Manners for Man-Woman Interaction (Part 1/3) - Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan

Manners for Man-Woman Interaction (Part 1/3)

This is an aspect of Islam which has been made complicated, contradictory and misunderstood due to lack of understanding on the part of certain circles. At times, Islamic teachings are confused with the local rituals and customs. It is therefore necessary to present the original teachings of the Quran and Hadith in a vivid manners so that a man of logic may accept it virtually and the one who denies it must be awarness of its weightage too.

First, we will relate our point of view in this context and then the opinion of the two very eminent scholars will be analyzed so as to bring both positive and negative aspects before the readers.

The most important aspect in the social concept of Islam is the unit of family as the foundation of society. The family is formed of the sacred and pure relationship that there must not be any illicit contact between a man and a woman before marriage and after marriage the sexual contact must be limited to the husband and wife. This would save this beautiful relationship from any kind of disintegration and the whole society would be based on solid grounds. (All those matters will be discussed in the chapter titled “Islam’s concept of family”)

In order to safeguard the relationship of husband and wife, Islam has ruled out any kind of illegitimate relationship. The muslims were directed about this in the very initial period of Islam.

“You shall not draw near to adultery, for it is foul and its way is evil.” (Al-Isra17:32)

          Therefore, under this guideline, God determined such manners for the mutual contact of men and women which would save the society from becoming sex-free and morally bankrupt and the social requirements and interests also remain intact without imposing undue restrictions upon women. These manners manifest the Islam’s concept of modesty.

          From a women’s point of view all men can be divided in three groups. First group includes the close relatives like father, husband, brother, son, uncle, nephew, grandfather, father-in-law etc. second group includes all remote relatives, family friends, work mates, teachers, students, class fellows, neighbors, physicians, co-travelers, domestic servants etc. Third group is comprised of all those who have no connection with a woman in ordinary circumstances.

          The places can be categorized into two circles. The first circle is her own home and the houses of her close relatives. Second circle has the places like the houses of her remote relatives and friends while the places like her office, educational institutions, business centers, hospitals, hotels, restaurant, public transport like bus, train and aero plane etc.

          For all above categories and circles Islam has maintained such appropriate manners which help the society get protected from any illegitimate act and do not cast any obstacle in the path of a woman. Therefore, first the Quranic teaching regarding the men’s circles will be described here which says that woman can appear freely and causally before her close relatives without any restriction even with all her adornments. However, the manners  pertaining with modesty and common sense must be observed.

          “ The believing women must not reveal their finery except to their husbands , their fathers, their husband’s father, their sons, their steps sons, their brothers, their brother’s sons, their sister’s sons, their own, women and the slaves they posses, male attendants lacking in natural vigour, and children who have no knowledge of sex.” (Al-Nur, 24: 31)

          The above verses also mention slaves. Later in this book, we shall present Islam’s point of view about slaves. Besides this, the words “male attendants lacking in natural vigour” have also been used. It indicates towards the male servants who are so deep under the influence of a family or the woman herself that they can’t even think of any sexual contact.

          Obviously, the category of the domestic servants seems a bit  vast and broad. It is so because the Quran, intentionally uses the words with different shades of connotation so that it should be easy to act upon them in all circumstances.

          It is advisable for others to seek the permission of the husband and wife before entering their room when they are alone inside:

          “Believers let your slaves and those who have not come of age ask your leave when they come in to see you on three occasions: before the morning prayers, when you have put off your garments in the heat of noon and after the evening prayers, These are the three occasions of privacy. And when they have reached the age of puberty, let your children still ask your leave as their elders do. Thus Allah makes plain to you His revelations. He is Wise, Knowing.” (Al-Nur 24, 58-59)

          Next we discuss about the people of the second circle who are frequently in contact with a woman owing to relationship, family contacts and business affairs though not closely related to her. Obviously such a meeting can take place either at home or at a public place. When a person from such a circle visits another person, he must introduce himself before entering the house and should only enter if he is allowed for that. It is obligatory upon all men and women to wear a modest dress on such occasion and show modesty through their looks and style. The women should not reveal their adornments, rather conceal them if possible. They must draw their shawls upon their bosoms but the old women are exempted from this binding. If they have put on a jewellery causing sound, they should be careful while walking and not pace with pounding steps.        

