“Women’s rights” is one of the most important and controversial issues in the world. Today, many people believe that social laws are against the rights of women and should be changed.
The western world has experienced lots of social revolutions and movements till now including, Marxism, Communism, Abolitionism, etc. Usually, in these movements, people of a lower social class try to fight against the tyranny and oppression of a higher social class. One of these controversial movements has been Feminism which falls into three eras in the western world.
The first era dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries when the movement was against the Patriarchal culture in the west. As a matter of fact, women supporting Feminism in this era, wanted to be considered respected members of society and that the society understood that sex and gender was not the proper index for making the designation “lower or higher social class”. In other words, the first era can be considered as a philosophical view that indicates the physiology of humans doesn’t put them in a lower or higher position in the society and women should be recognized and respected as humans just like men.
Politicians, scientists and people gradually accepted Feminism in the first era but after a while, the Feminist movement approaches its second phase when feminists intended to be not only respected or considered the same but they also wanted to gain the same position in social activities and have the same jobs just like men.
Feminism in the second era is/was after equalizing the rights of men and women in the community i.e. women can do the same as men even in some complex jobs like Municipal services.
Nowadays, the whole world is facing the third phase of the movement which is called “Modern Feminism”. If we look more precisely into Feminism in the first and second eras we may notice that the main concepts of these two are justice and equality but in the third phase the core concept of modern Feminism is power. Feminists in the first and the second eras were defending (women's rights) against men but in contemporary Feminism they attack! and no one gets to complain; because if you disagree with this phase of Feminism you will be accused of being one of the cruel men who deprive women of their legitimate rights. In the third phase, Modern Feminism wants to create a new world where men are subordinate to women. (1)
“Unto the woman He (God) said: 'I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”
One of the most important causes that made women start the fight for their rights was religion in the west. In the Bible, Eve (The First woman ever) was the one who tricked man into eating the (Forbidden) Fruit of the tree in midst of the garden. In Judaism and Christianity in which the sin of Adam and Eve is considered an important turning point, women are so blamed and should be ruled over by men because of their sins. The Bible has so many bad (negative) views about women:
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
(The Bible, 1 Timothy 2:11 to 14.)
“And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, They have no wine. Jesus said to her, Woman! What have I to do with thee?”
(the Bible, John 2:3&4)
“And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves (husbands and wives) that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect.” ( The Quran, 30:21)
In ancient Arab culture, women were all considered slaves and servants of men. Having a daughter was considered a great shame for Arabs so they would cruelly kill their daughters by burying them alive. In this regard the Holy Quran says:
“When the girl buried-alive will be asked (on the Judgment Day) for what sin she was killed?” (The Quran 81:8&9)
In this very harsh and dark atmosphere for women, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) rose and by bringing the Message of Islam, which was Justice and Equality, made clear to everybody that women are the same equality as men. We even can consider Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as one of the first and true messengers of Feminism.
In Islam, Allah, The Almighty does not differentiate between His pious servants, whether they are men or women.
“O mankind! Indeed, we created you from a male and a female…... Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God wary among you.” (The Quran 49:13)
“We have enjoined man concerning his parents: His mother carried him through weakness upon weakness (the difficulty of pregnancy) …. Give thanks to Me and to your parents (both father and mother)” (The Quran 31:14)
Therefore, Feminism in the first and second phases are mainly accepted in Islam but there is a point to notice: In the Islamic view, men and women are equal but different. In the sight of Allah, the duties of men and women in society are not the same.
“And the male is not the same as female” (The Quran 3:36)
This is a sentence said by the mother of the Holy Mary (SA) in the Quran. She was after sending her lovely daughter to a place full of men and to a work which mainly men did (serving and working in the temple of Jerusalem). The Quran quotes this sentence to point out that males and females are different and cannot live in a society exactly like each other. For instance, both males and females are obligated to follow a rule named Hijab, but in different ways (The clothes that Muslim women should wear are different from what men should). However, men and women can both participate in social activities as the Holy Mary (SA) did in the temple of Jerusalem. Actually, the rule of the Hijab is for simplifying the communication between men and women in society while women are also safe from bothersome men. So as you see, men and women are the same in the sight of Islam but with different duties.
This is true about the social laws of Islam too. The Holy Quran says:
“Men are the managers of women” (The Quran 4:34)
“They (men) have a degree (in social activities) above them (women) ” (The Quran 2:228)
In the Islamic view, men are responsible for (taking care of) women and should financially support them and because of this, they have a degree in social activities above women but women have no such responsibility while they are also free to have jobs or properties of their own. This is because women are not created to work hard or face the difficulties and the hideousness in society or be responsible for the financial affairs of their families, but they are created to be the emblem of affection and mercy.
