The German Islam Scholar Lamya Kaddor

Why I as a Muslim Woman Don't Wear a Headscarf

Does the Koran really demand that women wear headscarves? Or is it mainly older men who claim they can decide how women should dress – with no theological foundation whatsoever? For the Islam scholar Lamya Kaddor, there is no question about it: the headscarf is obsolete

​If I as a Muslim woman living in Germany ask myself whether I should wear a headscarf or not, that gives rise to the question of whether the additional head-covering called for in the Koran (33:59) still fulfils its original purpose of protecting women from male desire. My answer is: no. In contemporary Germany such covering-up no longer serves that purpose. It is even more likely to bring about the opposite of what God intended by exposing wearers of headscarves to discrimination.

Today the intended protection against 'annoyances' is provided by a well-functioning legal system rather than by adherence to social rules from the past. A free state based on the rule of law protects a woman, for example by punishing attacks on her person. This protection may be primarily concerned with bodily integrity, but people in a modern state are more than ever responsible for themselves with regard to the freedoms accorded – including in the realm of moral integrity. Covering my head cannot relieve me of that responsibility. I cannot hide myself behind a little piece of cloth. A free and democratic state grants rights and also imposes responsibilities. In such circumstances I can behave honourably with and without a veil or head-scarf – or not, as the case may be.

A 'fashion accessory' from Koranic times?

If this argument is accepted, one can also abandon the Koranic demand for additional covering, directed towards women in Early Arabic tribal society. What would still initially remain is the khimâr, the head covering that was part of women's clothing at that time. The Koran neither speaks against nor in any way emphasises that form of covering. God uses the word only once in the Koran (24:31). That occurs in passing in connection with a call for moral behaviour. So there is no Koranic emphasis on such head covering. However, if God had required a special head covering, would He not have said so explicitly? The khimâr thus merely constitutes a 'fashion accessory' according to the spirit of that age. Viewed rationally, functions consciously or unconsciously associated with head coverings across the course of history – such as protection against sand or evil influences – are all superannuated today and have lost their validity. People's powers of imagination have changed.

Female students with and without headscarf (photo: picture-alliance/dpa)
"Sura 24:30-31 calls on both men and women to behave chastely, but exegesis of the Koran up to the present day only puts the emphasis on chaste behaviour for women," Kaddor writes

​​

In the Germany of the twenty-first century – at the very latest – women's hairstyles are no longer per se an erotic stimulus. The sight of head-hair no longer provokes sexual fantasies and thus immoral behaviour – except perhaps among fetishists. When you walk along a city's pedestrian precincts no one turns to look at you because of your hair. Only if you dress provocatively or in a particularly original way, and behave accordingly, do you attract some attention. In addition, this isn't a male world that still thinks as it did a thousand or more years ago. Thanks to the achievements of a free and democratic state, and thanks to the prevalent understanding of relations between the sexes, you no longer necessarily need a head covering in order to live morally. The headscarf has become obsolete.

Misogyny by Islamic scholars

Today's orthodox comprehension of the obligation to wear a head covering is primarily based on the interpretations of scholars who lived several generations after the Prophet Mohammed. One can follow their judgements but they are not sacrosanct. As human beings all scholars are fallible. Conservative and fundamentalist circles constantly emphasise that our behaviour should follow the Koran and the Prophet. Their spokesmen maintain that this directly accords with what was laid down during the Prophet's lifetime and the initial period of Islam.

Koran (photo: fotolia/lapas 77)
The depiction of the headscarf as a unifying element within the Muslim community is not well founded, Kaddor argues

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However in reality this view is mainly based on the ideas of scholars who lived some 600 (!) years later – such people as Ibn Qudâma (d. 1223), Ibn Taymîya (d. 1328), or the latter's pupil Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzîya (d. 1350). Bearing in mind the patriarchal social structures of that time, it is unsurprising that interpretations of sources concerning relations between the sexes were usually unfavourable for women – even though that contradicts a striving (to be found throughout the Koran) towards improving women's situation. That tendency is even less surprising if one recalls the misogyny demonstrated by many scholars throughout the history of Islam. Linking shame and a head covering is by no means as self-evident as it seems. Sura 24:30-31 calls on both men and women to behave chastely, but exegesis of the Koran up to the present day only puts the emphasis on chaste behaviour for women.

