Islamic Hijab: its Form and Meaning
By: Allamah Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi
Woman was greatly afflicted in two ways which were the main source of different evils, sufferings and injustices that happened to her during history.
Firstly, woman was considered as a humiliated being owned by men in order to achieve their sexual enjoyment, and at the same time, she was not more than a factory to produce offspring. She was compared to a vessel for holding embryos. Other descriptions regarding woman were: considering her as a devil in human form or the source of disobedience in the existence.. etc. The natural results of all these views was only to humiliate enslave, usurp her rights and prevent her from participating in general life.
Indeed, the history of woman is filled with pictures of torture, sufferings and injustices which afflicted her as we will explain in the following pages of this study.
Secondly, woman was viewed as an instrument used for sex, enjoyment and material profit. This outlook about woman came into existence with the birth of modern European civilization. If the old outlook on woman was to consider her as a degraded and humiliated creature, treating her with repression by confiscating her freedom, the modern Jahiliyah deals with her from the point of giving rein to sexual freedom.
Different means are used including education, schools, cinemas, some philosophies' legislation, the internal systems of political parties in Europe and the West in order to implant this outlook and deepen it. It passed many rounds on its way to in spreading sexual disturbance which led not only to the destruction of woman's personality, but also the destruction of the family and the loss of human values in those societies. Among the phenomenon of these afflictions is to undress women and push them towards libido without caring for ethical and legal barriers.
All these injustices, sufferings and the destruction of her personality, which happened to her during human history, came about in two ways: The Ancient Jahiliyah way and the Modem Jahiliyah way.
Woman has not been so lucky, during history, to receive a message that protects her dignity, balance and respect for her position in society other than the Islamic message, the message of the Almighty Allah, Lord of the worlds. Thus, hijab, adopted by this great message, is one of the confirmations of the Divine Care for this honoured creature as we will see.
Two Concepts on the Hijab of a Woman
Regarding the hijab of a woman and its relation to general life around her, two main concepts appeared over the centuries which involved the term hijab.
The Pre-Islamic Concepts of Hijab
Ancient Jahiliyah cast its burden on history before the appearance of Islam and women experienced a major portion of the injustice of those times. Then a harsh and rigorous picture of hijab existed in which woman was deprived of her rights to the extent that under the pressure of this miserable and ignorant civilization she was considered only a commodity to be bought and sold. She was deprived of her human values and transposed to a material thing used by men for enjoyment or sometimes used as a slave.
Whatever has been said concerning the allegations which led men, in these ancient societies, to confiscate the existence of woman completely, whether being imposed by economic, sexual or spiritual causes, the fact remains that the exploitation of a woman and deprivation of her rights, the confiscation of her humanity reached a point where it became difficult for modern man to imagine.
The injustices which poured on women alternated between the phenomenon of the harem and wa'id and what is between them of unjust concepts and attitudes became numerous.
Some considered woman as a satan wearing the skin of a human in order to serve man alone and achieve his enjoyment through her as Ancient Jahiliyah believed.
Still others considered her body as a body of human and her soul as a soul of an animal. This view was prevalent in Europe before its Industrial Revolution.
It is for you, our dear reader, to imagine the immense tragedies which happened to woman while she was considered a satan or an animal or a commodity to be sold like any other material.
These are some true examples of woman's sufferings that were practically experienced and depended on such unjust illogical ideologies.
The Holy Qur'an mentions some of the suffering of woman under the burden of Jahiliyah society of the Arabs and which was strongly condemned by Islam.
"And when a daughter is announced to one of them his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge."(Holy Qur’an, 16:58-59).
"And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We give them sustenance and yourselves (two); surely to kill them is a great wrong."(Holy Qur’an, 17:31)
"And When the female-y buried alive is asked, for what Sin she was killed,..." (Holy Qur’an, 81:8-9)
A Prophetic tradition says: "A man named Qais bin Asim al-Timimy came to the presence of the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.) and said: 'I buried all eight of my daughters during Jahiliyah (the pre-Islamic period of ignorance)..."
The pre-Islamic history of ignorance of the Arabs is illustrated below: "Burying female children was carried out in different miserable conditions; the infant was buried alive! They used diverse ways in practising this custom. If a girl was born to one of them, they kept her for six years. Then, her father ordered for her to be perfumed and beautified on the pretext of taking her to one of her relatives! A well was already prepared for her in the desert. When she reached the well, her father told her to look at it and then pushed her into it and threw dust and soil over her!
