An honest, virtuous and law-abiding community is the objective the Qur'an is aiming at. It warns both sexes to cover their nakedness. Control your looks and cover yourselves up to preserve your chastity. The Qur'an foresaw the covering up the nakedness of women both to enable them to protect their own chastity and to avoid men's being tempted by them and enabling them to remain protected. Otherwise in terms of human values both sexes enjoy the same rights. The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (9/71)
God wants that the men and women He created be clad and wear neat attractive clothes fitting their nature. They must not appear in shabby and dowdy garbs. Covering, mentioned only twice in the Qur'an, has been exaggerated to the point of being considered as the most important tenet of Islam. Yet, the garb in which a Muslim can and should wear in the path that leads to the Almighty, must be the garb of devotion and righteousness. O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. (7/26)
ATTRACTIVENESS OF WOMEN
Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world's life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (To return to). (3/14)
Passion for women and worldly gifts are innate in man. Woman is the complementary and integral part of man. She is meant to satisfy the sexual desires of man and to bear him children. She is instrumental in perpetuating the human kind. However, if one transgresses the limits set to desires lest they stray from the right path designed for him in the Qur'an, man becomes a slave to devilish tendencies that will lead him eventually to well-earned punishment.
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. (24/30-31)
As the verse indicates the men were the first to be admonished as regards self-control. For men covering is enjoined from their waist down to their knee caps, while for women parts of the body to be covered are a bit of wider scope.
Chastity is imposed both to men and to women, the former having priority. The Qur'an cites the parable of Joseph for men expected to safeguard the family ties. Joseph had been thrown into a well by his brothers out of jealousy. He was discovered by caravan traders who sold him to Aziz, a wealthy tradesman in Egypt. The man in Egypt who bought him, said to his wife: "Make his stay (among us) honorable: may be he will bring us much good, or we shall adopt him as a son." (12/21) Joseph made the best of the opportunities he had been granted. The landlady fell in love with Joseph who was exceptionally handsome. And (with passion) did she desire him, and he would have desired her, but that he saw the evidence of his Lord: thus (did We order) that We might turn away from him (all) evil and shameful deeds: for he was one of Our servants, sincere and purified. (12/24)
Joseph had not betrayed his master despite his intense desire for the latter's spouse. . She said: "There before you is the man about whom ye did blame me! I did seek to seduce him from his (true) self but he did firmly save himself guiltless!....and now, if he doth not my bidding, he shall certainly be cast into prison, and (what is more) be of the company of the vilest!" He said: "O my Lord! The prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me: Unless Thou turn away their snare from me, I should (in my youthful folly) feel inclined towards them and join the ranks of the ignorant." (12/32-33)
Joseph had preferred incarceration rather than yielding to the entreaties of the woman, and his innocence was proved after a few years when he was acquitted from the charge.
The important moral and spiritual lesson one should draw from this is the preservation of chastity by self-control and not mere covering of one's private parts.
Women should keep their modesty and not tempt men with their behavior, clothing and looks. O Consorts of the Prophet! Ye are not like any of the (other) women: if ye do fear ((Allah)), be not too complacent of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech (that is) just. And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; (33/32-33)
Women should take care not to be an instrument of seduction but a good spouse and a loving mother. Extramarital relations and adultery shatter families and shake the very foundations of a community. This holds true both for male and female population of a society. Let no man guilty of adultery or fornication marry and but a woman similarly guilty, (24/3)
God has rewards for chaste persons ... for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward (33/35)
BEAUTIES SHOULD NOT BE EXPOSED
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. (24/31)
Covering for women: in addition to the covering of their private parts, they should veil their bosoms (the latter not being enjoined for men); in other words, those parts which are likely to attract men (which are not stated explicitly in the Qur'an). Scholars have agreed on the parts allowed to be exposed when washing during the ablution; i.e. feet up to the ankles, hands up to the elbows, faces and head anointed with water. As regards women the words 'should not display their beauty and ornaments' are commented as subject to variations according to the climatic conditions and customs and usage.
The Arabic word hımar has a wide range of meanings. Hımar is the singular form of humur and corresponds to all sorts of covers that veil things: in the above verse it is supposed to have reference to the headscarf used both by men and women to cover their heads. We must remember that in Arabia, where the sun was scorching, the use of a headgear was absolutely necessary. On the other hand, the headscarf used by women has a name different from hımar, namely mikna and nasıfy. (See Prof.Dr.Zekeriya Beyaz-Islam ve Giyim Kuşam-Say 280-283)
There is no clear indication for covering the hair. Had it been so, the meaning would have been made explicit. What is more, hair as such is not sexually tempting. What is explicit about covering for women is her bosom, including perhaps the ornaments around the neck.
