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Why Wear the Hijab?

So you’re a non-Muslim and have no idea why the oddball hippie and/or possibly emo girls have started dressing like nuns. All right, we’ll give you some credit. We know you don’t live under a rock, so the minute you see a woman wandering in the shopping mall with a scarf covering her hair, you think: Muslim! (Or if you’re easily persuaded by the media, you’re probably thinking more along the lines of the T word which has more or less become our nickname since 9/11, although we assure you we have no more idea than you do about where bin Laden is currently hiding.)

Still feeling a bit weird, nervous, and of course awkward for even being in the same mall, let alone walking close to or talking to this covered lady, you discreetly observe her from a distance and watch her every move – you know, just to make sure she’s pulling out your favorite brand of tissues out of her purse.

She comes your way and you try eavesdropping on anything and everything that comes out of her mouth. Surprisingly, the scarfed woman seems relatively sane and politely spoken. Hey, she isn’t so bad after all!

Okay, so now we have established who Muslim women are: school-goers, stay-at-home mums, your child’s kindergarten teacher, your neighbor’s babysitter – basically, ordinary women! Yet the questions remain unanswered: why do these women conceal their bodies and hair? Isn’t showing off our beauty and attracting others towards ourselves the norm? What about on hot days, don’t these girls pass out when the sweltering heat accumulates all around their heads? Has anyone ever seen their hair? Oh no, how do they shower with that thing on?!

Literal Meaning of Hijab

The word Hijab literally means a curtain or veil and is best understood by exploring the Islamic concept of modesty. Muslim men and women are required to be modest while mingling with unrelated members of the opposite gender. The content of our speech, the way we communicate, the way we laugh and joke around, our behavior and social etiquette in general should all be transmitted to the other party in a way that attracts the least amount of the wrong form of attention. Additionally, we are required to “lower our gazes” and respect other men or women by not eying them from head to toe (i.e. checking them out). Similarly, the physical Hijab establishes healthy distances of physical contact (not even a handshake with the opposite gender!). Lastly, this modesty must also be manifested in the way we dress.

In order to appear modest, Muslim women are required by their faith to observe the most visible form of the Hijab in public – the headscarf to cover our hair and full-length clothing to conceal the shape of our bodies. Non-Muslims often ponder how it is possible and why a woman would ever voluntarily want to conceal what every other woman takes pride in revealing – her beauty. From a very long list, presented below are the most common reasons why Muslim women observe the Hijab.

To Please Our Creator

Muslims recognize God Almighty as the grand creator and supreme authority over the universe, and hence the religion He has sent – Islam – is a complete way of life for us. Accordingly, Divine law is followed at all times, and submitting to God’s commandments is in itself a form of worship. After telling Muslim men to lower their gazes, the Holy Qur’an reminds women: “And 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 (ordinarily) appear thereof.” (24:31) In line with this Qur’anic verse, we do not display our beauty simply because it is the command of our Lord!

Taking a Stand against Female Exploitation

Since the beginning of time, women have always been exploited. Known for our gentleness, delicateness, and beauty, women are often used as mere objects to attract men or sell products and services. Unfortunately, today a woman’s physical beauty is likened to a man’s trophy, to be shown off to the whole world. In an interview with former rapper “Napoleon” from Tupac Shakur’s band, the OutLawz, revert Mutah Beale said, “The music industry is where they really exploit and degrade women. We’d pay them a hundred bucks to strip for our music videos, and they’d do it!” Sadly, women have become well accustomed to this routine and also take pride in displaying their beauty. But what Muslim women realize is that our beauty is sacred and certainly not for any random man to gawk at for pleasure.

A Source of Protection

If there is any good in impressing random men with our beauty (intentionally or unintentionally), then surely we would all know about it. Despite all the technological advancements in 2010, our moral values continue to plummet. One in six girls in the United States is sexually assaulted by the time she is 18. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in 2007, over 12 thousand women were sexually harassed. This means at least one woman is sexually harassed in the workplace every 20 minutes. (It is noteworthy that the majority of incidents are not officially reported, and these statistics are probably grossly understated.) Of course, it is the men who are to be blamed for harassing women, yet the woman who fails to realize that dressing in a way which is so strikingly appealing (particularly when working in a male-dominated environment) is only asking for trouble is part of the problem as well. Regardless of where the blame lies, there is only one way by which a woman can guard herself against such evils, and that is why Hijabi women conceal their beauty in public as much as possible.