"Others used this way: The mother, during the time of her delivery, went and sat over a pit. If the newborn was a daughter, she dropped her into the pit and filled it with dust. If it were a boy, she would take him home!
"Those who did not want to bury their daughters, kept them humiliated until they reached the age when they would be able to shepherd. Then they were dressed in a woollen robe and sent to the desert to shepherd camels!
"Those who did not prefer to send her to shepherd, used other means to humiliate her personality by using wickedness against her. "For example, if the girl grew up and wanted to marry and after her marriage if her husband died, her guardian would come and dressed her in a special garment which meant that she had no right to marry anyone unless her guardian agreed. Thus, she was forced into marriage against her will! If her guardian did not want to marry her, she would be imprisoned until she died and then he would inherit her. If she wanted to save herself from this state, she had to give some ransom to free herself.
"Others set women free on the condition that she should not marry anyone except with her guardian's permission or she should pay a ransom. Others imprisoned widows and kept her for one of their children until he grew up and married her.
"Concerning a female orphan, they kept her with them and prevented her from marriage with the hope of marrying her when their wives died or made her marry one of their children wishing for her wealth and beauty..."
The Greeks considered woman as an unqualified person who had no right to practise any lawful disposals.
Even some Greek philosophers regarded the confinement of the name of woman inside the home like the imprisonment of her body. Yosteen, the famous Greek orator said:"We take wives only to give birth to our legal children."
"Concerning the Romans, the Roman woman was considered as a cheap property possessed by man. They treated her as they wished. A meeting was held in one of the assemblies in Rome in order to discuss women's affairs. In the end they decided that she was only an existence without a soul and she did not inherit the life of the Hereafter. She is only a filth and she should not eat meat nor should she laugh or talk. It was obligatory for her to spend her time in serving and obeying.
"Some members of the Roman Assembly for Educators adopted a law which forbids woman from possessing more than a half ounce of gold. She should wear clothes of different colours and should not ride a coach more than a mile outside Rome except in the case of some general festivals."
European history speaks about Greece and says that a Greek man sometimes collected hundreds of women in his home. 
The ancient history of Iran also mentions events and numbers similar to those of Arabian Jahiliyah and old European civilization. If there is any difference between the two, it is only in details. For instance, consider the following: "In Ancient Iran no one secured his women against others."
"Khosrow Parviz (a Sassanian ruler) possessed about 3000 women in his harem and was never satisfied sexually. Whenever he desired to replenish his harem, he would write letters to his governors wherein he would describe the perfect and beautiful women he wanted. They, then, sent him any women who fits his description."
In Europe, in its middle ages, it was believed that: Woman represented not only the spring of disobediences and the source of all evils and corruptions; but also the origin of human tragedies. She was the cause of the misery for inhabitants of the earth. The Christian's attitude towards women was explicitly explained by one of the first popes called Tirtoliyan in the middle ages. He gave the distorted opinion of Christianity about woman, "She was the entrance used by Satan to enter man's soul. She was the reason that man was pushed towards the prohibited tree (meaning the tree in the Garden of Eden), violating the law of God, and disfiguring the image of God, that is, woman."
The British philosopher, Herbert Spinser, says in his book, Describing Sociology, about the status of woman in the Middle Ages: "In fact, in Britain, the wife was sold during the 11th century and the courts, belonging to churches in this century, legislated a law which the husband had the right to transfer or loan his wife to an other man for a limited time."
Indeed, these disgraceful attitudes against woman were followed by fearful actions, imprisoning her at home and veiling her from life, historically called the veil of woman, i.e. to veil her from participating in life and preventing her from enjoying her legal natural rights.
This kind of black ideological veil hijab of woman, in Ancient Jahiliyah, and in all the world including Iran, India, Egypt, Europe, and Arab lands is the one which showed this figured picture of woman to the callers of freedom of woman. Hijab, which Islam calls for, is unlike the hijab of the period of the harem, wa'id and slave trade from which women suffered.
The Islamic Concept of Hijab
Surely, the concept of hijab adopted by Islam differs completely from the hijab which was introduced by the civilizations of Jahiliyah including the miserable social phenomena which were existed in the palaces of some Ummayad and Abbasid rulers concerning the exploitation of women in order to achieve their own enjoyment.
Even the term hijab did not enter the ideological life of Muslims except recently. Whatever has been said about woman, the fact remains that Islam's aspiration for protecting her through shaping a special dress for her shows Islam's honuor and respect for her and her dignity, cleanliness and purity.
