What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada
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What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada


Reviewer: Peter van de Ven I’m going to take you back
in time, 1400 years, to the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia. To a time when Prophet Mouhammed
was given the task of finding a solution to women in the city
being attacked and molested. The situation was this: It was around the year 600 AD, long before the modern convenience, of plumbing. When a woman awoke
in the middle of the night with the urge to relieve herself, she would have to walk out, past the outskirts of the city,
and into the wild by herself, for privacy. Believe it or not, a group of men actually began
to see an opportunity in women’s nightly tracks, and started to linger
at the outskirts of the city – their identities hidden
in the dark, watching. If a woman walked by, and she happened to be wearing a jilbab, which was a garment like a coat, the men knew to leave her alone. A jilbab of centuries ago
was a status symbol, like a Burberry trench or a Chanel jacket. It announced that the woman was free, and a free woman
was protected by her clan. She would have no problems
speaking out against the attacker and identifying him. But if the woman walking out at night
wasn’t wearing a jilbab, if she happened to be dressed
a bit more freely, then the men knew she was a slave, and they attacked her. Concerned members of the community
brought the situation to the Prophet, and like so many other social,
political, and familial issues that Muhammed faced
during his Prophethood, he turned this particular
matter over to God, and a verse was revealed for the Quran, the Muslim holy book. “O Prophet,” it reads, “tell your wives, your daughters,
and the women of the believers to draw upon themselves their garments. This is better, so that they
not be known and molested.” Basically, the verse advises
that all women dress similarly, so that they can’t be
picked out from one another, zeroed in on, and attacked. Now, on the surface, this may seem like a relatively
easy solution to the problem, but turns out it wasn’t. The early Muslim community was tribal,
and so deeply entrenched in social status, and the idea that a slave
would look like a free woman, that was almost insulting. And then there was
the matter of practicality. How would a slave do her work? How would she function,
if her body was constricted by a coat? How would she cook, clean, fetch water? In the end, the early
Muslim scholars ruled that a woman’s way of dress
should be based on two considerations: a woman’s function in society – her role, what we might consider her job – and the society’s specific customs. Or, in another way: when in Rome. Muslims like to take historical rulings
and apply them to the modern era. So, let’s do that. A woman’s way of dress
should be based on custom and function. So, what does that mean for
a Muslim woman living in America today, for someone like me? First, it means that I have a function,
a role in society, a contribution that I can make. Second, it means that while I’m making that contribution, and living in a society
where veiling is not the custom, and where, in fact, if I veil
it might actually lead to harassment, then wearing what is the custom, such as a dress, a pair of jeans
or even yoga pants, is not only acceptable, it’s recommended. But wait, could that be right? After all, haven’t we all come to assume that a Muslim woman must veil, that veiling is
a requirement of her faith? There is even a term that we’ve all come to associate
with the Muslim woman’s veil, an Arabic term
that we’ve all heard use, whether or not we’ve been aware of it: “Hijab.” So, maybe I missed it. Maybe the requirement that a woman veil
is in a different part of the Quran. For those of you who don’t know,
the Quran consists of 114 chapters, each chapter is written out
in verses, like poetry. There are more
than 6,000 verses in the Quran. Out of the 6,000 plus verses, three refer to how a woman should dress. The first is the verse
I’ve already told you about. The second is a verse that directly
speaks to the Prophet’s wives, asking that they begin to dress
a bit more modestly because of their role,
their function in society as his wives. And the third verse
is similar to the first, in that it was revealed in direct response
to a historical situation. Early records show that the custom, the fashion during the pre-Islamic era, was for women to wear a scarf
on the head, called a khimar, which would be tucked behind the ears
and allowed to flow behind the back. In the front, a woman wore
a tight vest or a bodice, which she left open exposing her breasts – sort of like the images
you’ve seen in Game of Thrones. (Laughter) When Islam spread through
the Arabian Peninsula, a verse was sent down asking
that women use this scarf, or any other garment, to cover the breasts. And that’s it. That’s basically all there is in the Quran
concerning how a woman should dress. Turns out, God doesn’t give a bullet point
of all the parts on a woman’s body that he wants hidden from view. And in fact, it might be argued,
and it is argued, I cannot stress enough that it is argued
by many Muslim scholars that the reason these verses
were left intentionally vague is so that a woman could choose
for herself how to dress according to her specific culture and the progression of time. And that the term “hijab,” guess what? It’s not in any of these three verses. In fact, it’s nowhere in the Quran,
directly meaning a woman’s veil. That’s not to say that the word
doesn’t appear in the Quran because it does appear. But when it appears,
it’s actually used correctly, to mean a barrier or a divide. Such as the barrier or divide that exists
between us humans and the divine, or between believers and non-believers. Or it means a barrier,
like a physical screen, that men during Muhammad’s time
were asked to stand behind when speaking to his wives. Or it means the seclusion,
the separation that Mary sought when she was giving birth to Jesus. That separation and seclusion, that means hijab; that physical screen, that means hijab; that barrier, that divide, that means hijab. Hijab doesn’t mean a woman’s veil. And yet, isn’t it strange
