The Hijab of Men

It is not uncommon for non-Muslims and even many Muslims to associate the Islamic commandments on Hijab with females, even though Islam has ordained Hijab for both men and women. In fact, many of us would be surprised to note that Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: “Tell the believing men to cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof….” (24:30-31) Indeed, before addressing women and telling them to conceal their bodies, Allah first addresses the believing men and tells us to lower our gaze!

When discussing the issue of Hijab for men, it is essential to keep in mind the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A man once came to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and told him he wished to commit fornication. As the companions got up to strike him, the Prophet restrained them and then said to the man, “My son, how would you feel if someone wished to do the same thing with your mother or sister or wife or daughter?” The man replied that naturally he would want to kill the person. The Prophet then said, “If you do not wish for someone to do such an act with your mother or sister or wife or daughter, then why entertain such a thought about someone else’s mother or sister or wife or daughter?!”

Islamic teachings on Hijab for males can be divided into three categories:

The Physical Hijab

Let’s face it – if it wasn’t for those skin-tight t-shirts, many brothers would not spend hours working the dumbbells every day. Yet although it may not be obligatory on men to completely conceal our bodies like it is for women, the issue of modesty and humility cannot be neglected. Pride and boastfulness are among the greatest sins in Islam, and attempting to impress others (both males and females) using our physique and attracting attention to ourselves in such a manner certainly falls into this category.

Again, the Golden Rule comes into play here: next time you go out in public wearing clothes that reveal your chest and biceps so that girls can check you out, imagine how you would feel if your own sister or wife was checking out other men who were dressed in a similar manner. The answer should be obvious.

Social Hijab

In addition to the physical Hijab, Islam has clear teachings about social Hijab. An alarming number of otherwise religious and pious boys these days think it is perfectly acceptable to have female “friends” and to openly socialize and hang out with them, “as long as we don’t do anything Haram” and “as long as she is wearing a scarf”!

The Holy Prophet is reported to have said, “One who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment does not remain in a place where even the sound of breathing of non-Mahram women is perceived.” (Wasail al-Shia) It is one thing that Islam permits us to meet with non-Mahrams for school-/work-related or otherwise unavoidable reasons – and even then, complete modesty should be observed – but these days it is a common sight to see boys and girls mingling so freely and casually in the pretense of youth groups, student organizations, camps, retreats, conferences, and “meet-and-greet” programs.

However confident we may be in our ability to avoid Haram, let us not forget that Shaitan even tried to misguide Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail (peace be upon them). So what special spiritual powers do we possess that make us think we can completely avoid his evil whispers?

Indeed, Shaitan works slowly and patiently. It all starts innocently enough: a social gathering where boys and girls are sitting and “respectfully” talking to each other. That is, until someone cracks a joke, and then someone else makes a somewhat crass remark, and very soon this “Islamic” discussion devolves into an unspoken flirt-fest.

Honestly, who are we kidding here? The people who claim to be so overly confident about their ability to avoid Haram are the same ones who often complain about how “difficult” and “challenging” it is for them to practice Hijab and avoid music and keep beards. How funny that we easily blame shortcomings of faith when it comes to observing the other obligations of Islam, yet when it comes to mixed gatherings, our Eimaan is so incredibly strong that we can be 100 percent sure we will not get involved in anything prohibited whatsoever! The sad reality is that the same brothers who are so incredibly steadfast when it comes to the other obligations of Islam are the very ones who falter in this category, precisely because they are so overly-confident about their ability to avoid Haram.

On a related note, it is quite unfortunate to see the double standard many parents apply here with boys and girls. According to many parents, it is perfectly acceptable for their son to go to a female friend’s birthday party where they know there will be complete mixing of the genders, but if they hear even an unfounded rumor about their daughter doing something questionable, all hell breaks loose! It is certainly not being argued that we should extend the same kind of careless, unrestrained freedom to our daughters; rather, Islamic principles of justice demand that parents should be applying the same standards and scrutiny to their sons as they do with their daughters.

Hijab of the Eye

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (peace be upon him) has said, “The evil glance is fornication of the eyes, the kiss is fornication of the lips, and touching a non-Mahram woman is fornication of the hands.” (Wasail al-Shia)

In today’s hypersexualized Western society, many of us would rather just ignore the concept of lowering the gaze and avoiding inappropriate glances at females all together. And there is no harm in “just looking”, right?

Yet one minor glance can have a spiritually disastrous effect on the human being. Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) once said to his disciples: “Beware of looking at forbidden things, for that is the seed of desire and leads to deviant behavior.” (Lantern of the Path)

Many of us might believe in “lowering the gaze”, but this is an aspect of our Hijab that most of us still need to perfect. In addition to not looking at non-Mahrams, prudence dictates that we should avoid looking at pictures, billboards, magazines, as well as television programs and movies with images of non-Mahram women.

