The Philosiphical Reason of Development of Hijab
- :Shahid Mutahhari
Social commentators have often presented their deductions for the appearance of the hijab centred around the idea that even in the first principles of nature, no covering or evil has been made to come between males and females. They say that there is no place in nature; where a curtain or veil appears between the male and female sex, for the female sex to be set aside behind a curtain, and to wear a covering.
It would appear that there are five reasons given for the appearance of the hijab. The philosophical reason centres on the tendency towards asceticism and struggling with pleasure in an effort to subdue the ego. The main source for this thought is perhaps India where a barrier was created between men and women through the pursuance of asceticism because a woman is the highest form of lustful pleasure giving. If men were to mix freely with women, according to this idea, a man would mainly pursue this and his society would remain undeveloped in other ares. Therefore, he had to struggle to conquer his own soul by denying it enjoyment of sexual pleasures.
Other things which, like women, cause lust to arise within the human being are also struggled against such as the resistance towards cleanliness or encouragement of messiness and filth. Do not think that some people chose this because of carelessness on their part or because of recklessness or lack of concern. It was rooted in a philosophy which confirmed and even extended it. As Bertrand Russell mentions in his book, "Marriage and Ethics", in the early stages of Christianity, this kind of thinking developed through St. Paul when celibacy received sanctity and moved a large number of people towards the wilderness to destroy satan. Then, he says that the Church even rose in opposition to taking a bath because the body leads sin. The Church applauded uncleanliness and a smelly body took on the smell of sanctity. According to St. Paul, cleanliness of the body opposed cleanliness of the spirit and lice came to be considered as 'pearls of God'.
Then it occured to me that having long hair among the saints (darwesh), who, as you know, practised asceticism and kept distance from women, was for this very reason. They say that in the past, whether or not it is true, whosoever shortened or cut the hair of the body, that person's sexual instincts were strengthened. Thus, with this reasoning, long hair would lessen sexual desires.
This idea existed in the past and perhaps it is true that if a person was to cut or shorten or shave all the hair on one's body, one would increase one's sexual desires. Then the Indians and he Sikhs who forbide the cutting of their hair could have been for this very reason; because they were seeking asceticism.
Some have said that the reason why the hijab was found in the world, in an absolute sense, was because the idea of asceticism appeared. Then they ask why asceticism was found or began to develop among people. They have mentioned two reasons for this.
First, because among the deprived class, there were people who carried on with women, had beloveds and then their beloveds were taken away from them, a kind of hatred for women suddenly developed in them, in particular, where women themselves conspired against them. That is, this hatred developed against them. Thus, this hatred developed against teh women. They essentially began to seek celibacy and asceticism and would propagate to the extent possible against women. This they developed as a philosophy of the priests.
The second reason given for the appearance of desire for asceticism is the opposite of the first. Persons who were very extreme in their sexual practices, an extent which even exceeded the limits of nature and persons who turned to drugs or stimulators or things so that they were continuously stimulated in one way or another, would suddenly turn away from sex. It can be seen in human nature that sometimes when on does something to an extreme limit then turns comletely away from it, even if it is pleasurable. If something is imposed, a revulsion towards it can develop. At the end of their lives, they develop a hatred for sexual activity. History, more or less, confirms this in the lives of sultans who had spent their lives in carnal pleasures and harems. At the end of their lives, because of the extremity of their behaviour a hatred for it developed within them. They say it produced immense exhaustion within them and created a sense of antagonism and rivalry against women.
At any rate, they say that the hijab and the barrier between men and women was caused by the appearance of the idea of seeking asceticism. The materialists who wanted to justify asceticism and ascetic practices said that it was for one of these two reasons.
As to these two reasons, we do not say that none of these existed in the world. They could have been and these causes might have had these effects but Islam, as we will mention later, established the hijab. It did not exist during the Age of Ignorance in Arabia. We have to see whether or not these causes have been mentioned in Islam and have been given as proof or other reasons have been given for it. Does this precept conform with other Islamic precepts? Does the Islamic spirit of asceticism conform with the concept of asceticism which we have mentioned? We will see that Islam has never presented this point of view and, as a matter of fact, Islam has struggled greatly against this view. Even non-Muslims agree that Islam never promoted asceticism and ascetic practices. the concept that began among Hindus and extended to Christianity did not exist in Islam.
It is clear that whatever Islam brought to the concept of the hijab, this reason was not one of them. Islam has emphasized cleanliness. Rather than considering lice to be God's pearls, it said, "Cleanliness stems from faith." The Holy Prophet saw a person whose hair was disheveled, whose clothes were dirty and he presented a bad appearance. He said, "Pleasure and taking advantage of God's blessings is part of religion."1
The Holy Prophet (S.A.) said, "The worst servants of God are those who are dity."2 Amir al-Mu'minin Ali (A.S.) said, "God is beautiful and He loves beauty."3 Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said, "God is beautiful and He loves His creatures to emblish themselves and reflect their beauty. The reverse is also true. He considers poverty and pseudo-poverty to be enemies. If God has given you a blessing, the effect of that blessing must be shown in your life." They asked him, "How should the blessing of God be shown?" He said, "By the clothes of a person being clean, smelling good, whitening their house with stucco, sweeping in front of their house and lighting their lamps before sunset which will add to its splendour."4
In the oldest books we have available such as Kafi, which has been for one thousand years, there is a section called Bab al Ziyye Wat Tajammul. Here Islam hs strongly emphasized combing the hair, keeping it short, making use of perfumes and oiling one's hair.