that what the term actually means, being screened off, divided away,
barred, separated out, these are the very terms
that come to our minds when we think of a Muslim woman? Why shouldn’t they? We have all seen the way some Muslim women
are treated around the world: if she attempts to go to school, she’s shot in the head; if she attempts to drive a car, she’s jailed; if she attempts to take part in the political uprisings
happening in her own country, to be heard, to be counted, she is publicly assaulted. Forget about hiding out in the dark
at the outskirts of the city, some men now feel comfortable enough
to assault a woman on the sidewalk, for the world to see. And they don’t care
to hide their identities, they’re more interested
in making international headlines. They’re too busy making videos
and uploading them onto YouTube, bragging about what they’ve done. Why don’t they care
to hide their crimes? They don’t feel like
they’ve committed any crimes. It’s the women
who’ve committed the crimes. It’s the women who got
these funny ideas in their heads, ideas that actually
led them out of the house, led them into society, believing that they
can make a contribution, and we all know, honorable women, they stay at home; honorable women stay invisible. Just as it was the custom
for honorable women to do during the Prophet’s time. Is that true? 1400 years ago is long before feminism. Were women locked away
behind doors, screened off by veils? Well, it turns out
that the Prophet’s first wife was what we would define today as a CEO. She was a successful merchant whose caravan equaled the caravans
of all the other traders put together. She essentially headed up
a successful import-export company. When she hired Muhammed to work for her, she was so taken with his honesty that eventually she proposed. (Laughter) I’m not sure how many women
feel comfortable proposing marriage to a man today. And Muhammad’s second wife? She was no slacker either. She rode into battle
on the back of a camel, which is equivalent to a woman
riding into battle today inside of a Humvee or a tank. And what of the other women? Early records show that women
demanded to be included in the Islamic revolution
taking place around the Prophet. One woman became famous as a general when she led her army of men
into battle and crushed a rebellion. Men and women freely associated
with one another, exchanged gifts. It was custom for a woman
to select her own husband and propose. And when things didn’t work out, to initiate divorce. Women even loudly debated
with the Prophet himself. Seems to me that if fundamentalists want to return
current Muslim society to 680 AD, it might be a huge step forward. (Laughter) Progress. (Applause) But we still have to answer
an important question. If not from Islamic history,
and if not from the Quran, how is it that we, in the modern era, have come to associate
Muslim women with hijab? With being separated out from society, secluded and isolated, barred from the most basic human rights? I hope it’s not any surprise to you
that this isn’t by accident. For the past few decades, the very people
who have been given the important task of reading and interpreting the Quran in a variety of different
Muslim communities, certain clerics have been
inserting a certain meaning into those three verses concerning women. For instance that verse
I told you about earlier: “O Prophet, tell your wives,
your daughters, and the women of the believers
to draw upon themselves their garments, this is better, so that they
not be known and molested.” Some clerics, not all, some clerics have added a few words to that, so that in certain
translations of the Quran, that verse reads like this: “O Prophet, tell your wives,
your daughters, and the women of the believers,
to draw upon themselves their garments, parentheses, a garment is a veil that covers the entire head and the face, the neck and the breast
all the way down to the ankles and all the way to the wrists. Everything on a woman’s body
is covered except for one eye because she must see where she is headed, and the hands must be covered in gloves. Because, of course, there was certainly a lot of gloves
back in the desert of Saudi Arabia. (Laughter) Etc., etc., etc., etc.,
on, and on, and on, end of parentheses, so that she not be known and molested.” And what these so-called clerics have concluded based
on these types of insertions is that a woman only has one function. To understand what that function is, all you have to do is read
some of the fatwas or legal rulings that these so-called clerics
have actually gone ahead and issued. Let me give you a sampling. A woman need only finish elementary school before she gets married. Which puts her, what,
at the ripe old age of 11, 12 years old? A woman cannot fulfill
her spiritual obligations to God until she first fulfills
her physical obligations to her husband. If he desires her while she sits
on the mount of a camel, she should submit. Islam has forbidden a woman
from wearing a bra because bras lift up
and make a woman appear younger, and this is calculated deception. My personal favorite: if a man has an ulcer excreting puss, from the top of his head
to the bottom of his feet, and she licked it for him, she would still not fulfill
what she owes him. What these and the many other rulings
just like it concerning women boil down to is this: The best of women,
the most honorable among them is uneducated, and so powerless, not very different from a slave. So, she remains at home
without complaint, without a bra. (Laughter) Ready and available at all times
to satisfy his every whim, even if it’s to lick his entire body; satisfying him whenever he calls, whether it’s in his bed
or on the mount of a camel. Does this sound like God’s will to you? Does this sound like scripture? Or does this sound strangely,
uncomfortably erotic, like the worst kind of misogynist fantasy? Are these so-called clerics, and the fundamentalists
and extremists who support them, truly purifying Islam from within, bringing it back to its intended form? Or are these men
no different from those men standing out in the dark
at the outskirts of the city, eager to prey upon a woman? Thank you. (Applause)

