Burqa (Hijaab)- Safeguard of women? chastity and honor


This is a not a new topic, but every passing day increases its importance. Some anti-Islam organizations and people who follow their own base desires oppose it and in the name of “freedom for women” and “equal rights for women,” women are being forced to leave their home and hearth. They are told, how long will you remain imprisoned within the 4 walls of the houses? You should leave your houses and walk alongside men in every phase and walk of life. Under these and such deceiving slogans, women have been removed from the safe and secure walls of their houses and are dragged into the nightclubs and dancing houses, they are forced to work in the offices and different departments and they are made playthings in of men. The crown of chastity and the robe of modesty which Allah SWT granted them has been removed, the chador of honor which Islam had given has been torn to shreds and women are turned into showpieces and puppets. It is strange that when a women serves her family, when she busies herself in caring for her husband and her children, it is called as servitude, but when she washes dishes for a stranger or serves meals to a customer, caters to whims and caprices of a passenger and pampers the ego of her boss, that is called as “freedom”.

Renaming wisdom as madness and madness as wisdom
you are a miracle-worker, you can do anything.

All this is being done in the name of women’s rights. Women have been removed from the secure nature of Purdah and turned into a plaything, showpiece for men. This has turned this into a burning topic for the present time.

Surely Islam never wants that women should remain a slave. It also does not want their chastity and honor to be disturbed. This is not possible without Purdah. It is a common occurrence that 20 men may pass but no one even raises their head to see them, but let 1 woman pass, then she becomes the center of attention. Allah SWT has placed a certain power of attraction in women. If there is no system in place to protect women, then the sky-high structures of “culture” will be razed to the ground in the twinkling of an eye.

Islam explains the fact that men are women are all slaves of Allah SWT and both of them are the progeny and children of Hadhrat Adam and Hadhrat Hawwa (Eve) (Peace be upon them). They are not slaves of one another. In the society they are both equal and they are different from the viewpoint of creation. For this reason, their areas of work are different. They are both equally responsible for the development and the smooth running of the society. The men takes care of work outside the house and the women takes care of work inside the house. Islam says that the real place of a woman is her house:

And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. Surah Ahzaab (33:33)

This shows that leaving the house for mere display and show. But it is perfectly allowed to leave the house for any valid reason.

It is given in Sahih Bukhari:

Translation: Allah SWT has given you permission to leave your houses for your (valid) needs. (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Un Nikah, Hadith No:4836)

Separate and complete rules have been given to be followed when the women leave the house. Purdah is the safeguard of a woman’s chastity and honor.

The degrees of Purdah:

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The first degree:

Islam has given guidelines for women to be followed when she is in her house and when she leaves her house. The first degree of Purdah is Purdah against people in that women and their actions should not be seen by men. They should remain in their house and the eyes of men should not fall even on their clothes. This is a high degree of Purdah. Allah SWT says: 

And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. Surah Ahzaab (33:33)

Allah SWT also says:
 And when ye ask (his c) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Surah Ahzaab (33:53) 

There is a Hadith in Jame Tirmidhi, Sunan Abi Dawood and Musnad Ahmed:

Translation: It has been narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Umme Salma (May Allah be well pleased with her) that she and Hadhrat Maimoona (May Allah be well pleased with her) were in the presence of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and Hadhrat Abdullah bin Maktoom (May Allah be well pleased with him) entered. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: Veil yourselves from him. Hadhrat Umme Salma (May Allah be well pleased with him) says I said: O Prophet of Allah SWT! He is blind, he can’t see us. He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: Are you also blind? Can you not see him?

(Jame Tirmidhi, Hadith No: 2702, Sunan Abi Dawood, Hadith No: 3585, Musnad Imam Ahmed, Hadith No: 2702)

There is a Hadith in Kanzul Ummal and Majma Uz Zawaaid:

Translation: It has been narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Ali (May Allah be well pleased with him) that I was in the presence of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). He told the Sahabah: What is better for a woman? The Sahabah remained silent. Then when I went to my house, I asked Hadhrat Fatima (May Allah be well pleased with her) about this. She said: It is better for women that they do not see men and men don’t see them. When I conveyed this reply to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: She has said the truth. Verily! She is a piece of My heart.
(Majma Uz Zawaaid, Vol. 4, Pg No: 255, Kanz Ul Ummal, Hadith No: 46012)

The second Degree:

When women are allowed to leave the house for any valid need of theirs, then they are ordered to cover themselves in a long chador or the like that no part of their body should be visible. She should not use any kind of scent, fragrance etc. She should not wear any jewelry which makes sound. She should walk at the sides of the road and she should not enter a crowd of men. As Allah SWT says in Surah Ahzaab: 

O prophet! tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested: and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Surah Ahzaab (33:59)

The third degree:

In the house, there is no prohibition on relatives, servants etc. entering the house and collective living, eating etc. with them. Broad guidelines have been given in this regard. 

