Mohammad Shakeel Shamsi dwells upon the Hijab or veil as prescribed in the major religions of the world and practised by the respective followers, and concludes that claiming to profess a religion and acting against its commandments is the most disgusting form of hypocrisy; even worse is to stop someone from practising their religion by domineering bully.
Honesty, probity, rectitude, fidelity are some of the manifestations and characteristics of intrinsic moral values. These characteristics make a man real human being. These are the qualities found to be present even among primates and animals as some comparative and evolutionary psychologists like Haidt (2006), Hauser (2006) De Waal (1996) have recently discovered (Ref. an Article published in Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in September 2020 under the title “The definition of Morality”). The humans who have diluted these intrinsic values for some petty financial, political or any mundane gain are worse than animals. The Holy Qur’ān also corroborates this fact that those who ignore the call of their heart and conscience are worse than an animal. (Al-Araf – 179)
Religion is also a matter of choice by free will without any duress or coercion. The Holy Qur’ān is explicit in this regard, commanding: “There is no compulsion in the matter of religion.” (Al-Baqrah:256). But the moment one professes the religion of one’s choice one is bound to follow it scrupulously if one is having an iota of the above mentioned intrinsic moral values otherwise he/she is worse than an animal. Even worst if one stops others by the use of force merely by being in position of power in palpable departure from all norms of morality and natural justice.
Take the well-orchestrated recent row over Hijab in Karnataka. Hijab is a duty incumbent on Muslim women. It has been in practice among the majority of Muslim girls/women for centuries across the globe. Not only it was never objected to rather seen with respect even in uncivilized ages. But today countries which boast of being among civilised nations whether it be France, Switzerland or Belgium have objected to the basic right of dressing. Of late, our country India appears to be in process of joining the chain. The countries which have banned Hijab have a majority of Christian population. India is having Hindu majority. Let us have a glimpse over what their religions say about Hijab or veil for women.
HIJAB IN CHRISTIANITY
The literature on Christianity is replete with emphasis on the head covering or Hijab for the Christian women. The Christian scholars call the Hijab for women as “Natural Ordinance”. The holy Bible in 1st Corinthians, chapter 11 verses 3-10 says:
“….. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraces his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not covered, let her be shaven. But if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head…. The woman ought to have a sign of authority over her head, because of the angels. – Corinthians 11:3-10
Making a detailed critical and exegetical commentary, Rev. Archibald Robertson, and Re. Alfred Plummer under the title “The Veiling of Women in Public Worship” state:
“The Gospel does not overthrow the natural ordinance… every woman, whether married or unmarried, who has her head uncovered when she publicly prays to God or expounds the will of God, thereby dishonours her head; for she is then not one whit the better than the wanton whose head is shaven. A woman who persists in being unveiled like a man should go the whole length of cutting her hair short like a man. But seeing that it is a mark of infamy for a woman to have her hair cut off or shorn let her wear a veil.” (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, pp. 226 – 227)
One must not confuse that veil for Christian women is mandatory only for public prayer. It is necessary whenever she is out of doors. Charles Hodge has further clarified the veil:
…. The thing to be corrected was, woman appearing in public assemblies unveiled. The Apostle Paul says, the veil is inconsistent with the position of man, but is required by that of the woman. The woman who goes unveiled is said to dishonour her own head,…. The veils worn by Grecian women were of different kinds. One, and perhaps the most common, was the peplum, or mantle, which in public was thrown over the head, and enveloped the whole person. The other was more in the fashion of the common eastern veil which covered the face, with the exception of the eyes. In one form or other, the custom was universal for all respectable women to appear veiled in public. (An Exposition of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, Charles Hodge, pp. 207–209).
Such veil is so much necessary for a Christian woman that James Moffatt goes to the extent of saying that “only women of loose character appear in public bare-headed…” (The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, James Moffatt, pp. 149–153)
It is, therefore, amply clear that veil is mandatory for a Christian woman whenever she goes out of the house.
HIJAB IN JUDAISM
Below are some excerpts from an article on Judaism published by the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under title “Reorienting the Veil” (veil.unc.edu/religions/judaism)
“The veiling of women’s hair is part of Jewish laws on modesty (Hebr. tzniuth). A woman’s hair is considered ervah, or erotic stimulus, which must therefore be covered just as other ervah parts of a woman’s body must also be covered.”
