Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beyond Fitna

Taken From: http://ngoic.com/

You have seen a movie under the title FITNA. Now, view Islamic answer to it:

English Version:

http://www.ngoic.com/ According to the Tehran Times, the new documentary, entitled "Beyond Fitna", was directed by a group of Iranian filmmakers and produced by the Islam and Christianity Nongovernmental Organization. "The film honors all monotheistic religions and gives a response to the anti-Islam propaganda of Western extremists," the NGO's spokesman, Mohammad Karimi, told official Iranian news agency IRNA. He said the documentary was produced under the supervision of a group of religious scholars and Iranian professional documentarians in the English, Persian, and Arabic languages.

Nederland undertitled:

De documentaire "Beyond Fitna", die gemaakt is door een groep Iraanse filmmakers en geproduceerd door de organisatie Islam en Christendom, een niet overheids-gebonden orgaan, is een antwoord op de anti-Islam documentaire "Fitna". De film eert alle monotheistische religies en geeft antwoord op de anti-Islam propaganda van Westerse extremisten. De documentaire is gemaakt, onder de supervisie van een groep religieuze leiders en Iraanse professionele documentairemakers, in de Engelse, Perzische en Arabische talen. De documentaire "Fitna", die lasterlijk claimt dat de heilige geschriften van de Islam geweld en intolerantie prediken, werd op 27 maart op Internet gepubliceerd nadat televisie stations weigerden de film uit te zenden i.v.m. de controverse en de protesten van Moslims, Christenen en de Europeese Unie. De titel van de documentaire "Fitna" is een Arabische term om "meningsverschil en verdeeldheid onder de mensen" te beschrijven.

Taken From: http://ngoic.com/

Hijab(5): Fourth Lesson

The Command “not to reveal their adornment"

“And to guard their private parts." The word farj is used in Arabic to refer to both a man and a woman's private parts. The fact that men and women have both been commanded to guard their modesty, to guard their private parts is in relation to two things: the view of others and this includes everybody except a husband and wife, and the other is that one should guard one's modesty from corruption, from adultery. If we look at the external form of the verse, perhaps we would conclude that it only refers to corruption but because, from the time of the Prophet's Companions and the very first commentaries on the Holy Quran, it has been clearly recorded that wherever the Holy Quran says, "guard their private parts," it means from adultery except in those verses where it is to guard the private parts from the view of others. Thus, this verse, either refers to the collective view or it refers to the view of others if we take the traditions into account. There is no difference of opinion here.

The third duty is not to reveal "their adornment..." which refers to that which is separate from the body like jewels and gold as well as things that are attached to the body like henna or collyrium.

The Exceptions

As to the fact that they should "reveal not their adornment," there are two exceptions in the Holy Quran. The first is "except such as is outward" and the second is "except to their husbands...etc." Both of these have to be discussed further, in particular, the first exception.

Women should "not reveal their adornment... except such as is outward." What does this refer to? Is it beauty which is most often hidden under clothes that must not be revealed? Then what is that which "is outward?" From the beginning of Islam, many questions arose in relation to "except such as is outward" which were asked from the Companions of the Holy Prophet and the Helpers and many Shi'ites asked the pure Imams. There is almost total agreement regarding this point. That is, whether one is a Sunni who refers to the Companions and Helpers of the Holy Prophet or one be a Shi'ite who refers to the recorders of those traditions, there is more or less agreement that which "is outward" is collyrium, a ring and, in some, an anklet.

That is, adornments which are used on the two hands and the face. This then shows that it is not obligatory for women to cover their face or their hands. Things which adorn them may appear as long as they are part of common usage. The adornments which are applied to the hands and the face are not obligatory to be covered.

There are great many traditions in relation to this. It was asked from Imam Sadiq what may be displayed of adornments. That is, those things which are not obligatory to cover. He said, "It refers to collyrium and a ring and they are on the face and hands." [1] Abi Basir said he asked Imam Sadiq about the exception and he said a ring and bracelet." [2]

There is a tradition recorded by a person who was not a Shi'ite but because of his reliability, he is referred to and quoted by the ulama. He says that he heard from Imam Ja'far, peace be upon him, that the exception is the face and the hands. These are all similar in what they say. When the face and hands do not need to be covered, then their adornment, even more so.

There is another tradition narrated by Ali ibn Ibrahim from Imam Baqir, peace be upon him. He was asked about this exception and he said it includes a woman's clothes, collyrium, ring and coloring of the palms of the hands and a bracelet." [3]

Then the Imam said that we have three levels of adornment, the adornment all people may see, the adornment which mahram may see and the adornment for one's spouse. That which may be displayed for the people is the face and hands and their adornment such as collyrium, a ring, a bracelet but the adornment which may be displayed before someone who is mahram is the neck and above including a necklace, an armlet, hands plus an anklet and anything below the ankles.

There is, of course, a difference of opinion as to what can be revealed before someone who is mahram. That which can be concluded from the totality of the traditions and according to the edicts of the religious jurisprudents is that no one is mahram other than one's husband from the navel to the knees. That is, a woman must cover herself from the navel to the knee from even her father or brother and from the navel above, it must be covered from everyone except one's father. But for the husband, a woman may display her whole body.

We have other traditions in this area as well such as the fact that women must 'cast their veils over their bosoms'. Before the revelation of this verse, women would wear a scarf but they would place the ends behind their head so that their earrings, neck and chest would show since their dresses were most often v-necked. With the revelation of this verse, it became clear that they had to cover their ears, neck and chest with their head covering. There is a traditional recorded by Ibn Abbas, the well known transmitter of traditions, that it is obligatory for women to cover their chests and neck. [4]

The first exception we have referred to relates to what is not obligatory to be covered. The second exception refers to those before whom it is not obligatory to cover such as fathers, husbands, children, etc.

Is 'Looking’ Permissible For Men?

In this area there are two points to be recognized and separated, at least mentally. One is what is obligatory for women to cover and what is not. If we say that it is not obligatory for women to cover their face and hands, does this agree with the saying it is advisable for men to lower their gaze? Or is that something separate? Is it something which needs to be discussed separately? Is it possible that it is not obligatory for women to cover, even though this is definite in jurisprudence, but that it be advisable for men to lower their gaze?

