Syria Bans the Niqab in Schools

Can banning the Niqab really work?

There is something ironic in Syria banning the niqab, or full head cover. When I first arrived in Damascus in 1981 to go to the University of Damascus and live in wahda al-uwla in the University City, the hijab, or scarf used by women to cover their hair, was banned. Many women defied the ban and wore it on campus anyway, but it was perhaps only 30% of all women. Today the percent of students that wear it is much higher, perhaps 70%. I am only guessing as it has been two years since I was on campus. In the 1960s, the headscarf was even rarer than it had become in the 1980s. In 1979, Rifaat al-Assad’s troops, saraya al-difaa,  had stopped cars in downtown Damascus and forced women wearing the hijab to remove it, causing an public uproar and much resentment.

The spread of Islamic clothing and outward expressions of piety has been steady and uninterrupted over the last four decades. It is not clear how the government can stop or reverse this trend. It is not restricted to Syria of course, but a phenomenon common to much of the Islamic world.

Many theories have been offered for why Islamic clothing has spread. Some of these theories are:  it is due to the failure of secularism and materialist ideologies, such as communism and socialism; a protest against corrupt and authoritarian rule; in Syria, it has been argued that it is a “Sunni” protest against the dominance of Alawis, who are viewed to be lax Muslims (Alawi women do not wear the headscarf as a rule). I have heard other explanations, as well: fashion, western clothing is too expensive, the growth in women’s literacy has led to greater piety and familiarity with religion.

I would be interested in hearing the explanations of SC readers.

School ban on all-covering veil raises nary a peep among activists in the Middle East
2010-07-15 – LA Times

Who knew right-wing Western politicians and the Syrian government had something in common?

The niqab, a face-covering veil worn by some Muslim women that has been maligned by many in Europe and the United States as a symbol of oppression and religious extremism, has been quietly outlawed in public schools by Syrian authorities in an effort to protect the nation’s nominal secularism.

Syria has a long and fraught history with Islamic opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. But despite possibly forcing 1,200 women out of their jobs, no one is headed to the streets or has even launched a Facebook campaign yet. ….

Bassam Kadi, director of the Syrian Women Observatory, who explained his reasons for declining to take up the cause of the niqab after several of the affected women approached his organization for help.

“The niqab is not a Syrian tradition,” Kadi told the National. “It’s an imported symbol of religious extremism and contradicts the moderate Islam we know here. If [a woman] wears niqab, she is forcing an attitude on society. She is making a statement. That is not acceptable in a school.”

Although no formal announcement was made, local media began reporting the ban in June after women who wore the niqab began coming forward and complaining that they had been fired or reassigned to government offices where they would not come into contact with students.

“Education in Syrian schools follows an objective, secular methodology and this is undermined by wearing the face veil,” Education Minister Ali Saad reportedly said during a teachers’ syndicate meeting last month…..

Sweeping support to ban full Islamic veil in Western Europe as France votes on Burka ban, survey shows

….According to a survey conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center in April and May this year, support for banning the burka is especially high in France, where a whopping 82% are in favor of outlawing it in public places such as schools, hospitals and government offices, while just 17% are opposed to such measures.

But the study also indicates that the garment, which has been the subject of much heated debate and controversy in Europe, is becoming increasingly unpopular in Germany, Britain, and Spain, where 71%, 62% and 59%, respectively, of those surveyed endorsed burka bans similar to the proposed French law in their own countries.

Americans, on the other hand, remain strongly opposed to such a law. Only 28% of those surveyed in the U.S. were in support of a burka ban while 65% disapproved. ….In Paris, one communist lawmaker reportedly compared the cloak to “walking coffins” while another from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative party stressed that women who wear the burka must be liberated — even if it’s against their will….

Off the Wall writes:

One of our most miserable failures, as secular Arabs, was not to focus on a large marginalized segment of our society in the deep rural areas. So long as our cities looked more like western cities, with a tolerable amount of head-scarves, and so long as the rural only showed up in the commercial sector of our cities, or during their visits to city doctors, we thought that progress was happening as we had no idea, or we did not want to realize the extent of our failures in bringing true development, education, modernization, and progress into these rural areas. We may have brought electricity, built a few schools, facilitated rapid and excessive and unsustainable exploitation of land and water resources, but true enlightenment, i guess, we did not bring. The story is the same in most Arab “secular” republics.

With this failure, and as a significant segment of rural Arabs left their forgotten villages and came to the cities in search of better economic life, and in many cases, were even forced to do so through the extreme centralization prevalent in our societies, the cities started to reflect more of the true societal differences, and the more conservative leaning of the country, than they did when they only held about 15% of our “more affluent” westernized population. No secular Arab thinker dares to bring this issue, for it highlights our 70 year failure in affecting real, non-cosmetic progress. Tribal mentality remained the same, and it has by now spread into the cities where the narrow circles of old-urbanites , that used to be able to pretend that they represent the entire society, can no longer do so. Hence their nostalgia to the old days.

A population that remained more susceptible to wahabi ideas now constitutes a significant segment of Arab City dwellers, especially in Megacities, where traditionally, more cosmopolitan, enlightened strands of Islam was previously practiced. Ignoring the migrants after they migrated to the cities and leaving them to fend for themselves without real help exacerbated the problem and made more of the city now even more susceptible to Wahabi ideas. The same story can be told in countless Arab countries. It is not the Wahabi idea that is gaining, it is our failure to bring a large segment of our society into a level of development that can confront these ideas is the cause of what we now see.

Note: Mr. N3eyseh should try to explain the fact that the little desert principalities he so harshly criticizes have three (Qatar, Oman, and UAE) among the 32 least corrupt countries on earth, with two other monarchies (Jordan and Morocco) steadily moving up into the rank of 40s while the entirety of Arab “secular” republics are among the worst in corruption perception index with few of them going worst by the year. We failed, and we should face up. We need to re-invent Arab secularism and progressive thought to be more inclusive, less elitist, and truly committed to the human development of the Arab world.

Veiled Arguments
By RONALD P. SOKOL, July 14, 2010, International Herald Tribune

Two years ago, France’s highest court denied citizenship to a Muslim woman on the grounds that she had not assimilated into French society. I agreed to defend her before the European Court of Human Rights. I could have emphasized religious freedom; I raised the argument, but there was an easier way to show that the court had gone astray.

French law gives two tests of assimilation: knowledge of the language and absence of a criminal record. My client spoke fluent French and had no criminal record. But reports of interviews by social workers said that she had showed up wearing a niqab. On that basis, the court concluded that she practiced a form of religion incompatible with equal rights of men and women.

I argued that to allow an official to judge a failure to assimilate without providing criteria was to invite arbitrary decisions. The Human Rights Convention prohibits governments from acting arbitrarily. The case is currently pending before the European Court. ….

On Tuesday, the National Assembly passed the draft law by a vote of 335 to 1. It declares that “no one can, in the public space, wear clothing intended to hide the face.” The Senate is expected to pass the bill in September, when it will become law.

While the extreme marginality of the practice renders discussion somewhat ridiculous, the government’s insistence that the issue is vital makes it incumbent to show that its reasons do not resist analysis. Jean-François Copé, the majority leader in the French National Assembly and a small town mayor, argued in an opinion article on these pages (May 6) that “face covering poses a serious safety problem” and that “visibility of the face in the public sphere” is a fundamental principle.

The first argument is easily disposed of. There exists no evidence that women wearing the veil pose a security problem. Copé provides no evidence. The government’s own reports fail to show a public safety issue. In the total absence of any evidence, passing a law to provide protection where no protection is needed is either an exercise in absurdity or conceals a different agenda.

Copé’s second reason is more interesting. He asks, “How can you establish a relationship with a person who, by hiding a smile or a glance … refuses to exist in the eyes of others?” For the majority leader, “the niqab and burqa represent a refusal to exist as a person in the eyes of others.” In this he may be correct. But if a woman has a duty to show her face in public it must be because someone else has the right to see her face. That is the pretended “right” that Copé asserts.

I know of no such right. Copé will not find it in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, nor in the European Convention of Human Rights. When walking down the Champs Elysées, I have no right to see the face of passersby. Nor do I want such a right. While Copé may want a passer-by to give him a glance or a smile, he has no right to demand it.

Yes, the veil may be antisocial, but, fortunately, in a democratic, pluralistic society there is no legal duty to be social…..

Ronald P. Sokol is a lawyer in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Comments (60)

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

As a male, I find the hijab/niqab thing offensive and annoying.
I don’t care how people dress, but I do care when a habit is designed to send me a message: Stay away ! But I have no bad intention or thoughts of wrongdoing, so why treat me with such a suspicion and rejection.

I’m so glad that we don’t have this repulsive phenomenon in Tel Aviv.
Here women go almost half naked, especially during the summer, and no one will dare to touch, to stare, or to harass them in any way.
This is because, here women feel confident and safe.

Women wearing superfluous pieces of cloths, make me feel like this
black man:

July 16th, 2010, 3:41 am


Maysaloon said:

The premise of the niqab/hejab is that there are people with no right to see certain parts of a woman’s body, rather than whether or not a woman has a right to show or not show parts of her body.

The choice belongs to the woman. But we aren’t talking about “rights” here. What people really want is to attack Muslim people because its not allowed for them to hate Jews anymore. The Wahhabis are only a mirror to something which is already sinister in the human condition. But of course we are given any number of rational reasons why that is not true, and that they oppose it for “x” reason or other.

To support the niqab poses a conundrum for those who wish to see the sovereignty of the human rights discourse and world view, it also poses a conundrum for those who wish to see the sovereignty of the Qur’an and that worldview as it restricts expression to one interpretation of the Law. How to defend a person’s right without being overwhelmed by it? That is the question.

I think the Niqab is a fad which will pass away, but not before a much more serious change occurs. Sayid Qutb says in his “Milestones” that the rule of the Western man has come to an end. This is because in terms of the moral development of humanity, Western civilization does not have anything to offer. Its achievements have been with regards to the material benefit of mankind, not the spiritual.

What Qutb is referring to is the distinct lack of moral leadership in the West. There are people who have kept alive their old ways, their thoughts and moral systems, and these go way before the “Englightenment”. These ways are now resurfacing as the power of the key Western economies (The United States, Britain, France, Germany) continues to recede, a process that began following the end of the second world war.