The real motive behind these instructions is the care so that such meeting and conversation should not breed any lusty feeling. However, any family can treat an invalid person or a patient as member of family.

          With in the limits mentioned above men and women can even dine together and enjoy all social and recreational activities. There are no undue restrictions upon their healthy and positive recreation.

          There is no binding of introduction or seeking permission at a public place. (However the code of rules declared by the administration of the particular place must be abided by). Men and women just have to keep in mind the manners of such places mentioned earlier:

 “Believers, do not enter the dwellings of other people until you have asked their owners’ permission and wished them peace. That will be best for you. If you find no one in them, do not go inside till you are given leave. If you are refused admission, you should go away; Allah has knowledge of all your actions. It shall be no offence for you to seek shelter in uninhabited dwellings which can be of use to you. Allah knows what you hide and what you reveal. Say to the believing men to turn away some of the gazes and to restrain their sexual desires. This will make their lives purer. Allah has knowledge of all their actions. Say to the believing women to turn away some of the gazes and to preserve their chastity; to cover their adornments except such as are normally displayed; to draw their shawls over their bosoms ………………… And let them not stamp their feet in walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets. Believers, turn to Allah together in repentance, that you may prosper.” ( Al-Nur 24, 27-31)

          These verses are very clear. However a few words require our attention a bit more.  “Askfor owners’ permission “means to introduce oneself and show identity. One should introduce oneself at the door, wish peace to the dwellers and seek permission to enter the houses. “Houses “means the dwelling places where one’s family lives. It is an established fact that there was not a practice of having drawing room for male guest during the days of the revelation of the Quran. Thus a guest allowed to enter the house can see all inhabitants.

          “Uninhabited dwellings” mean the places like shops, inns, hotels, hospitals, educational institutions, offices and drawing rooms for male guests.

          “Turn away some of the gazes “mean not to cast bold and lusty glances upon others. God does not want to impose restriction upon anyone to look at others but teaches people to show modesty in their looks.

           “Preserving the Chastity” means that one must wear a civilized dress that covers one’s body in the desired sense. Obviously this instruction is both for men and women.

          The word “adornments” means all the things worn by women upon their bodies for the purpose of beautification like jewellery and embroidery. The women are directed not to reveal their adornments when they are together with men at public places. There is an exception here that she has to conceal only those adornments which are normally not visible. We can observe that the words used in the Quran are the most appropriate ones and could not be replaced by other ones. If a word seems to be broad, it is an intentional arrangement in order to show a relaxation so that the people can act upon it according to their trends, taste, temperament and circumstances and should not feel their way and actions restricted. Every woman has the right, in such case to act upon the sense she deems right. For example a large number of jurists including Aisha the wife of the Holy Prophet (PBH) and Ibn-i-Abbas the companion of the Holy Prophet (PHB) are of the opinion that a woman can reveal her face and hands with all adornments and beautification. Zimikhshari, the great Quranic commentator holds the same opinion.       

The words, “ Draw their shawls on their bosoms” convey the sense of a shawl worn by them over their clothes to conceal the prominence projected of their bodies. The Quran directs the women to cover their bosoms with such a cloth. The question arises here whether it is obligatory upon women to cover their heads too. The usual cultural practice in Arabia during the Prophetic period was that women used to cover their heads with such clothes. Therefore it is generally believed that the women should continue this practice as it has become a symbol of the muslin culture and it is a precautionary measured too.

          However, it is a fact there the Quran issues no clear instructions in this regard otherwise the direction of covering bosoms could have been coupled with covering of heads too. Thus covering of head is desirable but not compulsory in shariah. (All references relating to this issue will be discussed in the forthcoming chapters)

          The words “let them not stamp their feet in walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets” convey the sense that even the hidden adornments should not be revealed. A woman should walk so gracefully before men that her adornments and the features of her body must not be revealed.

