Monday, September 8, 2008

Answer on MTODAY Article on Tudung from Quinary

This is an article written by Quinary. It is a good rebutal to Raja Petra's article in MToday about wearing tudung in Islam.I read the news in The Star yesterday of some Muslim bodies including JAKIM which lodged a police report against Malaysia Today's editor, Raja Petra for allegedly insulting the Malays, Muslim and Islam. I was hoping that they were referring to a real insult done by Raja Petra, but much to my disappointment, the articles which are said to insult these Muslim bodies are the articles with title I promise to be a good, non-hypocritical Muslim and Not all arabs are descendants of the Prophet. If these two articles insulted these Muslim bodies, then I have nothing to say than this : you guys are being unnecessarily sensitive Malay Muslims.

That makes me think of whether those who lodged the police report really went through the articles, at least to read it entirely, or they just look at the title and jumped to the conclusion, or they actually do not understand English? Which one of the above factors is true then? In my opinion, those two articles referred to initially didn't tickle me even a bit. I think JAKIM should find something better to do than to lodge a police report on those two articles.

Today, however, Raja Petra published another article on head cover (tudung), The Great Tudung Debate. This one does attract my attention, though I must say that it is nowhere near to being an insult to me. I am not insulted at all, as this sort of view has been around for some times, especially by those anti-hadith clan or quranist. But as a head-covering-muslim-woman, I do believe I should put some respond in my blog over what I understand it to be. I do want to stress though, that I am not at all trying to belittle any of the non-head-covering women, as I do believe that this is something personal that does not affect our aqidah, and I do respect and accept the differences in opinion. The below respond is to present another side of the view, just so some people will not take this matter lightly.

I do believe though, that Raja Petra has touched this tudung issue at a very wrong place. This should be settled at ummah level first before opening it like that for public scrutiny. Among the statement published in The Great Tudung Debate article (which was said to be written by Raja Petra's anonymous friend) is this comment on An-Nur 31:

Again there is no mention of head (ru'usa) in this verse or face (wujuh/wajh). Please note the words 'draw their veils over the bosoms'. The arabic is as follows:
walyadribna : and strike / cover
bi khumurihinna : with their outer garments
Ala : over / upon
juyoobihinna : their bosoms / breasts
Women are told to cover their chests/bosoms/breasts. That is all. This tallies with the earlier verse 33:59 above where the women are told to lengthen their clothes/garments. There is absolutely no mention of head (ru'usa), face (wujuh) or hair.

My response :
This depends largely on what is the interpretation of the word khumur. I am not sure whether this friend of Raja Petra speaks Arabic (which I am quite sure this anonymous friend of his has no arabic knowledge), but one thing not highlighted is the fact that khumur (the plural word of khimar) means something to cover, and what was normally referred to as head cover (tudung). The classical arabic dictionary, aqrib al-mawarid defines khimar as :
"all such pieces of cloth which are used to cover the head. It is a piece of cloth which is used by a woman to cover her head."

Imam Abu'l-Fida ibn Kathir said: "Khumur is the plural of khimar which means something that covers, and is what is used to cover the head. This is what is known among the people as a khimar."

So linguistically, khimar does not only mean something to cover, it is commonly used at that time to refer to head cover (tudung). So now we can see that khimar can be used as :
  1. A piece that covers
  2. Something specifically used to cover the head / head cover / tudung
While I recognise and respect the fact that Raja Petra's friend choose to pick the first definition of khimar, we should go a step further in trying to find whether the Qur'an is referring to the first or the second definition. Common linguistic factor should be taken into consideration, at the time when the verse was sent down. Jumhur ulama' picked the second definition as the correct one.

When the verse An-Nur 31 was revealed, the term used : walyadribna bikhumurihinna
See how it was designed : bi-khumuri-hinna : with their khumur
The khumur was designed to be ma'rifah, not nakirah. Looking at it closely, this khumur is already there on the women's body. Before this verse was sent down, where is it that the khumur was used? Are we saying that the women of Arabia at that time march around topless that God asked them to now put on their shirt to cover their breast?

No, they didn't march around topless. They wore their khimar on their head. This is not suprising, that's the tradition at that time. In fact, we know that the Christians used that as well, as they are required to do so in the Bible via Corinthian 11. The difference is that :

Imam Abu Abdullah Qurtubi said: "Women in those days used to cover their heads with the khimar, throwing its ends upon their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest bare, along with the ears, in the manner of the Christians. Then Allah commanded them to cover those parts with the khimar."

The practice to wear khimar to cover hair is already there within the society, but now this verse commanded that it is extended to be used to cover breast to make it more meaningful in the modesty business. Why such a hassle to ask the women to cover breast once again using another piece? Then ask a woman to stand wearing a baju kurung, and another using baju kurung with tudung to cover their breast. See the difference.

That is if we want to rely solely on Qur'an. There are other hadith explaining this as well (though some might just refuse to accept it) .

The article further quote this statement :
We DO NOT interpret the Quran. May I suggest something much simpler? Why not we just read it? If we look at the Quran in its arabic and then look at the translated words just a little carefully, we will understand it. You DONT EVEN have to know Arabic. For example the arabic word for HEAD (kepala) is NEVER mentioned in any of the verses quoted above. Neither are the arabic words for face and hair. So how do the translators include head, face and hair? Someone must explain this.

My Response :
I beg to differ. There are times when we don't even have to mention something specifically in order to refer to something. If I ask my husband to wear an underwear, that means I want him to cover his private part, no? Should I then have to specifically say this "Darling, please use this underwear to cover your penis (pardon me for the word)" instead? If I just say "Darling, please wear this underwear", would he then use the underwear to cover his feet or head instead? Do I need to mention the private parts when I ask him to wear it, when underwear is already known to be used as something to cover the private parts?

This is where the knowledge in Arabic is important in interpreting things. When we understand khimar to be something covering our hair, whether or not it mentions head and hair, it does not matter anymore. Do not take lightly of the importance of Arabic language in explaining the Qur'an. Those who don't speak arabic might not realise the efficiency of arabic language that even its grammar is vital in interpreting it correctly. Remember how did some people failed to realise that arabic grammatical aspect of the verse in Hud : 114 is important, that they wrongly came to the conclusion that there should only be 3 prayers in a day?

And for those who left their comments on that article in Malaysia Today accusing Muslim women with head-cover as oppressed or that sort, please learn to respect other people's belief. I wrote something on this quite some times ago in Muslim Women Dress Code and Oppression.


mimai said...

bagus!!! keep writing..
liberal2 ni kena sepak buang.. termasuk anti hadis ni

Mrs D said...


Given the misunderstanding over this pasted article, hingga ada yg ingat saya lelaki (hehe), mungkin agaknya elok for you to put an intro at the beginning of this post :)

Thanks a lot for quoting that post :)

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