World Hijab Day: Why do Muslim Women Wear Hijab?


What is Hijab? The hijab, or ‘veil,’ is a sign of humility and dignity, worn to fulfill a divine mandate. However, that is not the only reason a Muslim woman wears a hijab. Contrary to common assumption, many Muslim women prefer to wear the hijab because they feel it empowering and a necessary part of their success. Typically, it alludes to the hair-covering headscarf that many Muslim women prefer to don. The term “hijab” may also refer to a complete body covering, omitting the hands and face.

Defining Hijab

A burqa or niqab, which are more comprehensive veils that also cover the hands and face, are not the same as a hijab. For devout Muslims, wearing a headscarf is required.

The necessity of what we call hijab (the act of veiling) was ordered by God in the Qur’an, and it was understood and implemented by Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ companions. According to academic opinion, wearing a headscarf is a religious duty.

This is not to say that all Muslim women must dress in the same way. Hijab traditions vary greatly among cultures, and this variance is both expected and tolerated.

Why do Muslim Women Wear Hijab?

Many Muslim women wear the hijab to fulfill a God-given obligation. Some see it as an opportunity to publicly display their Muslim religion. Other women perceive it as a rejection of cultural ideals that continuously aim to objectify and sexualize women.

Men have their own form of the hijab, which is often disregarded in talks about it. Though they are not required to cover their full bodies, they do have strict clothing and conduct rules that must be honorable and modest.

Roohi Tahir describes Hijab in detail in her article: Hijab: Spotlighting Servitude to God. One of the most heated arguments in society regarding Islam and Muslim women focuses around the theological concept of ay (modesty, shyness) and, unfortunately, its most visible manifestation—the wearing of hijab. The term hijab is derived linguistically from the meaning “to be shrouded, disguised, or shielded,” and it may be used both literally and metaphysically, as it occurs in the Qur’an.  However, the phrase is now associated with the headscarf worn by Muslim women.

The concept of the hijab as a sign of oppression and brutality against women by uncivilized Muslim males became a recruiting ground not just for American politicians, but also for modern Western feminists. The veiled Muslim woman’s body became the entity on which Western liberal neo-Orientalists superimposed their ideals, while the uncovered female body engaged in the public sphere became the marketable image of women in free market capitalism. Although feminist initiatives have long been used to demolish patriarchal control over women, including their physical identities, many contend that such movements have formed an unlikely alliance with capitalism, reinforcing unjust expectations for women’s bodies.

It is critical to acknowledge the presence and influence of still another factor—the cultural prejudice that has been passed down from generation to generation in many countries, including the Muslim world. This has encouraged misguided accusations that hijab and Islam are oppressive to women, while in fact, Islam and hijab honor and empower women, as we shall see when we address the true purpose of hijab. A variety of behaviors, ranging from insensitive to unfair and harsh, have led to the erroneous marginalization and even oppression of Muslim women by misinterpreting and misconstruing deep-rooted cultural ignorance for religion. 5 Practices such as denying women their God-given right to education, their own income and property, or their own voices, for example, continue to exist in plain sight.

 What Islam Says about Women

A Muslim woman’s name and possessions remain hers even after marriage. She is under no obligation to spend her money on her family. Furthermore, Muslim women have the ability to represent themselves in court and testify in their own defense. The Prophet ﷺ was ordered in the Qur’an (60:12) to receive the pledge of allegiance directly from women, giving them main responsibility for themselves, their own lives, and their own decisions.

 Women were allowed to speak on their own behalf even in the early days of Islam, and their voices were heard.

Is Hijab Mandatory?

According to the article Is Hijab Religious or Cultural? How Islamic Rulings Are Formed by Dr. Tesneem Alkiek, many people have expressed their confusion over the origins of the requirement that Muslim women cover their bodies and hair. In order to solve this issue, we will examine how Islamic legal decisions are typically made while using the prohibition against women wearing exposed skin as a case study. We will look at the few sources that are available to jurists and how they evaluate various texts in order to draw a legal conclusion. To do this, we must first define the term “hijab.” One frequently starts their search with this phrase in mind in an effort to comprehend the legal rule regarding the hijab. However, one will soon discover that their efforts are in vain. This is due to the false way that we currently use the word “hijab” to describe the law of covering. Linguistically, the term “hijab” refers to a visual barrier. The word “wall” is used throughout the Qur’an to describe both the physical barrier between those in paradise and those in hellfire (Surah al-A’raf, verses 44–46) as well as the metaphysical wall separating the hearts of believers and unbelievers (Surah Fussilat, verse 5, Surah al-Israa’, verse 45). The Prophet’s ﷺ wives were specifically instructed to keep a physical barrier between themselves and unrelated men (Surah al-Ahzab, verse 53), which is another reference to the hijab.

This is in addition to their requirement to cover themselves, thus it does not represent the hijab as we currently understand it. Therefore, even though hijab is mentioned in the Bible as a divider, in modern times, the word is most often translated as “headscarf.” We use the term “hijab” to refer to clothing that covers the body and the hair. In this perspective, loose, opaque clothing is also assumed because it is required for both men and women to cover their bodies (awrah).

Those who define the hijab as a non-binding cultural practice must also prove their claim. This is due to the assumption that divine mandates are lawful and binding in nature. Otherwise, one may argue that being obedient to one’s parents or honoring one’s visitors are merely cultural norms. Few will argue, however, that respecting our parents is a religious requirement. Similarly, scriptures concerning the hijab are derived from the same sources (the Qur’an and Sunnah) and employ the same obligatory terminology. As such, unless proof to the contrary is presented, they should be recognized as equally obligatory legal commands. In the absence of such proof (which is, unfortunately, lacking), the presumption that these documents are legally binding persists.

The fact that experts have reached an agreement on the subject is one of the greatest arguments supporting the legal obligation to cover one’s hair and dress modestly. When scholars all agree on a legal judgment, whether tacitly or overtly, the third fundamental source of Islamic law manifests: ijma, or consensus. The legal authority of consensus is founded primarily on the Prophet’s ﷺ reports, which say that the Muslim community would never agree on a mistake. In other words, if the entire society agrees on a legal requirement, it is impossible that it is an incorrect interpretation.

Reading this, one could conclude that academics’ approaches are unnecessarily difficult; if this was a clear divine commandment, why was it not expressly described in the Qur’an? To that end, we can look at one of the most essential responsibilities of Muslims—the need to pray five times a day—is not directly addressed in the Qur’an. However, there has never been a disagreement among Sunni Islamic scholarship that praying five times a day is a duty. Knowing this does not normally cause Muslims to become confused or doubtful. Furthermore, it is a representation of the different source texts that a jurist must assemble. It also underlines the need of depending on the Prophet’s ﷺ authoritative precedent and our intellectual abilities to deduce law.

Furthermore, there is no debate regarding the lack of clear instructions about prayer because our responsibility to pray became maʿlūm min al-dīn bi-al-ḍarūrah, or known inside the religion by necessity, very early on. In other words, it became a duty whose participation in the religion cannot be questioned because of the prophetic communities and those who inherited its vast knowledge and tradition. This is to suggest that specific Islamic law directives have to be fully stated and supported by proof.

Alternatively, some mandates, such as salah, were so basic and evident to the core of Islam that it became assumed that every Muslim would be aware of this requirement without needing to be reminded of the evidence. As a result, most legal literature generally skirt over why we pray five times a day and instead focus on how we should pray. Similarly, the duty for both men and women to dress modestly, and especially for women to cover their hair, was not only a logical application of these Qur’anic passages, but also an evident inference from the Prophet’s ﷺ guidance.


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