          After the revelations of the instructions in the Al-Nur: 27-31,several questions arose in the society. One such question pertained with the invalid and shelterless people  who were generally treated as the members of family by some kind people who settle them in their homes. Second question pointed out the situations when women are bound to dine with men on some occasions when no separate arrangement for women in possible. The Quran answered all such questions.   

It was elaborated here that such invalid and shelterless people can be settled in houses and they can be treated as the close relatives.

          “It shall be no offence for the blind, the lame, the sick and yourselves to eat at your table.  Nor it is an offence for you to eat in your houses and the houses of your fathers, your mothers, your brothers, you sisters, your paternal uncles, you paternal aunts, or in houses with the keys of which you are entrusted, or in those of your friends. It should be equally lawful whether you eat together or apart. When you enter you houses, salute one another with salutation from Allah, blessed and kind. Thus Allah makes clear to you His revelations so that you may understand.” (Al-Nur 24:61)

Hence it becomes evident that Islam does neither puts any restriction on social contacts and liberties nor limits them, rather intends to strengthen them. It desires that people should meet mutually and dine on individual levels as well as collectively in the public meetings. This verse mentions men and women relatives and family friends together. Obviously they can   exchange their views in a graceful and modest way on such occasions.

          There is another important issue. Do the old women and the spinsters too have to follow the restrictions imposed upon other women? There was an elaboration revealed in this context that they too should notreveal their adornment yet they are not bound to observe the taking of shawl. However, it is desirable that they should take care in this regard.

          “It should be no offence for old spinsters who have no hope of marriage to discard their cloaks provided they do not reveal their adornments. Better if they abstain (from this). Allah hears all and knows all" (Al-Nur 24: 60)

          Next are the men for the third circle who have, generally no direct link with women. It is obvious that such an interaction can take place only in some street, market or any other unfamiliar spot. The Quran has laid down the guidance at different places on its pages in this context. These principles direct men and women to avoid any kind of vulgarity, moral misconduct and an action contradictory to social practice and culture.:

          “(Successful indeed are the believers) who turn away from vain talk” (Al-Muminun 23: 3)

“ Allah enjoin justice, kindness and charity to one’s kindred, and forbids indecency, wickedness and oppression. He admonishes you so that you may  take heed. (Al-Nahal 16: 90)        

          These instructions are for men and women alike. The Apostle drew the attention of the muslims to the sideof this issue from time to time. For example the Apostle forbad men to cast the second glance polluted with lust upon women if they see them by chance anywhere, rather they should continue with their business without disturbing and causing trouble for the female passers by. There is a Hadith related by Jareer: 

          “I asked the Apostle what I should do if I see a woman without prior intention. The Apostle told me to turn my eyes away.” (The Muslim kitab-ul-Adab)

This Hadith is obviously about this third circle. This is why an accidental glance is mentioned here and it can only be for a passer by or a stranger woman. Unlike this the persons of the second circle have been directed not to cast lusty glance on the opposite sex. There is another Hadith related by Bareerah:

          “The Apostle told Ali, ‘Do not cast the second glance after the first glance taken per chance. First glance can be pardoned but the second glance is disallowed.” (The Muslim kitab-ul-Adab)

          This instruction of the Apostle is also related with the strangers and female passers by as the persons in the second circle may have to talk to each other with the eye contacts. In the same way the Apostle directed the women also to wear a modest dress in streets and bazaars.

“The Prophet said that the women who remain naked even after they have put on clothes, tempt others and get themselves tempted and cast their necks aside like intoxicated camels while walking, will not at all enter the paradise nor will even smell it.”  (The Muslim Ktiab-ul-Al-libas-w-zinatah)

special instructions for the Apostle’s wives

We know that instructions for the apostles of God are different from those for other persons. In some cases they are imposed more restrictions upon while they are relaxed in some other cases so that they can easily perform their duty as an Apostle. This is why the code of law for the Apostle Muhammad (PBUH) was quite distinguished from that of other people. For example tahajjud (midnight prayer) was obligatory upon him while it was not binding for others. In the same way the laws of marriage and divorce for him were also different from those meant for rest of Ummah.

