Hijab; just a scarf on the head? This is a common misunderstanding, whilst it is easier to refer to the headscarf as a hijab, simply as a name to refer to a type of garment, it is actually a concept rather than a single item of clothing.
Hijab is a means of modesty, to cover. When we refer to outter appearances, it would mean to cover ones “nakedness” (awrah). Awrah is specified for both males and females. For the men, this is specified as between the naval and the knee. For females it is the entire body, excluding hands & face. Behind this reasoning, it is important to understand the genetic difference between men and women and the male mind is more driven by visual stimulus and more easily subjected to lust and desire.
This is also for specific groups of people, between a husband and wife, there is no awrah to cover. Between women, there is a different set of rules for covering, and between women and strangers of the opposite gender.
For the sake of simplicity we will focus on the awrah for women infront of strangers and of mixed company as this is a female based guide.
Fun fact, Muslims are not the only faith group to practice wearing the hijab, other monotheistic religions also historically wear hijab as ordained by the prophets.
The hijab therefore is more than just a scarf on the head, but a way to remain modest, it would be easier to refer to the head covering as perhaps a hijab scarf.
The headscarf warn by the vast majority of women is known commonly as the hijab, as discussed earlier, this can be somewhat confusing. This headscarf should cover the head, neck and chest, whilst leaving the face clear. This is the commonly accepted version of hijab as required under islamic statutes on dress. This type of headscarf is usually rectangular or can be square. The square hijab is more of a turkic centric style, and is becoming less common in favour of more rectangular wraps.
The khimar is a long head covering, similar to a prayer garment. This scarf is sewn to be a one piece garment, which covers from the head and hangs down to the middle of the back, this type of hijab covers the head, neck and shoulders, leaving the face clear, but going over the arms.
Like the khimar, this is a long head covering, sewn as one piece, except this time, the garment flows all the way down to the feet. This type of garment is more familiar to iran. It can also be seen across afghanistan and north west pakistan.
The Burqa is similar to the chador, except it covers the face too, leaving a small meh to allow the woman to see through. This is much more common in afghanistan. There is a possibility that this tradition remains there as one of the tribes of Israel, “yusuf zai” (Sons of joseph) have lived there for thousands of years, which takes some of the orthodox principles of judaism and applied to afghani pashtun culture.
The niqab is a face covering that leaves a small opening for the eyes. This is warn with a khimar, but on some occasions is warn with the headscarf.
The wisdom that comes to us through the quran and sunnah should never be underestimated. Allah swt has blessed our nation with his direct word through the Quran, and guidance on conduct through the prophet Saw in the form of hadith.
The hijab has been described for both men and women. Whereas today the word has been related to be just the covering of the hair, it is important to disconnect ourself from this misunderstanding and learn what the true nature of hijab is, and through wisdom; understand why it is important to follow the concept of hijab and to avoid falling into the dangers of past nations.
Corruption does not happen overnight, it happens over many years, eventually disconnecting one generation from the next and following the message of the forefathers (our elders that have passed), like a game of chinese whispers, only worse. If a nations foundations are weak, it can ultimately lead to its demise and collapse as we have seen routinely through history. Morality is at the core of this, and where nations have turned immoral, over years, they have demised, and where they have transgressed and treated one another unjustly in extremely immoral ways, this has raised Allahs displeasure and lead to the punishment of past nations.
From this we must remember that the hijab is the strongest foundation for morality. The concept of hijab strenghtens the foundations of our being and as a social group. It prevents us from slipping into the habits of past nations, and perhaps future nations. The simple misguidance of removing a garment, can lead to a series of events over hundreds of years that may eventually lead to severe misguidance and corruption. This however does not mean that you do not take human nature into account, human nature is to beautify, to admire and aspire for beauty and greatness, therefore Allah has given us a means of moderation, the ability to do as humans do, but within rules, rules which help to keep us on a path worthy of an enlightened human, rather than a path of those nations destroyed before us.