We know from the life-style of the Holy Prophet that it is not obligatory for men to cover their head, hands, face or neck. Does this mean that it is also not advisable that men lower their gaze if they are walking down the street and women are passing? These are two different issues and must be discussed separately.

Another issue is that in areas other than the ones we mentioned as exceptions which the traditions have commented upon and in which the verse itself states what the limitations are, the face and the hands are among the absolute necessities of Islam whereby covering everything but them is obligatory for women. Of course, this itself has an exception which we will discuss in the next verse which is that if women reach beyond a certain age, it is no longer obligatory for them. But in general, covering the hair of a woman is among the compulsory precepts of Islam. It is clear that much of the hair which shows by which one would conclude that a woman's head is 'uncovered' is clearly not permissible to show in Islam. Covering the neck, the chest, the arms above the wrists, the feet (which is debated) from the ankles above are all among the obligatory aspects of Islam. There is no controversy here.

But there is another point. We said that we have to discuss separately whether or not lowering the gaze is advisable. If the look is of a flirting nature, looking with the anticipation of pleasure, this is another clear issue which is among those which are forbidden. Not only is it forbidden to look at strangers or persons to whom one is not mahram, but even those who are mahram as well. If a father was to flirt with his daughter, it is forbidden and perhaps an even greater sin. It is forbidden for a father-in-law to look at his son's wife with lust. That is, in Islam, lust is exclusively allowed between marital partners. It is not permissible in any form anywhere else between anyone else.

But this should be distinguished from riba' which means to look but not with the intention of lust nor to really see or view the other person. It is a special state which could be dangerous. That is, the fear exists that the look will cause a person to deviate to a forbidden state. This, then, is also forbidden and there is no difference of opinion on this.

Thus, if a person says it is advisable to look, a lustful look is not meant or a look which holds the fear that it may lead to something forbidden.

Now we will discuss 'looking'. We have a tradition recorded by Ali ibn Ja'far, the brother of Imam Riza. He asks to what point a man can look at a woman who is not permissible to him? He said, "Her face and her hands and her feet." [5] Of course, face and hands are clearly so but the jurisprudents have not issued edicts about the feet.

There is another tradition about a man who is on a trip and dies. There is no man present to give him the obligatory bath for the dead nor are any mahram women present. What should be done for the obligatory ritual bath? The opposite has also been questioned, a woman on a trip who dies and there are no mahram men present to give her bath. When in both cases they asked the Imam, Imam Sadiq said about the first case, "Those women may touch and wash that part of the man's body which was permissible for them to see when he was alive." The same thing is said about a woman who has died. The Imam said that if they touch the face and wash her face and her hands, this is sufficient. It is not necessary to wash her whole body. Thus, a man may look at a woman's face and hands when she is alive.' [6]

We also find this in the tradition in Mustamsak which Ayatullah Hakim relates about Fatimah, peace be upon her. One is the tradition regarding the Companion Salman who once entered her house and saw that she was grinding barley and her hands were bleeding. This tradition makes it clear that the hands were not covered and that it was not forbidden to look at her hands because if it had been, neither would Salman have looked at them nor would she have left them uncovered.

More authentic than this is a tradition of Jabir that appears in Kafi, in Wasa'il and in all of the reliable books on traditions which the ulama narrate. Jabir narrated that he went with the Prophet of God to enter the blessed Fatimah's house. The Holy Prophet had said that a person should seek permission to enter another's house, even if it belonged to one's mother and that the only exception is that one need not seek permission to enter one's wife's room. "When he arrived at her house, he did not enter but called out, 'Assalam alaykum ya ahl al-bayt'. She answered from inside the house. The Holy Prophet asked, 'Do you allow us to enter?' She said, Yes enter.' He asked, 'Should the person with mc enter?' She said, 'No. Then wait until I cover my head.' Then she said, 'Enter.' Again the Holy Prophet asked 'Should the person with me enter?' And she said, 'Yes.' Jabir says that when he entered he saw that her face was sallow colored. 'I became very sad when I realized it was because of lack of food. I said to myself, 'Look at how the caliph and a king's daughter is brought up and the daughter of Prophet of God!"' [7]

This shows that the Prophet's daughter neither covered her face nor her hands. Otherwise Jabir's look would have been forbidden.

Among the traditions, we have a great many which, when they ask of the Imam, he says that one cannot look at the forearm of a woman or at a woman's hair. All of these are mentioned but nowhere does it say anything about the face and hands.

Another issue is ihram (the pilgrim's clothes) where it is forbidden for women to cover their face and therefore we realize that it is not obligatory. It could not be that there be something which is obligatory but not so in the ihram and forbidden here.

"Let them cast their veils over their bosoms." The verse itself expresses the limits and does not include the face and hands. On the other hand, those who say looking' is absolutely forbidden have given a reason, the very reason which has been given for it not being forbidden. They refer to the verse, "say to the believing men to cast down their glance." He answers that in the first place, the verse does not say what not to look at. Secondly, it says min which mean 'from something', and thirdly, ghadd means 'cast down' or 'lower'.

There is another tradition which is referred to and those who say that it is forbidden to look should note it. A man wrote a letter to Imam Askari, peace be upon him, where he said that there is a woman who wants to confess something and others want to listen to her confession to bear witness to it. Must she confess behind a curtain and the others listen from behind a curtain to then justly say that it was her voice? The Imam said, "No. She should come forward to bear witness but she should cover herself so that only the roundness of her face shows.

Another tradition which they present is an often quoted tradition. It is called Sa'd Iskaf in reference to a man who went to the Prophet with his face bleeding and said that he had a complaint to make. The Holy Prophet told him to speak. He said he was walking down the street of Madinah and saw a woman coming towards him who was very beautiful and who had tied her scarf behind her head and her chest was visible. As she passed, he turned his head to look at her and did not see what was in front of him. Something was sticking out of the wall and it struck his face and injured him. The verse was then revealed, "Say to the believing men to cast down their glance." [8]

Another reason they give is that it says in the traditions, "Is there anything which has not committed an illicit act for the illicit act of the eyes is to look?" The answer is that this is referring to looking with lust, not just looking; like the tradition which says, "looking is like an arrow of satan," and, of course, it refers to looking with lust.