Even a few inappropriate glances at non-Mahrams can over time cause one to abandon his modesty and openly start “checking out” girls. From a psychological point of view, the things we perceive with our eyes during the course of the day are stored in our memory. These images then subconsciously “accumulate” and slowly lead a person to physically manifest them. Hence the alarming rate of Muslim youth today who have become addicted to pornography and cannot help but satisfy their desires through unlawful means. The despicable act of masturbation, so widespread among Muslim youth today, can only be avoided by stopping such images and thoughts from accumulating in our minds in the first place – and that can only be achieved by lowering the gaze at any and all times.

In addition to preventing us from committing vulgar and sinful behavior, the spiritual benefits one attains from observing proper Hijab of the eye are innumerable. In short, our beloved Prophet has said, “Lower your gaze, and you will see wonders!”

For those who still find this obligation a bit cumbersome, let’s get down to the core of the matter and recall the Golden Rule: how would you feel if someone entertained lewd thoughts or glanced inappropriately at your own mother, sister, wife, or daughter? Exactly.

Prophet Yousuf – the Perfect Example

On a final note, it is said that when Zulaikha, the wife of the Aziz of Egpyt, tried to seduce Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him), she covered the face of the idol placed nearby. When Prophet Yusuf inquired, she said she did not wish for it to witness her commit a sin. Prophet’s Yusuf’s reply to Zulaikha encompasses the true essence of the Hijab for men and can serve as the perfect benchmark for us to judge the appropriateness of our actions at all times. He said: “If you exhibit shyness and modesty before a stone that does not see, it is more befitting for me to exhibit shame and modesty before the One Who sees and Who is aware of everything that is manifest about me and everything that is concealed within me.” (Anecdotes for Reflection, vol. 2)

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  • .

    The writer is to be commended for addressing the topic of men’s modesty, but the idea that males would feel disgust if their women relatives were engaging in loose behavior does not discourage people who have lost their sense of honor. Actually, there are many men who think such behavior is praiseworthy. The article does not address that.

    • Siddiqah

      That is true but such men are beyond the scope of warning.

  • ~

    Thank you for this article! I am impressed that you mention the problems of pornography and masturbation among young men. These acts are viewed as being perfectly natural and very much encouraged in Western cultures, especially in America. Many young men might feel peer pressure if they choose not to participate in these unlawful and despicable deeds.

    What recommendations do you have for men before they fall into this error, other than lowering the eyes? I believe having similar friends who also believe that such actions are haram and unacceptable, in addition to good and halal diversions, are the key.

    Thanks again for addressing this issue, and may Allah guide all of our youth away from the temptations of the present moment to the blessings of the future that await their purity. As a married person, I want to express how very valuable, beautiful, and joyful that purity can be for both WOMEN and MEN. Its one of the most difficult things to do in this society but it can also be one of the most rewarding!!

  • panjatani

    Hijab is very important and as you mentioned it starts with the man, lowering their gaze. However, I don’t fully agree that all types of social gatherings are haraam and lust-fests as you imply. While it’s true – and sadly common – that a lot of haram takes place under the banner of islam, it’s not always the case. When you have an educated crowd, who know their limits and are “respectful”, while hijab is being observed by guys and girls, where the event is segregated and the people are aware of the overhanging haraam, I think such gathering should be permitted, not shunned. If our youth don’t interact and mingle within the community, they are going to go astray and associate with the wrong crowd. Plus how else would you expect them to get to know the people from the opposite gender – again in a respectful and religious setting – to get married?

    Many a times we go overboard with our religious tendencies and end up hurting ourselves as a community, as in setting unnecessary obstacles and barriers in getting our youth married. There comes a point where you trust your better judgement, and venture out into the world, instead of living under a mental siege that everything you do is in some way or form haraam, or potentially haram. You will end up over burdening yourself, and make life a living hell for yourself. Worst of all, you are going to start hating/abhorring islam and turn away from it eventually.

    So how would you propose going about getting married, if one was to not partake in “respectful” social gatherings as you suggest. There’s a lot of unmarried, sexually frustrated youths there, how do you pave the way for them?

    Isn’t this avenue a legitimate option?… I’m juss sayin’….

