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Approaches to Female Covering in Sharia

Arif Abdulhussain & Hashim Bata

Muslim scholars or jurists normally assert that according to Sharia, it is obligatory (wājib) for females to cover themselves in front of anyone that they can lawfully marry. As Sharia regulations are accepted as being divinely ordained, all Muslims uphold that by diligently observing these regulations, mankind can attain perfection in both their spiritual and socio-communal life. As such, by observing the requirement of covering, jurists maintain that a Muslim woman can not only attain spiritual proximity with God but can also ensure that any type of sexual promiscuity does not enter within human socio-communal structures. For instance, Ayatollah Murtaza Mutahhari (d. 1979) in his work entitled On the Obligation of Hijab, attempts to describe a range of philosophical, social, economic, ethical, and phycological reasons for the Sharia obligation of female covering. In his final analysis, he concludes that by dressing and acting (or as he says, “walking”) in a way that stimulates an attitude of “come follow me,” a woman is prey to lustful eyes, and thus the reason for the Sharia necessity of female covering is to protect a woman’s dignity so that she is respected by other human beings. Similarly, Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī (b. 1927) suggests that female nudity has the potential to entice men into a state of perpetual stimulation. He explains the since the amount of stimulation or excitement a man can endure is limited, female nudity can affect the psychological state of men. He suggests that historically there have been many destructive and horrendous crimes committed by men due to them being overly stimulated by women, to the extent that “you shall not come across any important event [in history], except that a woman has played a part in it.” Therefore, Shīrāzī accepts that God commands women to cover themselves so that it safeguards men from any psychological damage that impacts the social order of the world.