Imam Ali (AS) says:
“Female is a beautiful Flower, not a servant or hard worker”2
But the third Phase of Feminism which the whole world is facing now is not accepted by Islam. By equalizing the social duties of men and women and even by giving women many difficult responsibilities in society, Modern Feminism destroys the very souls of women that Allah created in the first place.
The last point to note is that how Muslims treat women in some countries like Saudi Arabia, has nothing to do with the teachings of the Quran and Islam. The way they act is actually the opposite of what the Holy Quran says.
Consequently, Islam accepts women as respected and valued members of the community and men and women are equal and Allah does not differentiate between them because of their gender. But in the Islamic view, Modern Feminism is actually against the rights of women and is not accepted at all.
- Women and Family’s Socio ـ Cultural Council Quarterly , vol.9 , Asghar Eftekhari
- Nahj al-Balagha, letter no.31
To answer this question about wearing Hijab, we should first understand why God has sent down religion to man and why He orders man what to do and what to avoid.
Imagine a person who invents an electronic device, for example, a computer; he knows how the computer should be used to give the best outcome. Therefore, there is always a manual coming with the computer that tells us how to use it for a better result. So the user uses the manual to keep the computer safe and productive.
God has created man, and He knows what is good and what is harmful to him/her. He sent the religion and the Quran as a guide for human beings. Following the instructions in the book will lead to the useful, peaceful and productive life of a human.
Some people say that being a Muslim is not merely to pray or fast or observe the Islamic clothing rules (Hijab), but it is the faith of a person that makes him/her a true Muslim, and obeying the Islamic rules is not as important as having pure faith in God. But the fact is that reaching such levels of faith is only possible by passing the phase of being in complete obedience to God.
Islam means submission and being a Muslim means that one accepts to submit to God’s orders. The father of all Muslims, Christians, and Jews according to the Quran is Prophet Abraham (PBUH): “the faith of your father, Abraham. He named you ‘Muslims’ before” (22: 78). Therefore, from the time of Prophet Abraham (PBUH) the followers of all monotheist religions are called Muslims.
Although some Islamic rules may look hard to obey, the fact is that “Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you” (2: 185), and the rulings of Islam are to make our life easier, not harder. God has provided specific frameworks for us to reach a comfortable, peaceful and prosperous life, and to face fewer challenges in life. One of those rules is observing the Islamic dress code (wearing Hijab).
Our problem is that we can only see limited dimensions of an issue. For example, in case of the Islamic dress code (Hijab), we just see that it may be hard for women to cover up in a specific way. Or they may be unable to present their beauties in the society, while the Islamic dress code (Hijab) is there to make women protected in their social relations. Hijab is for women to be respected and recognized because of their character, beliefs and capabilities, NOT their appearance and physical beauty. It also helps them be less troubled by those men who have sick hearts [i].
Before one realizes that Islam is the real truth and as long as people are in search of the truth, there is no blame on them for not being a Muslim and not following the Islamic rules. But, as soon as one understands that Islam is the true religion from God and the most perfect one, then he/she should logically become a Muslim.
After accepting the main principles of Islam (the Islamic axioms), if you have only a few misconceptions about some of the Islamic rulings such as the Islamic dress code (Hijab), it is suggested that you embrace and try to observe all the Islamic rules, especially the Islamic dress code (Hijab).
This is just like taking a prescription from our GP when feel obliged to take all the medicine for a better result without knowing the reason for using some of it. As you start acting according to some of those rules that do not make sense to you, you can begin to study and to understand the reason for some details that may be unknown to you right now.
When we believe in Islam, we should believe in it as a whole. It is not correct to accept some parts of it and reject the other parts because in that case, the peaceful life that is promised to Muslims by obeying all religious rules will not be reachable. This uncompleted obedience is like a machine that has lost some of its components and does not work properly. A Muslim who does not obey all the rulings still counts as a Muslim but does not gain the entire benefits that Islam can bring to a person with complete obedience.
Remember again that Islam means being submissive to God’s orders. We always aim to be the best at something that we start. For example, we may strive to be the best in our education or our career. The same should be with our religion so that one day we may enjoy being as friendly to God as Abraham (PBUH).