The Qur'an who advises both men and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty, is more explicit about the latter's garments. This would not only preserve their chastity but also avoid their tempting others as well.
COVERING ACCORDING TO SUNNA
According to certain traditions reported by Bukhari, Abu Davud and Nasai, men and women performed their ablutions during the lifetime of the Prophet by dipping their hands in the same receptacle. In the work of Abu Davud it is reported that both men and women did so. It follows therefore arms up to the elbows, feet, faces and the part of the head to be anointed with water were allowed to be exposed. However, if one chose to cover these parts should be regarded praiseworthy, but those who chose to do otherwise should not be looked at askance. (See Prof.Dr.Yaşar Nuri Öztürk Kur'andaki Islam- pp 615-616)
Those who gave undue importance to covering and using headscarf disregard the rules that form the backbone of Islam. There are but two verses in the Qur'an related to covering, while righteousness and devotion are stressed at every turn. Only the righteous and the pious shall be among the chosen. O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition! (7/26)
The parts that are allowed to be exposed for women as follows: Feet up to the ankles, face and head, in other words, the parts required to be washed during the ablution; this being subject to variations depending on the climate and local customs. The people who interpret the word hımar as headscarf should not be censured though. This problem must be solved once for all by a decision to be made by a Religious Council to be formed.
COVERING IN THE BIBLE
And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse (Numbers 5/18)
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had said unto the servant, what man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself.(24/64-65)
A great many verses in the Bible speak of covering of women. There have been a variety of covers and veils. The Talmud enjoins women to cover their hair in the presence of male strangers, not to go out without covering her hair. The women are advised not to speak loudly lest their voice be heard by men, not to behave lasciviously in the presence of men. She must spruce up only for their husbands.
For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered (1 Corinthians 11/6)
For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered. (1 Corinthians 11/8,10,13)
In the Letters of St.Paul there are references to the covering of women's hairs. St.Paul had come off with flying colors, in the controversies between him and the Nazarene Christians. His victory marks also the dawn of priestesses who were careful not to show even a single hair of their head. This custom has come down to our day. Although, in Islamic communities headscarf has been used by women to cover their heads, there is no mention whatsoever of a prohibition to expose part of her hair. The 'turban' that covers the entirety of the head is a fashion borrowed from Christianity.
OPINIONS ABOUT COVERING
The commandment in Surah 24 does not refer to the head but to the bosom, to the bosom and the ornaments on it. Ornaments cannot connote the entire body as there is no other verse implying this.
Washing during ablution is restricted to the part of the body exposed to open air; namely, hands, arms and head, in particular. During the Prophet's times, ablution was jointly performed by men and women, to wit, they benefited from the same receptacle containing water. There is no mention that this was either before or after the commandment regarding the veiling of women. Both the Qur'an and the sunna point to the fact that the parts to be washed during ablution are not supposed to be covered. In a nutshell, A Muslim woman, under normal conditions, is free to leave exposed those part of her body that are washed during the ablution, depending, of course, on the time, working conditions and on climatic and geographical data. (See Prof. Dr. Yaşar Nuri Öztürk- Islam nasıl yozlaştırıldı, pp 358-362)
The verses of Surah 24 and those prior to it were revealed in connection with the slander incident about Aisha's chastity. Before reaching a verdict, it would have been more to the point to take into consideration other relevant verses; namely, the believing female population had been warned to cover their ornaments lest they be stolen or envied. However, no such inference being made, wrong deductions had been made.
In none of the verse is it explicitly told that the head has to be covered. There is not any mention of the head. Even though in Arabic the words humur and hımar may mean headscarf, it does not follows that it should be made use of in one way or another to cover the hair of the woman. What is explicitly said in the Qur'an is the protection of the ornaments around one's neck and on one's bosom.
Surah 24 /31 should be interpreted according to the letter of the commandment, namely: . 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 .
(See Prof.Dr. Zekeriya Beyaz, Islam ve Giyim Kuşam, pp: 267-302)
The part of a woman considered to be as ornament may be defined as follows: The breasts, the part between the waist and the breasts and the part on her back between the neck and the waist. Other parts of relevance which may be left exposed to the looks of men are faces, feet and hands and arms up to the ankles and the leg between the feet and the knee cap.
