In recent years, a small piece of cloth has managed to cause quite a hustle. The Hijab that Muslim women wear is making headlines around the world. Hijab is banned in France and in other European countries. Even predominantly Muslim countries such as Turkey and Tunisia ban the Hijab in certain government buildings. When a small piece of Hijab creates such controversies and conflicts, wouldn’t it be better to remove it?
There are incalculable of reasons why, but the easiest one sentence answer is, Allah has made it an obligation for believing women.
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and protect their private parts. And, tell the believing women to lower their gaze and protect their private parts, and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands's sons, or their brothers or their nrother;s sons or their their sister's sons, or the Muslim women... (till the end) [Quran Surah An Nur Ayat 30-31]
These verses of Quran are known as the verses of Hijab and it is the consensus of Islamic scholars that they make the wearing of Hijab mandatory. Women are expected to cover their hair and wear some sort of loose fitting, full-length garment over their clothes. However, for the majority of Muslim women around the world to cover or not to cover is a freely made choice. Allah requires Muslim women to dress modestly and to wear the Hijab in public and in the presence of men who are not close relatives.
The literal meaning of Hijab is to veil, to cover. Islam is known as a religion concerned with community cohesion and moral boundaries and therefore Hijab is a way of ensuring that the moral boundaries between unrelated (Non-Mehram) men and women are respected. In this sense, the term Hijab encompasses more than a Scarf and more than a dress code. It is a term that denotes modest dressing and modest behaviour. For instance, if a Muslim woman was wearing a Scarf but at the same time using bad language, she would not be fulfilling the requirements of Hijab.
Majority of Muslim women wear Hijab, to obey Allah and to be known as respectable women. However, in the last few years Hijab has emerged as a sign of Islamic consciousness. Many women see wearing the Hijab as indicative of their desire to be part of an Islamic revival, especially in countries where the practice of Islam is discouraged or even forbidden.
While those who seek to ban Hijab refer to it as a symbol of gender based repression, the women who choose to wear Hijab, in the broadest sense of the word, do so by making personal decisions and independent choices. They consider it as a right and not a burden. Nor do these women consider Hijab as a sign of oppression. Women who wear Hijab often describe themselves as being “set free” from society’s unrealistic fashion culture.
Hijab frees women from being thought of as sexual commodity of desire or from being valued for their looks or body shape rather then their minds and intellect. Hijab liberates women from the need to conform to unrealistic stereotypes and images dictated by the media. Women wearing Hijab have expressed that dressing modestly and covering their hair, minimises sexual harassment in the workplace. The aura of privacy created by Hijab is indicative of the great value Islam places upon women.
It is true that in some families and in some cultures women are forced to wear Hijab but this is not the norm. The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion [Quran Surah Al Baqrah Ayat 256].
Women who choose to wear Hijab do not make the decision lightly. In fact many women testify that they faced great animosity from their Muslim or non-Muslim families when they decided to cover.
Hijab can be a symbol of piety and it can be a sign of great inner strength and fortitude. A woman wearing Hijab becomes a very visible sign of Islam.
Hijab is one of the most important obligations in Islam, as Allah has ordained it in His Book and has forbidden the uncovering and dressing improperly. Mohammad(saw) also commanded it in his Sunnah. Therefore, claiming that this act of worship (i.e., the Hijab) was only obligatory in a certain period of time is baseless.
"So be patient. Verily the promise of Allah is true; and let not those who have no certainty of faith discourage you." [Quran Surah Ar Room Ayat 60]
Islam talks about modesty and Hijab is one of the source of gaining modesty and for women modesty is considered to be the best jewel.
[Zainab Gazala Sheikh is studying at The Law School Jammu Uuniversity. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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