Why is it not sufficient for observing hijab to just cover the head?


A schoolgirl wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, “In Islam, women are only commanded to generally cover themselves. Then, why do we observe purdah by wearing headscarves etc.? Why can girls not be friends with boys at school? Moreover, can I dress up as a fairy on Halloween?” 

Huzooraa, in his letter dated 26 January 2021, offered the following guidance regarding this topic:

“Islam has endowed both men and women with a greatly enlightened teaching regarding purdah. Hence, it states that both believing men and women should lower their gaze, that is keep their eyes away from seeing non-mahrams and conceal their private parts [satr]. Then, it has further admonished believing women that they should draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, should not disclose their beauty and should not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may become known.

“In this brief but very comprehensive teaching, every detail about purdah has been elucidated, namely that a believing woman should safeguard her eyes, ears and areas of satr and should also ensure that her dress is not so tight that it reveals her physique nor so loose and wide that the chest and other areas of satr get exposed.

“The commandment about not striking the feet on the ground implies that a believing woman should also refrain from physical movements in a manner which may reveal the various features of her physique, or, if a piece of jewellery such as an anklet etc. is worn on the feet, its sounds may draw people’s attention towards it and the eyes of strangers may be drawn to her or, if she has adorned her feet with henna or nail polish etc., the eyes of men may be drawn to her. All these things would be in violation of the injunctions of purdah.

“Thus, Islam does not consider it adequate for a woman to merely cover her head with a headscarf. On the contrary, by stating these matters, it has also explained all the other purdah-related requisites i.e. the ways in which a woman ought to take care of her purdah and cover herself.

“Explaining the verses on purdah, the Promised Messiahas says:

“‘That is, direct the believing men to restrain their eyes from looking at women outside the prohibited degrees so openly as to be sexually excited by them and to cultivate the habit of guarding their looks. And should safeguard their private parts at all costs. Likewise, they should restrain their ears outside the prohibited degrees that is they should not listen to the singing or beguiling voices of women outside the prohibited degrees nor should they listen to descriptions of their beauty. This is a good way of preserving the purity of their looks and hearts. In the same way, direct believing women that they should restrain their eyes from looking at men outside the prohibited degrees and should safeguard their ears against listening to the voices of such men. That is, they should not listen to the voices which sexually excite them. They should cover up their beauty and should not disclose it to anyone outside the prohibited degrees. They should draw their head-coverings across their bosoms and should thus cover up their heads and ears and temples. They should not strike their feet on the ground like dancers.’ (Islami Usul Ki Falasafi, Ruhani Khazain Vol. 10, pp. 241-242)

“Huzooras further says: 

“‘The Quran instructs Muslim men and women to lower their gaze […] The Islamic veil does not at all mean that women be imprisoned as though they were locked in jail. The purport of the Holy Quran is that women cover themselves and refrain from gazing at men that are beyond the permissible bounds. Women are not barred from leaving the house to tend to their societal needs. They are welcome to go out and about but must control their gaze.’ (Malfuzat [2016 edition], Vol. 1, p. 405)

“As far as the [ruling regarding] friendship between girls and boys is concerned, the primary logic behind it is to safeguard the chastity of women [and men]. Free-mixing is likely to result in a variety of evils. Therefore, Islam distinguishes between mahram and non-mahram relationships in this regard and defines the limits of male-female relations. Allah and His Messengersa imparted very clear teaching to their believers and followers in this regard. Hence, the Holy Prophetsa said that a person should not meet a non-mahram woman in seclusion for Satan was always the third companion in such a  rendezvous.’ (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Fitan)

“The Promised Messiahas explained the wisdom behind this instruction of the Holy Prophetsa in the following words:

“‘It has often been heard and observed that such societies see no ill in a non-mahram man and woman remaining alone behind closed doors; they call this civilisation. It is to counter these very adverse effects that the Founder of Islam has forbidden an individual altogether from approaching anything that may lead them to stumble. In this relation, the Holy Prophetsa has stated that where a non-mahram man and woman sit in seclusion, the third with them is Satan. Just reflect on the harrowing outcomes that Europe is having to bear as a result of this non-restrictive and unbridled teaching. In certain places, an utterly shameless life of promiscuity is led. This is due to teachings of the sort just mentioned. If you wish to protect a thing from misuse, it must be safeguarded. However, if one does not watch over a possession – and considers the world to be innocent – then keep in mind that it will surely be ruined. The Islamic veil is a truly holy teaching indeed, which, through segregation, saves man and woman from stumbling. It has delivered mankind from an illicit, grievous and bitter life.’ (Report Jalsa Salana 1897, p. 48) […]”.

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