The body is sinful in Islamic stories and is the embodiment of earthly temptations. A woman's body allures one towards sin. It was because of woman that man was expelled from heaven, the same man for whom God had created woman from his left rib. The whole of Islamic literature tries to separate a woman from her body. This is why women have no creative roles in the plots. The woman is the gateway to the devil. Stay away from her and you are saved.
For example in the novel Roots in the Depths by Hassan Beigi, a prominent Islamic writer, of the three female characters, all passive, two are mothers and the other the wife of the hero - a revolutionary guard who according to himself has chosen the profession of war. These three have not a single active and vital role in the story. They appear there so that the author can use them to express his objective. These women, like women in other Islamic stories, have the duty to wash clothes, cook, care, sew and darn, assist the men behind the battle lines, have children and …. Since women cannot understand reality, and not being a man, cannot go to the war fronts, they are always in tears. The man speaks of the realities of life, such as war and the fronts. And the woman: "what has happened was unimportant to her". And interestingly the hero of the story flees life on earth, and although his marriage is only two moths old, is thinking of "escape" from life, "escape from a life which was beginning to smell of a bog". In this tale, as in others, a woman is not there to create another world. She is occupies the edge of a world which is masculine.
I will quote from Fire in the Crop by Hossein Fattahi, which was the book of the year for 1998. In this book there is only one female person, the servant of the master, always in the kitchen. Although she is a Muslim, a supporter of the regime and anti-master, even when conditions are at their worse and Iraqi troops occupy Iran, and the master is colluding with them, she prefers to stay by his side. As a woman she did not have the brains to flee as the men have done.
Islamic writers are afraid of intelligent girls or women in their stories. So far no Islamic writer has creates such a character in fiction. They are fearful in case the woman has to decide for herself. This would be frightful.
In Islamic stories men are always together and women together. If the family has guests, or go visiting, men sit around, while women are together in the kitchen. Even children play separately. The writer makes sure that the two families are never placed in a situation where boys and girls have to play together.
The body of a woman is hateful. Women are the embodiment of sin. No erotic experience is allowed in Islamic stories. Sexual enjoyment is only meaningful for men. This is undoubtedly why the pleasures of physical love or naming or talking of it is considered offensive in Iranian culture. If a woman writes about this she is a prostitute and if a man does so, he is foulmouthed. To enter this realm is, in general, a sin.
Islamic writers offer happiness as the antithesis of physical pleasure and worldly love. This happiness is not of this world, but in heaven. One can only grasp it after death. Thousands of stories that depict the war - especially during the war -promote this theme.
In Islamic tales women must not use makeup, wear beautiful, lively coloured clothes, nor wear trousers or skirts, or be without a scarf or the "baggy manteau". In general woman must not be portrayed as beautiful since her beauty is corrupting and makeup tools un-Islamic. Whenever Islamic writers want to portray western or pre-revolutionary and other-thinking woman in a story, they put makeup on her, grow her nails and sit her next to men. Thus in Mashu in Fog a woman office worker, a SAVAK agent is described as "tall, with glasses with plaited auburn hair which falls on her left shoulder … wearing a pink short sleeve shirt and tight trousers" and "had long painted nails".
Since in the village, people are poorer and men are in a more secure situation, Islamic writers try to place the subject of most of their creations in villages. The village is closer to feudal relations and men are more powerful. There are few stories which take place in town. Where writers turns to a city they will always chose one where village relations are dominant. In this environment the woman is an appendage of the man. And the guardianship of men more secure. In these plots a woman is part of the existence of men. Exactly in the same way as paternalism rules over society. Islamic writing always wants to portray woman as an object, necessary but not intrusive, in its stories.
In few stories can one see an intellectual or an educated woman or even a woman student. If such a person appears they will undoubtedly be a "counter-revolutionary" and an unbeliever. These women always betray their husbands. They are devoid of "chastity" "virtue" and "loyalty".
The real reason "Islamic writers" avoid urban intellectual women is rooted in a problem that is not individual but social. The rural woman is compliant. She avoids any independent will or action. She is not "faithless" like her westoxified city counterpart. Man, is in essence her saviour, as she herself acknowledges.
Moreover the understanding of sex by the middle and lower classes and also the more backward societies is entirely different from in more advanced societies. She is devoted to the sexual wishes of men and accepts this as a duty. Her moral inclination and understanding of sexual matters is nothing more that performing a chore. Islamic writers also approaches women and sex from this angle. Women in the Islamic writing have a fundamentally submissive understanding of sexual relations. Since men control the sexual feelings of women and keep it under his submission, the sexual rebellion of women is also suppressed. This further augments her submissive notions of sexual matters.