No political symbol

Nevertheless, the Koranic injunction to dress in a way that is generally demure remains a religious demand, to be fulfilled by wearing 'appropriate' clothing. A woman believer sees this as signifying that all those parts of the female body which nowadays excite the idea of possible sexual contact should continue to be 'properly' concealed beneath the kind of clothing usual today. What is entailed in 'proper', 'appropriate', or 'decent' is left to the reasonableness of every mature woman citizen, since at present there are no specific directives based on Islamic sources. In prevalent practice, it is mostly older men – learned or unlearned – who assume the right to determine how a woman should appear, but there is no theological or sociological foundation for this.

A similar situation prevails regarding evaluation of the headscarf as a token of Islamic faith. Such a function cannot be demonstrated in the history of Islam. The depiction of the headscarf as a unifying element within the Muslim community is not well founded either. In addition, its function as a political symbol, so frequently evoked in public discussions today, also constitutes a historically unfounded inflation of the significance of this item of clothing. This has occurred only in recent decades, as an element in the opposition to Western influences within the Islamic world.

Lamya Kaddor © Goethe-Institut 2011

Lamya Kaddor was born in 1978 in Ahlen, Westphalia, as the daughter of Syrian immigrants. As a student she specialised in Islamic Studies, and went on to train Islamic teachers of religion at Münster University. Since the 2003-04 school year she has been involved as a teacher in the 'Islamic Studies in the German Language' project. Her most recent book is "Muslimisch – weiblich – deutsch! Mein Leben für einen zeitgemäßen Islam" (Muslim – Female – German! My Life for an Islam in Keeping with the Times), C.H. Beck Verlag, Munich 2010. This text is an abbreviated version of a study published in Thorsten Gerald Schneider's Islamverherrlichung [Glorification of Islam], VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, pp. 131–158.

Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de

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Comments for this article: Why I as a Muslim Woman Don't Wear a Headscarf

This so-called "Islamic scholar" is taking Feminism to another level! This article saddens me. Beware of corrupt Muslims propagating falsehood and trying to "dilute" the real Shari'ah!

"Islam has raised the status of women from below the earth, to so high that paradise lies beneath her feet."

@Bashy Quraishy: you speak utter nonsense! Islamaphobia is not the result of the average Muslim walking on the street! It's a result of extremists and the US's propagation of "terrorists". I admire those who continue to obey their God even after moving to a European country. Islam is for Muslims in the entire world, not just Arab countries! As for the girls in tight jeans... Nobody is perfect, and seeing that does not justify your claim that the hijab is not compulsory/necessary!

Farah15.06.2014 | 01:57 Uhr

You're an Islamic Scholar? Ya right...

Allah's Slave17.06.2014 | 05:07 Uhr

The author claims to be an Islamic scholar while quoting very little scriptural evidence. Our religion is one of evidence and clarity as the Prophet said in his final sermon, witnessed by 120,000+, "I leave behind two things, which if you adhere to you will never go astray, the Quran and my Sunnah." This shows that the religion is Allah's and unique in not belonging or being vulnerable to the whims of men (or women) in it's authority and authenticity. For I could have an opinion, you could have an opinion and 7 billion others as well but the truth is 1.

Islam is the Quran and Sunnah as understood and practiced by the companions as Allah says in the Quran, "" [at-Tawbah 9:100]

Now firstly, and enough to end the whole debate, the author claims the hijab is something from culture and not the religion - thus disposable by whims of culture. This is dispatched by the fact the Muslims did not wear hijab before the verses of hijab (quoted here as not verses of hijab, ironically).

