Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gamal El-Banna: Hijab is not an Islamic Tradition. "There is no specific verse (in the Qu'ran) that obliges women to wear headscarves"

Gamal El-Banna is the younger brother of Hassan El-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, their common parents does not mean the younger sibling shares the Islamist zeal of his better known sibling.

In his own words, Gamal El-Banna says, “I was the total opposite of my brother Mr. Hassan El-Banna.”

Here is a fairly detailed report on the liberal views of Gamal El-Banna in the Egyptian magazine, Egypt Today.

On the veil, El-Banna states that neither the Qur’an nor authentic Sunnah demand it of women. “There is no specific verse that obliges women to wear headscarves, but you find verses setting the broad lines for [public modesty or decency].

Egypt Today quotes him as saying:

“The Qur’an states: ‘And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent and to draw their veils over the bossoms [24:31].’ If the Qur’an wanted to oblige women to cover their hair, it would have stated it very clearly. Why would the Qur’an resort to expressions that have a variety of interpretations? The fact is that the Qur’an can be understood directly without resorting to interpretation if it couldn’t, we would have clergy to lead us,”

In his book al-Hijab (The Veil), El-Banna declares the veil is not an Islamic tradition, but a pre-Islamic one according to research he has completed on the Arab world prior to the Prophet (PBUH)’s time. In those days, he says, Arab women covered their head and left the upper parts of their chest uncovered. He thus concludes that the verse commands women to cover their chests, not their heads.

Read and reflect.

Tarek Fatah

January 2005


Reformist thinker Gamal El-Banna re-ignites an age-old debate, contesting the role of Sunnah in modern-day Islam

By by Noha El-Hennawy
Egypt Today

DEBATING THE QUESTION “Is it Sunnah, or is it Qur’an?” is a near-daily occurrence for many Muslims, but few have done so with the frequency and fervor of the reformist thinker Gamal El-Banna and his critics at Al-Azhar University, the Cairo-based bastion of Sunni thought.

With a recent series of books and articles, El-Banna claims he’s merely out to kick-start a debate the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) would approve of. His detractors counter he is denying the Sunnah, the collect sayings of the Prophet and the de facto “second reference” in Islam, a move, they warn, that cuts dangerously close to apostasy.

El-Banna dismisses accusations that he is calling on the faithful to abandon the Sunnah, but insists that the orally transmitted traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) are less binding on Muslims than the Qur’an itself.

“We cannot deny the Sunnah, even though it has been proven that most of the sayings attributed to the Prophet (PBUH) have been made up, were narrated in other people’s words or were transmitted inaccurately. This does not mean that there are no true sayings that set many Islamic fundamental principles; what it does mean is that it’s high time to study the Sunnah in a different way,” El-Banna says.

To read the full article in Egypt Today, click here.

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