There is another tradition which I have read in the books on traditions of the Sunnis. It says the Holy Prophet was on a journey, probably the Farewell Pilgrimage. Ibn Abbas, a young boy then, was behind him. He continued to look at the women who passed back and forth in the ihram. The Holy Prophet realized that he was doing this and he turned the boy's face away. Ibn Abbas then began to look from that direction. The Holy Prophet again turned the boy's face away.

According to the Shi'ite sources, the tradition differs. It says that he was a very handsome young boy and the Holy Prophet was riding, probably on a camel. A woman from the Khasamiyyah tribe came to ask the Holy Prophet a question. She asked and the Holy Prophet answered. Then the Holy Prophet realized that her eyes were fixed upon Fazl ibn 'Abbas and Fazl ibn 'Abbas was staring at her. The tradition states that the Holy Prophet turned Fazl's face away saying, "A young woman and a young man, I am afraid satan will enter." [9]

They say that because of this, it is clear that it is forbidden to look like this. There is no doubt about it. This is love making and it is forbidden. Shaykh Ansari says that from this tradition it is clear that it was obligatory for women to cover themselves and it was not forbidden in general for men to look. Otherwise, the Holy Prophet would not have looked but he was looking at her as he was answering her questions and saw that her eyes were fixed on Fazl ibn 'Abbas and his on hers.

Ayatullah Hakim narrates another tradition. A man by the name of Ali ibn Salah said to Imam Riza, peace be upon him, "I have a problem. I look at beautiful women and it makes me happy to do so but I have no bad intentions." The Imam said, "There is no problem as God is aware of your intentions and you have no ill intentions but fear an illicit act."

[1]. Kafi, vol. 5, p. 521 and Wasail, vol. 3, p. 25.

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Tafsir ul Quran, Safi, 24:31.

[4]. Majma 'al‑Bayan, Quran 24:31.

[5]. Qurb al‑Asnad, p.102.

[6]. Wasa'il, vol.17, p.135.

[7]. Kafi, vol. 5 p. 528 and Wasa'il, vol. 3, p. 28.

[8]. Kafi, vol. 5, p. 521; al‑Wasail, vol. 3, p. 24. It should be noted that most often this Tradition which refers to a woman who tied her scarf around the back of her neck, lust and a man in general is also presented for verse 24:31. It would appear that it better relates to that verse.

[9]. Sahih Bukhari, vol. 8, p.63.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hijab(4): Third Lesson

The Modest Dress Brings Dignity to a Woman

There is one issue which remains to be discussed. It is one of the criticism they have made against the modest dress which says that the modest dress deprives the honor and respect of a woman. You know that human dignity has become one of the important goals of humanity since the words about human rights have developed. Human digluty is respected and it must be followed; all human beings share in this whether man or woman, black or white, or whatever nation or creed . Every individual has this right to human dignity.

They say that the Islamic modest dress opposes a woman's dignity. We accept the right of human dignity. The discussion is whether or not the modest dress, i.e., the modest dress which Islamic precepts mention, is disrespectful to women, an insult to her dignity. This idea came into being from the idea that the modest dress imprisons a woman, making her a slave. Enslavement opposes human dignity. They say because the modest dress was introduced by men to enable them to exploit women, men wanted to captivate woman and imprison her in a corner of her home. Thus, it is to have overlooked or insulted her human dignity. Respect, honor and nobility of a woman call for not having a modest dress.

As we have said and we will further describe later, that is, we will deduce from the verses of the Holy Quran that we have nothing which would serve to imprison a woman and the necessities of the Islamic modest dress are not to imprison a woman. If a man has duties in his relation to a woman or a woman has duties in relation to a man, the duty is in order to strengthen and solidify the family unit. That is, it has a clear purpose. In addition, from the social point of view, it has necessities. That is, the well-being of society demands that a man and a woman commit themselves to a special kind of association with each other or the ethical sanctities and ethical balance and the tranquility of the spirit of society, demand that a man and a woman choose a special way of relating to each other. This is neither called imprisonment nor enslavement nor does it oppose human dignity.

As we observe if a man leaves his house naked, he is blamed and reproached and perhaps the police will arrest him. That is, even if a man leaves his house with pajamas on, or with just underpants, everyone will stop him because it opposes social dignity. Law or custom rules that when a man leaves the house, he should be covered and fully dressed. Does this oppose human dignity to tell him to cover himself and leave the house?

On the other hand, if a woman leaves her house covered within the limits that we will later mention, it causes greater respect for her. That is, it prevents the interference of men who lack morality and ethics. It a woman leaves her house covered, not only does it not detract from her human dignity, but it adds to it. Take a woman who leaves her home with only her face and two hands showing and from her behavior and the clothes she wears there is nothing which would cause others to be stimulated or attracted towards her. That is, she does not invite men to herself. She does not wear clothes that speak out or walk in a way to draw attention to herself or does not speak in such a way to attract attention.

Sometimes the clothes of an individual speak. His or her shoes speak. The way she or he talks says something else. Take a man, for instance, who speaks in such a way so as to say, "Fear me," or dresses in such a way opposite to that which is customary. That is, with a traditional cloak, a beard and a turban, etc., communicates to the people, "Respect me."

It is possible that a woman wears clothes in such a manner that a human being, a respected human being, would associate among people and it is possible that she wears clothes and walks in a way which stimulates; "Come and follow me." Does the dignity of a woman, the dignity of a man, or the dignity of society not cause a woman to leave her home serious, diligent and simply dressed in a manner not drawing the attention of everyone she passes by.

She should be such that she does not distract a man and turn his attention from what he is doing. Does this oppose a woman's dignity? Or does it oppose the dignity of society? If a person says something, which existed in non-Islamic societies, that the modest dress was to imprison women, that a woman must be placed in a locked house and she should have no right of association outside the home, this does not relate to Islam. If Islamic precepts were to say that it is not permitted for a woman to leave her house; if we were to ask whether it is possible for a woman to buy something from a store where the seller be a man and they said no, it was forbidden; if a person asked, "Is a woman permitted to participate in meetings, religious gatherings?" and we were to say no, it is not permitted; if it is possible for women to meet each other?; if someone were to say all of these were forbidden, that a woman must sit in a corner of the house and never leave her home, this would be something, but Islam does not state this.

