I Get So Many Questions About Hijab

13 January, 2017
Q I have been asked these questions several times by non-Muslim women and I couldn't answer them with a complete brief answer. I would be thankful if you could provide me with the answers to the following questions. They are all about hijab. • Why do Muslim women wear a head cover? • Is there any logical reason behind hijab? • Why do Muslim women have to cover their heads, while Muslim men don’t? • Don’t covered women feel hot? • Why do some Muslim women cover their faces? • Does the head cover hinder you from practicing your daily life activities? • Does hijab represent the oppression of women?

Answer

Asalamu Alaikum Reem,

Thank you for your questions, and I will try to provide brief answers as you requested. 

Muslim women wear hijab—which is more than just a head cover—because God ordered them to do so in two places in the Quran, and because of this the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him-PBUH) ordered it.

The Quran says:

{Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.} (Quran 24:30-31)

These verses tell us that our Islamic dress is not just a matter of covering the head alone, but also of covering the bosom, which is attractive to men, and of lowering the gaze and walking in a way that does not attract attention.

Note that the order to lower the gaze was addressed first to men. The other verse about the same point states:

{O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them [when they go abroad]. That will be better, that so they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.} (Quran 59:33)

This indicates that one of the reasons for hijab is to distinguish the believing woman from the non-believing. This relates to your second question concerning the logic behind hijab

The Quran was revealed for all times, and though circumstances change, human nature does not. The fact is that men do like to look at women’s bodies, so a woman who covers herself is more likely to be respected as a person than looked upon as a piece of meat or an object. 

Up until the end of the nineteenth century, a Western woman who had any self-respect covered her head—though perhaps not all her hair—in public. It is true that men don’t have to cover their heads, but there is a dress code for them as well, although it is not as widely publicized as the women’s dress code.

Men must at least be covered from the navel to the knees with loose fitting clothing. The rules for men are different because women are less likely to ogle men than the other way around. 

Do women feel hot in hijab? To be honest, sometimes, yes, so smart women wear cotton in the hot months. But overall, loose dresses are much cooler and healthier than tighter clothes that expose the skin to the sun. 

Why do some Muslim women cover their faces? Some women cover their faces either because they think it is required of them – only a minority of scholars say so – or because they think it is better for them to protect their modesty.

Others do not think it is required, but they prefer to act as the wives of Prophet Muhammad did, for they take them as a model in their everyday life. They believe that such act is a fadl (extra good deed), which would earn them more heavenly reward. 

Does a head cover prevent a woman from practicing her daily activities? I don’t see how it could. A woman does not normally wear hijab in her own house, so it shouldn’t get in the way when she’s doing day to day tasks in the home.

If a long head covering would get in the way in her work or pose a danger to her—if the woman were working around machinery or in a laboratory, for example—she can wear a different style that doesn’t have dragging ends.

Actually, hijab—perhaps loose trousers and a long shirt if her work requires her to bend, lift, or climb steps or ladders—gives a woman more freedom of movement than shorter and tighter clothes would. 

Is hijab an oppression? Quite the contrary. Dr. Fatima Naseef, author of Women in Islam, sees hijab as a woman’s right to maintain her modesty and to be respected as a person.

Please turn the question around: if one woman has the right to go half naked in public, why doesn’t another woman have the right to cover herself in public? Why is it looked upon as an oppression if she chooses to be modest? 

I hope these answers are satisfactory and if you need anything more, please do not hesitate to ask again. 

Thank you again for your questions and please keep in touch. 

Walaikum Asalam

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

How Should a Muslim Woman Dress?

If Heart is Clean, Why to Cover the Head?!

How To Be Self-Confident in Hijab

Praying and Fasting Enough… No Need For Hijab?! 

Is It Sinful to Not Wear Hijab?