The Hijab


I was once asked: “Why do you wear the hijab? Why do you let men dictate what you wear?”.

For those who do not know me personally, when I am outside my home I wear a headscarf and a loose overdress on top of my clothing. I believe this lady was referring to my headscarf as she had pointed to her head while asking.

I must admit that I waffled a bit before finally arriving at a satisfactory answer. When I say satisfactory, I mean an answer that I felt conveyed my reason(s) for wearing the hijab. I got distracted by the second part of the question and got lost in explaining the ‘hijab’ of men and women and how Islam expects all of us to be modest in dress.

There are general principles Muslim men and women should adhere to. Their clothing

  • Should not imitate the opposite gender
  • Should not be of a type that is specific to followers of other religions
  • Should not be used to seek fame e.g. extremely fashionable/expensive or even extremely tattered
  • Should not have by images of live beings: human or animals and
  • Should not be tight or transparent

In addition, men:

  • Should not wear gold or silk though small amounts are allowed
  • Should not wear clothing that is only and completely red in colour
  • Should cover their body from the naval area to the knees as a minimum

In addition, women:

  • Should not wear outer garments that are a beautification in themselves
  • Should cover the entire body except the face and hands

I should add here that the last two specific to women are applicable when she is out and about. However, if she is, for example, in a wedding party attended only by women she can wear a dress that is beautiful in itself, put make up on and do her hair. In such a situation, how much she uncovers of herself will depend on her culture but she should always dress in the most modest way appropriate to the situation.  

The above gave a very brief outline of what I understand ‘hijab’ to be from what I have learned and observed. Now we arrive at the why. I warn you, it’s nothing fancy but for me it is clear and purposeful. I believe in one God, the creator of everything that exists and the all knowledgeable of what best suits his creation. I chose to worship God according to the teachings of Islam. By dressing in this particular way I believe that I am on the path of obedience that I hope will draw me closer to my Lord and Creator.

The following verses in the Quran are often quoted as evidence for the for women dress code in Islam.  They contain so much more. They tell us about the appropriate conduct; reasons and a reminder that in order to attain success we need to turn to Allah (God).

{Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do. (30) And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed. (31)}

Chapter An-Noor (24:30-31)

And I think the next verse is beautiful. I can imagine that the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) is addressing me directly as I hope that I can be considered among the believing women. At the end of the verse Allah described himself as ever Forgiving and Merciful, doesn’t that indicate that these commands are actually intended to bring us mercy?

{O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them. That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. (59)}

Chapter Al-Ahzaab (33:59)   

So you see, beyond the clothing that is considered ‘hijab’, there is conduct and there is what is in the heart: the intention and what remains after the action.

As I was drafting this article I came across a Youtube clip by Na’ima B. Robert on ‘The Hijab Connection’. I think it adds to this article and I hope you will find benefit in it.

Until next time,



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