Islam stands for peace. Ahmadiyya Muslim community presents the real picture of Islam.

The true victory of Islam, as is evident from the word 'Islam' (submission) itself, lies in our complete surrendering our selves to God and freeing ourselves of our egos and our passions. No idol, whether it is the idol of our desires, our our intentions, or the idol of creature worship, should stand in our way, and we should submit ourselves entirely to the will of God. After reaching this state of Fana (self-annihilation), we will attain baqa (the life of eternity) which will give our eyes a new light, our minds a new passion; and we will become a wholly new being and the same Eternal God will become for us a new God. This is the true victory, and one aspect of it is Divine ammunion.(the green announcement p. 28)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Islamic Veil (part-2)

Now we need to understand the benefits which can be achieved by following these directions. God never gives orders to his servants without a reason. Behind every commandment of God there is great wisdom.

The words “that is purer for them” at the end of one verse and the words “that you may prospe” at the end of the other verse indicate that these directions are meant for the well being of the believers and to enable them to purify themselves and to safeguard themselves against moral stumbling.

The Promised Messiah has clarified this point in a comment on these verses:

We can confidently claim that this excellent teaching with all its devices that is set forth in the Holy Quran is peculiar to Islam. It should be kept in mind that as the natural condition of man, which is the source of his passions, is such that he cannot depart from it without a complete change in himself, his passions are bound to be roused, or in other words put in peril, when they are confronted with the occasion and opportunity for indulging in this vice. Therefore, God Almighty has not instructed us that we might freely gaze at women outside the prohibited degrees and might contemplate their beauty and observe all their movements in dancing etc. But that we should do so with pure looks. Nor have we been instructed to listen to the singing of these women and to lend ear to tales of their beauty, but that we should do so with a pure intent. We have been positively commanded not to look at their beauty, whether with pure intent or otherwise, nor to listen to their musical voices or to descriptions of their good looks, whether with pure intent or otherwise. We have been directed to eschew all this as we eschew carrion, so that we should not stumble. It is almost certain that our free glances would cause us to stumble s`ometime or the other. As God Almighty desires that our eyes and our hearts and all our limbs and organs should continue in a state of purity, He has furnished us with this excellent teaching. There can be no doubt that unrestrained looks become a source of danger. If we place soft bread before a hungry dog, it would be vain to hope that the dog should pay no attention to it. Thus God Almighty desired that human faculties should not be provided with any occasion for secret functioning and should not be confronted with anything that might incite dangerous tendencies.

This is the philosophy that underlies the Islamic regulations relating to the observance of the veil. The Book of God does not aim at keeping women in seclusion like prisoners. This is the concept of those who are not acquainted with the correct pattern of Islamic ways. The purpose of these regulations is to restrain men and women from letting their eyes to rove freely and from displaying their good looks and beauties, for therein lies the good both of men and of women. It should be remembered that to restrain one's looks and to direct them only towards observing that which is permissible is described in Arabic by the expression ghadde basar, which is the expression employed in the Holy Quran in this context. It does not behove a pious person who desires to keep his heart pure that he should lift his eyes freely in every direction like an animal. It is necessary that such a one should cultivate the habit of ghadde basar in his social life. This is a blessed habit through which his natural impulses would be converted into a high moral quality without interfering with his social needs. This is the quality which is called chastity in Islam. (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, pp 23-25)

As the Quran is a book meant for the spiritual progress of the soul, the question arises: How can these teachings help the development of the spiritual state of the soul? The answer to this question is also found in the writings of the Promised Messiah:
As the natural urges of man become very dangerous when they are roused and often destroy the moral and spiritual qualities, they are described in God's Holy Book as the self that incites to evil. It may be asked what is the attitude of the Holy Quran towards the natural state of man, what guidance does it furnish concerning it and how does it seek to control it?

