Hijab FAQ

HIJAB FAQ

1. Is the practice of wearing hijab required by the Qur’an?

Yes the practice of wearing hijab is required by the Qur’an. We find the injunction in the following verses from the Qur’an:

“Say to the believing men that they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts…say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof”(Qur’an 24:30-31)

“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when out doors). That is most convenient that they should be known and not molested.”(Qur’an 33:59)

As the Qur’anic verses were revealed to the Prophet Mohammad (SAWS), he would recite them to the Muslims and the believers would immediately accept them and follow them. Thus it became a customary practice among Muslim women to use the hijab and cover themselves modestly.

2. Does the Qur’an strictly say that women should wear hijab?

Qur’an doesn’t provide an exact description about what Muslim women can wear. That’s the reason why Muslims from all over the world have different forms of hijab. But most Islamic interpretations make it clear that the head and body of the woman should be covered in such a manner that the hair and figure should not be displayed. The book provides guidelines that govern behavior as well. For example, the verse states, “…say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof” (Qur’an 24:30-31)

3. Some people say that the Qur’an does not mandate the use of hijab, is that true?

Modest dressing that covers a lady is definitely required by the Qur’an but it does not provide an exact guideline of what should or should not be worn. It leaves some room for individual interpretation. Because of this, some Muslim women have chosen not to wear hijab to their workplace, choosing instead to adapt to modern Western clothing. However, looking at the Prophet sayings, most Islamic scholars agree on the obligation for Muslim ladies to cover themselves appropriately.

4. Does the Qur’an provide exceptions to wearing the hijab?

It is very clear that the Quran provides a few exceptions to Muslim women. For example, they need not conceal themselves from their husbands and they have the option not to wear hijab in front of some relatives such as fathers, brothers and some specific others.

5. What specific text commands women to wear hijab?

Verses that have to do with hijab:

1 – Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful”
[al-Noor 24:31]
And Allah knows best.

6. What sources do Muslims refer to for guidance about hijab?

Islam has two sources when it comes to rulings. The first of course, is the Qur’an: revealed word of Allah. And the second one is the Hadith or the traditions of the Prophet.

7. What is the literal meaning of hijab?

Literally, hijab means “partition”, “separation”, or “curtain”. However, when the word hijab is mentioned today, images of Islamic women’s clothing are conjured up. It has become a standard of modesty among Muslim women.

8. How did the hijab evolve in meaning?

Derived from the Arabic word “hajaba” which means to hide from view, hijab was generally used to refer to modest dressing for Muslim women. Through the years though, it has come to mean the headscarf. Hijab was so widely used to refer to Muslim veils (despite the other types of Islamic veils aside from hijab) that it became the generic term for Islamic covering

9. What are the reasons why Muslim women wear hijab?

The first reason basically is obedience of Allah’s command. The results of this obedience are felt in this world when unwelcome looks are warded off, and are expected in the life of the hereafter when Allah’s favor will be enjoyed by those who readily followed His commands. For many non-Muslims and even some Muslim reformers, hijab is a sign of oppression. But on the other hand, it is possible to find highly-successful Muslim women in Western societies who choose to wear the hijab proudly. They see it as a sign of their dedication to Allah (as opposed to submission to men). Meanwhile, a lot of Muslim women also believe that it is their social responsibility to wear the hijab so that all Muslim women will be regarded equally, rather than judged based on their appearance.

10. Why do Muslim women choose to wear hijab?

Although hijab is mandated by most Islamic scholars, not all Muslim women choose to wear the traditional hijab.

11. Does the hijab fulfill its purpose of protecting women from unwanted sexual advances?

The hijab is designed to give women a level of sexual security from prying eyes. As a result, Muslim men are also encouraged to respect women for their obedience to God, modesty, and purity. As according to Surah An Nur: 31, “And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their head coverings to cover their bosoms, and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers, or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent.”

12. Has hijab ever been a sign of social status?

Early records suggest that veiling women was a sign of social stature. As far back as the 13th Century BC, Assyrian legal texts reveal that prostitutes were forbidden to wear veils; it was used exclusively by “respectable” Muslim women.

Beyond Assyria, the Greco-Roman world also practiced veiling. Athenian women of high stature were secluded. Even Pre-Islamic Iran as well as the Byzantine Empire secluded their women. In essence, it is indicated that women agreed to wear hijab because failure to wear it was the sign of low status.

13. Was the hijab actually designed to create social equality?

The Qur’an had an idealistic purpose: to make men and women equal. Because of this, the Qur’anic legislation about women was actually carefully designed to protect them from social practices (unlimited polygamy, concubinage, etc) which were already prevalent during the pre-Islamic Arabia. Wearing hijab, at the time, basically liberated women from being regarded as sex-objects. They were asked to behave in a way that befits a self-respecting and secure human being.

