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Other Exceptions Referred to in the Holy Qur'an about Hijab

Now we will discuss the other exceptions, some relates to the extent of the hijab. There is another exception which relates to the number of individuals. Some have no debate and othes require a bit of explanation. The phrase, "reveal not their adornment", appears twice and both times it is accompanied by an exception. The first time it relates to the extent of the hijab and that which is not necessary to cover. The second relates to people before whom it is not necessary to cover, including those that are not exceptions, such as hair neck, chest, etc.

It first says, "Reveal not their adornment except such as is outward", I have explained this. "To cast their veil over their bosoms." We have also explained this. Again, "Reveal not their adornment except to their husband ..." There is nothing which is obligatory to cover before a woman's husband "..., their fathers, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, their brother's children and their sister's children." It is clear up to here. There is no debate about the relations mentioned. But, the, for more relations are mentioned and there is a discussion as to what is meant. "Or their women or what their owned women or such men who attend to them not having sexual desire or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts."

Does "or their women" mean all women? Or only Muslim women? Or women who live in their home and serve them? The third is highly unlikely and the possibility should not even be allowed that it be this because it makes no sense that among all women it only refers to women who work in their house. It would mean they would need to cover before women who are not their servants and clearly this is not so. One of the things which is certain from the beginning of Islam is that a woman is mahram to another woman. Thus one of the first two possibilities remain. First their women refers to all women. Thus there is no woman who is not mahram for another woman. But, if it is the second one, that is, Muslim women, then non-Muslim women are not mahram.

Of course this is something for which perhaps some have issued a religious edict about but it is not this way. Some say it is haram for a Muslim woman to become naked before a non-Muslim woman. The reason is that it is not permitted for any woman to describe the body of another woman for her husband; This duty itself is sufficient for Muslim women but other women do not follow this for it is permitted for a Muslim woman to uncover herself before them and show her body to them. It is either obligatory or approved for a Muslim woman not to become naked before a non-Muslim woman who may go to her own husband and describe the Muslim woman's physical qualities. At any rate, this is disapproved. It is difficult to say if it is forbidden because the verse itself does not say directly. 'Muslim women', Or what their "owned ones" is more difficult. Here there are two possibilities. One is that female slaves are referred to. That is, it is not necessary for women to cover themselves from their female slaves or that it is not necessary for women to cover themselves from their slaves even if it be a male. This would mean that a male salve is mahram. Of course, this should not seem strange. If this were to be considered strange, stranger than this is that it is absolutely not obligatory for female slaves. That is, a female slave does not need to cover her head before anyone, her master or anyone else.

Here the verse refers to a woman and her own male slaves. If a woman has a male slave, is it obligatory for her to relate to him as a mahram or a non-mahram? This is one of those places where the traditions and the external form of the verse dictates that it is not obligatory to cover but the religious edicts lack harmony in this area. We say 'external form' of the verse because it is very difficult to consider female slaves in this verse. What about the female slaves of others? Her husband's female slaves? Others? What about women who are not female slaves? No. We could say other women are included in 'their women'. If we allow that it be related to free women, the meaning would be that among female slaves, only her own female slave are mahram.

See where this would lead to. Female slaves are mahram for men but a free woman has to cover herself from these very slave women. It is clear that this is not so. The verse means both male and female slaves. The reason is clear. Since the male slaves work inside the house and covering before them would cause great difficulty, the are mahram. There are a great many traditions to this effect.
"Or such men as attend to them, not having sexual desire", are men who have no designs on women, men who are impotent and have no need for women. It is like mentally retarded individuals who do not distinguish these things. Another possibility has been given by commentators. Some have said those who have no physical needs for women include the eunuchs and they are mahram. There are many traditions to this effect. They were allowed within the harems and were considered as women because they had no sexual need for women.

Some have said that this also includes the poverty stricken and needy. What was the criterion? Those who said that the distinguish between the sexes and they do not comprehend the attractive force which exists in women, they are like children. Those who said it also included the eunuchs have said that the main emphasis is upon 'lack of sexual need'. That is, the criterion is not being retarded but rather not having the sexual need for women. Those who said it includes the needy and poverty-stricken have said those who have no physical need for women. They are like the eunuchs or if not eunuch, they are under such circumstances that they have forgotten sexual desires. Of course, it is very unlikely that this latter group be accepted. It is clear that there are mentally ill who have no sense of discernment. The highest form would be those who become like a neunch.

"Or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts". Does this mean the children of the ages of 7 or 8 or 10? Or does it mean children who still do not have power, that is, have not reached puberty? The second has been taken by the religious jurisprudents and edicts issues accordingly. Until the time of puberty, they are mahram and after that time they are not mahram.

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

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