Although it is obligatory upon all Muslims to practice Hijab in its various forms, unfortunately some of us do not take the concept of modesty as seriously as we must. Only at our convenience will we walk, talk, and dress in accordance with modesty. When Hijab "gets in the way" of partaking in the fleeting sinful pleasures of this world, we'll let our guard down using whatever excuse we can get.
Using the excuse of the summer heat and occasions of celebration, some Muslims opt to wear clothing that is not in line with modesty. But that's only the beginning: eventually, the lack of modest dress leads to a lack of modest behavior. Quite often this occurs right outside the mosque, perhaps after blessing a marriage in the sacred structure or after celebrating the birth of Imam al-Muttaqeen – Leader of the God-Conscious Ones (peace be upon him).
The slippery spiral down the abyss of sin sadly occurs throughout the year; however, the degree of severity increases with the temperature outside. Let us realize what kind of behavior we should avoid so as not to disgrace ourselves and earn His displeasure. Last week we brought you the habits of our sisters outside the mosque, but let's not forget our brothers!
To the Brothers Feeling the Heat
The command to lower our gaze was first directed towards the believing man before it was directed to the believing woman – guarding the eyes is one of the most powerful forms of Hijab for men. Keeping that in mind, there's something to be said about the terrible habit of just staring at the sisters waiting for their rides outside the women's entrance.
In terms of the amount of clothing worn, it seems that some brothers dress up in opposition to some sisters who choose to dress down. During celebrations, they come in nice traditional dresses or suits, which conveniently cover up a lot of skin. But for the brothers who are feeling the heat of summer and like to leave their top five shirt buttons open: please don't do that! Although it may be technically debatable according to what defines minimum Hijab, it defeats the purpose of modesty when it attracts attention. Moreover, we're definitely not stranded in the middle of nowhere with torn clothes after a shipwreck that we would resort to minimum Hijab. Of course, if it really is the heat that's bothering the brothers, then covering up more skin will provide protection from the sun.
Although this occurs throughout the year, the frequency increases during this particular season when groups of fancily-dressed sisters gather outside. Brothers young and old feel the responsibility to escort the women of their family to their car – the problem arises after they saunter over to the women's entrance and don't leave. While they stop there to let their mother know that the car is right where they left it, they scan the colorful crowd for their sisters rather than calling them with the five-hundred-dollar phones right in their hand. Once they find their sisters, they'll chat for a bit with their friends or with non-Mahram relatives hovering nearby – just to be polite, of course! As long as they pepper their speech with "Sister," it's all good – even though the tone used to say "Sister" sounds like something entirely different.
Especially during the summer days, groups of brothers like to gather on the path near the women's entrance despite the fact that there is ample space by their own entrance. Worst-case scenario is when the group is standing in the way of any and every sister who needs to get from the mosque to her car. Instead of moving, the brothers continue with their conversation or simply stare, forcing the sisters to step off the women's pathway and onto the road in order to get past the crowd. Yet the lack of basic respect does not end there: as the sisters step onto the road and walk away, it seems that the group of brothers realize their folly and so they continue to gaze after the sisters, surely by way of apology!
Consider this: if groups of sisters started gathering at the men's entrance, all hell would break loose! So what privilege have the brothers been given to crowd around the women's entrance? Why create situations in which there is only sin? Standing on the pathway near the men's entrance is much easier on the soul.
Some chivalrous brothers like to be the guardians of parked cars, but only when it isn't freezing cold outside. They are so determined to carry out their duty that they fail to do what they should when the sisters are trying to get to their cars: move. But these guardians are not as clueless as they seem – after compelling the sisters to stand there for a few awkward moments as they hope the brothers realize that they should move, and after the sisters give up and verbally request the brothers to give way, some of them actually move an entire inch! To these Car-Guardians: why make life difficult for the sisters and the hereafter difficult for yourselves?
Leaving just enough space to literally rub shoulders with the women as they pass by, with the hopes of getting a whiff of their Chanel 5 perfume is completely and unequivocally wrong. Just consider that Imam Ali (peace be upon him) once said, "O people of Iraq, I have been informed that your women rub shoulders with men on the streets. Have you no shame?!" (Wasa'il al-Shia)
Now, to give them some credit, not all brothers try to rub shoulders with the women. Other brothers like to keep their distance and hang out in the parking lot instead – that is, directly across from the women's entrance. As they lean against the sports cars parked there, they'll put on their sunglasses and occasionally glance over at the women to make sure that they're not sneaking peeks at how cool they look.
Besides using their shades for the wrong reasons, unfortunately some brothers also use their beloved cell phones to break the rules of Hijab. Occasionally, some brothers might be spotted talking on their cell phones, one arm stiffly in an awkward position. Before anyone can wonder why, there's a little flash of light, after which the brother dives back into the crowd of men. Taking pictures of the sisters is undoubtedly unacceptable – not to mention outright creepy. Unless this brother doesn't want to suffer an attack by justifiably outraged aunties with huge handbags, trouble with the cops, and – most importantly – earning the displeasure of his Creator and Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), it would be wiser to remember that besides observing Hijab of the physical eyes, Hijab extends to electronic "eyes" too.
Just keep in mind that while you're busy staring at the group of beautified women, another brother is staring at that same crowd – and he might be staring at your own sister. If not out of a sense of Islamic modesty, at least consider the golden rule of treating other women the way you would want the women of your family to be treated: with the highest degree of respect.
We should look to the example of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) when he spoke with a non-Mahram woman out of necessity. He spoke respectfully and without any frivolous comments or inappropriate glances. When she walked ahead of him, he could have used the excuses that are used today: "I don't want to offend her by asking her to walk behind me," "She's the one walking ahead of me, so there's nothing I can do." or "I know for sure that I won't look at her in a wrong way, so it's fine if I walk behind her." Prophet Musa had faith in the correctness of Allah's commands and did not think himself above the rules of Hijab. So that Shaitan couldn't get the slightest opportunity to start whispering, Prophet Musa changed the situation by walking ahead of his future wife instead.
Thus if a situation is not ideal with regard to observing Hijab, then fix it, for there is no shame in implementing Allah's orders.
The Heat of Summer and Hellfire
Yes, not every brother donning a pair of sunglasses is showing off, and not every sister waiting outside the mosque is seeking attention. Indeed, there is often no other place to wait for our ride, but the key is to dress and behave appropriately.
Whether young or old, single or married, in the vicinity of a mosque or elsewhere – Hijab must be observed in the presence of non-Mahrams. Realizing the immense strength and extent of our Hijab, we must work on perfecting it. Physical, social, and mental Hijab are such strong presences in our everyday lives – we cannot afford to overlook it for "just a day" or even for "just a few minutes". We're setting fire to our own faith if we do that.
Let's not throw away our chance at getting closer to Allah because of trumped-up reasons on a hot summer day. That's the heat of the same scorching sun which had the tragic fortune of seeing the bare heads of the women of the Ahlul Bayt, as well as the dignity and piety of the imprisoned noble Fourth Imam (peace be upon them all) as they were marched through the crowded streets of Kufa. Remembering their remarkable modesty in that dire situation, let us strive to be the fruits of their efforts to keep Hijab alive. Let us forget about mimicking what others think is the "in" thing to do, and forget about living in the moment without a thought for the hereafter. Abandoning Hijab is definitely not cool – it's hot, like hellfire.