The Psychological Reason of Development of Hijab
- :Shahid Mutahhari
Some people believe that the hijab and staying at home are based on psychological reasons and that women have had an inferiority complex towards men from the very beginning. This feeling is based on two reasons: one is that some women think they lack something organic in the bleeding during their monthly menstruation and following childbirth.
The monthly period was considered to be a kind of deficiency in ancient times. That is why women were isolated during their monthly period and everybody avoided associating with them.
Perhaps that was the main reason for asking the Holy Prophet a question on this subject. God revealed a special verse in answer to this question. The Quran does not say that menstruation is something deplorable and that a woman is to be isolated during this time and that no one shouls associate with her. It says that it is a kind of harm leaving the body and during this time, they should not have sexual intercourse. It does not say that they should not associate with each other. "They ask you about menstruation. Say, "It is a kind of harm. Do not have sexual intercourse with woman at this time". According to the Quran, it is a kind of harm like many others and it is far from being deplorable.
Abu Dawud related a tradition of the Holy Prophet: "Ibn Malik said that the Jewish people used to send their wives out of their home when they were menstruating. They did not eat with them and did not drink water from their glass. They did not remain in the same room with them either. For this reason, the Prophet was asked about this and the above verse descended. The Prophet forebade the isolation of women at this time and said, "Nothing is forbidden except sexual intercourse."1
According to Islam, the menstruating woman is mohdis, that is, a person who does not perform the partial or total ritual ablution. Such a person is deprived from performing the ritual prayer and fasting. Every hadas is a kind of ritual impurity ablution. By this we mean that the state of menstruation is like the state of having had a wet dream or sexual intercourse, etc. But this ritual state is not special for women and it is removed by partial or total ritual ablution.
Many ideas have been expressed about the fact that women have a sort of deficiency in their feelings and because of this, both men and women thought that women were abased. Whether they are correct or incorrect, there is no relation between this and the philosophy of Islam about women and the hijab or 'covering'. Islamic precepts neither refer to menstruation nor the hijab as reasons to consider women lowly or abased.
These, then, are the five causes which others have more or less related and all five which are mentioned then be able to say that the hijab is no longer necessary or that from the very beginning it was unjust.
Can the hijab have another cause or not? May we offer the fact that the hijab in Islam has other reasons which do not compare to any of these five mentioned: the well-being of a person's 'self', family and society.
It is well known that the spirit of the human being, just like a person's body, can either be healthy or sick. What is the cause for its sickness? They have given many reason. One of the reasons mentioned is frustration, the failure to attain one's desires, deprivation or disillusionment.
Some people have suggested that these sexual frustrations arise from social limitations. With the removal of these limitations, all individuals will then succeed in the area of sexual affairs and sexual frustrations will disappear. This assumption was put forward but the drawbacks to it become quite apparent. It became clear that although it is true that sexual frustration causes psychological illnesses, it cannot be eliminated by the removal of the limits because if we remove social limits, we will only serve to further stimulate sexual urges. Thereby increasing demands which only lead to further disillusionment within the human being.
For instance, say that a human being had a limited number of demands, such as the demands in relation to food. Every society has a certain amount of demand for food. If a country has a population of 20 million, the amount of food required is clear. If their supply is greater than that, they cannot consume it. It should not be less but if it is more, they have to throw it away.
When demands are limited, they can be satisfied. Demands can even be decreased in relation to the supply but it has been proved that the demand of cretain things in human beings are unlimited. However much they are satisfied, the desire persists. Things which have a quality which are not solely physical are like this. For instance, in the area of material things, if we want to say how much food a society needs, we can estimate this but if we were to ask how much money a society needed, the demand would be unlimited.
We may ask, "How much wheat would it take to satisfy the people of Iran?" This is possible to estimate. But it is more difficult to estimate if we ask, 'How much money would satisfy the people of the country. If you give as much as possible to an individual, he would never say, "That's enough". Knowledge is also like this.
Many of the demands of human beings are rooted in unending human desires. When you relate to them, a person still says, "I want more". Wealth is also like this. It cannot be satiated. A tradition of the Holy Prophet relates to this. "There are two kinds of hunger which are never fulfilled, the hunger for knowledge and the hunger for wealth."2
Can one fulfil the ambition of a person? Can a society fulfil the ambition of a person? No. No matter what position a person is given, that person wants an even higher position. Even if you gave him the highest position, he still would not be satisfied. The reason for the development of ethics was because of this very things. That is, to regulate unending human desires which have created chaos and conflicts.
Sexual enjoyment is limited from the pysical point of view. A man can be satisfied from one woman, or, at the most, two. But from the point of view of attachment that a man and a woman develop even Russel, mentions the fact that the physical sex differs from the attachment which can result from it. When it takes on this quality, can it be fulfilled? Given a man who has fallen into this way, a man, for instance, who has a harem of a thousand beautiful women. If someone were to say to him, "There is a beautiful woman in such and such a place", would he then say, "No. I am satisfied with my harem and my relations with the women here". There is no question of ever being satiated.