In Islam and its right message, there never exists any law or regulation which prevents woman from participating in the aspects of life nor imprisoning her at home like the civilization of the period of Jahiliyah. Even this word hijab is newly used in Islamic thought.
In addition to the special dress worn by woman while moving outside her home - as we will explain later on - Islam also uses the term sitir (screen) for this action.
Islam made it obligatory for both men and women to cast down their eyes for others than their wives, husband or harem. On one hand, Islam makes it obligatory for woman to wear hijab, on the other hand, it imposes certain obligations for men too.
If a special dress is limited for woman to hide the fascinations (beauties) of her body; on the other side it also imposes that men lower their eyes to women others than their mahram women in addition to guarding their private parts.
In agreement with this new use of the word hijab as a definition within and Islamic context, it is correct for us to say: Islamic veil includes both men and women; but its essence differs in the form that preserves morals, protects virtue and respects woman in daily life. Islam has nothing to do with imprisonment, or preventing woman from exercising her natural right and there is no insult or degradation for woman in its criteria and schemes.
It is honour for Islam that the establishment of its civilized practice was a conviction for the end of the movement of exploitation and enslavement which was practised by men against women in the period of Jahiliyah, which blackened the history of man before the rising of the blessed mission of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).
The Islamic hijab is defined briefly as the shape of a modest dress in addition to the limitation of the relation between men and women other than the non-mahram (one who is marriageable) women and placing her in a pure legal frame entwined with chastity, respect and giving rights.
We hope that a perfect clarity is made concerning the difference between the hijab adopted by Jahiliyah civilization in its dealing with woman and the hijab adopted by Islam as a protective shield for woman against aggression and attacks against her dignity by the followers of sick inclinations.
What remains for us is to specify the central motives upon which Islam depended in legislating the law of a modern dress according to the limits of the Merciful Allah on His servants.
For the sake of clarifying the central motives without expatiation, we mention the following points: First, regarding the relation between man and woman, two theories are suggested: Theory one allows that man may sexually enjoy any woman in the society - this has nothing to do with adultery.
Theory two restricts man's right for enjoyment to the women with whom he has a legal and lawful matrimonial relation, and without which it is unlawful for him to take her for enjoyment sexually.
The first theory is the one practised today by European man-made civilization.
The second theory is the theory of Islam regarding the relation between man and woman.
This is the essence of the matter from which other details are derived. All man's behavior towards woman is derived from the first theory which relates to his sexual enjoyment of women by participating in parties, gatherings with other than his wife/wives and the illegal mixing of the two sexes, and imposing the state of adornment on women and its publicity in society and other affairs related to it.
Concerning the Islamic theory, the following points are divided: By the act of covering woman's body, except the two hands and face, from the eyes and minds of men, other than her household, and not spending time in idle talk and walking with men and the like, as well as the prohibition of complete privacy with a man other than her household and other affairs related to Islamic jurisprudence, the Islamic concept concerning the natural relation between man and woman is a protection and safeguard against indecency and corruption.
If we take into consideration the nature of the two opinions and their results. surely we will come to the conclusion that Islam is greatly covetous concerning the dignity of woman and her respectability, purity and honour with the caution of not changing her to a salable ill-used commodity for man in society.
Therefore, Islam is covetous for fixing and organizing sexual relations and then strives towards closing the means used by those evil-minded individuals for exploiting woman and achieving their enjoyment through her as they wish.
Then the Jahiliyah theory being old or new, desires to set free abandonment of these principles for the sake of men.
The problem with this outlook is based on the sake of man and his interest even it seems that some profits are achieved for woman!!
If we also take into consideration the size of profits and gains which men achieve sexually and economically under this theory, we will find that the phenomenon of harem and the act of exploiting woman practised in the period of Jahiliyah are the same which are practised today in the name of an attractive guise that insults women.
The new limitation which is used by modern Jahiliyah in the hands of women is different from the old one only in its covering and outside appearance. It remains a fetter to bind her hands, forbid freedom, and confiscate her will. So man ha made woman a captive and slave by using different means for achieving man's aims through trading, brothels, cinemas, television and radio, newspapers, and fashion.
Various masses of women began to contemplate what they suffered under European civilization and there are a few just men who raise their voices against the miserable tragedies of woman are subjected to in Europe under the shadow of exploitation practiced by men.