We say this is based on two things. One is based upon that which is good for the family. That is, a woman must not do anything that would disturb her family situation. For a woman to leave her house to go to her sister's house if her sister is a corrupt and licentious person or even to visit her mother wherein the effects of the visit bring chaos to the house for a week, they say not to under such circumstances. The family must not be disturbed.

The second basis is that leaving the house, according to the Holy Quran, must not be in order to flaunt oneself, to disturb the peace and tranquility of others, to prevent the work of others. If it is not these things, there is no problem.

The Command to Announce Your Entrance to Someone's House

Now we will discuss the Quranic verses and after we clarify what traditional commentators have explained about the verses, then, with the help of traditions which have been narrated on this topic and the edicts of the religious jurisprudents on this issue, it will become clearer. The verses relating to the modest dress are found in Surah Nur and Surah Ahzab. We will mention all of them.

We will begin our discussion with the verses from Surah Nur. Of course the verses which relate directly to the modest dress are verses 30 and 31 of Surah Nur but there are three verses before this which are more or less introductory to the modest dress and relate to this issue.

"O believers, do not enter houses other than your houses unSl you first ask leave and salute the people thereof; that is better for you; haply you will remember." (24:26) This verse describes the duty of a man who is not mahram, to the house of another person, that is, the house of a person whose wife is not mahram to him. Of course, there are rules regarding those who are mahram and we will mention them later. Also there are some places where it is not particular to those who are mahram. It relates to what a person who wants to enter the house of another should do.

To begin with, let me say that during the Age of Ignorance before the Holy Quran was revealed, the present situation of houses did not exist with locks, etc. Doors are closed basically because of the fear of thieves. If someone wanted to enter, he would ring the doorbell or use the knocker. In the Age of Ignorance this situation did not exist. It was more like the situation in villages. People like myself who lived in the village know that there were basically no doors shut. The doors to the courtyard are always open. In many places it is not even the practice to lock the doors at night. In Fariman, a town near Mashhad, where I lived, I do not remember the door to the yard being closed even once and there was very little theft.

History shows that, in particular in Makkah, they often did not even put doors on a house. In Islam a law was passed that a person never owns their house in Makkah. Of course, there is a difference of opinion among the religious jurisprudents. The Imams and the Shafiis agree that in Makkah, the land cannot belong to any one person. That is, it belongs to all Muslims and the land of Makkah cannot be bought and sold. The houses belong to all the people. It has the ruling of a mosque. In Surah Hajj it says that the people who live there and the people who come from outside that area are all the same.

These rents which people collect today in Makkah neither agrees with the Shi’ite jurisprudence nor with much of the Sunni jurisprudence. It must have an international ruling. They have no right to establish limits there and not allow a person to enter. It is like the room in a mosque, everyone can have a room there. It belongs to him but he has no right to prevent others from entering. The person has no right to close off an empty room. Of course, if a person is using it, he has priority.

The first person who gave the order for doors to be placed on the houses was Mu'awiyah. This had been forbidden to be done to the houses of Makkah. This was the general situation.

It was not the custom among Arabs in the Age of Ignorance to announce that they wanted permission to enter. They felt it was an insult to seek permission to enter. The Holy Quran says in another verse, “If you go and seek permission and it is not granted, return." This may be considered to be an insult by some but this emphasis in the Holy Quran is one of the introductory aspects of the modest dress because every woman in her own home is in a situation that she does not want to be seen or she does not want to see a person. A verse was revealed. "And when you ask his wives for something, ask them from behind a curtain ( hijab). "(33:54)

Thus, a person must first seek permission to enter and then, with the agreement of the owners, the person enters even if the other party knows that he wants to enter.

The Holy Prophet said: "In order to announce your entrance, recall God's name in a loud voice." I later realized the words 'ya Allah' that Muslims say, for instance, to enter, is the implementation of this command.

Thus, announce and how much better it is when this announcement is made by the recitation of God's name. The Holy Prophet continuously did this and he was asked, "Is this a general ruling that we should use when we enter our sister's house, our daughters house, our mothers house?" He said, "If your mother is getting undressed, would she want you to see her then?" They said, "No." He said, "Then this same ruling holds for one's mothers house. Do not enter without announcing your entrance."

When the Holy Prophet would enter, he would stand behind the door of the room in a place where they could hear his voice and would call out, "As-salam alaykum ya ahl al-bayt" ("Peace be upon you oh household of the Prophet"). He said, "If you hear no answer, perhaps the person did not hear you. Repeat it again in a loud voice. Repeat for a third time if you receive no response. If, after the third time that you announce yourself, you hear no response, either that person is not home or the person does not want you to enter; return." The Holy Prophet did this and many stories have been narrated about this, such as when he wanted to enter his daughter's house, he would call out salutations in a loud voice. If she responded, he would enter. If he called out three times and received no response, he would return.

There is something here to note which is the difference between dar and bayt in Arabic. Dar is that which we call courtyard. They call a room, bayt. The Holy Quran refers to bayt, that is, when you want to enter the room of a person. Since the doors to the courtyards were open, the courtyard clearly did not assume an area of privacy. That is, if a woman was dressed in such a way that she did not want anyone to see her, she would not be so dressed in the courtyard. She would go into a room. The courtyard has the ruling of a room. The door is closed and it normally has high walls. Women still consider the courtyard to be, to a certain extent, a place of privacy. Now dar has the ruling of bayt because bayt basically means the place of privacy where a woman does not want a strange person to see her.

"This is purer for you." That is, the commands We give are better for you, contain goodness, are not illogical. "Know that this is good."

"And if you do not find anyone therein, enter it not until leave is given to you and if you are told 'return'; that is purer for you; and God knows the things you do." (24:27) "There is no fault in you that you enter uninhabited houses wherein enjoyment is for you. God knows what you reveal and what you hide." (24:28) This was very difficult for the Arabs to understand. To seek permission when they wanted to enter a house was itself difficult and then to be told to return and then to actually do so, was next to impossible. It was an insult.

