This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.The Koran claims for itself, that one of it's mark of genuineness is that it is clear and easy to understand; that it sets straight all the things in which the Christian and Jews found themselves at variance against. "And We have not sent down upon thee the Book except that thou mayest make clear to them that whereon they were at variance" (Koran 16:66) "And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear everything, and as a guidance and a mercy" (Koran 16:91) However, some of the most enigmatic suras in the Koran have to do with woman covering, or veiling, themselves.
"And say to the believing women, that they cast down [refrain] their eyes and guard their private parts [observe continuance], and reveal not their adornment [ornaments] save such as is outward [external]; and let them cast their veils over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment [ornaments] save to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands' fathers, or their sons, or their husbands' sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or what their right hands own, or such men as attend them, not having sexual desire, or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts [note not a woman’s nakedness]; nor let them stamp their feet [strike their feet together], so that their hidden ornament may be known." (Koran 24:31)
"Such women as are past child- bearing and have no hope of marriage -- there is no fault [blame] in them that they put off their [outer] clothes, so be it that they flaunt no ornament [but so as not to shew their ornaments]." (Koran 24:59)These suras have been greatly debated by Muslims around the world and especially by Muslim women as to what exactly God was requiring of them. These suras have caused much confusion and variance between Muslims of all sects, nationalities, genders, and ages. At the heart of the issue is, what does the Koran mean by adornments (or ornaments) and what does it mean when speaking of those that are apparent (or external). Some have interpreted this to mean only the hair, some believe it refers to the hair and the hands of a woman, and others believe that it refers to her entire body and that nothing of a woman should be visible when she ventures out in public. It is also possible that the prophet is referring to the difference between the jewelry that a woman wears next to her skin verses that which is worn over her clothes. For example, in referring to the stamping or striking of their feet, Muhammad may have been referring to anklets worn next to the flesh of their ankles. Isaiah wrote of loose women saying,
"Moreover, the Lord said, 'Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps and tinkle the bangles on their feet, Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the Lord will make their foreheads bare.' In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils." (Isaiah 3:16-23)Notice the reference to the anklets that would "tinkle" as they struck or stomped their feet. The question remains as to whether or not a woman ought to veil herself in obedience to God's law or whether or not it should be left to the individual woman to choose on her own; consulting her own conscience and faith before God in this matter? There is only one verseI know of in the Jewish and Christian scriptures that would require a woman to be "covered."
"But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved... Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels... But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." (1 Corinthians 11:5, 10, 16)There are several things of interest in this scripture. First, such coverings are required only when praying or prophesying, not all the time or even when in public. Secondly, the coverings are to show honor to her husband, not God. Third, Paul's reason for such a request has to do with the angles. It's interesting that Muhammad gives us no justification for his requirement. And, finally, its presented as a "practice" of the church and not a law of God. A woman not covering her head is said to be "shameful" not "sinful" which refers to how she is viewed within her culture and society not necessarily how she is viewed by God. It is interesting to note that as the Gospel expanded into the Greek culture, veiling became a common practice among some of the Christian women. Some teacher encouraging it, not out of law, but out or a recognition of the licentious culture in which they lived and in a desire to protect the young women from the leers and lustful looks of men. In my opinion, veiling or covering should be at the woman's own discretion and is not, as Muhammad claimed, as a direct requirement of God.