Here are some examples showing man's exploitation of woman and the miserable results: In Britain, 9 out of 12 girls - below 20 years of age - are subjected to rape and kidnapping. The security forces were able to catch 13% of the criminals. The percentage of crimes increased by 84% in recent years; whereas juvenile crimes increased by fivefold during the first half of 1975.
An Italian newspaper Amica disclosed the following exciting facts concerning the crimes committed in its country: "In fact, an Italian woman fears leaving her home in order not to expose her dignity to the mad young men who wander the roads and streets and those who have no work except attacking women and girls and kidnapping them with the aim of robbery or sexual abuse...surely a woman refuses to accept any honourable work which forces her to return home at night so as not to expose her dignity and life to danger."
In another report disclosing the woman tragedy under the materialistic culture, the American Association for Family Services says: "The disintegration of the family, which has reached an epidemic stage, tops the list of social problems. Every year more than one million persons are separated or divorced, which is sevenfold higher in percentage compared with that of a century ago.
The number of illegitimate children increased three times compared to 1938, and each year 4 million illegitimate births are registered in the U.S.A. Regarding the problem of the corruption of the youth, which has a close relation with divorce, statistics doubled three times more than those of 1940."
Another report says: "The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that in murder cases within families, the husbands are mostly the murderers of their wives; and in 15% of family crimes the children are the victims of their parents."
According to recent statistics released by UNESCO, "60% of the housewives in the U.S.A. and Europe feel discontented, disappointed, and miserable."
Dr. Homer, a Swede, when asked by the United Nations to study the status of women in Arab countries in 1975, announced: "It is the Swedish woman who should demand her freedom, as the woman in the Arab countries has already reached the peak of her freedom under Islam." She added: "the Swedish woman tries these days to have this year announced as 'The International Year of the Woman,' and then declare another year for the man, so that he may extract his rights from the women."
Dr. Homer continues in her report by saying: "25% of Swedish women suffer from psychological and nervous sicknesses, and 40% of Sweden's income is spent on these diseases caused by the so-called freedom which the Swedish woman attained and which she is practising. In fact, the tragedy of the Swedish woman is this very permissiveness which has taken her to the edge of such a terrifying and perilous precipice."
The breakdown of family stability in Britain which has dramatically increased the number of unmarried mothers, of unmarried people living together and people living alone, is much to blame for these social ills. According to figures published by the British Government on Jan. 14, 1988, the percentage of illegitimate births has soared from 4% in the 1950s to 21% of all births in 1986, with the exception of Denmark with 43%, Britain has the highest rate in Europe.
The statistics of social trends confirm that Britain has the highest divorce rate in Europe and nearly twice the rate of France and West Germany.
Between 1979 and 1985, it was found that the proportion of people cohabiting without marriage nearly doubled. Some 15% of all single women between the age of 18 and 49, including many divorced, were illicitly cohabiting in 1985.
The breakdown in family life has also seen a rapid rise in the number of people living alone. Nearly 25% of all households contained only one person in 1986 compared with an average 10 persons in 1951!
The way the woman is treated in the western countries, which claim to be the champions of freedom and equality, is evident from the International Meeting on Women and Mass Media held in Athens, Greece, November 20, 1985.
One of the participants, Petra Kelly, a member of t he West German Parliament, bitterly complained, "In Germany they treat us (German women) like a minority, equal to invalids, the lower strata of society and like children. They portray us pornographically and consider using violence against us as natural. Every 15 minutes a woman is a victim of rape."
The Meet urged the Greek Parliament to pass legislation banning the exploitation of women on television. Though criticism of the exploitation of women is fully justified, the women of these so-called advanced countries are themselves to be blamed. If women did not consent there would be no pornographic publications, sex films and nude advertisements.
The following statistics reveal how alarming the family breakdown epidemic has become in non-Muslim societies:
France: One in four marriages end in divorce; in cities the rate may be as high as 50%. Each year 600, 000 couples marry, 100, 000 choose to live together without marriage and 100, 000 divorce.
Canada: Almost 40% of first marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate doubled between 1972 and 1982.
The Former Soviet Union: About 70% of marriages break up in 10 years, according to Moskovskaya Pravda, factors involved include drunkenness, lack of money and lack of privacy.
Central and South America: The UNESCO Courier stated that single-parent families are often created by women migrating to the cities and having children in a series of unstable unions. Due to alcohol abuse or the inability of husbands to find adequate work locally, the family breaks up and mothers and children are left in poverty.