In the verse, "there is no fault in you. ..", an exception arises. Does this ruling apply whenever one wants to enter anyone's home or only a person's residence. The Holy Quran says this is not a general ruling and only applies to someone's home.

A home is a place of privacy, the place of one's private life. If this were not so, there would be need to seek permission. If there is, for instance, a caravanserai and you have business, do you have to seek permission, etc? No. Here it is not necessary to enter by seeking permission. What about a public bath? There is no need here. "There is no fault in you..." if it is not a place of residence in which you have business. "God knows what you reveal and what you hide."

From the word, 'uninhabited', one can understand that the philosophy of why a person cannot enter the home of another without announcing it first is because of the wife as well as the fact that the home is the place of one's privacy. Perhaps there are things whlch one does not want someone else to see.

Thus, when a person enters the privacy of another's home, the entrance must be announced. A person must, in some way, announce that he wants to enter even if the person knows that the other has allowed him to enter. He is your friend. He knows that you are going to enter. You know that he is totally in agreement with your entering. Still, you should realize that you are entering upon his privacy.

The Command to 'cast down their glance'

"Say to the believing men that they cast down their glance and guard their private parts; that is purer for them . God is aware of the things they do." (24:30)

"Say to the believing women that they cast down their glance and guard their private parts and reveal not their adornment except such as is outward and let them cast their veils (khumar) over their bosoms and reveal not their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, or their husbands' fathers or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons or their women or what their right hands own, or such men as attend to them, not having sexual desire, or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts nor let them stamp their feet, so that their hidden ornament may be known. And turn all together to God, O you believers, so you will prosper." (24:31)

In the phrase, "Say to the believing men that they cast down their glance," there are two words which we have to define. One isghadh and the other is absar. A person who might say absar, the plural of basar, needs no explanation because it means eyes but absar essentially means 'sight'. If it had said 'ain asin ghamdh'ain it would have meant 'close their eyes'. It would have had a particular meaning in this case. What does ghadh basar mean? Ghadh means 'lower', 'cast down', not 'cover' or 'close'. We see this in another verse, "Be modest in thy walk and lower (yaghaddwu) thy voice; the most hideous of voices is the ass's." (31:19) This does not mean to be silent. A person's voice should be moderate. In the same way, 'to cast down one's glance' means not to look in a fixed way, not to stare.

In a famous tradition of Hind ibn Abi Halah which describes the Holy Prophet, it is recorded, "When he was happy, he would cast down his glance." [1] It is clear it does not mean he closed his eyes.

Majlisi in Bihar interprets the sentence about the Holy Prophet thus: "He would cover his gaze and put down his head. He did this so that his happiness would not show."

Imam 'Ali in the Nahj al-Balaghah says to his son Imam Hasan, when he gave a banner to him in the Battle of Jamal 'Even if the mountains are uprooted, do not leave your place. Clench your teeth (so that your anger increases). Bare your head to God. Nail your feet to the ground. Survey the enemy's forces and cast down your glance." [2] That is, 'do not fix your gaze on the enemy.'

There are essentially two ways of looking. One is to look at another with care as if you were evaluating the person by the way he looked or dressed. But another kind of looking is in order to speak to that person and you look since looking is necessary for conversation. This is a looking which is introductory and a means for speaking. This is an organic looking while the former is an autonomous kind. Thus, the sentence means: "Tell the believers not to stare at or flirt with women."

On the Command to Guard Their Private Parts

In the next sentence it says, "Tell the believing men. . . to guard their private parts." (24:30) To guard from what? From everything which is not correct, guard against both corruption and the glance of others.

As you know, it was not the custom among Arabs in the Age of Ignorance to hide their private parts. Islam came and made it obligatory to cover this area.

It should be noted that the present Western civilization is moving directly towards the habits of the pre-Islamic Arabs in the Age of Ignorance and they are continuously weaving philosophies justifying that nakedness is a good thing. Russell in "On Discipline," says that another illogical ethics or taboo is that a mother and father tell their children to cover themselves which only creates a greater curiosity in children and parents should show their sexual organs to children so that they become aware of whatever there is from the beginning. Now, they do this.

But the Holy Quran says, "And guard their private parts," both from corruption and from the view of others. Covering one's private parts is obligatory in Islam except, of course, between a husband and wife and it is among the most disapproved acts for a mother to be naked before her son or a father before his daughter.3 "That is purer for them. God is aware of the things they do." (24:30).

"Say to the believing women that they cast down their glance..." (24:31) You see that in these two verses, the ruling for a man and woman is the same. This is not something particular to men. For instance, if women were forbidden from looking and not men, there would have been a distinction that such and such was all right for men but not for women. It is clear, then, that when there is no distinction made between men and women, it has another purpose which we shall discuss in the next lesson.

[1] Tafsir ul Quran, Safi, 24:31, marrated from a tradition of ‘Ali ibn Ibrahim Qummi
[2] Nahj al Balaghah, Sermon 110

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hijab(3): Second Lesson

Our discussion will center on the issue of the modest dress (hijab) in Islam but as we had mentioned, we must first hold a more general discussion because the modest dress is not exclusive to Islam. That is, it is not the idea that the modest dress appeared for the first time in the world with Islam. It existed before Islam among ancient peoples other than the Arab nations. It existed in ancient India and in ancient Iran, as well. The modest dress which ancient India and Iran had was much stricter than that which Islam brought. Of course, if we take the Arabian peninsula into consideration, the Islamic modest dress was established, not imitated. That is, Islam imported the modest dress into the Arabian peninsula but it existed in non-Arab lands throughout the world.

It is a phenomena which existed during non-Islamic times. Philosophical, social, economic, ethical and psychological reasons have been given as the cause for the development of this phenomenon and as to how it happened that the modest dress came to appear in history among people. It is necessary to mention these reasons because they have said that these are the causes for the appearance of the modest dress and that it first appeared because of certain very particular conditions which existed in those times. Conditions whereby it was, perhaps, necessary for it to be but now that those conditions no longer exist, there is no reason for the modest dress.