95 Comments

  • Debra Prince

    I am supposed to believe that they had to walk out beyond the city limits to take a night time pee? What, they didn't have chamber pots? Or slop jars as they were also called and had been in use for centuries by pretty much every even semi civilized culture? Uh huh.

  • Hawraa Allami

    This presentation was full of misguided assumptions. She basically painted all the middle east with a paint brush. I am a muslim women and all I knew my whole life was empowerment and so has any other muslim women I have ever met. Islam says nothing about belittling women and says nothing about taking advantage of women’s rights. There are some extremist country’s that treat women horribly yes there is and we should acknowledge that and help in any way we can. However, what she did is make assumptions on all of middle east and all women and men who practice islam. That is not the truth and that is not right. This does more hurt then harm to muslim women from western countries a with harmful words and assumptions without fully knowing the true background of an individual.

  • marium zaidi

    Just wondering if you have deciphered the Quran a 100%?
    This video is as misleading as it can be! I truly hope you find true guidance.

  • Tazeen Faisal

    Man, she had an whole auditorium full of people to listen to her justification for why she's dressed like this. Her research although is incomplete and she should go through the books of sahih ahadith.

  • Fatima Jabarkahyl

    I dont understand the fact that why do you guys have a problem with a women wearing the hijab or covering her self, I mean I wear the hijab full even covering my face and you lady come here interpret the Quraan so it fits in with you and make the audience laugh doesn't make you right. Why dont you go and have a debate with one of the scholars.
    Just as I have no right to tell you how to dress, in the same way you do not have the right to tell me how to dress, it's my own choice my own will and and I will continue to wear it, I am not harming anyone and theres bigger issues in the world that we need to worry about and most certainly my hijab is not one of them.

    I am proud to be a Muslim.

