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Hijab and Family Life

by: Mohammad Ali Shomali

Allah (swt) has created human beings to act as His vicegerents on earth and, like all other forms of living beings, human beings cannot be complete unless they are in a pair. This is incomparable to Allah (swt) Who indeed has no need of a partner. Even the most perfect human being is in need of a partner. Allah (swt) says in the Holy Qur’an: And of His Signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect. (30:21)

One of the signs of Allah (swt)’s wise creation is that He has created spouses for us from ourselves. A man needs a woman to be complete and vice versa. Even when people go to Heaven, they need to be there with their spouse. When Adam (a) was asked by Allah (swt) to go to Heaven, Allah (swt) said: .....O Adam, dwell with your mate in paradise..... (2:35)

Thus, the formation of a family, initially consisting of a man and a woman, is one of the fundamental elements in Allah (swt)’s design for human life. He (swt) blesses us even more by giving us children. Children can only be well protected and well brought up in the atmosphere of a family where there is a father and a mother who love each other and their children, and who regard their children as a gift from Allah (swt), bringing them even closer to one another.

Marriage: a sacred covenant

Given that the family is a crucial aspect of creation, marriage is considered as a sacred covenant between the husband and wife and Allah (swt) is the witness above them. Keeping their marriage and family ties strong is essential. In a well-known hadith, the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying:
ما بنی فی الاسلام بناء احب الی الله عزوجل واعز من التزویج

No construction has been built in Islam more beloved in the sight of Allah (swt) than marriage. [1]
On the other hand, divorce is considered as the most disliked permissible act. The Prophet Muhammad said:
ما من شی ء ابغض الی الله عزوجل من بیت یخرب فی الاسلام بالفرقة

There is nothing more disliked by God than a house which is destroyed by separation. [2]
Hence, marriage is a sacred unity on which we need to build society and needs to be very strong. To establish and strengthen this unity, Allah (swt) has observed certain aspects in His creation and others observed in His legislation. These two are very much in harmony with each other.

Marriage according to Divine Creation and Legislation

A) Divine Creation

In His creation, Allah (swt) has made us in such a way that we desire the opposite gender, that is, a man for a woman and a woman for a man, at various levels. Some people may only experience this at the shallowest level, which is sexual desire. But the desire of a man for a woman or the other way around should not only be about sexual desire, because it can be experienced at deeper levels, first psychologically and then spiritually.

Therefore, those who go to Heaven will still be in need of having a partner not merely because they want to have a sexual relationship but because they find complete comfort and tranquillity on the overall relationship with their partner. We find that our missing element, the only thing that can make us feel complete, is a woman for a man and a man for a woman. Thus, Allah (swt) has made us in such a way that we have this deep desire for a partner and their somewhat different yet similar natures make for a perfect match with one another.

This desire brings a man and a woman together despite the fact that everyone loves to be free and loves to have neither commitments nor responsibilities. However, Allah (swt) has made us so much in need of this that we are ready to endure all kinds of difficulties and undertake the many responsibilities involved in finding and keeping our match.

Of course, people who are more compassionate and spiritual do not find it very difficult to accommodate another person in their own sphere. However, for those who are selfish and self-centred, marriage is a great challenge. Being used to doing everything as they wish and wanting to be free from any responsibility, it is difficult for them to be somewhat restricted and responsible. In any case, sexual, psychological, and spiritual desires lead people of the opposite gender towards one another.

Not only do human beings have a desire for the opposite gender, but in His Wisdom, Allah (swt) has created men and women with different personalities. There are many things that men and women share and therefore they are a good match for each other. If a man did not share anything with a woman then they could not be good partners for each other but at the same time the beauty is that there are also some differences between them because if a person is exactly like us, why would we need them and how could they give us comfort? We need someone similar to us in some aspects and yet different in other ways.

