Rafed English

Islamic Hijab concerning 'What their Right Hands Own'

Again concerning "What their right hands own," if a female slave is mahram to a man, is a male slave mahram to his female owner or not? I am using the term 'mahram' here erroneously with a purpose because this is an interpretation that others have. There is a difference when we say 'mahram' meaning, for instance, they are not permitted to marry. It is permitted for him to look at her hair but he is not mahram in the usual sense such as the father-in-law and his son's wife. Some have interpreted it this way. When a question is asked about this, the answer given is that there is no problem if a male slave look at his female owner's hair". Again, hair is mentioned, not the face.
There is a discussion concerning a khwajah (eunuch) and whether or not he is a male slave of a woman. The ruling was that he was like a woman and there was no problem if he looked at a woman's hair. A person asked Imam Riza if it was necessary to cover before a khwajah and the Imam said it was not. "They used to enter my father's house and women did not cover their hair before them."1

As to "the women of the Book", of course, they do not need to be dhimmah ('People of the Book' who live in Muslim lands and are accorded hospitality and protection by Islam on condition of acknowledging Islamic political domination and paying the jizyah tax) because they all have the ruling of a kafir. (A person who covers over the truth of religion, a disbeliever, an infidel). There is no problem with looking at the hair of a Jewish woman or a Christian or a Zoroastrian woman or a woman who is none of these. The Holy Prophet said, "It is not forbidden to look at the hands and hair of dhimmah women."2

Wherever you look you see that the issue which is an exception is referred to or questioned and the face and hands are not questioned. Whereas if it had been forbidden to look at the face and hands of a woman, they would have been referred to in the exceptions.

As to dhimmah women, some of the 'ulama believe that we must look and see what the situation was at the time of the Holy Prophet; what extent of the body was not covered? Clearly the dhimmah women did not cover their hair or their hands to a certain point. These was no problem, then, in looking at them.

I have mentioned that in every exception, it is permitted to look without lust except under one condition. That is to look at a woman in lust when one wants to see a woman to decide whether or not to marry her, as a serious suitor of marriage.3 Of course, it is clear that a man cannot spend years looking at women in this way to determine whether or not he wants to marry her. There are other conditions as well. How much education should she have? Where does she come from, etc. After all of the other conditions are met and the only one remaining is to see if one wants to marry her, it is this situation that the exception refers to. If the purpose is only lust, it is clearly not with the intention of marrying.

These, then, were some of the traditions but there are many more from both Sunni and Shi'ite sources.

Now as to the dhimmah women, the traditions say it is Muslim woman but not with lust or with a look with holds the fear of deviating within it. It is permissible to look at her in what she customarily wears outside of her home. Ayatollah Burujerdi says that one must suffice to look only at that which was common in those days. Perhaps customs have changed today and even more areas of their body are uncovered.

There is another point to mention following this. There is an edict, based on a tradition which some 'ulama find diffucult to accept. It is concerned with a tradition where the Imam said that there is no problem to look at the hair of a bedouin woman, a woman from suburb of Kufah or Ilj (non-Arab bedouin women). Why>? Because it is their custom to dress in their particular style and they refer to cover their heads. So it is not forbidden to look at them, but, of course, not with lust.

Some of the ulama have issued edicts just as the tradition states but the late Ayatullah Mohammad Kazim does not issue one because he says what is perhaps meant is that in places where these kinds of women are it is not obligatory for men to curtail their comings and goings. There is no problem if their eyes fall on these women's hair. There is no problem if the women are told to cover themselves but they do not listen. Therefore he felt it was an exceptional situation, not one that needed religious edict.

Another faqih (religious jurisprudent) says the same thing holds for urban women. If they are told they should cover themselves and they do not, there is no problem if men look at their hair.

1. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.29.

2. "Wasa'il", vol.3, p.26.

3. There is clearly a difference between laws made by people or a low making body and Allah's Laws. If a person wants to follow the laws of a country, one can play a bit with them. "The Law such and such and I did not do that" But when it comes to Allah's Law there is a difference and one's intention is known.

Adopted from the book : "On the Islamic Hijab" by : "Murtaza Mutahhari"

Share this article

Comments 0

Your comment

Comment description