Thus, we have to see what the reasons mentioned are, whether or not they are the real causes or is it, as some people say that which caused the modest dress to come into being was unjust. Is it that from the very beginning the modest dress itself was imposed upon women? If this is so, they conclude that this is even more reason why it should never have come into being.

In the last discussion we mentioned two reasons, one of which was the sense of insecurity. We said that this has been mentioned as a reason for women wearing the modest dress . The other reason mentioned was the sense of asceticism, the sense of struggling against sexual urges. This is something which existed in the world, in both the East and the West. In the East, one of its largest centers was India and in the West, Greece.

The Economic Reason

Another reason given for the modest dress is that they have said that the modest dress developed because of economics, and of course, it was to exploit women. As a result of this, it is unjust. They came and divided things this way. They said history shows that there have been four eras in the relations between men and women, including the present age.

The first age of humanity, according to this view, was a communal age with reference to sex. That is, essentially no family life existed. The second era was when men dominated over women and women were seen as their slaves and a means to serve men. The second era, then, was the era of ownership by man. The third era was the age when women arose in objection to men and the fourth era is the era of equality of rights between men and women.

The first era, the communal age, they say, relates to pre-history. The era of ownership is the longest era that history has recorded where man dominated over woman and they identify Islam as an example of this era. The third era, which is known as the era of rebellion, occurred in the second half of the 19th century. The fourth era is the one which more or less has appeared or is appearing. It is the era of seeking complete equality between men and women's rights.

It is clear that these eras were developed from what others said about economics which refers to the various eras of humanity with the first era being communal, then the feudal era, the era of capitalism and the era of communism. That which they have mentioned as to the economic causes for the appearance of the modest dress does not relate whatsoever to these economic stages mentioned by others.

These four stages expressed in this manner are all erroneous. There are no facts regarding the first era which they mention as being communal. There is no evidence that family life did not exist from the very beginning.

We do not intend to go into detail about these eras but simply to refer to the fact that they say the modest dress relates to the era when men dominated over women. If we do not accept that era, they say that it resulted from men being the mediator for women: A man hired a woman for his own purposes. He kept her in his home to do his work. He left some of his work for a woman to do for him. This was similar to when they imprisoned slaves and prevented them from leaving to better perform the work of their master. Men saw that it would be to their advantage to put women behind a curtain and prevent their comings and goings so that they would better undertake the work of the house which had been given to them to do. Thus, men did this in order for them to have hired women from the economic point of view and to have turned them into an instrument. Otherwise there was no reason to do such a thing. Wherever the modest dress has appeared, it was accompanied by such a situation of the employing of women by men to work in the house.

Is it true that Ws reason existed in those places in the world where the modest dress appeared? We do not deny that perhaps in some corners of the world this situation existed. If men prevented women from leaving their home and prevented others from seeing them in whatever form, if men imprisoned women, the roots of such a cause might have been economic. However, we are discussing Islam. Islam, on the one hand, established and brought the modest dress and, on the other, very directly stated something which is among the very clear aspects of Islam which is that a man has absolutely no right to gain economically from a woman. That is, a woman has economic independence. Great emphasis has been given to this issue.

That is, a man has no right to benefit economically in anyway whatsoever from a woman. The jobs of a woman belong to her. If, within the home itself, work is given to a woman to do if she so desires. But if a woman were to say, "No. I won't do that," a man has no right to force her to do it.

A woman is free in whatever work she does. In the first place, she has a right to refuse; a man has no right to order her to do something. Secondly, if she says, "I will do this for such and such a wage," she has a right to receive a wage, in the case of nursing her child, for instance. Even though a mother has priority to nurse her own child, she still has a right to obtain a wage for it. Her priority is in the sense that if another woman wanted to nurse her child and says, "I will take 1,000 rials a month to nurse the child," the mother herself says, '1 will not take more than that," then the mother has priority to nurse the child unless the other woman, for some reason, is more suitable.

A woman has a right to work outside the home as long as it does not harm the family environment. Whatever she earns belongs to her alone, no matter what legitimate work she performs.

It must be clearly recognized, then, that Islamic precepts do not intend for the modest dress to be a means to economically exploit women. If this had been the intention, the rulings would have reflected this. For instance, the precepts would have stated that a man has the right to employ his wife in his home and a woman must wear the modest dress. Then these two things would have been connected. A system which states that a man has no right to exploit a woman but, on the other hand, that same system has established the modest dress, clearly, then, did not establish the modest dress to exploit women.

We do not think, either, that this reason was a very major one for wherever in the world the modest dress existed but some Iranians who have written against the laws of Islam have greatly stressed this point. That is, they say in order for men to be able to keep women in their homes to exploit them and to turn them into their own tools, they imprisoned them. This is one reason they have given and as we have stated, this reason in no way conforms with Islam.

The Ethical Reason

Another reason they have given for the appearance of the modest dress has an ethical aspect. That is, it relates to the character and nature of individual.

They say it stems from the selfishness of men and men's jealousy. A man dominated over a woman so that he could enjoy her exclusively himself; so that no other man would share with him, not only in sexual intercourse but in everything. He wanted to monopolize a woman so that the touching of her body and even the viewing of her be exclusively his privilege. That is, a type of excessive greed which existed in men caused them to present the modest dress.

Russell says just this. He says that human beings have been able, to a certain extent, to dominate over their greed for wealth in such a way that they later encouraged charity and sharing one's table with others because these related to wealth. They came to regard excessive greed as something disagreeable in human beings but they were not able to control their greed for sex in the same way. Thus, they came and changed the name of this to 'manliness' or 'zeal'.

They considered jealousy and greed under this name to be a virtue whereas if charity is good and if it is good in relation to wealth, it should be good in relation to women as well, or else it is wrong in both areas. How is it that when it comes to something that belongs to a person, it is good to be generous and liberal with it but then when it relates to women, it is evil. No, there is absolutely no difference between them. If it is good, it is good for both and if it is bad, it relates to both.

