Hijab: A Guarantee for Protection?

Question and answer details
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 reputed company, with half of the employees Muslims. But she had undergone a minor 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.
Sahar El-Nadi

Salam Dear 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.

How Islam Handles Harassment

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) likened women to delicate, fragile glass vessels and asked 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, as well as adults and children, to maintain respect and eliminate abuse. The Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet stresses that kindness to women is the true measure of goodness.

Like any law, those who abide by the rules have a much higher chance of staying safe, and those who breach rules are committing an offense, however, that does not justify abusing them.

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

Workplace Ethics for Muslim Women

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.

The question is: where, doing what, and why? Useful work does not have to be in a huge multinational company, it may well be at home, a school, a shop, or a small business. The question is the reason and benefit from working.

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

But it is a totally different matter if your employer offers a product or service contrary to Islamic teachings, or harms Islam and Muslims, or the work conditions contradict Islamic behavior (as in questionable location, unreasonably late hours, or inappropriate work interaction among colleagues or clients).

Under those circumstances, it does not matter how prestigious the job, how much money it pays, or how 'reputable' the company is. What matters is whether you are putting your faith on the line by working there in exchange for worldly benefits?

You say your friend has followed the Islamic guidelines of dress and behavior, I hope she has also followed them in her choice of business field and work environment to comply with Islamic standards, and maintained the code of conduct in the workplace (that is, formal style of dress, observing limits of communication and physical contact with male colleagues, and so on.)

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?

However, 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.

Where a non-believer may bless or curse his 'luck', a believer would thank Allah for both good and bad, then stop and think, 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 sincerely has a car accident, it does not mean his prayers were not heard and he stops praying, nor does it mean it is a message for him never to drive cars again. 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} (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

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)!} (Aal-`Imran 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.


Useful Links:

The Hijab… Why?

Hijab… a Must, Not a Choice

Rulings of Hijab

The Importance of Hijab

Is Hijab a Quranic Commandment?

Can I Remove My Hijab?

How Does Modesty Relate to Dress?

Any Gardens for Veiled Muslim Women?

Islamic Scholarship and the Hijab

Several Questions about Hijab

Modesty of Appearance… in Hijab?