NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Muslim side as to how hijab has become essential and mandatory for Muslim women when the petitioners are arguing that it is not compulsory for the community to observe the five principal tenets of Islam — namaz, haj, roza, zakat and imaan.

This question came from a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia when petitioner Fatma Bushra’s counsel Mohd Nizamuddin Pasha explained that in a sense there is no compulsion in Islam to force its followers to observe the five tenets of Islam, as violations of the tenets does not invite temporal punishment.

Pasha said, “Absence of compulsion to follow the tenets does not mean these are not essential to Islam. The Karnataka high court misunderstood the absence of compulsion professed in a Sura, meant to dissuade followers of Islam from forcibly converting followers of other religions, to rule that hijab is not an essential practice in Islam and hence could be banned in educational institutions.”

The bench asked, “If the five principal Islamic tenets are not mandatorily or compulsorily observed by Muslims in the absence of temporal punishment, how a lesser religious practice in hijab, could be termed mandatory and compulsory for Muslim women so much so that they have to wear it even to an educational institution?”

Pasha said the Prophet had said that a women’s veil is more important to her than the world and the things in it. “When Quran says follow the Prophet’s words, and a Muslim girl believes in it to wear hijab while stepping out, can the government, which is mandated not to discriminate entry into educational institution on the basis of religion, ban her entry,” he asked.

He said when Sikh students wear patka or turban to schools, banning hijab clad Muslim students from entering the educational institution would mean targeting a single religious community.

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The bench said the five ‘K’s of Sikhism have been recognised as essential by the laws and courts and the comparison is inept. Pasha argued, “The five ‘K’s may have been rendered essential, but patka or turban is not recognised as essential. Sikhism is just 500-year-old but Islam is 1,400 years old. So if a religious practice (patka or turban) of 500 years is allowed in educational institutions, why ban a 1,400-year-old practice,” he asked.

Pasha said Quran says a true follower of Islam would not interfere in the religious practices of other communities and for themselves, they would like to practice what the Quran says. The arguments will continue on Monday.

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