Beautification and Adornment
Beautification and Adornment
The Qur'an lays down the code of conduct for women in the following words:
And play your role by being in your houses and do not keep exhibiting your beauty and decorations like what used to happen in the Jahiliyyah period (before Islam). (33:33)
Abu Bakr al-Jassas says in explaining this verse,
"This verse points out the fact that women are ordered to play their role in the house and are forbidden from loitering outside of their houses."
It was revealed when the Muslim ummah was being formed in Madina as an example for the coming generations of Muslims. It sought to put an end to the Jahiliyyah practices of the pagan Arabs. The khalif 'Umar remarked:
"By Allah, we did not give any position to women in the Jahiliyyah period until such time that Allah sent His command in respect of them and apportioned for them the role that was to be theirs." (Muslim)
Under this apportionment women were given the role of making their own homes the centers of their attention rather than going about exhibiting their physical charms and worldly possessions. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the following type of women constitute one of the categories of the dwellers of Hell:
"Those women who seem naked even when dressed and those who walk flirtingly and those who plait their heads like the humps of camels, thus inviting people's attention, will not enter Paradise nor will they smell its fragrance even though its fragrance can be smelt from a very long distance." (Muslim).
Islam, however, does not prohibit beautification (zinat) on the part of women as long as it is not done in a way that injuriously interferes with the limbs or the body. In ancient times there were many kinds of defacement practiced on the bodies of men and animals, partly on account of superstition or pagan custom and partly on account of the craze for fashion and display. Examples of this were tattooing, sharpening or spacing the teeth, shaving or plucking the hair, wearing hair pieces, etc. Many of these practices still survive and are, in fact, getting more and more refined.
Since all these practices change or seriously interfere with the natural creation of Allah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) cursed those who indulged in them for the purpose of mere beautification. One report says,
"The Messenger of Allah cursed women who tattooed, and those who got themselves tattooed, those who engaged in sharpening the teeth (as a mark of beauty) and those who had their teeth sharpened." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Messenger of Allah cursed women who had spaces made between their teeth in order to increase their beauty, thus changing the creation of Allah. A third report says,
"The Messenger of Allah cursed the women who plucked hair and those who were employed to pluck the eyebrows." (Abu Dawud)
This method of beautification would include the modern practice of shaving the eyebrows and then painting on new ones, or shaving certain hair and leaving the eyebrows to look like two inverted crescents.
However, if a woman has some obtrusive hairs on her face which are a problem and embarrassment for her, she may remove them. When 'A'ishah was approached by the young wife of Abu Is'haq who wished to remove her facial hairs in order to look beautiful for her husband, she advised her to do so. (Reported by atTabarani) On this basis some Hanafi jurists are of the opinion that there is no harm in removing the hairs from a woman's face and applying cosmetics if it is done with the permission of the husband, in order to please him and with a good intention. But Imam alNawawi opposes even removing the hairs on a woman's face because he considers the practice similar to plucking hair.
A fourth report says:
''A'ishah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) cursed women who wore hair pieces and the women who aided in this practice." (Bukhari)
This method of beautification would include the modern practice of wearing wigs. It consists of using a plait of one woman's hair or artificial hair and joining it to another woman's hair with the object of making the woman's hair appear very long and beautiful. Mu'awiyah, while holding a plait of such hair in his hands during his address to the Muslims, castigated the 'ulama:
"Where are your learned men gone? (meaning why did they not stop women from using such hair) I heard the Messenger of Allah stop them from using this." He also said, "Undoubtedly the Israelites destroyed themselves when their women adopted such things." (Bukhari)
The Shari'ah also requires women to abstain from displaying their "decorations" except to a restricted circle of people. The Qur'an says:
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty save to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands' fathers, or their sons, or their husbands' sons, or 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 desire, or small children who have no sense of sex; and that they should not stamp their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O believers! Turn all together towards Allah, that you may attain bliss. (24:31)
Thus, the following people fall in the exceptional category to whom decorations can be displayed by a woman:
· Her husband.
· Her father, including maternal and paternal grandfathers.
· Her husband's father. He is also like her own father.
· Her son, including grandsons from her son's side or her daughter's side.
· Her husband's son by another woman, provided that he is staying with her, and she is looking after him as her son.
· Her brother, whether full, consanguine, or uterine (that is to say, real or step).
· Her brother's son.
· Her sister's son.
· Muslim women and other women of good character.
· Her female slaves or servants. However, some 'ulama even include male slaves or servants in the excepted category.
