A house provides a person with shelter and lodging. It is also the dwelling where one finds peace, rest and food.
The houses which were mentioned in the previous verses were meant to provide shelter but the houses mentioned in this verse are the houses which provide a dwelling for the people, where they get their nourishment and restore their strength. In both cases the spiritual house meant is Islam, the religion and the teachings of Holy Prophet. His true followers can be described as his house because they have embodied in their own persons the teachings of his religion. The men among his true followers represent the house that provides shelter and the women represent the house that provides a dwelling. Again we can see that in this case also there is an undetachable relationship between men and women as they both together form the spiritual house of the Holy Prophet.
Forbiding the believers to marry the wives of the Holy Prophet after him, means, in addition to its literal meaning, that they should never mix the true teachings of his religion with any other new teachings of their own because his religion is the last and perfect religion. In this sense, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is the last Prophet and his house is the last spiritual house to be constructed. In this sense also he is the seal of the Prophets because any prophet who might come to the world after him, must be from among the inhabitants of his spiritual house.
In this verse also we notice that in the commandments concerning the believing men, they are reminded of their responsibilities towards women. They must be attentive to women's progress because their own progress is linked to it.
So to some extent we can say that, in this respect, God has enjoined men to be in the service of women to protect them and help them attain a very high level of piety because on this depends their own advancement as well.
This is the true implication of the Quranic proclamation:
Men are guardians over women. (4:35)
The righteousness of the woman is a very important factor in the formation of an upright society. This is why Islam has secured her protection and made this manifest in her outer clothes.
The Holy Quran has summed up for us beautifully its teachings regarding the Islamic veil in the following verse:
O Prophet tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers, that they should pull down upon them their outer cloaks from their heads over their faces. That is more likely that they may thus be recognized and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (33:60)
In this verse God has given His commandment to all the believing women to clarify the fact that these orders must be obeyed by all Muslim women and not only by those who reached a certain stage of their spiritual development. The women of all ranks must obey this order.
As the aim of this commandment is the spiritual perfection of the soul, the garment mentioned here should not be taken as just a physical one.
Elsewhere in the Holy Quran we read:
O children of Adam, we have indeed sent down to you raiment to cover your nakedness and to be a means of adornment, but the raiment of righteousness - that is the best. That is the commandment of Allah, that they may remember. (7:27)
This verse applies to both men and women and it explains beautifully the true essence of the Islamic veil. It enjoins men and women to cover themselves with the garment of righteousness, which is described as the best garment. This means that the covering of the body signifies figuratively the covering of the nakedness of the soul and its protection from evil by becoming righteous in actions.
The Islamic veil of a woman is a symbol of her protection from the external dangers that can affect her moral and spiritual advancement. The real Islamic veil is more than just covering the physical body. It implies also drawing a virtual curtain upon herself to protect her from all the evil surroundings.
If a woman is still taking the first steps towards purifying herself, her veil will act as a protector from any external dangers that can hinder her progress. And when a woman reaches a high moral state, it will be in her interest, and she will desire to cover herself completely lest she should be harmed or injured in her feelings in any way and so that she can develop spiritually and reach even higher stations. Hence, the outer garment of the Muslim woman is a symbol of the protection of her inner states as well. Her veil is a manifestation of the divine attribute (Ghafour) which was mentioned at the end of the verse which dealt with the subject of the veil in general. Though the word is translated as Most Forgiving, its full meaning is, One who forgives the previous sins and covers and protects a person from any weaknesses or shortcomings that might hinder his progress in the future. It is clear that this meaning matches what was mentioned earlier about the purpose behind the Islamic veil.
Yet in the same verse we find a mention of another divine attribute, Raheem which means Merciful.
God has created woman with the capacity of bearing her child in her womb to protect and nourish it until becomes able to survive outside her body independently. And even then she continues to look after it and nourish it till it becomes an independent mature person. She has the capacity to do the same for humanity at large. She has the capacity of caring for others and nourishing them by presenting to them the best spiritual food that she prepares using the divine spiritual provisions.
As she encompasses her child in her womb, God encompasses her with His Mercy. It is interesting here to notice that, in Arabic, the word womb is called rehm and the word merciful is raheem. They both originate from the same root rahama. This is a clear proof that the woman manifests in herself the divine attributes of mercy. As a reward for her great service to humanity, God Himself encompasses her and protects her with His mercy. Her outer garment is a symbol of this protection and mercy also.
Thus God has ordained these teachings for the Muslim woman to observe, to manifest His love and care for her and to declare His protection and support for her while she carries out this sacred task of looking after the spiritual house of His beloved Messenger, the Holy Prophet of Islam. This explains the purpose behind the words: that is more likely that they may thus be recognized and not molested which means that the outer garment of the Muslim woman acts as a proclamation to the world that she is under the protection of the Lord of the universe, so nobody should dare cause any inconvenience to her.
God has created women with great capacities and abilities and it is up to the women themselves to make use of these great blessings in the proper way to fulfill the purpose of their creation.
According to Islam, a woman can go out as long as there is a legitimate necessity for her to do so. But her primary and principal duties are confined to her home and family which are as important and serious, if not more, as the vocations of men are. Her principal sphere of responsibilities is her house. A woman can prove her superiority inside her house. If a woman takes to man's vocations, neglecting her domestic duties as the mistress of the house, she will be seeking to defy nature and nature does not allow its laws to be defied with impunity.
Now when we look at the present day modern societies we will see a picture of women totally opposite to the picture recommended by the Holy Quran.
The majority of women have neglected their duties as housewives and started competing with men in all fields of life. They are taking part in all sorts of professions, shoulder to shoulder with them, doing the jobs that only men used to do it in the past and taking responsibilities which nature did not prescribe for them. They wrongly believe that this is the way be which they can achieve their freedom and can then enjoy equity with men.
Women are mixing freely with men, vying with one another in attracting them. They find pleasure and pride in exposing their beauty. They are even competing with one another in displaying their beauty contests for women all around the world. They are treating their bodies as they are some kind of commodities available for display for anybody to look and gaze freely at.
They are not aware of the danger of their acts and the harm, injury and damage they are causing to themselves and to their society. They think that this is freedom but is it really so? What was thought to be the freedom of a woman turned out to be the very cause of her degradation and the destruction of her dignity and far from acquiring her freedom she was reduced to the degree of slavery. She became a slave to passions and carnal desires. With her own will, she made herself a slave for the pleasure of man.