“Who has a better religion than him who submits his will to Allah, being virtuous, and follows the creed of Abraham, a Hanif? And Allah took Abraham for a dedicated friend.” (4: 125)
Becoming a Muslim and obeying the Islamic rules has its own adversities, but at the same time, it has many advantages. A real Muslim who does not only stick to apparent rules of Islam and uses the spiritual tips and hints for his/her spiritual growth can reach the most peaceful life; “Look! The friends of Allah will indeed have no fear, nor will they grieve” (10: 62)
When talking about Hijab in Islam , the first impression that comes to mind is a cloth covering certain parts of women’s body. But is this the real meaning of the Hijab? Is that all Islam intended by ordering to wear Hijab; covering women’s bodies? This is surely one of the functions but is not the whole thing.
Hijab in Islam concerns men as much as women. Indeed, by introducing Hijab, Islam aims to set out a framework on how we dress, how we look, and how we interact in society. This also originates from a superior objective: limiting the human desires towards the opposite gender to one’s private life in the form of a legal marriage and letting the society focus on work and productivity .
Islam requires both women and men to dress simply, modestly, and with dignity. Simply said, one should not dress in a way to draw the attention of the others to their physical features. Islam has forbidden wearing the clothing that attracts the attention of the general public, making its wearer known for it because of the type of the fabric, its color, model or because of being worn and unclean ; and this applies to women and men both.
According to the Holy Quran, covering and Hijab of body dates back to the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “So when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became exposed to them, and they began to stitch over themselves with the leaves of paradise.” (7:22). This demonstrates that following the standards of modesty is innate in all human beings, and so do the Islamic dress codes.
Since modesty as the reason to wear the Hijab in Islam is a subjective term, the Quran and Sunnah [i] have laid out the bare minimum to prevent any confusion. The absolute minimum covering in Islam set for men is loose and unrevealing clothing from his navel to his knee . Men are not allowed to wear gold jewelry, silk clothing, or adornments that are considered feminine .
Muslim women, like men, are not permitted to wear tight and revealing clothing; especially the ones showing the details of their body. The clothing should cover their hair and body, but covering the face and the hands, from the wrist to the fingers, is not mandated . It is also forbidden for women to wear strong perfume, heavy make-up, or such jewelry that makes a jingle noise with movement and attracts the attention of others, especially strange men. They should not reveal their ornament either. These all let the Muslim women to be recognized in society by the content of their character rather than by their physical appearance and do force men to cease objectifying women.
It should be noted that besides these dress codes, Islam has mandated us to wear beautiful and clean clothes; especially when dealing with others and during prayers: “O Children of Adam! Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer” (7:31). This also should be considered as much as the clothing rules.
Islamic precept has introduced a particular way of decency by presenting the concept of controlling the gaze. It is stated in the Quran that: “Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks” (24:30); and: “And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks” (24:31). It means that women and men are both required to keep their gazes downcast unless permitted [ii].
Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “A glance is a poisoned arrow from the arrows of Satan. He who refrains from it [glancing] for the sake of Allah and nothing other than Him, Allah will grant him a faith, the taste of which he will experience.” .
Keeping the glance downcast prevents men from lustful thoughts when looking at any woman other than their wife and allows women to protect themselves and guard their modesty. If one truly believes that God is present everywhere and at every second, He sees all he does [iii], and “He knows the treachery of the eyes, and what the breasts hide.” (40:19), he controls his glance in public and in private.
As society is composed of women and men, their social interactions and communications are inevitable. Emphasizing the concept of decency, Islam has special guidelines for the interactions between members of the opposite sex. Islam, as the religion of moderation [iv] , does not allow a free relation, neither severely restricts this interaction, but allows women and men to communicate in good intention . This means that the speech should be direct and both sides should consider the human identity of the other person, not the gender.
Allah says in the Quran: “wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women: if you are wary [of Allah], do not be complaisant in your speech, lest he in whose heart is a sickness should aspire; speak honorable words.” (33:32).
Although this verse of the Quran addresses the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) who were mostly at the old age, it also applies to all other women especially young ones . This requires Muslims, specifically women, to use a serious tone of voice and expression when talking to the opposite gender. Otherwise, their sweet words might seduce the person whose heart might be diseased with lust.
[i] The lifestyle and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
[ii] e.g., in the case that a witness looks at the face of a non-mahram to recognize him/her.
[iii] “does he not know that Allah sees [him]?” (96:14)
[iv] “Thus We have made you a middle nation that you may be witnesses to the people” (2:143)