The word "Hijab"—which literally means screening or, better said, protecting something from the view of others—refers, in the Islamic context, to a kind of attire or a piece of clothing that covers a woman's body and hair.
Not long before the advent of Islam were women regarded as objects of men's lust; female children were buried alive. To be brief, women were subject to physical exploitation and degradation. Islam, however, elevated women's status in society and granted them equitable treatment.
This idea is underscored many times in the Quran: “And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, should he be faithful such shall enter paradise and they will not be wronged] so much as [the speck on a date-stone” (4: 124); or, “Whoever commits a misdeed shall not be requited except with its like, but whoever acts righteously, whether male or female, should he be faithful such shall enter paradise, provided therein without any reckoning” (40: 40). There are copious other examples in this regard.
The fact that Hijab (in Islam) is not exclusively for women is equally important and worthy of attention; men also should be heedful of their clothing and their behavior. As a matter of fact, the Holy Quran first speaks of the word 'Hijab' about men and then women: “[Prophet], Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them. Allah is indeed well aware of what they do. And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts, and not to display their charms, except for what is outward, and let them draw their scarfs over their bosoms, and not display their charms except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers" sons, or their sisters" sons, or their women, or their slave girls, or male dependants lacking [sexual] desire, or children uninitiated to women's parts. And let them not thump their feet to make known their hidden ornaments. Rally to Allah in repentance, O faithful, so that you may be felicitous” (24: 30-31).
One out of the many benefits of the Hijab is to preserve and secure the stability of marriage, but how? Dressing modestly reduces extramarital sexual tensions between men and women.
Hijab, in essence, obliterates the ill thoughts of sick minds. In social interactions also Hijab does urges men and women to focus on the personality of each other, to build their relationship upon respect, virtue, and decency. In this way, they protect and propagate chastity and morality in society.
There are many great examples of chaste and pious women in the history of Islam who have tremendously contributed to the advancement of Islam and humanity in general.
As a key Islamic value, Hijab is consistent with human nature. Men and women are by nature in favor of maintaining their dignity and self-esteem, and Hijab paves this way; it gives them an inner strength and empowers them to tell the world their decency and virtue cannot be compromised. The result is inner peace.
Therefore, from the teachings of the Quran, we come to realize that Hijab is the best principle (or code of conduct, if you will) that guarantees a better condition for male-female interactions in society because it keeps rampant desires on a tight leash. On a larger scale, observation of the Hijab prevents the society from falling into corruption and degeneracy.
We also realized that Hijab is not merely limited to the physical covering of the head and body; in fact, the physical Hijab must be accompanied by the Hijab of the heart and the mind.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life—with its common pitfalls and concealed traps—Hijab is truly a liberation beyond measure; it frees us from the slavish imitation of pseudo-liberal fashions that appear by day and vanish by night. It is a shield that protects our honor and helps us focus more and more on our superior goals.
When talking about Hijab in Islam , the first impression that comes to mind is a cloth covering certain parts of women’s body. But is this the real meaning of the Hijab? Is that all Islam intended by ordering to wear Hijab; covering women’s bodies? This is surely one of the functions but is not the whole thing.
Hijab in Islam concerns men as much as women. Indeed, by introducing Hijab, Islam aims to set out a framework on how we dress, how we look, and how we interact in society. This also originates from a superior objective: limiting the human desires towards the opposite gender to one’s private life in the form of a legal marriage and letting the society focus on work and productivity .
Islam requires both women and men to dress simply, modestly, and with dignity. Simply said, one should not dress in a way to draw the attention of the others to their physical features. Islam has forbidden wearing the clothing that attracts the attention of the general public, making its wearer known for it because of the type of the fabric, its color, model or because of being worn and unclean ; and this applies to women and men both.
According to the Holy Quran, covering and Hijab of body dates back to the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “So when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became exposed to them, and they began to stitch over themselves with the leaves of paradise.” (7:22). This demonstrates that following the standards of modesty is innate in all human beings, and so do the Islamic dress codes.
Since modesty as the reason to wear the Hijab in Islam is a subjective term, the Quran and Sunnah [i] have laid out the bare minimum to prevent any confusion. The absolute minimum covering in Islam set for men is loose and unrevealing clothing from his navel to his knee . Men are not allowed to wear gold jewelry, silk clothing, or adornments that are considered feminine .