We are not talking about some Wahhabi wave, we are talking about a resurrection of the old or classical world, with its views, morality and ways of life, rooted in a practical, rational world that gave people meaning and purpose in their lives. The modern world only atomized societies and erased or divorced the past, the post-modern world erased identity altogether. The woman in the niqab rejects these things in their entirety because she is protecting herself.

I think before we try to “save” these women in the niqabs from “false consciousness”, we should all think about saving ourselves. The problem is with us, and not these people.

July 16th, 2010, 5:17 am


Maysaloon - ميسلون: Debate as Syria bans the Niqab in Schools - كذلك كنتم من قبل فمن الله عليكم said:

[…] that Syria has banned the niqab in schools. No doubt this will attract all manner of comments and discussion. Very few people, I expect, will defend the niqab, rather they will be defending conventions on […]

July 16th, 2010, 6:12 am


Safiyah Page said:

I find it very interesting that the opening piece that got the discussion started linked literacy and the greater understanding that reading can bring to the rise in the niqabi. Who am I to argue with fifty years of observations made by the author of the opener? Very simply put I think Muslims, after a relatively short period of wandering in the desert of failed ideas, have rediscovered Islam. This is not a something that can be repressed and attempts at it like the French ban on the niqab are going to do nothing but make sisters who were thinking about donning a niqab run to put one on. Some much for the notion that these wearers of the niqab are marginalized and frightened. They are the exact opposite.

July 16th, 2010, 9:52 am


Joshua said:

Jad and Almasri,

Your argument three posts back got out of control and nasty, which we cannot have. Please no “takhween,” claiming that the other is not a real Syrian and absolutely no use of insults and personal attacks – which is what this has become.

I have been asked to ban JAD for his use of direct insults, such a “idiot”, etc. and I should. Ghat was banned for less and even in his case there were others who had offended worse than he. I don’t like doing this. All of you are valued and contribute important perspectives.

I am not banning anyone today, but please, try to avoid provoking each other and don’t get sucked into outbursts and insults. Please.


July 16th, 2010, 10:01 am


norman said:

to all of you,
Is wearing the Niqab a religious thing , or a custom thing

July 16th, 2010, 10:48 am


Averroes said:


The Niqab thing is a very touchy subject, and I would like to be saying more about it, but now I don’t have the time.

I will just say that women wearing the Niqab certainly view it as a religious duty, and they follow it religiously. They fail or refuse to see or consider the cultural dimension of the practice.

I strongly believe that wearing that dress code severely alters a woman’s (and society’s) prospect on social life. I intend to talk about that in a later post.

July 16th, 2010, 11:44 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I believe Hijab is a religious order to protect woman,in a society women need protection,there are many incidents of rape in the west.
I think the reason why more women wearing Hijab in Syria,is because the rise of women religious leaders ,as Miss Qubaysi.It used to be the religious leaders are men ,but education of women led to the rise of educated women who are religious.
Ask yourself who men will stare at ,a veiled woman or a woman who wear western style dress?
Joshua said Alawi are lax muslims,I have questions about this statement.and I do not believe women are donning Hijab,as a protest against Alawi goverment,since it is prevailing in different muslem countries.

July 16th, 2010, 12:01 pm


almasri said:

Thanks Joshua for the comment. I am not going to claim innocence, but I believe I more or less followed your request in the previous thread. I have absorbed unjustified provocations with none or pehaps minimal replies from my side.

Thanks again and also for this post.

July 16th, 2010, 12:08 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

would the time comes to a point where women wearing niqab will be banned in Mosques?

July 16th, 2010, 12:09 pm


Ahmad said:

Islam is a wonderful religion and theologically is elegant and inspires deep humility and moral way of life.

The hijab today is unfortunately so ubiquitous even in a historically secular city like Damascus, a bastion of strong pioneering women in the Arab world. Many of these women choose to wear the hijab either as an act of piety (like nuns would) or as an act of defiance against the Bush policy of invading Iraq (this would be equivalent to an America wearing a yellow ribbon after the attack of September 11). Today however the qubayssiat with money and inspiration from the Saudi Arabia are taking advantage these circumstances and pressuring even the very educated to conform to thier way of life.

The hijab is not about religion. It is about women’s status in society, why should a women retreat behind a veil. On the streets of New York, Paris Tokyo and Milan women are strong stylish and assertive. They are not asking for a permit to join society and would plunge their 10 inch stiletto in the chest of any man who would stand in their way. I run in a running club and many of the women out run me, and in science many women outsmart me.

Neither Jesus nor Muhammad put any rules in writing. Both The Bible and the Quran were written years after the death of either profit. If either one of them thought it is so important they would have asked a scribe to take notes. Neither men wrote any rules they talked about God and pointed the way.

Syria should be encouraging women to excel in sports and science. Not to retreat or train them in to be subservient “good” house wives.

A woman does not belong to a man. And it is silly to argue that she should reveal her face, hair or wrist to her husband only, as if she is his property. As a Syrian woman who refused the pressure of the qubayssiat recently told me “let my husband wear the hijab”

July 16th, 2010, 12:23 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


“…I believe Hijab is a religious order to protect woman, in a society women need protection, there are many incidents of rape in the west”.

This is exactly the point.!

Your argument that “there are many incidents of rape in the west”, is baseless and misleading. And how many rapes there are in Arab states?
How many (veiled) women are being harassed daily in the streets of Cairo ?

Your claims prove the obvious: that the veil is an invention of paranoid, narrow-minded and abusive men, who see women as a kind of “property” which needs “protection”.

The only protection women need is from people who think like you.

July 16th, 2010, 12:45 pm


Averroes said:


“…I believe Hijab is a religious order to protect woman, in a society women need protection, there are many incidents of rape in the west”

I disagree with your statement above, and I urge you to think again about it in depth.

The presumption that covering up will “protect” women presumes several givens. It presumes that men cannot control sexual urges and will in fact attack women physically to rape them if a woman is “not protected”. Don’t you find this notion offending to you as a man? That you are presumed to be an imminent threat to women? It also means, and this is the line of thinking prevalent in Saudi Arabia for instance, that rapers and harrasers are fully pardoned if women not wearing the hijab happen to come within their vicinity. The thinking goes that these boys are pardoned, because she is the “fitna”.

Please take some time to reflect on how dangerous this line of thinking is.

(More later)

July 16th, 2010, 1:20 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Your comment is equivalent to an insult ,and I strongly resent it.
the rape of a woman by unrelated man is extremely rare in Syria.
Also,In Syria a lot of women advocate Hijab.

July 16th, 2010, 1:25 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:


I have no wish to insult you what so ever.
In fact, I wanted to use the words that Averroes is using in his #13, about “controlling (men) sexual urges”, but I refrained.

Actually, I feel insulted by women who don’t know me, but still see me as a kind of male predator, that they should be “protected” from.

July 16th, 2010, 1:59 pm


jad said:

I’m linking this again, a very good, interesting and well written article to read, it’s a whole different world to learn about, pity it’s not in English yet::

By a Syrian woman wearing the Niqab.

نقاش امرأة منقبة حول النقاب وقرار وزارة التربية
امرأة منقبة
لم يكن ما أحزنني وحزّ في نفسي أن يعبر الأستاذ والصديق بسام القاضي عن رأيه في النقاب. فقدرته الخاصة على التعبير عن رأيه علنا هي محط احترام وإعجاب دائمين. لكن ما سبب ذلك هو تجاهله لبعض الحقائق التي يعرفها هو جيدا جدا بسبب عمله الطويل في مرصد نساء سورية الذي طالما اعتبرته -وماأزال- صوت كل النساء السوريات بغض النظر عن قناعاتهن الدينية وأشكال لباسهن.

وسأبدأ بالعتب. فأنت تعرف العديد من النساء السوريات المنقبات. وتعرف أنهن يلجأن دائما إلى هذا المرصد من أجل دعمه لهن. وأنهن تحدثن معه عن مشكلة قرار وزارة التربية قبل أن تنشر كلمة حول الموضوع. وأنت تعرف أيضا ما هو الواقع الذي تعيشه هؤلاء النساء. وما هو الجهد الجبار الذي يبذلنه مضاعفا عن غيرهن من النساء غير العاملات منقبات كن أو غير ذلك. فهن يخضعن لمستوى إضافي من العنف الذي تتحدثون عنه دائما لأنهن منقبات. بل هن يخضعن لمستويين إضافيين: واحد من الأزواج أو الآباء أو الأخوة الذين يهددوا ويتوعدون ويجبروننا على لبس النقاب. وواحد من الناس الذين غالبا ما ينظرون لنا شذرا في الشارع بسبب شكلنا الغريب عن عاداتنا وتقاليدنا.

وما دمت تعرف كل ذلك لماذا تجاهلته في مقالاتك المتكررة حول المنقبات؟

وما ردي الآن على ما قلته إلا لتوضيح بعض الجوانب التي أغفلت ذكرها. وكنت أتمنى لو أنك أشرت أنت إليها لكان ما قلته صائبا بلا ثغرة.

أغلب الناس انجروا وراء النقاشات الأوروبية حول النقاب، وردود الشيوخ عليها. ونسوا أن خلف هذا النقاب نساء قد تكون لهن وجهات نظر أخرى فيما لو أتيح لهن التعبير صراحة عن آرائهن. وهذا ما لا يحدث لأسباب لا تجهلونها. لعل أهمها أنهن نساء مجبرات -أو أغلبهن- على فعل ما يفعلنه. وأنتم من تقولون -بحق- دائما أن الثقافة الذكورية لا تميز بين امرأة وأخرى. فتخيلوا كيف ستكون هذه الثقافة الذكورية عند الأسر التي تجبر فيها النساء على ارتداء النقاب؟

هل تعتقدون حقا أن النساء اللواتي ينجبن الحياة، ويربين الأطفال، ويصنعن الأسر، ويعملن أيضا خارج البيت من أجل حياة أطفالهن الخ.. هل تعتقدون حقا أنهن يخفين شخصياتهن عن قناعة؟ هل تعتقدون حقا أن من تصنع كل ذلك هي امرأة متطرفة؟ فإذا كانت هكذا لماذا لا نرى الانتحاريات هن من يقمن بالأعمال الإرهابية باسم الدين؟ أليست حركتهن أسهل بألف مرة من حركة الرجال؟ وألسن قادرات على فعل ما لا يستطيع الرجال فعله في هذه الأمر؟ لكن الواقع يقول أن عقدين من الزمن الماضي لم يشهد نساء من هذا النوع في كل العالم إلا أقل مما تعده اليدان؟

هذا يؤكد بوضوح أن النساء أبعد الجنسين عن التطرف وأعمال العنف. وهذا يعني أن على من يهتم بمجتمعه أن يفكر مرتين قبل أن يتهمهن بالتطرف. بل عليه أن يتساءل ويسأل عما جعل النقاب يزداد في سورية. وعما إذا كانت النساء المنقبات راضيات فعلا -لا قولا- عن تنقيبهن.

