The Philosophy of Hijab – Part 2
The reasons for the Hijab being obligatory
Proving Hijab and coverage for ladies is possible from several angles, which include:
The Holy Quran, narratives from the infallibles (Imams) (PBUT), wisdom and logic. Each one of these proofs alone is enough to prove the necessity of Hijab for ladies.
- Islamic Hijab
One of the most important reasons for Hijab being obligatory is verse 31 of Al-Noor (Surah 24) in which God the Almighty states:
«وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ یَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَیَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا یُبْدِینَ زِینَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْیَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُیُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا یُبْدِینَ زِینَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاء بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاء بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِی إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِی أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَکَتْ أَیْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِینَ غَیْرِ أُوْلِی الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِینَ لَمْ یَظْهَرُوا عَلَى عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاء وَلَا یَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِیُعْلَمَ مَا یُخْفِینَ مِن زِینَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِیعًا أَیُّهَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّکُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ»
“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”
From this honorable verse, several tips can be used which are as follows:
- Abstinence from lustful gaze
- Hiding the genitals from others (This decree is obligatory for every Muslim man and woman)
- Hiding beauty and ornaments (except for what is ordinarily visible)
- Covering the head and neck
- Permission to show beauty and ornaments in front of close relatives or special individuals
- Hiding the genitals
The second command that God Almighty has stated, is covering the genitals. The intended purpose of this command, is to cover it from the being seen by others as Imam Sadiq (PBUH) states: “In every verse in the Quran where it speaks of guarding modesty, the intended purpose is protection from adultery, except for this verse, where its intended purpose is protection from being seen by others.” (15)
One of the matters that with the coming of Islam among Arabs became obligatory, is the matter of covering the genitals from others. Unfortunately, in the current civilized world as well, some westerners deny this.
For example, Russell in one of his books titled (Education and Discipline) recounts this covering of the genitals as one of the things that are part of illogical morality otherwise known as “taboo morality”.
He says why is it that parents insist on hiding their genitals from their children? This insistence itself causes the child to become curious. If the parents do not try to hide their genitals, this false curiosity would not be born. Parents should show their genitals to the children in order for them to know what is already there.
He then adds: They should at least get naked occasionally -like once a week – in the wilderness or in the shower and let their children see their genitals.
Russell considers hiding the genitals a “taboo”. “Taboo” is one of the subjects of sociology and is about fearful and illogical prohibitions that exist or existed among wild people. Those like Russell believe that common morality in today’s civilised world is also full of “taboos”!
It is strange that some individuals want to return to the ugliest and worst kinds of living, all in the name of civilisation or quenching the sense of curiosity.
God the Almighty, commands men to hide their genitals as well, and in verse 30 of Al-Noor (Surah 24) states: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…” and in continuing this philosophy and logic states: “that will make for greater purity for them” and this is in fact a response for old and new fools who consider these prohibitions to be illogical.
- B) Finery
God’s next command is to hide finery. There are many opinions about the fineries that woman should cover, however the famous one is that: Some have taken it to mean, “ornaments”. However; when they are on the body, and naturally showing such ornaments is combined with showing the body that the ornament is placed on. (16) In this way, women do not have the right to show ornaments that are usually hidden.
Showing fineries has been forbidden in another verse. In verse 33 of Al-Ahzab (Sura 33) the wives of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) have been addressed: “Stay in your homes and do not display your finery as pagan women used to do in the olden Days of Ignorance”.
There are also many interpretations and narratives regarding the exception sentence “except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof”, some of which we will point to:
- Imam Sadiq (PBUH) was asked concerning what the Almighty intended when referring to visible finery that the woman is not obligated to cover? He stated visible finery includes Kohl and the ring. (17)
- “Imam Baqir (PBUH) stated. The visible finery consists of the garment, ring, hand henna and the bangle. He then stated that there are three types of finery: One is for all people which is what we said before. The second is for close family and that is the location of necklaces and above, the location of bracelets and down, and the place of the anklet and below. The third is the finery that belongs to the husband and that is the woman’s entire body.” (18)
- “Abu Basir says I asked Imam Sadiq (PBUH) about the interpretation of “except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof” he stated it consists of the ring and the bracelet.” (19)
- “The narrator who is Shia says: I asked Imam Sadiq (PBUH) what part of a woman who is not a close relative can a man look at? He stated the face, two palms and two feet.” (20)
This narrative contains the permission sentence to see the face and the palms, not the sentence obligating not to cover them, and these are two separate matters.
- “Asmā’” Abu Bakr’s daughter – who was Aisha’s sister – came to the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) home while wearing thin and revealing garments. The holy Prophet (PBUH) turned his face and stated: “Asmā’! As the woman comes of age, it is not expected of her to have something of her body seen except for this and this – pointing to his own face and the wrist below-” (21)
- The range of coverage
After this exception the following sentence comes: “And that they should draw their veils over their bosoms”. Of course the intent of this verse is covering the head, neck and collar. In Al-Kashshaaf interpretation, following this very verse it says that, Arabic women normally wore shirts that had open collars, and they did not cover around the neck and bosoms. The scarves that they put on would be hung behind the neck and as such, the ears, earlobes, ear rings, chest and necks would be visible. This verse commands that the hung portion of the same scarves should be shed on both sides on their chest and collars to cover the mentioned parts.
Ibn Abbas has said in interpretation of this sentence: “That means the woman should cover her hair, chest, around the neck and under her throat.” (22)
This verse specifies the range to be covered.
Below this verse, Shia and Sunni have narrated that:
On a hot Medina day a beautiful young woman, who as usual had thrown her scarf behind her neck and while showing her neck and earlobes, was walking down an alley. A man who was one of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH) was coming from the opposite direction. The beautiful woman drew his full attention; he was so enveloped by watching that beauty that he forgot himself and his surroundings such that he was not looking at where he was going. That woman entered other alleys and the man was following her with his eyes. As he was walking, a bone or glass protruding from a wall suddenly hit and cut his face. He only came to himself once blood was coming down from his head and face. With this condition, he attended the holy prophet and retold the adventure. It was here that the holy verse was revealed: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze…” et al. (23)
- Close relatives
The second exception for covering finery are close relatives, as the Holy Quran states: “not display their beauty except to their husbands…” et al
The first exception only allows exposing the visible finery; however, it includes a wider variety of individuals (the public), the second exception allows showing more areas, though it includes less individuals.
The individuals named in this verse are in fact the close relatives in our Islamic jurisprudence (Maharem) which are the following:
- Their husbands
- Or their fathers
- Or their husband’s fathers
- Or their sons
- Or their husbands’ sons
- Or 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
It is important to note that if the woman’s makeup or what is visible in the presence of her close relatives induces one of them, the woman should cover herself. So, it is worthy of a woman to exercise piety and sexual placidity in front of her close relatives (except for her husband).
Finally, God calls everyone to return to him and states: “And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss”. The method and nature of the Holy Quran is such that, at the end of commandments, it calls people to notice God, so that they are not negligent in following his orders.
- Usūl al-Kāfī, Vol 2, Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni
- Tafsir Nemooneh, verse 31 Al-Noor chapter, Naser Makarem Shirazi
- Usūl al-Kafi, Vol 5, Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni
- Tafsir al-Safi, Vol 3, verse 31 Al-Noor chapter, Mohsen Fayz Kashani
- Usūl al-Kafi, Vol 5, Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni
- As above
- Sunan Abu Dawood, Vol 2, margin 4104
- Majma‘ al-Bayan fi-Tafsir al-Qur’an, Vol 7, verse 31 Al-Noor chapter
- Usūl al-Kafi, Vol 5, Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni