Why do Muslim Women Cover Their Hair?

In recent years, the scarf or Hijab in Islam that Muslim women wear on their heads to cover the hair has engaged many governments and has been among the headlines around the world. Since then, Hijab and covering the hair has been banned in certain government buildings, schools, and public services in some countries.

 

So the question is: what is that strong incentive that makes Muslim women even more resolute to maintain their belief in Hijab, despite all these controversies and conflicts?

 

Hijab in Islam, women in islam, salamislam

 

Islamic Dress Code

 

According to most of the Islamic jurists, Muslim women are required to wear the clothing that covers their hair and entire body except the face and the hands, from the wrist to the fingers, in the presence of non-Mahrams or small boys whose consciousness of sex has developed or the evidence of sexual urge is noticed on them [1]. So, in the circumstances where non-Mahrams are not likely to be present, there is no need for Muslim women to wear Hijab in Islam.

 

In Surah Nur, women are ordered to “not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears” (24:31). In a narration from Imam Sadiq (AS) and some other Islamic narrations [2], the hair is known to be an adornment for a woman, then, it is obligatory (Wajib) to cover it. The very first reason to veil the hair is, therefore, the commitment to the ruling on Hijab in Islam.

 

However, it should be noted that there has always been a natural tendency in human beings, especially in women, which made them not expose their body. This originates from an inner sense of modesty and decency which is stronger in women. Hence, the Islamic dress code is in complete accordance with the human nature.

 

Hijab in Islam, women in islam, salamislam

Wearing Hijab in Islam and Mental Relief

 

It is evident that the beauties of a woman’s appearance, hair and body have always been appealing to men, and even women; that is why they usually appear on the advertisements to attract more customers for companies. On the other hand, women tend naturally to show their beauties and to get admiration. Men might be therefore easily appealed by the appearance of non-Mahram women, and this can eventually lead to a forbidden (Haram) gaze [i].

 

Committing a first forbidden (Haram) gaze and then consecutive ones affect both who looks (man) and who is looked at (woman). The one, who looks, remains thoughtful for a while by what he has seen and this may even last for days and weeks and lead even to some lustful thoughts. Also, one who has received a forbidden (Haram) gaze won’t be at ease and might feel her privacy invaded. So, both sides will be under some sort of stress and anxiety.

 

Since the two sides are both affected by a forbidden (Haram) gaze, women and men are equally required to take part to avoid such looks. To this kind of gaze and its consequent mental pressures, Islam orders women to cover their hair, and more generally their body. This is, in fact, the strategy to remove the external causes of sinful looks which concern women.

 

For the men’s part, they should participate by controlling their eyes. Forbidden (Haram) gaze is such that brings about one after the other. So, men are commanded not to follow the first unintended look by the second one; in other words, they should put an inner barrier to such looks.  

 

Wearing Hijab in Islam and Social Effects

 

Islam has encouraged women to appear in the society modestly and with dignity. This is, however, something inherent in every woman. The more simply a woman is dressed and is dignified, the more she will be respected by men and will be protected from the harmful gaze. The after effects of a forbidden (Haram) gaze are not limited to the unpleasant feeling that it brings about.

 

Women who do not wear Hijab, including the ones who do not cover their hair, are more susceptible to such annoying looks at any time and anywhere, and this consequently makes them feel more “unsecured” in the society. Even in some cases, this might end in some sorts of sexual abuse which is a crime in every society.

 

Hijab in Islam, women in islam, salamislam

 

Moreover, the Hijab of a body is the basis for other types of Hijab that are commanded in Islam and which have the same aim in the society. It means to invite the humans to modesty and dignity in order to guarantee a normal and equilibrated society. These kinds of Hijab offer a reference on how one should look at non-Mahrams, the way of talking with them and the behavior in their presence [ii]:

 

  • Hijab of the eyes, recognized as controlling the glance, which mainly concerns  men (as discussed above);
  • Hijab of talking when dealing with non-Mahrams, which concerns both women and men. It is about using a serious tone of voice, caring about the words exchanged, considering the human identity of the other person other than his/ her gender, and just focusing on the subject and the purpose of the discussion. Otherwise, the goal of the conversation, either scientific, formal, social or working, won’t be achieved;
  • Hijab of the behavior that implies being decent and modest towards the opposite gender, in a way that the person with the lust in the heart cannot dare to violate one’s privacy (especially women’s privacy).

 

Another social effect of Hijab manifests itself in the family, as the basic unit of the society. In Islamic teachings, great importance has been given to the family as an influential institution of the society. Forming a family (through marriage) is known to be so dear to God as no other establishment [3]. Muslims are advised to satisfy some natural needs such as emotional and sexual ones, as well as beauty seeking desire only and only within the framework of the family.

 

This allows a regulated enjoyment of the beauties a woman has, accompanied with the commitment, which respects the principles of women’s rights. Besides, disobeying the Islamic ruling on Hijab in the society and exposing men to the feminine beauties in the streets, which would be tempting for them, is undesirable from the Islamic point of view. This makes the foundation of the family vulnerable and equally affects the relationship between the spouses.

 

Wearing Hijab in Islam, Covering the Hair and Being Recognized as a Muslim


Unlike previous religions, Hijab does not present a monastic attitude in Islam. Hijab in Islam follows certain social and individual purposes and helps one to live a better life. The Quran invites Muslim women to wear Hijab in order to be recognized as Muslims in the society and prevent being abused (33:59).

 

This becomes however suspended in case of distress and constriction [4]. The majority of Muslim women choose to wear Hijab to obey God and to be recognized by their intellect and minds rather than their physical appearance. They often believe that Hijab liberates them from the need to conform to unrealistic stereotypes and images dictated by the media [5].

 

They do not consider Hijab in Islam as a symbol of oppression but as a sign of Islamic consciousness. That is why they view it as a right and not a burden.

 

Notes:

[i] See “The Islamic Etiquette of Looking” for more info.

[ii] See the article “Hijab: the Real Meaning” for more details.

References: 

[1] A. Aroussi Howayzi, "Tafsir Noor al-Thaqalayn", vol. 3/589, T. 105.

[2] H. Al-Ameli, “Wassail Al-Shia”, vol. 20, p.59.

[3] M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 103, p. 222.

[4] R. Mugehi, “Family religious precepts”, p.38

[5] http://www.islamreligion.com