Is there a type of covering of which Islam has prescribed? What is the purpose of tasattur (covering)? What does “garment of piety (taqwa)” mean? “Why should we cover our bodies in this age?”
Submitted by on Tue, 10/08/2010 - 14:00
Dear Brother / Sister,
Covering (tasattur) is a necessity of creation
Covering is one of the factors which blocks the paths leading to fornication. Covering is a natural thing; it is the necessity of creation. Read how Badiuzzaman explains the issue :
To veil themselves is natural for women and their innate dispositions demand it. For women are weak and delicate, and since they are in need of a man’s protection and help for themselves and for their children whom they love more than their own lives, they have a natural desire to make themselves loved and not loathed, and not to be rebuffed.
Also, seven out of ten women are either old or ugly, and they do not want to show their age and ugliness to everyone. Or they are jealous, and they do not want to appear ugly in relation to others who are more beautiful. Or they are frightened of assault or aspersions, and want by nature to cover themselves so as not to suffer assault, nor to be accused of unfaithfulness in the eyes of their husbands.
It is clear that people are discomforted by the looks of those they do not like or find tedious; they are upset by them. Also, since a woman whose morals are not corrupted is sensitive and easily affected, she will certainly be distressed at dirty looks whose effects have been physically experienced, indeed, are poisonous. We even hear that many women are fed up at being the object of attention, and complain to the police, saying: “These brutes keep staring at us and disturbing us.” This means that present-day civilization’s unveiling women is contrary to their natures. And together with being in accordance with their natures, the Qur’an’s command to veil themselves, saves women—those mines of compassion who may be worthy companions for all eternity—from degeneration, abasement, what is in effect slavery, and wretchedness.
Furthermore, by nature women are fearful of men who are strangers, and anxious at them. Fear naturally demands the veiling of women. Being weak, their creation demands that through veiling themselves they do not excite the appetites of men outside the stipulated degrees of kinship, nor allow any opportunity for assault; their weak creation gives powerful warning. It shows that their cloaks and coats are shields and fortresses.
Today’s miserable condition of women, moral depression in which our youth are in, and side effects as a result of this depression deals a slap in the shameless faces of those opposed to the veiling of women and who consider covering to be “slavery”.
The authentic and extremely intense relationship, love, and affection between men and women does not arise only from the needs of worldly life. Yes, a woman is not only a companion to her husband in this worldly life, she is his companion also in eternal life.
Since she is her husband’s companion in eternal life, she surely should not attract the looks of others besides her husband, her everlasting friend and companion, and should not offend him and make him jealous.
As a consequence of the mystery of belief, her believing husband’s relations with her are not confined to this worldly life and his love is not only animal and temporary, during the time of her beauty; he holds true, earnest love and respect for her in regard to her being his companion in eternal life. And he bears that love and respect for her, not only during her youth when she is beautiful, but also when she is old and ugly. Certainly in return for this, she should show her beauties to him alone and restrict her love to him; this is demanded by humanity. Otherwise she would gain very little and lose much.
Happy family life is perpetuated through mutual confidence between husband and wife, and heartfelt respect and love. Immodest dress and free-and-easy behavior destroy the confidence, and spoil the mutual respect and love.
It is clear that everyone wants lots of children. There is no nation or government that does not support increase in population. In fact, the Most Noble Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Marry and increase, for at the Last Day I shall take pride in your large numbers.”(Ibn Majah, Wedding, 1). However, the abandoning of Islamic dress for women does not increase marriage, it decreases it greatly.( Today it is a certain fact that European countries try to revive the wedding foundation by promoting with wedding contributions)
Our country cannot be compared with Europe, because the people of Europe are cold and frigid, like the climate. Asia, that is, the lands of Islam, are relatively torrid countries. It is well-known that the environment has an effect on people’s morality. Perhaps in those cold countries immodest dress does not stimulate the animal appetites and carnal desires of those cold people, and be a means of abuse. But immodest dress which continually excites the carnal lusts of the easily influenced and sensitive people of hot countries is certainly the cause of much abuse and waste and the weakening of the young generation and a loss of strength. Instead of answering natural needs one a month or every three weeks or so, a person considers it necessary every few days. And then, since he is obliged to avoid his wife for perhaps two weeks out of every month due to contingencies like her monthly period, if he is defeated by his appetites, he will incline to houses of ill-fame. ( The Flashes, 24th Flash, 1st-4th instances of wisdom)
Is there a type of covering for which Islam has prescribed?
We cannot say that there is a fixed type of clothing in form. Neither the Prophet nor the Companions of the Prophet had a particular type of clothing. Besides, assessing a universal religion like Islam which surrounds all humanity within obligatory clothing is contrary to its universality. When we look at the way of clothing of the Prophet, the Source of Pride of Humanity, we do not see one particular type. The Messenger of Allah used to wear sometimes a loincloth and sometimes a dress and some a nice loose robe.