لا شك أن بعض النساء تنقبن لقناعتهن أن ديننا الحنيف يأمرهن بذلك. لكنني واثقة من خلال تجربتي وتجربة عدد كبير من المنقبات أعرفهن أن من تنقبت بسبب من قناعتها الدينية قلة نادرة. لكن في الواقع “قناعة” من نوع آخر هي قناعة اجتماعية ناجمة عن المجتمع الذي تعيش هؤلاء النسوة فيه.

وحتى تتأكدوا من قولي هذا افعلوا ما فعلت تلك الأوروبية التي ارتدت النقاب ليوم كامل كي تتلمس ردود فعل الناس على نقابها. افعلن -أو افعلوا- ذلك لتتأكدوا مدى المعاناة التي تعانيها المرأة المنقبة داخل نقابها. معاناة جسدية حقيقية لأنها مضطرة دائما لارتداء المزيد من الثياب مهما كانت درجات الحرارة مثلا. ومعاناة نفسية مستمرة كل لحظة لأنها تعرف في كل لحظة، وترى ذلك في كل لحظة في عيون الآخرين، أنها في وضع غريب. ولذلك أجد نفسي موافقة -وإن على مضض- أن النقاب يشعر المرأة حقا أنها عارية لأنها تعرف أن وجهها غير مرئي للآخرين. أي أن وسيلة الإنسان الأساسية في التواصل البشري تم إلغاؤها.

ومن منكم ومنكن عاش في السعودية مثلا ووجد طريقا ليصل إلى قلوب السيدات الفاضلات هناك يعرف حجم المأساة التي تعيشها المرأة المنقبة في هذا العصر. ويعرف أن مهاجمة المنقبات يؤدي فقط إلى مزيد من العنف ضدهن. فلسن هن المسؤولات عن هذا الوضع. لكنهن ضحيات لتلك الثقافة الذكورية التي لم تستثني شيئا من مملكتها المغلقة: لا علمانية ولا دينية، لا إسلامية ولا مسيحية، لا مثقفة ولا جاهلة…

لكن من حق الأستاذ بسام أن يتساءل إن كان هذا الكلام ينفع. فالنقاب هو تطرف بحد ذاته. وهو ينشر التطرف بمجرد وجوده. هذا صحيح أيضا. لكنه صحيح مثلما أن البيئة الملوثة تعني موت الحياة فيها. فهل نقضي على البيئة في هذا المثل؟ أم نبحث عن أسباب ومصادر التلوث ونعالجها؟ هل نرفض البيئة الملوثة؟ أم نحاول أن نغير ما فيها لكي تصير بيئة نظيفة؟

لا أشك أن هذا المرصد يختار دون تردد الحل الثاني. ولولا ثقتي هذه لما بادرت لكتابة هذه الكلمات التي تعبر عن ألمنا نحن المنقبات أكثر مما تعبر عن رغبتنا بالخوض في سجال لم يعد مفيدا.

أصل الآن إلى المسألة التي فتحت هذا النقاش في سورية. وأقصد قرار وزارة التربية بنقل المدرسات المنقبات من الوزارة إلى وزارات أخرى، خاصة إلى الإدارة المحلية. وإذا كان ما قاله السيد وزير التربية صحيحا من أن باقي الوزارات ستفعل المثل، فهذا يعني إخراجهن من العمل نهائيا.

يمكنني أن أتفهم رفض الكثير من الناس فهم ظروفنا الخاصة. ويمكنني أيضا أن أتفهم تقصير مرصد نساء سورية في فهمه للواقع الذي شرحته قبل قليل من حيث أن المنقبات هن ضحايا مستوى جديد من العنف. لكن كيف يمكنني تفهم تجاهل حكومة بالطول والعرض مثل الحكومة السورية -بكل أجهزتها المتمكنة- من معرفة الحقيقة؟ حقيقة أن مثل هذا القرار لا يقدم بل يؤخر. ولا يساعد النساء المنقبات أنفسهن على الخروج من تحت وطأة العنف الخاص الذي يمارس ضدهن إلى رحاب إنسانيتهن؟ أو “مواطنيتهن” كما يحب مرصد نساء سورية أن يقول؟
لماذا لم تفكر الحكومة السورية التي لديها وزارة للشؤون الاجتماعية لا تتوقف عن إجراء الدراسات والاستطلاعات و.. وهيئة لشؤون الأسرة بمستوى وزارة لا تتوقف أيضا عن القول أن عملها هو إجراء الدراسات وتقديم الاقتراحات… لماذا لم تفكر بأن تبحث في عمق هذه المشكلة؟ وأن تتعب نفسها وعقول من فيها قليلا لكي يصلوا إلى حلول مناسبة وجيده؟

قد يعتقد بعض من يقرأ هذه الكلمات أنني منقبة من مؤيدات النقاب. انا منقبة فعلا ولكنني من أشد معارضي النقاب. لكن لا أعتقد أن عاقلا سوف يدعوني لوضع حياتي موضع الخطر من أجل محاولة فاشلة لرفض النقاب!!

وأؤيد ما قاله مرصد نساء سورية من أن العمل مختلف عن الشارع. ورغم أنني ضد النقاب في كل مكان لكنني أؤيد بشدة أن لا يسمح بالنقاب في أي مكان عمل حتى إن لم يكن هذا المكان على تماس مع الناس. مثل العمل في المصانع مثلا.

لكن هذا أمر وأن يتخذ قرار قراقوشي (بالاذن من الأستاذ بسام لاستعارة مفردته المحبذة!) فجأة بإخراج النساء المنقبات من المدارس، وربما من العمل كله، دون سابق إنذار هو أمر آخر تماما.

فهل كان بإمكان وزارة التربية -بله الحكومة السورية- أن تجد طريقا آخر لصد هذا التطرف دون أن تمارس المزيد من العنف على هؤلاء النساء العاملات؟ أعتقد أن الإجابة واضحة: نعم.

ومن بين حلول كثيرة محتملة سأتعرض بالشرح لحل واحد كان سهلا جدا وممكنا ولم يكن ليثير كل هذه المشكلة. والأهم أنه كان سيوصل إلى نتائج ممتازة وعلى المدى الطويل أيضا.

الحل المقصود يتلخص بالإجراءات التالية:
1- أن تعلن الحكومة السورية أنها بصدد إلزام الموظفين في قطاعاتها جميعا بأنظمة لباس عامة أو موحدة. رغم نفورنا الشديد من الألبسة الموحدة. لكن الحكومة ما تزال مصرة على هذا الشكل للطالبات والطلاب في المدارس، وأيضا لفئات من العمال مثل سائقي التكسي.
2- أن تحدد موعدا نهائيا لالتزام الموظفين بهذا اللباس ولوضعه في اللوائح الداخلية لكل جهة معنية. وأن يكون الزمن بين الإعلان عن هذا القرار وبين تنفيذه كافيا ليفكر الناس بما يريدونه.
3- أن تلتزم الحكومة السورية فعلا بتطبيق هذا النظام الجديد على كل وظائفها. وتتبع الإجراءات المعتادة عند مخالفة أي موظف أو موظفة لهذه اللوائح. مثل أن تتلقى الموظفة التي تخالف القرار تنبيها ثم إنذارا ثم فصلا من العمل.

لماذا يختلف هذا الحل عن الحل الذي اتبعته وزارة التربية وربما الحكومة كلها؟
أول وأهم الاختلافات أن مثل هذا البرنامج كان سيثير نقاشات حامية داخل الأسرة حول النقاب وإن كان يجدر التضحية بالعمل من أجل النقاب داخل العمل أم لا. وأستطيع الجزم أن النسبة الساحقة من الأسر سوف تختار العمل. فنحن جميعا نعرف الحالة المعاشية للأسرة السورية. ونعرف أن قلة من الأسر التي تعمل فيها النساء يمكنها أن تستغني عن عملهن. فعملهن في الحقيقة هو جزء أساسي لا يتجزأ من دخل الأسرة.
وبينما يعتقد بعض المثقفين أننا نصرف نقودنا على ملابسنا الفاخرة أو مكياجاتنا تحت النقاب أو بدونه، يعرف مرصد نساء سورية مثلما تعرف الحكومة السورية أننا نصرف على احتياجاتنا الشخصية أقل بكثير مما يصرف الرجال على احتياجاتهم الشخصية. والقسط الأوفر من دخلنا يذهب لحياة الأسرة. وربما يجدر بمن هو مهتم أن يبحث أعمق ليعرف أن هناك اتجاهات واضحة في استثمار دخل النساء العاملات لتسديد قروض أسرية مثل قرض البيت أو قرض غسالة…
وهذا يوضح أن حاجة الأسر إلى دخل النساء العاملات هي حاجة ليس من السهل الاستغناء عنها. ولكان مثل هذا القرار أن يدعم النساء المنقبات قسرا على مواجهة هذا العنف بطريقة أقل إيلاما من الطرق التقليدية مثل رفضه.