The nations with the highest percentage of illegitimate births in the world are in the Caribbean and in Central and South America.
China: Although China's divorce rate is lower than most western nations, it has risen 70% in 5 years. The Peiking Review reported that the divorce rate is rising dramatically.
United States: Half the marriages will probably end in divorce. Sixty percent of the children born will spend part of their childhood in a single-parent family.
Japan: The divorce rate has doubled in the past 20 years. Before 1947, men were allowed to evict their wives in the streets with only a short note of divorcement. Now, about 70% of divorce cases are initiated by women.
South Africa: The Coalition of South African Women's Rights says that one out of two South African women is raped in their lifetime. This includes children and even babies and old women!
Britain: The divorce rate in the U.K. is the highest in western Europe. Nearly 1 out of 7 single women, age 18 to 49, lives with a man she has not married.
The Hospital Today, a magazine of London, in its editorial of the April 1975 issue, published a summary of the annual report of the British Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. It says:"...Despite the abundance of contraceptives and legalized abortion, it is noted that 86% of the children are born to unmarried mothers! There is a further serious problem. In 1973 the following cases were: 1 case of an 11-year-old pregnant girl; 6 cases of 12-year-old pregnant girls; 38 cases of 13-year-old pregnant girls; 255 cases of 14-year-old pregnant girls. There were 166, 000 cases of legal abortion during the same year, 50% of which were by unmarried women."
Turning to the East, we find the decadence of society in the communist world is no less hideousness as that in the capitalist world. The magazine, Interphase in its April 1977 issue reports: "The grave problem of the Soviet communist society is that out of every two marriages one ends in divorce in most parts of western Russia. In Moscow, for example, nearly 49% of the marriages ended in divorce after the birth of the first child. In the Mavadansk region, the percentage of divorce is as high as 72.9%. The Physicians, Conference, held at Moscow University in 1975, called for urgent measures to tackle this grave social problem, concerning the high divorce rate and the low birth rate..."
It is worth noting that the said family problems are confined to the non- Islamic regions of the previous Soviet Union. In spite of the many years of communism's suppression of Islamic teachings in the Muslim lands under the Soviets, Islam still exercises its influences on the life and social conduct of the Muslims there, reducing family - instability and the exploitation of women.
These miserable tragedies, and the like, form some fruits of the modern European theory about the relation between a man and a woman.
For the sake of this, Islam takes measures to close the sources of corruption in the life of people and to work, according to its concepts, to stop the state of exploitation of women and the confiscation of their rights and to establish dignity and honour in the life of people.
Thus, Islamic Hijab is among the most prominent terms used by the Divine Authority to protect woman and make a clean human society.
We should address the current situation in many Muslim countries where Western values have replaced Islamic ones. The societies of these countries have discarded Islamic principles, including hijab, the statistics of the West have followed. Divorce, prostitution, alcohol and drug abase, and the beginnings of diseases such as AIDS are plaguing the societies who have chosen to abandon their religious edicts. Illegal relationships between boys and girls, men and women are becoming accepted or at least unrestricted.
In Muslim countries where the society and the government remain loyal to Islamic values, the occurrence of sexual crimes, indecency, divorce and other social ills are noticeably less. The family structure remains strong and healthy. The women have no fear of their environment and are relatively safe to walk through their streets and bazaars.
Which theory is better then? Should we choose unlimited release, which results in destruction and downfall, or the proposal which leads to the preservation of society and which protects both man and woman without making any difference even the supposition of the feeling of distress from some protective procedures which follow the Islamic proposal?
Through social and psychological studies of the life of Man, a true scientific fact is disclosed showing that Man enjoys two kinds of natural needs (jaw'ah) in his entity:
A. There is a number of natural needs which impose themselves spontaneously for stimulating without any external motives like the instinct for the food and the instinct for the need of showing himself to others, and love for ownership and the like.
B. Another kind of natural needs, inspite of their existence in man and their activities, is able to be stimulated if other factors and motives of stimulus are supplied from external human existence.
Among the prominent factors of these natural needs are: sexual instinct, which is motivated by dissolute poems and literature, seductive music, nudity and the like.
The upright Islam, the message of the Lord of the worlds the Creator, Who is Aware of hidden affairs, is completely cognizant of the remote factors which molded mankind, and the dangers against the movement of human life if he goes out of the natural frame prepared for it and by following it, the highest balances are achieved between these needs and natural functions in all fields of human life.