Abdullah b. Jabir says: “I swear by Allah that I saw the Prophet in the moonlight with a robe and a shirt on him. Nobody could not look so beautiful with the garment on him except the Prophet .”And one day, another companion saw a nice shirt on the Prophet and he asked him to give it to him. The Messenger of Allah took it off and gave it to him as a present.
It is impossible to find a standard of clothing and such a suggestion in his life. The Prophet used to be dressed in the type of clothing common in the community or similar to it. And sometimes he used to be dressed altering it or improving it. It is not right to attribute wearing black cassocks to the Prophet. He usually used to wear bright white ones; and sometimes he used to wear white, red and green clothes.
We should not remain focused on the shape and the color of the garment. We should not give rise to conflicts and contradictions by making them a matter of discussion. Ottoman people, our ancestors, took the teachings of Islam and integrated them with our culture. They took not the way of clothing but what should be learnt; they kept on the style of clothing of Kai tribe, which they used to wear in their land and improved it in time. With their garments of our magnificence period, with their garments and robes made of leather, they set examples for European people for a long time.
Covering is the command of Allah
Woman who used to cover their heads in the period of Jahiliyya tied their headscarves on their necks or they let them loose down their backs. Forbidding this habit before Islam for sure with the 30th and 31st verses of the surah an-Nur in the Qur’an, Allah has commanded women not to display their charms – except that which is revealed of itself – and to draw their veils over their bosoms in order to cover their hair, head, ears and necks.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) says : “May God bless the first migrant women. When God revealed the verse “ the believing women should draw their veils over their bosoms”, they ripped a piece of cloth form their skirts and with that cloth, they covered their heads.” (Bukhari, Tafsir-u Surati’n-Nur, 13, Abu Dawood, Clothing)
Migrant women and women from Medina ripped a piece of cloth and with that, covered their heads when this verse was revealed, and our Prophet said “it is not permissible for a woman who has reached the age of puberty to display her body except for her hands and faces”(Abu Dawood, Clothing, 32) to Asma, the sister of Aisha; they all show that women are obliged to cover their parts of the body.
In addition, the fact that the Prophet pointed to two inches over the wrist, and said “ it is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and in the hereafter to uncover her body except for her face and their hands up to this point when she has reached the age of puberty” (Abu Dawood, Clothing, 33) proves that the commands in the related verse are binding.
Here at this point, we will explain the Prophet’s phrase “Kasiyatun ariyatun” (“dressed but naked”) with one or two sentences. The purpose of a woman’s covering her body is concealing her charm and not letting people be seduced by her. Considering the statements of our Prophet, we understand that the clothing must not be transparent and must not also display the outlines of the body.
What is the purpose of covering?
The purpose of covering which our religion orders is that women must not display their charms and bodies to non-mahram men and they must not make it possible for non-mahram men to see the parts of their bodies that need to be covered. For this reason, covering must be thick enough not to display the hair, the color of the skin and their charms; and it must be loose enough not to display the shape of the body as well. Regarding this issue, there are many more hadiths apart from the hadiths mentioned above. (Muslim, Clothing, 34; Jannah, 13; Musnad 2:356)
In the 59th verse of the surah al-Ahzab from the Qur’an, the following is stated:” O (most illustrious) Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, as well as the women (wives and daughters) of the believers, to draw over themselves some part of their outer garments (when outside their homes and when before men whom they are not forbidden to marry because of blood relation). This is better and more convenient for them to be recognized (and respected for their decency and decorum) and not harassed.”
In this verse, Muslim women are commanded to draw over themselves some part of their outer garments which do not display the shape of their bodies and not to go out of their house with garments which they wear in the house. In the 60th verse of the surah an-Nur, it is stated that old women can go out of their houses without taking their outer garments (coat, topcoats etc.) over on condition of covering their parts of the bodies that are necessary to be covered and charms as commanded in the 31th verse of the same surah :
“The women advanced in years, having passed the age of child-bearing and no longer feeling any sexual desire, incur no sin if they cast off their outer garments without making a display of their charms. But even so, it is better for them to abstain from this. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (the Qur’an, an-Nur, 24:60)
In conclusion, it is an absolute decree of our religion with agreement of the Islamic scholars of the book and sunnah that women must cover their bodies except for the face and the hands near non-mahram men, with a garment which does not display the color of the skin and the shape of the body and they must draw their veil over their bosom lest their hair, heads and necks should be seen. To obey these commands are Muslims’ religious duties.
“ The best garment is the garment of piety”
God commands in a verse of the Qur’an : “O children of Adam! Assuredly We have sent down on you a garment to cover your private parts, and garments for adornment. However, (remember that) the garment of piety and righteousness – it is the best of all. That is from God's signs, that they may reflect and be mindful.” (the Qur’an, al-A’raf, 7:26)
It is the sense of piety and modesty which is more important than the garment. Covering the necessary parts is the first condition of preserving honor. The wisdom of Allah gave a sustainable, nice and natural covering to many creatures except for human leaving them without the sense of shame and covering.