Aisha narrates in the story of her false accusations of zina, "... While I was sitting in my resting place, I was overwhelmed by sleep and slept. Safwan bin Al-Muattal As-Sulami Adh-Dhakwani was behind the army. When he reached my place in the morning, he saw the figure of a sleeping person and he recognized me on seeing me as he had seen me before the order of compulsory veiling (was prescribed). So I woke up when he recited Istirja' (i.e. "Inna lillahi wa inna llaihi raji'un") as soon as he recognized me. I veiled my face with my head cover at once, and by Allah, we did not speak a single word, and I did not hear him saying any word besides his Istirja'. He dismounted from his camel and made it kneel down, putting his leg on its front legs and then I got up and rode on it..." [Bukhari 59/462]

Narrated 'Aisha: The wives of the Prophet used to go to Al-Manasi, a vast open place (near Baqia at Medina) to answer the call of nature at night. 'Umar used to say to the Prophet "Let your wives be veiled," but Allah's Apostle did not do so. One night Sauda bint Zam'a the wife of the Prophet went out at 'Isha' time and she was a tall lady. 'Umar addressed her and said, "I have recognized you, O Sauda." He said so, as he desired eagerly that the verses of Al-Hijab (the observing of veils by the Muslim women) may be revealed. So Allah revealed the verses of "Al-Hijab" (A complete body cover excluding the eyes)." [Bukhari 1:4:148]

Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba: 'Aisha used to say: "When (the Verse): "They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms," was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces." [Bukhari 60/282]

and more... even beginning students of Islamic knowledge are aware of these evidences so we would assume an "Islamic scholar" would not make such elementary errors.

Also far from being an obscure opinion of Muslims "600 years after the Prophet" we have ibn Abbas demonstrating proper hijab tonhia students, the khulafa rashideen commanding it, and Aisha saying that whoever doesn't wear it has disbelieved in Surat an-Nur! [Narrated Qurtubi in Tafsir on these verses]

To one who denies hijab we leave with words that your mother Aisha would have said to you...

Aisha said, "If you are mumin this is not the type of dress suitable for mumin women. But if you are not mumin, then do as you please." [also Qurtubi]

Ali Camarata17.06.2014 | 13:02 Uhr

She is giving non Muslim a wrong impression and confusing Muslims. I am sure she is confused herself! Ridiculous. I dont believe she is an Islamic scholar. Well a true Islamic scholar wont stoop as low as that to comment on the issue. Didnt she know its compulsory to cover aurat. Be it for both genders.If she hv the niat one day Alhamdulillah but now seems like she do not even want to obey one of the compulsory rule in Islam that is to cover our aurats. Somethg wrong with her seriously. Seriously, whatever to u Lamya Kodok!

