Modesty Between Males and Females

Mufti Siraaj Desai


It appears that in today's times it is only Islam that still extols the virtue of, and advocates modesty in females. Other creeds and ideologies seem to have all discarded the importance of modesty in females, the ill effects of which will be highlighted later.


God created man and woman, and established a natural bond of love and attraction between the two. The purpose of this bond and affinity was to provide for the reproduction of human life over the period that this world would exist. Without this natural attraction and gravitation, there would be no cohabitation and no resultant off-spring. It was, therefore, imperative for the promotion of human life on earth that the one species be attracted to the other. Whilst experience of human nature will prove that both species experience different levels of attraction to the opposite sex, it is ultimately the male who is prone to greater desire and temptation. In Islam we believe the main reason for this is to put man to trial and test, an underlying concept that is attached to many of the laws of our Faith. Be that as it may, the fact is that according to this divinely ordained system, man has always been attracted to woman. 


In order to pass this test and prove himself to be truly a man of his Creator, the male species has to avoid all forms of temptation, has to be always vigilant, control lust and desire, and wage a constant war against his lowly, base desires. When he achieves this, he rises to great spiritual heights and contributes to a morally clean society.  On the other hand, should man fail to temper his lust and control desire, the disastrous consequences of such failure will reverberate throughout the strata of human life, as is evident today.


However, Almighty Allah has, in all fairness, levelled the playing fields by imposing certain restrictions on female dress and appearance, thus aiding man in his struggle against carnal desire. Such a rule for the female represents her test and trial. Women naturally pride themselves on attraction and adornment, so it is a challenge for her to rope in her instinct and aspirations, and adopt the path of modesty.  So man is saddled with the challenge of lowering his gaze and safeguarding his desire, whilst the woman is challenged with the restriction of modesty in dress and appearance. The one compliments the other.


There is overwhelming evidence today, both in practice and scientific research that immodest dress, seductive behaviour and body language, as well as general exposure by women contribute to a number of societal ills. Dressing invitingly, speaking in a seductive tone, exposure of body parts and flesh, are factors that incite men towards rape, among others causes. Modern research on rape is clear on this. Females who exhibit their attractiveness and finery attract at first level, the stares of men, and at second level greater male attention. As a result, married men who succumb to extra-marital affairs and carnal satisfaction end up destroying their marriages, whilst the unmarried are driven towards illicit sex, which in itself brings a host of complications that destroy moral fibre and impede spiritual advancement. Domestic problems create instability in the family environment, which in turn affects children, who then cannot perform at the desired educational levels to become role-players in their society. Through fornication the morality of a society is severely impaired. Greater female exposure brings about a ripple effect across the male spectrum of society, to the extent that it becomes acceptable for the female body to be subject to exposure and exhibit. The social evil of prostitution is another horrific spin-off from promiscuity. 


It is therefore, in the best interest of humankind to impose modesty upon females. Islam has, through The Divine Plan of Allah Almighty, acknowledged these evils and created a mechanism to deal with it. This mechanism is the Hijaab or system of segregation of sexes and the modest dress code for females which is mentioned in many places in the Holy Quran. In Chapter 33, verse 59 of the Holy Quran Almighty Allah provides the rationale for the law of Hijaab or female concealment: "so that they may be recognized as noble or decent women, and thus not be molested" 

Female molestation and sexual harassment are social ills endemic to our communities. The root cause of this on-going social malady is female immodesty and exposure. Even some female celebrities today have acknowledged such a reality. It is, therefore, a tribute to Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi wa Sallam) that structures were placed to deal with these social ills and safeguard the morality of both men and female.

In Islam a female is required to cover her entire body from the gaze of men who are not closely related to her, such as father, brother, son, nephew, etc. The face may be left open, but some Scholars opine that even the face should be concealed whenever possible.


This is, in a nutshell, the Islamic concept of modesty.