وثاني الاختلافات أن جميع المهتمين يعرفون أن النقاب ينتشر أكثر ما ينتشر بين الأسر التي تضم في حناياها شخصا عاش خارج سورية في أماكن مثل السعودية فتأثر بما تأُثر به وجاء ليطبق ما تأثر به. وكذلك بين أتباع بعض الشيوخ السوريين الذين يسرهم أن يحملوا كل مآسي العالم اليوم على كاهل “فتنة النساء”! وبينما ذهبت السعودية والإمارات ودول أخرى إلى فتح نقاشات علنية عبر وسائل إعلامها المتعددة حول مثل هذه القضايا بهدف تغيير الرأي العام تجاهها، لجأت الحكومة السورية إلى منع أي حديث عن هذا الموضوع في الإعلام السوري! فماذا لو أن الحكومة السورية فتحت الأبواب لنقاش مستفيض وعميق تدعم فيه (أي الحكومة) الآراء التي توضح ماهية النقاب وغربته عن بلدنا وديننا؟ وآثاره الضارة على المرأة المنقبة نفسها وعلى الأسرة والمجتمع؟ ألن يكون لهذا تأثير واسع وعميق على قناعات الناس؟ ألن يكون سندا قويا أيضا للنساء المنقبات قسرا؟ ألن يساعد أيضا الرجال الذين يجبرون نساءهم على النقاب ليس قناعة وإنما درئا للقيل والقال من المجتمع الذي يحيط بهم، ألن يساعدهم على اتخاذا القرارات الصحيحة؟

وثالث الاختلافات -وهو مهم برأيي المتواضع- أن هذا البرنامج كان سيحرم الذين يتاجرون بنا هنا وهناك من استغلال القرار لمصلحتهم. فالقرار كما هو الآن أعطاهم أرضية جيدة لكي يثيروا الفتنة دون أن يتفكروا في مصلحتنا نحن النساء المنقبات. فهل لم تجد الحكومة من ينبهها إلى هذا الخطأ المهم؟

الآن، وقد أطلت عليكم، أرجو أن تقبلوا اعتذاري لأنني لا أستطيع أن اكتب باسمي الحقيقي. وأرجو أن يتجه الناس المهتمون كلهم -في الحكومة أو في الأحزاب والجمعيات- إلى التخلي عن نظراتهم المسبقة تجاه هذا الأمر أو ذاك من الأمور التي نذهب نحن النساء ضحيتها دائما. ويبدؤوا في التفكير الجدي في كيف يمكن أن نتخلص من هذا النقص أو ذاك دون المزيد من الخسائر. وأرجو أن يكون واضحا تماما أنني ضد النقاب قولا واحدا. لكن ليس بالطريقة التي جرى الأمر فيها.

نحن المنقبات -بله نحن النساء: منقبات ومحجبات وعاديات- نناشدكم أن لا تزيدوا من العنف الذي نعانيه في حياتنا بعنف مضاد لا يقل سوءا -أحيانا- عن العنف الأصلي، ونحن دائما ضحيته في كل الحالات. نحن نحتاج دعمكم بالتأكيد ولكننا نحتاج دعمكم الذكي والصحيح والثابت. وليس دعما شكليا ربما يؤدي إلى ما لا تشتهي السفن.

July 16th, 2010, 2:01 pm


SK said:

I am not particularly keen on the way this ‘return to Islam’ phenomenon is billed as a sort of natural, collective introspection by the masses after the failings of nationalism and secularism. We cannot understand the post-67 situation in the middle east without touching upon the rise of Saudi Arabia – filling the post-Nasser void – and the vast amounts of money spent (by individuals or state) in exporting its ultraconservative brand of Islam elsewhere.

Max Rodenbeck has a long piece in this week’s economist which deals with religiosity in Egypt, but I feel it also doesn’t pick up on the state’s role. By that I mean Al-Sadat pandering and letting conservative religious elements loose to counter Nasserism/Communism etc. Once out the bag, it cannot be tucked away; I believe it’s referred to as blowback. My point is that there are identifiable and deliberate policies which led to this, not a spontaneous moment of realization.

Syria would obviously have different dynamics but I am told Hama’s revival in religious conservatism is taking place after many spent some time, and accrued substantial wealth, in the Gulf. I also know many in nearby (non-Sunni majority, if it’s relevant) areas who are very much concerned by what they call Wahhabi influence.

I know these last 2 points are rather anecdotal, but I put them to you to hear your thoughts.


July 16th, 2010, 2:09 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

In Quraan it says Hatta la yo’zain
The enemy of the prophet attempted to hurt Muslem women, in paticular women related to the prophet,to get back at the prophet,it is obvious this order is for protection.

July 16th, 2010, 2:31 pm


Off the Wall said:

Again, and as I mentioned in earlier posts, I will not get involved in theological arguments.

SAFIYAH PAGE had an interesting observation about re-discovering Islam. My question is, is Islam being re-discovered, or is it being re-invented ala-wahabi style?.

In addition, I do not think that what we are seeing now is a return to the roots. It is probably more of another experiment doomed to fail, primarily because in all of our past experiments, as in the current ones, we have been, and are now, putting-off the establishment of what Nour has correctly called a Civil State.

As Michel Kilo argued a few months back, Nationalists and Secularists, to a large extent, put human development and civil rights on hold until either the struggle with Israel is resolved, or until the arab nation is unified. Similarly, I would also add that Islamists, put off all forms of social and human development tasks until the Illusive Rashidi Khilafa is re-established. In both cases, the result is the evolution or to be more accurate the devolution of societies to a state of confusion about identity, goals, and about the definition of citizenship.

As the two forces now fight it off, to realize one or another of their son-qua-non, the real losers will continue the Arab Masses, whose development continue to slide on all known, and perhaps yet to be invented scales.

There are, however, a few bright spots of light. One country in particular is showing signs of breaking out of the grid-lock. It is the only Arab country i know off who is building institutional arrangements for governance of natural resources in sustainable manner. It is a country that every visitor would argue that within the next 30 years, would be un-recognizable in its neighborhood. I leave it to you to guess.

Again, I may be wrong, and I may be hanging on to any sign of progress in the desert of failed experiments, one must however state, that they were very highly controlled experiments.

July 16th, 2010, 3:05 pm


Averroes said:


Some scholars will argue that the intention of the said Aya is that women are recognizable for who they are, so the mob would not dare harras them. If a woman is unidentifiable, two things happen: One she will not be known to passers by and thus people may say or do things that they would not if they knew who she was. Two, and more importantly, the person inside that full cover will be detached from society, peeping on other people without being identifiable themselves. Do we accept men that walk around with their covered faces and peeping eyes?

July 16th, 2010, 3:31 pm


Averroes said:

SK and OTW,

Great comments and thoughts there. I think there is no denying the huge Saudi influence on people’s habits and culture. Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars on two different avenues but with one goal. One avenue is the spread of Wahabi style Islam where the ruling family’s Ulama have the final say in anything. If this comes at the expense of a little criticism world-wide on a few issues then so be it, because the immense power over untold millions of people in countries as far as Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Morocco (let alone countries like Egypt, Iraq, and Syria), is a gain that’s worth all that cost.

The second avenue Saudi Arabia invests in is the extreme opposite, and I stress extreme. Investing in hundreds of satellite channels, web sites, newspapers, and other media outlets that promote a “liberal” view. Of course, just as “Islam” is hijacked in the first avenue, “liberalism” is hijacked in the second. To this avenue, being liberal means trashy dating channels, countless music channels that sell little more than flesh, American style reality shows that put co-ed youth together for the masses to peep on, and of course all the American pop culture starting with Friends, Oprah, and more.

Although these TV shows are paid for by members of the Saudi ruling family, you are punished severely if you imitate the co-ed friendship of Friends, in public.

The goal of the two seemingly at-odds avenues is one and the same, and that is to keep the masses occupied with their own selves and never to give them any breathing space to even ponder on anything of any substance.

We never ever see any of the “Islamic” avenue outlets preaching equality, or justice for labour, or non discrimination between people, or the responsibilities of the ruler “Wali Al Amr” or the defence of the Palestinians or the support of the Resistance or any of that. All we see, all the time, is more and more talk about the Hijab and Niqab, more and more talk about what limits are allowed sexually during Ramadan, talk about creative ways to allow your slave labour to serve the women in a way that does not violate Islam (Fatwa Irda’ al-Kabeer), talk about ridding yourself of Djinn influence using the Quran, and so on.

Similarly, on the other “liberal” avenue, we never ever see any discussion about human rights, citizenship rights, the absolute monarchies that prevail in the region, the concepts of equal pay for equal work, the slave labour issue, or the education system. All that’s pumped out of that avenue is music videos, outrageous reality shows, contest shows, with a few other subject usually centered on women issues.

The budgets allocated to both avenues amount to a deluge of brainwashing influence to all Arab countries in the Middle East. This influence is extremely dangerous to a country like Syria. But despite the infinitely higher resources available to it, that influence can be taken on and can be defeated. I believe that Syria is one country that can spearhead the effort against that influence, but I think that Syria is needlessly hesitant in doing anything about it.

It can be taken on and it can be defeated.

July 16th, 2010, 4:08 pm


Averroes said:

Tens of thousands of Syrian families have carried more than wealth, back with them from Saudi Arabia. However, the high level corruption in Syria, that prevents or limits many entrepreneurs from returning and running a business in the country does not help at all.

Syria is not offering a functioning alternative to the Saudi system for people to adopt. The immense oil wealth in Saudi Arabia has allowed some level of wealth to trickle down to the Joe (or Mohammad) in the street. People rarely take the intellectual trouble to realize that there is also a huge problem of corruption in Saudi Arabia, and as long as they’re making a good living, then to them that system works, along with everything that comes with it, which includes Wahabism.

Syria needs to set up an functioning, working alternative. An alternative that has better credibility, better citizenship trust and participation, less prevalent corruption, and an alternative where religion is not used to coarse and manipulate people. Syria can achieve that goal, if it puts its mind to it.

July 16th, 2010, 4:28 pm


SK said:


With regard to your last point, how do you respond to arguments made, coincidentally today as it’s 10 years since Bashar Al-Asad took power, that he:

“has no true commitment to broadening public freedoms for Syria’s citizens”

I don’t question the commitment on Al-Asad’s part to beating off Wahhabi influence, hence the original posting, but if we are to identify his top priority as staying in power, then I don’t think he is structurally able (leaving aside willing) to make the changes you advocate.

So we should probably see these moves by the regime not as part of sweeping, secularizing reforms to offer a viable alternative to Saudi Arabia, but rather as the much more cynical and pragmatic game of power-politics.

July 16th, 2010, 5:10 pm


Averroes said:


Nobody can read minds, and I certainly don’t have any inside information. We compensate for the lack of knowledge by building an intellectual model of the system we’re examining, with facts dynamically building and tearing into the model.

The model that I have built (and it is just that, a model) says given all the facts that I have access to, Dr. Al-Asad has my trust. He has the right set of priorities in mind, and that he is moving the country in the right direction, although there is still room for improvement.

