First a definition of the title. Dictionary.com gives the meaning of the word phobia as “a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.” The word hijab means that which appears behind a curtain. And is referred to as a woman’s covering. The fuqaha use the word satr, and not hijab. Shahid Mutahhari says that it would have been best if the word had not been changed and we had continued to use the word satr which meant covering because hijab gives the idea of a woman being placed behind a curtain, ways being imprisoned in the house. “Thus hijabophobia is the fear of a covering which compels one to avoid it despite the reassurance that it is not dangerous.” Today a piece of material barely 50cm square is an object of fear.
“And when the female infant buried alive is asked For what sin she was killed,” 81:8,9
Imagine – burying of infant girls….. In a society you adapt to the judgement of the society. With in the environment you accept the behaviour, the dress, the attitude…. With each experience, each incident, a shutter is placed on your personality and then with the countless shutters it leads you to the loss of the identity of your own being. With that concept in mind bring the picture of burying girls in this era… probably for the same reasons – her mind is buried in the pit of a media machine which bombards her with images of success – it tells her it is how you look, your image is the most important thing, the rise and fall of hem lines becomes paramount…..she believes that if she drapes herself naked over a car it is her image that made, designed and sold the car. Society encourages the burial because it is a means of publicity so that you may become a customer of their products, so that you may only worry about what shampoo, what colour this season, what brand, which magazine………….Parents out of love and their own securities submit ..... not realising that it is a bottomless pit. She freefalls........
To address this issue then and now and emancipate women, a messenger was sent by God – his solution to the problem is encompassed in the verses of Qur’an – 33:59 and 24:31
O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 33:59
Say to the believing men that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do. 24:30
And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms………..and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful. 24:31
Lets first understand that the address is made to the women of the believers. Before we analyse the verse of hijab we must differentiate between outward expression and inner belief. Qur’an expounds on it.
The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and faith has not yet entered into your hearts…………. 49:14
Nomads came and surrendered – outwardly professed Islam but Allah says – O Prophet! The actual status of their hearts is that they are not true believers yet- faith and belief has not settled in their hearts. Thus those to whom the verse is addresses are those whose state of heart is convinced, they do not reject any order of Allah.
Nay, they reject that of which they have no comprehensive knowledge….10:39
So the rejection of an order of God is a lack of knowledge which makes one unable to accept articles of truth.
With that in mind, let’s look at the implications of verses 24:30,31 & 33:59.
o Lowering the gaze (men and women)
o Protection of sexuality (men and women)
This is the behaviour code. You will look with respect not exposing your sexuality
o Head covering brought forward – firstly we find in the dictionary of classical Arabic, Aqrab al-Mawarid: that khimar refers to all such pieces of cloth which are used to cover the head. Imam Abu Abdullah Qurtubi: "Women in those days used to cover their heads with the khimar, throwing its ends upon their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest bare, along with the ears, in the manner of the Christians. Then Allah commanded them to cover those parts with the khimar."
o Do not draw attention to zeena’ (beautification)
o Declares one’s identity – It is the only non verbal communiqué that declares one is a Muslim. E.g. school playground incident and shoelace……
o Protection from sexual harassment – hijab makes a very clear non verbal statement which implies a set of boundaries -There will be no sexuality in the public domain. At present the only non verbal boundary recognised is the wedding ring if that.
When one does not wear hijab there can only be one of two reasons:
o One wishes to draw attention to one’s looks. Remember if you put out an advertisement, someone is going to respond to it. e.g. wedding reception – bride.
o One wishes to blend or be acceptable to a certain group of people. Remembering that we will be raised and identified with the group that we aspire to be like or with.
As far as the response of the outer community goes – let me tell you a story from Shahid Mutahhari – train in village once a month - All responses of protests, outrage…… are necessary but most important is the necessity of having the confidence that if one has a pearl in one’s hand and someone calls it a peanut, it will remain a pearl.