The Supreme Leader's View of Hijab
Part one: Hijab in Islamic culture

Hijab, consistent with human nature
Hijab is a value that is consistent with human nature. Wearing immodest clothes and the unnecessary mixing of men and women go against natural human tendencies.

In order to harmonize couples’ life, Allah the Exalted has specified a natural procedure so that they can manage their life together. God has divided responsibilities between wives and husbands. God Almighty has specified some rights for men and some other rights for women. For instance, the rules of women’s hijab are stricter than those of men’s hijab. Of course men should also observe hijab in some cases, but Islamic rules are stricter in the case of women’s hijab. That is because the delicate nature of women and their characteristics are considered the embodiment of delicacy and beauty in the world. And if we want to prevent our society from being plunged into corruption and turmoil, we should keep women in hijab. Men are not exactly like women in this regard, and they have more freedom in this matter. This state of affairs is the result of their natural characteristics and the divine view of how worldly affairs should be managed.

The importance of beauty in Islam
Islam has attached a lot of importance to beauty. Attraction to beauty and love of beauty is human nature. Of course this may be a little different from the issue of fashion - fashion is more general. Wearing cosmetics and beautiful clothes is a more specific issue. People, especially young people, love beauty and want to look beautiful. We have frequently heard that God is beautiful and loves beauty. There are many traditions about the importance of paying attention to our appearance. The book “Nikah” [marriage] explains in detail that couples should take care of their appearance. Some people think that men should, for instance, shave their heads. That is not the case. Young men are advised to grow long hair in Islamic sharia. According to a tradition, “Beautiful hair is among divine virtues and you should appreciate it.” Similarly, according to another tradition, when the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) wanted to call on his friends, he used to check his appearance in a bowl of water [used as a mirror]. At that time, mirrors were not as commonplace as they are today, and the people of Medina were too poor. The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) would use a bowl of water instead of a mirror before calling on his friends. This shows that being neat in appearance, wearing good clothes, and paying attention to one’s appearance are good in Islamic sharia. However, when beauty turns into a means of promoting fitna and corruption, it becomes bad and harmful, and the harmful effects will be passed on to future generations.

Hijab, an Islamic value
The existence of a distance between men and women is an Islamic principle. Muslims believe in this principle though it is a secondary Islamic principle. Hijab and avoiding unlawful sexual relationships are among the secondary principles of Islam. However, the existence of a distance between men and women is itself a primary principle. It is not a matter of wearing a chador. It is not a matter of how the distance should be observed. This primary principle may take on different forms in different eras, but the distance itself is one of the principles of Islamic thought. Though the issue of hijab is a prerequisite for loftier achievements, it is related to our values. Observing hijab helps women achieve a high spiritual position and avoid common pitfalls. That is why I stress hijab so much.

Relationship between men and women
Men and women have been required to observe a limit in their relationships. They can talk to one another, they can do business, they can argue with each other, and they can make friends, but there are limits that they must observe. This is an Islamic rule, and it should be observed. Overstepping the limits, destroying women’s human dignity, turning them into an object of pleasure, and using them as a means for marketing flashy ornaments are prohibited in Islam.

Islam says that women should increase their honor and dignity. Women are advised to achieve enough honor and dignity to stop caring whether they are being watched by a man or not. There is a lot of difference between these ideal Muslim women and women who painstakingly select their clothes, make-up, words, and gait in order to attract attention.

Showing off one’s physical attraction, prohibited in Islam
In Islam, women have been prohibited from showing off their beauty in order to attract men or cause fitna. Showing off one’s physical attraction to men is a kind of fitna, and it can cause various problems. It is not a matter of a young girl or boy committing a sin - this is the first and maybe the smallest problem. The consequences will affect the family. Basically, such unprincipled relationship between men and women is a deadly poison that can affect the health of the family. That is because the survival of the family depends on love. In fact, the family is built on love. If this love for beauty and members of the opposite sex is found somewhere other than the framework of the family, the stability of the family will be undermined, leading to the situation that western countries are currently suffering from. Families keep falling apart in the west, and this has turned into a great tragedy. It is women who suffer most from the consequences. Of course men are also harmed by this situation, but women suffer more. This tragedy is passed on to future generations as well. Current juvenile delinquency in America is rooted in the fact that families have fallen apart. That is to say, the break-up of the family has opened a Pandora’s box.

Hijab and social and political growth of women
Islam wants women to achieve the peak of intellectual, scholarly, social, political, and spiritual growth and benefit society and humanity in the best possible way. All Islamic teachings, especially the issue of hijab, are based on this. The purpose of hijab is not to isolate women. It is absolutely wrong to think that hijab is a means of isolating women. The purpose of hijab is to prevent unprincipled relationship between men and women in society. This kind of relationship will harm society, men, and women.

