What is Hijab? Why Do Muslim Women Wear it?
Is Islam the only religion that instruct women to wear a veil? Are there other religions or cultures that instruct their women to wear a veil? Do men have to wear a veil and what’s the wisdom behind it?
Although the English word “scarf” and the Arabic term “Hijab” have become interchangeable, it is worth noting that Hijab is more than just a scarf. Hijab is a way of ensuring that the moral boundaries between unrelated 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 along with modest behavior. A common misconception is that Muslim women are the only ones who cover their hair. It may be true that Muslims are the only group in which most women follow the directive to cover the hair, but this was the dress code of believing women. Women who truly submitted to God’s will i.e. Muslims.
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The first recorded instance of veiling for women is recorded in the Assyrian legal texts from the 13th century BC, which restricted its use to noble women and forbade prostitutes and common women from adopting it.
Women in Christianity
True followers of Jesus (Peace be upon him) dressed modestly, especially his mother Mary (may peace be upon her). Throughout the Bible, there is a reference to modest dress. For instance, the First Epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 11 verses 3–10) read:
“But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered, disgraces her head for it is the same as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not covered, let her be shaven. But if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then let her cover her head.”
Women in Judaism
The covering of women’s hair is part of Jewish laws on modesty. A woman’s hair is considered ervah or erotic stimulus. Which must therefore, be covered just as other ervah parts of a woman’s body must also be covered. There are many references in the Old Testament that indicated that. Let’s look at a couple.
“So she took her veil and cover herself.” [Genesis 24:65]
“And she put her widow’s garments off from her and covered her with a veil and wrapped herself.” [Genesis 38:14]
When Islam came, it came to continue the commands of God to all his prophets, and restore the dignity of women modesty and equality.
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Hijab for Men?
Islam does not only require the veil for women, but it also requires that men too dress modestly. Some people only discuss Hijab in the context of women. However, in the Quran, Allah The Almighty, first mentions Hijab for men before Hijab for the women.
“Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.” [Noble Quran 24:30]
The Wisdom Behind The Veil
The ultimate wisdom is that God has created us, and God knows what’s best for us. Hijab is a representation that the one who wears it is a Muslim, a woman who wears a veil should be a role model of morality, modesty, purity, she would not lie, cheat, and she’s well behaved and you can trust her.
The wisdom behind it is that it tells men out there that this woman has boundaries and she is not playing any games. If a woman presents herself as a sex object, men will treat her as a sex object and if she presents herself as a respectable and honorable human being, people will view her as a respectable human being. Hijab is there to protect the honor of women and restore their dignity. A woman who has covered herself and dressed modestly is judged only by the content of her character and not based on society’s view of the “perfect body type”. She is valued as an intellectual and individual rather than an object of carnal desire.
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Hijab also protects women from the burden society places on the body image. You see many women and even young girls starve themselves or go as far as to commit suicide over having an imperfect body. The amount of stress and pressure placed on women to look a certain way is not healthy or beneficial. To place impossible physical standards on women is unfair and damaging. Hijab solves this crisis. A woman’s body figure is not exposed to be judged. She is valued as a human being. Hijab is the dress code of Mary (may peace be upon her), Prophet Muhammad’s wives, and all honorable women.
Islam came to treat women as elites, not as sex objects. Islam came to restore the honour of women and not to take it away from them. Islam came to protect women from the evils of society.