14. How does the hijab become a personal statement of a Muslim woman?

Without words, the hijab immediately provides a glimpse into a person’s identity. Anyone who sees a woman wearing hijab will conclude that she believes in Islam and her character will be reflected as such. A lot of Muslim women who wear this garment are filled with self-esteem because they are proud to be Muslim.

15. Does the hijab contain deeper implications about a person?

More than a piece of garment, hijab represents what the Muslim woman stands for. It governs her manners, behaviors, speech, and public appearance according to her beliefs. It is a constant reminder to the wearer that she is a Muslim and her conduct should reflect her religion.

16. Aside from religion, are there any other reasons why women wear hijab?

Besides religious purposes, women in Arab countries wear hijab for modesty and cultural reasons. Some say that wearing such covering will help them be viewed as individuals instead of sex objects. Their intelligence, skills, and personal qualities will shine. A number of Muslim women also say that hijab helps them to be seen as equal to man. It does protect them from widely prevalent evils that victimize vulnerable women.

17. How does hijab affect a woman’s sexuality?

Rather than being seen as a sexual object, the hijab enables a woman to be treated as a person. The garment might conceal her sexuality but it brings out her femininity. It helps her be seen as a chaste and pure person who does not want sexuality to infiltrate her interaction with the opposite gender even at a very small degree.

18.  Is it essential for a woman to be constantly reminded of her sexuality? Why is she expected to be always conscious of it?

Whether a woman herself is always conscious of her sexuality or not, it is natural for a man (who sees her) to be conscious of it. Islam is a religion based on nature, i.e. human nature. It takes into account all the natural instincts of man and woman and does not negate them. Rather it provides guidelines as to how they are to be handled. Islamic laws reflect a realistic awareness of human nature. The principle that governs hijab is that ‘Prevention is better than cure’.

19. Many believe that the hijab makes Muslim women look inferior to men, is that true?

Qur’an backs the principle of gender equality; it cannot be blamed for sexism. According to a scholar named Fatima Mernissi, “the existing inequality does not rest on an ideological or biological theory of women’s inferiority, but the outcome of specific social institutions designed to restrain her power”.

20. Is making Muslim women wear hijab a form of oppression?

For Western women, wearing veils might be a form of sexism and oppression. But most Muslim women don’t see it that way. Hijab has become a part of their tradition, culture, and religious practices. For those who believe in Islam, walking across the street without a covering is unthinkable. It has become a part of their lifestyle and their identity. Hijab fits the natural feeling of self respect which is intrinsic in the straight man whose respect and concern for his wife or daughters is expressed when he doesn’t like people to look at them. This safe-guarding of the woman’s honor and securing her dignity is misinterpreted as oppression of the woman. Wearing hijab to man Muslim women therefore is no different than a man who covers his body with basic day to day clothing.

21. Are some Muslim women forced to wear hijab?

Just as practicing any religious commandment is an individual choice, for the majority of Muslim women, wearing hijab is a choice; it is part of their personality and their identity. But in some instances, they are required to wear it in public places. Some Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, for example, require women to wear hijab to cover their body as the emphasis from the perspective is to protect the society from certain evils just like it is illegal in many western countries to walk naked in the streets. Also, Muslim families usually require their women to follow the code of Islamic dressing. The head of the family has the responsibility of ensuring that Islamic teachings are implemented in the family. With this in view head of households may he might ask their wives, sisters or daughters to observe hijab. Such is similar to people being asked to follow rules for their own safety, for a proper organization of society and the well-being of the whole society.

22. Is wearing hijab an exclusively Islamic convention?

The practice of wearing hijab is not exclusively Islamic. In the long history of Judeo-Christianity, Catholic nuns were also required to wear their cloaks. Within the Bible, there are also several references of veiling including 1st Corinthians 11 (3-10), “every woman that prays with her head uncovered is dishonoring her head”.

23. Are there similarities between Western clothing and hijab?

Many have forgotten that the Western clothing, as we know it today, is actually quite new. As recently as 70 years ago, the clothes worn in the West shared a lot of similarity with the hijab. Western women earlier wore full dresses and different types of head coverings for work and even social gatherings. Muslim women don’t necessarily see hijab as an impractical garment. Once they get accustomed to it they feel comfortable in it.

24. Do debates about wearing hijab exist among Muslim?

Yes. Even among Muslim women themselves, there are debates about hijab. Many believe that the veil helps them attain personal liberty. Instead of being objectified, they feel that they are able to attain autonomy in an environment that objectifies the female gender. However, there are voices of dissent as well. Some argue that hijab only provides an illusion of safety. They also think that it only frees men of the responsibility to govern their own behavior. However, Islam doesn’t allow men to behave in an irresponsible manner. Instructions are provided to both men and women regarding their behavior in public as well as personal life.

