On the basis of ideology of Islam, covering ("hijab") for women is considered one of the basic and important principles. Islam's view regarding women is quite different from what the West thinks about women. Islam considers women as half of the body of the society and holds that women, like men, should live with humon standards and values.
Western society looks at woman merely through the windows of sexual passion and regards woman as a little being who just satisfies sexual desires. Before everything else the question of sexual passion is set forth even in marriage. Therefore, such a way of thinking results in nothing other than the woman becoming a propaganda and commercial commodity in all aspects of Western life, ranging from those in the mass media to streets and shops. This is the ultimate degree of woman's slavery and fall in Western societies which has no consequence other than corruption and misery. While Islam with the permssibility and opening vast and extensive fields for social activities for women, has restricted sexual activities and liberties. With exact and all-round laws it has established a reasonable and just balance in the context of woman's individuality and social life.
The first practical issue in this connection is hijab. The women are duty-bound to observe this degree in order to prevent corruption and deviation.
In this book, this subject has been surveyed in a number of lectures which give the reader, particularly the women, a knowledge of the Islamic view regarding hijab.
We wish for the dominance of human value for women in human societies, particularly Islamic societies.
International Relation Department,
Islamic Propagation Organization
Islamic Propagation Organization
This book, On the Islamic Hijab, is a translation of seven lectures delivered by Shaheed Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhari on this topic in 19661 to the Islamic Physicians Association.
As it will be seen from the text of these lectures2, this issue is presented through lively discourse in which the process of ijtihad (that is, strenuous endeavours to reason an issue) unfolds for those who wish to understand it.
It is the hope of all of those who endeavoured to present this translation, but even more important, it was the aspiration of the one who originally presented the lectures and was martyred defending the real Islam, may Allah rest his soul in peace, that Muslim women come to understand their duties and then turn towards putting them into action so that the Islam practised during the time of the Holy Prophet (S.A.) may be realized through the conduct of our Muslim women. Insha Allah. Laleh Bakhtiar
1. On September 30, 1996 (Mehr 8, 1345), October 14 (Mehr 22), October 28 (Aban 6), November 26 (Azar 5) December 9 (Azar 18), December 23 (Dey 2), and January 6 (Dey 16).
2. Footnotes are elaborations from the book " Issues on the Hijab" by Shaheed Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhari.
Although the contents of the text have not been altered in the translation, the sequence of the topics of the topics of the lectures have been adjusted. It is assumed that the translator has felt that the message of this presentation would be better relayed to the reader in this manner.
The reader to please keep in view that this presentation was a compilation of a series of lectures which were later published in form of book and overlook any deficiencies in this translated presentation. We have attempted with all sincerity to present the work in as accurate and comprehensive manner as possible. With the help of Almighty Allah, the reader will hopefully get the message of the one who presented these lectures and thereby benefit from it.
We believe in a particular philosophy in Islam for woman's hijab or modest dress which forms our intellectual point of view and in regard to analysis, it can be called the basis for the Islamic hijab.
THE WORD 'HIJAB'
THE WORD 'HIJAB'
Before we begin our discussion, it is necessary to look at the meaning of the word hijab which is used in our age to refer to a woman's covering. This word gives the sense of 'covering' because it refers to a veil or a means of 'covering'. Perhaps it can be said that because of the origin of the word, not every covering is hijab. That 'covering' which is referred to as a hijab appears behind a curtain. The Holy Quran describes the setting of the sun in the story of Solomon. "... until the sun was covered (bil-hijab) and time for the afternoon ritual prayer was over"1. The diaphragm separating the heart from the stomach is also called 'hijab'.
In the advice given by Hazrat Ali to Malike Ashtar, he states, "... prolong not your seclusion (hijab) from your subjects, for a ruler's seclusion from his subjects is a kind of constraint and (results in) a lack of knowledge of affairs. Seclusion from them cuts rulers off from the knowledge of that which they have been
1. 38 : 32
Ibne Khaldun syas in the Muqaddamah, "Governments do not consider a separation to exist between themselves and the people at the beginning of their formation but little by little, the separation and distance between the ruler and people grows and finally it causes unpleasant results"2. Ibne Khaldun used the word 'hijab' in the sense of meaning 'curtain' and 'separation' and not 'covering'.
The use of the word satr, in the sense of 'covering' was used instead of hijab, especially by the religious jurisprudents. The religious jurisprudents, whether in the section on the ritual prayers or in the section on marriage, refer to this issue and use the word satr and not hijab.
It would have been best if this word had not been changed and we had continued to use the word 'covering' or satr because, as we have said, the prevalent meaning of the word hijab is veil. If it is to be used in the sense of 'covering', it gives the idea of a woman being placed behind a curtain. This very thing has caused a great number of people to think that Islam has wanted women to always remain behind a curtain, to be imprisoned in the house and not to leave it.
The duty for covering, which has been established for women in Islam, does not necessarily mean that they should not leave their homes. It is not the intention of Islam to imprison women. We may find such ideas in the ancient, pre-Islamic past of some countries like Iran and India but no such things exists in Islam.
