Shaikh Nuh Keller on niqab (updated)

Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller has issued a new lecture on the subject of niqab via the website Suhba.org. It is available to the public in the “lessons” section of the website. In the past, the shaikh has advised women in western countries not to wear the niqab; that advice seems to have changed slightly in this lecture. The shaikh mentioned a Newsweek cover containing a picture of a woman in niqab with the caption “Women and Terror”, which may cause people to connect the veil with terrorism. In fact, a lot of ordinary Jordanian women wear the niqab.

The shaikh’s advice was delivered to an audience of his students, and is intended for tariqa followers. His instruction is that women following his tariqa who are visiting Syria or Jordan are to wear the niqab at all times except in cases of absolute necessity, such as when their job demands it. He said that if the sisters are afraid of resembling “salafis”, they should wear a veil of white or pastel-coloured material, as a lot of Jordanian women do.

He mentioned that some years ago, the Muslim Brotherhood had issued a poster containing a picture of a woman wearing just a headscarf with a declaration that “this is how Muslim women should dress” or something like that. His shaikh, Abdul-Rahman al-Shaghouri, called anyone who called for women to remove their face-coverings a shaytaan, meaning someone remote from Allah ta’ala (devil, in common translation). However, when he mentioned to Shaikh Abdul-Rahman that he was to marry a lady from a western country and asked what she should do in the west where covering the face was not common, the shaikh indicated that she could uncover no more than her face and her hands.

In any other country, Muslim or non-Muslim, it was the woman’s choice whether to wear the niqab or not (he had previously advised women not to wear it in the west); the exceptions for women in the tariqa being at the suhba meetings, when travelling with the shaikh and his wife, or when in personal interviews with the shaikh, in which case she must wear niqab. He advised men who fear the consequences (at work, for example) of their wives’ dress to explain that their wives are religious. He said that he had nothing to do with a woman taking off her hijab altogether unless the law of the land demands it.

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