The 21st of the Iranian month of Tīr is the anniversary of the suppression of the people’s revolt in the Gawharshad Mosque in Mashhad against the removal of the Hijab which took place in the year 1314 Shamsī (Iranian calendar). In honor of this event, this day has been named as the day of Hijab and modesty. Let us now delve into various aspects of the true realization of Hijab and modesty from the writings and lectures of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī.
The first point which must be made is that Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī believes that the Hijab is an integral part of Islamic culture and no one has the right to force Muslim women to leave aside this essential aspect of their religion for any reason whatsoever. The religion of Islam has placed a great emphasis on the Hijab and there are numerous verses in the Quran in regards to this issue. It is impossible to deny the axial position of this issue and although some people may attempt to explain this issue away, they do so by imperiling the actual reality of the matter.
The tragedy of what Reza Khan did in the Gawharshad Mosque and the many martyrs’ leaves us with little doubt in regards to the status of the Hijab in our faith. After discussing the initiatives of Reza Khan in regards to the Hijab, Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī then moves on to the government of Tajikistan, which has decided to follow in Reza Khan’s footsteps in banning the Hijab, and he advises the President in a friendly manner, saying: “We have experienced this issue during the time of Reza Khan; he was also opposed (to the Hijab) and he would tear the head covering from women’s heads. He even went as far as killing a number of people in the Gawharshad Mosque. In spite of this, the people did not submit and they rose up against Reza Khan and forced him to reallow women to wear the Hijab.”
The best solution is to leave the people alone so that they can perform their religious duties in regards to the Hijab. The essence of the Hijab isn’t something which can be denied or something which Muslims can be persuaded against. The reason behind this is that the Quran has openly explained this issue and this is why Muslims are so staunch in regards to it. In fact, there are multiple verses in the Quran in regards to this issue and this is why nobody will bother to reject the validity of this religious practice. In addition, people all around the world recognize Islam through the wearing of the Hijab.
Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then gone on to explain the various facets of Hijab and the various ways of truly manifesting it:
The Significance of this Issue
Without any doubt, the Hijab is one of the definitive aspects and laws of Islam and there is a consensus among all of the jurisprudents regarding it. A lack of Hijab or a lack of a proper Hijab is considered to be against the sacred code of Islam. When it comes to religious cities or places of religious significance, it goes without saying that the Hijab should be pursued in an even more rigorous and complete fashion. The sin of wearing a bad Hijab or no Hijab at all in such places is considered to be even greater than in normal places. In addition, it must also be stated that wearing the Chador (a specific type of Hijab worn in Iran, Iraq, and other Muslim countries) is given preference in both religious cities and sites, as well as in other places.
The Hijab is such an integral part of Islam that all of the sects accept it. It is in reality an essential part of our faith meaning that anyone who socializes with Muslims will understand how firmly the Muslims adhere to it. Therefore, we must do our best to help spread the Hijab, as well as other manifestations of modesty in the society. If we fail to uphold and strengthen social values such as the Hijab, then this will lead to other problems in the fields of economics, politics, and national security as well.
Therefore, the Hijab is an Islamic duty and one of the essential defining characteristics of the religion which has been repeatedly emphasized in the verses of the Quran and the Islamic tradi-tions. It is something so entrenched in the Islamic community that both friend and foe will quickly recognize it. It is for this reason that the enemies of Islam are so sensitive in regards to it. When we look at the issue of the Hijab, it is clear that a lack of it will shake the foundations of the family. Thus, the Hijab is actually a social responsibility and we must be careful to prevent the spread of bad Hijab or the lack of Hijab in our societies. Whether we like it or not, a lack of Hijab will entail a series of very serious and negative consequences.
If we don’t protect the collective Hijab of the society, the Islamic system will be dealt a very serious blow. The enemies recognize this and those who are working against the system are utilizing every opportunity they have in order to weaken the institution of the Hijab in our country. With this understanding, it is clear that the Hijab is an essential part of the Islamic practices for women and it is one which has been mentioned in the Quran and is explicitly evidenced in the life of the Prophet of Islam (ṣ).
Furthermore, all of the scholars of Islam and all of the various sects believe very strongly in it. In reality, the Hijab is a manifestation of the honor and dignity of the Muslim woman. It accords her with great respect and it is a means of purity for her and for the Islamic society. It prevents the rise of many forms of corruption. From the perspective of Islam, the closer a woman moves towards modesty, the purer and more pious she becomes. When we examine the Hijab in the context of our country, it is apparent that it has left its status as a secondary issue and has been transformed into a primary issue of faith. The reason behind this is that when Muslims living in foreign countries wish to manifest their faith, they observe the precepts of the Hijab.
