Wa`alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
Hijab is meant to elevate the status of the Muslim woman by preserving her dignity and honor.
Answering your question, the American Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Estes, Director of islamtomorrow.com, and National Chaplain WAMY, states:
Jewels Are Precious – So Protect Them.
When someone has a jewel or any precious item one always treats it with great respect and protects it against any loss. One may even build a special place to keep it or place it in a vault for security.
Perhaps one may even hire a guard to insure that it will not be stolen. These things are most obvious to all of us and nothing here seems strange at all.
Why do we compare women to jewels and pearls?
By the way, someone may say, ‘Why do we compare women to jewels and pearls? Doesn’t this sound as describing women as objects or mere possessions in this world?’
In reply to that, I say: Comparing women to jewels and pearls doesn’t mean that women are mere objects or worldly possessions. The intended item or object here is what the woman possesses, as mentioned by Allah in His Book.
Lowering the Gaze
Allah is ordering us to tell the believing woman to lower her gaze and to protect her, guard her private parts and protect her chastity. She is being well advised by her father, brother, husband, son and all of us, to cover herself.
Somehow we have been deluded into thinking that women exhibiting their beauty in front of others and men encouraging this is warranted.
Many large corporations protect their shareholders from losses while at the same time producing cosmetics, jewelry and clothing that do exactly the opposite for our ladies.
Money and vain desires are the primary reasons for this type of exploitation in the world today.
Why are women exposed in public in a way that men do not?
It should be that we would be asking the question: ‘Why are women exposed in public in a way that men do not even see them in the privacy of your home?’
The problem today is that society is so far away from the basic concepts of moral and correct behavior that was originally ordained by the Almighty Lord of the Universe (Allah).
As each year passes, we see more and more deviation away from the proper attire and behavior in public.
Fashion designers, cosmetic companies and women’s magazines make huge fortunes selling the poor beguiled women on the idea of presenting themselves as if on display in a market for others to stare at them and then decide how they ‘rate.’
So actually, Islam has been preserving the correct and proper dress code, not only for ladies, but for men as well.
How Should Men and Women Behave toward each other?
In addition to defining the proper attire for the sexes, Islam also carefully instructs both men and women on how to behave toward each other.
For instance the Quran tells us in surat An-Nur in verses 30 and 31 exactly how to act in the presence of the opposite sex: “Tell the believing men to LOWER THEIR GAZE…). And then (Tell the believing women to LOWER THEIR GAZE…)
So, immediately we understand that it is more than just the clothing that is desired. It is the proper respect and behavior of the two sexes toward each other at all times.
Keep in mind that Islam is not just another religion. Islam (Total Surrender, Submission, Obedience, Sincerity and Peace with Allah) is for all people, in all places and in all times.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.