Part two: Hijab in western culture

The debate on hijab between Islam and the west
As I have repeatedly said, it is not we who should justify our position on hijab. It is the corrupt western culture that should defend its position. No fair intellectual can say what we are offering to women is something bad. We are calling women to morality, modesty, hijab, restricted relationship with men, preserving their human dignity, and avoidance of wearing make-up for strangers. Is this something bad? This is an honor for Muslim women. This is an honor for women in general. Those who are encouraging women to wear make-up - so that men can feast their eyes on their beauty and fulfill their carnal desires - should defend their position. They should explain why they humiliate women so much. They have to explain. Our culture is approved by moral and intellectual people living in the west. Even in the west, modest, dignified, and respectable women are not prepared to let strangers feast their eyes on their beauty and fulfill their carnal desires. There are many other things that the corrupt western culture should explain.

Denying the value of hijab in Europe
The western world which has humiliated women in different eras should answer for its actions. Until recently, women did not have any independent financial rights in European and western countries. In spite of their numerous claims, western women did not have the right to freely use their wealth until the early twentieth century. It was their husbands who were entitled to make use of their wealth. That is to say, when a woman got married, the ownership of her wealth and properties would pass on to her husband. She was not allowed to own her wealth. It was in the early part of the twentieth century that women were given some ownership rights. That is to say, they used to deprive women of these most basic human rights. However, they focused their efforts and attention on the issues that were polar opposites of genuine Islamic values. That is why I emphasize hijab so much.

Nudity and alcoholism, a European custom
In the modern world, people are sensitive to women’s dress code! If someone - a prominent figure, a philosopher, an army officer, or a politician - protests against lack of hijab, he or she will be booed. People are not very sensitive to many types of corruption and many bad habits. If a country bans alcoholic drinks, it will be booed and jeered in the world. This country will be labeled as reactionary. Where do these cultural norms belong? Where do lack of hijab and legalization of alcoholic drinks belong? These norms belong to Europe. They are rooted in the old cultural norms of European countries. These norms are now assumed to be correct in other parts of the world as well, and if someone protests against them, he or she is thought to have committed a great sin!

Contradictory obligations in the west
France and Germany - two European countries that claim to care about human rights - did not allow a few women to wear Islamic hijab to school. In this particular case, they think compulsion is perfectly all right. But all western organizations protest against the Islamic Republic for making hijab compulsory in Iran. If it is wrong to impose a certain dress code on women, it would be more problematic than imposing hijab because hijab is more wholesome. These two issues - imposing hijab or lack of hijab - should at least be viewed as equal. But the west does not act like that.

Women, humiliated in western civilization
Regarding women’s rights, we should not take a defensive position - we should adopt an offensive position. They protest why our women should wear hijab and why hijab is obligatory. In the west, it is lack of hijab that is obligatory! Their problems with hijab are far more serious than this. Women have been degraded in the western world and western culture. Women have been humiliated there. The fact that men and women are both allowed to achieve political positions cannot compensate for the problems westerners have caused for women. They have used women as an object of pleasure. They believe women are worthless without make-up. They believe women should wear make-up to make men admire them. That is the greatest insult to women. We have our own strong arguments regarding the issue of women’s rights.

Hijab, the key to Islamic culture
In order to establish permanent hegemony in a country, one should change the culture of that country. That is to say, in order to completely subdue a country, the culture of its people should be consistent with the culture of the colonizer. Westerners tried this in the east, but they were not very successful. They want to do the same thing in Afghanistan today. Undoubtedly, one of their most important goals is to destroy the noble foundations that give rise to national identities. They have started with Islam. They are opposed to hijab, religious faith, and all manifestations of religion.

The west criticizes the Islamic Republic for making hijab compulsory. But they fail to criticize the countries in which lack of hijab is obligatory. The reason is that hijab goes against the accepted cultural norms in the west. They are very sensitive to this issue.

Banning hijab in Europe
In the past few years, they fought hijab in Europe - in France and some other places, especially in Germany. On the other hand, they constantly talk about global criteria. When they want to say that the Islamic Republic should do something, what they emphasize more than anything else is that Iran should conform to global criteria. By criteria, they mean the things that are consistent with the norms of western culture. Therefore, this kind of pressure is constantly used by westerners. Whenever a non-western culture - especially Islamic culture, which is not passive and submissive - is promoted somewhere in the world, they fight it vigorously. They pressure and humiliate it.

