4 Key Considerations For Muslim Women Wearing Tudung in Uniformed Services

Guidelines by the fatwa for Muslim Women in Singapore wearing Tudung for nurses in healthcare and other uniformed services in Singapore
by Muslim.Sg 2021-10-26 • 11 min read
Muslim.Sg is a one-stop online media platform that aims to inspire and empower millennial Muslims with powerful and engaging Islamic religious content.
2021-10-26 • 11 min read

A Summary From The Fatwa On The Wearing Of The Headscarf For Nurses And Other Uniform Services In Singapore

During this year’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the policy change allowing the wearing of tudung for nurses in the public healthcare sector. As of November this year, Muslim women nurses will be allowed to wear the tudung if they wish to.

In response to this, the Fatwa Committee chaired by the Mufti of Singapore has issued a fatwa providing guidance for the covering of Women’s aurat[1] in uniformed services.

fatwa hijab tudung nurse in singapore

Here are the 4 main considerations observed by the fatwa committee members in developing this guidance:

The Guidelines For Muslim Nurses Wearing The Tudung

The covering of the aurat is a religious obligation for all Muslims, both men and women. This religious practice is a means to preserve one’s character, protect honour and modesty, and avoid harm. This is seen in the following verse: 

قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا۟ مِنْ أَبْصَـٰرِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا۟ فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ خَبِيرٌۢ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ. وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـٰرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ

Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their chastity. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity, and not to reveal their adornments except what normally appears (face, hands, etc). Let them draw their veils over their chests, and not reveal their (hidden) adornments.

(Surah An-Nur, 24:30-31)

The majority of Muslim jurists, through scholarly deliberation of Quranic verses and Prophetic narrations (hadith), such as the above, are of the opinion that a women’s aurat includes her entire body except for the face and hands. Thus, the tudung, hijab or headscarf serves to complete the covering of a women’s aurat.

fatwa hijab tudung nurse in singapore

Alhamdulillah, nurses in Singapore are now allowed to wear the tudung if they wish to. However, they may still have to uncover their hair and arms or replace/remove tudung in certain contexts depending on the work requirements. Part of it is the ‘Bare Below Elbow’ policy in adherence to clear clinical guidelines by the Ministry of Health, which prevents the risk of infection. These guidelines are universal and apply all around the world. The fatwa states that this is allowed from the religious perspective.

For more deliberation on the religious position, read: Fatwa On Wearing Of The Headscarf In The Uniform Services

You may read the news article on the Bare Below Elbow dress code policy back in 2014 here.

Observing Religious Practices Within The Environment We Live In

In Islam, the observance of religious practices is significantly important and is part of an integral component of faith. Our Islamic faith allows us to live actively in a dynamic world even when the circumstances keep on changing. The fatwa explains that this is also due to Islam’s notable consideration for the context (waqi’) and circumstances in which Muslims find themselves.

Hence, when Muslims face a situation which makes it difficult for them to observe their religious practice, Islam offers guidelines and principles that allow them to adjust and continue to live a religious life accordingly. This can be seen in many instances during the Prophet’s time.

For example, Jabir bin Abdullah r.a. reported an account where he and a group of people were on a journey when one of them was hurt by a stone and then injured his head. The injured then had a dream about an intimate act whereby the general rule is to perform the religious bath. Due to his grave injury, he inquired his fellow travellers whether he may instead perform the tayammum. They replied that he should perform the bath since water is available. He took the bath and died from it. When they informed this matter to the Prophet s.a.w, he became very angry and said:

 أَلاَّ سَأَلُوا إِذْ لَمْ يَعْلَمُوا فَإِنَّمَا شِفَاءُ الْعِيِّ السُّؤَالُ إِنَّمَا كَانَ يَكْفِيهِ أَنْ يَتَيَمَّمَ وَيَعْصِرَ أو يعصبَ شَكَّ موسَى عَلَى جُرْحِهِ خِرْقَةً ثُمَّ يَمْسَحَ عَلَيْهَا وَيَغْسِلَ سَائِرَ جَسَدِهِ

“Couldn’t they have asked when they did not know? Truly the cure for ignorance is inquiry. It was enough for him to perform tayammum and to pour some drops of water or bind a bandage over the wound, then he should have wiped over it and washed the rest of his body.”

(Sunan Abi Daud)

This event tells us the importance of weighing in the context and circumstances in which Muslims find themselves as well as the religious principles guided by scholars which led to the proper adjustments made.

The fatwa quotes the Quranic verse:

فَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ مَا ٱسْتَطَعْتُمْ

"So be conscious of Allah (by obeying His teachings), as much as you are able”

(Surah At-Taghabun, 64:16)

This religious instruction is part of Allah’s wisdom and mercy for His servants to continue observing a religious life, wherever they are, with balance and to the best of their ability.

In Singapore, Muslims are generally able to observe their religious life comfortably. Indeed religion is an important element in the life of many Singaporeans. For example, the tudung, a religious obligation that many Muslim women observe. In fact, it’s also a common sight in Singapore.

fatwa hijab tudung nurse in singapore

However, it is undeniable that there are some circumstances that may be more challenging than others. In some workplaces, Muslim women may not be able to wear the tudung, particularly in uniformed sectors. When this happens, the fatwa reminds us to refrain from taking the easy way out by preventing women from working without making a prior assessment of the situation and being guided by religious principles.

Read: What You Need to Know About Maqasid Al-Shariah

Amongst these principles is the hierarchy of necessity which can be looked at from the lens of understanding the higher objectives of Islam (Maqasid Al-Shariah). This is through proper assessment of the different factors that make up the circumstances of each individual and society as a whole. As outlined by the fatwa, these factors include individual livelihood, the healthcare sector, as well as the country’s security and prosperity.

Read: What is Fiqh Awlawiyyat? (Fiqh of Priorities)

Collective Understanding On The Policy Shift

The fatwa also reminds us of the need to build a healthy environment within our community that encourages one another to do good, but does not coerce, judge or even daunt others, such as being the case to impose on wearing the tudung, whatever the situation. Islam invites us to the path of learning and self-discovery with full of wisdom and good-willed counsel. The fatwa empowers women to individually assess their situation with the religious principles and to make their own choices. We must continue to support one another in these choices.

fatwa hijab tudung nurse in singapore

Fostering Greater Relations And Understanding With All Communities

The fatwa ends by reminding us to continue to work together and strengthen our relations across all segments of society to ensure that our religious practices will be better understood. The Prophet has always taken the moral higher ground in his relationships with others and emphasised the importance of maintaining peace with other faith groups and communities. This is part of practising our faith holistically which is based on the principles and values of Islam.

Read: 5 Incredible Lessons from The Prophet's ﷺ Last Sermon

In fact, the best way to preserve relations is to always lead a life of good example and be a blessing to all, so that the beauty of Islam can be seen. Our faith is never regarded as an impediment to social cohesion.

Read: Why is social cohesion so significant and what does Islam say about it?

For a more detailed explanation on the fatwa for Muslim nurses and working in other uniform sectors, refer to the fatwa text here. Do inquire with the Office Of The Mufti should there be any clarifications needed.

And Allah knows best.
 


[1] 'Awrah in Arabic or aurat in Malay refers to parts of the body, for men and women, which should be covered according to Muslim laws for the preservation of modesty

 

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