Can I Remove Hijab for Safety Reasons?

01 February, 2019
Q I live in the UK and I wear hijab. Due to Islamophobic attacks increasing in the UK, a lot of people suggest that I should not wear hijab for my safety. The question is: can Muslim women remove hijab for safety reasons?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

1- If you have genuine reasons to fear for your safety, then you are allowed to remove hijab while wearing modestly as best as you can.

2- However, you are not allowed to remove Hijab if there is no real threat or fear.

3- It would be best if you make the judgment for yourself based on your moral conscience.


In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

If you have genuine reasons to fear for your safety, then you are allowed to remove hijab while wearing modestly as best as you can.  It would be best if you make the judgment for yourself based on your moral conscience.

However, you are not allowed to remove Hijab if there is no real threat or fear. In other words, isolated incidents of harassment or mocking cannot justify your decision for removing Hijab. Allah says:

“The wicked ones used would laugh at the believers. When they pass by them they would wink at one another [derisively]; and upon returning to their people, they would return jestingly.” (Al-Mutaffifin 83:29-31)

Also, we also read elsewhere in the Qur’an:

“You will surely be tried in respect to your possessions and your selves. And you will surely hear much that is offensive from those to whom scripture was given before you, and from idolators. If you are patient and conscientious, that is the highest order of things.”  (Aal `Imran 3:186)

Rare occurrences of jeering, mocking and hurtful words and expressions from those who are hostile to Islam should not bother us. It is a normal part of witnessing the truth of Islam.

We are to bear them patiently and leave the judgment to Allah while praying for their guidance. That was the example the Prophet (peace be upon him) set for us; thanks to it he was able to turn hundreds of his bitter foes into bosom friends.

Fear for one’s life and honor, however, are different from the above; since these are of higher order in the Shari`ah; the stringent rules are relaxed if necessary to safeguard them. So, one must ascertain the severity of the issue in a particular city or country in the given circumstances.

So yet we are not allowed to generalize based on isolated incidents of violence reported in some places.

Muslims have been living for years in these countries without persecution or much interference; so, we cannot make a blanket ruling. How can we do so, when hundreds of women have been carrying around wearing hijab without any such real threat or danger?

So, you are not allowed to remove the hijab based on isolated incidents of harassment.

If, however, you are living in a city where there is a pattern of violence and you fear for your safety, you should relocate, if possible to a safer place; if this is not an option, then you are allowed to remove Hijab and wear modest attire that does not invite attention.

While speaking of modest Islamic attire for women, I would rush to clarify some prevalent misconceptions among many Muslims today:

You are not bound to wear abayas and niqabs as they do in Saudi Arabia or some middle eastern countries. It is enough for you to wear loose pants or attire worn by women where you live as long as they are modest and cover the essential parts of the body.

The niqab is not at all a prescribed requirement for women in Islam as many people think. I would even go as far as saying: wearing niqab would only reinforce the negative image associated with Islam in the minds of many Westerners. So we are thus creating obstacles in the path of Dawah and presenting the positive message of Islam.

While covering hands and face is not a requirement, covering the head and the bosom is. However, you may wear a hat or something like that. If there is a real reason to fear, then you may uncover your head. Covering the head in winter should not pose a problem as most people cover their heads.

Before concluding, I would like to mention an important point: in the final analysis, only a woman judges how safe she feels; it should not be left to a man to be the judge in such matters. Instead, she should choose for herself by consulting her moral conscience: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Consult your conscience….the virtue is that which your soul feels at ease; sin is that which causes agitation in your soul.” (Ahmad, Al-Mundhiri An-Nawawi, and others)

Almighty Allah knows best.