Examining the model is something like war games, the exercises that military historians and history enthusiasts carry out when examining a certain major even in history. You put out a question, and then try to answer it in a way that fits the model you have. If you can answer the question successfully and sufficiently without breaking the model, then you can probably assume you’re on the right track. If too many questions remain unanswered, then you probably should re-examine your givens and modify your model.

I will give you that the first priority of any regime or organism is to survive. To assume that anything else is the case is to be detached from reality, and so, I think, this point is a non issue.

When the forces you’re wrestling with are too great, you tend not to face them head on, but rather you try to use and control them, something like what players do in Jiu Jitsu. In my model, I do not see the regime taking on Wahabism head on. Rather, I see it engaged in damage control and defensive tactics. I think this approach is futile and incorrect, and I think that more can be done and should be done.

I am in no way advocating a Kamalist style secularization, nor am I in any way advocating a Rif’at style intrusion on women’s Hijabs. Neither are models that should or could be taken by Syria. There are other novel, moral, and highly effective ways to shed darkness. All you need is to light a candle.

July 16th, 2010, 5:38 pm


Averroes said:

I meant to say, Aikido there, not Jiu Jistu … not that I have any proficiency in either of them 🙂

July 16th, 2010, 5:51 pm


almasri said:

“I know of no such right. Copé will not find it in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, nor in the European Convention of Human Rights. When walking down the Champs Elysées, I have no right to see the face of passersby. Nor do I want such a right. While Copé may want a passer-by to give him a glance or a smile, he has no right to demand it.”

Copé’s observations that the Declaration of the Rights of Man or the European Convention of Human Rights do not give a passer-by the right to a glance or a smile is in full agreement with Qura’nic requirements with regards to women covering their bodies( without pretense on my part to define what this cover should look like)

‏قل للمؤمنين يغضوا من أبصارهم ويحفظوا فروجهم ذلك أزكى لهم إن الله خبير بما يصنعون وقل للمؤمنات يغضضن من أبصارهن ويحفظن فروجهن ولا يبدن زينتهن إلا ما ظهر منها وليضربن بخمرهن على جيوبهن ولا يبدين زينتهن إلا لبعولتهن أو آبائهن أو آباء بعولتهن أو أبنائهن أو أبناء بعولتهن أو إخوانهن أو بني إخوانهن أو بني أخواتهن أو نسائهن أو ما ملكت أيمانهن أو التابعين غير أولي الإربة من الرجال أو الطفل الذين لم يظهروا على عورات النساء ولا يضربن بأرجلهن ليعلم ما يخفين من زينتهن وتوبوا إلى الله جميعًا أيها المؤمنون لعلكم تفلحون‏}‏ ‏[‏النور‏:‏ 30ـ31‏]‏ ‏.‏

It begins with a command to the MEN Believers to shy away with their eyes from looking and it also commands the Women Believers to shy like wise and then it commands women believers to cover up in front of STRANGERS and then it excludes a list of certain relatives where the woman may take away the cover.

As for those who are arguing about the need for women to be protected by the veil, they are missing the most important aspect in which this so-called protection is prescribed. The Qura’n mentions such protection against THOSE WHO HAVE SICKNESS IN THEIR HEARTS. So obviously this is not the case with every male or female on the face of this earth,

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاء الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً* لَئِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهِ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ وَالْمُرْجِفُونَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ لَنُغْرِيَنَّكَ بِهِمْ ثُمَّ لَا يُجَاوِرُونَكَ فِيهَا إِلَّا قَلِيلًا * مَلْعُونِينَ أَيْنَمَا ثُقِفُوا أُخِذُوا وَقُتِّلُوا تَقْتِيلًا *
سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ فِي الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا *

It is also mentioned that the “The first look is yours. The second look is against you.” And this is referred to by Abi Hamed al-Ghazali (and others), which I am sure most Syrian Muslims refer to as the حجة الاسلام (Hojjat Al-Islam), as the adultery of the eye-sight. Search east and search west and you will never find a more liberal Islam (not considering the offshoots that diverted far away from the mainstream) than the one followed by Abi Hamid’s followers. Having said that, I do not subscribe to all of Abi Hamid’s philosophies. But I like him a lot, particularly for his biography contained in his Munqith.

July 16th, 2010, 6:22 pm


Maysaloon said:

al Masri,
Your latest comment is the most sensible one I have read on this thread so far. I am in agreement with you and am an ardent student of Abi Hamid. I like your explanation of the hejab as this is an area I haven’t fully explored. I think you are spot on in pointing out that the nuance and emphasis of the Qur’an on this matter is something which is completely misrepresented, as seen by some of the comments on this story.

July 16th, 2010, 7:57 pm


almasri said:

Thanks Maysaloon and all the best in a worthy endeavour.

July 16th, 2010, 9:08 pm


Norman said:

The way i look at the Niqab in Syria is to let people wear what they want to wear as long as it meets minimum decency , but let employers decide dress requirement for their employees , that will include the government and the Islamic banks , so who does not like what their employer want them to wear can find another job somewhere else ,

The Syrian government should do better job showing the people that people can be religious without being different driving attention to themselves and show more of other Islamic societies like Turkey ,Bosnia

Show more of Asma Assad and the queen of Jordon and the wife of Erdogan ,
It will help to have a beauty contest in Syria , and fashion shows

Religious people and reporters showing that the niqab has nothing to do with being virtue can help ,

For the government to force people to wear what she wants will only backfire as long as what people wear will not affect safety and public decency ,

July 17th, 2010, 8:54 am


Husam said:


I have yet to see it, but the propaganda is that Niqab can be a threat to security.

July 17th, 2010, 11:40 am


Husam said:


Nice work @ 26. While Copé’s observation is valid, it will go under the carpet. It seems that although many, many Non-Muslims thoughts are in alignment with the Quran, including science, arguments, etc… they will never admit its connection, or miraculous revelation 1400 years ago.

July 17th, 2010, 12:19 pm


almasri said:

Thanks Husam for 31 and other previous comments.

I wouldn’t be very pessimistic. Islam is growing in environments you least expect and despite tremendous odds. Please keep in mind two things. First, human beings are born on ‘fitra’. Islam is the ‘deen alfitra’. That is a huge advantage. Second, we Muslims have to be aware of and know our mission.

July 17th, 2010, 1:07 pm


Husam said:


It is important to note that while Islam is growing, it is doing so against all odds and against all propaganda and misconceptions. But, still many people see that as a threat to their own beliefs.

You have to also be clear on the “mission” as many readers will view that as the ultimate mission of Jihad to convert people by spreading the wrong message (Wahabism, etc…). We have to be very careful in our choice of words and respect the perception of the other, even if we disagree with it. Come to common terms….

July 17th, 2010, 6:02 pm


almasri said:


You have made excellent observations in the last comment.

Muslims highest mission which is reserved for the selects among them (but ordinary Muslims are also requested to seek that honor by making the jihad, or sincere effort, to achieve this status by acquiring the knowledge) is defined also for them in here,

‏( قل هذه سبيلى أدعوا إلى الله ، على بصيرة أنا ومن اتبعنى وسبحان الله ‏وما أنا من المشركين )‏

Say (O’ Muhammad), this is my way (mission) I and those who follow me call towards Allah with wisdom and sure knowledge….

Please pay attention to أنا ومن اتبعنى (i.e. Muhammad and those who follow him). That is why there are no more Prophets. The mission is left to those who follow him.

I should have also explained what ‘fitra’ means. The best English translation is primordial nature, which means in the case of humans the nature they were given prior or when coming into being. The Qur’an explains this in a form of a covenant made between the Creator and all humans in the عالم الذر, that is in that form of existence before male and female mated and produced their progenies as in this Revelation,

«وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتَ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُواْ بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَن تَقُولُواْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ. أَوْ تَقُولُواْ إِنَّمَا أَشْرَكَ آبَاؤُنَا مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا ذُرِّيَّةً مِّن بَعْدِهِمْ أَفَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ. وَكَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ» (الأعراف، 7/
صدق الله
Roughly it says,
‘And remember when your Lord spoke to all sons of Adam (prior to their coming into existence, in a manner that they understood while in that form) and asked them to bear witness to His Lordship over them. They bore witness and then Allah then bore witness that they will say on the day of judgemnet they were forgetfull of this etc…’

That is ‘fitra’ with which everyone is born. This primordial covenant precedes all known covenants including Old and New Testaments. The Qura’n came as the ultimate reminder of it. Hence the Quara’n is also the Reminder الذكر. While mankind is انسانwith its root coming from forgetfullnes (نسيان).

(Isn’t Arabic full of wonders?)

Wahabbism is a topic by itself. We cannot simply reduce our shortcomings to its effects. What it is, why it came into being and how it relates to mainstream Islam requires more space than we can afford on these pages

Thanks again for all your observation and apologies for any shortcomings.

July 17th, 2010, 8:15 pm


Off the Wall said:

This young writer from KSA brings in Fresh air to the debate, again without going into theological arguments, he manages to make a compelling argument, I am going to follow his writings because i think his writings will have a major influence in creating a “third” way. He says not much about our “unique” condition, but much more about our intellectual atrophy and he finds that both Salafism, and Liberalism in the Arab world are “mimicker” and intellectually stagnant. One may not agree fully with him, but one has to respect his intellectual agility and integrity

نطاح السلفية والليبرالية… الخاسر هو الإبداع
عبدالعزيز الحيص
GMT 21:15:00 2009 الأربعاء 5 أغسطس

عندما كتب برهان غليون كتابه (اغتيال العقل) جعل له عنواناً فرعياً (محنة الثقافة العربية بين السلفية والتبعية). وهذا الكتاب قد كتبه الدكتور غليون قبل فترة طويلة، فالطبعة (السادسة) التي لدي قد طبعت في العام 1992، ومع هذا فهو من الكتب المركزية بالنسبة لي، فمنذ فترة طويلة وأنا أعود له من وقت لآخر، كونه كتاب يقدم عرضاً وتشريحاً ثرياً لقضية رئيسية وملحة لازالت قائمة، وهي عطالة العقل العربي وعدم قدرته على التوليد والإنتاج. وبمعني آخر خلّوه من الإبداع، مع أن الإبداع يفترض به أن يكون من أولى أولويات ووظائف أي عقل. وهذه المشكلة موضوع الكتاب هي مشكلة رئيسية، تتبع لها إلى حد كبير كل المشاكل الأخرى، فالفشل الحضاري يعني ببساطة الافتقار إلى الذات المنتجة. وبحسب الكاتب فإن التقليد مرفوض، فالإبداع يفترض أننا لن نجد “لا في الغرب ولا التراث الحلول الجاهزة لمشاكلنا”(ص337). وعلى نفس المنوال يعلن محمد عابد الجابري في دراسته للعقل العربي أن العقل العربي عقل حاصد لا منتج. أي أنه عقل لايقف لوحده، بل يجني ما قدّم غيره، سواء كان الغربي أو السلفي. وفي كلا الحالتين يوجد نوع من الإلغاء للذات، والذات التي لا تستشعر ذاتها ولا تؤمن بثقل وجودها لا يمكن لها أن تكون ذاتاً مبدعة.