          Being the wives of the Apostle, certain laws for them were also different from those for other women, it was so because they were entrusted with the duties of educating other Muslim women.Thus for the accomplishment of these duties, they were imposed upon stricter regulations. For example they were directed to stay at their homes so as to accord any guidance needed by any women at any time. They were also not allowed to reveal their adornments before others. They were not allowed to remarry after the death of the apostle and they were declared as the mothers of all Muslims. They were imposed upon certain other restrictions to keeping in view the circumstance. They were directed not to show mildness in their conversation while talking to other men. They were asked to talk to other men nothing more than it was required. In the same way all outside the closest circle were prohibited to enter the homes of the apostle unless invited for food. They were advised to leave the homes of the apostle immediately after having taken food. All these instructions have been revealed in Al-Ahzab.

           It is important to note the background for these additional restrictions upon the apostle and his wives. A careful study of Al-Ahzab can make the reason clear while the study of hadiths adds to our knowledge about the background of these impositions.

          In fact those were the day when the hypocrites of Madina had been intriguing against even the personal life of the apostle in order to tarnish his image. These scandals have been discussed in the Quran. These scandal-mongers tried to enter the house of the apostle in his absense and took liberty with his wives in order to get a way for scandalization and thus create a situation of conflict among Muslims. Therefore the Quran countered these efforts.

          The apostle used to see all visitors in mosque. Each wife of the Prophet had her separate room adjacent to the mosque and just a curtain partitioned both the places.  Keeping of drawing rooms for the guests was not a practice those days. The hypocrites pretending to leave for drinking water, used to enter the house of the Apostle without permission. While the apostle had been in the mosque with visitors, they used to demand some eatable from the wives of the apostle and take liberty with them in order to scandalize the matter. Following these hypocrites some Muslims started committing the same therefore God forbade all to observe the practice.

The Quran says “The Prophet has greater claim on the faithful than they have on each other. His wives are their mothers. Blood relation is closer to one another in the book of Allah than to other believers or migrants. Although you are permitted to do your friend a kindness that is decreed in Allah’s book…… Wives of the Prophet those of you who commit a proven sin shall be doubly punished. That is not difficult thing for Allah .But those of you who obey Allah and his apostle and do good works shall be doubly rewarded; for them we have made a generous provision. Wives of prophet you are not like other women. If you fear Allah, do not be too complaisant in your speech. Lest the treacherous- hearted should be moved with desire. Show discretion in what you say. Stay in your homes and do not display finery as first ladies used to do in former days of ignorance. Attend to your prayer, give alms to the poor and obey Allah and his Apostles. Allah only wishes to remove uncleanness from you members of the family and to purify you revelations of Allah which are recited in your houses and wisdom,. Benignant is Allah and all knowing ……………… believers “Do not enter the houses of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for the proper time, unless you are given leave. But if you are invited, enter; and when you have eaten, disperse. Do not engage in familiar talk, for this would annoy the Prophet and he would be ashamed to bid you go; but of the truth would Allah is not ashamed. If you ask his wives for anything, speak to them from behind a curtain. This is more chaste for your hearts and their hearts. You must not annoy Allah’s Apostle, nor shall you ever wed his wives after him, this would be a grave offence in the sight of Allah……… if the hypocrites and those who have disease in their hearts and the scandal-mongers of Madinah do not desist, We will rouse you against them and they will be you neighbors in it only for a while.”(Al-Ahzab 33: 6, 30-34, 53, 60)

          Whosever studies the above Quranic verses with his mind as a clean slate, will find no difficulty in understanding their meanings. However, some words and sentences interpreted have been in different manners by some circles. It is proper that we discuss these portions first.

