The Question of Hijab: Suppression Or Liberation?


Adam



The Question of Hijab: Suppression Or Liberation?

For many women it is the truest test of being a Muslim. The answer to the question is very simple – Muslim women observe HIJAB (covering the
head and the body) because Allah has told them to do so. “O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among
men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not annoyed…” [Noble Quran 33:59] Other secondary reasons include the requirement for modesty in both men and
women. Both will then be evaluated for intelligence and
skills instead of looks and sexuality. An Iranian school girl is quoted as saying, “We want to stop men from treating us
like sex objects, as they have always done. We want them
to ignore our appearance and to be attentive to our personalities and mind. We want them to take us seriously
and treat us as equals and not just chase us around for our
bodies and physical looks.” A Muslim woman who covers her
head is making a statement about her identity. Anyone
who sees her will know that she is a Muslim and has a good
moral character. Many Muslim women who cover are filled with dignity and self esteem; they are pleased to be
identified as a Muslim woman. As a chaste, modest, pure
woman, she does not want her sexuality to enter into interactions with men in the smallest degree. A woman
who covers herself is concealing her sexuality but
allowing her femininity to be brought out. The question of Hijab for
Muslim women has been a controversy for centuries and
will probably continue formany more. Some learned
people do not consider the subject open to discussion and
consider that covering the face
is required, while a majority
are of the opinion that it is not
required. A middle line
position is taken by some who claim that the instructions are
vague and open to individual
discretion depending on the
situation. The wives of the
Prophet (peace and blessings
be upon him) were required to cover their faces so that men
would not think of them in
sexual terms since they were
the “Mothers of the Believers,”
but this requirement was not
extended to other women. The word “Hijab” comes from
the Arabic word “hajaba”
meaning to hide from view or
conceal. In the present time,
the context of Hijab is the
modest covering of a Muslim woman. The question now is
what is the extent of the
covering? The Quran says: “Say to the believing man that
they should lower their gaze
and guard their modesty; that
will make for greater purity
for them; and Allah is well
acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing
women that they should lower
their gaze and guard their
modesty; and 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 husbands…” [Noble Quran 24:30-31] These verses from the Quran
contain two main injunctions: A woman should not show her
beauty or adornments except
what appears by uncontrolled
factors such as the wind
blowing her clothes, and the head covers should be
drawn so as to cover the hair,
the neck and the bosom. Islam has no fixed standard as
to the style of dress or type of
clothing that Muslims must
wear. However, some
requirements must be met. The
first of these requirements is the parts of the body which
must be covered. Islam has
two sources for guidance and
rulings: first, the Quran, the
revealed word of Allah and
secondly, the Hadith or the traditions of the Prophet
Muhammad (peace and
blessings be upon him) who
was chosen by Allah to be the
role model for mankind. The
following is a Tradition of the Prophet: “Ayshah reported that Asma’
the daughter of Abu Bakr came
to the Messenger of Allah
(peace and blessings be upon
him) while wearing thin
clothing. He approached her and said: ‘O Asma’! When a girl
reaches the menstrual age, it is
not properthat anything should
remain exposed except this
and this. He pointed to theface
and hands.” [Abu Dawud] The second requirement is
looseness. The clothing must be
loose enough so as not to
describe the shape of the
woman’s body. One desirable
way to hide the shape of the body is to wear a cloak over
other clothes. However, if the
clothing is loose enough, an
outer garment is not
necessary. Thickness is the
third requirement. The clothing must be thick enough so as not
to show the color of the skin it
covers or the shape of the
body. The Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings be upon
him) stated that in later generations of his Ummah
there would be “women who would be
dressed but naked and on top
of their heads (what looks
like) camel humps. Curse them
for they are truly cursed.”
[Muslim] Another requirement is an
over-all dignified appearance.
The clothing should not attract
men’s attention to the woman.
It should not be shiny and
flashy so that everyone notices the dress and the woman. In
addition there are other
requirements: Women must not dress so as to
appear as men. “Ibn Abbas narrated: ‘The
Prophet (peace and blessings
be upon him) cursed the men
who appear like women and
the women who appear like
men.’” [Bukhari] Women should not dress in a
way similar to the unbelievers. The clothing should be modest,
not excessively fancy and also
not excessively ragged to gain
others admiration or
sympathy. Often forgotten is the fact that
modern Western dress is a
new invention. Looking at the
clothing of women as recently
as seventy years ago, we see
clothing similar to Hijab. These active and hard-working
women of the West were not
inhibited by their clothing
which consisted of long, full
dresses and various types of
head covering. Muslim women who wear Hijab do not find it
impractical or interfering with
their activities in all levels and
walks of life. Hijab is not
merely a covering dress but
more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and
appearance in public. Dress is
only one facet of the total
being. The basic requirement
of the Muslim woman’s dress
apply to the Muslim man’s clothing with the difference
being mainly in degree.
Modesty requires that the area
between the navel and the
knee be covered in front of all
people except the wife. The clothing of men should not be
like the dress of women, nor
should it be tight or
provocative. A Muslim should
dress to show his identity as a
Muslim. Men are not allowed to wear gold or silk. However,
both are allowed for women. For both men and women,
clothing requirements are not
meant to be a restriction but
rather a way in which society
will function in a proper,
Islamic manner. III&E Brochure Series
(Published by The Institute of
Islamic Information and
Education (III&E) and
reproduced in electronic form
by Islamic Academy for Scientific Research with
permission)

Posted: 2013-07-16

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