One reads and witnesses news about Saudi Arabia, the Custodians of the HOUSE OF GOD and the resting place of the last of the Prophets Mohammad (SAW), opening up to the modern world allowing its womenfolk to watch football matches, which was followed by news of the species participating in theatrical performances and fashion catwalks; first signs of the daughter of eve coming into the open in the land of the House of God. There is nothing wrong in the development if aimed at removing the unnecessary social taboos as long as the traditional Hijaab associated with the Muslim female is not eventually discarded and recognition of women in the Holy Land does not end up in gender-free public cohabitation in educational institutions, which is becoming the norm in virtually all Muslim countries in the name of fundamental rights.
The last of those entering the modern age thus far had been the fundamentally traditional Afghanistan, where in brash contempt for religious sentiment after dethroning of the legitimate Government through the Allied invasion, Hamid Karzai, first of the installed puppet rulers posed with some naval revealing jeans-clad young females heralding the modern face of ‘liberated Afghanistan’. Mercifully, that face of the Muslim woman was never showcased later, though women are rightly part of the prevalent social order in all walks of life. One hopes though that be it Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, the woman is not made a revealing showpiece as being fashioned across the world in which Pakistan appears to be taking the lead.
Such is the sanctity of the woman’s Hijaab in Islam usually exemplified by Muslim female adorning a ‘chaadar,’ that Hazrat Khadija once urged Prophet Mohammad (SAW) to seek clarification over some social issue from Hazrat Jibraeel (AS) whenever the revealing messenger of God visited him next. With no one else in the house Hazrat Khadija then cast off her chaadar as she got engrossed in household chores, but reverted to him later to inquire about the clarification if sought by him. The Prophet (SAW) told her that he could not, because the messenger of God left without a pause as he found Hazrat Khadija without her Chaadar.
In this backdrop, shudder must run through the spine of the Muslim Ummah which has today succumbed to never-ending erosion of Islamic values at the behest of forces inimical to Islam and those styling themselves as emancipated scholars. Without having to look elsewhere, Pakistan has marveled at dancing into the 21st Century and replacing milestones in Islamic history with all kinds of West-imported Day celebrations including the Valentine’s Day, revealing catwalks while disdainfully casting off the Chaadar which was supposed to be the apparel with which to guard the chastity of the female body, not to talk of themes pursued by the country’s media in their program content.
The Muslim female attire is exemplified in the House of God while performing Haj and Umrah, which requires women to cover their entire body except the face and hands, down to the ankles including every hair follicle on the scalp. This dress code is meticulously followed by all women from wherever they come during the annual pilgrimage and periodical Umrah. But the moment they are back home, the Pakistani woman is invariably seen reverting to revealing mode as if the dress code described above was confined to Pilgrimage of the Holy Land.
Sadly, it is not only the private sector media in Pakistan which have triggered this freedom against the Message enshrined in the Quran but also the official arm of the electronic media which has also followed suit where the Chaader or Dopatta has practically been abandoned as if by design. Laying down the basics for the Muslim woman, God Almighty in Surah Alnoor Ayat 31 in the Holy Quran addressing Prophet Mohammad (SAW) ordains him to tell Momin (Muslim) women to preserve the sanctity of their female attributes including make-up except for what is apparent, and that they must cover their breasts with their ‘orhnian’ meaning chaader or dopatta, and that they must not walk stamping their feet which may obviate or reveal what they have covered and hidden.
In Pakistan, the so-called land of the pure (literal meaning of the country’s name), it appears that we have restricted the Holy Scripture to ceremonial oration and ‘respectfully’ consigned it to the attic without feeling obligated to follow its message in letter and spirit. No wonder today that as a consequence, the female has lost her aura of dignity and grace; body contours of the daughter of Eve being freely marketed through ads, videos and films in the name of cultural emancipation, and as a consequence the predicaments being faced by the Pakistani society today; its perpetual moral degeneration to such lows which only signal the beginning of the end of times. Right now, it is the Faith of Islam which is facing relentless moral incursions from all directions, and the Pakistani woman is being allowed to be freely exploited to tarnish its Muslim image and identity.
Shalwar, Qamees and dopatta are the main common socio-cultural linkage of all areas comprising Pakistan from Karachi to Gilgit-Baltistan, the four provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. But unfortunately the apparel has been gradually allowed to be abandoned or tailored to gross disfiguration in the name of fashion and trends; tight revealing sleeveless low-neck shirts, trousers with half naked calves and dopattas practically absent; thanks to the trend-setting Pakistani media where virtually all female hosts, reporters and anchors today is a free for all except the veteran Nasim Zehra adhering to acceptable social norms and Asma Sheerazi who took the lead by dressing innovatively which exudes grace and charm while remaining within limits. She has been belatedly joined by Mehr Bokhari also taking to a dignified dress code. Barring these ladies watching any of these TV Channels with head gears or the Chaadar missing, no one can identify them as Pakistani media.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.