25. Muslims have different ideas of what the hijab should look like. What are some of the things they all agree on?

If you visit Arab countries, it becomes apparent that even Muslims have different interpretations of the Qur’an with regards to the hijab. For example, some places in Iran require women to wear black, full-body veil; the woman can see outside because of the sheer material surrounding the eye area but nobody can see her. And in Saudi Arabia, face veil (only the eyes are visible) are widely used. But what they agree upon is that no private body part, or the figure of the woman, should be displayed in public.

26. Is wearing hijab controversial in the Muslim world?

In today’s environment, the clash between Western society and Muslim society is often emphasized. What most people don’t know is that wearing hijab has been controversial for centuries. Even in Arab countries, there are conflicting beliefs about the hijab. There were compromises and currently, the position taken by those who choose not to implement it, is that the Qur’anic instructions are vague and open to individual interpretation depending on specific situations.

27. Why do some Muslim women refuse to wear hijab?

Most Muslim women who refuse to wear hijab argue that modesty is a state of mind and an inner quality. It has little to do with clothes. This reasoning has become particularly widespread among Muslim women living in Western societies. They say that the hijab draws attention to them instead of deflecting it. However, it should be noted that many of them still use some form of covering to shield their hair and body.

28. Can Muslim women change their minds about wearing hijab?

Usually, it comes down to the personal decision of the individual. Some women who grow up in Islamic countries for example, can opt to wear a head covering and long sleeves if they migrate to North America. Usually, this decision to take off the hijab coincides with an important change in life.

29. Do different countries have varying practice of wearing hijab?

In certain societies more than others, more garments are required such as the Chador (Iran) and Burqa (Afghanistan). While, these garments were forbidden in Turkey.

30. What does the hijab mean for women in Middle Eastern countries?

Within the Middle East itself, hijab manifests itself in many different ways. In the Indian sub-continent, for example, it is called Purdah. In Iran, it is referred to as Chador because of the black cloth has a tent-like shape. For many women, especially in Muslim countries, wearing hijab is more than just a way of dressing; it is a way of life

31. Do some governments create laws about hijab?

According to the Quran, women “should draw their veils over their bosoms”. Some governments with large Muslim population have merged religion and state by creating laws about hijab. Government interference and the creation of “dress codes” are not always welcome. However, aside from religion, family and culture also plays a big part in making women wear hijab.

32. Why are Muslim women banned from wearing hijab in certain countries?

In many countries, hijab is a sensitive topic. However, in most countries governments do not care about what their citizens wear as long as it is not immodest. Hijab, in certain cases, is only banned in schools because it is seen as a religious symbol. Governments merely adhere to the separation of church and state (for any religion). For example, in the United States, even praying (to the Christian God) in some schools has been debated.

33. Was wearing head-covering for women present in Arab countries before Islam?

Head-covering by Arab women was actually worn as an ornament. It hangs down over the wearer’s back but the upper area of the front tunic has a wide opening, exposing women’s breast. When Islam came into the picture, the command to cover the bosom was created. This ornament, as can be seen, is far from today’s concept of what hijab is.

34. Why do Muslim women wear hijab to cover their head?

This question has been repeated millions of times by both Muslims and non-Muslims. The basic answer to that is, Muslim women do it because they believe that Allah requires it of them. It has become a test of faith and dedication to Islam. Hair is one of the most attractive features of a woman’s body and it should be covered as the rest of the body is, to ward off undue attention or unwelcome admiration.

35. Why should the hijab cover a woman’s head?

Strictly speaking, the hijab should more than just cover a Muslim woman’s head. It should also cover all parts of the body except the hands, feet, and the face (by some interpretations only the eyes can be seen). However, because Muslim women around the world want to adapt to their surroundings, modern manifestations of the hijab, especially in Western countries, cover the head only. It has become the symbol that differentiates Muslims from non-Muslims.

36. Why are some Muslim women covered from head to toe while others merely cover their hair with  hijab?

Many interpretations are made with regards to Islamic hijab. Depending on where they live, many Muslim women adapt to their environment. In many cases, girls copy their mothers. So if their mother, living in North America, merely uses a headscarf, they are more likely to follow the same fashion

37. Why aren’t all Muslim women wearing hijab?

Not all women choose to wear hijab though many wear it in Islamic and Arab countries. Some women think that they cannot land a job if they put on the head scarf. Meanwhile, there are also a number of Muslim women who think that wearing hijab is a sign of inferiority. Further, they also think (mistakenly) that wearing or not wearing hijab is a matter of personal choice.

38. Are Muslim women allowed to wear ornaments with their hijab?

Muslim women can wear ornaments. However, they are forbidden to act or walk in a manner that causes undue attention. In essence, the purpose of the hijab is just to make women respectable, modest, dignified and self-aware.