  • Random Hijabi

    [quote]When you have an educated crowd, who know their limits and are “respectful”, while hijab is being observed by guys and girls, where the event is segregated and the people are aware of the overhanging haraam, I think such gathering should be permitted, not shunned.[/quote]

    An educated crowd doesn’t necessarily mean a “halal” and an entirely “Islamic crowd”. I know very knowledgeable Muslims (both men and women) who are horrible when it comes to hijab. It’s best not to take risks. If an event is necessary, such as a religious class for a youth group, a segregated set up would work. If you’re talking about a Friday night dinner with the centre boys and girls, clearly we have a problem…

    [quote]Many a times we go overboard with our religious tendencies and end up hurting ourselves as a community, as in setting unnecessary obstacles and barriers in getting our youth married.[/quote]

    Please refrain from labelling Islamic precaution as “overboard”. Lady Fatima has said that “the best hijab for a woman is that a man doesn’t see her and the best hijab for a man is that a woman doesn’t see him.” I’ve seen a few other comments (on other articles) which use the same argument as you. However, you all fail to realise that the success rate of trying to hook up Muslim couples at “halal” mixed gender social gatherings are quite low. There are roughly a dozen married youth at my Islamic centre and not a SINGLE one of them found their spouses via the halal social events you are promoting. I’d also be a slight bit concerned if we were to encourage youth to select/ become interested in the opposite genders at such events because when they attend such events, rather than doing so solely and most importantly for seeking nearness to Allah, they start attending for other personal gains and therefore it turns into a “flirt-fest” , which the author talks about.
    While I agree that getting married to the right person does require a certain amount of effort, taking risks and putting ourselves in situations in which committing haram becomes easier and maintaining halal becomes harder all in the name of “marriage” is certainly not a [i]good[/i] idea.

    [/quote]You will end up over burdening yourself, and make life a living hell for yourself. Worst of all, you are going to start hating/abhorring islam and turn away from it eventually. [/quote]

    A true believer will always be patient and remember that “Allah(swt) never burdens a soul with more than it can handle”. If one starts to “hate” Islam because of its spiritual and moral correctness and precaution, surely Shaitan is lingering around? 🙂

  • Random Hijabi

    Re: Panjatani

    [quote]You will end up over burdening yourself, and make life a living hell for yourself. Worst of all, you are going to start hating/abhorring islam and turn away from it eventually.[/quote]

    A true believer will always be patient and remember that “Allah(swt) never burdens a soul with more than it can handle”. If one starts to “hate” Islam because of its high levels of spiritual and moral correctness and precaution, surely Shaitan is lingering around? 🙂

  • ……………

    Mashallah, very well written article, we need more articles of these types , which particularly target the problems muslim youths are facing in living a life in the WESTERN society, according to the will of Allah.(s.w.t)

  • ………

    All the positive aspects you have mentioned e.g. seeking a spouse is highly commendable. However the technique you advocate is not ideal. Segregation is there for a purpose, for your protection and that of other fellow believers. The physical separation of both genders is a measure designed to curb the psychological urges driven by lust.

    Worry not, INSHALLAH, very soon Allah SWT will arrange and organise great matches for spouses in your community for the unmarried brothers and sisters. ILLAHI AMEEN.

  • muslim sister

    Beautiful and a very well written article, which was much needed for the Muslim brothers.

    “In addition to not looking at non-Mahrams, prudence dictates that we should avoid looking at pictures, billboards, magazines, as well as television programs and movies with images of non-Mahram women.”

    In regards to the above quote, some of our Muslim brothers have ” female friends” on facebook or other social networking cites who don’t observe Hijab. An alarming number of Muslim brothers have friends added who are non-Mahram ,some as you mentioned are the most religious ones who think they can control their desires. They should practice what they preach and avoid hypocrisy

  • Muslim4life

    Salam wabarakatullahi alayk

    I just wanted to say thank you for this beautiful aritcle.

    Truly an eye opener cos, all along i believed that Hijab was only directed to Muslim Women.. lol

    Oh and i totally i agree with the sister above!

    and may we see more of this kind of work
    Keep it up.


  • Razieh

    actually, it may totally be okay Islamicly for a man to make his self look attractive. please refer to your marja if you have one to know if it is or not.

  • .

    Actually Razieh, you’re mistaken. There isn’t any marja who says a person can “make his self look attractive”. It’s one thing to look neat and presentable, it’s quite another thing to look attractive. The only person a man can do that for is his wife and this is agree upon unanimously by the marjas. 🙂

  • .

    ^ Meaning, the only person a man can make himself attractive for is his wife.

  • Ahmad

    Awesome, no other comment 🙂
    Also keep on writing this great work 😀

  • jafar

    very good article…..and excellent hard hitting points arsalan.

    To be real, if a lady offers a handshake, how does one normally respond. i would probably make an excuse that sorry my hands are wet. is this allowed?

    Also, like japanese bow their heads, indians ans pakistanis do namaste and salaam….I think these cultural practices are way better than western handshakes which also increases the chance of transferring bacteria etc.

    So maybe we shud PROMOTE doing salaam with hands when one offers a handshake…not in ridicule but in respect.
    In this way, one will be rooted to their culture and most importantly not touch namahrams.

