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Chastity

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ʿIffat (Arabic: العفّة) is among moral virtues meaning chastity. It is a characteristic which protects the person from committing forbidden actions. In ethics, chastity is among superior moral virtues (wisdom, justice, courage and chastity) and has been defined as a state between avarice and sloth.

It is mentioned in the Qur'an two times about financial affairs and two times about sexual affairs. In hadiths, observing chastity is introduced as the basis of every good and the criterion for being Shi'a. Chastity in sexual issues, chastity in speech, financial and economic chastity and chastity in eating have been mentioned among different types of chastity. Different fruits have been mentioned for it including reinforcing the family, psychological calmness of the society and forgiveness of sins.

Meaning

"'Iffat" is among moral virtues meaning chastity and abstinence. It is a state of the soul which protects the person from domination of desires and committing forbidden actions especially forbidden desires. The word 'iffat has also been used for women's abstinence when encountering and associating with non-mahram men and protecting their honor. In a general sense, 'Iffat has been used for keeping away from anything which is not permissible.

As one of the superior moral virtues (wisdom, justice, bravery and chastity) to the scholars of ethics, chastity is a spiritual disposition which makes the human's faculty of desire obedient to intellect and limits its influences to enjoining and forbidding the intellect. The virtue of chastity is considered the middle point between avarice meaning indulgence of human being in desires and sloth meaning avoiding legitimate worldly desires needed by the body.

Importance and Position

Observing chastity has been emphasized in different verses and hadiths. The word 'iffat is mentioned in the Qur'an two times about financial affairs and two times regarding the faculty of desire.

  • In Qur'an 2:273, God considered charities special to the needy who are subdued because of God but look wealthy due to their great restraint.
  • Verse 6 of Qur'an 4 uses the word "fal-yasta'fif" (let him be abstemious) to address those who are wealthy and trusted with the properties of orphans are prohibited from taking wages from the property of orphans.
  • In Qur'an 24:33, God advises those who cannot marry due to financial problems to observe chastity so that He makes them needless. Verse 60 of the same sura considers elderly women who have passed the age of marriage allowed to disregard hijab, but it advises them to observe chastity.
  • In hadiths, observing chastity is introduced as the basis of every good and based on some reports, being a better Shi'a is considered proportionate to how much a person observes chastity. In some hadiths, a person who observes chastity has a higher level than a martyr and is likened to an angel among God's angels. In hadiths, chastity is mentioned the best act of worship, a sign of believers and a soldier of intellect. Also, it is mentioned that chastity was among the requests of the Prophet (s) from God.

Types

In verses and hadiths, different types are mentioned for chastity, including: chastity in sexual issues, financial and economic chastity, chastity in covering, chastity in speech and writing, chastity about eating and chastity in looking[1].

  • Chastity in sexual issues: controlling that part of the self which commands to evil in order to avoid falling in sexual deviations is introduced among the most important types of chastity. About those who cannot marry because they cannot afford providing mahr and alimony for the wife, the Qur'an has advised them to observe chastity until God enriches them out of His grace and they will be able to marry. Also, in order to maintain sexual chastity, some solutions are mentioned in the verses including helping the poor in marriage[2] and avoid spreading sexual stimuli.[3]
  • Chastity in covering: covering the body from the eyes of non-mahram people[4] and also hiding private parts[5] is among religious obligations and Qur'anic orders through which human's honor and dignity are protected and human beings will be safe from the harassments of others.
  • Chastity in financial issues: avoiding earning wealth through forbidden actions and maintaining self-restraint and self-contentedness [6] are called financial chastity. Imam Ali (a) considered the beauty of poverty in protecting self-restraint.
  • Chastity in speech: speaking nicely with others,[7] speaking firmly and based on the truth[8] and avoiding insult is mentioned as chastity in speech.[9]

Fruits

Different fruits are mentioned for chastity including reinforcing the family, psychological calmness of the society and the people, protection of people's honor, leniency and forgiveness of sins.

Notes

  1. Qur'an 23:30-31
  2. Qur'an 24:32
  3. Qur'an 33:32 and Qur'an 28:25
  4. Qur'an 33:59
  5. Qur'an 23:30-31
  6. Qur'an 2:273
  7. Qur'an 2:83 and Qur'an 22:24
  8. Qur'an 33:70
  9. Qur'an 6:108

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from عفت in Farsi Wikishia.