Similarly, when the enemies wish to weaken the religion of Islam, they attack the Hijab and oppose it. Inside of Iran, those who are opposed to the Islamic revolution utilize various methods of weakening the Hijab in their attempts to weaken the Islamic system and destroy it. Such people state that if they can remove the Hijab from the heads of women, they will have succeeded in greatly weakening the Islamic system. Therefore, the state of Hijab must be greatly emphasized both inside of the universities, as well as outside of them.
Therefore, this important practice must be emphasized, for the Hijab is one of the important and obligatory aspects of the Islamic faith. This is particularly true during our own time period when everyone all throughout the world knows that this is something which all Muslims believe in. In essence, the Hijab is slowly becoming a slogan for the faith and it is for this reason that the enemies are so frightened of it.
Some Reflections about the Lexical and Conceptual Aspects of the Hijab and Modesty
Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has made the following remarks in explaining the lexical meaning of modesty and Hijab: Rāghib (a lexicologist) has defined the term ‘modesty’ in his book “Mufradāt” as follows: ‘Modesty is a state which prevents the domination of lust over the self’. Put simply, it is a sense of control in the face of various lusts. It is important to note that what is meant by “lust” is not merely sexual lust; rather a more general meaning of the term is intended here which can include lust in relation to wealth, social status, eating, speaking, sexuality, as well as other things. Therefore, modesty is a state which controls one’s lust in relation to all of the above-mentioned issues.
Therefore, modesty is a virtue and a state of moderation and balance of one’s lusts in the general sense. This relates to anything which attracts man and it can be (just as mentioned above) related to wealth, social status, eating, etc… If one’s lusts spiral out of control, then they become something known as greed. Similarly, if one’s lusts are not activated in a sufficient manner, then the person will be afflicted by laziness and stagnation. Modesty is the state of perfect balance where there is neither too much, nor too little.
When we examine the lexical meaning of the Hijab, we find that it is defined as a curtain placed between two objects. It is for this reason that the lining which is found between the intestines, the heart, and the lungs is called the Ḥijāb Hājiz (diaphragm). Moreover, the term Hijab has also been used in the Quran to mean a lining as well. When it comes to the religious law, the Hijab is defined as a female covering which encompasses the entire body with the exception of the hands and the face. Therefore, for a woman to wear a complete Hijab, it is sufficient to cover her body with the exception of the hands and face in any fashion she wishes. She isn’t required to wear a specific type of clothing although it is not allowed to wear tight clothing or clothing which attracts negative attention.
The Realization of True Hijab and Modesty- Barriers and Dangers
According to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, there are certain very serious barriers which can prevent the realization of the Hijab, as well as other manifestations of modesty in the Islamic society. The most important of these are as follows:
1. A distortion of the freedom to criticize others in regards to their Hijab: Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned the following in this regard: ‘Criticism must be constructive and not destructive in nature. When someone criticizes something, that criticism must be conveyed in a friendly, positive, and constructive manner. It shouldn’t be done in an annoying fashion as a means of seeking revenge.
These are the same conditions present for enjoining the good and forbidding the evil which have been mentioned in the books of jurisprudence. It is a very positive thing if the boundaries of this issue are abided by. On the other hand, if we are to be silent due to certain excuses, such as the economic situations, sanctions, and other such restrictions, then this is incorrect. Modesty and the Hijab are not limited to times of positive economic growth; they are essential during all time periods’.
2. non-expert views and interpretations of the issues of Hijab and modesty: Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has emphasized that well trained experts should enter such fields: ‘The well-informed and knowledgeable experts, including religious scholars and university professors should have the opportunity to convey their critical opinions in regards to the issue of Hijab and modesty; this is something critical to proper reform and change. Unfortunately, some believe that a state of bad Hijab does not have any societal effects but when we examine this issue carefully, it is apparent that a lack of Hijab or a lack of proper Hijab entails many negative consequences,as they both corrupt the individual in question, as well as the society in which they live’.
3. The carelessness of certain individuals in confronting a lack of proper Hijab: According to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, the political viewpoint of some authorities in regards to the very religio-cultural phenomenon of the Hijab and their lack of planning in regards to it constitutes a major barrier to the non-realization of proper Hijab in the society. Thus, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has called upon these leaders to create a proper plan in order to combat the lack of Hijab and modesty in society. His eminence also criticized those who prevent others from reforming the society towards a better state of Hijab.