          The first thing to be understood is whether the instructions used through the above verses a for all muslim women or exclusively for the wives of the Prophet. In fact the Quranic words are so clear that they leave no ambiguity:

          “Wives of Prophet, you are not like other women”. Some people still believe that the general muslim female community has been addressed here. The first argument tendered in this context is that it is merely an addressing style just as a noble person advises his child in this manner, ‘My son, you are not a street boy; you must not abuse anyone. The second argument says that since some of the instructions in the verses e.g the observance of prayer and alm-taxes etc are meant for all Muslim women, in the same way these instructions also deal with the general lot.

          We, disagree with both the arguments. Talking on the first argument, we must keep in mind that no one else can have better command on Arabic than God. It can not be even doubted that the meanings desired by God are not conveyed by the vocabulary chosen by Him and thus convey an ambiguity in the minds of the readers. It is beyond possibility that God uses ambiguous words while issuing forth such an important instruction.

          Secondly, it is explicit through the Surah itself that these revelations are meant for the wives of the Prophet:

          “The Prophet’s wives are the mothers of all the muslims.” (Al-Ahazab 33:6)

          Then they are addressed as under:

          “O Prophet, say to your wives: if you seek this life and all its finery” (Al-Ahzab: 33:28)

          They are informed of the law made for them:

          “Wives of the Prophet! Those of you who commit a proven sin shall be doubly punished. That is no difficult thing for Allah. But those of you who obey Allah and His Apostle and do good works shall be doubly rewarded; for them We have made a generous provision. (Al-Ahzab 33-31)

          The incident of Zaid (The Prophet’s adopted son), his wife and the Prophet’s marriage with Zainab has been analyzed in the Verses 50-52. And the special laws formulated for the Prophet and his wives have been highlighted. These laws are quite different from those meant for other Muslims. Whenever required general Muslim men and women are addressed in very clear manner leaving no confusion behind. For example:

          “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women ……… (Al-Ahzab 33: 35)

          “It is not for true believers men and women ------------------------------------ (Al-Ahzab33: 36)

          Believers ……………… (Al-Ahzab 33: 41-44, 49)

Then God issues an instruction to all Muslim men and women without any exception:

          “Prophet, enjoyn your wives, your daughters and the wives of true believers ………. (Al-Ahzab 33, 59)

          The above references make it clear that instructions of the Quran meant for the wives of the Prophet cannot be considered applicable upon others as general instructions.

          So far as the second argument mentioning the verses with the observance of prayer and alm-taxes is concerned, it can not made a plea that since these are the instruction meant for all people, all other instructions are also meant for all muslims. It is a baseless argument. In fact, the duties of offering prayer and paying alm-taxes are of such a grave nature that God advises all to observe them on all occasions. Even the Prophet of God has also been directed to draw his attention towards these religions bindings:

          “Proclaim the portions of the Book that are revealed to you and be steadfast in prayer.” (Al- Aukabut 29: 48)

          Every reader of the Quran knows that numerous Quranic orders are exclusively for the Apostle. He has a special status. For example, it has been declared in the Quran on several occasions that the people denying the teachings the Prophet will be inflicted upon heavy punishments. Everyone knows that such a punishment cannot be inflicted upon anyone for denying anyone else. But on the basis of the above quoted verses of Al-Ankabut, if it is claimed that since offering of prayer is not an exclusive instruction to the Prophet and thus all orders addressed to the Prophet meant for him are also for all muslims, it would be totally baseless and false.

          Next is the verse notable:

          “(Wives of the Prophet!) Do not be too complaisant in you speech, lest the treacherous hearted should be moved with desire.”  (Al-Ahzab 33: 32)

          As already discussed, the hypocrites of Madinah always tried to scandalize the personal life of the Prophet and his wives. For this purpose they maneuvered to take liberty with the wives of the Apostle. Thus, in order to prevent them from accomplishing their evil designs the wives of the Prophet were ordered not to be frank with anyone else and avoid being complasat in their speech. Obviously, these instructions were also exclusively meant for the Prophet’s wives because Islam’s general moral instructions teach everyone to talk in a soft, nice and sympathetic way with every one else.  For example:

          “Talk nice to others.” (Al-Baqra 2: 83)

          “Tell my servants to be courteous in their speech” (Al-Isra 17, 53)

It obliviously means nice words, good phraseology and polite style and tone.