The answer is that according to the Holy Quran the natural state of man has a very strong relationship with his moral and spiritual states, so much so that even a person's manner of eating and drinking affects his moral and spiritual states. If the natural state of a person is subjected to the control of the directions of divine law it becomes his moral state and deeply affects his spirituality, as is said that whatever falls into a salt mine is converted into salt. That is why the Holy Quran has laid stress on physical cleanliness and postures, and their regulation in relation to all worship and inner purity and spiritual humility. Reflection confirms that physical conditions deeply affect the soul. For instance, when our eyes are filled with tears, even if the tears are artificially induced, the heart is immediately affected and becomes sorrowful. In the same way, when we begin to laugh, even if the laughter is artificially induced, the heart begins to feel cheerful. It has also been observed that physical prostration in prayer induces humility in the soul. As a contrast when we draw ourselves up physically and strut about with our neck raised and our breast pushed forward, this attitude induces a mood of arrogance and vain glory. These instances establish clearly that physical conditions certainly affect spiritual conditions. (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, pp 3-4)

He also added:
As the soul is affected by physical conduct, in the same way sometimes the soul affects the body. For instance, when a person experiences sorrow his eyes become wet, and a person who feels happy, smiles. All our natural actions like eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, moving about, resting, bathing etc., affect our spiritual condition. Our physical structure is related intimately to our total humanity. If a certain part of the brain is injured memory is immediately lost. An injury to another part of the brain causes loss of consciousness. Poisonous air affects the body and through it the mind, and the whole inner system, to which the moral impulses are related, is impaired and the unfortunate victim passes out quickly like a madman.

Thus physical injuries disclose that there is a mysterious relationship between the soul and the body which is beyond the ken of man. Reflection shows that the body is the mother of the soul. (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p 4)

From the above we can see clearly that the body and soul are two interlinking things. Each one of them affects the other and the uplift of one will raise the other. We can understand the wisdom behind the teachings of Islam concerning the veil and the spiritual benefits which can be gained by both men and women if they follow them. It is also now very clear that observing the veil is not a duty for
women alone but it is an injunction equally binding on men and women alike.

But God has prescribed these commandments to the believing men and the believing women separately and there must be great wisdom behind this. One of the obvious reasons behind this is to point out clearly that each of them is responsible for his or her own behaviour when carrying out and obeying these injunctions. So this proves that the Muslim man has nothing to do with forcing the woman to obey this order, out of any love for domination on his side.

Also comparing the two verses, emphasizes the fact that in this respect, due to the physical differences between men and women, the nature of the way it can be observed is different. The woman has an additional responsibility of hiding her beauty and embellishment.

Women are by nature the delicate sex, and they need special care and protection. Thus Islam treats women as a precious treasure that should be guarded and protected from being startled at or molested or inconvenienced by other people in any way. So, far from depriving women from their rights or freedom, these injunctions show the high status of the Muslim women. Islam is even protecting the inner feelings of women.

To understand the implication of this point fully we need to understand the true nature of the role of men and women in the society.

Man and woman differ physically in nature and capabilities. Man is physically stronger than woman and this is why his natural role in the family is to go out and provide the family with its means of sustenance. He is also the protector of the family from the outside dangers. But this does not in any way degrade the position of the woman because she has her own sphere of responsibilities as well. With her loving and caring nature she is more capable of looking after the members of the family. In this aspect she has more to offer than man. She acts as the protector of the family from the internal dangers and she is responsible for the education and training of the children. The combined efforts of both man and woman are needed to produce the perfect family. As the man needs the help of the woman to protect his house and look after it in his absence while he is away carrying out his duties, similarly the woman needs the protection of the man from the outside dangers to provide her with the peaceful atmosphere, that will enable her to perform her duties inside the house in the best possible way.

The Islamic society can be likened to one big family where women represent its spiritual body and the men represent its soul. As the Promised Messiah (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) has explained, there is a deep relationship between the body and the soul and therefore, in a way similar to what was mentioned above, both the men and women depend on one another to produce a perfect society. The men are responsible for the outside affairs and the protection of the community from external dangers while the women are responsible for the internal welfare of the society and the education and training of the members of the community. The protection provided by men does not mean their superiority over women but on the other hand it emphasizes the importance of the role of women in the society. Women need to be fully protected from outside dangers so that they can give full attention to carrying out their sacred duties.