Allah has instructed the believing women to dress in a way which is modest, once a child reaches the age of puberty, she should choose to wear the hijab as a means of practicing the religion and showing ones devotion to Allah. The outer appearance of a person also influences the inner spirituality and connectedness of oneself to God. The wearing of the headscarf is also as previous explained, accompanied with wearing the full hijab, covering ones awrah, after puberty as this is when a child becomes a young lady and starts to become responsible for her deeds.
"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)
“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 therof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31).
“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).
This ‘covering’ was then explicitly clarified by the Prophet ﷺ in the hadith we will mention below. The narration of A’isha above also tells us how the Muslim understood the verse. It should also be noted that the words are directed at all believing women, not just slaves, free-women, or the Mothers of the Believers.
‘Aisha used to say: ‘When [the Verse]: ‘They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms,” was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their heads and faces with those cut pieces of cloth.’
In Sahih Muslim, we find the hadith of Abu Huraira, who said, ‘I invited my mother, who was a polytheist, to Islam. I invited her one day and she said to me something about Allah’s Messenger ﷺ which I hated. I came to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ weeping and said: Allah’s Messenger, I invited my mother to Islam but she did not accept (my invitation). I invited her today but she said to me something which I did not like. (Kindly) supplicate Allah that He may set the mother of Abu Huraira right. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: O Allah, set the mother of Abu Huraira on the right path. I came out quite pleased with the supplication of Allah’s Apostle ﷺ and when I came near the door it was closed from within. My mother heard the noise of my footsteps and she said: Abu Huraira, just wait. And I heard the noise of falling of water. She took a bath and put on the shirt and quickly covered her head with a headdress and opened the door and then said: Abu Huraira, I bear witness to the fact that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His bondsman and His Messenger.’
It is also narrated in al Bukhari that Hafsa said, ‘We used to forbid our young women to go out for the two `Id prayers. A woman came and stayed at the palace of Bani Khalaf and she narrated about her sister whose husband took part in twelve holy battles along with the Prophet (ﷺ) and her sister was with her husband in six (out of these twelve). She (the woman’s sister) said, “We used to treat the wounded, look after the patients and once I asked the Prophet, ‘Is there any harm for any of us to stay at home if she doesn’t have a veil?’ He said, ‘She should cover herself with the veil of her companion and should participate in the good deeds and in the religious gathering of the Muslims.’
It is clear from the above authenticated ahadith that covering the head and body were clearly understood as an obligation that applied to all Muslim women.
Other narrations regarding the hijab are weak, however, in aggregation, and with the support of other textual proofs and scholarly consensus, their meanings are valid. An example is the words of the Prophet ﷺ to Asma bin Abu Bakr, ‘O Asma’! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands.’ [Abu Dawud]
Here is a brilliant short talk by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf regarding the Hijab, immediately addresses the issue, "Hijab is sharia, there is no doubt about that, it is not traditional."
Like everyone on this earth, we are all on a journey, not everyone is on the same page, or same stage, a minority of people misunderstand and think that the hijab has not been ordained for muslim women, and believe it to be culture rather than religious, however this is incorrect. As we have been given instruction through the Prophet muhammad on how to conduct ourselves, and these collections have been put together in the form of Hadith. Within the hadith it gives us the instructions on prayer, and conduct and more. The prophet saw is the ideal role model, as a prophet of God, and therefore we follow his teachings, as he is the closest being to God, and most relatable, to us. To ignore this, would be to lead a life of ignorance and would be ignoring Gods wisdom. He has given us these instructions as a favour to us, to ignore them, would be most ungrateful.
The British Journal of Psychology today revealed in a study that women who wear the hijab feel better about their body image than those who do not wear the hijab.
The study took 587 Muslim Women, from this group 218 of the women never wore hijab and 369 wore some form of the hijab. The participants undertook a number of questions to rate their own feelings of body dissatisfaction, the pressure of the media to be attractive and how religious they were. They also were asked to match themselves to a silhouette image that ranged from emaciated to obese.
The results found were that women wearing the hijab were able to distance themselves from the unhealthy obsession of the western ideal thin type and could lead to healthier body image and mental states. It is also important to note that this hightens the Muslim woman mind from being a sexual object to one of greater role in society.