          Next is the instruction, stay at your homes’. It means that it was the status of the Prophet’s wives to avoid roaming around and go in the general functions like other women. The reason for this restriction has been described in the Quran. Since the real job of the Prophet’s wives was to receive direct guidance from the Prophet in all matters and impart it to all women. Thus it was necessary for them to be available at their homes whenever needed by the muslims women. The Quran relates it in such a manners:

          “And promote the teachings of Allah’s revelations and the words of wisdom acquired by you at your homes.”

          Obviously this was an exclusive order for the Prophet’s wives because an ordinary woman has no binding in going to market, having recreation and participation in functions.

          Next is the instruction:

“Do not reveal your adornments like the past days of ignorance.”

          The Arabic word for ‘reveal’ means to be prominent and reveal dominantly.  The First Ladies in every regime are always quite prominent due to their grandeur, ornament, dress, style and a train of servants. It was in particular very common in the days of ignorance before Islam. The Quran told them that they were not only the first ladies but were also the wives of an Apostle. Therefore they were   ordered not to reveal their majesty, grandeur and adornments like the days of ignorance. Their factual duty was to impart Islamic teachings to other women.

          This order was also peculiar with the Prophet’s wives as the instructions about showing their adornments are different for other women. They are allowed to reveal their adornments. (See Al-Aaraf 7: 32). Obviously, being born with the nature of a woman, they would try to look prominent in the company of women by revealing their adornments. The Quran has indicated towards it on several occasions.

          Next came the instruction that, ‘if you ask for anything from the Prophet’s wives, speak to them from behind the curtain.’ This instruction attached a distinguished status to the house of the Prophet and all people except the closest relatives were disallowed to enter.

          As already explained, the room of each of the wives of the Prophet was adjacent to the mosque and just a curtain partitioned the both. The hypocrites, with an aim to scandalize the life of the Prophet and his wives tried to get a glimpse of the holy ladies without letting them know before hand. They also entered the houses of the first ladies on the plea of drinking water or for anything else. Some naïve Muslims also started following this practice. Thus all people except the closest relatives of the ladies were ordered not to enter their houses:

          “It shall be no offence for their fathers, their sons, their brothers, their brother’s sons, their sister’s sons, their women and those whom their hands possess if they enter the rooms of the Prophet’s wives.” (Al-Ahzab 33, 55)

          Although no one could enter into a bond of marriage with the Prophet’s wives even after his death yet none was allowed to enter their houses except their closest relatives with permission or without permission. This was also an exclusive order for the first ladies as all other Muslims can enter the houses of others with permission as described in Sura Al-Nur.

          The word ‘Hijab’ (Curtain) has been used in this sentence. The Urdu speaking people of the Indo-Pak Sub-continent consider it a veil to cover face. This is not correct. ‘Hijab’ means the curtain hung on the outer door in order to keep the privacy of the house intact. All translators and interpreters of the Quran have a consensus on these meanings. This point is important in the context that all related Prophet’s sayings must be understood keeping this meaning in view.

          The verse is named the verse of Hijab because a curtain was drawn between the Prophet’s wives and the mosque and peole were not allowed to cross it. The same meanings have been taken in the references of the Muslim and the Bukhari. It shall be discussed later in this book in deatal.

Special Instructions about Unsafe Places:

During the prophetic period, several Jews and hypocrites used to live in Madina and its outskirts. Whenever Muslim women passed from their localities, the mischievous ones among them used to pass remarks on them and tried to embarrass them. Later they used to make an excuse that they had mistaken them for their women. A detailed analysis of the michiefs of the Jews and the hypocrites has been revealed through Al-Ahzab. In this context, the Muslim women were advised to take a big and long cloth as shawl over their clothes while passing through an unsafe place like the one mentioned above. It will counter the evil designs of the trouble-mongers. Those days it was a common practice among the nobility of Arabia that women used to cover their heads and bodies with the help of a big shawl in order to get protected from the morally distracted people. The Quran, thus taught a protective measure to the women for their safety.

