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(OPINION) THE QUESTION:
As Iranian protests persist, what women’s clothing does Islam demand?
THE RELIGIOUS GUY’S RESPONSE:
The facts are these. On September 13, Iranian morality police arrested Mahsa Amini, 22, for violating the legally required Muslim dress code for women. She wore the obligatory headscarf, a hijab, but apparently it didn’t conceal all of her hair properly. Three days later, Amini died while still in police custody. The government blames a heart attack, but suspicions that she was abused are rife.
In the resulting spontaneous uproar, refusal to wear the hijab became a symbol of resistance to oppression as protests across the country not only targeted restrictions on women, but expressed general rejection of theocratic rule. hard who has led revolutionary Iran for the past 43 years. As of this writing, at least 200 Iranians are believed to have been killed and 1,500 protesters arrested.
Azadeh Moaveni of New York University wrote in The New York Times this resentment has boiled over in part because women from Tehran’s wealthy and politically connected elite blatantly ignore Muslim dress laws without being arrested.
There have always been vigorous discussions of the intricacies regarding exactly what attire is properly modest and therefore faithful to Islam.
Reacting to events in Iran, Deina Abdelkader of the University of Massachusetts Lowell argues that dress rules “have nothing to do with Islamic principles” as Muslim countries have imposed – or banned – female dress forms in order to proclaim their ideology, whether secular or secular. scrupulously religious.
Islam’s fundamental concern here is not unique, since religions normally advocate modesty and propriety. In particular, Jewish tradition associates dress with a general warning in the Torah (Deuteronomy 23:15, JPS translation): “Let your camp be holy; leave him [God] find nothing improper among you and turn away from you.
The biblical Song of Songs describes women’s hair as particularly attractive. And long before the rise of Islam, Jewish law taught that modesty meant that women should not show their natural hair in public after marriage. Up to the present day, practicing Orthodox women wear wigs or scarves to cover their hair, and some rigorists shave their heads as a sign of piety.
In the Islamic tradition, women’s clothing must be loose in order to camouflage the silhouette. While the hijab headscarf covers the hair and neck area, this word is also used for full outfits that cover the body except for the face and hands. Other terminology for clothing includes burqa, chador, khimar or niqab. In some contexts, Muslim women will also cover their face except for the eyes, or even conceal the eyes entirely behind a mesh veil.
The Quran only required the veil in the special circumstances of etiquette for those who had the privilege of visiting the house of the Prophet Muhammad (per 33:53). Guests who spoke with his wives were expected to do so respectfully behind a “veil” (also translated as “screen” or “curtain”).
The main text of the Quran on women’s modesty (24:31) does not specify any Iranian style restrictions on hair or clothing: “Tell the believers to shed their own eyes and keep their private parts than the outer part of it. . And let them drape their breasts with their veils and not show their finery”, except to husbands, close male relatives, servants, male servants without “sex desire” and young children (according to Majid Fakhry’s edition).
Verse 7:26 similarly records God’s statement that “We have provided you with garments and adornments to cover your private parts.” And verse 33:59 says “tell your wives and your daughters and the wives of the believers to bring their outer garments together. It is more auspicious for them to be known and not to be harmed. It means that this will prevent harassment.
Verse 24:60 adds this: “Those women who have no more children and who have no hope of marriage are not at fault if they take off their outer garments, showing no adornment; but abstaining is better for them.
Traditions preserved from the very beginning of Musim history, according to “The Study Quran”, stated that slaves were prohibited to cover their hair, meaning concealment was a sign of a woman’s higher social status.
Richard Ostling is a former Associated Press religious reporter and former correspondent for TIME Magazine. This piece first appeared in Get religion.