Preserving Our Beauty

Regardless of age or marital status, every female loves attention and being cared for. For most women, satisfying that need comes from compliments of others in private and public. Muslim women who conceal their physical points of attraction in public only seek that attention from their loved ones in private. The logic behind this practice is almost convincing enough to experiment.

Basically by covering up, we demand self-respect from the public, as we do not allow ourselves to be judged based on our beauty (or the lack thereof). On the other hand, our families provide us with the respect and honor we deserve as they realize that we are not letting strange men take a bite of our beauty by way of exposing ourselves, but rather, we are limiting the right to enjoy our beauty to our husbands. In addition, a Muslim woman’s Hijab allows the husband the honor of having a wife who finds him worthy enough to preserve herself only for him. In return, he provides her with all that extra attention that every woman desires. This also satisfies the man’s natural instinct of admiring a woman’s beauty, and thus he has greater motivation to avoid “checking out” random women and to lower his gaze, as his wife doesn’t allow herself to be ogled at and admired by other men either. Often labeled as “jealousy” by so-called Western “relationship experts”, this kind of respect and preserving oneself solely for one’s partner is actually the key to lifelong marital happiness and success.

To Be Judged for Our Worth, Not Our Appearance

Often labeled as oppressive, many fail to realize that the Hijab truly empowers every female with the ability to control how she is treated and respected in society, her safety, and who deserves to see her beauty, all while making a statement against female exploitation. A woman who observes the Hijab is freeing herself of society’s immoral and disrespectful expectations of her. A female who conceals her beauty has granted herself the power to say to the world “You know what? Everything about me besides my beauty should matter to you.” If wearing miniskirts, low-cut tops, head- turning heels, and layers of makeup in public is the expectation without which a woman in incapable of stepping outside her house, then we have two very different definitions of liberty and self-respect.

All human beings demand respect, and why should we women be treated as mere objects valued or devalued for our beauty or the lack thereof? Why should we let all random and strange men (whether we are friends with them or not) be the judges of our attractiveness? Shouldn’t we preserve ourselves for only those who deserve us?

And that is why Muslim women observe the Hijab.

About Arsalan Rizvi

25 comments

  1. sis amazing.. this truly does answer questions that some hijabi sisters have of why they are treated differently at the workplace compared to their colleagues.

  2. i wish my family wear the hijab but they are not doing this.. it hurts me badly when my daughters not wearing it .. i tried many times to convence them but they refuse me as their mom not wearing … any way i leave things to Allah

  3. very thought provoking. i hope people must get answers why Muslim women wear hijab and it really help understanding Muslim girls why they must wear hijab. i like the article above.
    best regards

  4. Here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

    http://islamicinsights.com/religion/religion/hijab-when-to-begin.html

    http://islamicinsights.com/features/home-and-family/buloogh-a-muslim-girl-s-transition-to-adulthood.html

    http://islamicinsights.com/religion/religion/karbala-s-lesson-of-hijab.html

    Of course, you should also continue to remind them of their duties to Allah in a gentle and kind fashion and pray to Allah to give them the taufiq to obey Him, inshAllah. 🙂

  5. good work, interesting

  6. Assalaamu Alaikum,

    Masha’Allah, this is an excellent piece which should be shared with nonMuslims. Thank you.

    – Syeda

  7. Gr8,i love Hijab,and i think Hijab actually makes a woman more prettier,and a lot more gracefull and respectful.

  8. This is great to read, sister you should keep the good work going for your self and for Islam.
    I am actually going to put it on as much social websites that is pissible…

  9. a great read 🙂 it did cleared many points even some of my questions and it will certainly answer all the questions of those who have questions about hijab and are afraid to ask (not wanting to offend the hijabi’s)
    this should be spread around 🙂

  10. I just recently went full hijab,, its been challenging,, but mostly fulfilling as I am doing what pleases ALLAH,,,,and bottom line that is what matters most

  11. mashalallah, i luv this article about hijab, i my self have been wearing hijab since gr. 5. i am very proud of my hijab and encourage ppl 2 wear it. and it is true, when u wear it u dont attract the wrong ppl. i remember when i started wearing hijab, my parents were so proud of me, but my other family members kept on saying that i’m 2 young and i’ll get sick of it, but i still haven’t and inshaallah, i never will.

