Rafed English

What is the Philosophy of Covering (part 1)?

Adopted from the book "Woman" by : Mahdi Mahrizi

Life of man is liable to develop and mature on two dimensions: material and moral. And acquiring knowledge and sciences, with fostering ethical and human traits all lie within the realm of spiritual perfections. Likewise, enjoying welfare, body health and training body organs come within the first division.

Man is one truth whose life has two extents. For this reason, perfection and deficiency are two inseparable elements. Body health is a requisite for soul health, which is in turn essential for good health of body. This point is becoming clearer than before, so bodily diseases are being cured through psychotherapy and spiritual treatment.

Realm of spiritual and material life, whatever it be, pertains to how human beings view existence, man and universe. Any diversity in these views has its impact on restraint and ease of human life. The evidence for this lies in the divergence and difference between objectives and way of living of human beings who lived before the modern scientific developments and those who lived after them.

Despite all this, we should not look at things in a way that by changing the views everything would change, with no common point is left whatsoever. But rather, as is said frankly before, these changes affect restraint and expansion of life, not creating two different and even antithetical lives.

Hence, despite that remarkable difference between human beings of present time and those of the past in regard of foundations and consequences, but their common points are not little in number, the fact leading to make the way for conversation, mutual understanding and consideration, open all the time.

In all these views self­knowledge and world­knowledge being something valuable, and spread of justice and service to other people is a recommendable act. All people venerate national champions and social reformers, regarding those killed on the way of national objectives as martyrs.

All these indicate that throughout all epochs, same general beliefs prevail among people, although some difference can be seen in their applicability and samples. These points constitute part of things called in Divine religions fitrah "nature", and so much emphasis upon them is made in Islam.

Chastity and bashfulness also being among these characteristics: Covering the front "private" parts was the usual habit of man, as the cave­dwellers used to cover themselves "veil the private parts" with tree leaves and animal skins, and so also the present world­dwellers.

It is out of scope here to refer to form, measure and way of emergence of this trait, but the original point in this regard being that this habit was always observed as a human virtue. Besides, coyness and chastity, being not confined in a certain period of history, though certain times and epochs can be specified for special certain mantles "costumes". And chastity is the spirit of the covering and mantle being its skeleton. Chastity is philosophy of the covering and covering is its guarantor "insurer".

Konfosios, the Chinese philosopher of the sixth century B.C., has said:

"One who can be considered man of culture is that who is honest in his conduct and behaviour with chastity in heart, and that who is delegated to other foreign countries as an ambassador, would never bring about means of shame to his king." 155

Barroukh Espinozah says:

"Even if we have no knowledge of eternity of our souls, still we would have given priority and importance to absteniousness and religion with all things I indicated in chapter four, that are relevant to magnanimity and dignity. 156

Even the adherents of Yang Choo, the famous Chinese atheist materialist philosopher, who lived in the epoch from fifth till third century B.C. and whose school in historical and philosophical literature is known with pleasure­seeking, said in his regard:

"The fact which should be kept in memory is that Yang Choo, though asking for sensual pleasures, but he withstood against extravagance and debauchery which are viewed by him and his school as desolater of man's nature." 157

Gandi once addressed the women saying: "Woman's true ornamentation being her character and her purity. The real ornamentation can never be in stones and metals. Rather it lies in purity of heart and soul beautifying, not in loading the body with stones and metals." 158

In all Divine religions so much emphasis and recommendation is made on chastity and modesty. The holy Quran has many times pointed out the women to this fact.

In treatise of Polis in Al­'Ahd Al­Jadeed, after recommending the men with supplication and fervent prayer, the following statement is recorded:

"They "men" also used to embellish their wives with clothes adorned with bashfulness and abstinence, not with ringlets, gold, pearls or expensive clothes. Rather they should invite their women who claiming religiosity, to good deeds." 159

In first Treatise of Botrous it is reported:

"The women are recommended not to attach any importance to external decorations for showing beauty, like dying the hair, using ornamentation materials and wearing costly clothes, but to inward adornments which never perish and having great value near God." 160

The translator of the book Taareekh Libas, which is dedicated for studying all the world clothes and costumes throughout five hundred years, says:

"Appearance of clothes was never something by coincidence or according to individual demand. But they emerged on basis of regional material and intellectual thoughts and demands of peoples, becoming a mirror fully indicating history of life of mankind." 161

Some experts made studies on relics and remains, historic inscriptions and prominent statues, concluding from them that coldness and heat never constituted the original cause of selecting the clothes but its cause was shyness and covering the privy parts. 162

In the book Taareekh Libas, whose author was an American researcher studied history of clothes till the year 1950, and which being a text­book taught in colleges, we find statement about all peoples and nations, manifesting in full details their clothes and costumes.

The topics of this book, which contained pictures of clothes, were taken according to its writer's claim, from coins, images, wall carpets, paintings and decorations left from old generations. 163

In the holy scripture "Bible" it is stated that during the lifetime of "Prophet" Solomon"A", the women used to wear veil on their faces beside the covering of the body. 164The same habit was commonly followed during the time of Prophet Abraham"A" too. It is reported that when fiancee of Ishaq "Rifqah" saw him for the first time, she put a veil "mask" on her face.165

Further, during various periods like Medes, Achamenian, Ashkaani, and Sassanid eras, the Iranian women used to wear certain covering "mantle".

During the Medes epoch, the women used to wear two­piece garment, 166 which was made of a piece of carpet belonged to the Achamenian epoch, in which the women used to wear a cape­like cloth on their heads, in a way similar to chaadur "large veil worn by women". 167

During the Ashkaani era, the women used to put on as a covering a long garment open in front "qabah" reaching to the kneels, with a cape thrown on the head and a mask "niqaab" which was usually brought to the back part of the head. 168

While during Sassanid rule the women were sometimes wearing a loose Chaadur, with a fence­like on the head, reaching to middle of the leg. The paintings representing the Sassanid women, designed on silver plates, show every and each woman wearing a Chaadur wrapped on her body. 169

All these quotations and historic reports confirm the view that shyness and modesty being among the causes of covering, and that the motive behind wearing mantle by man being not protection against coldness and heat or ornamentation and ostentation. Nevertheless, these motives can never be negated in regard of manner and kind of clothes.

The other point that can be obtained out of these quotations being that observing modesty and chastity between women and men differed proportionately to creation of every one of them. And women always used to wear more clothes than men. So if coldness and heat be the only stimulant, these differences would never be liable to analysis. Even beauty­seeking merely for showing off can never respond to them. The transition that came in sight through the past fifty years, especially in industrial countries, in regard of clothes had a special cause.

Some researchers have analysed this phenomenon in this way:

"With the beginning of the world war II, the war that shocked the structure of civilisation, the development of costumes took a revolutionary shape. Thenceforth clothes, which reflect the economical capability, political standpoint, cultural and social abilities, religious beliefs and official and traditional obligations, have been put under influence and domination of capitalist regime. In this system, clothes found another position, transforming to a merchandise that having a binary value. In other words, clothes could meet the human needs, with turning to an article for sale. Then they should, like any other article, give the maximum profits, and when they attain to this goal, time would not be convenient for them; As the articles should be capable of consumption for a long time, so as they can have the most extensive bazzar, that is the largest number of consumers and purchasers. 170

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