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This issue has been sensationalized in the media, especially in some secular countries like France and Turkey which seek to make illegal the wearing of the Muslim headscarf or face veil in public places. We will not delve into all the details of the issue but, given the information above and some additional information below, we will let the readers judge for themselves whether or not the modest clothing and covering of the beauty and adornments of women, mandated in Islamic scriptures, is only for her own honor and protection, or not.
Allah (The Almighty) says:
(O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (and/or veils) over their bodies. That is better that they should be known so as not to be annoyed and molested. Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.)
This verse clearly states that the reason the woman is obligated to cover herself is to distinguish her to be identified as a respectable Muslim lady, to avoid the annoying glances and glares of the men. As we all know, provocative clothing urges some men to make advances, and expose women to molestation. This may be encouraged and marketed in some societies, but not among the respectable faithful Muslims.
All protective measures should be taken to guard women from excess temptation, which are explained in Islamic jurisprudence. Some of them are related to the women's attire like loose fitting body wrapping, head covering, and according to the authentic interpretations of the scriptures of the Qur'an and Sunnah, the face veil.
Allah (The Almighty) also said:
(And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not display their adornment (and beauty), except that which appears thereof (ordinarily) and to draw their coverings over their chests and not display their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husband's sons, their brothers, their brothers sons, their sisters sons, their women, that which their right hands possess (their slaves) or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stomp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornments. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers that you might succeed.)
This verse indicates those males who are categorized as "mahram," as mentioned above, and designates that men and women should lower their gazes in modesty, which is the best self-protection from natural temptations and mutual attractions that occur between the opposite sexes.
And Allah (The Almighty) says, indicating the provocative manners with which the women of pre-Islamic era used to walk about, and calling the believers to appropriate behavior and repentance:
(And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance, and establish regular prayers and give obligatory charity and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah wishes only to remove impurity from you, O members of the family (of the Prophet), and to purify you with a thorough purification. And remember(O you the members of the Prophet's family, the Graces of your Lord), that which is recited in your houses of the Verses of Allah and Wisdom (i.e. Prophet's Sunnah ). Verily, Allah is Ever Most Courteous, Well-Acquainted with all things. Verily, the Muslims men and women, the believing men and women, the obedient men and women, the truthful men and women, the patient men and women, the humble men and women, the charitable men and women, the fasting men and the women, the chaste men and women, and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues; Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise). It is not for a believing man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a clear error.)
We can see that Islamic regulations, although similar to many other cultures where modest dress and behavior is concerned, are yet unique to the highest standards of the Muslim identity of chastity, righteousness, and moral uprightness. Islam protects and safeguards the individuals and the society from awkward situations of unnecessary intermingling between marriageable males and females leading to natural temptations. The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) said in an authentic tradition:
"Verily for every religion there is a characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is Haya`a (modesty, shyness, bashfulness)."
[Ibn Majah #4172 and verified]