Imam Ali (as) is quoted to have said:
Once we were sitting with Prophet Muhammad (saw) when he (saw) asked: "What is the best thing for a woman?" No one could answer his question. I approached Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) and discussed the issue with her and she immediately claimed to know the answer. According to her, the answer was, "The best thing for a woman is that she is protected from the sight of strangers such that neither does she have to see them nor do they get to see her."
I returned to Prophet Muhammad (saw) and gave him the answer. He (saw) asked at once, "Who taught you this answer?" I told him that the answer had come from Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa). Prophet Muhammad (saw) was delighted and said: "Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) is my flesh and blood."
Numerous Traditions (Ahadith) have been related regarding the personality, dignity and responsibility of women. One Prophetic Tradition relates that once Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked one of his companions, "When are women closest to Allah (SWT)?" Again no one could answer this question. Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) finally answered, saying: "When they are in their home." According to exegetes, in all probability, this answer refers to a verse from the Noble Qur'an that says:
"And stay in your home and do not display your finery like the displaying of the ignorant of yore..." (Noble Qur'an, 33:33)
It needs to be emphasized here that although in the Noble Qur'an, this verse is addressed directly to Prophet Muhammad's (saw) wives, but it is also applicable to all Muslim women. In the same Chapter "Al-Ahzab", Allah (SWT) says:
"O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, the Merciful." (Noble Qur'an, 33:59)
The above verse has discussed the philosophy of Hijab (Islamic dress code) for women, as a kind of protection for them from being followed, teased, and disrespected from evil and lustful eyes.
One day Prophet Muhammad (saw) was sitting in the house of his daughter Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) when they heard a knock on the door. The housemaid comes to Prophet Muhammad (saw) and says: "Oh! Prophet of Allah (saw) your companion Abdullah ibn Umme Maqdoom (who was blind) has come to visit you."
Prophet Muhammad (saw) immediately told the housemaid to let him in. In the mean time his daughter Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa), chief of the women of the world and head of the women in Paradise, gets up to go to her room.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) questions her "Oh! My daughter Fatima, where are you going?"
Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) replies: "Since your companion (Sahabi) is coming to see you I am going to my room to observe my Hijab from him."
Prophet Muhammad (saw) replies: "But my daughter Fatima the companion of mine is blind and cannot see you."
Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) replies: "My father, he cannot see me but I can see him thus I must go inside."
This is not to say that Prophet Muhammad (saw) was not aware of the matter but this question was posed to inform the women, whose chief is Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa), of the importance of Hijab. And that it is not sufficient to think that we are capable of controlling our desires and will not think or look badly at someone. Who can say that Nauz Billah (God Forbid) Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) could not have had such a control on herself and yet she followed the Shariah (Islamic Law) very strictly.
Islam considers the protection of the dignity and character of women for their happiness and sincerity. However, here we need to clarify that Islam does not advocate that women should never be allowed to see the light of the day. In fact, when we study the life of Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa), we find that she was very active in her personal and social life. At the same time, she was so careful in safeguarding her dignity and self-respect that in spite of her activities, she never intermingled with any strangers.
Not only has the presence of women not been prohibited in the areas of culture, politics, defense, etc. rather wherever necessary they are obliged to participate actively in these areas. For example, whenever the society requires the services of female doctors, nurses, teachers etc., the women in that society are obliged (wajib) to obtain the necessary skills and qualifications.
The sermons of Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) in the Prophet's Mosque (Medina), her serving alongside Imam Ali (as) in the Holy Wars (Jihad) and during their migration from Makkah to Medina and also the roles played by her great daughter Hazrat Zainab (sa) in the Battle of Karbala, followed by her famous speeches in Kufa and Sham - all these reflect on the active and powerful roles played by these great Islamic female personalities.
Fatima Al-Zahra's (sa) legacy to all the Muslim women of her Ummah (Community/Nation) is purity of faith and character. Her vision for all Muslim women for all times to come is that they keep themselves chaste and pure like angels, as per Islamic values and ethics. One Prophetic Tradition (Hadith) says: "The alms (Zakat) of the beauty of a woman are her dignity and chastity."
Thus, if a woman does not guard or protect her beauty and exhibits herself to strangers, neither does she attain salvation, nor does her husband experience peace of mind and spirit.
It is to be remembered here that Islam regards women like a beautiful and delicate flower that needs to be protected from hardships and dangers. Moreover because only if a woman is well-protected and well-secure, can she offer happiness and peace to her family and home and in this way only would the society be safe, secure and progressive.