The Islamic veil symbolizes the spiritual protection of the Muslims. As the women represent the spiritual body of the Islamic society, this veil takes a palpable form in the case of women while it remains intangible in the case of men. Women need protection from external dangers and this is why their veil is manifest because it represents their external protection while for men the veil is concealed because it represents their internal protection. But it must always be remembered that observing the veil is an obligation for both men and women alike, even if it assumes different forms.

We notice that in the above quoted verses, after the mention of the commandments to men and women separately, the Quran ends this by saying:

And turn ye to Allah all together, O believers that you may prosper.
This emphasizes the fact that for the achievement of the sought results, both men and women need to carry out their share of responsibilities in connection with these injunctions. Or, in other words, like the soul and body, men and women complement one another and they will have to work together to act upon these commandments for the sake of the prosperity of their society as one unit. It is a sort of a blessing which can only be acquired by the joint efforts of men and women.

Yet comparing the two verses reveals another point of interest. The directions concerning the believing men ends with the words: that is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well-aware of what they do which means that if the believing men obey this command, they will be able to purify their souls. God knows well their intentions and the results of their actions, so they should do their best to observe this command and if they are sincere in their efforts, God will bless these efforts and will grant them success. But the order concerning the believing women does not end with a similar statement.

This is to hint to the believing women that there are still some more requirements that they will need to fulfil before they can achieve fruitful results. These requirements are mentioned separately in the verses that directly follow the above verses because they can only be complied with by the combined action of the men and women together. Those verses instruct the believers to arrange marriages for the women having no husbands. This emphasizes the fact that the real duty of the woman in the society can only be carried out fully after she becomes a housewife. This point will be further clarified when one understands the true role of the woman in society.

The directions in the previous verses were meant to be only the first steps for the believers in their journey towards God and the commandments in them were meant for the control of the natural human desires and passions which the Promised Messiah has called the self that incites to evil. This is the first stage of the human development that differentiates human beings from animals.

Thus the Quran has given the believers some additional guidelines in this respect. Concerning women, it does not only direct them to hide their outer beauty, but it also teaches them not display their hidden beauty as well, so much so that we find that in the above mentioned verses, women are reminded to watch even their manner of walking and moving about. They should be careful with every aspect of their behaviour and actions. This is further elaborated in another place of the Holy Quran where Allah says:

O wives of the prophet you are not like any other woman if you are righteous. So be not soft in speech lest he in whose heart is a disease should feel tempted; and speak decent words.

And stay in your houses with dignity and display not your beauty like the displaying of the former days of ignorance and observe prayer and pay the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Surely, Allah desires to remove from you all uncleanliness, O members of the household, and purify you completely. (33:33-34)

Here the Quran has ended the commandments with the words: Surely Allah desires to remove from you all uncleanliness, O members of the household and purify you completely. This indicates that these teachings are completing the previous ones for the purpose of purifying the believing women. These verses address the women who have already taken the first step of educating their natural faculties and are now in the process of educating their moral state.

The verses address the wives of the Holy Prophet. But as the Holy Prophet is an exemplar for all Muslims, it is the custom of the Quran that what he is ordered to do is meant to be followed by all the other Muslims. In the same way his wives are taken as exemplars for all the Muslim women. It is also interesting to notice here that the women are addressed in this verse as wives to draw their attention to the fact that, to reach this stage, they need to become housewives. The words members of the household added towards end of the verses indicate that these directions are meant for the believing women who want to be counted among the members of the spiritual household of the Holy Prophet or, in other words, to be regarded as the believing women of a high spiritual status.

In these verses it is required from women to behave with dignity and talk in a formal manner when addressing men. This is another veil that should be observed between men and women. Islam discourages too much familiarity between the two sexes. This is intended to purify their thoughts and to protect women from slanderous tongues. It is clear that these teachings are meant for the well being of women and to remove any cause of inconvenience for them from its very roots.

These verses also encourage women to give their full attention to the discharge of their serious and important duties in the management of the household affairs and to looking after the children and bringing them up. It adds that this can be successfully achieved by observing the teachings of Islam and obeying God and His Messenger.

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