In the first place, it is not right to compare 'having a wife' to 'having property'. Secondly, from our point of view, there is a difference between jealousy and zeal (passion, fervor or ardency, ghairat). We believe them to be two different feelings. Zeal is a natural instinct given to humanity. It is a collective word. That is, its roots are to preserve society, not an individual. It is like a policeman that God has placed within humanity to preserve future generations.

As we have pointed out, however, much satisfaction a man receives in sexual pleasures, his sense of zeal becomes more weakened along with his sensitivities towards modesty, piety and moral will-power. Lustful men do not object to their wives having affairs; they may even enjoy it and defend such deeds.

Whereas the opposite is true of men who struggle against their ego's desires and lust. In this struggle, gathering together their moral forces, they dominate over vices such as greed, envy or the worship of money within themselves. They become what the term 'human being' really means. They then devote themselves to serving people as a sense of providing service to others develops within them. Such men have greater 'zeal' or 'sense of manliness' and are more jealous and protective of women. As a matter of fact, they protect all women in general. That is, their conscience does not permit them to allow any kind of aggression against women in society for it is as if they were the protectors of all women.

Imam Ali said, "A noble, zealous person never commits adultery." He did not say 'a jealous person never commits adultery' but rather a zealous one. Why? Because manliness is a noble, human virtue. It is a human virtue which relates to society and its purity. Just as a zealous man does not allow the corruption of women he is related to, neither is he content to see the women of society being corrupted. This is because zeal is other than jealousy. Jealousy is a personal and individual affair and stems from a series of spiritual beliefs but zeal is an emotion and a sensitivity which relates to the human species as a whole.

The secret of the fact that men have a very great sensitivity towards their wife having sexual intercourse with other men is an instinct which creation gave to every man to preserve future generations. If this did not exist, if the singular affection for children did not exist, not even one individual would be inclined towards reproduction. If this sense of wonder did not exist within the human being to protect and guard the place of the seed so that other seeds, which are similar, would not fall there, the relation between the sexes would be completely cut off. No one would know their father and no father would know his child whereas the connection between one generation to another is one of the principles of human society. If it did not exist, there would be no society.

Human beings have been given an instinct which is the basis for the preservation of society and that instinct is this: Women are desirous of preserving their generations and so are men but women are protected as a result. When a child is born, it is clear who its mother is and the mother knows her child. Even if she were to have intercourse with a thousand men, she would know that the future generations are assured but men are not reassured in this way unless they have guarded that woman and created some precautions whereby they are assured of their fatherhood.

Can a person say that we must eliminate this instinct called 'zeal' which exists within human beings? And, that this is the same thing as jealousy? This is something which even those who have a community type of living as far as property is concerned have not said in relation to women.

The Psychological Reason

Some people believe that the modest dress and staying at home are based on psychological reasons and that women have had an inferiority complex towards men from the very beginning. This feeling is based on two reasons: One is that some women think they lack something organic in their body in comparison to men. The other reason is the bleeding during their monthly menstruation and following childbirth.

The monthly period was considered to be a kind of deficiency in ancient times. That is why women were isolated during their monthly period and everybody avoided associating with them.

Perhaps that was the main reason for asking the Holy Prophet a question on this subject. God revealed a special verse in answer to this question. The Quran does not say that menstruation is something deplorable and that a woman is to be isolated during this time and that no one should associate with her. It says that it is a kind of harm leaving the body and during this time, they should not have sexual intercourse. It does not say that they should not associate with each other. "They ask you about menstruation. Say: It is a kind of harm. Do not have sexual intercourse with women at this time." (2:222) According to the Quran, it is a kind of harm like many others and it is far from being deplorable.

Abu Dawud related a Tradition of the Holy Prophet: "Ibn Malik said that the Jewish people used to send their wives out of their home when they were menstruating. They did not eat with them and did not drink water from their glass. They did not remain in the same room with them either. For this reason, the Prophet was asked about this and the above verse descended. The Prophet forbade the isolation of women at this time and said, 'Nothing is forbidden except sexual intercourse.' [1]

According to Islam, the menstruating woman is muhdis, that is, a person who does not perform the partial or total ritual ablution. Such a person is deprived from performing the ritual prayer and fasting. Every hadas is a kind of ritual impurity which is removed by ritual purification such as a partial or total ablution. By this we mean that the state of menstruation is like the state of having had a wet dream or sexual intercourse, etc. But this ritual state is not special for women and it is removed by partial or total ritual ablution.

Many ideas have been expressed about the fact that women have a sort of deficiency in their feelings and because of this, both men and women thought that women were abased. Whether they are correct or incorrect, there is no relation between this and the philosophy of Islam about women and the modest dress or 'covering'. Islamic precepts neither refer to menstruation nor the modest dress as reasons to consider women lowly or abased.

These, then, are the five causes which others have more or less related and from none of the five which are mentioned is one able to say that the modest dress is no longer necessary or that it was unjust from the very beginning.

Can the modest dress have another cause or not? May we offer the fact that the modest dress in Islam has other reasons which do not compare to any of these Rve mentioned: the well-being of a person's 'self', family and society.

It is well known that the spirit of the human being, just like a person's body, can either be healthy or sick. What is the cause for its sickness? They have given many reasons. One of the reasons mentioned is frustration, the failure to attain one's desires, deprivation or disillusionment.

Some people have suggested that these sexual frustrations arise from social limitations. With the removal of these limitations, all individuals will then succeed in the area of sexual affairs and sexual frustrations will disappear. This assumption was put forward but the drawbacks to it became quite apparent. It became clear that although it is true that sexual frustration causes psychological illnesses, it cannot be eliminated by the removal of the limits because if we remove social limits, we will only serve to further stimulate sexual urges, thereby increasing demands which only lead to further disillusionment within the human being.

For instance, say that a human being had a limited number of demands, such as the demands in relation to food. Every society has a certain amount of demand for food. If a country has a population of 20 million, the amount of food required is clear. If their supply is greater than that, they cannot consume it. It should not be less but if it is more, they have to throw it away.

When demands are limited, they can be satisfied . Demands can even be decreased in relation to the supply but it has been proved that the demand of certain things in human beings are unlimited. However much they are satisfied, the desire persists. Things which have a quality which are not solely physical are like this. For instance, in the area of material things, if we want to say how much food a society needs, we can estimate this but if we were to ask how much money a society needed, the demand would be unlimited.