وتنوع مشارب الناس، وتنوع أطيافهم لدينا ليست بالمسألة التي يفترض التوقف عندها، من حيث أنها الوضع الطبيعي الذي لامحيد عن قبوله. وإدراك الحقيقة المقررة حول تنوع الناس وحق المختلفين في الوجود، وتجاوز مرحلة شطب الآخر وإلغائه، يقودنا للانتقال وتأمل ما يستحق التوقف عنده وهو مسألة الخمول والضعف وعدم القدرة على الإنتاج. وإلى السبب الذي يجعل الذات عقيمة لدينا -بمختلف تنوعاتها-. وهذه التنوعات للذات لدينا تتمدد بين قطبين رئيسيين هما السلفية والليبرالية. وما بينهما من مساحة لا تكاد تكون معبأة إلا بالسجال، والانشغال بالآخر بدلاً من الانشغال بالذات. والعقلية السجالية مثمرة ووّلادة في مجال الصراع والتشغيب، لكنها عقيمة في مجال الإنتاج والعطاء. وفيها الكثير من الضجيج لكن في آخر النهار لن تخرج منها بشيء. وعلى سبيل المثال أذكر أنّي تأملت مرة مع صديق المواضيع المكتوبة على الصفحة الأولى لأشهر منتدى ليبرالي سعودي وكانت أغلب المواضيع تدور حول التيار الديني، وصب النقد حوله وحول أفراده ومؤسساته. وكأن هذا التيار لا يتعرف على نفسه إلا من خلال انتقاده للآخر، أو من خلال إثبات أنه لا يلبس عباءته. وهذا أيضاً يؤكد الرؤية التي قال بها البعض وهي أنه حتى الآن لايوجد -شعبيا- وجود فعلي لتيار ليبرالي وإنما يوجد تيار كاره للتيار الديني وممارساته. والذي في صميم عمله مجرد نفي للآخر، ربما سينفي الآخر لكنه لن يجد نفسه. وغير هذا حتى كبار الكتاب من الليبرالين نجدهم ناشطين في تقديم مساحة واسعة من النقد، لكن واحدهم يعاني فقراً وشحاً في تقديم نفسه وما يمثله. أمّا بالنسبية للسلفية فنستطيع القول أن الثقافة العاجزة هي ثقافة مشغولة بالدفاع عن نفسها. السلفية نفسها الآن انقسمت وتوزعت إلى مذاهب شتى ينفي بعضها بعضا، قبل أن تنفي غيرها من خارج الإطار السلفي. أمّا بالنسبة للإنتاج فشحيح ومعدوم، فمفهوم السلفية نفسه يناقض القدرة على التوليد، مما يجعل السلفية تتغاضى عن النظر الحقيقي للمشكلات، وتقوم بتهميشها وتسطيحها. كما يوضح عبدالجواد ياسين في كتابه (السلطة في الإسلام) في أن حل المشكلة لدى السلفية يكون في إلغاء المشكلة. وتجاهل المشكلة – بالطبع – لن يلغي وجودها في الواقع.

وللتو انتهيت من كتاب (السلفية والليبرالية: اغتيال الإبداع في ثقافتنا العربية) للباحث والكاتب السعودي عبدالله البريدي. والكاتب متخصص في الدراسات الإبداعية. وكما هو العنوان نجد الكتاب متفحصاً ومتقصياً لضعف الإنتاج، وخمول القدرة الإبداعية لدى قطبي الفكر السلفي والليبرالي لدينا. ويرى الكاتب في دراسته أن كلا الطرفين مقلد، وملغ لذاته، فالفكر السلفي فكر (استرجاعي) لأنه يسترجع الأفكار والتطبيقات من مخزون السلف ولا يصنعها وفقاً للمستجدات والمتغيرات، بينما الفكر الليبرالي فكر (استحضاري) أي أنه يحضر التطبيقات الجاهزة من سلة المنجزات الغربية-كالنظريات والنماذج والمصطلحات-(ص 145). ويرى أيضاً أن السلفية مصطلح يفني نفسه بنفسه، فبحسب مفهوم السلفية فان أول شيء يجب طرحه هو مفهوم السلفية نفسه، حيث أنه مصطلح لم يكن موجوداً في صدر الإسلام. كما يرى أن أخطر ما في السلفية أنها تعمم الاستثناء، فتجلب من داخلها النموذج الاستثناء وتجعل منه الأصل، وتحاول تعميم نظرتها كطريق أوحد. إضافة لأنها مغيبة عن القضايا الكبرى- لا يوجد لديها إنتاج حيالها-، وتتشكل داخل إطار واحد، لكنه منمّط إلى درجة كبيرة. أمّا بالنسبة لليبرالية الموجودة الآن فلديها نوع من المائية في مفهومها، ممّا يولد لديها نقصاً في البناء والجانب التراكمي، حيث أن التراكمية شرط لأي فكر إنساني يريد أن يتطور (ص100). وهذا يؤدي بالليبرالي لاستبطان كم هائل من الأفكار والمفاهيم المتنوعة، مما جعل الليبرال يصدرون عن طرق موزعة لا تعرف بعضها. وشخصياً أعتقد أن الكاتب قد طلب من الليبرالية ما قد لا يطلب منها، حين أرادها أن تكون ذات تخوم كالمناهج الأخرى، بينما الليبرالية نفسها لديها قضية مع مسألة التخوم، وكما ذكر آخرون فان الليبرالية نفسها تستطيع أن تستبطن مناهج أخرى وتكون فاعلة من خلالها أيضاً!!. وعموماً من أهم العيوب التي يراها الباحث لدى الليبرالية أنها تجاهلت تحيزاتها وتحيزات الآخر. فمثلاً الدراسات الإستراتيجية المستقبلية لدينا في الغالب ذات طابع ومنهج غربي، وهذا يعني أنه كل ما اتسعت الليبرالية الموجودة لدينا بهذا الشكل كل ما ازداد اقتحام الذات الغربية لنا. وغير ذلك العقل الليبرالي يلتقط أذواقه ويعممها بدون معايير واضحة. وباختصار يرى الكاتب أن “العقل السلفي يقصر الدين ويضغطه لكي تنحسر فضاءاته الرحيبة فلا تسمح بالبدائل الممكنة من التطبيقات والممارسات غير السلفية، أمّا العقل الليبرالي فهو يمطط الدين لكي يكون متسامحاً بدرجة كافية لتمرير كافة الممارسات والتصرفات التي تستسيغها أذواقهم الليبرالية حتى لو كانت مخالفة للنصوص الشرعية القطعية”(ص148). إن دلالة الفقر في العقل العربي اليوم تتجلى في كونه عقل غير منتج، فكما يشير الكتاب فان المصطلحات والمفاهيم التي يستخدمها العقل العربي اليوم إما مستوردة من الغرب أو من الماضي العربي القديم (ص175).

المعارك الوهمية تستنزف الطاقات والجهود، وتحقنها في شرايين وأودية غير مثمرة. وفي بلد كالسعودية تتصاعد فيه كل المؤشرات التنموية، كان من المفترض للطاقات الفكرية أن تتوالد، وأن تنتج المواقف والاستعدادات الجديدة، لا أن تظل الطاقات باذلة للجهد في كبح نفسها وغيرها. لقد استفحلت الصراعية وتحولت إلى هدف بحد ذاتها، في غرف العلم والمدارس والندوات ووسائل الإعلام وغيرها. والثقافة الصراعية لا تقتصر مشكلتها على نفسها بل تتعدى إلى ما هو أبعد، فالمغانم المدنية للمجتمع قد تتضرر إلى حد كبير. فربما تتحقق أو تكاد تتحقق للمجتمع خدمة جديدة، ولكنها تذهب تحت الأقدام في مثل هكذا صراع، فهذا التيار أو ذاك قد يعتبرها قادمة من قبل جهة التيار المغاير، وبدعم وتخطيط منه، ولا يحسب حساب أن هذه الخدمة أو الوظيفة قد تولدت نتيجة رغبة قطاع من المجتمع بها. ومن الوسائل الصراعية المستخدمة، التهييج الشعبي واستعداء السلطات على التيار الآخر.

إن التخندق والتمسك الصلب بالأُطر الفكرية لا يستطيع إثارة الطلاقة والمرونة ومن ثم الإبداع. أذكر أن أحد أساتذتي كانت تكرر على مسامعي “احذر أن تتزوج فكرتك!!.” وكان مقصدها أننا عندما نهم بكتابة وبحث موضوع ما، فإن الالتصاق والارتباط بفكرة ما قد يضر أكثر مما ينفع، فالفكرة والانطباع المسبق قد يسيطران على البحث ويوجهانه، فتكون بذا نقطة نهاية البحث هي تقريبا نفس نقطة بدايته. إن الواقع متجدد والإشكالات متجددة، ولا يوجد فكر فاعل إلا إذا كان فكراً متجدداً أيضاً. ومن هنا نحن بحاجة فعلية للباحث المبدع المتجرد، فهو من يستطيع جلب المساحات والآفاق الثقافية والفكرية الجديدة، والتي يتأتّى من خلالها التوليد والإنتاج. والذات الإبداعية ذات ترتكز على نفسها لا على المغايرة، وفي كل موقف تعيد تجريد نفسها من جديد، فهي قد تتموضع بطرق مختلفة، في إدراك وإحاطة ذكية لما تتطلبه المواقف المتنوعة. والذات المبدعة ذات خفيفة التنقل، كأنها مصبوغة بخفة الشعراء وانطلاقهم، في أمر مشابه لما أشار إليه الشاعر الفيلسوف رالف والدو امرسون -الذي كان مؤمناً بقدرة الإنسان على الإبداع- حين قال “هب أنك ناقضت نفسك.. فماذا وراء ذلك؟! انطق ما تفكر فيه الآن بألفاظ قوية، وانطق غداً بما تفكر فيه بألفاظ قوية كذلك، حتى لو ناقض ذلك كل ما قلته اليوم..!!” وتغير الفكر أو نموه وتمرحله ليس ترفاً، بقدر ما هو حاجة. بل الترف واللامبالاة تكون من نصيب من يتصلب على فكره ومنهجه، معتبراً أن هذا المنهج وحده سيجلب له العالم بين يديه.

