Is not being in tasattur (for a woman to cover her head and her body) a disgrace, crime or sin?

Three concepts are confused in the discussions about tasattur: disgrace, crime and sin. If a word, an action or a piece of clothing contradicts with the value judgments of a community, it is regarded as disgraceful. If it is against the law, it is a crime. If it is against the rules of a religion, it is a sin.

Some people think that something that is not against the law will not be a sin, whereas others delude themselves that if everybody does something, it is no longer a sin. Both of these ideas are completely wrong.

Disgrace cannot be a criterion for reality. People who arrange their ideas, thoughts and actions in accordance with the societys conception of disgrace will have sacrificed their personalities for the society and will have become the slaves of the crowds.

Is it possible to regard the things that the society blames as wrong and the things that the society adopts as right? If this is valid, isnt it necessary for a person to have a different personality in each society and to change color like a chameleon frequently?

The following statement of a western thinker which shows that human mind is weak explains the question in a nice way: Nothing more horrible than a person to eat his father can be imagined; however, it was a tradition in some tribes in the past. They did this because of their love and respect. They wanted the dead person to be buried in the most appropriate and honorable grave. They wanted the dead persons body and memories to travel in their veins. They wanted their fathers to live again in their bodies by mixing into their living bodies by digestion and assimilation. It is not difficult to guess that it will be regarded as a great sin by these people who strongly have this belief to make their parents decay in the ground and be eaten by worms.

Now lets think about it: if most of the people around us adopted this idea as a result of an intense propaganda, would we eat our fathers flesh so that the society would not blame us? So blaming is completely subjective; it is not a factor that can affect the reality. The claims of a woman who avoids tasattur because of other peoples blaming are divided into two: the first one is the objection in the form saying Why should not being in tasattur be a sin? The other is her personal conviction that there is no tasattur in Islam.

There seems to be no difference between them. However, they are two different subjects. If you investigate the people who say What is the importance of tasattur? A person can do whatever she wants even when she is in tasattur., you will find people who do not know Islam well and who cannot perform what Islam orders.

These people make objections like these in order to get rid of the psychology of being guilty that they feel in their conscience, and instead of repenting they try to justify their sins. They feel as if they will get rid of the responsibility if they warn other people. As a matter of fact if a deed is a sin, it is; if it is not a sin, it is not. The crowds cannot determine it. If tasattur exists in the religion nobody can say it does not exist. However, nobody should force others regarding tasattur.

As for the question whether tasattur exists in Islam or not, there are various fatwas (answers) about it. However, since some Muslims do not know the place of fatwa in religion, I will present some verses from the Qoran and quote some of the interpretations.

Allah addresses our Prophet (PBUH) in Chapter An-Noor as follows:

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 (ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ 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. (Chapter An-Noor, 31)

When the verse is read carefully, the following can be determined:

The first is that the people to be addressed are the women. That is, tasattur is a sign of belief and it is a fardh (compulsory deed) for only Muslim women. An unbeliever is not responsible for Islams orders and prohibitions. That is, a person has to believe in the existence of Allah first, has to know that the Qoran is His word and Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger in order to be responsible for divine orders and prohibitions.

The second is that the order not to look at haram (forbidden things or people) is not only for men but also for women. The third is that it is forbidden for the women to show their ornaments.

I will present one of the interpretations about the word ornament in the verse briefly:

Ornament is adornment; however since it cannot be forbidden for a person to look at an adornment itself, what is meant by ornament is the places like ear, neck, throat where ornaments are put. Since the subject of the verse is tasattur and all of the Muslims are addressed whether they are rich or poor, the verse would be only for the rich if ornament meant adornment. Whereas the address is general. Another important thing is the following: The real ornament for the women is not adornment but these organs themselves. That is, the organs like neck and throat that are haram to be shown are ornaments. (Hak Dini Kuran Dili)

The fourth is that Muslim women should cover their heads with their headscarves and place them over their bosoms unlike the women of jahiliyya who tie them on their necks and let them hang down on their backs.

In another verse Allah states the following:

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. (Chapter Al-Ahzab, 59)

Tasattur is clearly ordered in this verse and the wisdom (reason) for tasattur is stated as to protect Muslim women from being disturbed by confusing them with other mean women, from being molested and protect their soles from being agonized.

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