The philosophy behind the hijab for woman in Islam is that she should cover her body in her associations with men whom she is not related to according to the Divine Law (na-mahram)
1. Letter to Malike Ashtar, the Nahj al-Balaghah. Translated rom the Arabic by William Chittick in Shi'ite Anthology.
2. Ibne Khaldun, "The Muqaddamah", translated form the Arabic by Franz Rosenthal.
and that she does not flaunt and display herself. The verses of the Holy Quran which refer to this issue affirm this and the edicts of the religious jurisprudents confirm it. We will refer to the extent of this covering by using the Quran and the Sunnah as sources. The relevant verses do not refer to the word 'hijab'. Verses which refer to this issue, whether in Surah Nur (Light, 24) or Surah Ahzab (Companions, 33), have mentioned the extent of the covering and contacts between men and women without using the word hijab. The verse in which the word hijab is used refers to the wives of the Holy Prophet of Islam.
We know that in the Holy Quran there are special commands about the Prophet's wives. The first verse addressed to them begins, "O wives of the prophet! "You are not as other women..."1 Islam held the speical relationship of the wives of the Prophet in such a great esteem that they were to remain at home for basically political and social reasons during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet and after his death. The Holy Quran says directly to the wives of the Prophet, "Remain in your houses."2. Islam desired that the honour and respect of these 'Mothers of the Believers', who were held in great respect by the Muslims, not be misused and that they do not become a political and social tool for selfish and ambitious men.
I think that the reason why the wives of the Prophet were forbidden to marry after the Prophet's death was for this very reason. That is, a husband after the Holy Prophet might misuse the dignity and respect of his wife. Therefore, if commands are more emphatic and severe in regard to the wives of the Prophet, it is because of this.
At any rate, the verse in which the word hijab is used is, "... and when you ask his wives for any object, ask them from
1. Quran, 33 : 32. Also see "Sahih Muslim", vol.4, p.148-151.
2. Quran, 33 : 33.
behind a curtain (hijab) ..." 1. According to history and Islamic tradition, whenever you see the 'verse of hijab' referred to, for instance, 'such and such was the case before the revelation of the verse of 'hijab' or 'such and such was the case after the revelation of the verse of 'hijab', it refers to this verse which relates to the wives of the Holy Prophet and not the verses of Surah Nur which states, "Say to the believing men that they cast down their look and guard their private parts, that is purer for them. Surely God is Aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they cast down their look..."2 or the verse of Surah Ahzab which states, "O Prophet! Say to thy wives and daughters and the believing women that they draw their outer garments (jilabeeb) close to them; so it is more likely that they will be known and not hurt. God is All-forgiving. All-compassionate". (33 : 59)
But there is a question as to why, in the recent era, did the current expression of the religious jurisprudents, that is star not become prevalent instead of 'hijab'? The reason is unknown to me. Prehaps they mistook the Islamic hijab for the hijab which is traditional in other countries. We will give further explanation about this later.
The fact is that the 'covering' or its new expression, 'hijab' is not concerned with whether or not it is good for a woman to appear in society covered or uncovered. The point is whether or not a woman and a man's need of her should be a limitless, free association or not. Should a man have the right to satisfy his needs with every woman and in every place short of committing adultery?
THE REAL VISAGE OF THE HIJAB
Islam which looks at the spirit of the problem, answers,
1. Quran 33 : 53.
2. Quran 24 : 30-31.
"No". Men are only allowed to satisfy their sexual desires with their legal wives within a marital situation based upon the laws of marriage which establish a series of heavy commitments. It is forbidden for men to have any physical relations with women they are not related to by marriage.
It is true that the question externally appears to be "What should a woman do?" Must she leave her home covered or uncovered? That is, the person about whom the question is raised is a woman and the question is often expressed in very heart-rendering tones, "Is it better for a woman to be free or condemned and imprisoned in the hijab?" But something else lies at the root of the question. That, is, should men be free to take sexual benefit from women in any way they choose short of committing adultery or not? That is, the one who benefits here is a man and not a woman or at least a man benefits more than a woman does. As Will Durant has said, "The mini-skirt is a blessing for everyone in the world except the seamstresses."
So the depth of the question is whether or not the seeking of sexual pleasure should be limited to the family environment and legal wives or is the freedom of seeking sexual fulfilment something that should be satisfied in society at large? Islam defends the first theory. According to Islamic precepts, limiting sexual desires to the family environment and legal wives helps to maintain the mental health of the society. It strengthens the relationships between the members of the family and fosters the development of a perfect harmony between a husband and wife. As far as society is concerned, it keeps and preserves energies to be then used for social activities and it causes a woman to attain a higher position in the eyes of man.
The philosophy of the Islamic 'covering' depends on several things. Some of them are phsychological and some relate to the home and family. Others have sociological roots and some of them relate to raising the dignity of a woman and preventing her debasement.
The hijab in Islam is rooted in a more general and basic issue. That is, Islamic precepts aim at limiting all kinds of sexual enjoyment to the family and the marital environment within the bounds of marriage so that society is only a place for work and activity. It is opposite of the western system of the present era which mixes work with sexual enjoyment. Islam separates these two environments completely.
