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What is the Philosophy of Covering (part 2)?

Adopted from the book "Woman" by : Mahdi Mahrizi

If the world nowadays has some kind of freedom and liberation in clothes, but no one has liberalised immodesty and unchastity, then regional and world regulations emphasising on prevention of indecent acts and offences continue to be valid and in force. 171 And still the statistics show that men be averse, in nature, to unchastity. 172

The purpose intended of all this being to show that modesty is a human quality that can be proposed for mankind, regardless of any cultural or religious tendency. Although in some cultures and schools the ground for approving and manifesting it being easier.

Humans, in their nature and instinct, and according to structure of their existence, have inclination to this habit. And this quality, like all other qualities and values, has capability to development and growth, meaning that all people possess its inward grounding, though it cannot reach actuality with one degree in all people. It is like truthfulness or honesty which is instinctively sought by man, and capable of development and extension as a positive quality and human value, but all people can never be at one level of truthfulness and honesty. Hence, man's practical violation to these qualities and recession on stages of life, can never do harm to perfection of these virtues, or derogate their instinctiveness. Rather many violators make confession to their deviation in behaviour, depriving themselves of this maturity.

This subject can be expounded through other words and expression. Man has several instincts that should, whether desired or detested, knowingly or unknowingly, be satiated, as they are like engine of life that all the time needs revision and reinforcement. Because these instincts are tantamount to engine and power for living, so it is improper to say about them to be bad manifestations in life of man.

These instincts being so necessary for organism of our life, as through them we can discern the right and the unright. On this basis, the probability saying that the human instincts, which are origin of all life activities, being an obstacle on the way of humanity of man and so they should be taken away, would not be a logical matter. That which is indicated by exigency of logic and Divine wisdom, being that these instincts should be controlled and overpowered by human character and resolution. And if these instincts be exploited without control or restraint, the human soul will take the mien of a commanding soul "to evil" that would not know a reality other than desire and passing fancy. While when being controlled and restrained by man's strong will, these very instincts would acquire a human sublime aspect and help man in strengthening an ideal life.

In other words, the sexual instinct is as necessary as life itself. But if these vital instincts be set at liberty, the human character would be definitely brought to naught, or rather man would not be there so as to say: Does he have personality or not?

The conclusion we get is that shyness and chastity, as a human quality, being the foundation for relations between woman and man in view of the Islamic culture. And the issues of clothes and their attachments come in the course of safeguarding and developing this virtue. Then forbidding "women" from displaying charms and intercoursing with men was made in accordance to this philosophy.

The holy Quran has made a reference to this innate virtue, in the story of creation of Adam and Eve, when talking about their eating of the forbidden tree:

"Then he instigated them both by deceit so when they tasted "of" the tree their shameful things got displayed unto them, and they both began covering themselves with the leaves of the Garden..." "7:22"

In continuation of these verse "verse 26" there is a reference to sending down of a raiment to cover the privy parts, with a mention of enmity of Satan to man through stripping off the raiment of Adam and Eve "verse 27".

"O children of Adam! Let not Satan involve you into affliction as he got your parents out, from the garden "of the blissful life" stripping off their raiment, that he may expose unto them their shame;..." "7:27"

Praising Yousif's chastity in dealing with Egyptian women, he quotes his speech in this way: "Said he: "O my Lord! The prison is dearer to me than that unto which they invite me; and if Thou turneth not away from me their guile I may yearn unto them and become of the ignorant ones." "12:33"In other verses there is emphasis on shyness and chastity of Shu'ayb's daughters in social relations and their way of walking and behaviour as in the following Quranic verse:

"And when arrived he at the water of Madyan, he found on it a group of men "watering their flocks" and found he besides them two women keeping back "their flocks"; said "Moses": "What aileth you?" Said the two "women" "We cannot water until the shepherds take away "their sheep from the water", and our father is very old." "28:23"

These daughters recognise and consider shyness and chastity in time of being engaged in work and activity and presence on arena of social activities.

