Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hijabs: Are They Signs of Spiritual Abuse?

In the post entitled Thought Reform and Cultures, I already mentioned that Western people totally misunderstand the reason why Muslim women wear hijabs (Muslim head coverings).

In a certain anti-cult website, I just noticed an article on spiritual abuse. One problem with this article is that the author considers spiritual abuse to be the same as thought reform. I wrote about the definition of the spiritual abuse given by the authors of this term in another post. I consider its definition to be the most correct and I am against too stretched concept of this term. For example, non-religious cults use thought reform techniques, but I do not think it should be called spiritual abuse because such cults have nothing to do with religion.

Another problem with the article I mentioned is a picture of a woman wearing a hijab, posted there. So, it seems that the author considers a hijab as a sign of spiritual abuse. However, the thing is that the idea that women's head coverings is a sign of any kind of abuse actually has something to do with the Bible and has nothing to do with the Qur'an.

In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:2-15 (New American Standard Version), it is said:
2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.
3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.
5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.
6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.
7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
9 for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake.
10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,
15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

In this passage, Paul teaches that man is a head of a woman and that woman's head covering is a symbol of man's authority. There are various interpretations of this passage, but I am not going to get into them now. My point is that the idea that if a woman covers her head, it shows her submissive position, is taken from this passage of the Bible.

The Qur'an gives an absolutely different reason for a woman to cover her head. In the Qur'an 24:30-31 (Yusufali's translation), it is written:
30 Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.
31 And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; 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 except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, 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 needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.

In the Qur'an 33:59 (Yusufali's translation), it is said:
O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

So, the reason for women to cover their whole body, including their heads, according to the Qur'an is completely different. It is to prevent men's lust to them, that is, to prevent rapes and such things. This reason has nothing to do with oppression or spiritual abuse. On the contrary, it takes care of a woman's dignity.

Some Muslim women wear hijabs that cover their hair and faces. Some wear hijabs that cover only their hair and leave their faces open. This difference comes from the different opinions of the four traditional Sunni madhabs (schools of Muslim law): Hanafis, Shafiis, Malikis, and Hanbalis. Some madhabs teach that women should cover their faces, some teach that they should not. The reason for covering Muslim women's faces is the same as for covering their heads and other parts of the body, which is to protect women from strange men's sexual abuses. So, it has nothing to do with any oppression or spiritual abuse.

Although there are some abusive Muslim groups that insist on women wearing hijabs, hijabs themselves are not a sign of spiritual abuse. The idea that they are, comes from Christianity, not from Islam. This is one of the examples that illustrates that it is important for anti-cult professionals to consider the cultural differences and not to project their own culture to the people of another culture.

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