Viewing dress as protection, we use certain fabrics such as wool to keep us warm in winter and cotton and linen to keep us cool in hot weather. The covering of the skin in the sun protects the tissues beneath it and covering the head and hands in winter helps to keep the heat in the body. All this and more has been given to us by the Master Creator of all designs, Allah. Why, then, do we continue to deny His Honor and gifts?
The word hijab in Arabic means barrier, covering or screen and thus it appears in various verses of the Holy Quran, referring to many things besides the woman’s head cover. Let us ponder on the logic of hijab.
The Holy Quran teaches us to look around with open eyes and minds, to think, rationalize, and reach logical conclusions. If we look at the universe, from the smallest atom to the huge celestial bodies, don’t we see how everything important or precious is protected and concealed with a cover? Think of the skin to the human body, the womb to the baby, the plasma wall to the cell, the bark to the tree, the shell to the egg, even the entire planet we live on is enjoying the protection of a hijab which we call the atmosphere against the dangers of asteroids and harmful cosmic rays.
Questions regarding hijab are asked by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Why do Muslim women have to cover their hair and bodies in this manner? The answer is very simple, Muslim women observe hijab because Allah commands them to do so. The hijab, in Islam, is a woman’s veil, her protection ordained as a command from Allah, and in love and obedience to Him, she wears it and conceals what He, our Almighty Creator, would have her conceal.
“O Messenger! 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.” Chapter 33: Line 59
Islam is a complete way of life that must be wholly adhered to by its followers. Allah is Al- Quddus – completely free from all defects and errors. Hence, His laws sent down are infallible, eternally. Wearing hijab and dressing modestly, therefore, will never be out dated. Yet, hijab is not merely a covering, but more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. Dress is only one facet of the total being; and the veil much more than a piece of cloth, it is a symbol of our identity.
It was a challenge living in the U.S. through 911 and wearing hijab; some ladies, out of fear, took it off because they did not want to be identified as Muslims. Our Almighty Creator says fear Him only. Islam uplifted women, gave them equality, and expects them to maintain their status. The status of women in Islam is often the target of attacks in the secular media, and the Islamic way of dress is cited by many as an example of the subjugation of women under Islamic Law. The Holy Quran says that hijab enables women to be recognized as modest women and this will also protect them from being molested. The ladies’ outer garment (when she goes outside of her home) must cover her entire body, except hands and face, must be loose and must not be transparent, so as not to show her body contours. And Islam is not the only religion that requires Hijab. It was obligatory until 1960 for Christian women to cover their heads in church, expressed in I Corinthians, verse 11: “Be ye followers of me, even as I am your Lord but every woman that prayeth or prophesith with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
Ironically, non-Muslim societies claim to have uplifted women by allowing them to expose their bodies, but on the contrary, this has actually degraded the entire society.
Yet, the truth is that over 1400 years ago, Islam recognized women’s rights in a way that grants them the utmost protection and respect as well, a combination other systems fail to offer. Islam granted women freedom of expression, political participation, business and financial rights, and asked the rest of society to hold them in high esteem and offer them due respect as mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters. Any woman, no matter what walk of life can achieve this liberation. Our hijab is our crown – we wear it proudly; and modesty and awareness of our Almighty Creator is a priceless, heavenly decoration. Remember, the most precious things are covered – diamonds and gold within the ground, and pearls inside a shell under the deep sea. A Muslim ladies’ honor is more precious than diamond, pearls or gold.
In the western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it is simply a woman’s submission to her Almighty Creator.
Wearing the Hijab and dressing modestly has given us freedom from constant negative attention to our physical selves; that impacts women and society in ways that are not beneficial. True equality will be attained only when women don’t need to display themselves to feel a sense of self-worth, and won’t need to defend their decisions to adopt modesty overall.