  • salah ben

    Salam arlaykoum je demande à allah de te guider parce que la religion elle vient dallah et pas de nous on et des suiveur du coran et de la sounnah et dans toute ces parole à aucain moments elle a parlé des hadith qui on un rapport avec le voile ou le comportement des hommes envers les femmes parce que la compréhension du coran et par le coran en premier et en 2 par la sounnah on dit pas le coran puis la sounnah on dit le coran et la sounnah il vont de paire parce que celui qui a ramené le coran le prophète Mohammad la expliquer avec son comportement comme aicha elle disait quand on lui posa la question sur le comportement du prophète elle a dit son comportement et le coran… Puis et elle a menti elle dit que les femmes ne porter pas des choses lourd j'ai de la peine pour cette femme là fille du prophète fatima a demandé au prophète de lui ramener une esclaves pour qu'elle puisse l'aider dans les tâche ménagère comme aller chercher de l'eau au puits et c'étaient un travail où elle porter comme quand moise quand il ces échapper de faraon et il et partis dans le désert il a trouver des femmes au puits qui n'arriver pas à sortir l'eau du puits pour nourrir les brebis et il les as aider et elles on raconté sa a leur père puis l'on invité pour le remercier et quand elle son venu pour invité moise à venir rencontré leur père il leur a dit je passe devant et vous me diriger de droite à gauche on me jetant des pierre à gauche pour aller à gauche et même chose pour aller à droite tout sa pour pas être derrière les femmes et les regarder se dandiner de gauche à droite alort voilà comment ce comporter les prophète aujourd'hui la politesse ces de l'essai passer les femmes en premier et on ce rince les yeux deriere alort je dit à celle qui veut suivre la vérité de faire des recherches et être sincère avec allah et elle trouvera la vérité

  • Khatra Abdi

    🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️ She's misleading people. She's supporting women yes, but again she's wrong about many things about Islam. 🤦🏽‍♀️

  • MBK

    Some people try hardly to focus on the minority of men who are agressive to women …….. but we forgot that its wrong to look at some muslims behaviors and generalize it on all muslims as if its a part of the religion ……. and as a fact ….. hijab is a aprt of islam and all muslim women should wear it ….. not by force …. but as a commitment to their religion and their obligations to their creater ………….

  • AR Khaled

    I am confused, is she claiming Women in the Middle East get attacked for leaving their homes and contributing to society? that's the dumbest thing i've ever heard, but thats what people want to hear.

  • Elea D

    To be honest, I have nothing against the islam and never have, and islamic women in our country are in my opinion end through my experience, very kind, sweet, fun, and always beautifully groomed (there are exceptions ofcourse). We women could take an example! But I always woondered why so many young men rebel, create disorder, rob, harass, fight etc. Might it because they are under pressure? I dont know, does anybody here know why?

  • DeityFree Dee

    Why does it matter? It is yet another man made abomination created to manipulate (and subjugate) inncoent lives to suit a sexist patriarchal cult.

  • Faye Farahmand

    Being a good speaker and using TED platform, this woman is trying to manipulate the fact. Quran is very clear and specific about what hijab is. That being said, she’s trying to transform the Islam to what is not …
    Her speech is pure falsification and the biggest evidence is she’s allowed to say these things in Europe. She’ll be stoned to dead in any Islamic country that is ruled by religion. There are many many more Muslim clerics, low and higher ranks that teach the Quran and interpret is exactly as written as totally disagree with this woman.

  • Faye Farahmand

    If Islam is so good and protective of women, why do you live in a western country?!!!

    And Muhammad’s wiveS, it must say everything. Might sound entertaining speech but full of falsification …, she’s trying to transform Islam for what it’s really Not.

  • peter phoenix

    gods will or misogynistic fantasy?….ha nice one! 😀
    yip, happens a lot even in 'so called' civilized western countries

  • Uno Dr

    Ненавижу философию, ненавижу тех женщин что придумывают отговорки!