Mazuin Win Win18.06.2014 | 13:11 Uhr

hijab isn’t used for the same purpose it was thousands years ago which was to protect women as now women can be protected by law
a person is in charge of their own protection, they cannot depend on others to do them justice for any calamity that befalls on them, nor does it mean that the society which has democratized so greatly over time means that women should shamelessly display themselves to the world as objects and if something wrong does occur, they should look towards the government for help?
it doesn’t say explicitly in the quran that its required only mentioned in mere passing
people usually takes things out of context in the quran and though something may or may not be explicitly stated, but quran is just a basic guideline or the average muslim to follow to help the live their live more humbly, nor is the quran the only obligatory scripture to follow, there hadith other spoken/ recorded narratives that emphasize the importance of the hijab
lack of hijab doesn’t provoke men, hair doesn’t sexually attract them anymore
hijab is just part of a bigger picture, it protects your hair but it stands for so much more than given credit for, the point isn’t to cover your hair to prevent sexual eroticism but also in the way a woman behaves with it on, if one can do that without the covering than go for it, but the fact that it symbolizes modesty and gives an identity allows it to be more than just a piece of cloth that women hide behind. hair may not directly be the trigger for sexual attractiveness but it contributes the total product.
people dont think the same way anymore
human nature never changes, sexuality between men and women has been the basic human nature since the beginning of time and it will continue to be so, however the current democratic, liberalized and educated average being is more likely to have greater control over their emotions now than the barbaric caveman did 1000 years ago but that doesn’t mean the desires dont exist. The purpose isn’t to prevent men from making moves on you but also to stay out of their minds and dirty thoughts as well.
the world is more open-minded and democratic
men who forwarded hadith are victims of their own biases because they’re only human, so why follow their commands, if were capable to think on our own ?
these men who lived 1000 years ago and passed along the narratives of the prophets, given were only human and as bias as anyone else but the knowledge of islam and the type of people that allah bestowed these duties upon weren’t just anyone, they were the people that proved to be capable, nor did they make any of the things up from their own minds but rather used their intelligence, information given from allah’s prophets and the situations at that time to make conclusions. obviously the solutions used to solve problems that occurred 1000 years ago may not be applicable today due to the complete change in mentality of the average societal being, but thats why allah has constantly said to use the gifts he’s given you to make better decisions with. (i.e. your brain) and is using our brain we conclude that in the current society we live in, regardless of how democratic it may be, and regardless of however many laws and rights may be placed, and the prestigious status given to women, with all that in tact, is justice still done towards women? are women still treated equally? has the desires and thirst of man been quenched yet though he has abundance of women ready to do whatever he wants so conveniently available in todays modern era, does that prevent him from raping, murdering or obscenely behaving with a woman? their still mistreated, even with all the laws and rights in place, after putting in so much faith into our system for their protection, are they still protected? no … so isn’t it better to wear a headscarf and become a representative of modesty, humbleness than not wearing one and remaining unprotected?

y.r 22.06.2014 | 07:41 Uhr

Where in the Koran does it say that it is to the peoples control when something in the Koran is no longer needed or relevant. Also discrimination is not prevented but desires are. I stopped reading from there because I already knew it would just be some person doing what they want and living with time rather than what is required by her faith. It is this that makes me struggle to believe that she is an Islamic scholar.

Najib Albadrasawi24.06.2014 | 10:34 Uhr

all I can say if you are so desperate not to wear the hijab don't make up silly excuses . hijab was never a fashion was always ordered in Quran and Quran and the guidance is for all time til judgement day. Do as you wish you are accountable to Allah, but shame on you for twisting what Quran says to suit your own desires. It is forbidden and kufr to try to change the words of Allah. May Allah guide you to the straight path ameeeeen

Fatimah Mohrram03.07.2014 | 02:55 Uhr

well since you call yourself a scholar then you obviously know who ever follows your false fatwah that hijab is fashion , you know you are also accountable not just for yourself but all of the woman who follow what you say
Seems to me you have not studied enough and understand the responsibility on you . to be honest I am not sure how you will face Allah on this
all I can say
is May Allah protect all women from people like you who try to change the words and commands of Allah ameeeeeeen
I hope all of them see right through your personal desires of wanting fashion of showin gyour hair over islam
these days way too much fitnah out there and we need protect from people like you

wake up and stop following the shayTaan

Khadijah03.07.2014 | 19:05 Uhr

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm you claim to be a muslim scholar? ok well let us look at Quran and remember Quran is the words of Allah and are for all time. and when Allah gives a law or command it is to be obeyed first let us take surah 24 ayat 1 This is] a surah which We have sent down and made [that within it] obligatory and revealed therein verses of clear evidence that you might remember. and in this surah khimar is spoken about
so what is khimar
well the route word is khmar which is used in referrance to alcohol which shields and covers the head from reality so same as khimar is to cover the head and this is a command not an option. we are remembering Allah is our creator and gives us all us , sustains us and knows what is best for us. As a muslim we are to believ ein Allah and trust Allah more than we trust ourselves. Do you truly believe? If so they should be NO question , NO doubt and certainly NO debate when it comes to the commands of Allah, we as muslim believe and obey and trust Allah as Allah knows what is better for us than we do. Islam is submitting to Allah not the duniya and self desires.when we say this doesnt suite us then we stopped a verse in the quran and thus we are mocking Allah.
Most common reasons why Muslim women observe the Hijab:
1 To please our creator
2 Taking a stand againast female EXploitation
3 A Source of Protection
4 Preserving their beauty
5 To Be judged for Our worth and Not our Appearance