In order to perform their worship better and in order to gain greater spiritual pleasures, a group of companions of the Holy Prophet left their wives and children. They fasted during the day and performed worship at night. As soon as the Holy Prophet learned of this, he prevented them from continuing, saying, "I, who am your leader, do not do this. I fast on some days and on others, I do not. I worship a part of the night and I spend other parts of it with my wives." This group then asked the Prophet's permission to castrate themselves. The Holy Prophet did not give his permission. He said that this was forbidden in Islam.
One day three women went to the Prophet. They complained about their husbands. One said that her husband did not eat meat. Another said that her husband shunned perfume. The third said that her husband distanced himself from her. The Prophet of God suddenly become angry, threw down his cloak, left his house and went to the mosque. He went upon the minbar and cried out, "What should be done with a group of my friends who put meat, perfume and woman aside? I myself eat meat, I smell perfume and I receive pleasure from my wives. Whoever objects to my methods is not from among me."5
The command was given to shorten the length of dress because the custom among the Arabs was to wear dresses which were so long that they swept the streets. Because of cleanliness, one of the first verses revealed to the Holy prophet was, "And thy garments, keep free from stain."6
Also, the encouragement to wear white clothes is, first of all, because of beauty and secondly, because of cleanliness, White clothes show off dirt sooner. This has been indicated in the traditions. When the Holy Prophet wanted to meet his companions, he would first look in a mirror, comb his hair, and check his appearance. He said, "God loves His servants who when they are going to see their friends make themselves ready and beautiful."7 That is, "wear white clothes because they are more beautiful and cleaner".
The Holy Quran says that the creation of means of embellishment are among the kindnesses that God shows His creatures and it severely criticizes those who deny themselves the beauties of this world. The Holy Quran says, "Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of God which He has produced for His servants and the things, clean and pure, (which He has provided) for sustenance?"8
Islamic traditions say that the pure Imams consistently debated with the Sufis and referrring to this very verse of the Holy Quran, invalidated their deeds.9
The legitimate pleasures which spouses receive from each other are considered to be blessings in Islam, among the Divine rewards. It is perhaps difficult for foreigners to understand this concept and perhaps they reflect to themselves, "How strange that they call this filthy act, a blessing, a spiritual reward!" It is surprising for a Hindu or a Christian to realize how much spiritual reward there is in performing the ceremonial washing (ghusl) after sexual intercourse and washing away the sweat which had been created in this act.
Islam has placed many limitations on the issues but within the area that has been limited, not only does it not forbid it, but it encourages it and it has even introduced the kindness and compassion of women as being among the qualities upheld by God's prophets.
There is a tradition in Wasa'il, "Within the nature of the prophets in their love of woman ...10 The Holy Prophet straightaway forbids the seeking of asceticism and ascetic practices at the beginning of Islam, practices which may have been in limitation of monks. What a great encouragement has been given to women. In the same way that they are encouraged to limit their contacts with men who are not their husbands, they are encouraged to adorn themselves for their husbands. A woman who does not do so is even cursed; a woman must make herself beautiful for her husband. At the same time, husbands are encouraged to cleanliness.
Hasan ibn Jahm said, "I went to see Musa ibn Ja'far, peace be upon him, and saw that he has used (hair dye) on his hair. I said, "have you made use of hena? He said, "Yes. A man's use of hena and well dressing up increases the chastity of his wife. Some women lose their chastity because their husbands do not dress up well for them."11
In another tradition of the Holy Prophet, one of the reasons he gives for the Jewish women who were committing adultery was becuase their husbands were so filthy that their wives sought men who were clean and well-groomed.12
'Uthman ibn Maz'un was one of the recorders of the traditions of the Holy Prophet. He wanted to put this world aside in limitation of the monks and forbid himself sexual pleasures. His wife went to the Holy Prophet and said, "O Prophet of God, 'Uthman fasts every day and he gest up every night for prayer." The Holy prophet became angry and went to him. 'Uthman was performing his ritual prayer. The Prophet waited until his ritual prayer ended. he then said, "O 'Uthman, God has not sent me to institute monasticism and asceticism. God has sent me to introduce the Divine Law which is primordial and simple and to tell about returning to Him. I perform my ritual prayers, I fast and I also have relation with my wives. Whosoever loves religion which coincides with my primorial nature must follow what I do. Marriage is one of my customs."13
Clearly this philosophy of asceticism cannot be attributed to Islam. This philosophy might have existed in some places in the world but it does not conform to Islam.
1. "Wassail al-shi'ah", vol.1, p.277.
2. Wassail, vol.1, p.277.
3. Wassail, vol.1, p.277.
4. Wassail, vol.1, p.278.
5. Wasaa'il, vol.3, p.14, Muhammad Ibn Ya'qub Kulayni, "Kafi", vol.5, p.496.
6. Quran 74 : 4.
7. Wasa'il, vol.1, p.280.
8. 7 : 32
9. Wasa'il, vol.1, p.279
10. Wasa'il, vol.3, p.3.
11. Kafi, vol.3, p.3.
12. Nahj al-Fusaha.
13. "Kafi", vol.5, p.494.
Adopted from the book : "On the Islamic Hijab" by : "Murtaza Mutahhari"
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