In some mailing lists I join, people are still discussing ‘hotly’ about ‘aurat’. (aurat means parts of bodies that are supposed to be covered.)
What is ‘aurat’?
When I was in elementary school (I attended an Islamic elementary school), I was taught that ‘aurat’ for women is most parts of their bodies, except face and palms, while for men, ‘aurat’ is ONLY from their navel to exactly above knees. It means parts of women’s bodies that are allowed to be seen are only their face and palms. Meanwhile, people can freely see men’s full head, neck, shoulders, chest, upper belly, arms, hands, and legs from knees below.
Why should women cover most parts of their bodies?
It is stated that women’s bodies—hair, neck, ears, etc—will easily turn men on. I suppose all men—creatures having penis since birth—are considered heterosexual in Islam, because people say that Islam only recognizes two kinds of sexes: male—again, all creatures having penis, and female—all creatures having vagina and breasts. If a man is turned on because of seeing a woman’s parts or her whole body, he will probably do some ‘unexpected things’, such as whistling, staring, touching, etc. Therefore, ‘to protect’ women from those unexpected acts, they are to cover (or ‘imprison’?) their whole bodies under loose clothes. This is also ‘to protect’ men in order that they will be ‘saved’ from temptation to do ‘immoral acts’. To protect men here of course means different from ‘imprisoning’ that I mentioned earlier.
I am of opinion that definition of ‘aurat’ here is closely related to the fact where Islam ‘was born’, that was in Arab. When it is related to two previous celestial religions ‘born’ before that—Christian and Judaism—that were believed by most Muslim people as “Islam in different forms” or “Islam which was not perfected yet by Muhammad”, these two religions were also born in Arab, where the people ‘originally’ wore kinds of clothes covering most parts of their bodies.
It reminded me of one question from one chat friend—a Californian male, a non believer—several years ago, “If Islam had not been born in Arab, but in Indonesia, more specific again, in Papua, where the ‘original’ people only wore ‘koteka’, do you think ‘aurat’ in people’s bodies that have to be covered would be the same—all parts of our bodies?
After reading more books and articles about human beings’ history from the very old time—at the very beginning of human beings’ life in the earth—in my effort to get rid myself of indoctrination I got from my elementary school teachers, I found out that there was time where men and women were equal, there was no separating domain—domestic and public spheres—an era where perhaps people did not know the existence of celestial religions. In that era, seemingly both men and women wore the same kind of clothes, not covering much, no imprisonment toward women, no protection given to men—from temptation to expose their sexual desires. Therefore, I do agree if people say that ‘aurat’ is very cultural. Regulation to cover ‘aurat’ is only to imprison women, and to spoil men, so that they will be able to avoid doing ‘immoral’ things. (Have you ever heard that heaven later will be full of men, on the contrary, hell will be full of women.)
In conclusion, I completely agree that this ‘aurat’ thing is just for fooling us around, just a joke. That’s why I also agree when one woman in one mailing list complained why only men are protected from sexual temptations, why women are not protected from the similar things. Aren’t there any women who get easily turned on when they see men’s naked chest, or muscular arms/biceps?
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