"Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” Sophia Loren (Italian film Actress)
Men and women are equal but not identical. Each of them complements the other in the different roles and functions that they are responsible to. In Islam the individuals should not be judged according to gender, beauty, wealth or privilege. The only thing that makes one person better than another is his or her character. Therefore woman is judged by her character and actions rather than by her looks or physical features.
Islam ordered the same high standards of moral conduct for men as it is for women. Modesty is essential in a human's life, as well, whether it is in action, morals or speech. A woman who adheres to the tenets of Islam is required to follow the dress code called Hijab (Veil). Islam also commands proper behavior and dress of men, in that they are not allowed to make a show of their bodies to attract attention onto themselves, and they too must dress modestly. They have a special commandment to lower their eyes, and not to brazenly stare at women.
The Qur'an urges the believing men and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty and then urges the believing women to extend their head covers to cover the neck and the bosom:
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty. 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...." (Qur'an Surah Al Noor: 30, 31).
The Islamic veil, unlike the veil of the Christian tradition, is not a sign of man's authority over woman nor is it a sign of woman's subjection to man. The Islamic veil, unlike the veil in the Jewish tradition, is not a sign of luxury and distinction of some noble married women. The Islamic veil is only a sign of modesty with the purpose of protecting women, all women.
The Islamic philosophy is that it is always better to be safe than sorry. In fact, the Qur'an is so concerned with protecting women's bodies and women's reputation that a man who dares to falsely accuse a woman of unchastely will be severely punished:
"And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations), Flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors (evil doers)" (Quran Surah Al Noor: 4)
The Muslim woman does not feel the pressures to be beautiful or attractive, which is so apparent in the Western and Eastern cultures. She does not have to live up to expectations of what is desirable and what is not. Superficial beauty is not the Muslim woman's concern; her main goal is inner spiritual beauty. She does not have to use her body and charms to get recognition or acceptance in society. There are numerous examples of discrimination at the workplace where women are either accepted or rejected, because of their attractiveness and sex. A good example is in advertising, where a woman's body is used to sell products. Women are constantly degraded, and subjected to reveal more and more of themselves.
Many of the misconceptions of the Muslim woman in the west, particularly her veil stems from Arab and Muslim countries that have deviated from the true doctrines of Islam, and have " mixed up Islamic principles with pre-Islamic pagan traditions". Muslim woman wears the Islam dress code herself to put herself on a higher level and men will look at her with respect and she is noticed for her intellect, faith, and personality, not for her beauty. Some people, especially in the West, would tend to ridicule the whole argument of modesty for protection. Their argument is that the best protection is the spread of education, civilized behavior, and self control. We would say: fine but not enough.
Something is fundamentally wrong in the society we live in. A radical change in the society's life style and culture is absolutely necessary. A culture of modesty is badly needed, modesty in dress, in speech, and in manners of both men and women. Actually, we all suffer but as Khalil Gibran said:
"…For the person who receives the blows is not like the one who counts them" in Thoughts and Meditations (New York: Bantam Books, 1960)
By: Nouran Radwan
Liberation by the Veil, by Sehmina Jaffer Chopra, http://www.islam101.com/women
Women in Islam Versus Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition The Myth and The Reality By: Sherif Abdel Azim, Ph.D.- Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, http://www.islamicity.com/