According to Islam's awareness of these facts, it desires for not stimulating these external instincts which are outside the frame of the required balance.
To be harmonious with this desire, Islam puts various social, economic and political schemes to work. These schemes provide a deep condition of agreement between these internal human motives and the demands of the individuals and the groups in which one lives.
The Islamic scheme in hijab and its fashioning the relation between man and woman aims to keep the balance between man's demands on the one side and its great desire for the purity, chastity and security of the relation between the two sexes on the other. Thus, Islamic hijab becomes a related foundation with the natural side of the human life in addition to caring for morals and purity and organizations of social life from the Islamic viewpoint.
Islam, through the modest hijab for woman, limits the nature of the relations between the two sexes in a special way. It also deals with man and woman together, limiting the responsibility for each of them towards lawful execution. Woman is separated from man in responsibility inside the framework of this scheme, only in hijab but they have the same responsibility in other duties.
This is not to say that the role of man and woman in an Islamic society are the same. They are not. A man shoulders the responsibility of maintaining the family unit by his wealth and earnings, providing food, shelter, clothing, medical care and general welfare for his household. The woman is free to earn money and has full authority over that money, but she is not required to finance her household.
A Muslim woman is responsible to care for and give proper training to her children and to provide a peaceful and harmonious environment in which the family unit may prosper and grow.
Hijab has an effect on the family unit as well as on the society. At home where hijab is respected and honoured practically, family members show kindness, helpfulness and peace towards one another. Because of the separation of the two sexes of non-mahrams, crimes of a sexual nature inside the family unit have no chance to fester as we witness all too offer in Western families where incest has grown in such proportions that it is almost taken for granted as common behaviour.
Islamic hijab provides much more than mere physical cover. It is a cover that acts as a repellent of every kind of crime and vice which destroys the individual and the society.
Responsibility of Hijab for Man and Woman
Let us scrutinize the required important matters for both sexes in order to specify the difference in responsibility between them concerning this framework of Islamic hijab.
Both man and woman are responsible according to the following verse of the Holy Qur'an: "Say to the believing men that they cast dawn their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and not display their ornaments except what appears there of, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their or name except to their husbands..." (Holy Qur’an, 24:30-31).
The great jurisprudents (fuqaha) have cited explanations for these edicts:
A. A woman must cover her body and hair from the sight of non-mahram man.
B. It is unlawful for a man to look at the body and hair of a non-mahram woman with the exception of her face and hands. It is also unlawful for a man to look her hair and this verdict is applied on a woman concerning looking at men other than her father, son, uncle, grandfather , brother and those related to them.
C. It is forbidden for a man to look at the details of the face of a non-mahram women, or her hands with sexual desire and vice versa.
D. It is lawful for a man who wants to marry a woman to look at her in order to be acquainted with her physical qualities and vice versa.
E. It is lawful for both a man and woman to look at the body of their mahrams (except for the genital region) so long as it is not with sexual desire, but to look with sexual desire, is forbidden (haram) whether they are mahram or not.
F. It is obligatory for a woman to cover her body and hair from the sight of a non-mahram men (i.e., those with whom she is legally allowed to marry).
G. It is unlawful for a man to be alone with a non-mahram woman in a place where nobody else can enter if they fear that they may commit haram acts; but there is no objection for a man to be alone with a non-mahram woman when other are not prohibited from entering the place, even if the other are a mature rational child or in the state of security from committing corruption.
H. It is unlawful for a non-mahram man to touch a non-mahram woman nor a non-mahram woman may touch a non-mahram man such as shaking hands and so forth.
I. If there is a necessity for a man to touch a woman, and vice versa, such as medical cure or saving a drowning person, and there is no a female doctor for the woman or a male doctor for man, it is lawful for both sides to touch or look at the other side for tests, cure or the like.
J. It is lawful for non-mahram men to hear the voice of non-mahram women on condition that hearing should not be with sexual desire or as a cause for committing haram acts and it is permitted for a woman to make her voice heard through discourse or address by a non-mahram man on condition that her voice should not mislead or seduce listeners, because it is haram for a woman to talk to men in an excited and agitating manner.
K. It is recommended for a woman to keep her beauty and elegance for her husband because attractiveness and beauty represent an important side in the life of woman and an essential source among the sources of the happiness of matrimonial life.
L. It is forbidden for a woman to imitate men (by dress, actions or behavior) and vice versa.
M. It is forbidden for a woman to perfume herself and go outside her home, i.e. it is forbidden that her perfume is noticed by non-mahram men while passing among them or mixing with them.
