Veiled or Brained?

Woman Dress Code, Religion Versus Tradition

We have three major areas of debate when it comes to Islam in relation to women dress and dress codes. First being the face covering, linked to several security as well as social issues, and hereunder we will explain how unrelated it was to Islamic traditions. Then the bodily appropriate coverage, which Islam had advised-on in broad and elastic terms. Finally, we will discuss the controversial head covering.

Face Covering and Loss of Identity:

The commonly perceived to be Muslim women dress code, covering her entire body including her face, hands, and feet has nothing to do with Islam. It is a nomadic habit among Asian tribes, more related to the male domination nature of these societies, when we compare it to the African Sahara habit of covering faces of both male and female, like in the case of Tuareg tribes, where uncovered male face is a source of shame while women face covering is a voluntarily act, we shall then understand it was a matter of appropriateness to environment as well as ancient tribal tradition and not a religious tradition.

Today, this tribal habit became part of history in Turkey, at least in major cities, while it remained a living practice in Saudi, wherefrom it was exported to the whole Arabic world during 70s, 80s and 90s of the 20th century when Muslims from allover the globe were employed to build the petroleum civilization of Saudi kingdom. In Saudi, you will hear a lot about that habit. About how it encouraged adultery among women and men, due to lack of identification of woman persona. Even in Egypt, a court case I read once was about act of fornication committed by a totally covered woman, when she kept inviting her lover home, even when her husband was there, astonishingly she could make it because her lover stepped-in all time as a face-covered friend of her. It took three years until the cheated man hare a moaning from the room, to open the door and face his lifetime shocking scene!

Apart from the fragile claims of Wahabism jurists, who defend face covering as Islamic tradition, as they are all proofed false by numerous Muslim jurists, we will use one proof to show how Islam did not favor this identity-confusing nomadic tradition. When we say that God prohibited face covering during pilgrimage in Mecca and Medina, we can find-out what the real Islamic attitude toward face covering was. Until today, and due to clear commandment, everywoman must expose her face during Haj to Mecca.

Body Covering in Quran:

As a matter of fact, there is no dress code stated in Quran neither for women nor for men. Quran only advised some practices to increase the appropriateness of women appearance and to improve her perception in public. The terms used in the holy verses in this regard was intentionally broad and general to give flexibility to women dress, that should essentially change over time and with the diversity of environments and climates.

First verse being “And tell the believing ladies to cast down their eyes (upon seeing a stranger) and guard their chastity, and reveal not their charm save what is outward; and let them cast their veils over their bosoms” Light: 31. And as we can see, the verse advises Muslim ladies to guard their chastity, and limit their charm (meant body charm) to their husbands and their 1st degree kinship, and as by this time, women dresses usually had longitudinal clefts to enable nursing mothers feeding their babies, the verse advised the ladies to use their veils (that was already used before Islam to cover part of the head by the bedouin adornment habit) to cover these clefts and accordingly ensure covering their breasts. The second verse is”O’ Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing ladies; to get well covered (meant when they go out) so it is likelier to be known (as free and regarded ladies), so they do not be subject of any harm. God is all-forgiving, all-compassionate” Allies: 59. We find the verse here giving a general command for appropriate dress that does not reflect looseness, aiming to decrease women exposure to verbal as well as physical harassments.

In both verses, we find-out the following points:

