A Circle of Sisters and Brothers of Spirit and Scholarship
As more and more Hebraic women begin to veil in hijabs, lets take time to see why so many criticize them as being Muslim. Although veiling seems to be a distinctive emblem of Islam, the veil of one's face is, surprisingly, not enjoined upon Muslim women anywhere in the Quran. According to some scholars (Ezzat, 2012), the tradition of veiling and seclusion (known together as hijab) was introduced into Arabia long before Muhammad. Apparently it was primarily through Arab contacts with Syrian and Iran, where the hijab was a sign of social status. It is argued that only a woman who did not need towork in the fields could afford to remain secluded and veiled. All other women had not the means to be so fully veiled.
In the Ummah (community of believers), there was no tradition of veiling until around 627 C.E., when the so-called “verse of hijab” suddenly descended upon the community. That verse, however, was addressed not to women in general, but exclusively to Muhammad’s wives:
“Believers, do not enter the Prophet’s house…unless asked. And if you are invited…do not linger. And when you ask something from the Prophet’s wives, do so from behind a hijab. This will assure the purity of your hearts as well as theirs” (33:53).
“O you who have believed, do not enter the houses of the Prophet except when you are permitted for a meal, without awaiting its readiness. But when you are invited, then enter; and when you have eaten, disperse without seeking to remain for conversation. Indeed, that [behavior] was troubling the Prophet, and he is shy of [dismissing] you. But Allah is not shy of the truth. And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts. And it is not [conceivable or lawful] for you to harm the Messenger of Allah or to marry his wives after him, ever. Indeed, that would be in the sight of Allah an enormity.”
This restriction makes perfect sense when one recalls that Muhammad’s house was also the community’s mosque: the center of religious and social life in the Ummah. People were constantly coming in and out of this compound at all hours of the day. When delegations from other tribes came to speak with Muhammad, they would set up their tents for days at a time inside the open courtyard, just a few feet away from the apartments in which Muhammad’s wives slept. And new emigrants who arrived in Yathrib would often stay within the mosque’s walls until they could find suitable homes.
When Muhammad was little more than a tribal Shaykh, this constant commotion could be tolerated. But by 627 C.E., when he had become the supremely powerful leader of an increasingly expanding community, some kind of segregation had to be enforced to maintain the inviolability of his wives. Thus, the tradition, borrowed from the upper classes of Iranian and Syrian women, of veiling and secluding (covering of one's face) the most important women in society from the peering eyes of everyone else.
Here is what the Quran says about the women covering their hair and bossoms.
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimar over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to […] “Qur’an 24:31)
“Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad) That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed. […] (Qur’an 33:58–59)
So as you can see, the covering on the woman's face is not an Islamic law or ruling but a tradition that apparently applied solely to Muhammad’s wives is further demonstrated by the fact that the term for donning the veil, darabat al-hijab, was used synonymously and interchangeably with “becoming Muhammad’s wife.” For this reason, during the Prophet’s lifetime, no other women in the Ummah observed hijab. Of course, modesty was enjoined on all believers, and women in particular were instructed to “draw their clothes around them a little to be recognized as believers and so that no harm will come to them” (33:60).
More specifically, women should “guard their private parts…and drape a cover (khamr) over their breasts” when in the presence of strange men (24:31-32).
But, as Leila Ahmed observes, nowhere in the whole of the Quran is the term hijab applied to any woman other than the wives of Muhammad. It is difficult to say with certainty when the veil was adopted by the rest of the Ummah, though it was most likely long after Muhammad’s death.
Muslim women probably began wearing the veil as a way to emulate the Prophet’s wives, who were revered as “the Mothers of the Ummah.” But the veil was neither compulsory, nor for that matter, widely adopted until generations after Muhammad’s death, when a large body of male dogmatic scriptural and legal scholars began using their religious and political authority to regain the dominance they had lost in society as a result of the Prophet’s egalitarian reforms.
As for our Hebraic women today who wear the hijab, I see nothing wrong with doing so. It is only important to know the history of that which you choose to do. Just as the wives of Muhammad are considered Mothers of Ummah (Muslim Nation or Community), Hebrew women could wear their hijab with the same love and admiration for the Hebrew Nation and family and community. "Ummah" is a common Arabic word meaning "people group", or "nation." The term takes on a religious connotations in the Qur'an where God is said to have sent to each ummah its own messenger. The messengers given special prominence as recipients of scripture and founders of an ummah are Mosheh, Yahusha, (some say Paul/Shual) and Muhammad. Jews/Hebrews are an ummah based on the Torah which The Creator gave to Mosheh, Christians an ummah based on the Injil aka besorah (gospel) which The Most High gave to Yahusha aka Jesus (and also to Shaul aka Paul), and Muslims an ummah based on the Qur'an, which Allah (God) "sent down" to Muhammad. For those who criticize them saying they are Muslims, I say so what when the term Muslim simply means, "Submission to Yahuah/God/The Supreme Being/Our Creator". Ise O! So be it!
IMPORTANT REBUTTAL.... the scriptures regarding Tamar suggests that perhaps covering of the face was a tradition in Hebraic life.... hmmmm I just do not by the Rabbi's line of reasoning but I think each one should judge for herself. Shalom w Ohr!