Also these very daughters showed a polite way of walking and modest behaviour:

"Then came unto him one of the two women walking bashfully..." "28:25"

In this very episode virtuousness of Moses"A" is reiterated, as in some narrations, thus: "Moses said to the daughter: Show me the right way and move "walk" behind me, as we children of Jacob, never look at the posterior parts of women." 173

Likewise it "the holy Quran" praises chastity of Mary"A" in this way:

"And "O Mohammed! remember" her "Mary" who guarded her chastity, therefore We breathed into her Our Spirit, and We made her and her son a sign unto all peoples." "21:91"

The holy Quran regards guarding the modesty to be one of characteristics of the believers, giving orders to the prophets to bid the believing men and women to lower their gaze, as in the following verse:

"Say thou "O Our Apostle Mohammed!" unto the believing men that they cast down their gaze and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; Verily God is All­Aware of what they do. And say unto the believing women that they cast down their gaze and guard their private parts..." "24:30, 31"In these verses the philosophy of this prescription, the development and nurture of man being regarded to be confined in self­restraint and guarding the private parts. 174

The holy Quran prescribes those who cannot afford for marriage to observe continence, as in this verse:

"And let them be in continence, those find not means to marry until God of His grace maketh free from want..." "24:33"

Concerning the aged women "past child bearing" though there being no rigid restriction upon them regarding covering and clothes, but observing continence is better for them "verse 60 of surat An­Noor".

For manifesting its objectives in these fields, the holy Quran uses terms like chastity, bashfulness, fortification, lowering the gaze and guarding the private parts.

Chastity "continence" is used with the meaning of self­preservation and controlling and restraining the self. 175Shyness is used with the meaning of contraction and self­abstaining.176

Fortress "hisn" means fortified and inviolable region and also is used to mean continence and chastity "abstinence". 177

Ghazz means lowering and decreasing the gaze not closing the eyes. This meaning was affirmed by Martyr Mutahhari through many evidences in his book Mas'alah hijaab. 178

Out of the above­mentioned verses we can conclude the following results:

· Chastity and bashfulness have no relation to history or certain era, as human beings have been observing and abide by them since the beginning of creation.

· Chastity and shyness being a human quality, that does not specially belong to men or women. But innate nature and intellect of man reflect them, the fact regarding which no difference is there between woman and man.

· Chastity and bashfulness do not necessitate sitting home behind veils, but they be compatible with the social activities, as was pointed out in the story of Shu'ayb's daughters.

· Chastity itself being a means having effect in attaining to maturity and good development, as propounded in verses 30 and 31 of surat An­Noor.

The word "purer" "azkah" which is used in these two verses, is repeated three times in the holy Quran, two of which being among these verses, and third one being in surat al­baqarah, verse 232, which is also related to family connections between wife and husband.

In these three verses, guarding the private parts, chastity and returning to renewed life after separation and divorce were considered a means for purification and development.

Al­'Allamah At­Tabataba'i is reported to have said: Islam is a religion of Zakaat, purification "tahaarah" and knowledge. And objective of the Prophet"S" was introduced in several verses to be purification and teaching. 179

Then legislation of rules and enacting of laws being for the reason that man can attain to this development, purity and awareness, as indicated in these verses. All prophets struggled and concentrated their efforts on fulfilling these aims. The Prophet Moses"A" has invited Pharaoh to this purification and development:

· "And say "unto him": "Hast thou "a desire" to cleanse thyself "of thy disbelief"." "79:18"

The Messenger of Allah"S" used to gather alms from people so as to cleanse and purify them "from sins":

· "Take thou alms out of their wealth, thou wouldst cleanse them and purify them thereby." "9:103"Ultimately the delivered man will be that who attained to purification:

· "Indeed be "alone" succeedeth who purifieth himself." "87:14"

In short, man's perfection, in view of the Quran, lies in purification and full awareness. And chastity plays a good role in achieving one of these three ideals, which is purification "tazkiyah". And what violates and traverses chastity of women, in perspective of the Quran, being Tabarruj "adornment and displaying the charms", which is set forth for discussion in the form of an address to the Prophet's wives:

· "And stay ye in your abodes and display not your finery like the display of the ignorance of yore..." "33:33"

Interpreters of the word "tabarruj" took it to have several different meanings like: walking "of women" among men, uncovering the necklace, ear­ring and neck, walking with coquetry "amorous gest", displaying the finery and charms whose covering is obligatory, and manifesting those charms that stimulate and excite lust of men... and alike. 180

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