Headcovering in Islam

Posted on November 26, 2011


The Muslim veil is often referred to as ‘hijab’, but technically hijab embodies all of how the woman dresses and even acts. I.e., to observe hijab is to observe those guidelines for modest dress and modest actions.

The religious background for wearing hijab is based on a few verses from the Qur’an, and a couple of Hadiths (collections of what the Prophet (pbuh) have said or done):

(24:30) TELL the believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity: this will be most conducive to their purity – [and,] verily, God is aware of all that they do. (24:31) And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. And let them not display [more of] their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire,  or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs [in walking] so as to draw attention to their hidden charms.  (Muhammad Asad translation Sura 24:30-31)

(59) O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters, as well as all [other] believing women, that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments [when in public] : this will be more conducive to their being recognized [as decent women] and not annoyed. But [withal,] God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!  (Muhammad Asad translation Sura 33:59)

And a hadith by Abu Dawud that is often quoted:

‘Aisha said: Asthma’, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) wearing thin clothes. The apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asthma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of the body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.

    Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket  Photobucket

    Hijab                          Abaya                      Niqab(face)                    Burqa

The standard conditions you see placed on hijab are as follows:

1. Clothing must cover the entire body, only the hands and face may remain visible (According to some Fiqh Schools) .

2. The material must not be so thin that one can see through it.

3. The clothing must hang loose so that the shape / form of the body is not apparent.

4. The female clothing must not resemble the man’s clothing.

5. The design of the clothing must not resemble the clothing of the non believing women.

6. The design must not consist of bold designs which attract attention.

7. Clothing should not be worn for the sole purpose of gaining reputation or increasing one’s status in society. 

(From: Seven Conditions For Women’s Dress in Islam)

Some will go even further and argue for the necessity to wear niqab (the face veil so only the eyes are visible) or burka (further covering the eyes, like the women in Afghanistan.).