So the personality of a man is different to that of a woman but not so much so that they cannot understand one another. It is possible to understand each other because we have many things in common but we need to also understand and appreciate the differences that we naturally have. If a man wants his wife to think and behave exactly like him then this is missing the point. In the same way, if a woman wants her husband to think and behave exactly like her then this demonstrates a lack of understanding. What is important and crucial is for a husband and wife to make efforts to understand and appreciate these differences and work together to use them to the advantage of their family and society.

More than anything else, a man is responsible for making sure that his family does not lose its direction in life. Therefore, he is responsible, for example, for showing some sort of power and strength in protecting his family against poverty, enemies, problems caused by natural catastrophes, and so forth. The man brings security to his family by the virtue of this power. On the other hand, the woman brings peace to her family by showing love and affection. These two elements need to come together to create a balanced family.
Allah (swt) has both attributes of Glory (sifat al-jall) and attributes of Beauty (sifat al-jaml). The power of a man and the love of a woman are manifestations of these two important attributes of Allah (swt). Man manifests the Glory of Allah (swt) more and woman manifests His Beauty more. Of course this beauty is not merely a physical beauty because spiritual and psychological beauties are more important in bringing peace and tranquillity to a husband and children.

B) Divine Legislation

As discussed above, Allah (swt)’s legislation is in harmony with His creation. According to Allah’s plan, the role of women is more the role of acting as the internal support for the family whereas the man’s role is its external support. It can be found not only in Islam but throughout the history of mankind, apart from the modern age which is in many ways not natural and somewhat incompatible with human nature.

Women have always acted as the internal support, maybe because there have been prophets for all nations or maybe because women have a natural tendency to do so. The beauty, attraction, and love of a woman are meant to serve the family to keep it firmly connected. The love and care she shows to her husband, children, brother/s, sister/s, father and mother keeps the family together and gives them so much power and strength that when they are exhausted from being outside facing the daily struggles of life, they can always find comfort and relief at home.

Thus man’s role is mainly to act as an external element, that is, to go out and face all the challenges and difficulties in the outside world. Though this may sometimes result in him becoming exhausted and tired, he always knows that there is someone at home who can bring joy and comfort, giving him a newfound strength.

Of course, women are not banned from going outside or from being publicly active. Indeed, as it will be explained later on, the very reason that hijab is legislated is to create an opportunity for women to be active in society.

However, there are two different functions expected from men and women. Though in some cases the man may need to act as a mother and be responsible for the internal aspect of the family and sometimes the woman may have to work outside the home, the man’s essential role is to protect the family from the outside and a woman’s is to protect it from the inside.

Therefore, this beauty and attraction of a woman, which is a manifestation of Allah (swt)’s Beauty, should serve the family from inside the home. It should not be made available or presented to outsiders. Indeed, if it is presented to outsiders then it will be used against the stability of the family.

For example, in a mixed-gendered environment, it is very likely that a man may become attracted to a woman other than his wife because it is rare that a man’s wife is always the most beautiful or the most attractive one and even if she is, people who are not spiritually purified always underestimate what they have and look for something new.

Thus, in a mixed environment, the beauty of women would be working against the stability of the family which is the foundation of human society. As a result, the disaster of the breakdown of the family will occur as has indeed been witnessed in many societies throughout the world. Allah (swt) wants this beauty and this attraction to be used as a powerful means of keeping the family intact.

As previously said, we are not only talking about the physical or sexual aspect of beauty as it has many other aspects. For example, there is great beauty and power in the loving and affectionate voice of your wife, mother, or sister, and therefore it is not merely the sexual aspect of a woman that matters.

The concept and legislation of hijab can be found in all divine religions. It ensures that this great power of attraction is not used against human life and society and so that women are protected against strangers who have not been proven to be trustworthy and may result in taking advantage of a woman. Interestingly, we find that before Islam, and even before Christianity and Judaism, there has always been a long history of hijab. This is especially emphasised in Abrahamic religions, so much so that up until today we find traces of hijab in different Abrahamic traditions, though it is practised more so in Islam.

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