status of women in Islam is often the target of attacks in the secular
media. The ‘hijaab’
or the Islamic dress is cited by many as an example of the
‘subjugation’ of women under Islamic law. Before we
analyze the reasoning behind the religiously mandated ‘hijaab’,
let us first study the status of women in societies before the advent
1. In the past women were degraded and used as objects of lust
following examples from history amply illustrate the fact that the
status of women in earlier civilizations was very low to the extent
that they were denied basic human dignity:
The women were degraded and were denied all rights under the Babylonian
law. If a man murdered a woman, instead of him being punished, his wife
was put to death.
Greek Civilization is considered the most glorious of all ancient
civilizations. Under this very ‘glorious’ system,
women were deprived of all rights and were looked down upon. In Greek
mythology, an ‘imaginary woman’ called
‘Pandora’ is the root cause of misfortune of human
beings. The Greeks considered women to be subhuman and inferior to men.
Though chastity of women was precious, and women were held in high
esteem, the Greeks were later overwhelmed by ego and sexual
perversions. Prostitution became a regular practice amongst all classes
of Greek society.
When Roman Civilization was at the zenith of its
‘glory’, a man even had the right to take the life
of his wife. Prostitution and nudity were common amongst the Romans.
The Egyptian considered women evil and as a sign of a devil.
Before Islam spread in
Arabia, the Arabs
looked down upon women and very often when a female child was born, she
was buried alive.
2. Islam uplifted women and gave them equality and expects
them to maintain their status.
uplifted the status of women and granted them their just rights 1400
years ago. Islam expects women to maintain their status.
usually only discuss ‘hijaab’
in the context of women. However, in the Glorious Qur’an, Allah (swt) first mentions ‘hijaab’
for men before ‘hijaab’
for the women. The Qur’an
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."
moment a man looks at a woman and if any brazen or unashamed thought
comes to his mind, he should lower his gaze.
Hijaab for women.
next verse of
Surah Noor, says:
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
veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their
husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their
3. Six criteria for Hijaab.
Qur’an and Sunnah there are basically six
criteria for observing hijaab:
The first criterion is the extent of the body that should be covered.
This is different for men and women. The extent of covering obligatory
on the male is to cover the body at least from the navel to the knees.
For women, the extent of covering obligatory is to cover the complete
body except the face and the hands
upto the wrist. If they
wish to, they can cover even these parts of the body. Some scholars of
Islam insist that the face and the hands are part of the obligatory
extent of ‘hijaab’.
remaining five criteria are the same for men and women.
clothes worn should be loose and should not reveal the figure.
clothes worn should not be transparent such that one can see through
clothes worn should not be so glamorous as to attract the opposite sex.
clothes worn should not resemble that of the opposite sex.
clothes worn should not resemble that of the unbelievers i.e. they
should not wear clothes that are specifically identities or symbols of
the unbelievers’ religions.
includes conduct and behaviour among other things
besides the six criteria of clothing, also includes the moral conduct,
behaviour, attitude and
intention of the individual. A person only fulfilling the criteria of
of the clothes is observing ‘hijaab’
in a limited sense. ‘Hijaab’
of the clothes should be accompanied by ‘hijaab’
of the eyes, ‘hijaab’
of the heart, ‘hijaab’
of thought and ‘hijaab’
of intention. It also includes the way a person walks, the way a person
talks, the way he behaves, etc.
is prescribed for women is mentioned in the Qur’an in the
following verses of
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."
Qur’an says that Hijaab
has been prescribed for the women so that they are recognized
as modest women and this will also prevent them from being molested.
interpretation of this is quite varied. In some places it results in a
toe covering. In others it's less rigid. It must be remembers that
more than just about the cloths you chose to wear. The very important
here is choice! As woman are free to choose in Islam.