Muslim women, like men, are not permitted to wear tight and revealing clothing; especially the ones showing the details of their body. The clothing should cover their hair and body, but covering the face and the hands, from the wrist to the fingers, is not mandated . It is also forbidden for women to wear strong perfume, heavy make-up, or such jewelry that makes a jingle noise with movement and attracts the attention of others, especially strange men. They should not reveal their ornament either. These all let the Muslim women to be recognized in society by the content of their character rather than by their physical appearance and do force men to cease objectifying women.
It should be noted that besides these dress codes, Islam has mandated us to wear beautiful and clean clothes; especially when dealing with others and during prayers: “O Children of Adam! Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer” (7:31). This also should be considered as much as the clothing rules.
Islamic precept has introduced a particular way of decency by presenting the concept of controlling the gaze. It is stated in the Quran that: “Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks” (24:30); and: “And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks” (24:31). It means that women and men are both required to keep their gazes downcast unless permitted [ii].
Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “A glance is a poisoned arrow from the arrows of Satan. He who refrains from it [glancing] for the sake of Allah and nothing other than Him, Allah will grant him a faith, the taste of which he will experience.” .
Keeping the glance downcast prevents men from lustful thoughts when looking at any woman other than their wife and allows women to protect themselves and guard their modesty. If one truly believes that God is present everywhere and at every second, He sees all he does [iii], and “He knows the treachery of the eyes, and what the breasts hide.” (40:19), he controls his glance in public and in private.
As society is composed of women and men, their social interactions and communications are inevitable. Emphasizing the concept of decency, Islam has special guidelines for the interactions between members of the opposite sex. Islam, as the religion of moderation [iv] , does not allow a free relation, neither severely restricts this interaction, but allows women and men to communicate in good intention . This means that the speech should be direct and both sides should consider the human identity of the other person, not the gender.
Allah says in the Quran: “wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women: if you are wary [of Allah], do not be complaisant in your speech, lest he in whose heart is a sickness should aspire; speak honorable words.” (33:32).
Although this verse of the Quran addresses the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) who were mostly at the old age, it also applies to all other women especially young ones . This requires Muslims, specifically women, to use a serious tone of voice and expression when talking to the opposite gender. Otherwise, their sweet words might seduce the person whose heart might be diseased with lust.
[i] The lifestyle and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
[ii] e.g., in the case that a witness looks at the face of a non-mahram to recognize him/her.
[iii] “does he not know that Allah sees [him]?” (96:14)
[iv] “Thus We have made you a middle nation that you may be witnesses to the people” (2:143)
As a New Muslim woman, I find the Islamic lifestyle fully responsive in every aspect of my life. Here, Salam Islam deals with different issues regarding women in Islam. Salam Islam is a platform to make those who convert to Islam, more familiar with the benefits that the Islamic life can offer them.
Islam pays specific attention to women’s rights in life. The important role of women in the family, in society and their huge influence in the world, has not been neglected in Islam, as well as their personal and spiritual life is strongly protected based on Islamic lifestyle.
Let’s quickly monitor what Salam Islam provides about women in Islam;
Muslim women’s life might sound boring for those who have not chosen the Islamic lifestyle. A new convert to Islam may find herself confused in different aspects of her life. Salam Islam explains that Muslim women, better than all other women, can enjoy their lives by having lawful fun.
The issue of the Islamic dress code or Muslim women’s Hijab is also discussed from different standpoints in Salam Islam. What does Hijab mean? Is there a history of Hijab in Abrahamic religions? Why at all should they wear Hijab and cover their hair? Is there a chance that one converts to Islam without wearing Hijab? Does the Islamic dress code change from time to time and place to place, based on the conditions of time and place?
Salam Islam also covers the important issue of women’s marriage. It tries to clarify women’s rights in the family, and their rights in choosing the right spouse. Since women’s dignity and respect is very important in Islam, therefore women are free to choose a spouse based on Islamic guidelines. It is explained why Islam will allow women to marry a non-Muslim man and live under his demand.
The issues of women in Islam are sometimes wrongly described and understood in the west. Some western people based on their shallow understanding of Islam, undermine the high status of women in the whole system of Islamic life.
Salam Islam tries to answer most of the misconceptions regarding the aspect of women’s lives in society. Are women in Islam inferior to men? Can they have a career? Why should they cover themselves in society? What about feminism and women’s rights in society?
Is there any practical and tangible model for the life of women in Islam? To answer this question, Salam Islam studies the life of prominent women mentioned in the Holy Quran and the history. By studying their life stories and events, one will be inspired to follow the lifestyle of such great role models to have a successful life like them.
Role models such as Saint Mary, Hagar; the Wife of Prophet Abraham, Fatimah; Daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP), and Zainab; the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP).
If you have any questions about Mulsim women’s issues, you are welcome to send us your questions.