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Does Hijab Guarantee Protection From Sexual Assault?

Questioner

Sister

Reply Date

Oct 18, 2017

Question

Assalamu alaikum. This question is posed on behalf of my friend. She is a very religious girl abiding by the rules of Islam. She used to work at a very reputable company, with half of the employees being Muslim. But she had undergone some abuse by her senior who also happens to be a Muslim, by which she was shaken, given up, and cried a lot. She came up to me and said/asked the following: 1) I have not gone against the dress code prescribed for women in Islam and still I went through this bad phase, why? 2) All that happens in the world is from Allah whether it is something to rejoice or a sad moment, was I given this situation by Allah to warn me not to work? Is it that women are not allowed to work? Is it that He gave this situation to make me stronger as a person? Please advise. Assalamu alaikum jazak Allah khair.

Consultant

Answer


hijab sexual assault

Short Answer: Of course not. It’s mere fabric, and it’s not meant to protect us. It’s an act of worship, not a means of protection. Women in hijab are sexually assaulted just as often as other women. Sexual assault or harassment is never the victim’s fault, regardless what she was wearing. Of course women are permitted to work, assuming their work doesn’t compromise their values, just like men. Sometimes horrible things happen to good people because Allah means to help them grow in character through those traumatic events. God wants healing for both the victim (through turning to those near to her and to professionals, as well as reporting the incidents to those in authority) and for the offender (through sincere and deep repentance).


Asalamu Alaikum Sister,

Thank you for sharing your friend’s story with us. I am very sad for what happened to her, and I sincerely ask Allah to grant her strength and perseverance.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) likened women to delicate vessels and instructed men to be gentle with them.

Consequently, society should offer women respect and protection, and be very hard on anyone abusing them in any way, since abusing women is strongly condemned in Islam and harassment is a serious, punishable crime.

The Quran offers very clear guidelines for interaction between men and women to maintain respect and eliminate abuse.

The Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet stresses that kindness to women is the true measure of goodness.

Assault or Harassment Are NEVER The Victim’s Fault

Being a victim of harassment, however minor, is a shocking experience.

So from an Islamic viewpoint, there is absolutely no excuse for harassing a woman or man sexually.

Your friend should not blame herself, because she is a victim, and not a criminal.

She should get support from everyone around her.

Even if she had not followed the rules, definitely it does not make her fair game to harassers who think they can get away without punishment and blame it on the victim.

Please encourage her to formally report the incident to her superiors and to pursue her legal right for compensation in order to punish the offender and prevent this crime from happening again to her or other female colleagues in that workplace.

It is an Islamic manner to enforce good and prevent evil in every way possible, and it is actually sinful to hold back when we can contribute to preventing harm for ourselves and others.

That said, let me address briefly the other points in your question one by one.

Does Hijab Guarantee Security?

Think of a safety belt in a car: if during an accident it does not prevent injury from a passenger, does that invalidate safety belts at large, or justify to that person never wearing a safety belt again?

Hijab is not primarily a security measure. It is a mandated worship just like prayer.

Muslims worship unconditionally; when we follow Allah’s orders, we do so obediently and lovingly, not suspiciously with the intention of testing.

No one said that veiled women are immune to assault or crimes, but those who are firm in their faith know they will be tested, and they know where to turn when hardships happen.

Why Calamities?

Only Allah knows why events happen, so it is not up to us to determine His wisdom. We can only try to learn the lesson and pass the tests and trials.

Both believers and non-believers go through good and bad in life, each with a different perspective, and consequently with a different lesson to learn.

The difference is that a believer would thank Allah for both good and bad, then stop and examine the quality of their deeds, and work on improving as humans. That alone is a great blessing.

Some bad events are actually blessings in disguise because they help us grow in faith and in character.

So, if a person who prays regularly and has a car accident, it does not mean his prayers were not heard and he stops praying.

It is just to test resilience, perseverance, and steadfastness:

Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. (Quran 2:155)

Working

Doing something useful for oneself and others is not just permissible but mandatory in Islam.

Muslims — men and women — are not allowed to be idle; they must work.

Although men are obliged to sustain women financially, Muslim women can work if they choose.

But, like men, only if their work does not compromise their ethics.

Anything we do should have a valid intention behind it with which we can face Allah.

So, before taking up a job, a Muslim woman must ask herself: “Why am I taking this job?”

And the answer should comply with Islamic manners, ideals, and beliefs.

Therefore, whatever work we do, whether we’re male or female, it should be beneficial and permissible.

Healing Both Victim and Offender

It is amazing how Islam is so merciful and compassionate not just with victims, but with offenders as well.

No matter how evil people may seem, they may still have a measure of goodness in their hearts, and there is always hope of redemption.

They always have a chance until the last breath of life.

So, for the innocent victims, the Prophet says:

No stress or exhaustion befalls the Muslim, nor worry or distress, even a thorn which pricks him, but Allah will forgive his sins because of that. (Al-Bukhari)

He also says:

Allah has forgiven my Ummah their mistakes, what they forget and what they are forced to do. (Al-Tirmidhi)

And for the offenders, Islam invites them to admit their mistakes and repent.

Muslims (men and women) are not saints.

They are human and humans make mistakes, even grave mistakes, and Allah in his infinite wisdom recognizes that and opens the door of forgiveness to all:

And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins; and who can forgive sins except Allah? And are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the wrong) they have done. For such the reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing underneath; an eternal dwelling: how excellent a recompense for those who work (and strive)! (Quran 3:135-156)

I hope this puts your friend’s worries to rest and gives her a new foothold on the straight path again. May Allah guide us and support us all to what is best.

Please stay in touch.

Salam.


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About Sahar El-Nadi

Sahar El-Nadi is an Egyptian freelance journalist who traveled to 25 countries around the world and currently based in Cairo. Sahar also worked in many people-related careers in parallel, including presenting public events and TV programs; instructing training courses in communication skills; cross cultural issues; image consulting for public speakers; orientation for first-time visitors to the Middle East; and localization consulting for international educational projects.


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