  • Both used the term “tell”, so it was not “order” or “force” , which means women dress of whatever nature shall not be enforced to all women (like the case of Saudi or Afghanistan). The idea in the verses was about educating women how they should be dressed appropriately, not to force them to a nomadic black uniform.
  • Both verses were directed only to the “believing women” with special emphasis on apostle’s wives and daughters in the second verse. It was not directed to other women in the Muslims state in Medina, specially knowing that Medina had a plenty of Jews and some Christians. Accordingly, whatever role Islam has in this regard, shall never be enforced and dictated on non-Muslims living in a Muslim state, which means again that Wahabism system in Saudi is baseless in this regard, only as it is baseless in many other.
  • Quran commented a specific problem in the first verse, which is the breastfeeding clefts that was a necessity before buttons and zippers, and proposed an environmental solution to it which is the use of the bedouin veil, usually used by bedouins as a tool for adornment, to cover it. Also in a later part of the verse, Quran advised women to adopt a gait that supports the same impression of a serious woman, to avoid being thought-off as playful lady and subsequently lower the possibility of harassments.
  • The 2nd verse gave a general recommendation, using the term “Youdnin Alihenna men Glabibhenna” which has the direct translation of “to get their dresses closer over them” that we interpreted and translated as “to be well covered” or simply appropriately covered. This is more or less related to the broad recommendation in the first verse, advising believing ladies to show only what is outward of their charm and feminine beauty. Both verses were deliberately general and broad termed, to give a room for changing time and conditions. Today, a woman can use a modern trousers and shirt during work or studying, and she will be fulfilling the recommendations as far as her dress does not reveal her charm and feminine treasures to everyone.
  • In both verses, God educated women about the reason they should control their charm. It was their own welfare and safety. It had never been a matter of protecting men from seduction as the traditional jurists used to claim.
  • The term “tell the believing ladies” gives an idea about the assets Quran relied on to define the broad terms in these verses. That is the “feminine intuition“. As everywoman knows by heart how she can be appropriately covered and how she can be seductive. If the woman is truly believing and convinced that God wanted her to leave the right impression, she can look in an appropriate way according to the society wherein she lives. On the other hand, she can whenever she wants look seductive even under the layers of “shadoor”. I can write a hundred pages on the difference between seductive and appropriate dressing for women, and it will be all meaningless. Only everywoman knows how to hide or reveal her charm, this is why the verse particularly relied on convincing not forcing women to adopt modesty in dressing.
Apostolic Teachings and Controversial Head Covering:
We have two oral teachings linked to apostle of God that is usually used as a reference for head covering in Islam. Both narrated by “Aisha“. In the first, she narrated: when “Asmaa bent Abi Bakr“ appeared to him in a light dress, Apostle of God said “O’ Asmaa, when the woman reaches puberty, it is not appropriate for her to reveal but this (pointed to his face) and these (pointed to his hands). And in the other, narrated “Aisha“: Apostle of God said, “A devout Muslim woman should not reveal after puberty but this and these (and pointed to his face and his arms)

Supporters of head covering rely on these two hadieths, while their opponents rely on the fact that both hadieths are mono-referenced hadieths, a matter that decreases its credibility and doubts its linkage to apostle of God, claiming mono-referenced teachings to be only enough for advisory, supporting or detailing concepts supported by other scriptures, but not to establish a concept independently.

Afar from this debate, we see head covering to be a matter of personal choice to every lady to choose as she believes and comforts with. My own wife uses a veil as a head cover. I did not force her to do or not. She is a Muslim lady, she is an adult, and covering her head was her choice according to what she believes. This is the way it should always be. I think "Freedom" is the right word here. The opposition of head covering comes as an over-doing behavior in secular-societies like France once. Why should anyone be annoyed by a woman covering her own hair? As far as she does this in her own freewill? What harms secular foundations in this?

Among the three images we have here, I see the first to be wrong from security standpoint. While the 2nd and 3rd are both tolerable from social standpoint and it matters everylady only to choose what she feels comfortable with.


Arabic ID said...

Dear Eyad
let me congratulate you for the good analysis I need to discuss with you:

- I look to hejab as the man beard . it is a measure of fellowship and "3azimah" in announcing Islam.
from this point it is free to everyone to do what he thinks is right, but for me who has the courage to announce his faith is stronger than who just chose to got lost in the crowds, in the communities forcing the neqab or promomting hejab spoils those meanings I mentioned.

and if you ask about the girls just worn hejab to be fitting I might answer they wanted to appear as if their faith is strong but if you asked them a question in the religion they might fail.

they might need to leave it so everyone will choose what he comforts with.

I know this might be naive but I think of it in this way.


another thing I asked you before a question about did you ever made a wrong judgement, thought of something and revised it to find that you were wrong.
would you ever have the ability to admit your faults for yourself , you said that you are going to reply in a post, but it didn't come out..?

sorry, but this is important to me for understanding you better, and why would I want to know this?, just to open my heart more for you -that if you are interested of course- :-)

and what pushed me to remember this question is that you didn't say

"والله أعلم"

please accept my regards, and congratulations

Dr. Eyad Harfoush said...

Dear Aranic ID, I think we talk the same language in the matter of woman dress code. Maybe I will only not count who choose to have a beard or cover head as more courageous. It can be courage, but in other cases it can be an image he/she wants to get for some specific reason, or to cover a personality disorder. So, I say, according to what everyone understands from his religion, he can act. Without interferrence from government as you said.

About the countless times I changed my mind about things, you are right. I shall start in it, and promise it will be my comming post


Dr. Eyad Harfoush said...