4. Liberalism (in the Iranian context) as a serious preventative factor in the realization of Hijab and modesty: From the perspective of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, the existence of liberal thinkers who suffer from a lack of perspective (being unduly influenced by the West) can be considered as one of the major preventative factors in the true realization of Hijab and modesty within our society. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated that: ‘There are rumors that those who are unduly influenced by the West and lack any other perspective are planning towards gradually lifting the Hijab. Thus, the authorities must strive with their utmost in fighting against a lack of proper Hijab in order that the influence of the Westernized liberals not be allowed to spread any further’. He has then further added: ‘Some people propagate their idea that the Hijab cannot be spread by force. This is while the results of the programs of some religious institutions show that the Hijab can be strengthened through cultural efforts and educa-tion’.
Similarly, his critique of certain actions taken by some government officials in promoting Western values, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī stated: ‘The upholding of the Hijab is a duty, both from a religious perspective, as well as from a moral perspective. This is contrary to the statements of certain Westernized individuals who say that this issue should not be law and it should be left as an optional matter’. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has spoken out against this very dangerous idea which is promoted by certain authorities.
Unfortunately, due to these statements, as well as the spread of news by certain news agencies and a lack of overall effort, we have seen a lack of proper Hijab transformed into a complete lack of Hijab in certain places in Iran. This is while the Hijab is something which can alter the destiny of an entire society. The Quran has mentioned in this regard: ‘…And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a partition. That is purer for your hearts and their hearts…’
Thus, pointing out the negative consequences of a lack of Hijab, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī noted: ‘The Hijab is something which can make or break the destiny of an entire nation. It is not simply a small religious duty; when the precept of Hijab is weakened, people will gradually go towards illegitimate relationships, while criminal acts, insecurity, and other negative issues will rise in number. When the Hijab is weakened the very foundations of the family are destroyed.
The Consequences of a Lack of Hijab and Modesty
According to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, a lack of proper Hijab and modesty will pull the Islamic society towards numerous pitfalls and dangers. These dangers are as follows:
1. A lack of Hijab is the first step towards ever lessening levels of public clothing: Grabd Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated the following in this regard: The religious instructions for Hijab are among the most emphasized precepts of Islam. The Quran contains numerous verses in regards to this issue, including- the 31st and 60th verses of Surah Nūr and the 33rd, 53rd, and 59th verses of Surah Aḥzāb. All of these verses have heavily emphasized the issue of Hijab.
In some cases, these verses address the faithful women, while in other cases they address the wives of the Prophet (ṣ). Moreover, in, yet some other verses the Quran has considered the case of elderly women an exception in regards to the Hijab, so that the duty of everyone else would be clarified. These verses have used various terms and approaches in clarifying the importance of this Islamic duty. It is evident that the removal of the Hijab is the first step towards ever lessening levels of public clothing in the society. Complete sexual license and a sense of immorality also develop alongside it. The negative side effects of a lack of Hijab are so apparent in our world of today that they are not hidden from anybody.
2. A lack of Hijab is in reality a competition in who can reveal the most of their body: Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has described the consequences of a lack of Hijab by saying: ‘A lack of Hijab causes a group of women to engage in an unending competition in revealing their bodies to lustful men to look on. In our own era, we find many unmar-ried youth due to certain economic and social issues and thus a major portion of our society is found within this vulnerable social segment. It goes without saying that a lack of Hijab is one of the most dangerous things in light of this reality.
3. A lack of Hijab is a source of spiritual and psychological illnesses: In addition to destabilizing the family unit from a moral perspective and creating the foundations for increased levels of crimes, a lack of Hijab will also bring about increased levels of sexual stimulation. In time, this never ending onslaught of stimulation will bring about a series of psychological and spiritual ailments. These ailments will in turn further destabilize the family unit and lower the status of women in society.
4. A lack of Hijab as a significant factor in divorce: If the Hijab is not abided by, it will bring about corruption for both individual and society; this corruption relates to both spiritual issues, as well as broader social issues. The removal of the Hijab is the fist spark for illegitimate relationships and when illegitimate relationships increase in number and become common, this will lead to a destabilization of the family unit. When we look at many of the divorces which take place, we see that they are commonly associated with issues related to the Hijab and modesty. In addition to these issues, there is the additional problem of children without parents to properly look after and raise them. This in turn will lead to various criminal problems which will manifest later on in time. An examination of a number of criminal records from Englandreveals that children from broken homes form the broadest category of criminals. This is a heavy burden which the society must shoulder. From this perspective, it is clear that the Hijab is not simply a religious responsibility but rather, a social responsibility which can ensure the continued health of any given community.