Part three: Hijab in the Islamic Republic of Iran

The influence of hijab on the west
Muslim women have developed a tendency towards hijab in different countries - in Islamic countries, where hijab had previously been abandoned due to western teachings, and even in European countries. Of course it was Muslims who first showed their tendency towards hijab. And we saw after the Revolution that women living in distant countries - which had been bedazzled by western and European culture - were trying our form of hijab among themselves. They have embraced the form of hijab that is currently practiced in our country. And today it is the western world which is gradually developing a tendency towards hijab.

Across the world, women are developing a tendency towards hijab. That is why Islamic hijab is attacked so vigorously in some western countries as well as some Muslim countries which are ruled by non-Islamic governments. In some Islamic countries, there was no mention of hijab before the Revolution. But after the Islamic Revolution, women - especially intellectual women and female students - developed a tendency towards hijab.

Imposing western cultural norms on Iran
Reza Shah was the person who promoted western culture - more appropriately, western domination of Iran - and English colonialism more than anyone else. In the modern world, changing national costume by the order of a king is considered a disgrace. People wear their own costume in different parts of the world, and they are proud of their clothes. But Reza Shah’s government suddenly announced that it was forbidden to wear Iranian costume! Why? Because they said it was not possible to become a scholar in that costume! The great Iranian scholars whose works are still being taught in Europe were raised in this cultural context. How would one’s clothes affect one’s knowledge?! This ridiculous pretext was what they presented. They changed national costume of our nation. Women were not allowed to observe hijab. They banned women from wearing a chador. They said, “It is not possible for a woman to become a scholar or take part in social activities in a chador!” How much did banning the chador contribute to social activities of women in Iran? Neither men nor women were provided with the opportunity to increase their participation in social activities.

When Iranian women entered social activities and encouraged men to enter different arenas, they were wearing a chador. What is the negative effect of wearing a chador? How would a man’s or woman’s clothes prevent him or her from taking part in social activities? The illiterate and ignorant bully - namely, Reza Shah - served as a pawn in the hands of the enemy. All of a sudden, he decided to change our national costume simply because western women did not wear scarves! That was what they imported from the west. They did not import what our nation needed. They did not import western knowledge, experience, diligence, and risk-taking. They did not emulate their positive characteristics. Even when they did import positive things, they accepted them uncritically. For instance, they imported western knowledge, but accepted everything uncritically. They said they had to accept western knowledge simply because it came from the west. They said they had to accept western dress code and cuisine as well as western ways of walking and speaking just because they were western. Such an attitude is the deadliest poison to a country. It is absolutely wrong to adopt such an attitude.

Injustice to Muslim women
Women were truly oppressed under the evil royal system. If women wanted to enter scientific arenas, they had to give up their religion, piety, and morals. At that time, it was very difficult for a woman to preserve her hijab and dignity in universities, educational environments, and scientific and cultural centers. It was very difficult for a Muslim woman to walk in the streets of Tehran and some other cities while she was wearing even partial hijab. It was very difficult to preserve Islamic dignity and be immune from verbal abuse and from suggestive looks of immoral men. They had made it almost impossible for women to acquire knowledge in this country. Of course there were some exceptions, but it was not possible for most women to enter scholarly arenas unless they agreed to give up their hijab and their Islamic piety and dignity.

Hijab and social progress of Iranian women
After the Revolution, Islam and Imam Khomeini (r.a.) placed women at the center of political activities and gave the flag of the Revolution to women. Our women stepped into the arena and at the same time managed to preserve their hijab, dignity, chastity, faith, and piety. Nobody has done a greater favor to Iranian and Muslim women.

As we saw during the Revolution and as we can see now, when Muslim women go back to their nature, they can make a great difference. Thankfully, we have many knowledgeable women in various fields: Diligent and gifted female students, highly educated women, and prominent woman doctors. In the Islamic Republic, various scientific fields are dominated by Iranian ladies. They preserve their morality, observe hijab, raise their children in an Islamic manner, and take care of their husbands according to Islamic teachings, and at the same time they engage in political and scientific activities. It is possible for a woman with an Islamic character to fully realize her potential in an Islamic environment and keep away from corruption, luxurious lifestyle, and humiliation.

The message of faithful Iranian women to the world

Iranian women - especially those who have managed to make scholarly achievements in different fields within the framework of Islam, Islamic teachings, and hijab - should convince women across the world that acquiring knowledge is not synonymous with immorality. They have to convince all women that lack of commitment to moral standards in their relationship with men is not a prerequisite for acquiring knowledge. It is possible to observe all these moral standards and achieve high scholarly positions. The behavior of Muslim women can be held up as an example of the message of Islam to the world.