Ahh, about saying Wallaho A3lam, Sometimes I use it, and sometimes I do not. Without any intention to do or not to do. I believe God is "All Knowing" whether I say or not. God is all knowing and my wording will never change this fact.

mahmood said...

Dear Dr. eyad,
You are always one step ahead, I agree with you word for word in this article.
as a matter of fact I was reading two other posts dealing with this subject one for egyptiana and one for fantasia, and it's almost a war between those who think it's a matter of choice and those who claim to be secular but can't tolerate differences.
but you put it into a prospective, I myself wouldn't pressure my wife to take it off or to wear it. I don't believe in forcing issues even if it is based in emotions.
I happen to live out side of Egypt and was married to an American who expressed her desire to convert to Islam and I refused because I don't believe in sexual conversions
nor I believe that emotions should be the compass for belief.
good job as always, last but not least I hope you are doing better now and out of depression(winter does that to people)
also I must tell you I like the test you have in your blog, what famous leader are you?
I did the test and the result was I will be Che Guevara..! I just hope I don't meet the same fate.
as always my best wishes and highest respect.

Fantasia said...

liked so much when you said that a woman can still be seductive under her chador.. it is true. hair is not seductive.. african hair is not seductive.. mesh 3al 7'odood yehafhaf w yerga3 yeteer ya3ni :)
but eyes are a very powerful seductive weapon. if you watch haifa wahbi (of course you do :)) you will notice that she doesn't rely on revealing her body. there are other female singers in the new wave of video clips who wear much more revealing clothes, but are not half as seductive as haifa. why? because haifa is damn good at the art of seduction.. she makes the best use of her eyes.. she gives telling looks that are enough to play with the imagination of any man. she uses her voice tone.. she uses certain expressions of her face and signals that are inviting men to perceive her as a damn sexy woman.
her hair doesn't play any role in all that.. cover her hair and you will still be seduced by a bombshell.
what is annoying is not hijab itself, but recent practices that became associated with hijab.. like not shaking hands with men, even if he was an old man who actually considers this woman like his grand daughter. my heart was broken when i saw one of those old men, stretching out his hand with all the warmest feelings to shake the hands with a young relative of his, who has recently worn hijab. she gave him a cold look, and said firmly "alsalamo 3alaykom". it makes you wonder, what kind of religious behaviour is that?
another thing is the common scene at the underground metro. men should be thankful to God that they don't ride the women's vehicle, seriously.. it has turned into a trap for harassing non-veiled and christian females.
and there is also the ugly pair of gloves!! what the hell is that supposed to be? where was that mentioned in islam? if even the weak hadith you mentioned tells women to reveal their hands, what do these women think they are doing?
i believe those practices are the threat that hijab nowadays poses to seculars, dr. eyad. countries like france have always welcomed women wearing hijab. they only got fed up with it when the growing wave of extremist thought found its way to terrorize others through hijab. if they allow hijab, they will have to allow khimar, chador and niqab. and they will have to put up with all those associated practices, which aims to deal with the culture of the host country as sinful and morally corrupt. so, no one can blame a country like france, which hosts million of arabs who didn't show any appreciation for its secularist values and religious tolerance.
thanks for the good read.. wishing you all the best.

Dr. Eyad Harfoush said...

Dear Fantasia,
Thank you for the valuable comment as usual. As for Haifa, I see her occasionally on TV as basically I do not watch TV spare special occasions. Yet, I can say you are right, she is seductive, but it depends on the man. To me, Bhutto was always more secutive since my teenaging era. Serious women in general attracts me more than playmates, so, how can any faith do to this? Shall it prohibit seriousness to avoid seducing men like me? Surly no.

As for shaking hands, wearing gloves and all kinds of shit, it is still within the area of personaly choice. I do not see a reason under which a secular society should prevent any of this except Niqab and Chadoor and any other identity masking dress. For hijab, khemar,gloves ....etc, I do not believe it is part of Islam myself. But, I respect other's belief. Why should secularism respect the unhealthy and unclean behavior of hair style and covering of Siekhism, and reject hijab?

I believe a secular society is demanded to have the tools preventing:
1- Any harrasements of any type to others, whatever this other shall be.

2- Niqab and any other face masking dress from security standpoint.

But I do not see it a must for any visitor or expat in any country, to follow the exact norms of this society. As far as he is not insulting others. If we accepted France protecting national ID by preventing Hijab, we shall accept Saudi style imposing Niqab on everybody. Both are stupid I think. What is personal, should remain personal, as intruding people choice is a non-secular behavior, it is totaletarian as I see it. Regards