We may ask, "How much wheat would it take to satisfy the people of Iran?" This is possible to estimate. But it is more difficult to estimate if we ask, "How much money would satisfy the people of the country?" If you give as much as possible to an individual, he would never say: That's enough. Knowledge is also like this.

Many of the demands of human beings are rooted in unending human desires. When you relate to them, a person still says: I want more. Wealth is also like this. It cannot be satiated. A tradition of the Holy Prophet relates to this. "There are two kinds of hunger which are never fulfilled, the hunger for knowledge and the hunger for wealth." [2]

Can one fulfil the ambition of a person? Can a society fulfil the ambition of a person? No. No matter what position a person is given, that person wants an even higher position. Even if you gave him the highest position, he still would not be satisfied . The reason for the development of ethics was because of this very thing, that is, to regulate unending human desires which have created chaos and conflicts.

Sexual enjoyment is limited from the physical point of view. A man can be satisfied from one woman, or, at the most, two. But from the point of view of attachment that a man and a woman develop, even Russell mentions the fact that physical sex differs from the attachment which can result from it. When it takes on this quality, can it be fulfilled? Given a man who has fallen into this way, a man, for instance, who has a harem of a thousand beautiful women. If someone were to say to him, "There is a beautiful woman in such and such a place", would he then say, "No. I am satisfied with my harem and my relations with the women there." There is no question of ever being satiated.

It was because of this that they readily saw that the desire for sex is like wealth. It is insatiable. They came and gave another suggestion. The human being must be made to deviate from this way. A person must be placed upon the unending road, a road that leads no where. Freud suggested it. He first struggled against any kind of social limits and limitations. He then saw that giving people limitless sexual freedom created more difficulties and problems for them. It created far greater psychological disturbances. He said, "This spirit must be directed to other things so that it becomes preoccupied with art, literature, etc. because this way is impossible!" This spirit has to be allowed to develop without anything standing in its way.

Experience and statistics have shown that in the West where sexual freedom is very great and in some areas, there are no limitations, psychological illnesses are greater than in a society which has limitations. The greater the stimulation, the more the desires increase. They increase several times just like fire. Can a person satiate a fire with fuel? This clearly cannot be done.

They say that no matter how you try to prevent a human being from something, the greed for it increases. This is true but the point to note is that the human being develops greed for something which is both forbidden and stimulated but if it is not offered or it is offered less, the human being finds less desire for it. When it is stimulated it is impossible for everyone to satisfy their desires for it no matter how much freedom they are given.

Thus, if there is a kind of limitation and sexual desires are to be satisfied within the marital environment, if society is to be the place of work and activity, if a woman does not have the right to stimulate sexual urges nor a man have the right to seek sexual fulfillment outside the marital environment, if it takes this form, the spirit and morale of people will clearly develop in a more healthy and wholesome way.

As to the family, efforts must be made so that, to the extent possible, marital relations become more and more intimate and whatever will weaken this relationship must be resisted. The limiting of sexual fulfillment to marriage, whatever kind of fulfillment it may be, causes the married couple to develop a more profound union because a man and a woman who knows only her husband to be the source of her pleasure and happiness clearly will develop deeper and stronger ties.

For instance, some people ask why it is that sexual relations of a man without a wife and a woman without a husband are forbidden outside of marriage? Why can they not have sexual relations? We accept the fact that there is a difference but note this point which appears to be very clear to me. In the recent past and in the present among societies which live according to Islamic law, a girl who reaches puberty is not free to take sexual enjoyment from every youth even though the instinctive desire exists. When a boy reaches puberty, a desire and inclination for the opposite sex develops but there are no means to satiate it.

From the beginning he is told, for instance, that he can marry when he reaches the age of 20 and the girl knows that he will marry in a few years. Marriage for them is a very sweet and pleasurable thing. Marriage is a fulfillment of desires after a time of deprivation. That is, sexual urges may not be satisfied outside of marriage.

This boy who is facing a girl for the first time sees her as the person who will satisfy his desires, bring him pleasure and happiness and the girl who faces the boy for the first time, knowing he will bring her happiness and well-being, develop such emotions that are incomparable to anything else.

Marriage and the family center is like this. When the satisfaction of sexual urges is forbidden outside this realm, it becomes the center of happiness.

Thus this issue of forbidding the fulfillment of sexual activities outside of the family center serves to strengthen family solidarity whereas allowing such possibilities outside the family center separates the family. As we will come to point out, the Islamic modest dress is nothing more than this; the limiting or restricting the sexual needs to marriage.

Now we will look at society. It has been said that the modest dress paralyzes half of the society. I accept that if the modest dress were that which they say existed among the Indians or that which existed in ancient Iran, this may be true. But the Islamic modest dress does not say that a woman should be imprisoned nor does it say that a woman has no right to leave her home or to do a particular job which is of a social or economic nature. Islamic precepts say, as we will read in the verses of the Holy Quran and in the Traditions, that a woman who leaves her home does not have the right to leave in such a way that she stimulates other men or attracts them towards herself. This is a particular duty of women. And no man has the right to cast a lustful look towards a woman who leaves her home. This is a particular duty of men.

If a woman did not speak in stimulating tones in a social situation, if this did not happen, would boys and girls not study better? If boys did not have the right to flirt, would society not function better? If a woman is wearing the modest dress and goes to buy something and the seller knows that this is not the place for games, which way is better? Clearly if there is the Islamic modest dress, the human task force will most certainly perform with more efficiency and in this manner, work productivity will improve.

That which has been created clearly prevents work from progressing as it should. Students do not study; marketing has been made to deviate from its main purpose which is selling quality goods. Instead they empty the pockets of people by showing a beautiful woman who is selling something. Men go to buy, not caring what the product is, to enable them to talk to her. Will this cause society to deviate?

Thus, from the point of view of work and social activity, the improvement of society dictates that it should not be the place for the stimulation or fulfillment of sexual urges and the Islamic modest dress serves just this purpose.

[1] Sunnan I Abi Dawud. Al Haid, p.102

[2] Sunan I al Daremi, Moqaddamah, p.32