If we examine carefully these legal responsibilities which fall under the frame of Islamic hijab, we will find that both men and women share the task of responsibility regarding this rule, with the specification concerning women in covering their body. This shows strongly that Islam is aspires to establish clean relations between the two sexes; spread purity and dignity among people; and safeguard the society with healthy relations. It is not among its intentions to disgrace a woman's dignity among people or prevent her from performing her role in life as it is clear through the above mentioned laws concerning Islamic hijab.
If we want to judge strictly the matter of covering woman's body and we have said it is correct to say that both men and women hold the same task in the general framework of Islamic hijab, the question comes: Why a woman alone bear the burden of covering her body and without man to do so?
The fact, which no fair-minded person can doubt, is that the reason for the specification of covering a woman's body alone relates to her sentimental and physical qualities. Because the temptation side of woman is much stronger than a man; she has the competent side for sensibility; and she has instinctive tendencies for showing herself off. Thus, ornaments and beautification are among her first specifications. If they are unrestricted, she may cause, knowingly or unknowingly, and innocent person to commit a haram act, thought or deed.
This natural characteristic of woman and which makes her more able to attract, tempt and fascinate man towards herself, is the main reason Islam tackles this point through hijab. Therefore, it is not normal to ask a man to cover his body like her; whereas man in general does not possess these specific characteristics, nor is he naturally prone to decorate and beautify himself in order to draw attention of woman. Still, Islam does require a man to dress in an appropriate manner so as not to expose unnecessary parts of his body.
On the subject of attraction, two sure things exists, one in a woman and one in a man. That which exists within a woman is the desire to show herself off, it is a part of her nature. That which exists in a man is an inclination towards looking, not just looking but flirting and receiving pleasure from it. Both of these things exist. Will Durant says that there is nothing in the world more firm and more persevering than a man's desire to look at a woman.
It is also clear that men and women are sexually stimulated in different ways. A woman, being a naturally sensitive and tender-hearted creature, requires touching and tactile movements in order to stimulate her. A man, on the other hand, is a much coarser creature, tough and virile with a strong imagination. He can be stimulated by a mere look. A woman covers herself to keep from showing off her body and the man cannot see anything which will stimulate him sexually. How clever Islam is to adopt hijab in society! So it completely conforms with the innate natures of woman!
In accordance with this reality of attraction, we see that Islam also forbids acts such as sodomy among men and lesbianism among women because each of the two decrees has its own subject and background like other legal decrees which rely on certain backgrounds necessary for them.
These are the true centres which addresses in order to build this positive edict; the blessed Islamic hijab.
Doubts Concerning Hijab
The question remains: Will the designers of progress share consciousness of what they pretend concerning hijab that led to disable woman's abilities towards development and paralyze her from rising against the burdens of work in general life, and which disabled half of society?
Indeed, this miserable excuse is an extent to what was stirred up by the agents of thinkers (ideologists) and politicians in the Muslim world against woman's hijab which contradicts her freedom and hinders her from achieving her wish to participate beside men in the world of reality.
This stirring up requires that the origin of the problem should be discussed, it is: Do the designers of progress originally believe themselves when they propagate this rumor? What do they mean, in reality, by the "freedom" of women?
If what is meant is to be free to express one's views; give one's opinion; the freedom of possession; the freedom of choosing a suitable husband; and the cultural freedom and what relates to it; there is no obstacle in woman's hijab which stops her from enjoying these freedoms and what relates to them?
Does hijab prevent women from seeking culture and knowledge or competing in its diverse fields?
Does hijab, for example, prevent women from expressing their views and ideas?
Does hijab intervene between woman and her right of possessing wealth?
It is proper to ask whether hijab originally has any relation to these questions in reality and it is a matter which relates to the modesty of woman, her dignity and the purity of her treatment with those around her.
Economic ills and production levels are also affected by this question of hijab. The wasted talents, energies and efficiency is apparent. Let us suppose that there are two foundations or projects for production: The first one deals with female workers who wear Islamic hijab and conduct relations between non-mahram men and women in an Islamic manner.
The second one deals with female workers who are seductively dressed and adorned and follow the Western way of civilization in their relations between the two sexes.
Surely, we see the foundation which observes hijab is hard working all time for the sake of production and work, because of the nature of relations between men and women.