39. Can Muslim women wear tight-fitting hijab?

A tight-fitting hijab would defeat the purpose. As you’ve probably observed from looking at the kinds of hijab Muslim women wear, looseness is a requirement for this garment. The hijab should be sufficiently loose enough not to define the shape of a woman’s body. Thickness is another important consideration because Muslim women are not allowed to show the color of their skin

40. Are Muslim women allowed to wear fancy hijab?

Many Muslim Women believe that they should have an overall dignified look. As from practical considerations loose-fit garments, thick clothing, etc their hijab should not be shiny. This will attract everyone’s attention to the dress and therefore to the woman.

41. Do Muslim women wear hijab at home and on the streets?

Because the Surah 24: 31(Ayah) of the Qur’an tells women to veil their “adornments” from people outside their familial circle, Muslim women dress very differently at home and outside the home. Doing this is a matter of public modesty. Thus, they wear the hijab on the street.

42. Can Muslim women who refuse to wear hijab wear men’s clothing instead?

Ibn Abbas said that “the Prophet cursed the men who appear like women and the women who appear like men” (Bukhari). Cross-dressing is strictly not allowed in Muslim societies. In addition, Muslim women cannot dress the same way as unbelievers.

43. Is there a punishment for not wearing hijab?

The Qur’an does not clearly state that there is a penalty for not wearing hijab. But according to some Hadiths, the Prophet had said that if a Muslim woman refuses to follow the Islamic code of dressing, her place in paradise (together with her father, husband, and son’s place) is jeopardized.

44. Should Muslim women still wear hijab in hot and humid days?

It cannot be denied that wearing hijab can get uncomfortable sometimes, especially during hot and humid days. Some women even reported that their hair falls off because of the heat. But the heat is not a reason to for removing the hijab. It is a sacrifice that a majority of Muslim women make to follow the Qur’an.

45. Can a supervisor reasonably ask a woman not to wear hijab?

In some instances, an employer or supervisor may ask a Muslim woman not to pose a danger to herself and co-employees. For example, if she is hired as an operator of a drill press, she can be asked not to wear hijab. Or she can make sure that the loose-ends of the veil are always tucked in. Depending on the specific situation, Muslim women react differently to such cases.

46. What could be the ultimate gain for the sacrifice of one’s comfort, freedom and admiration from others?

Qur’anic injunctions are aimed at preparing the Muslims for a dignified life in this world and receiving Allah’s favor in the life of the Hereafter. To many Muslim women, what appears as freedom and flattering admiration is momentary pleasure and vanity and may result in degradation of societies and their values. The Qur’anic message to a practicing Muslim is:”The provision of this world is short, and the Hereafter is better for him who guards against evil.” (Surah An-Nisa 4:77) Again in Surah At-Tauba “The enjoyment of this life is only a trifle compared with the Hereafter.” (Qur’an 9:38)

47. Can Muslim men wear hijab?

It is clearly stated in Surah 24: An-Nur: 30 and 31 that public modesty should also be enjoyed by Muslim men. Both men and women are required to lower their gaze because this will “make for greater purity for them”. The Qur’anic injunction of modesty therefore applies to both men and women. Since hijab means’ partition’, ‘separation’, i.e. avoiding the intermingling of men and women, the injunction regarding it applies to men as well. However,its manifestation in modern society is different because men don’t cover their head with hijab.

48. If women are required to wear hijab, is there a code of dressing for men?

In Islam, both men are women are asked to control their sexual desires. Certain precautions are therefore put in place. For example, they cannot be alone in the presence of the opposite sex (outside of their husbands and close family members). Although men are allowed to expose more areas of their body, they cannot show certain areas also or wear tight clothing. This is a rule that is similar to Muslim women who wear hijab.

49. Why do people misinterpret the meaning behind hijab?

Flowing veils, mysterious eyes, and modest attitude, these are just some of the things people conjure up when they think of Muslim women. Most people who are unfamiliar with Islam are heavily influenced by the mass media which presents a prejudiced picture. They depict those wearing hijab as repressed individuals who cannot express themselves or their desires. Many Muslim women have debated therefore that it is strange that a woman who can secure her dignity is regarded as repressed while the woman who is commercially abused in the world of advertisement, entertainment and other areas is regarded as the liberated woman. For Muslim women themselves, wearing hijab is a symbol of their dedication to Allah and an endeavor to gain His Pleasure

50. Why is hijab so misunderstood?

The hijab is one of the most misunderstood symbols of being a Muslim. The misunderstanding is a consequence of the misunderstanding about the concept of freedom. Freedom in attire is understood as the right of the woman to reveal as much of her body as she likes to, regardless of the consequences the woman herself might face or the evils it might lead to. If this is seen as freedom, then it follows that covering the body will be seen as repression or oppression. But there is more than what meets the eye. The hijab is more than just a piece of clothing; it is part of the total package of being a Muslim woman together with her demeanor, behavior, and modesty in public.

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