In the Surah 24 no point has been set to the exposition of one's hair. Had it been otherwise, the hair would have been mentioned. However, although there is no obligation for women to cover their heads, she must be free to cover it or leave it exposed to view, if, of course, if the government is a democratic one.
WOMEN'S WEARING CLOAKS
O 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 (33/59)
The 'believing women' mentioned are the free Muslim women who were not concubines. In pre-Islamic times, frequent armed conflicts took place between tribes. The war prisoners became slaves who could be sold as chattels. Moreover, the houses of Arabs did not contain bathrooms within the premises. Women as well as men had to go outside to answer nature's call. The people harassed them and when called to account they argued that they though them concubines. The verse was revealed in this connection. Whereupon, in order to tell the concubines apart from the decent class of women it was decreed that the believing women wore jilbab (loose cloak). This did not imply that the entire body of woman, as well as her head, should be covered. This verse was revealed as a transitory measure. Considering that there is no more concubinage, the verse has no longer validity.
Today the slavery has been abolished and the State enjoys unqualified authority over all its subjects. Women nowadays can go out without having to put on jilbabs.
Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage,- there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not a wanton display of their beauty: but it is best for them to be modest: and Allah is One Who sees and knows all things (24/60)
Covering is not enjoined on women past the menopause. Nevertheless, they must take care not to behave seductively.
Many of our elderly ladies past the menopause who go on pilgrimage cover themselves upon their return in an exaggerated manner just because they don't know this verse.
What! have they partners (in godhead), who have established for them some religion without the permission of Allah (42/21)
Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due?... (39/3)
Religion originates solely from God. Prophets have been given the charge of communicating God's religion. Things that are not contained in the Qur'an cannot be turned into God's commandments. Such people act like attributing partners to God. One wonders why the Islamic countries chose to cover themselves while there is no such obligation. The reason should be sought in the structure of the communities in question. The system of polygamy and of concubinage led males to compel their spouses to connive at their husbands illicit sexual relations, persuading them that this was prescribed by religion.
During the pre-Islamic times among the Arabic tribes polygamy was rampant. Strength was paramount. Women were considered an inferior class. A man might take as many women as he liked, 10-15, etc. While the husband could divorce them with a single word: "I divorce you!"
Islam put a limit to the number of women a man could take to wife and with reservations at that. The right thing was monogamy. Yet, after the death of Muhammad, polygamy, expected to turn in monogamy, became the rule. The protest of the first spouses was tried to be smothered by exaggerated covering and cooping them up within the four walls of the house.
In pre-Islamic times in Arabia slavery and concubinage were established institutions. Abolition of these institutions was practically impossible. The Qur'an made admonitions: But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is Allah, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them), (24/33) Nevertheless, much against anticipations regarding the abolition of slavery, after the death of the Prophet, infinite number of war prisoners taken during the wars waged to spread Islam by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates were converted into slaves and concubines. These were not free people, they were bought and sold like chattel. The concubines were expected to satisfy the sexual needs of their masters. This state of affairs created untold of restlessness among the lawfully married spouses who often abandoned their homes to go and live with their parents, their sexual instincts doomed to be mortified. The covering whose objective was to deaden the sexual instincts of decent married women gained more and more ground.
Who were responsible for these developments? Lascivious statesmen deprived of all culture and religious feelings, the wealthy for whom money was something to be worshiped like an idol and pseudo clerics. In unison, they imposed moral and spiritual laws prohibiting women's enjoyment of their liberty. It is a sad thing to note that certain verses in the Qur'an were misinterpreted. An infinite number of traditions were made up related to the clothing of women; the entire body of woman came to be taken for an ornament that must be clothed. Subjective interpretations and decrees led to a chaotic state of the community. (See Prof. Dr. Zekeriya Beyaz- Islam ve Giyim Kuşam pp 230-240) Certain Islamic countries remained undeveloped as they kept women away from office work.
O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters. Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand. (7/31-32)
O ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition! (7/26)
We have indeed created man in the best of moulds (95/4)
God desires that men make smart before they go to the mosque to pray. Cleanliness and smartness are two basic rules.
Given the fact that there is no explicit commandment related to the clothing of men and women, one should, within the limits foreseen under 24/30-31, adopt the best attire that one thinks that befits one in accordance with the prevailing customs and usage of the locality. Women must see to it that they do not spruce in a manner to attract men and inspire them sexual feelings. Every country has its own clothes, it behooves a man to be smart but not ostensibly clad.
Outdoor overgarment that women wear covering her entire silhouette has no foundation in religion.