Mernissi also notes that at the time of the Hijab’s first implementation in late 7th century A.D, there was widespread strife and warfare in the Middle East. And Prophet Mohammad was particularly troubled by these political instabilities. A messenger of God known for his equipoise and deliberation, in the case of the invocation of the Hijab, he acted out of character. Its consequences to generations of followers was not fully thought out. Hence, Mernissi seems to suggest that one has to look a the social, political and historical contexts in which the Hijab was instituted. Although Prophet Mohammad was the chosen messenger of Allah, he was vulnerable to frailties common to all humans. While there could be no doubt about the noble intentions of the Prophet, some leeway has to be made for errors of thought and lack of rigorous analysis due to chaotic political circumstances of the time. The intrigue surrounding Prophet Mohammad’s own life, when he feared for the safety and sanctity of his wives after his demise, might have also contributed to the creation of the Hijab. Hence, what was possibly born of personal insecurity of one individual had been taken for a universal truth by the Prophet’s followers.
Mernissi seems to be suggesting a broader principal, namely one of bringing a critical perspective based on historicities of the holy texts. Mernissi’s views do not conform to mainstream Islamic scholarship. Interpreting from within the feminist framework, Mernissi argues that the Hijab as it is applied today, helps keep women in a subordinate position in a male-dominated Islamic culture. She points out the void in Islamic scholarship about the lack of women’s voices and views on the issue.
In conclusion, it is apt to say that Islamic mandates on women’s dresses, especially the Niqab and the Hijab, have been taken too literally by the faithful. The differences between various schools within Islamic theologians, as pointed out by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and the lack of importance given to historic contexts of the holy scriptures (as elucidated by Mernissi), combine to validate the stated thesis. In this scenario, it is only reasonable that a more liberal stance on the Niqab and the Hijab are called for; and that Islamic theologians will come to recognize the distinction between the literal and implied meanings of holy decrees and would try to promulgate the latter.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, translated by U. Abdullah, Is Wearing the Niqab Obligatory for Women?, part 1 of 2., retrieved from <http://www.suhaibwebb.com/blog/islam-studies/is-wearing-the-niqab-obligatory-for-women-part-1-of-2-by-yusuf-al-qara%E1%B8%8Dawi-translated-by-u-%CA%BFabdullah/> on 17th November, 2010
Fatima Mernissi, translated by Mary Jo Lakeland, Medina in Revolution, The Veil and the Male Elite: A feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam. Published by Addison-Wesley