     “Those who annoy believing men and believing women undeservedly shall bear the guilt of slander and gross sin. Prophet, enjoin your wives, your daughters and the wives of true believers to draw their shawls close round them. That is more proper, so that they may be recognized and not molested. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. If the hypocrites and those who have disease in their hearts and the scandal-mongers   of Madinah do not desist, We will rouse you against them and they will be your neighbors in it only for a while.” (Al-Ahzab33, 58-60)

“Annoy undeservedly” means teasing women, passing remarks on them and cutting vulgar jokes with them and thus causing trouble for them and the men of their families. The words, ‘draw their shawls close round them’ convey the sense of drawing a big cloth round them so as to cover their heads. It might give the sense that head should be covered with or without concealing the face. The Quranic words used here has vast meanings and give relaxation. Obviously the gravity of a risk is not the same every where. Some places are quite safe. There is also a difference between familiar and unfamiliar places. The situation with a woman also makes difference. A woman with a lot of luggage and accompanied by children finds it inconvenient to cover herself with a large shawl. Age of a woman is another factor that counts. These were the reasons for which words with vast meanings have been used in the Quran. Otherwise God was not short of words.

Next are the words, “ So that they may be recognized.”  These were the instructions so that they may be recognized as modest woman at strange places. It is already stated that the women of noble families used to take a large shawl known as ‘Jalbab overtheir heads and clothes even before Islam. It is general impression that the Pre-Islamic Arab Society was morally bankrupt. The fact was contrary to this. The women of some families belonging to lower classes had no doubt flaws in their characters but female community of the noble families used to observe all moral values even before Islam. The poetry of that period refers to this factor at length. Thus God desires that women should wear the dress worn by modest women of any society while passing through unsafe places.     

Next words, ‘so that they may not be molested’ make it clear that the main motive is to protect women from attitude of vulgar people. Hence it is a precautionary measure at unsafe places. These measures are not necessary for safe places and familiar paths.  However, women are directed to conceal their adornments and protect their chastity even at these places. Like men, they are also directed to dress themselves up gracefully and modesty.

Next are the words, ‘the hypocrites and those who have disease in their hearts and the scandal-mongers of Madinah.’  These words prove that the above mentioned instructions to women were meant to counter the propaganda of the hypocrites, enemies of Islam and trouble-seekers. The above given explanation highlights the point that the verse 59 of Al-Ahzab, in fact directs the Muslim women to wear a civilized and graceful dress which is in vogue in their society so that the vulgar people may not get an opportunity to tease them. Hence, this is not a permanent part of the instructions in the context of “the manners for correlation of men and women”, rather this is a precautionary measure to be observed in extra-ordinary circumstances.

Man-women correlation: Description and justification of the references:(Hadiths)

We observe that the Quran has laid down vivid instructions about the correlation of women and men in a mulim society. When we consider all those references in the books of Hadith in the light of these instructions, their original context becomes clear and an apparently visible paradox in them is removed too.  In fact, all Hadiths should be studied, as a principle, in the light of vivid Quranic instructions. It seems proper to consider all other issues in this context.

So far as the first and the closest circle of a woman is concerned, the necessary details have been related in Sura Al-Nur of the Quran. However, some more questions arise in this context. First is the question if there should be any such precaution in the relationship of husband and wife. The Quran lays no hurdle between husband and wife because they are garbs of each other. As body is not concealed from the dress, the husband and the wife has the similar examples:

          “ They are apparel to you as you are an apparel to them” (Al-Baqara2, 187)

However, some Hadiths related in this context create an impression as if husband and wife should also take care of their dress and should conceal their bodies from each other but these references are not reliable. The first Hadith is related as under:

          “When you visit your wife, take care of your dress and don’t get naked like donkeys.”  (Ibn-e-Majah-kitab-ul-nikah)

          It is mentioned by author that the reference of this Hadith  is not authentic. Second Hadith is said to relate by Ayesha, the Prophet’s wife:

          “I never saw the Prophet in naked condition.” 