الموضوع ممتد، ومتشعب، وأكبر من أن يحتضنه مقال، أو مطارحة ساعة، لكن ما يكفينا من هنا هو أن ندرك أهمية الاتفاق على رفض التقليد، وأن نعرف حقيقة مهمة وهي أنه لن يمكن لمجتمع أو لأمّة أن تحلّق من مكانها ما لم يتوفر لأفرادها القدرة على تحقيق الأصالة، والتفرد في فكرهم. أختم بمقولة لأحد المفكرين القدماء، لعلنا نتفكر كيف أنه من المخجل أن يكون نصيبنا من زماننا التأخر. يقول ابن المقفع “لو أتيت السوق بدراهمك تشتري بعض السلع، فأتاك الرجل من أصحاب السلع، ودعاك إلى ما عنده وحلف لك أنه ليس في السوق شيء أفضل مما دعاك إليه، لكرهت أن تصدّقه، وخفت الغبن والخديعة، ورأيت ذلك ضعفاً وعجزاً منك حتى تختار على بصرك وتستعين بمن رجوت عنده معونة ونصرا.”

One noticeable sign of excellence is this writer’s fantastic Arabic style. I hope you enjoy the language as much as the ideas.

July 18th, 2010, 4:45 am


Off the Wall said:


Please do your homework and refrain from translating the Quran on your own. You may interpret the meaning of a verse, but please do not introduce something like “roughly it says”. Most scholars would probably agree that there is no “roughly” when presenting verses of the Quran, you of all people should know better. You owe it first to the Quran, and then to those who can not read Arabic to provide them with the best possible translation, and yours, or for that matter mine, are for sure not amongst them.

It took me less than a minute to find a full, acceptable translation of the three verses of Al-Aaraf (Sura 7) ( verses 172 through 174). Here are the original (cut and pasted from your post), followed by translation from Yusuf Ali’s translation . It is one of few available online, and it is far from your attempt, commendable as it may be:

وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتَ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُواْ بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَن تَقُولُواْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ. أَوْ تَقُولُواْ إِنَّمَا أَشْرَكَ آبَاؤُنَا مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا ذُرِّيَّةً مِّن بَعْدِهِمْ أَفَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ. وَكَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ»
(الأعراف، 7, 174-172)

172. When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?”- They said: “Yea! We do testify!” (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: “Of this we were never mindful”:

173. Or lest ye should say: “Our fathers before us may have taken false gods, but we are (their) descendants after them: wilt Thou then destroy us because of the deeds of men who were futile?”

174. Thus do We explain the signs in detail; and perchance they may turn (unto Us).

This practice is advocated by many scholars. It retains beauty, elegance, and most of all, the meaning of Quran. I am surprised that such an advocate as you takes such a casual attitude to accuracy in portraying the Quran. An no, I will not debate how good was your translation, for I am not qualified to do so.

July 18th, 2010, 5:58 am


Off the Wall said:

I my previous post, I wrote

This practice is advocated by many scholars. It retains beauty, elegance, and most of all, the meaning of Quran.

It should be

This practice is advocated by many scholars. It attempts, as much as possible, to retain the beauty, elegance, and most of all, the literal meaning of Quran verses.

July 18th, 2010, 6:28 am


Husam said:


Thank you for your explanation. Anyone who wishes to find meanings, surahs, translations can do so within minutes nowadays over the internet. S/he can also cross reference several sites to see if it is correct.

Please re-read my comment @ 33 which I said we have to be VERY CAREFUL with our choice of words. Wahabism is just one example, there are many others who’s interpretation are questionable to say the least. I understood your intention by saying “Roughly”, you meant “In Short or In Summary”. However OTW is correct that we should leave translations to scholars.

As we know, one word, or even one kasra/hamzeh can change the whole meaning the sentence 🙂

July 18th, 2010, 9:08 am


Off the Wall said:

Dear Husam
Check this out

It is very good, three English translations, and several other languages. Recitation is also available for those interested. Also Tajweed is available. A Friend of mine sent me the link a while ago. He has been using it with his teenage child whose English is far better than his Arabic. It provides exactly what you referred to as cross referencing. I remembered it after I posted my earlier post, and I was able to find it in bookmarks. A little late, otherwise, I would have showed all three translations as an indication of how serious is the issue of translating the meanings of the Quran.

July 18th, 2010, 1:23 pm


Joshua said:


I am interested in your explanation of “fitra” and `alim al-dhurr as you explain them here in comment 34:

“I should have also explained what ‘fitra’ means. The best English translation is primordial nature, which means in the case of humans the nature they were given prior or when coming into being. The Qur’an explains this in a form of a covenant made between the Creator and all humans in the عالم الذر, that is in that form of existence before male and female mated and produced their progenies as in this Revelation,”

May I ask you where you get this exegeses? Is it the common interpretation of this verse?

I ask because for Zaki al-Arsuzi, one of the founders of the Baath Party, the concept of Fitra was central to his philosophy of Arab nationalism. He tried to define the fitra of Arabs through its divine origins. He argued that they had an “eternal” mission to spread “rahmaniyya.” I am sure you and all readers here are well acquainted with the Baath slogan “Umma al-Arabiyya wahida, dhat al-risala khalida”….

How would I find more about common Muslim interpretations of human “fitra” as understood by Muslims so I can understand what Arsuzi was just taking from common understandings and what he was adding that was new?

Best, Joshua

July 18th, 2010, 1:49 pm


almasri said:

Thanks Joshua and others.

I will try to get you sources as soon as possible. I wrote 34 out of memory of readings I did a while ago.

Thanks for your comment. I understand your concerns about trough translations. I do not take any translation as authentic NO MATTER HOW ELEGANT. That is why I always bring the Arabic text. I answered Husam out of memory and I also emphasized the rough meaning.

Your translation by no means can be considered a Qura’n no matter how elegant the translation may be.

In fact the translation you brought brings out one of two recognized readings. I translated (roughly) the other reading.

The first reading which you translated ascribes شَهِدْنَا (we bear witness) to the sons of Adam and then Allah replies as in your translation (This) lest….

The other reading (my rough translation) ascribes شَهِدْنَا to Allah.

Both readings are recognized. THE QURA’N CANNOT BE TRANSLATED AND STILL BE CALLED QURA’N. Elegance has nothing to do with this. I do not know your level of Qura’n tajweed. But I’ll point out to your attention the symbol of the three dots that you will see placed on the words of these particular readings of the verse in question indicating where a reciter may stop conveying one or the other reading. You will see the three dots placed equally on the two locations I mentioned above.

‘Your’ translation fails to convey the two possible readings despite all its elegance. The Arabic text CONTAINS BOTH READINGS IN ONE TEXT – hence the emphasis on the Qura’n being Arabic. But thanks for bringing this up.


I was trying to explain ‘fitra’ and not produce a literal or elegant Qura’n translation.

July 18th, 2010, 3:18 pm


Husam said:


You have no idea how delighted I am to receive your link. I did check it out quickly and I have added it to my favorites.

My English is also much better than my Arabic, having grown up in Canada since I was 4.

Again, many thanks.

July 18th, 2010, 3:24 pm


almasri said:


Here are some sources of exegesis. Unfortunately they are mostly in Arabic. Ibn Kathir is the most extensive. Al-Suyuti (or Al-Jalalayn) is the only one in English and is very brief. In his Arabic interpretation he mentions the covenant as taking place in the form of ‘dhar’ similar to the gathering on the day of ‘arafa of the annual pilgrimage. There are two interpretaions based on Shia sources with tendencies for ‘taaweel’. The common feature in all is the relationship of the human ‘fitra’ to this covenant.

Thanks again.

July 18th, 2010, 4:51 pm


Malaouna said:

The idea that the niqab is a “return to Islam” only gives the niqab the air of authenticity that its advocates seek. We have not really engaged the verses on veiling in the Qur’an which clearly do not call for women to cover their entire faces. In English translations, wily translators include their own version of how women should veil rather than render it literally.

I wonder how many women on hajj actually cover their full face, is it acceptable? I have not seen photage of hajjis in niqab. Exegesis plays a huge role in the way women interpret their dress and we can see that educational materials out of the gulf states play a huge role in the way Muslims are interpreting the Qur’an. Any stroll through the market demonstrates that reprints of medieval treatises have abounded (Ibn Taymiyya, and misogynist Ibn al-Jawziyya are two notable examples). For example, Ibn Taymiyya’s ideas about women were never compiled into one place until modern collections were produced by advocates of conservative Islam. So, as I see it, it is about the power the gulf has wielded to persuade Syrian women (and men) what Islamic tradition really is–as if we can ever really know it as tradition is always invented and reinvented. With the rise of niqab we can see, it is Islam of the gulf that is prevailing rather than anything particularly Syrian in the rise of the niqab. Conservative veiling has already killed alot of traditional dress, such as the colorful embroidered thob that used the be standard among Palestinians. Color=’Awra, and that is a particularly wahhabi interpretation of ‘awra.

July 18th, 2010, 6:14 pm


almasri said:


Thanks for 35 نطاح السلفية والليبرالية… الخاسر هو الإبداع
عبدالعزيز الحيص

Also thanks for Yusuf Ali’s link. His translation was the first I acquired in book format which contained the original Arabic and the English translation side by side, with interpretations of each verse shown on the bottom half of that page. I also believe it was the first authoritative translation compiled by the Library of Congress. Interestingly he called his Book ‘The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an’. He refrained from calling it ‘The Glorious Qur’an’. We cannot over emphasize this.