The proper coverage of Hasidic women and the manner of their dress is explicitly detailed and regulated by the laws of the Torah, or halakhoth.
Here are the clothing prescriptions for the Torah-observant Jewish woman (according to Rav Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs, in A Woman’s Guide to Jewish Observance):
“The law requires that the neck (below and including the collarbone), the upper arms (including the elbow) and the thighs and knees (when sitting or standing) of a married woman be covered both in public and within the confines of her own house.” (p. 48)
In addition, Jewish law also requires that “a married woman may not appear in public with her hair uncovered. She is required to wear a head-covering that hides all her hair from view. It is proper to ensure that no hair protrudes from it.” (pp. 48-49)
Veiling in Judaism marks both Torah-observant women from others, and married from unmarried women.
Today, orthodox Jewish and Hasidic women dress modestly and practise veiling as a visible reflection of their observance of the laws of the Torah and in order to fulfil her obligation to serve as “redeemer of the Jewish people.”
HIJAB IN HINDU RELIGION
About 80% of the total population of our country India profess Hindu religion. Although the practice of Hijab among Hindu women has dwindled heavily yet still it is visible among them particularly in northern and central parts of it. But let us see what Hindu scriptures have to say about Hijab. It is mentioned in the Rig Veda Book No. 8 Hymn No. 33 V. No. 19:
“When Brahma has made you a woman, you should lower your gaze and should not look up. You should put your feet together and you should not reveal what the garment and the veil conceals.”
It is further mentioned in Rig Veda Book No. 10 Hymn No. 85 V. No.30 that “Unlovely is the husband who covers his thighs with the garment of his wife.”
So, the Rig Veda says that wearing the clothes of the opposite sex is prohibited. (Exactly the same instruction is there in Islam.)
It is further mentioned in the Mahavir Charitra, Act 2 Page 71 that when Parshuram comes, Rama tells his wife Sita: “He is our elder, please lower your gaze, and put on the veil.”
In other scripture i.e. in Valmiki’s Ramayana it is mentioned that after the Lanka victory, when Sitaji was brought from Ashok Vatika to Rama by Vibhishan, Rama became angry at the efforts to remove the crowd of Sita’s devotees, and said:
(At least in such catastrophic time, on the occasions of physical or mental suffering, in war, in self-interest, in marriage, the presence of women in Yajna appearing to others is not a matter of blame.)
This is amply clear from the text that in normal time appearing in public without veil is blameworthy.
The veil was also present at that time, after the death of Ravan, the Queen Mandodari and other queens reached on foot to the battlefield mourning. Maharani Mandodari says:
(O Lord, today I do not have a veil on my face, I have come here on foot from the city gate. Why do not you get angry by seeing me in this condition?)
It is, therefore, clear that original Hindu scriptures also recommend Hijab for Hindu women while appearing in public.
HIJAB IN ISLAM
The basic source of Islam i.e. the Holy Qur’ān and Sunnah (sayings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) clearly makes Hijab mandatory for Muslim women while in public. The Holy Qur’ān, in no uncertain term, commands:
“O’ Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters and Muslim women to cast their outer garments over their persons (when out of doors) that is the most proper that they be known as such and not affronted. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (33:59)
“And say to the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty and not display their beauty except what inevitably appear and that they should draw their veil over their bosoms…” (24:31)
From the above two verses of the Holy Qur’ān it is abundantly clear that not only headscarf but covering the whole person is mandatory for a Muslim girl/woman while out of doors. This is not the matter of their choice.
From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that Hijab is necessary for a woman while out of doors in the major religions of the world. Gradually this necessary religious practice declined under the deceptive garb of ‘modernity’. Some abandoned it fully, some others partly. Among Muslim ladies it also shows a waning trend to some extent. But one must know that claiming to profess a religion and acting against its commandments is the most disgusting form of hypocrisy and disturbing manifestation of total absence of one’s intrinsic moral values. Even worse is to stop someone from practising their religion by domineering bully.