Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jewish and Christian "Hijab" I

(Source from a blog)

PART ONE- JEWISH HIJAB
بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم
I am writing this post (one of two parts) to illustrate WHAT was revealed to the Jewish and Christian women in terms of hijab, so that we as Muslims can better understand what things we were commanded to do in addition to differentiate ourselves from the practices of the Jews (which the Qu'ran states incurred Allah subhahu wa ta'ala's wrath) and the Christians (who went astray), صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّين . Muslims and so-called Muslim scholars need to understand, that just because the majority of Christians and Jews have stopped wearing the hijab THEY are compelled to put on by THEIR deen, doesn't mean that Muslims can leave off the clear recomendations for our hijab in the Qu'ran , many of which the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa-sallam explained in various ahadith were for modesty, and to clearly differentiate ourselves from the practices of the Jews and the Christians, which were altered to suit mankind's whims in their histories. Ours are not to be. There are many documents of survivng dress that document what Jewish and Christian women wore throughout history, and some surviving practioners of their hijabs. This post is about the fard requirements of Jewish and Christian hijab. InshaAllah you will find it interesting.
JEWISH "Hijab" [Does the Torah command Jewish women to cover their heads and how does it mandate they do so?]

The Torah states that, like in Islam,when the people came to pray to the Lord they covered their shoulders and head. This is the opinion of most rabbis. Where does it say that it should not be done any longer?

‘‘Make for yourselves tassels [g'dilim] on the four corners of the cloak [k'sut] that covers you'' (Deuteronomy 22:11 MBV). The command noted from Deuteronomy 22:11, is that it is to be a k'sut, or covering, and it is emphasized twice to be a ‘‘cloak [k'sut] that covers [k'sut] you.''
The practice of hair covering amongst Jewish women has its source in the Mishnah. M. Ketubot 7:6 lists going out with unbound hair as one of the ways in which a woman forfeits her divorce settlement. The Talmud (B. Ketubot 72a-b) understood the source of this custom to be even more ancient. In the Bible (Numbers 5:18), a woman suspected of infidelity has her hair exposed as part of her punishment. This biblical passage seems to imply that as a matter of course a Jewish woman kept her hair covered.
The gemara in Ketubot 72a presents two categories of women who can be divorced without receiving the sum of money stipulated in their ketuba (marriage contract). In other words, these are cases where the women are deemed to have violated the terms under which they were married, and thus the contract is considered to be broken. The two categories are referred to as "Dat Moshe" and "Dat Yehudit." The former category includes cases when the woman causes her husband to violate Torah law (the religion of Moshe), while the second category seems to be more focused on issues of personal modesty. The latter category is called "Dat Yehudit" since it includes things that are not explicitly prohibited by the Torah, yet have been accepted by the women of Israel as a binding custom. The first item listed among those things considered to be "Dat Yehudit" is when a woman goes out with her hair uncovered. However, as the gemara notes, this is not simply a law that was accepted over time by Jewish women. Rather, we know from the case of the sotah (a woman suspected by her husband of committing adultery) that Jewish women have to cover their hair, since part of the process of humiliating the sotah in attempts to make her confess her sin is that the kohein uncovers her hair. Obviously, if this was considered to be a potentially effective means of shaming her into confession, it must be that it was the norm for her hair to be covered (see also Bamidbar Rabba 9:16)!

While there is a Halachic disagreement amongst Jewish scholars regarding the law that married women should cover their hair even inside their houses, all seem to agree that it is preferable and highly praiseworthy for a woman to cover her hair even in the privacy of her own home. There is no such thing for Muslim women. The Qu'ran makes clear our hijabs are worn in front of non-maharam men, and for salat. So we have no such confusion.

In the Talmud there is a famous story about a certain woman by the name of Kimchit who was careful that “the walls of her house should not see the hairs of her head.” She was rewarded with seven sons who served as High Priests. We see from this story that a woman’s covering her hair in private is highly praiseworthy. But is it a Torah mandate? Or is it simply a chumrah, a stringency? Must a woman cover her hair at home? King David says, “kol kevudah bat melech p'nimah.” Which Hebrew for "All the glory of the King’s daughter is internal."

One of the expressions of this inner glory is that, in Judaism in general, married women must cover their hair. But is there a halachic difference between going out in public and being at home? In the privacy of their own homes, seemingly, they should be able to “let their hair down.” Muslim women CAN if they are not around non-maharam men. By covering her hair (even with a wig, which may be mistaken for real hair---Muslim women are forbidden to wear wigs maybe because it is an imitation of this Jewish custom) a woman in Judaism is expressing her exclusive devotion, love for, and unique connection to her husband.

In order to fully answer this question, it is important to address two issues at play here: a) why does a Jewish woman need to cover her hair at all? b) Does the Torah expect (and allow) Jewish women to act differently in the privacy of their own homes than when they are outside in public?