It was because of this that they readily saw that the desire for sex is like wealth. It is insatiable. They came and gave another suggestion. The human being must be made to deviate from this way. A person must be placed upon an unending road, a road that leads nowhere. Freud suggested it. He first struggled against any kind of social limits and limitations. He then saw that giving people limitless sexual freedom created more difficulties and problems for them. It created far greater psychological disturbances. He said, "This spirit must be directed to other things so that it becomes preoccupied with art, literature, etc. because this way is impossible!" This spirit has to be allowed to develop without anything standing in its way.
Experience and statistics have shown that in the West where sexual freedom is very great and in some areas, there are no limitations, psychological illness are greater than is a society which has limitations. The greater the stimulation, the more the desires increase. They increase several times just like fire. Can a person satiate a fire with fuel? This clearly cannot be done.
They say that no matter how you try to prevent a human being from something, the great for it increase. This is true but the point of note is that the human being develops greed for something which is both forbidden and stimulated but if it is not offered or it is offerred less, the human being finds less desire for it. When it is stimulated it is impossible for everyone to satisfy it. When it is stimulated it is impossible for everyone to satisfy their desires for it no matter how much freedom they are given.
Thus, if there is a kind of limitation and sexual desires are to be satisfied within the marital environment, if society is to be the place of work and activity, if a woman does not have the right to stimulate sexual urges nor a man has the right to seek sexual fulfilment outside the marital environment, if it takes this form, the spirit and morale of people will clearly develop in a more healthy and wholesome way.
As to the family, efforts must be made so that, to the extent possible, marital relations become more and more intimate and whatever will weaken this relationship must be resisted. The limiting of sexual fulfilment to marriage, whatever kind of fulfilment it may be, causes the married couple to develop a more profound union because a man who know only his wife to be able to give him satisfaction and a woman who knows only her husband to be the source of her pleasure and happiness clearly will develop deeper and stronger ties.
For instance, some people ask why is it that the sexual relation of a man without a wife and a woman without a husband are forbidden outside of marriage? Why can they not have sexual relations? We accept the fact that there is a difference but note this point which appears to be very clear to me. In the recent past and in the present among societies which live according to Islamic law, a girl who reaches puberty is not free to take sexual enjoyment from every youth even though the instinctive desire exists. When a boy reaches puberty, a desire and inclination for the opposite sex develops but there are no means to satiate it.
From the beginning he is told, for instance, that he can marry when he reaches the age of 20 and the girl knows that she will marry in a few years. Marriage for them is a very sweet and pleasurable thing. Marriage is a fulfilment of desires after a time of deprivation. That is, sexual urges my not be satisfied outside of marriage. This boy who is facing a girl for the first time seeks her as the person who will satisfy his desires, bring him pleasure and happiness and the girl who faces the boy for the first time knowing he will bring her happiness and well-being, develop such emotions that are incomparable to anything else.
Marriage and the family centre is like this. When the satisfaction of sexual urges is forbidden outside this realm, it becomes the centre of happiness.
Thus this issue of forbidding the fulfilment of sexual activities outside of the family centre serves to strengthen family solidarity whereas allowing such possibilities outside the family centre separates the family. As we will come to point out, the Islamic hijab is nothing more than this; the limiting or restricting the sexual needs to marriage.
Now we will look at society. It has been said that the hijab paralyzes half of the society. I accept that if the hijab were that which they say existed among the Indians or that which existed in ancient Iran, this may be true. But the Islamic hijab does not say that a woman should be imprisoned nor does it say that a woman has no right to leave her home or to do a particular job which is of social or economic nature. Islamic precepts say, as we will read in the verses of the Holy Quran and in the traditions, that a woman who leaves her home does not have the right to leave in such a way that she stimulates other men or attracts and no man has the right to cast a lustful look towards a woman who leaves her home. This is a particular duty of men.
If a woman did not speak in stimulating tones in a social situation, if this did not happen, would boys and girls not study better? If boys did not have the right to flirt, would society not function better? If a woman is wearing the hijab and goes to buy something and the seller knows that this is not the place for games, which way is better? Clearly if there is the Islamic hijab, the human task force will most certainly perform with more efficiency and in this manner marketing activities will improve.
That which has been created clearly prevents work from progressing as it should. Students to not study; marketing activities have been made to deviate from their main purpose which is selling, quality goods. Instead they empty the pockets of people by showing a beautiful woman who is selling something. Men go to buy, not caring what the product is, to enable them to talk to her. Will this cause society to deviate?
Thus, from the point of view of work and social activity, the improvement of society dictates that it should not be the place for the stimulation or fulfilment of sexual urges and the Islamic hijab serves just this purpose.
1. "Sunan-e-Abi-Dawoud", Al-haid, p.32.
2. "Sunan-e-Al-daremi", Moqaddamah, p.32.
Adopted from the book : "On the Islamic Hijab" by : "Murtaza Mutahhari"
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