Without limits being established for relations between men and women or with unlimited free associations, sexual excitement and stimulation increase and demands become unquenchable and insatiable. The sexual instinct is a powerful, deep-rooted instinct which resembles the fathomless ocean. Although one thinks that by obeying it, one will have tamed it, its rebellions nature continues to show forth. It is like a fire; the more fuel is added to it, the greater would be its flame, in order to comprehend this, two points should be noted.
Firstly, just as history recalls those who coveted wealth, who were continuously seeking to add to what they already had and however much more they gained, they were still greedy for more, it also mentions those who were covetous for sexual pleasures. In no way were they satisfied by possessing beautiful women dominating over them. This was the situation of all of those who had harmes and, in truth, all those who had the power to possess women.
Christensen writes about the Sassanian rulers, "The women we see carved into stone at Taq-i-Bustan are only a few of the 3000 women Khosrow Parviz possessed in his harem. This king was never satisfied sexually. Whenever girls, widows or women with children were introduced to him (for their beauty), he would order that they be sent to his harem. 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 would send him any women who fitted his description".
Stories like this are endless in history. In most recent times, this greed does not take the form of harmes but exists in another form with the difference that today it is not necessary for a person to have the wealth and possibilities that Khosrow Parviz or Harun al-Rashid had. Today, with the blessing of contemporary culture, it is possible for a man who only has one-thousandth of the possibilities of Parviz or Harun to take advantage of women.
Secondly, have you ever considered what the desire to serenade or write love poems stems from inhumanity? A large part of world literature is filled with love poems. In this type of literature, a man praises his beloved, asks for his needs to be satisfied by the beloved, raises the position of the beloved as he lowers his own status and suffers greatly from separation.
What is this? Why does humanity not behave in the same way towards other needs? Have you ever seen a person who worships money or a person who is ambitious for higher material positions, writing love poems on money or on ambition? Has anyone ever written a love poem asking for bread? Why is it that people enjoy listening to or reading the love poems of another? Why is it that so many people receive such pleasure from Hafiz's love poems? Is it not because each person senses that it conforms to some very deep instinct which possesses their whole being? How mistaken are those who say that the one and only reason which forms the basis for human activity is an economic one!
Human beings have developed special literary rhytmic forms to express that love just as they have done with spritualities whereas no special literary rhytmic forms have been developed for things which are essentially material like bread and water. We do not want to insinuate that all loves are sexual nor do we mean to imply that all of Hafiz's or Sa'adi's
poems stem from their sexual instinct. This is something which needs to be discussed separately at another time.
But what is clear is that many of the love poems are ones written by men in devotion to women. It is suffiecient for us to recognize that a man's attention towards a woman is not based on bread and water so that is can be satiated when the stomach is full. Rather, it either takes the form of greed and the worship of variety and multiplicity or the form of love and love poems. We will later discuss under what conditions the state of greed and sexual covetousness is strengthened and under what conditions love and love poems assume a spiritual quality.
At any rate, Islam has placed special emphasis upon the amazing power of this fiery instinct. There are traditions which speak of the danger of 'a look', the danger of a man and woman being along together and, finally, the danger of the instinct which unites a man and a woman.
Islam has established ways of controlling, balancing and taming this instinct. Duties have been given to both men and women in this area. On duty which is the responsibility of both men and women relates to looking at each other. "Say to the believing men to cast down their look and guard their private parts ..."1 and "Say to the believing women to cast down their look and guard their private parts ..."2 In summary, the command is that a man and a woman should not fix their eyes upon each other; they should not flirt with each other; they should not look at each other with lust or with the intention of seeking sexual pleasure (unless it is within the sacred bounds of marriage).
Islam has established a particular command for a woman which is that she covers her body from a man she is not mahram and that she should not flaunt herself or put her body on display
1. 24 : 30
2. 24 : 30-31
in society. She is not to stimulate the attention of men by any means.
The human soul readily accepts stimulation. It is great error to think that the sexual desires of humanity are limited in extent and that after a certain point, are naturally satisfied. Just as the human being, man or woman, is never satisfied. Just as the human being, man or woman, is never satiated with wealth or position and is continuously seeking more; in the area of sexual desires, it is the same. No man is ever naturally satisfied by beauty and no woman is ever naturally satisfied by a man's attention and the conquest of his heart. Clearly the desires of the heart are never satiated.
On the other hand, unlimited demands are never fulfilled and a sense of deprivation is continuously felt. Not achieving one's desire results in psychological illnesses and complexes. Why is it that in the West psychological illnesses have increased? The reason is freedom of sexual ethics and continuous sexual stimulation through the newspapers, magazines, cinemas, theatres and official and unofficial parties and even the streets and alleys.
The reason why the Islamic command to cover is exclusive to women is because the desire to show off and display one's self is a particular trait of women. She is the hunter in the domination of the hearts of men and man is the prey. A woman's desire to display herself comes from this essence of the hunter. It is the female instinct which, because of its particular nature, wishes to capture hearts and imprison the male. Thus the deviation begins with the female instinct which, because of its particular nature, wishes to capture hearts and imprison the male. Thus the deviation begins with the female instinct and therefore the command to cover was issued.