Islamic Dress for Women
FIRST INSTANCE OF WISDOM
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 or unsightliness 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 by their husbands.
If noted carefully, it is seen that it is the elderly who hide themselves most. While only two or three out of ten women are both young and beautiful and do not feel uncomfortable at displaying themselves. It is clear that people are discomforted at being looked at by people they do not like or find tedious; they are upset by it. If a beautiful immodestly dressed woman takes pleasure at two or three out of ten men who are canonically strangers looking at her, she is bored by the seven or eight. Also, since a woman with uncorrupted morals 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 in Europe, the place of open dress, 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, while the Qur’an’s command to veil themselves is both inconformity with women’s natures, and saves them – those mines of compassion who may be worthy companions for all eternity – from degeneration, degradation, what is in effect slavery and wretchedness.
Furthermore, by nature women are fearful of men who are strangers, and are anxious at them. Fear naturally demands the veiling of women. For in addition to suffering the difficulty of bearing the load of a child for eight or nine months, which certainly embitters the eight or nine minutes’ pleasure, there is the possibility of suffering the calamity of bringing up a child for eight or nine years without protector. Since this happens frequently, by creation they truly fear strange men and by nature want to hide themselves from them. 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. The fact that, according to news received, the bare-legged wife of a high-ranking man in the world was accosted in the country’s capital, in the market-place in daylight in front of everyone by a common shoe-shiner, deals a slap in the shameless faces of those opposed to the veiling of women!
The geniune, intense relationship, love, and affection between men and women do not arise only from the needs of worldly life. Yes, a woman is a companion to her husband not only in this worldly life; she is his companion in eternal life too. Since she will be 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. In 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, so long as her beauty lasts; he holds true, earnest love and respect for her because she will be 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 unsightly. 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.
According to the Shari‘a, the husband should be a good match for the wife. That is, they should be suitable to one another. The most important aspect of this is with a view to religion.
Happy the husband who sees the wife’s firm religion and follows her, and himself becomes pious in order not to lose his companion of eternal life.
Happy the wife who sees her husband’s firmness in religion and becomes pious so as not to lose her eternal friend.
Alas for the man who becomes dissolute, which will lose him for ever that righteous woman.
Alas for the woman who does not follow her pious husband and loses her eternal blessed friend.
And a thousand woes on the unhappy husband and wife who imitate each other in sin and vice, helping one another to enter Hell-fire!