Rafed English

The Economic Reason of Development of Hijab

Another reason given for the hijab is that they have said that the hijab developed because of economics, and of corse, it was to exploit women. As a result of this it is unjust. They came and divided things this way. They said history shows that there have been for ears in the relations between men and women, including the present age.

The first age of humanity, according to this view, was a communal age with refrence to sex. That is, essentially no family life existed. The second era, then, was the ear of ownership by man. The third era was the age when women rose in objection to men and the fourth era is the era of equality of rights between men and women.

The first era, the communal age, they say, relates to prehistory. The era of ownership is the longest era that history has recorded where man dominated over woman and they identify Islam as an example of this era. The third era, which is known as the era of rebellion, occured in the second half of the 19th century. The fourth era is the one which more or less has appeared or is appearing. It is the era of seeking complete equality between men and women's rights.

It is clear that these eras were developed from what others said about economics which refers to the various eras of humanity with the first era being communal, then the feudal era, the era of capitalism and the era of communism. That which they have mentioned as to the economic causes for the appearance of the hijab does not relate whatsoever to these economic stages mentioned by others.
These four stages expressed in this manner are all erroneous. There are no facts regarding the first era which they mention as being communal. There is no evidence that family life did not exist from the very beginning.

We do not intend to go into detail about these ages but simply to refer to the fact that they say the hijab relates to the era when men dominated over women. If we do not accept that era, they say that it resulted from men being the intermediator for women: A man hired a woman for his own purposes. He kept her in his home to do his work. He left some of his work for a woman to do for him. This was similar to when they imprisoned slaves and prevented them from leaving to better perform the work of their master. Men saw that it would be to their advantage to put women behind a curtain and prevent their comings and goings so that they would better undertake the work of the house which had been given to them to do. Thus, men did this in order for them to have hired women from the economic point of view and to have turned them into an instrument. Otherwise there was no reason to do such a thing. Wherever the hijab has appeared, it was accompanied by such a situation of the employing of women by men to work in the house.

Is it true that this reason existed in those places in the world where the hijab appeared? We do not deny that perhaps in some corners of the world this situation existed. If men prevented women from leaving their home and prevented others from seeing them in whatever from, if men imprisoned women, the roots of such a cause might have been economic. However we are discussing Islam. Islam, on the one hand, established and brought the hijab and, on the other, very directly stated something which is among the very clear aspects of Islam which is that a man has absolutely no right to gain economically from a woman. A woman has economic independence. Great emphasis has been given to this issue.

That is, a man has no right to benefit economically in any way whatsoever from a woman. The jobs of a woman belong to her. If, within the home itself, work is given to a woman to do if she so desire. But if a woman was to say, "No, I won't do that", a man has no right to force her to do it.

A woman is free in whatever work she does. In the first place, she has a right to refuse; a man has no right to order her to do something. Secondly, if she says, "I will do this for such and such a wage", she has a right to receive a wage, in the case of nursing her child, for instance. Even though a mother has priority to nurse her own child, she still has a right to obtain a wage for it. Her priority is in the sense that if another woman wanted to nurse her child and says "I will take 1'000 rials a month to nurse the child", the mother herself says, "I will not take more than 1'000 rials a month", then the mother has priority to nurse the child unless the other woman, for some reason, is more suitable.

A woman has a right to work outside the home as long as it does not harm the family environment. Whatever she earns belongs to her alone, no matter what legitimate work, she performs.

It must be clearly recognized, then, that Islamic precepts do not intend for the hijab to be a means to economically exploit women. If this had been the intention, the rulings would have reflected this. For instance, the precepts would have stated that a man has the right to employ his wife in his home and a woman must wear the hijab. Then these two things would have been connected. A system which states that a man has no right to exploit a woman but, on the other hand, that same system has established the hijab, clearly, then, did not establish the hijab to exploit women.

We do not think, either, that this reason was a very major one for wherever in the world the hijab existed but some Iranians who have written against the laws of Islam have greatly stressed this point. That is, they say in order for men to be able to keep women in their homes to exploit them and to turn them into their own tools, they imprisoned them. This is one reason they have given and as we have stated, this reason in no way conforms with Islam.

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

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