  • Alan Stanley

    O cmon, you are just defending your tight jeans and shirt and that's it. It is also prohibited in Islam to wear such dresses in public that can attract male's attention. You are not OK with hijab, do not wear it but at least you can wear a loose and comfortable dress that might not reveal your curves etc which most of the women intentionally want other men to see to seek their attention. You just displayed one side of the picture my dear, Correct me if I am wrong

  • Alan Stanley

    And I think you were also shaming Pakistan by mentioning those publicly assaulted while in politics and shot in the head while going to school terms.. WITHOUT KNOWING THE ACTUAL FACTS BEHIND THESE INCIDENTS

  • Roosje Keizer

    Narrated 'Umar (bin Al-Khattab):
    My Lord agreed with me in three things: 1. I said,"O Allah's Apostle, I wish we took the station of Abraham as our praying place (for some of our prayers). So came the Divine  Inspiration: And take you (people) the station of Abraham as a place  of prayer (for some of your prayers e.g. two Rakat of Tawaf of  Ka'ba)". (2.125)
    2. And as regards the (verse of) the veiling of the women, I said, 'O  Allah's Apostle! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves  from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.' So the verse of  the veiling of the women was revealed.
    3. Once the wives of the Prophet made a united front against the  Prophet and I said to them, 'It may be if he (the Prophet) divorced  you, (all) that his Lord (Allah) will give him instead of you wives  better than you.' So this verse (the same as I had said) was  revealed." (66.5).

    The man's arrogance is beyond believe. God being ordered around by a mortal and musims believe this is coming from God????!!!!! Besides that, this woman is lying through her teeth.

  • Ghania Benbellil

    que d'ignorances mélangées avec mensonges , incompréhensions, déformations, diffamations , et j'en passe et des meilleures . quand aux personnes qu'elle a fait rire et applaudir je ne peux que vous plaindre mais elle encore plus . pauvre samina .

  • Ghania Benbellil

    samina de toute évidence vous ne mentionnez pas le nom de la sourate concernée car vous ne la connaissez pas . mais que savez vous de l'islam . vous rabaissez juste les hommes en les accusant d'aller violer des femmes quand elles vont faire leurs besoins ou sur le dos d'un chameau ?

  • Ghania Benbellil

    et ces mêmes hommes doivent alors se relayer pendant la nuit sans parler des odeurs . mais qu'êtes vous pour proférer de telles horreurs en faisant référence à l'islam puis faire des comparaisons avec games of thrônes .

  • Hakkyou13

    It seems that religion is holy stories that are woven into cloth that is used to bind women and keep them down. From where does this hate for half the populace come?
    How do religions continue to pretend that books written thousands of years ago can govern today word for word? And they choose which word to take literally, and which lines to read between. It’s all about power and status. History and context I s important when reading anything
    “They added a few words”. Read: they framed their own verbose ideas with the true verse to make it sound legitimate.

  • polyglot8

    1. Only proves what we already knew – you can find opposing points of view in any holy book from any religion – i.e. any text ban be interpreted to prove one side or the other.

    2. Muslim feminism? Yeah why not. It couldn't hurt (as long as you reside in a safe country).

    3. Every religion is a reflection of the economic and cultural milieu from whence it came. What she says about hijab, you could also say about eating pork. In fact, it's already been analysed – See "Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches" by Marvin Harris.

    4. In any case, grammatically speaking, she still doesn't resolve the issue that men are the "subjects" (e.g. "The Prophet said") and women, the "direct & indirect objects". This is true even in her reinterpretation.

  • Superwoman 2

    2:10 i heard mohammads friend followed one of his wife out in the dark when she went out to relive herself n he peeked on her while dhe did her business n when she was coming back he encountered her n said "i have seen you now, u must dress appropriately" n then he went to Muhammad next day n said the same thing now told him to tell his wives to fully cover themselves. at first Muhammad didn't listen but then suddenly he said a verse like that where a woman must wear a hijab was revealed. all said, I wonder why that friend was never questioned for peeking up onto a woman n not only that but afterwards also coming upto her to tell her to dress up lord. but anyway that's what I know n I happen to know that from an authentic source so whatever n however she said here didn't really match to the previous picture.

  • peter pyke

    excellent,i learn something new today.we welcome this into our cities and i for one dont like to see it.i would love too see all muslim women set free.of this custom.

  • StigandStem

    When I travel to Thailand I pass many Muslim woman covered head to toe in heavy restricting clothing all I can see is there eyes, it’s 30 degrees plus some days, then I look at her husband strutting along in his shorts and T shirt he has no guilt about his woman suffering, I’m sure this is not what your god thinks is right I’m thinking it’s just the arrogant Muslim men have turned this to there advantage.