This Hadith has also been quoted in Kita-ul-Nikah of Ibne-e-Majah and has been taken from an unknown servant of Ayesha. Thus it is also an unreliable Hadith.

          Second is the question what care a woman should take in her closest circle other than her husband regarding her clothes. The Quran allows a woman to reveal her adornment in her closest circle. It proves that a woman can appear before the men of her closest circle in a casual dress. She may keep her head uncovered. She can tuck up her trousers from ankles and her shirt from elbows. A Hadith is quoted in Abu-Daud that once the apostle visited his daughter, Fatima along with a servant. She had a shawl not large enough to cover her head and feet both. The Prophet, on seeing her in difficulty told her not to worry as she was just before her father and a slave.

          According to another reference of the Muslim and Bukhari once the Apostle visited Fatima, his daughter and Ali, his son-in-law. It was night and the couple had gone to their bed. They were wrapping a cloth around their bodies which was not long enough to cover their heads and feet. The Prophet stayed with them for some time in this state too.

          The above references give us an idea about the frankness observed in the closest circle. But there are five references which have the matter unlike the above fact. All these references are weak and hence unreliable. First reference is as under:

          “The Prophet said that Muslim women should not reveal her arms more than half of her palm.”

          This reference has been quoted in Ibn-e-Jareer related by Qatawa but the previous source is unknown and the linking source of this Hadith is missing. Such a Hadith is called “Mursal” which is a weak Hadith and hence fails to prove anything.

          Second Hadith says:

“A woman, after having attained puberty should not reveal any part of her body except her face and arms up to wrist joints.

          This Hadith has been quoted by Abu-Daud in his book “Murasil”. The name of the book itself makes it clear that the middle link in the narration is missing. Thus this Hadith, as well cannot be taken into account, as it is a weak reference. Another important thing to be noted over here is paradox between the two above quoted references. The first reference relates that a woman is allowed to open half of her arms while the second reference talks of opening it up to the wrist joint.

          As per third reference related by Ayesha, the Prophet’s wife, once she appeared before her nephew, Abdullah Bin Tufail with her adornments and the Prophet disapproved it. She argued that Abdullah was her nephew. The Prophet said, “A woman must not reveal her body except her face and her arms from the point of their grip up to middle of palm.” This Hadith has been quoted by Ibn-e-Jareer. It is related by a person named Ibn Juraih. It is clear that time period between the two personalities differs and thus at least two middle links are missing. So it is also a weak reference.

          According to the fourth reference, once Asma, the sister of Ayesha came before the Prophet while she  was wearing very thin dress  and the Prophet turned his face aside and said, “ it is not good for a woman to reveal any part of her body except her    face and palms of her hands after she has attained puberty”. This reference has been recorded by Abu Daud who says that it is not a well linked reference because it has been related to Khalik Bin Dareek who heard it from Ayesha while the collectors of Hadith affirm the both the persons had never met each other. Another relater of this reference is Saeed Bin Bashir who is not considered a reference. Thus it is also a weak reference.

          Fifth reference says that once a woman named Hisfsa visited Ayesha with a thin cloth as a shawl. Ayesha tore it into pieces and gave her a thick shawl to take over her clothes.

          This reference has been related by an unknown woman named Umm-i-Alqamah and recorded in Mauta Imam Malik. It is also a weak reference. It must also be kept in mind that it is just the incident to the prophet’s wife which exhibits her taste and the Prophet is nowhere mentioned in this reference.

          At times, a sixth reference is also quoted. “The women who remain naked  even after having dressed themselves up are cursed by God”

          But this reference has not been recorded in any book of Hadiths.

          After having presented the two Hadiths in the beginning of this discussion and making an analysis of the next five weak references, it shows that a woman can appear in her closest circle in a frank manner and there is no restriction upon them except the rules of the time and the traditions of the society.


Courtesy: The family of Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan


Author : Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan
Uploaded on : May 17, 2016
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