    😉

  12. Darling Zara great piece……Enjoyed it a great deal and keep up the beautiful work!
    🙂 Blessings upon you!

  13. great piece! just a personal experience to share…my sister and myself are AlHamdulillah hijabis…at a wedding, a distant relative came up to where I was sitting with my brother and sister. He greeted my brother warmly, gave us a polite salaam, with his eyes down and left…with other women around who were not in hijab, he was more free with them and lingered longer…basically, we girls should be proud of our hijab as it creates a statement without actually having to say anything…it’s such a protective barrier really alHamdullilah, and belive me it always gives me a sense of being in power where men are around..jazakAllah sis 🙂

  14. all female muslim should wear the hijaab!!!!! 🙂

  15. Hi I am 61 and English and have always wanted to learn more about the world I live in and have travelled widely. I respect all religions. a lovely lady from a London mosque has invited me to learn more about Islam. She was a refreshing change from the horrid man that spat at me in Brick Lane! I do dress my age ( modesty trousers and teeshirt). I simply cannot see that it is necessary to cover everything up though! Did the propephet mean dressing in black from head to toe or just in a modest manner? this is a genuine question?

    Also I love to swim every day and have not bother at all with wearking a one piece sports swimming costume, and, I quite happily mix with men who do not give a second glance and I do not look at them in that way either! Surely too much is made of this going over the top with sexualising stuff that is frankly not there.

    i love the idea of a gentle Islam and everyone being brother or sister but I am sure that in the Koran it just means behave in a maner and dress in a manner that does not invite comment.
    Yes, I wear a one piece ordiany costume for swimming and I wear brightly coloured trousers and tops which do show my arms from mid shoulder but I cant think this is bad.

    I have been married to the same husband for 41 years and, lets dispel any wrong ideas he was my first boyfriend so notf all of us western non muslims are man hungry far from it. Lucky for me to he has enough I suppose with me so he does not want another younger wife. I should be distraught if he every thought of adding another wife! It would mean he did not care for me after a lifetime. This is not an aggressive rant I just want clarity on all the misconceptions that seem to walk hand in hand with Islam more than any other religion these days. I should value your contribution. With Love from a granny.

    • Hi Granny Marcia!

      Thanks for your warm questions, I truly admire people who try seeking the truth and understanding another’s beliefs and practices rather than believing anything and everything they hear from others. Awww I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you in Brick Lane, unfortunately that person wasn’t a true representative of any faith or any set of good morals and social etiquette!

      God says this in the Holy Qur’an about men and women covering and having shame:
      1. “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.” (Quran 7:26)”

      God’s word also details (after first speaking to men) that…
      2. “And 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; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their …”

      Finally, God says:
      “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59)

      • The Qur’an is interpreted hand-in-hand with the practices and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the Holy family and the Righteous companions. Accordingly the above verses have been interpreted and it is accepted by almost all religious scholars and experts of Islamic jurisprudence that physically, the hijab refers to a woman covering her self in a loose covering except for her face and hands (although the face covering is observed by a minority of Muslim women and is usually observed because they believe it is obligatory upon them, or they believe it is not obligatory upon them and they wear it voluntarily as a source of “extra” protection”) . So yes, the understanding is that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was indeed delivering God’s message which requires women to veil. Of course, there is no requirement of black, but black’s just easier for us. =)

        • I respect how you feel in a mixed gender swimming pool; however I’d like to share something with you. Where I live there was a Muslim woman who lobbied the local council and fitness centre to hold women-only swim sessions. It took a few years and couple of hundred signatures and by the end of the whole drama when we finally were given women-only swim sessions, we found that more non-Muslim women were attending, particularly elderly ladies! When asked why they were not attending the mixed pool sessions, they said because they felt uncomfortable with revealing what they’re not proud of to men – and that they’d been getting disrespectful glances from men! (not disrespectful in the sense that men were attracted to them, but glances indicating that they were disgusted by them!) Further, I had a non-Muslim teenage friend of mine also swimming with me a few times and she’d often come because of the amount of attention she’d get in a bikini while mixed swimming! And not just from boys her age…but also from men her dad’s age and her grandpa’s age! It made her feel uncomfortable and she didn’t like the unnecessary attention – even though she has a great body! May it just be that some of us ”think it’s not there” because we may just be used to It? Or perhaps it’s so common that it doesn’t even feel like something unnatural? “I do not look at them in that way either!”, while of course you don’t and many innocent people also don’t, the fact remains that we can’t control the way random men look at us, but we can control what we show them?

