, we no longer have to abide by it. For example, pig is prohibited because it harms us, but if we are going to die without eating pig, we do not follow the law anymore because now the law says eat the pig. If you are worshipping the law, then you cannot understand that. You cannot worship the sacred law because the law is there to serve you; it is for your maslaha, your benefit, and that is our fiqh.
At night, especially, people have to be careful. It is always better to be in groups. Generally in most places, people will come to your defense. There is a lot of sensitivity in this area. There are non-Muslim women all over the country who have been wearing scarves in solidarity with the Muslim women. It has been shown all over. I would recommend having a PR campaign. Show pictures of Mary Magdalene or the Virgin Mary since they are basically wearing the hijab, and explain that this is a sign of purity as it always has been, so people should not desecrate it. Do this to remind them that it is from their own tradition. Also, have a picture of a nun next to a Muslim woman, and ask why is one pure and the other impure? By what criteria are you judging? You can do things like that just to take things home to people. 

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is the director of the Zaytuna Institute.