I myself am a muslimah . I am proud that I stand out and show I am muslim , I am SPECIAL and PROTECT

Aisha04.07.2014 | 00:56 Uhr

This is further to my comments dated April 2011 which declared that, “the Qur’an has no specific instruction for women to wearing any external head to toe veil (burqa), face veil (niqab), covering of head, or for gender-based segregation.
Since a good number of comments have been posted mostly calling for covering the head, chin and neck of a woman as a means of hijab, I would like to begin with the following comment by Muhammad Sadiq dated May 15, 2014, appearing on page-3 above:
“We must not let the hypocrisy to continue. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) champions for the equality of men and women in the society. Let us practice what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) preaches”
To begin with we have to accept the Qur’an as the final authority on all matters concerning religion and most authentic historically, having been first recited, recorded and memorized at the same historical point.
There is only one verse in the Qur’an, 24:31, which is interpreted to have women fork cover their head, chin, neck and all parts of the body except the face and the palms. This verse asks women to conceal their “zina” – which, based on the Qur’anic usage means their natural God given beauty, that is sexual or private parts. Accordingly, the verse allows women “not to expose their God-given beauty (zinat) except what is normally apparent of it.” (illa ma zahara minha). Thus, if we take the clear instruction of the Qur’an a woman living in 21st century in the West may reveal her hair, ear, chin, hands and feet as other ladies in the society do not hide these. They must, however, conceal their zina – the private parts and cannot go about wearing outfits that reveal their private parts or betray nudity. This means Muslims women can dress like ordinary Western women but are not permitted to carry themselves in an excessive provocative manner such as by wearing a highly revealing dress. By covering their head, ear and chin and being excessive conscious of their sartorial morality, they create a serious problem for themselves as spelled out below:
• Its distinctiveness gives a false signal of an exaggerated presence of the Muslims that may be threatening to some.
• Its association with medieval papal attire creates a social barrier in that a non-Muslim woman (or even a Muslim woman) going about casually with her head and ear exposed may feel alienated from a woman wearing a uniform type headdress that is reminiscent of de-feminized medieval nuns.
• It gives a false notion of regimentation as Muslim women from different cultures are as unconnected with each other as their non-Muslim counterparts from different cultures, but wearing a uniform type head-ear wraparound, they collectively look like a team or troop (as a prelude to a cultural invasion).
• It can be physically inconvenient to some working women as well as to those participating in outdoor games, sports, swimming and athletics by blocking natural ventilation around their heads and ears.
• It has lost its original role of providing security in an exclusively male occupied public arena. Today, a Muslim woman in any backstreet of America or Europe is probably far safer without the head-ear-chin wrap around than with it.
• Face veiling is already banned in many places including the premise of al-Azhar University, public places in France; besides, it conflicts with a clear Qur’anic directive to women to keep the face visible for personal identity (33:59), and there is no Qur’anic instruction to cover the head, ear or chin.
The truth is, the head-gear covering the ear and chin entered Islam from Christianity some “three to four generations after the Prophet’s death when the Muslims were copying the Greek Christians of Byzantium.” As this antiquated Christian custom is distorting the image of Islam and giving a false picture of gender bias/ oppression, Muslim women will do better by retracting from this purely symbolic custom in their new Western abode.

The tabled interpretation draws on a duly approved and authenticated exegetic work, Essential Message of Islam, Chapter 28.
Mohammed Yunus

yunus19.08.2014 | 18:06 Uhr

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