Once a woman is married, she enters into a completely unique relationship with her husband. This transformation is alluded to by the Hebrew name for the wedding ceremony, “Kiddushin,” which means sanctification or holiness.

Through this act, the bride and groom are totally and utterly dedicated to each other in a holy coupling. This dedication manifests itself in both an internal and an external form, in many ways, and for both partners.

One of these ways is by a woman covering her hair, which is viewed by Judaism as a sensual and private part of a married woman’s appearance. By covering her hair (even with a wig, which may be mistaken for real hair) a woman is expressing her exclusive devotion, love for, and unique connection to her husband.

Even if others do not realize that she is covering her hair, she has the constant awareness and consciousness that she is one half of a unique and profound relationship, sanctified by God Himself.

Yet, the Torah, as usual, is not content to let the practioner of Judaism just “act natural.” Rather, it exhorts them to keep to high standards, and to maintain a high level of moral and ethical conduct, even when no other human beings are around. Even when a Jewish woman is getting dressed in a dark room, she are enjoined to do so in a modest manner. Similarily the Prophet Mohammed salla Allahu alaihi wa-sallam suggested we cover our naked bodies with sheets even while we enjoyed the company of our husbands in the marriage bed, so that Jinn could not watch.

Why is this belief prevalent in Judaism? Because of the concept that God is omnipresent; and human beings are always under His scrutiny. (And in case a person does not have the constant awareness of God’s presence, the Jewish Shulchan Aruch prescribes meditation, in order to arouse feelings of love and awe)

However, the hair of a married woman does not have the same status as other private parts of the body that are usually covered in Judaism. As explained earlier, hair covering is primarily a symbol of marriage, a demonstration of her devotion to her spouse.

So, all that said: May a women uncover her hair in private? Halachah, Jewish law, addresses public, semipublic, and private settings:

Now, normally, the laws of modesty are not loosened in the privacy of home. The Code of Jewish Law, acknowledging human nature, states that it is natural for people to act differently when they are in the privacy of their own home then when they are around a group of people.

Public: The Torah states that a woman must completely cover her hair in a public place. Some opinions state that under a tefach (a handbreadth, about three inches total) of hair may show.

Semipublic: In a semipublic place, one opinion states that even if men are not usually found there, a married woman must cover her hair.

Private: The Biur Halachah writes that although originally it was permitted for married women to uncover their hair in the privacy of their homes, in more recent times “the prevailing custom in all places is for women to cover their hair, even in the privacy of their own homes.... Since our ancestors, in all localities, have adopted this practice, it has taken on the full force of Jewish law and is obligatory....”

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein disagrees with this ruling and writes that “[covering hair when in private] is praiseworthy, but not required.” Sources for these conclusions in Yuma 47a, Psalms 45:14, Beginning of Orach Chaim. With regards to other issues – such as the prohibition of a husband seeing private parts of his wife’s body when she is niddah – there is disagreement between halachic authorities as to the “status” of a married woman’s hair. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv (highly respected modern-day Israeli halachic authority) says that a married woman’s hair is in the same category as other private parts of the body, while Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (author of the Igrot Moshe Responsa) writes that hair is not in the same category as other parts of the body that are normally covered. Sources: Halichos Bas Yisrael, by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs. Targum Press, 1987. Beautiful Within, Modesty In Conduct and Dress As Taught By The Lubavitcher Rebbe. Sichos in English, 1995.

The Jews themselves are often guilty of making a law (such as a woman's hair having to be covered even in the privacy of her home or wearings wigs to do so) Biur Halachah writes that although originally it was permitted for married women to uncover their hair in the privacy of their homes, in more recent times “the prevailing custom in all places is for women to cover their hair, even in the privacy of their own homes.... Since our ancestors, in all localities, have adopted this practice, it has taken on the full force of Jewish law and is obligatory....” which did not originate with Allah subhabhu wa ta'ala, which is, to make something haraam that is halal. The Qu'ran, and even the Torah has remnants, have warnings for this.

Isaiah 30:1 says, "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of My spirit, that they may add sin to sin."

In conclusion, from studies of Jewish historical costume and the Torah, and the opinions of Jewish scholars, a woman's hair must be covered and she must wear modest clothing that covers all of her skin. Nothing in Judaism specified that clothing could not be very decorated, or that the hair HAD to be covered in a certain manner, or that the clothing had to be loose and not see-through, or that an overgarment had to be worn, or that complete veiling (facial) was forbidden. Facial veiling was not a commandment in the Torah, nor was jilbab, nor was covering the neck and the breasts. That is why Jewish women are permitted to wear knee length skirts with tights and this counts as clothing that covers. Facial veiling was neither mustahaab, haraam, or fard for Jewish women but it was a cultural practice that was a symbol of wealth and social status, and the opinion of Jewish scholars is that it is halaal for Jewish women, but not part of their religion.