The Real Visage of the Hijab (modest dress)
By: Martyr Ayatollah Murtuda Mutahhari
The fact is that the covering or its new expression, hijab, is not concerned with whether or not it is good for a woman to appear in society covered or uncovered . The point is whether or not a woman and a man's need of her should be a limitless, free association or not.
Should a man have the right to satisfy his needs with every woman and in every place short of committing adultery?
Islam, which looks at the spirit of the problem, answers: No. Men are only allowed to satisfy their sexual desires with their legal wives within a marital situation based upon the laws of marriage which establish a series of heavy commitments. It is forbidden for men to have any physical relations with women they are not related to by marriage.
It is true that the question externally appears to be, "What should a woman do?" Must she leave her home covered or uncovered? That is, the person about whom the question is raised is a woman and the question is often expressed in very heart-rending tones, "Is it better for a woman to be free or condemned and imprisoned in the modest dress?" But something else lies at the root of the question. That is, should men be free to take sexual benefit from women in any way they choose short of committing adultery or not? That is, the one who benefits here is a man and not a woman or at least a man benefits more than a woman does. As Will Durant has said, "The mini-skirt is a blessing for everyone in the world except cloth merchants."
So the depth of the question is whether or not the seeking of sexual pleasure should be limited to the family environment and legal wives or is the freedom of seeking sexual fulfillment something that should be satisfied in society at large? Islam defends the first theory. According to Islamic precepts, limiting sexual desires to the family environment and legal wives helps to maintain the mental health of the society. It strengthens the relationships between the members of the family and fosters the development of a perfect harmony between a husband and wife. As far as society is concerned, it keeps and preserves energies to be then used for social activities and it causes a woman to attain a higher position in the eyes of man.
The philosophy of the Islamic 'covering' depends on several things. Some of them are psychological and some relate to the home and the family. Others have sociological roots and some of them relate to raising the dignity of a woman and preventing her debasement.
The modest dress in Islam is rooted in a more general and basic issue. That is, Islamic precepts aim at limiting all kinds of sexual enjoyment to the family and the marital environment within the bounds of marriage so that society is only a place for work and activity. It is opposite of the Western system of the present era which mixes work with sexual enjoyment. Islam separates these two environments completely.
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