· Men who have no sexual desire (e.g. eunuchs).
· Children who have not yet developed sexual feelings.
· Her uncle, whether paternal or maternal.
It is noteworthy that the above verse of the Noble Qur'an does not mention uncle, but uncle is included in the exceptional category on the basis of a tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet said, "The uncle (maternal or paternal) is of the same degree as one's father." (Muslim)
Let us here give a little more consideration to the women to whom another woman is permitted to display her finery. These are the women with whom she has blood or family relations. It should be borne in mind that the foregoing Qur'anic verse implies only women of good character. Other women who may not be well known to her or who are notorious for their evil ways or who may be of doubtful character are excluded from this permission, because contact with them might easily lead to disastrous results. That is why the khalif 'Umar wrote to Abu 'Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, the Governor of Syria, to prohibit the Muslim women from going to the baths with the women of the Ahl al-Kitab (the People of the Book). (At-Tabari, Ibn Jazir) According to Ibn 'Abbas too:
"...a Muslim woman is not allowed to display herself before the women of the unbelievers and non-Muslim poll-tax payers (Ahl al- Dhimmah) any more than she can display herself before other men." (At-Tabari).
This distinction between women on grounds of character and religion is intended to safeguard Muslim women against the influence of women whose moral and cultural background is either not known or is objectionable from the Islamic point of view. However, the Shari'ah allows Muslim women to mix freely with non- Muslim women who are of good character. It is important to note that permission to display zinat does not include permission to display those parts of the body which fall within the female satr. Thus zinat covers decorations, ornaments, clothing, hair- dos, etc. that women are by nature fond of showing in their houses. But tight jeans, short blouses, sleeveless dresses are not counted as zinat for they also reveal that satr.
The Shari'ah further requires a woman not to stamp on the ground while walking, lest her hidden decorations should be revealed by their jingle, and thus attract the attention of passers-by. Writing about these restrictions, Maulana Maududi says:
"It cannot, however, be claimed that a display of fineries will turn every woman into a prostitute, nor that every man who sees her will become an adulterer. But, at the same time, nobody can deny that if women go about in full make-up and mix freely with men, it is likely to result in countless open and secret, moral and material disadvantages for society."
As against this view, the Egyptian scholars, notably 'Abbas Mahmud al-'Aqqad, are of the view that these restrictions were only imposed on the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and other Muslim women are not bound by them. 'Aqqad says, "We should discuss this point in the light of the fact that the command to stay at home was merely addressed to the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) with particular reference to them without referring it to Muslim women in general. It is for this reason that the verse begins with the statement of Allah: O women of the Prophet, you are not like other women. (33:32)
It is respectfully submitted that this view of Al-'Aqqad needs reconsideration. There are a number of verses in the Qur'an which, though apparently laying down "dos" and "don'ts" for our Prophet and for the other Prophets (peace be upon all of them) preceding him, contain clear messages for Muslims in general, nay for all mankind. And Al-'Aqqad contradicts himself when he quotes the following verse of the Holy Qur'an:
O you who believe! Do not enter the Prophet's house until leave is given you for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation; but when you are invited, enter; and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet. He is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed (to tell you) the truth. And when you ask his womenfolk for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen; that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Nor is it right for you that you should annoy Allah's Apostle, or that you should marry his widows after him at any time. Truly such a thing is an enormity in Allah's sight. (33:53)
This verse apparently lays down a code of manners for the believers when entering the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and taking food there. After quoting this verse, Al-'Aqqad says:
"And this is part of the etiquette of visiting people with which all visitors should be well disciplined.' In other words, he agrees that this ayat, which is specific to the house of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and taking food there, in reality contains rules applicable to all believers who want to enter somebody else's house. If from this special case a rule of general application can be deduced by Al- 'Aqqad, there seems no reason why he should refuse to deduce a rule of general application for Muslim women from the verse addressed to the wives of the Prophet.
Moreover, this view seems to get support from a tradition of the Prophet in which he said: "...a woman who freely mixes with other people and shows off her decorations is without light and virtue " (At-Tirmidhi)
Hence we may conclude that no Muslim woman should display her zinat (decoration) before others intentionally, but she is not held responsible for something which cannot be helped e.g. her stature, physical build, gait. etc. nor for uncovering her hand or face when there is a genuine need to do so and without any intention of attracting men. In such cases it is the responsibility of Muslim men not to cast evil glances at women with the intention of drawing pleasure from them. The Qur'an ordains:
Say to believing men to lower their eyes. (24:30)
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