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Is Hijab an Intelligent Way to Live a Modest Social Life?

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Generally speaking hijab is taken as veiling the face. In some Arabic and Western countries the word stands for a ‘modest dress for women which most of the scholars perceive as covering all body parts of a woman except hands and face. The term is not used as a piece of clothing for women or men. However, it refers to a curtain that provides privacy to the Muslim women from ‘Mehrams’ (a category of men from whom the women should not show their body parts and garments). Quran instructs the Muslims to respect wives of His last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and when they want to ask something, they should ask them from before a screen:

“…And when ye ask (his wives) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy Allah.s Messenger…” (Quran 33:53)

Interestingly, it is a direction for the believer men that they should observe ‘hijab’ (privacy) when they go to the house of Muhammad (PBUH). It is not a direction for the wives of Muhammad (PBUH) to observe hijab. However, later Muslims enforced these instructions not only for all women but also impressed upon them the responsibility to hide them from men which led them to segregation.

Hijab (Privacy) at Home

Quran gives not only a code to live a life for ultimate success but also instructs for a respectful social structure. It is natural that a family unit has to live in hijab (privacy) for a number of issues. The outsiders are not allowed to break this privacy. Quran says:

“O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophet's houses,- until leave is given to you,- for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation: but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed (to tell you) the truth….” (Quran 33:53)

This specific instruction is generalized in this way:

“O ye who believe! enter not houses other than your own, until ye have asked permission and greeted those in them: that is best for you, in order that ye may heed (what is seemly). If ye find no one in the house, enter not until permission is given to you: if ye are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity for yourselves: and Allah knows well all that ye do.” (Quran 24: 27,28)

How to Interact in Public?

Quran claims to be words of divine. It gives the women methods to interact with men outside their homes. Quran does not allow women to show their ornaments and fashions to the outsider men. However, the instruction start with men as:

“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.” (Quran 24: 30,31)

The modest dressing and interaction is not specified for women but for the both sexes. However, the men are first to observe the code and then the women should follow the same. Both sexes are directed to be modest in gaze, gait, garments and genitals.

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