5. Carelessness in the face of prohibited things: Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has made the following remarks in this regard: If we wish to have a healthy and pure society, and make certain that the foundations of the family are not destroyed, then we must seriously focus on promoting the issue of Hijab, as well as preventing religiously prohibited matters from being practiced.
6. A lack of Hijab as the origin of countless forms of corruption: The root of many forms of corruption and crime can be traced back to the issue of a lack of Hijab. In the past eras, the Hijab was a secondary religious issue but with the circumstances which we are facing today, it has transformed into one of the primary issues of the religion. The reason behind this is that it is considered as a powerful symbol of the Islamic faith all throughout the world. A lack of Hijab therefore has many negative consequences such as the destabilization of the family, the increase of sexual deviancy, the rise of children without parents, as well as many other types of sin which will affect both men and women all throughout the society. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has recognized a lack of primary Hijab as the primary source of many moral and social ills . He has emphasized the following, saying that: ‘The Hijab is an important duty which surpasses a normal religious duty; it is in reality a social obligation. Due to this reason, it is necessary that the families place a great importance on its true realization’.
Guidelines for the True Realization of Hijab and Modesty within the Islamic Society
From the perspective of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, the most important guidelines for the realization of Hijab and modesty in the Islamic society of today are the following:
1. Islamic teachings: the key factor in the realization of true Hijab and modesty:
From the perspective of Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, Islamic teachings are the most important element above all other things. The Ayatollah has mentioned in this regard: In one survey, people were asked what the primary problem of the nation (Iran) was. A number responded that narcotics and addiction were the primary issue, while another group responded that the main issue was satellite stations which were corruptive in nature. Another group cited a lack of Hijab, while yet another group mentioned the rising age of marriage. All of these answers are correct in their own right but it must be noted that the root of all of these things is a lack of Islamic awareness and knowledge. If Islamic teachings permeate the society, then all of these issues will be resolved in short order.
2. The role of the government and other institutions in the true realization of Hijab and modesty:
One of the most important elements in the fulfillment of modesty and the Hijab in the society relates to the role of the government and other organizations. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has enumerated several of the intrinsic duties of the government in the fulfillment of this important obligation: When considering the reality of the Hijab in the public sphere, one can first begin with the hospitals, government offices, and other centers in both a direct, as well as a non direct fashion. The universities, the schools, and other such institutions must take the issue of the Hijab seriously.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has said the following in regards to a lack of proper Hijab in the country: The national television must work in regards to this issue in a direct, as well as indirect fashion. This is important because a lack of proper Hijab will bring about various moral and social problems in the society. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has again emphasized how the government must not only focus on resolving the economic issues of the nation, but they must also resolve the cultural issues through proper planning and management. He firther stated: The government must begin in regards to the Hijab with its own employees and workers until it spreads amongst the entire society.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also said the following in regards to the issue of Hijab in relation to the educational institutions: The issue of the Hijab must be mentioned in a logical fashion in the school textbooks. Similarly, the dangers of a lack of Hijab and modesty must also be explained in a way that everyone understands the importance of this issue. We cannot bypass this issue so easily…
Everyone expects an Islamic government like ours to be serious in regards to this issue and not simply pass it by. This is a very serious and key issue which relates to the very foundations of the family and the security of the Islamic nation as a whole. All praise is due to Allah that the people have extended their efforts in this field. It is now time for the leaders and officials to similarly extend their efforts and complete what the people have started.
3. A group effort is necessity for the improvement of modesty and the Hijab:
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also criticized certain individual efforts in relation to modesty and the Hijab and he has emphasized this issue as more of a group effort. He has said: On the one hand, the government and other state organizations must feel duty bound to begin this reformation with their own workers first, and on the other, the parliament (the Majlis) must create an organized and practical plan towards combatting moral corruption. Individual ideas must be put aside in this regard and it is necessary that such a plan be enacted on a much wider, socially based scale. We hope that through such group efforts, these problems can be resolved and finally be put behind us.
According to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, the use of a directive sent to all departments in the various government institutions, universities, and schools can help further promote this issue and prevent the occurrence of a lack of Hijab. Publicly enjoining the good and forbidding the evil can be very effective in this regard as well.
4. The police forces as the enforcement arm of the realization of modesty and Hijab:
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has thanked the never ceasing efforts of the police forces in confronting a lack of proper Hijab and he has stated: ‘The police forces are to be supported in their fight against a lack of proper Hijab and their efforts are to be recognized and appreciated. These police officers first begin by giving a verbal warning and if they find that their warning was not sufficient and they are being faced with an unsuitable response, they then deal with the offending individual in a more definitive manner. Such offenders should not think that they will be encouraged in regards to their behavior’.