It is precisely from this angle that non-Islamic writers come under fire. For example: Hushang Golshiri's book The lost sheep of Mr Ra'i is said to be full of "disgusting sexual descriptions" which enunciates "secret matters" in the "public eye". Or Barahani's Zellolallah is "filed with the most despicable lumpen terms which is even shameful to think about". According to the Islamic writers sexual pleasure is "the most secret corner of deviant and sick human beings".
A deeper look at the representation of sex in Islamic stories requires a consideration of both Islam and the concept of "sexual-economics" which is a part of the social science of sexual existence. Apart from primitive religions, all paternalistic religions reject the sexual needs of women. Islam is no different. Islamic writers, echo their sources, by mistaking sexual life with procreation. And even while performing this "religious duty", that is procreation; no word should be said about sexual pleasure seeking.
In some stories educational values are brought in against sexual desires. Sexual taboos, which normally address women, are intermingled with religious fears and the terror of sin. These in turn are the source of variety of social disturbances. This is because religion had devised punishment for sexual pleasure and sex, not just for the act itself, but even for its thought. Sexual inclinations are satanic and bad. Sexual excitement is a calamity for humans, a torture. It is destructive. Even a look is disallowed, as it is the start of the fall. Hejab, significantly given the name of "barricade", is encouraged. From this vantage point pre-revolutionary literature is seen as "nothing more than the embodiment of flouted sexual desires and complexes".
In Islamic stories women and youth have no sexual feeling or inclinations. Examples can be found in hundreds of tales and "war stories". The principal role behind this is that of religious "authority". Religion cannot impose its power without creating an "authority". To train submissive individuals is the essence of all religions. One factor in imposing this authority is sex. Sexual taboos are nothing but sinful. Therefore sexual desires should be cast out. Sin is suffering, the distress of the soul and psyche.
The persistence of sexual repression give rise to a disease-like and unreal growth of such entities as "obligation", "duty", "purity and honour", "bravery", "self denial" and …. These ideas are echoed in so many Islamic stories, bringing a particular conduct in their wake. Sex and sexual behaviour are defined as something outside life itself. For this reason the young man is in battle with himself. He has to dry up sexual desire in himself and fight off sexual temptations.
Superstition tries its best to replace sexual instinct with another. God and the Qur'an are among the tools by which sexual instincts are repressed, and joy condemned. Any pleasure is only explained by reference to God. The religious person gets pleasure through self-torment. At its peak stands the ecstasy of martyrdom. In Pol, the hero has been shot and is on death's door. He is asked how he feels. "I am enjoying it, how pleasurable this is" he answers. And Khamenei' instructs poets and writers "write about martyrdom, that is the highest model for humanity".
The heroes of Islamic stories, believers and Muslims all, will torment and torture themselves even before they have committed a sin, at the thought or prospect of that sin or in order to forestall it, and thereby are comforted. To suffer is an inseparable part of religion and humans are comforted at the peak of self-torment. Religious ecstasy is the height of pleasure, which they try to substitute for sexual pleasure.
Existing and earthly joy is expunged from these stories so that reward in the other world can be earned. The hero tries to overcome his earthly joy, and seek his pleasures in the heavens and in his dreams and in this way suppress his sexual excitements. It is in this relation that new occupations enter his/her life. The Komeil prayer rites (a lengthy prayer at night), mourning ceremonies, a variety of prayers, .. he/she hide their real excitements behind these preoccupations. According to Islamic writers "sadness is one of the main elements in an artistic creation" and "joy, happiness, laughter and guffaws cannot be said to be close to the essence of art and beauty". The constant tears of women in these tales can be understood from this angle.
… And it is thus that in none of the Islamic stories men and women kiss, hold hands, woo and make earthly love or woo. They do not share a bed, nor sit by each other, do not go walking together. If there is a heroine, she is inevitably married, and if she is a girl she will not face a man at any stage in the story. She is sexless. In no story are husband and wife pictured before marriage to avoid committing a sin.
Islamic writers, in order to keep the bounds of the traditional family clean and keep the secrets of family life within this structure, with all the religious angst and the helplessness arising out of this, usually prefer to give in to a society without women in their narratives.
In consequence: contemporary Islamic art literature and Islamic artists in Iran have nothing new to say. Their art, existing outside time and place, is doomed to decline. These stories are nothing but moral-political articles that cannot survive.