          • I appreciate what you mean when you say that you can’t understand how wearing a few bright colours or revealing a bit of arm/shoulder can possibly be “bad”. However, in some cultures women reveal their wrists to entice men, and it does! (e.g Japanese Geishas are known to do this during their performances) Again, what may seem pure to us may not necessarily be considered that way by the opposite gender.

            Awwwww that’s so cute that you married your first boyfriend! Well done! =) But I can say without hesitation that many of my non-Muslim friends were dating boys in high school and by the time they’d done 6 years of it, they’d dated MANY boys – it’s quite common these days. Of course there is the married couple here and there who are each other’s firsts and that truly is admirable! & I don’t think the reason why people date outside of marriage is because of being hungry for men..it’s about seeking attention and satisfying the emotional need of a companion – and that’s understandable. And if a girl learns to only seek attention through proper means (e.g via the honourable institution of marriage) then she wouldn’t be bothered with dressing to impress only OUTSIDE of the home, knowing that there is absolutely no benefit what so ever of beautifying ourselves in front of unrelated men. Likewise if a boy learnt to preserve his glances for only his wife, he’d not be checking out every random Samantha, Jen & Penny!

            Of course any woman would be distraught if her husband wants to marry another woman solely because she was younger or more beautiful! That would be a rather morally incorrect thing to do! :sigh: I know your comment wasn’t a rant, thank you for it. I hope my explanation helped. With love also! God bless! xoxo

      • Hi Hijabi sister you seem to be the most kindly of the bunch of sisters that have been good enough to tell me about islam I do want to say about eye contact.
        Westerners are ENCOURAGED to ‘look one in the eye (make eye contact whilst speaking to men/women) it is a sign that you are respecting and taking notice of what is said. Maybe that is a huge misunderstanding between the more strict Muslms or the ones that simply do not know western ways. I think on me going on this page I can contribute to more understanding and better still tollerence of different ways and faiths..
        It is a well worn saying in the West ‘Now look me in the eye’! | can see how this could be misunderstood. If you did not LOOK SOMEONE IN THE EYE, we westerners usually think Oh, he/she is hiding something or is insincere. if you do not make eye contcact. Big Love from granny. P.S. I am looking foreward to going to the Mosque next Sat but! I shall be covered but will be wearing bright colours and trousers (long ones of couse!) I am now getting on and dont want to wear mourning (black) yet as I don’t want to think that I am getting nearer to ‘him/her ‘upstairs’ (heaven)! LOts of love again!

        • Peace be upon you, Granny Marcia! Awww thank you for your beautiful message. Yes, eye contact is a vital part of communication in the West and also in many other cultures! In highschool I once learned about how to tell if someone’s lying from the way their eyes dart during a conversation! However it’s just a bit odd for me to stare into the eyes of an unrelated men so I kind of dart my eyes around non-stop! It probably looks really funny but I think the way I speak (normally that is, not stuttering/nervous/hiding something) tells them that I’ve just got hyperactive eyes and it shouldn’t be considered as rude or disrespectful. With women, I look into their eyes when I speak to them though.

          A few weeks ago I attended a lecture from a christian series, it was about why bad stuff happens in the world. At the end of it the ‘elder” who delivered the lecture was quite glad to see I had taken time out of my Saturday to attend – he put his hand forward to shake mine, I politely moved my hand to the back of my body, did a mini bow thing and explained that I don’t shake hands with the opposite gender as a part of the “hijab” of my religon. He felt quite embarrassed and apologised. But he was extremely polite and understanding of my beliefs.

          Enjoy your visit to the Islamic centre! & I’m sure your outfit will be fine, you’ll look gorgeous covered – I’m sure! Every woman does! Although black doesn’t always mean mourning..I’m constantly wearing black in public..and I dress western! In fact, a lot of people wear lots of black at university now that I think about it….! Let us know how it goes!

          Thanks for sharing! I think it’s a good idea if you keep contributing to this site and show us things from other points of view. Thank you! Take care & God bless xoxo! 🙂

  16. ii Loved The Amount Of Interesting Things You Have Told Us On Islam… 😆 …. 😀

  17. It would be nice if we could respect the deceased among us..

    Anyway, here’s Napolean one of Tupac’s ex-band members from the OutLawz. He”s Muslim, infact the entire gang is Muslim! Check out his trailer:

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