Hijab or veil is a piece of cloth used by Muslim women to cover their heads and faces. Hijab is the identity of a Muslim woman. The practice of Muslim women covering their hair and face, often referred to as wearing the hijab or niqab, has been a topic of both fascination and controversy around the world. Hijab also helps a woman to protect themselves from males in society.
- “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” (Qur’an, Surah Al-Ahzab verse: 59).
The practice of wearing hijabs may vary in its extent and interpretation among different cultures and communities. It is rooted in religious beliefs and holds profound significance for Muslim women. This article will explore multiple reasons why Muslim women choose to cover their hair and face, exploring the religious, cultural, and personal motivations that emphasize this practice.
Wearing a hijab is mandatory for women in some countries. Currently, women in Iran, Indonesia, and Afghanistan are required to wear hijabs. It was necessary for women in Saudi Arabia earlier, but it is no longer necessary since 2018. Other international locations, each in Europe and inside the Muslim international, have surpassed legal guidelines banning some or all varieties of hijab in public.
What is the Religious Significance of Wearing Hijab?
Wearing the hijab holds religious significance for many Muslim women. Hijab is seen as a symbol of privacy, modesty, and adherence to Islamic teachings. Hijab is often worn as an expression of one’s faith, a way to demonstrate obedience to God’s commandments, and a means to maintain a sense of dignity and identity in line with religious values.
Allah and His Messenger (peace and advantages of Allah be upon him) have issued a stern warning to women who make a show of themselves.
Abu Hurayrah said:
- The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are two types of the people of Hell whom I have not seen: a people with whips like the tails of cattle, with which they beat the people, and women who are clothed but naked, walking with an enticing gait and with their heads looking like the humps of camels, leaning to one side. They will not enter Paradise and will not even smell its fragrance, although its fragrance can be detected from such and such a distance.” (Narrated by Muslim, 2128).
Obedience to Religious Commands
Muslim girls cover their hair because Allah has commanded them to do so, and it isn’t permissible for them to head in opposition to what He says and disobey His command. Many Muslim women decide to cover their hair and sometimes their face stems from a desire to fulfill the religious commandments outlined in the Quran.
The Quran instructs Muslim women to dress modestly and guard their chastity, which is often interpreted as covering one’s hair and body. Wearing the veil is seen as an act of submission to Allah’s will, showcasing one’s devotion and obedience to God. This act of submission reinforces a sense of spirituality and connection to the divine.
In various regions with predominantly Muslim populations, the hijab and niqab have been embraced as symbols of cultural identity. Women often wear these garments as a way to maintain a connection to their heritage and ancestral customs.
The choice to wear the veil can also be a form of resistance against cultural imperialism and the Westernization of societies. By donning traditional attire, Muslim women assert their unique cultural values and resist the homogenizing forces of globalization.
Contrary to common misconceptions, many Muslim women choose to cover their hair and face willingly. This choice represents their autonomy and agency in expressing their faith and identity. The ability to decide whether or not to wear the veil is empowering for women who embrace it.
By concealing their physical appearance, Muslim women believe that others will focus on their intellect, character, and personality rather than their outward appearance. This shift in focus can empower women intellectually and emotionally.
Gender Equality and Modesty
Some Muslim women view wearing the veil as a means to promote gender equality. They believe that by covering themselves, they are equalizing the standards of modesty for both men and women. It is because there are many places in the world where women are not treated equally to men. They are considered inferior to men.
Wearing hijab is a message that they should be treated based on their personalities and minds regardless of their physical appearance. Modesty is highly valued in Islam, and the practice of covering one’s hair and face is considered a means of preserving personal dignity and protecting oneself from objectification or unwanted attention.
Hijab is completely a woman’s personal choice. Hijab is a way to show that they belong to the Muslim community. They have their faith in Allah. Some women wear hijab all the time while some wear it during prayers or in public places. It is completely up to them. They are free to make the right choice for them.
Challenges and Misconceptions
The practice of covering the hair and face is often misunderstood and associated with oppression. Hijab is a source of protection not of oppression. However, it is essential to recognize that many women who wear the veil do so out of choice and conviction.
Media portrayals and stereotypes perpetuate the misconception that veiled Muslim women lack agency or are forced to cover. This ignores the diversity of reasons and motivations behind this practice. The women are not forced to wear hijab rather they opt for it for their wishes.