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah that ye may attain Bliss. Surah Noor (24:31)

As far as male relatives are concerned, there are some relatives who themselves safeguard the chastity of women. They are called “Maharim” with whom marriage is prohibited forever. And there are some other relatives with whom marriage is not prohibited and allowed and permissible. They are the not included in the Maharim. The Maharim are those who safeguard the chastity of women. About others Islam has ordered Purdah against them.

In the Holy Quran the Purdah for women has been dealt with in 7 verses. 3 verses of Surah Noor and 4 verses of Surah Ahzaab. There are about 70 Hadith in which the rules of Purdah have been described.

With the husband, there is no Purdah. The husband can see the wife from head to toe and vice versa. It is mentioned in etiquettes (aadaab) that they should not see each other’s private parts. As given in Mausu’atul Fiqhiya, Vol. 1, Pg No: 53). About other relatives like father, brother etc., the rule is that from a woman’s navel to her knees, nobody can see. Nobody from the Maharim can see this area of a woman’s body. Other parts like face, ankles, arms etc can be seen provided there is no fear of corruption, as given in Hidayah Kitab Ul Karahiya, Pg No: 461. Allah SWT says about seeing the Maharim in verse 31 of Surah Noor:

that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers,……….

According to this verse, it is allowed to reveal one’s beauty before them and revealing one’s beauty means revealing the areas of beauty. The wrists, ears, neck, feet are all included in this. These are called the areas of beauty i.e. the areas where beauty is expressed. If there is any fear of any corruption, then even the face should be covered. If there is no such fear, then there is no problem in keeping the face and palms uncovered. As said by Allah SWT:

that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appear thereof;
As given in Hidayah in Kitabul Karahiya, Pg No: 452 that according to Hadhrat Ali and Hadhrat Ibn Abbas (May Allah be well pleased with them) that except “what (ordinarily) appear thereof” means the Kohl of the eyes and the ring.

Hadith:
Translation: Hadhrat Asma bint Abu Bakr (May Allah be well pleased with them) came to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and she was wearing thin clothes. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) turned His face away from her and said: O Asma! When a woman comes of age, then her body parts being visible is not correct, excepting this and He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) gestured towards His face and His palms.

The most attractive part of the human body is the face and it is this body part which has the abilities of seeing, hearing and talking which may lead a person to immodesty. For this reason, the Shariah has commanded the woman to cover her face and not allow any unrelated person’s eyes to fall on her face.

There are strict warnings in Hadith about seeing an unrelated woman’s face with desire. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: Whoever looks at the beauty of a woman with desire, on the Day of Judgment, molted lead will be poured into his eyes.

The face is not included in Satar (those body parts covering whom is compulsory) but because of the general corruption of the times, the Fuqaha (Hon’ble Jurists) have made it compulsory to cover the face and not reveal before an unrelated male, so while wearing the Burqa, it is necessary that a woman cover her face, her ankles, and her palms as well. As given in Durre Mukhtaar, Vol. 5, Pg No: 261.
It is universally agreed upon that seeing an unrelated face with desire is forbidden.

According to the Fiqh Hanafi, the Hanafi school of Fiqh, it is allowed to reveal the face of a woman, but in this age of corruption it is better to cover it. It is allowed for a woman to reveal her face to a Qazi, a witness. It is allowed to see the face of the woman whom you desire to marry, as it is a means to develop love. It is allowed for a doctor to see the diseased part of the body. Those parts of a woman’s body which are to be covered cannot be seen even when they are separated from the body. This is the ruling about the hair, nails of a woman.