  • awol2602

    The enlightening simple facts that have been enshrouded in mystery and never in my experience explained so clearly and powerfully. Coincidentally and commensurately she is one of the best speakers I have ever listened to.

  • tarik lono

    the fatwas you mention are from your imagination and we didn't hear about them before ,for instance even the "salafi" say that the woman should work as a doctor because they don't accept a man to examine her unless there is no female doctor, so you should give us the resources of these strange fatwas or at least mention their scholars' names

  • Abdul Essa

    In life, it is prudent to take advice from people who are subject matter experts in the field you are looking for advice. Don't take advice for your car from a sheepherder rather ask a car mechanic. Please ignore Samina Ali regarding advice on Islamic theology, rather ask people who have your well being in this life as well as the next.
    It would be very foolish to think you have acquired the approval of Allah in this life, only to find out in the next life you were only following your own wimps and desires.

  • Achu :P

    Every Muslim woman should watch someone who has read and understood and researched the Quran and its origins like her. If they already know this good for them.

  • isabel asad

    nada convincente…y vestida asi menos….si es musulmana que se cubra…y no se exiba de esa manera….SUS PALABRAS NO SON LA VERDAD!!!!!

  • Rana Alsawy

    This video is unfortunately the most misleading video about Islam I’ve ever seen!!
    The word hijab is actually means the cover and in the verse’s context it means the hijab that women should wear on their heads..
    I pray that all of us find the right way ❤️

  • Lozza H

    Why wasn’t the original focus on educating/disciplining the men rather than changing the women’s garments?! Why are women always to blame?

  • Lee Yy

    I once thought that "Hijab" is like a costume practice, because in my country Malaysia, those full cover outfit is trending, yet under the hot sunny day with no sandstorm or camel. That baffled me because it seems no benefit other than strict Islamic practices. But I realized now that "hijab" is just an Arabic word means barrier or divide. Don't get me wrong, those outfits are beautiful in their own way, it is also their freedom to present themselves, but if you say to me that "Hijab" is what loyal Islamic women should do, covering all body except eyes so that not get "creampied" by strangers, please, that is your problem of not able to regulate yourself, not their problem. Don't try to deny your mistake and use the woman to take your responsibility, Jesus Christ.

  • Sablicious

    The Qur'an = Deuteronomy, one of the five sacred books of JUDAISM (see: the "Pentateuch"), retold by an Arabic warlord — whom most objective scholars agree, likely suffered from schizophrenia — not dissimilarly to Saul of Tarsus / the "Epistle Paul", who had epilepsy (see: "revelations" / "Paul" never actually meeting or seeing the character "Jesus", for whom not historical evidence exists) — spanning a period of 23 years.

    This process was later uncannily mimicked by the Mormons' Joseph Smith, with his rabbit-from-a-hat gospels — one need only replace Smith's peeks into his stovepipe hat, with Mohammad's treks into a desert, to see the similarities.
    Thus assertion is further proofed by the fact that, as with the analogised Joseph Smith, Islam also incorporates a system whereby the "words of God" that may happen to conflict with earlier passages of the Qur'an (infallible gods FTW! 😂👌), are abrogated by later scripture — see: Naskh (نسخ). This practice of "correcting God" (🤣) was something that Mr. Smith, too, was often to avail — since many of the 'divine words' he fished from his hat to be recorded by his wife, were littered with inconsistencies and incongruities. Literally, the verbal Kool-Aid fountain progenitor to Jim Jones, was forgetting what he had previously lied about! 😆

    Indeed, the re-writing of the Christian bible, by King James (1688) — in order to make its brain-mulching bunkum less barbaric and more easily digestible for infants ("give me your child for its first seven years…" and all that 🙄), is another instance of Man abrogating the word of the so-called "God/s" it concocts for its empty-headed self.
    >religion: the opiate of the moronic masses

  • Archana Thapa

    This TED talk was so needed! Hats off to you Samina Ali,not only your attitude,gesture and your soft spoken but also your beauty and art of communication admires me.

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