While, on the other hand, we see in the second foundation, in which flirtation and sexual discourses prevail, that much time and effort is spent in the affairs imposed by fluidity and sexual excitement in that imposed environment.
Let us suppose that there are two study halls:
à In the first one there are Islamic relations prevailing between the young men and women, including Islamic hijab.
à The second hall is controlled by the free relations between young men and women in which adornment is spread. What do we think, for each example, regarding the performing of work and responsibility?! Is it possible to describe the second hall as a serious place for studying?
In summary, has it not become clear that Islamic hijab, with its own image and nature, has no negative reflection against the freedom of woman nor her work nor her movement in general life.
It is true that if one imagines that hijab is the same as was used in India, Iran, Egypt, and Europe during the pre-Islamic era "Jahiliyah" in which they imprisoned women behind four walls, it is natural that she thinks of herself as being deprived and hindered in her activities. The result will be to disable half of the society or more. This is a matter of fact which we should think about concerning the miserable conditions for kind of hijab which hindered woman from general and social movement. Islam condemns this kind of hijab of Jahiliyah and changed it to a certain cover which includes clean and pure relations under the name of hijab. There are great differences between the two kinds of hijab as we have explained.
What the designers of progress imagine concerning hijab contradicts the origin of the matter. The society, in which the disorder of sexual relations prevail, is the main cause which hinders the abilities which are, instead, spent in the affairs of sex, flirtation, and negligence unlike the society in which clean relations are spread between the two sexes.
Regarding their imagination about the abuse of the freedom of woman under the shadow of modesty and purity which are brought about by Islamic hijab; what they mean by freedom is the common sexual freedom with all its dimensions of the adornment requirements which are spread in all remote places and circumstances. Concerning other freedoms, they do not think of, nor do they consider them in their logic based on non-Islamic ideas.
Briefly, hijab, from the Islamic view, has no negative effects at all against the freedom of woman nor her general movement no in her participation in progress and making life around her active. The sane logic considers Islamic hijab as providing great guarantees for the freedom of woman and her dignity in addition to a larger participation of woman in general social work and also in progress and development of the society as a whole.
Beyond this, Islamic hijab, in its known form, gives woman her personality and raises her position in society. People deal with a modest woman, dressed in Islamic hijab from the point of view that she is a human being. For a woman without hijab, people generally deal with her from the point of view that she is a human being but through her femininity and through what she stirs up in men by her exposed body. Therefore, Islamic hijab will remain a weapon against affliction, distress, fluidity and abuse.
It is worth mentioning here that in spite of Islam, staking great care in covering a woman's body in front of non-mahram men; it also calls for her to take suitable care for her beauty and body inside her home, to enhance and respond to the demands of her femininity, which are bestowed on her by Allah, the Most High, and also to achieve her lawful wishes which are allowed by Islamic law.
While woman is restricted in showing off her body and adornments to the general public, she is encouraged to beautify herself for her husband, whereas she is not allowed to expose herself to men at large. She is in fact, commended upon showing herself to her husband and to enjoy herself with him totally.
Another point to mention is that the woman who observes the proper Islamic hijab not only gains respect and dignity in the society and from her family, but also she is pleasing Allah, the Most High, and gaining rewards from His for her obedience to His religion. This is the highest achievement for her. She is following Qur'an and traditions of her Prophet; safeguarding the society from vice and corruption; eliminating unhealthy thoughts and actions; raising work and production levels and bringing purity and spirituality to the human race. All of this she accomplishes, with little efforts, simply by the use of hijab. The blessings she receives for this great deed can only be speculated upon.
When she controls the tone of her voice, the movement of her body, the manner of her behavior, and the hidden secrets of her person from those who have no legitimate right to enjoy them, she is serving humanity in untold dimensions.
This realm of responsibility that she shoulders brings about so many sources of relief to her fellow beings, that it is easy to understand how and why Islam has placed such importance on her. She is the backbone of society and the foundation of man's growth as a human being. When she becomes corrupted, she in turn corrupts the entire society.
When she is pure and guarded by the protection of hijab, the society is protected as well.
Many of the social ills, diseases that plague the Western world, abuses of drugs and alcohol, sexual deviations and other problems could be cured if women were allowed to realize the concept of hijab. Of course, in those societies, the idea is mass consumption, control of the people's minds and oppression of their general well being and growth toward perfection as they were created. These polluted and decadent societies and the rulers behind them found the perfect way to achieve their aims. They corrupted the women and therefore corrupted the people.