In this series, Hayat Alyaqout scrutinises the ’hijaab and touches upon several themes such as the religious authenticity of the ’hijaab, the overlap between the ’hijaab as a religious practice and the ’hijaab as a social practice, how men have their own ’hijaab too, and the philosophy of the ’hijaab in relation to the social notion of beauty.
In this part, she talks how men have theor own ’hijaab if things are taken form justice not equality point of view.
Do you remember the proverb that says “handsome is as handsome does”? Have you ever wondered why is there not a comparable proverb such as “beautiful is as beautiful does”?
Pick up a name of a well-known supermodel and ask a group of men if they feel attracted to her. The answer, I guess, is known. Now tell them she is not very smart and she is also a chatterbox. Would what they think change? Most likely no. Now do the same with a group of ladies, and you will find that their answers will range between “It depends on many things”, “I have to meet him”, and in the worst case “maybe.” Now add some details such as that he is a miser or not very brave and get ready to receive your punishment form the angry ladies for wasting their time.
I am not trying here to make fun of men or say that they can be easily fooled by looks (although they do most, if not all, of the time!). I am only trying to draw attention to a rule of thumb, viz. that men and women are different when it comes to the weight they give to the looks of the other sex. To be more scientific, David Wilson (a biologist from Binghamton University, U.K.) conducted a study in which he asked individuals to tell how “good-looking” people are according to their photographs. The photographs were of people known and unknown to the individuals tested. The study revealed that knowing the person previously affects the rating. In the case of women, it was found that “personality had a much greater effect on women’s perception of good looks than men.” (The Guardian, April 22, 2004).
One of the ladies deemed that an average looking man was “extremely ugly”, it later appeared that the lady knows the “foul-mouthed jerk” person, as she described him, which tells us that to women, attraction to the other sex is a mental rather than a physical one.
Now what does this have to do with the ’hijaab?
First of all, in Islaam each sex has a dress code, women when seen by men (other than their close relatives) are supposed to cover themselves in undescriptive clothes with the exception of the face and hands. Men on the other hand, when seen by women, have to cover the area between the knees and the navel. The dress code becomes also more sophisticated when it forbids men of wearing silk and gold; two things associated with women, making sure that men do not become women and women do not become men, thus safeguarding each sex’s identity.
Another aspect of the dress code in Islaam is the forbiddance of “libaas ash-shuhrah”, which literally translates as the dress of fame. The dress of fame is a symbol of both extravagance and austerity; a too fancy dress or a too ragged dress are both forbidden if dressed for the sake of attracting people’s attention and boasting that the person is rich or is ascetic. Therefore, an identical dress worn by two persons can be lawful in one case and forbidden in another, depending on the person’s intention.
Since it is clear that men are attracted to what is physical while women tend to create a mental image of the personality in the first place, then the dress code of each sex should be different. Women, then, have a lot to cover, but having understood the psychology of males, this does not seem strange at all. Karl Marx once said “from each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need”? Since each sex was given what suits it, then this is sheer justice, since justice is not always about equality but about catering for each side’s individuality.
So, for those who said that men do not have a ’hijaab, the answer is that they certainly do not wear the ’hijaab literally, but are treated according to their needs, and the ’hijaab is about justice, so they have their own ’hijaab. (You need to explain here further. I am afraid the meaning is still not crystal clear).
Mind you that the “good looks” I am talking about here is not about looking nice or presentable which is a thing Islaam urges and commands us to do; looking “attractive” to the other sex is what I am talking about. And that is why a woman is asked to cover her body, which is sexually attractive, and is not asked to cover her face, which is “beautiful” but is not a lust igniter. This idea will be discussed in the next issue in shaa- Allaah.
In the Next Issue:
Part 4: The Beauty of Hijab in Concealing “Beauty”
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