  • 12er

    The article is written well enough. But it really busts me up how there is not one mention of promoting youth and marriage in this article. And lets also not antagonize the fact that even when looking for a spouse there has to be attraction. Yes of course all men should want an extremely pious woman with immense taqwa and the ability to raise kids the right way. But I dont like how the stereotype for Muslims has become to run away from finding attraction in the opposite sex. I want to come home to an attractive woman, because if not, thats all the more reason for me to have another wife.

  • 12er

    My other point is that, i find it wrong to believe that a man shouldnt look well for others, yes of course there is a line that cannot be crossed, but it is also mustahab to make oneself look presentable and if a brother happens to need to dress up a bit to help himself get married, then why the heck not?

  • 12er

    MOST IMPORTANTLY, there does exist a different standard for men and women in Islam. In hadiths it is mentioned Allah gave man one part modesty and one part sexuality. For women he gives 9 parts of modesty and 9 parts of sexuality. That being there is an anatomical difference for the gender relations between men and women, because you are comparing things that are on two completely different levels. If the things that are taboo in our cultural societies within the masjids arent addressed, how do we expect the youth and the next generation to understand that challenges that will be presented in front of them for the rest of their lives, eg. guy girl relations, pornography, pre marital sex. Muslim parents are BLIND to what is happening to their kids in their homes. Instead of concentrating on getting them married, they are too busy wondering what double major they are going to combine their bio degree. PATHETIC

    • Muhammad Ali

      I agree with the last point. In addition to the masjid presenting this message, let’s not forget the role of the family and responsibility of parents to teach these values at home. Too often people rely on dumping their children at Day Care, I mean Sunday School, and expect someone else to do all the Islamic parenting for them. Our respected ulema have become ostracized for daring to bring up taboo topics because our community members think that “filthy” words don’t belong in the setting of a masjid, that the pure space enclosed by four walls ought not to be polluted with words they don’t want to hear. I ask then, How filthy then is your home that is rampant with sin and is devoid of Islamic values, a vacuum where light and goodness are absent?

      While I think it is great that our ulema have felt the need to address these issues, they cannot do it alone, because we know how quickly people of the community will de-fame and mock our beloved scholars for presenting the truth. I mean, people dared to lie to and mock the Prophet (saw) and his beloved kith and kin (as) to his face, so what chance do the ulema of today stand?

  • syedali

    Written well enough, but not enough on marriage. Youth here in the west need to focus on whats important to let them out of the social hell they are in.

  • reader

    @ 12er
    well marriage and youth is another topic…its somehow related but one cannot include everything in one article….and more importantly the topic was hijab for men and not marriage.
    there are plenty of articles on youth and marriage
    for example go through

    Nobody forces you not to dress up in public places for any purpose be it marriage, parties etc.
    you can look beautiful but your niyat is important, and remember Allah knows your intentions.

  • Muhammad Ali

    I think it’s safe to say that many of our Muslim brothers and sisters who disregard the sanctity of hijab do so because they fail to emotionally mature past the level of a middle schooler, a barely passable human being who is constantly and DESPERATELY trying to fit in with everyone else. Why would you want to voice the truth and be a killjoy for all the fun? Surrounded by a hypersexualized and ridiculously exaggerated society, these adult/children hybrids have removed from their mind even the idea of presenting themselves in a dignified way. It never even occurs to them that there might be something wrong with being all over someone of the opposite gender, flooding them with texts and love, flashing smiles, going out of their way to spend time with them (often by deceiving their elders) and giving complete strangers the affection they wouldn’t dare to show their own parents.

    In terms of decorum and etiquette, it is terrible to be holier-than-thou, I will acknowledge this. But I think, as do many of the readers of this article, that our communities have been diseased for long enough. I am sick and tired of and angry at all the stupidity. I am sick and tired of feeling like the only one who cares enough to act differently. I am afraid for what kind of social problems our brothers and sisters will have for the rest of their lives. I am terrified that they will outnumber my own children someday, as they have outnumbered me.

    • Muhammad Ali

      I apologize for not including this earlier:

      Br. Arsalan is to be commended for having the courage to speak the truth. Thank you for this breath of fresh air.

  • alikazmi

    Salam guys
    First of all many congratz on a great article;
    Just for the commentors who are advocating mixed gatherings on the pretext of potential spouse hunting please excuse me for the term, but how would you differentiate between a singles party and such a mixed gathering?
    Wearing physical hijab, as explained by the author is not enough…I hope I have made my point…instead of becoming an “open minded” lost soul we should pick up our religious text and analyse..instead of doing what seems logical.

  • Islam pakhtoon

    I don’t support shiism and i am not sure about the authenticity of some of the hadiths you mentioned Allah know best but i do find this article to be very interesting and helpful.

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