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Hijab: A historical recount

Date: 11/08/2012 A.D 23/09/1433 H

Fatema makki

The word “Hijab” is derived from the Arabic word “hajaba” meaning to hide from view or conceal. Nowadays, the context of Hijab refers to the modest covering of a Muslim women; which also constitutes abstaining from wearing apparent makeup, lowering her gaze, and speaking modestly.

Lately, the rising trend of banning Hijab in European countries, in which the predominant religion is Christianity, has caused an uproar in the Muslim communities from Cairo to Casablanca. However, one cannot turn a blind eye to the checkered history of head cover in Europe and worldwide since Judaism, through Christianity, until the last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (p), the restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.

 When studying the flow of historical events surrounding Hijab, we discover that the first form of Hijab appeared in Judaism dating before 244 CE. Jews were asked to dress differently so as to distinguish them from other non-believers. Women, according to the Biblical commandments, are supposed to wear a head scarf in compliance with the code of “tznuit” , Hebrew for modesty. Jews are supposed to practice modesty in the dress, while men generally wear long pants and long shirts, women are supposed to wear long-sleeve blouses and ankle-length dresses, and the color schemes are more subdued and sedate. In addition, it has been mentioned in the Talmud that “every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” (11:5 Corinthians). Notwithstanding, a women exposing her hair to her paramour is to be punished.

The aforementioned Jewish clothing has been worn by Jews  in the land of Israel for thousands of years. Many to this day dress this way for religious reasons while others do so for cultural ones.

 The concept of modesty and feminine apparel has also been extensively discussed in the New Testament: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold or pearls, or costly array; but (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.” (Timothy 2.9-10). The verse explicitly explains that a Christian woman must dress in a manner so as to not draw attention to herself. The early Christian women veiled their heads not only in church, but also anytime they were in public.

Christian women continued to maintain this practice through the all centuries up to the nineteenth and twentieth century. During the nineteenth century, many Christians in the United States and western Europe began arguing that long hair constituted the only covering women needed. Others said that women only needed to wear a covering when in church.

Nowadays, religious habits, a distinctive veil, are worn by members of religious order. While monks wear a hood and a cassock, nuns wear a veil, also known as, habit.  

Habits have always been designed to convey a specific image or ideal. Some habits were specifically created to distinguish women who consecrated their lives to God; other habits reflected the sisters’ desire to blend in among the people they served. In our recent times, the habits is considered as a universally recognized icon. And when many religious abandoned habits in the 1960s and ’70s, it stirred a debate that continues today.

 This brings us to the controversial issue of Hijab. Hijab, according to the laws of Sharia, is the dutiful Islamic dress code. Hijab is not a mere head cover which covers a female’s autonomy, but rather a conduct that  a Muslim woman must adopt in her daily life. It has been mentioned in the Holy Quran that women are asked to: “…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...” (24:31)

Islam liberated women from the constrictions imposed by the pre- Islamic Arab society. It did not blame Eve for the First Sin nor did it claim that the woman was born from the man’s rib. Thus, setting her on a platform of justice and equality with man. It opened up the spiritual, economic, social, and political space to women and gave them freedom and individuality. In order to safeguard these rights, Hijab was ordained so as to present the Muslim women as an individual and a human being rather than a sexual being; thus, preserving her.

 

Comments

4

Name: Zahraa Larian
Subject: Zahraa Larian
Comment: Salam alaekom Can you please clearly specify exactly if the feet need to be covered by socks (how thick) or shoes and how loose the hijab clothes need to be and if the top needs to be very long (for example knee level or lower...)?. I read in the prayer hijab that feet don't need to be covered? Is that so for all hijab or just in prayer. Many thanks,
Answer:  It is not obligatory to cover the feet from below the ankle. The clothes should be loose and long enough to cover the body and its beauty features, in a way that the body’s curves and figure are not shown.

3

Name: Maryam
Subject: Hijab
Comment: There is no need for any complications. Wearing the Hijab is a duty that was ordained by the Holy Quran. The verses are clear and do not tolerate any interpretation.

The order of not showing Zeenah except what is apparent of it is clear and it has been explained by the Noble traditions that what is below the Khimar and the bracelet (wrist) is Zeenah. Women are, thus, permitted to show the face and the palms of the hands. There is also evidence that women are allowed to show their feet.

The command to the Prophet's wives and daughters and to the Muslim women to let down their over garments also indicates that they should wear the Hijab. The exclusion of elderly women also proves the same point.

In addition, the call of the Quran on women not to be soft in speech and not to display their finery as in the age of ignorance also indicates what Islam has ordained with respect to women of not showing their feminine beauty. The rules limiting the mixing of opposite sexes and the like also prove the obligation to wear Hijab.
Answer: The veil (Hijab) is a religious duty as stipulated by the Holy Quran, for Allah says: “And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! So that you may be successful,” (24:31), and: “O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (33:59). Moreover, the veil immunizes the woman and protects her from being exposed to anything that might offend her. The veil enables the woman to engage in the society as a human being and deal with the others on the basis of her potentials and capabilities, and not her femininity or beauty and physical features. The Hijab symbolizes piety and purity, and it protects the woman’s dignity and honor from the ones in whose hearts is a disease and who are moved with desire.

2

Name: mona tarhini
Subject: ...
Comment: WHY SHOULD A GIRL COVER UP EVEN WHEN SHE IS NOT SO EXPOSING HER BEAUTY ..BUT SHE IS RESPECTING ALL THEN RELIGION SAYINGS...WHAT IS THE RESULT OF A GIRL NOT WEARING THE HIJAB ...AND I AM SO SCARED FROM GOD BUT I CANT JUST TAKE THE DECISION
Answer: The veil (Hijab) is a religious duty as stipulated by the Holy Quran, for Allah says: “And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! So that you may be successful,” (24:31), and: “O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (33:59). Moreover, the veil immunizes the woman and protects her from being exposed to anything that might offend her. The veil enables the woman to engage in the society as a human being and deal with the others on the basis of her potentials and capabilities, and not her femininity or beauty and physical features. The Hijab symbolizes piety and purity, and it protects the woman’s dignity and honor from the ones in whose hearts is a disease and who are moved with desire.

1

Name: Ali El-Hallani
Subject: Hijab
Comment: Salamu alaikum I am a muslim living in the United States. I follow the taqleed of Sayyid Fadlalah. Recently, there has been a sort of social trend among young woman who wear hijab, to take it off and take the view point that hijab, i.e, to cover the hair with a veil is not supported by evidence in the Quran or Hadith. Can you please give me specific proofs for the veil to cover the hair whether it is in the Quran or strong Hadith by our Holy Prophet (PBUH & HF) or the Holy Imams (PBUT)? Thank you for your time Kind Regards and Salaam Ali
Answer: The obligation of wearing the Hijab is confirmed in both the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (p.). furthermore, it is agreed upon by all jurists of all Muslim sects. Allah says: “And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! So that you may be successful,” (24:31), and: “O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (33:59).

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