“To my husband who took me out of purdah and spent the rest of his existence regretting it”. This is how the dedication page reads in a Muslim woman creator’s autobiography published a century in the past. It speaks volumes approximately the age-antique culture of retaining women in purdah. Having originated in early Islamic history, the controversy as to which of a extensive variety of outfits — from the burqa (tip to toe gown protecting complete body) to hijab (headscarf protecting head and shoulders) — answers the Quranic injunction on ladies’s get dressed code remains unabated till at the moment.

The burqa and hijab were part of non secular and social debates the world over and its total or partial ban anywhere makes international news. In recent days, the Indian media has given prominent coverage to a few associated trends — the ban on face-overlaying hijab in Sri Lanka after the devilish dance of terrorism on the island, the Shiv Sena’s call for for the same nation movement in India, and a Kerala academic organization’s circular to its schools directing that no female pupil need to cowl her face on its campuses throughout the country.


In India, purdah has had a nearby variant known as ghoonghat (lengthy veil protecting head and face) and both have generated rules and case law. Since the times of British rule, there have been special provisions for pardanashin (actually, sitting in purdah) women within the legal guidelines of proof and civil procedure, regardless of their faith. In a Kolkata election case, girls voters — a Hindu and a Muslim — approached the High Court seeking exemption from the requirement of a picture identity card on religious ground (Nirmal Sakdar 1961). The court dismissed the Hindu lady’s plea: “The gadget of purdah is alien to our soil and never existed in the course of the duration of the Hindu civilisation. It may be that among very orthodox households girls aren’t comfortably photographed. That however is not an inexorable social practice and in modern-day days it’s far neither extensive nor popular.”

The declare of her Muslim sister became additionally dismissed. Referring to the Quranic verses on the hijab, the court said: “There is not any specific injunction approximately retaining purdah. Moderation of social sex is recommended and it’s been laid down that ladies have to cast down their appears and now not display their decoration in public. Annotators keep that there’s no absolute injunction towards uncovering of the face or the hands. What had been laid down are questions of prudence and wellknown deportment. The count consequently rests no longer on faith but on social exercise.”

In a comparable case of a Muslim girl in Hyderabad, the judge identifying the problem however thought in any other case. “A citizen professing Islam cannot be positioned to election to act opposite to spiritual injunctions that allows you to exercising his franchise or to study the non secular practice and forgo the proper to vote,” the courtroom said in Peeran Saheb (AP 1988).

In 2015, a purdah-related case reached the Supreme Court. The Central Board of Secondary Education engaging in the AIPMT (All India Pre-Medical Test), in a bid to prevent copying in examination, introduced a dress code that prohibited full-sleeve shirts and headscarves. Some Muslim ladies sought exemption from it on spiritual grounds and obtained comfort from the Kerala High Court, difficulty to a path to publish to important frisking by ladies invigilators. An appeal to a bigger bench of the court with the aid of the CBSE became dismissed. A Muslim college students’ business enterprise tried to outsmart the board and in a bid to preempt similarly attraction approached the Supreme Court with a PIL. It asked the court to direct the CBSE to now not apply its get dressed regulations to Muslim ladies in popular. The business enterprise claimed that the code turned into repugnant to Islam and for this reason violated its individuals’ fundamental proper to freedom of faith. But the apex court docket issued a reprimand: “Faith isn’t linked to the clothes you put on, your faith will now not disappear in case you visit the exam centre with out scarf.” The PIL turned into subsequently withdrawn.

I am no one — no matter my command over Arabic and lifetime study of Islamic tenets through their original resources — to explain what the Quran certainly says in appreciate of girls’s get dressed code, as I do not belong to the extended family that has monopolised the challenge of understanding Islam’s holy e-book. I might just draw interest of all concerned to the latest news gadgets from two Muslim nations, each of which realize Islam as their kingdom faith and preserve the sharia as their most important source of law. In February this 12 months, Saudi Arabia — the seat of Islam’s holiest places — appointed a woman member of the royal own family as its new ambassador to the USA. And early this month, Malaysia appointed a girl judge of its federal court as the united states of america’s chief justice. Both these ladies are seen in public carrying hijab but faces absolutely exposed. Will folks that declare that face-overlaying through ladies is an important Islamic exercise take be aware?

The ban on face-overlaying in Sri Lanka is a precautionary security degree and the Kerala educational agency’s circular prohibiting the practice — notably, issued before the Sri Lanka incident — is an admirable try to positioned the report straight at the Quranic injunction regarding women’s get dressed. The Shiv Sena mouthpiece leaping into the fray might not degree up to the prison take a look at of locus standi but the argument of spiritual freedom to justify face-masking — usually and everywhere with out a exceptions — will no longer stand the constitutional touchstone of any such freedom.

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