The parts which cannot be revealed cannot be touched or felt as well. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) has said: whoever touches the palm of a woman with whom he had no valid relation, on the Day of Judgment, fire will be placed on that palm. (Takmila fath ul Qadeer, Hidayah, kitabul Karahiya, Vol. 4, Pg No: 459)

The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) also said:
Translation: No man should see the Satar of another and no woman should see the Satar of another. (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No: 512)

The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) also said: May Allah SWT curse those women who are naked in spite of wearing clothes.

Hadhrat Umar (May Allah be well pleased with him) said: Do not clothe your women in such clothes which are so tight that they outline their whole body. (Al Mabsut Kitabul istihsaan)

Burqa is only an improved kind of Purdah. The Niqab of the Burqa also fulfils the same reason for which the command for covering the faces with chador is given. . There are numerous reports daily of criminals snatching chains and other jewelry from women going on the road, but there is no report which says that this has happened to a Burqa-wearing woman as well. Skin diseases are common nowadays because of pollution and more often than not, it is the women who keep their faces uncovered who contract them. It is a blessing of the Purdah that apart from prying eyes, it saves from skin diseases as well. Nowadays, people are trying to defame Islam and Muslims in some way or the other. Sometimes, by disrespecting the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and sometimes by making fun of the Shariah. Sometimes by portraying Islamic divorce in a bad light and sometimes by comparing the Purdah to a prison. The aim is to defame the Muslims and spread immodesty among them. The remarks of Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, are against wisdom and common sense. If any person wants to lead a peaceful life, then there is no other go other than Islam.

It has been narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Uqba bin Amir (May Allah be well pleased with him) that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said avoid going to women. A Sahabi (May Allah be well pleased with him) said: What do you say about the husband’s brother? He (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: The husband’s brother is death. (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith No: 4831, Sahih Muslim, 4037).

There is a Hadith in Jame Tirmidhi: Woman should remain in Purdah, when a woman leaves the house without Purdah, Satan starts eying her and increases her beauty and displays it. Verily! A woman is closest to Allah SWT when she is in her house. (Jame Tirmidhi, Hadith No: 1093, Mojam Kabeer Tabarani, Hadith No: 9368).

In Ihraam (in Haj, Umra) women should save their face from other cloths. If a woman runs into non-Maharim, she should cover her face and when they pass uncover it again.

Hadith Translation: Ummul Momineen Hadhrat Ayesha Siddiqua (May Allah be well pleased with him) says: Riders would cross us when we were with the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) in Ihram. We would cover our faces when they came near us and uncover it when they went. (Sunan Abi Dawood, Hadith No: 1562)

Old women are excused from the rules of Purdah which are for young women. As given in Surah Noor:

Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage― there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not a wanton display of their beauty: but it is best for them to be modest: and Allah is One Who sees and knows all things. Surah Noor (24:60)

The summary of all these rules is that safeguarding chastity and honor should be most important to women, so that the society holds her in high esteem. In light of the needs of the society, Purdah has been classified into degrees. The whole body should be hidden from male view and when necessary, the face and hands can be revealed. The face, hands, arms, feet etc. can be revealed before the Maharim. Even here, doing it without a reason is not liked. For her husband, a woman can dress herself up and adorn herself as much as she likes. Islam permits them to leave their houses for a valid reason with the above guidelines.

Human society is not only through men but women are also an integral part of it. All kinds of family and household issues are related to them alone. The daughters of Islam can acquire Islamic sciences and worldly education and play an important role in purifying and improving the society. Within the parameters set by the Shariah, they can even perform social service as the need arises. There is a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari:

Translation: It has been narrated on the authority of Hadhrat Rabe’ea (May Allah SWT be well pleased with her), she says that along with the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), we would provide drinking water, and provide first-aid to the injured and take the martyrs to Madina. (Sahih Bukhari, Vol 1, 403).

To summarize, the daughters of Islam should acquire Islamic and worldly sciences and master all disciplines and serve the society both directly and indirectly and most of all they should pay attention to that specialty of medicine which deals with women’s diseases (OB/GYN) and specialize in them.

It is necessary for building a pure, virtuous society that the sources from where corruption spreads should be covered otherwise the whole society will go up in flames. For this reason and to protect the women, the Islamic Shariah has given the women, the Purdah (Burqa) and has given various guidelines for its use. If these are followed, then the whole society will turn into a garden of peace.

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