It’s a warm sunny day at the park. You see a woman clad from head to foot, only her eyes and hands visible, carrying watermelon to her young child. You can’t imagine how she does it, how intense it must be boiling beneath that fabric. Wouldn’t she like to dress freely and comfortably like the man next to her, in a short sleeve T-shirt and shorts up to the knees? Why is it that men are not required to cover themselves as extensively as women have to in Islam? If Muslim men and women were truly equal, then why does this apparent disparity exist?
It really isn’t an absurd statement. To anyone on the periphery, this is exactly how it appears. Women have to wear hijab; men don’t. Women have to cover from head to foot; men are obligated to cover from the navel to the knee. And the argument follows to claim that women in Islam are oppressed, while men are free to dress, as they like.
To anyone that may consider this apparent bias, I ask one question: Do you think God really would favor a man over a woman? Would Allah, the Just and the Protecting Friend, ask women to do something that is burdensome and free of any reward? To think in such a way is blasphemy, but it is also a testament of how well you understand your faith and Allah’s orders.
A man and a woman can never be the same entity despite being equal in status. We look different, think in different ways, and respond differently to the same situation. Allah has made men and women strikingly different.
One of the major differences is how we physically look and what we are attracted to. Numerous studies have shown that men are attracted to visuals, while women are more attracted to audio. Naturally, the pupil will expand when it sees something pleasurable and contract when it sees something that is not pleasurable. Often, the pupils of men will dilate, while the pupils of women do not dilate in reaction to the same pleasurable image. This inherent difference articulates that men are pulled more towards visuals than women are and it follows that men find it more difficult to remove themselves from such an attraction.
So why is that men are not required to cover what is haraam for a woman to look at? For instance, a man is not required to cover his chest and yet, a woman must lower her gaze, since it is a sin to look at the exposed chest of a man. The situation itself testifies that a woman is stronger than a man when it comes to controlling herself.
Allah, the Bestower of Form and the Fashioner, is actually honoring the woman by giving her the ability to control herself so well. In this way, one of the reasons why Allah has obligated women to cover would be because man may not be able to exert the same level of control as a woman. Without hijab, a woman radiates – biologically, receptors go out to attract the opposite gender. With hijab, however, the attraction is reduced dramatically and it is easier for men to go about without looking lustfully.
For instance, I’m sure at one time or another, we have looked upon an attractive man, whether purposefully or accidentally. It must have been hard for us to look away. But try to envision the task of lowering the gaze as twice or even ten times harder – that is, my dear ladies, what a man has to go through.
Another question- why do women have to pray behind men? It can’t be that women are less dignified or unfavorable in Allah’s eyes. It is because of the nature of man – he will lose himself and become preoccupied with other than that of his prayer. Women, however, are not as susceptible to this temptation and can pray behind men.
Generally speaking, fornication often occurs when a woman inclines the man toward something he already has a susceptibility to. If the woman is strong however, the man may have the desire but does not have the opportunity to sin.
So you see, hijab doesn’t push down on the status of women. The hijab serves as a protective barrier for not only the woman but also for a man, who is inherently attracted to the visual. Just imagine, the next time you step out without a hijab – you may be unaware of so much going on around you. Would you be happy to know the sins you have accumulated, the silent struggles of a brother who found it so difficult to lower his gaze from you?
You may be unaware, but Allah the All Aware, is not. There’s a good reason behind everything, just as there is a good reason behind hijab.