Hijab - The Reality Behind The Veil
This is a short article adopting a question-answer pattern to explain the concept of veil in Islam. For those who avoid religious discussions, let me just say that this is no longer a religious issue. it has become a social, political and economic crisis, which can only be solved through the individual understanding of Islam and its values. It is important for people to learn to differentiate between the message of media and the message of Allah, in order to construct harmonious relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims, with Islam being the fastest growing religion in the world.
What is hijab?
The word "hijab" comes from the Arabic word "hajaba" meaning to hide from view or conceal. In today's world, it means the veil worn by Muslim women.
However, it is important to note that the concept of hijab is not limited to the covering of body parts. It relates to covering all parts of the human intelligence which can be polluted by evil. For instance, there is hijab of the eye (protecting oneself from seeing evil), hijab of the mouth (refraining from saying wrong, lies, slandering, backbiting, etc), hijab of the ears (protecting oneself from listening to evil such as profanities) and hijab of the heart/soul (protecting oneself from imagining and thinking ill and wrong). In this regard, Muslim men and women both are to wear hijab, but physical hijab is different for both genders keeping in view their needs and responsibilities in the Muslim society.
For a Muslim man, the awrah (i.e. the body parts which should remain covered) is from the navel to the knee. He cannot expose his awrah to any woman or man save his wife.
For a Muslim woman, the awrah is the entire body except the hands up to the wrists and the face (there is dissent in this regard, some say the mouth should also be covered, but regardless of the fact a woman may cover her mouth or not, as she wishes).
The dress should meet five other criteria (for both sexes): 2) It should not be so glamorous as to attract the opposite sex, 3) It should not be so tight fitting that it reveals the figure, 4) It should not be transparent so that one can see the body parts that are to be covered, 5) It should not resemble the dress of the opposite sex and 6) it should not resemble the dress of the Non-Muslims.
The entire subject is summarized eloquently in the following two verses:
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss." (Chapter 24, Verses 30 and 31)
Those exempted from the limits of hijab are still not free to see any part of the female's body.
The limitations increase in ascending order i.e. the husband is free to see any part of the woman, while the father and following persons are not to be treated in this way. Muslim women are to cover their heads and bosoms for the following list of men, with the magnitude of ornaments and beautification decreasing as the subjects proceed.
In case of close females, the awrah is from the navel to knee.
Why has hijab been enforced on the Muslim women?
The Quran answers the question directly and briefly in the following words:
"O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Chapter 33, Verse 59)
The two main reasons for the obligation of hijab are 1)They should be known/recognized as Muslim women, like the distinguishing mark for Muslim men is beard, 2)They would be safe from molestation. To prove the second reason, I'll take the example of USA. According to a FBI report, in the year 1990, every day on an average 1756 cases of rape were committed in USA alone. Later another report said that on an average everyday 1900 cases of rapes are committed in USA. The year was not mentioned. Similar figures have been reported by the US
Department of Justice. It is not a surprise that the rape rate is highest in USA. But if one plays with logic, if all women in USA started wearing hijab, would the rape rate increase or decrease? Is lewd dressing going to encourage a man to tease a woman, or otherwise? Tackle with common sense, friends.
It is for this marked reason, why hijab is enforced on women.
Why is hijab compulsory, why not an option like for nuns?
Following rules is not an option, and maintaining peace is not an option. Since hijab is a law for maintaining peace, it is in turn not an option. It is foolish to give me an option to get raped and not get raped, provided all other conditions are equal. Every women who is a Muslim is supposed to wear hijab, it is a social reform which requires attendance.
Why is hijab a symbol of subjugation and oppression?
That is because of the media and misrepresentation of islam by certain Muslims themselves.
The Quran and the Sunnah (life of the Prophet [PBUH]) do not promote subjugation through hijab, but freedom. It is important to note why women wear dresses which attract attention. It may be for these reasons:
1) To get praised, grab attention. Islam refutes extravagance and show off, and attempting to gain praise is an evil in Islam.
2) To get the opposite sex to be attracted to you, thus finding a spouse. Islam considers the physical and sexual value of companionship as the lowest priority, so where western women have their first impression as their beauty and make-up talents, Muslim women have it as their intelligence and character, which is more important in any association.
3) For self-satisfaction. If someone dresses up to be satisfied, then it is a sign that he/she does not recognize Allah's love for His creatures. One should be happy with his/her beauty, because Allah knows and wants best for us.
Thus, hijab is not subjugation, it is liberation. Nowadays women are mere statues of beauty and sexual attraction. Islam nullifies such importance and values the intelligence and character instead, which everyone can attain.
Do you wear hijab?
I'm deeply sorry, that was not my intention.
I have to debate on this.
PM or comments are welcome.
For an online Quran, refer to www.searchtruth.com
For a detailed and alternative explanation on this topic, refer to http://www.peacetv.in/faq01.php (Question 3)
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