5. The role of the scholars in the true realization of modesty and Hijab:
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī considers the role of the scholars as a fundamental one in the fight against a lack of proper Hijab. He has stated: ‘All of the people are responsible in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil but the duty of the scholars is heavier than others. They must stand up against what is unlawful for if such things as bad Hijab become normal and everyday behavior, it will be very difficult to fix them.’ Due to this reason, we must push to expand modesty, Hijab, and other such issues within the society and we must recognize that if we fail to do so, just like other socio-religious issues, they can result in economic, political, and security problems.
Towards this end, the lecturers can focus on this topic and expound upon the various Quranic verses and traditions which relate to modesty and the Hijab. Through strengthening the ideological foundations of the people and making them more familiar with the laws and precepts of Islam, issues such as modesty and the Hijab can be greatly bolstered. Moreover, the people can also be invited towards a greater unity against the enemies of the Islamic system. The Marājiʿ, the scholars, and the Islamic seminaries all hold a heavy responsibility and they must fulfill their duties in this regard. What is the use if one spends their entire life within the Islamic seminary, without disseminating their knowledge to the outside world? It is necessary that the society is allowed to make use of the knowledge of the Islamic seminary and those who are within it.
6. The realization of modesty and the Hijab requires cultural initiatives, not a negative attitude and compulsion:
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has delved into the cultural issues which help fulfill the realization of modesty and Hijab within the society. He has explained that cultural work is a prerequisite upon which other things can be built. According to him, such cultural works are the best way to combat the lack of a proper Hijab and the other types of corruption it can entail. He said: ‘We do not support severity, chains and fetters; we rather propose proper planning and cultural initiatives for the improvement of the Hijab. If there is proper planning and definitive action, and there is a lack of severity, then things will naturally improve and become better’.
We have to understand that using violence and severe actions against a lack of proper Hijab will not yield the necessary results. Cultural initiatives and verbal reminders are one of the best methods in regards to this issue. All praise is due to Allah that the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, the parliament (Majlis), and other institutions are similarly working this issue from this specific angle. We should never become negligent in regards to the cultural aspects of modesty and the Hijab, since the Hijab is in reality a symbol that represents Islam. We must ask ourselves why the issues of the Hijab and greater modesty are on the wane. We must re-search and analyze the factors behind this issue and see what is preventing the full realization of this important precept.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has further stated: The Hijab is a veritable culture in and of itself. We must expand this culture of Hijab throughout the society. During the past times, the Hijab wasn’t something which was focused upon very much by the West but today, it is considered as a symbol which is the gateway to Islam. This is gone to the point where countries such as France cannot tolerate it any longer and they fear it greatly.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned the following in regards to the dangers posed by a lack of Hijab: If, God forbid, a day comes when they are successful in taking away the people’s Hijab, then in my opinion, half of our Islamic system will be in danger. It is necessary for us to focus and invest greatly in regards to this issue.
7. Hijab as a guarantee of social security:
According to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, observing the Islamic Hijab is a guarantee of greater social security within the broaders of an Islamic society.
8. Observing the Hijab as a way of propagating Shia Islam:
According to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, observing the Hijab and other general aspects of modesty by women is a great form of propagating Shia Islam. He has mentioned that: During my first trips to the Ḥajj pilgrimage, the women would observe their Hijabs in a very good fashion. During that time, the Sunni scholars in Arabia would tell their followers that they should observe the Hijab just like the Iranians. Right now though, the issue has reversed itself and the scholars instead tell their followers that they should be careful not to be negatively influenced by the Iranian women. The Ḥajj organizers and scholars must use the best methods in upholding the Hijab and other forms of general modesty in their respective caravans.
The enemies of the Islamic Revolution believe that by preventing the Hijab, they will deliver a great blow to the Islamic system. We, on the other hand, believe that if we can bolster the Hijab and prevent a lack of Hijab, then we have strengthened the system. The Hijab is designed as a means of protecting the honor of women, preventing the rise of many forms of corruption in the society, as well as protecting the youth from various deviancies. Just like the wearing of clothing in general has nothing to do with the freedom of both men and women, similarly, the Hijab does not restrict the freedom of women either. In the Quran, Allah has explained that observing the Hijab and being modest in general cause the purification of the heart and they prevents the insinuations of Satan and one’s carnal desires from having effect.