It is also a common misconception that the hijab restricts a women to be successful in life. It is only a myth. Neither does the hijab refrain a girl from acquiring expertise or from contributing to the betterment of human society. Islamic history provides a lot of examples of those women who contributed to the history of Islam.
There are many verses in the Quran describing the place and importance of hijab in Islam for Muslim women. Hijab is a protection for a woman according to Quran.
- Prophet!˺ Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their chastity. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity, and not reveal their adornments except what normally appears. Let them draw their veils over their chests, and not reveal their ˹hidden˺ adornments except to their husbands, their fathers, their fathers-in-law, their sons, their stepsons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, their fellow women, those ˹bondwomen˺ in their possession, male attendants with no desire, or children who are still unaware of women’s nakedness. Let them not stomp their feet, drawing attention to their hidden adornments. Turn to Allah in repentance altogether, O believers, so that you may be successful.
Hijab protects ladies from such guys and harassment. It compels men to the consciousness of the real character of the girl and de-emphasizes her physical splendor. Allah says,
- “This is more appropriate so that they may be known [as Muslim women] and thus not be harassed [or molested].” (33:59).
- “O you Children of Adam! We have bestowed on you raiment to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness, that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition.”
There are many Hadith that specify the importance of the Hijab for women.
- Umar bin Al-Khattab used to say to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) “Let your wives be veiled” But he did not do so. The wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) used to go out to answer the call of nature at night only at Al-Manasi.’ Once Sauda, the daughter of Zam`a went out and she was a tall woman. `Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her while he was in a gathering, and said, “I have recognized you, O Sauda!” He (`Umar) said so as he was anxious for some Divine orders regarding the veil (the veiling of women.) So Allah revealed the Verse of veiling.
Aisha also reported that when Quran 24:31 was revealed,
- …the men of Ansar went to the women of Ansar and recited to them the words Allah had revealed. Each man recited to his wife, his daughter, his sister, and other female relatives. Each woman among them got up, took her decorated wrapper, and wrapped herself up in it out of faith and belief in what Allah had revealed. They appeared behind the Messenger of Allah wrapped up as if there were crows on their heads.: 118
- Al-Fudayl bin Yasar asked Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) about the forearms of a woman: whether they are included in the “beauty” as described by the Almighty when He says, “and they should not display their beauty except for their husbands…” The Imam replied, “Yes, and what is beneath the veil covering the head (khimar) is from the beauty [as mentioned in the verse], and also what is beneath the wristbands.”3
Hijab Style and Muslim Culture
Hijab is the command of Allah. The style of hijab can be different according to one’s culture. The color and material vary from culture to culture and across various regions. There are some requirements which have to be taken into account as follows:
- The head and bosom must be covered with khimar ( a head covering)
- The body must be covered with a jilbab (a loose garment)
Types of Hijab
There are various kinds of hijab which differ according to a country or culture. All types are unique in their way. Some of them are listed below:
- Abaya: It is divided into two parts. One is a long dress that covers the body while the other is a scarf that covers the head or face.
- Al-Amira: A two-piece veil. It includes a close-becoming cap, normally made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like headband
- Bushiyya: A veil that is tied on the forehead and falls to cowl the complete face, however, has no cut-out for the eyes; instead, the material is sheer enough to be seen through
- Bukhnuq: This is similar to khimār however comes down simply to the bosom.
- Chador: An Iranian traditional outer garment (additionally worn in different countries) that covers the head and frame and is a complete-duration semicircle of cloth that comes right down to the ground.
- Khimar: Most commonly, a round head protecting with a hole cut out for the face, which usually comes all the way down to the waist.
- Niqab: A veil that covers the face and complete head however with a place reduced out for the eyes.
Sharia and Hijab
According to Sharia, when a Muslim girl reaches the age of puberty, it is compulsory for them to wear a hijab and cover their private parts. It is a command of Islam. A Muslim woman is required to cover herself in front of those men who are not members of their family. Also while leaving the house, she is required to cover her head completely.
The decision of Muslim women to cover their hair and face is a complex and deeply personal one, influenced by religious beliefs, cultural context, personal empowerment, and a commitment to modesty and dignity. Understanding the multiple reasons behind this practice is crucial for nurturing tolerance, respect, and inclusivity in a world marked by diverse cultural and religious expressions. Recognizing the agency and diversity within the choice to wear the veil is a step toward dispelling myths and fostering intercultural understanding.