He created only man, upon whom He bestowed the sense of shame, in a naked form. Thus, man might both benefit from the test of covering and they also prove his duty of being the caliph of God in the world. Man has the ability to produce clothing from all the animals and plants and other materials spread on the earth and by doing so, he displays his power of benefiting from and ruling over all the creatures, which is a manifestation of his being the caliph of God.
Covering is a characteristics of man only among all the living creatures. Nudity has always been considered as uninhibitedness and impudence by the conscience and common sense in every period of humanity.
The decree of covering in our religion aims at preserving the psychological health of man, his honor due to his creation and public morality and maintaining the balance among humans and between genders; and also, establishing an honorable way of sexual life and family life. The fact that the bounds of covering are based on different decrees for man and woman is a distinction made due to the differences between these two genders.
Is a woman who does not wear a headscarf not chaste? It is doubtlessly impossible to consider a woman who does not wear a headscarf to be unchaste. Moreover, considering every woman who wears a headscarf to be chaste might be incorrect. Since there are chaste and honorable women among women who cover their heads and who do not, there may be some who lack honor and chastity.
However if we consider the matter with respect to Islamic morality and decrees, this decree changes a bit. Islam informs people that some parts of the body of men and women are private and these parts must not be displayed to those who are non-mahram and points out that people may also commit an illicit intercourse with their hands and eyes.(Bukhari, Istizan, 12; Muslim, Destiny, 20)
Since there will always be people in the community who might lustfully gaze at the private parts of men and women, a Muslim, who goes outside knowing it and displaying these private parts is a sort of behavior which damages the concept of Islamic honor and chastity. Besides, since the headscarf is a clothing item which covers women’s head and bosom which are to be covered by a woman, the matter should be understood this way. (Hayrettin Karaman)
Why should we cover our bodies in this age?”
I suppose you must have heard of this question in different places. I was in a public bus. Two old people were sitting right in front of me. They were talking to each other. Meanwhile two girls whose heads were covered got on the bus. They were standing at the front part of the as there were no seats left to sit. The old woman who was sitting in front of me, poking the other woman next to her with her arm, asked : “ Do you see them?”. The other woman replied : “ Yes, I do and I do feel so sorry for them. I feel pity for such young people. We also used to cover our heads in the past but now, we are in the modern age. How come do you think could such dressing still exist? We cannot even take a single step forward with this outdated habits.”
Unfortunately, there are still such people who think this way. We should state firstly that covering is not something that can be dealt according to the age. People may put on different and strange dressing and their intelligence might still work. For example, in Germany, everyone, men and women, used to wear kalpacs in a particular period in the past. German people who wore kalpaks did not become less intelligent; they become developed in industry and technology. European people used to cover their heads until recently. Covering their heads did not hinder their advancement. This matter is not related to the age we live in.
It is impossible to associate this matter with civilization. The expression “civilized people wander uncovered” is too meaningless. If civilization means being distant to the previous ages and their lifestyles, the age of savageness has been abandoned with the advent of Islam. Islam was revealed and it commanded people to cover their bodies. Covering was made attractive, perfect and mature and made to become a style of dressing which women would like.
For this reason, if civilization means living contrary to archaic ages, nudity today was something which was before Islam, in the time of Jahiliyya. If nudity and living uncovered is civilization, cannibals and tribal people in the jungle live displaying even their breasts.
What do people who strongly disagree with the way a woman is dressed defend? Why do they still insist on this matter? It is not possible to understand it. We presume that the owners of such ideas falter in the bigotry which they defend against others. Bigotry means supporting ideas which have no proof and bases. The proof of a believer on a matter which he claims are very strong.
M. Ali Seyhan
Questions on Islam
- What should the dressing style of a Muslim woman be like?
- How should a woman’s outside covering be? How should a woman dress according to the code of tasattur in Hanafi madhab?
- Is there a type of covering of which Islam has prescribed? What is the purpose of tasattur (covering)? What does “garment of piety (taqwa)” mean? “Why should we cover our bodies in this age?”
- How should a woman’s outside covering be? To what extent can hands and feet be uncovered? How should the head be covered?
- Is it fard (obligatory) for women to cover their heads?
- Can there not be fashion of tasattur (hijab)? Can Fashion be Associated with Hijab?
- What kind of clothes should women wear (for tasattur)?
- Is it right for women who are dressed according to Islamic rules to wear their headscarves covering their shoulders?
- Doesnt women face draw more attention comparing to their hair? Why is hair covered up but not face?
- Special File Regarding Covering (Tasattur) and Headscarf