I have one concern about the online copy. It does not have the tajweed symbols you would find in most or all printed Arabic Qur’ans. These are of extreme importance as I pointed out in my previous reply to you. This is not the only verse in the Qur’an where you have two different but recognized readings within the same text. I also would like to point out in the second reading which I tried to convey in my previous comment the verb شَهِدْنَا is interpreted to have been uttered by the Mala’ika (angels). So I stand corrected on that.

Finally, there are seven recognized recitations of the Qur’an. The one recitation common mostly in the east is the recitation of حفص عن علي. All seven are equivalent. You should try to find some videos of the late Abd al-Bassit and pay attention to his repetitive recitations of the same verse. You would recognize immediately, there are subtle but distinguishable variations in each repetition.

The point behind all this is The Qur’an is actually the one compiled in the hearts of those who memorized it, word by word with tajweed, sometime during their life time. Needless to say, they number in hundreds of millions worldwide and often their native tongue is not Arabic.

Thanks again.

July 18th, 2010, 7:08 pm


Off the Wall said:


Thanks for the information. Again, I want to stress that I am the least qualified to argue fiqh or Quran or the accuracy of translation, and as such, I will refrain from discussing this issue any further. My original concern about translation stems precisely from recognizing my own limitation.

Many of us grew up listening to Abdel Basit Abdel Samad, and now that you mentioned it, i recall my late uncle once making a similar comment and telling me to pay attention during the recitation.

I am fully cognizant of the notion that no translation can be considered Quran. And this was made very clear to me by a very dear Iranian friend, who knows very little Arabic, but can recite the Quran with Tajweed. He can stop at any verse, and recite one of the accepted Farsi translations. You are right, there are many like him worldwide.

As for Fitra, and its connection to the verses you quoted in terms of Fitra, if I am right, scholar had to rely on Hadith in order to explain the full meaning of the verse. However, the following verse is much more direct in reference to Fitra, notice the difficulty all three translations have with the word Fitra.

فَأَقِمۡ وَجۡهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفً۬ا‌ۚ فِطۡرَتَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّتِى فَطَرَ ٱلنَّاسَ عَلَيۡہَا‌ۚ لَا تَبۡدِيلَ لِخَلۡقِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ ذَٲلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلۡقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَڪۡثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَعۡلَمُونَ

(Roum, v. 30)

Quran explorer gives the following three translations

Dr. Mohsin :
So set you (O Muhammad SAW) your face towards the religion (of pure Islâmic Monotheism) Hanif (worship none but Allâh Alone) Allâh’s Fitrah (i.e. Allâh’s Islâmic Monotheism), with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in Khalq¬illâh (i.e. the religion of Allâh — Islâmic Monotheism), that is the straight religion, but most of men know not[]. (Tafsir At¬Tabarî)

Pickthal : So set thy purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright – the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He hath created man. There is no altering (the laws of) Allah’s creation. That is the right religion, but most men know not –

Yusuf Ali : So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the faith: (establish) Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not.

July 18th, 2010, 8:49 pm


almasri said:

Again thanks OTW. I believe I had voiced similar concerns as yours under a different thread. Someone tried to challenge a debate (Dr. elhadge) on theological grounds and was asked if I am willing to participate. I had a differnt view of how I would like to proceed away from that line in order not to provide misinformation inadvertently. And I made that clear in a comment.

I appreciate your throwing in your valuable information. We’re correcting each other and gaining in the process by reinforcing the argument rather than shooting it down altogether. I do not see any harm in doing that as long as we are clear to ourselves and to others, who are reading, about our limitations.

July 18th, 2010, 9:22 pm




July 19th, 2010, 3:52 am


Vanessa said:

Oh my goodness. Why can’t they leave these women alone??? Especially those who want to teach other children knowledge. Why banning? I mean, nobody is forced to dress like them or to love how they dress, but we all should respect it. Let them dress like they want, especially in Syria, where every woman can wear what she like to wear (with veil, or without a veil).

July 19th, 2010, 12:35 pm


Abu Omar said:

It makes perfect sense, Universities in Syria are not really places of study alone.If they were places of study then it would not matter whether clothes worn by the students were revealing or not.It’s not like the veil is a barrier to speaking to your “ustaaz” most of the time the lecturers don’t even turn up anyway! The Universities in Syria have always been about liberating and secularising young people precisely because they provide the opportunity for them to mix freely. Hafez al assad was a genius he used the Universities to liberate society from the clutches of religion , he achieved through peaceful means what Rifaat tried to by force ( remember when he sent in his companies to remove the “hijab”)

If women cannot show their faces and bodies how else could they form a relationship with a man? that is one of the purposes of University in Syria is … is it not?
Let’s face it university in syria is an opportunity for women and men from villages and remote areas in syria to study and to meet members of the opposite sex without being constrained by customs , traditions and religion .

Now those women who wore the niqab can freely show their faces to the opposite sex and form free loving relationships.Well done ! this is progress, syria is progressing BRAVO!!!!!

July 19th, 2010, 2:39 pm


Husam said:

Stranger in Syria:

While I can attest that Syria is far from the perfect society and that Hijab/Niqab is hugely debated issue, I find it hard to believe that you “truly are well travelled in Syria”. It seems that you are locked to a certain group of people or your analysis is unfounded for the following reasons:

1) You said: “HERE MEN LIKE TO GO OUT WITH BITCHES (SEE THE NUMBERS OF NIGHTCLUBS) BUT THEY WANT TO MARRY A VIRGIN, AN HONORABLE WOMEN THAT ONLY HER MOTHER LIPS KISSED.” I disagree with you 110%. While it is true that some men do go astray, play around, as in many societies, but to say that this is the norm in Syria is far from the truth. The “MEN” you are referring to are fooling around with “WOMEN” (not men). So, this is not reserved just to “MEN”. If you are referring to clubs that have Russian Dancers, this is .00000000001 percent of Syrian Men because people know who’s who in Damascus and would not want to tarnish their image or the image of their family if seen in such a place. These places are visited by Saudis, Expats or Non-Damascenes.

2) You say you are a convert, but bashing women and mocking them with descriptions such as yours is not comical. Even Vanessa @50 finds it non-amusing.

3) You said: “A FULL VEILED WOMAN IN THE SOCIETY MEANS EASIER TO GET MARRIED. NOBODY SOW HER, SHE IS “PURE”. This is absurd. I know dozens of women, who actually postponed the wearing of the Hijab/Niqab because they were afraid that this limited their chances of finding a Husband. I think you are truly a “stranger in Syria” because your comments don’t reflect Syrian society as a whole.

4) What an awkward way to finish your comment about Syrian Women.

p.s. Kindly use lower case when writing, full upper case is very HARD ON EYES.

July 19th, 2010, 5:57 pm


‘Can banning the Niqab really work?’ asks Syria Comment | InterFaith21 said:

[…] links to varied views at his Syria Comment blog, does a really nice job covering the spectrum of Muslim and other opinion on the banning […]

July 19th, 2010, 6:38 pm


Sarah said:

The Burqa and Nijab is a security issue. Due to the fact that terrorists disguised in burqas are blowing men, women and children up in the name of their god, this has come to the forefront. It is the extremists own fault that the women are being asked not to wear this. It really isn’t a political or religious issue, it is a national even global security issue. In order for society to be safe during times of terrorism, war and other criminal actions that are taken while hiding behind a burga, nijab or mask, then restrictions must apply.

July 19th, 2010, 9:40 pm


Ghat Al Bird said:

The best security is the one where one side uses drones to kill as many people as possible without having any one on their side of the fence getting hurt.

Another major and most important aspect of security is making sure that your people have the most up to date nuclear weapons and more of them than any one in your neck of the woods.

The present practices of containing a million or more human beings in close quarters as an example in Gaza, Guantanamo and prisons in general is a favored security practice of the only two democracies and allies in the world.

And lastly a significant and scantilly thought, up till now. security consideration to combat terrorism is for the only two democracies and allies in the world to order that all females in the world be commanded to wear as little clothing as possible in order not to freak out the women/men that live in the only two democracies and eternal allies in the world.

July 20th, 2010, 9:34 am


Husam said:

Ghat Al Bird:

Very true, but what about the best security measures that the Arab decision makers take, who sit idle and do nothing for their own security (and family, and throne)???

July 21st, 2010, 11:34 am


Husam said:


That is amazingly skewed remark. Name one country other than Occupied Territories where this has happened? Iraq, Afghanistan, and Occupied Territories are occupied by foreign invaders and war is going on. Don’t the foreign military use camouflage and every possible dirty trick?

July 21st, 2010, 11:43 am


Ghat Al Bird said:


While what comes next may be considered an insult or an opinionated statement or view trust thamost eaders will consider it a sympathetically opinionated one.

Given the past histories as well as the character of a person of Arab heritage the term “Arabs” is non representative of realities.

While millions of people speak Arabic and are of “Arab” heritage there is realistically due to a variety of historical acts little that ties them all into one common entity. Which when considered in an impartial/objective manner bespeaks the independent characteristics of each and all Arabs.

Much like the Irish people the Arabs tend to be more emotional than cold blooded in dealing with issues that impact them all.

Security for the Arabs has to be determined in a cool and unemotional manner by each separate Arab state, all within the framework that by pursuing an independent sense of security they do not endanger another Arab state’s security.

The above is my attempt at providing one point of view based on limited knowledge. In short as an example no one in Jordan can determine the scope and extent of security in Syria, or Libya.

July 21st, 2010, 4:25 pm


Maya said:

I just feel frustrated at the time and energy wasted on debates that should not exist in the first place. Why do some people find it hard to understand that the rest of us find it unfair to live among people with masks? Why should anyone have the privilage of being un-identified? Religion or no religion I can’t see why I should be forced to share public space with a human (I’m not going to assume it’s a woman) without a face? The human face, beautiful, ugly or even deformed is our way to communicate on a human level.

Why bring first century culture to the 21st century? It’s sad how women sometimes enjoy being humiliated and put down.

July 22nd, 2010, 9:21 am


A Decade in Power, part 3: In Grip of Poverty and Religion. Social trends under Bashar al-Assad : The Damascus Bureau said:

[…] the government banned female students from attending public and private universities wearing the Niqab (a veil covering the face) and dismissed 1200 school teachers for wearing the […]

July 26th, 2010, 6:58 am


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