Women’s Rights: The Headscarf (Hijab)

An example of hijab dress.
An example of a hijab.

There are many people out there who will think I’m crazy for saying that the wearing of a headscarf (or hijab) is a woman’s right. That’s because Western society views Muslim women as oppressed and the hijab as a symbol of their oppression.  We assume that the only reason women wear the hijab is because their men require them to and that they will discard them as soon as they’re liberated.

While I don’t doubt that there are some Muslim women who dress the way they do solely because of the requirements of their culture, who would prefer to not wear the hijab, I believe that the majority of Muslim women who wear the hijab feel quite comfortable doing so. In fact, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I first encountered women wearing hijabs in my job, I was curious and dubious. I wondered if they resented having to wear them and doubted that they would if they had a choice. I had always seen the head scarf as depersonalizing. I thought that it took away a woman’s right to look as attractive as she wanted to. It seemed to me that Muslim men insisted that their women cover themselves in order to keep them from being sexually enticing, as if men couldn’t control themselves if they saw a woman’s hair or the outlines of her body.

I also thought that I would never be able to tell the women apart. That reflects a prejudice on my part which I now realize is completely unfounded. The women still have faces, for God’s sakes! And their hijabs are all different, some of them really beautiful. I realize that there are Muslim societies where the women are required to wear all black and cover themselves from head to toe. (For a discussion about this click here.)  But the Muslim women I’ve gotten to know are from Libya  and are here in the States studying to be doctors. Through them, I’ve been able to see a different side of being a Muslim and a woman.

I’ve been reading the book Who Speaks For Islam? which is based on Gallup polls that have been administered worldwide. Western women see Muslim women as needing to be “liberated,” but the majority of Muslim women say they are comfortable with their lot in life. They would like to be able to vote without outside influence, work at a job for which they are qualified and be able to drive. But their pressing concerns are lack of unity among Muslims, extremism, high unemployment and political corruption.

The wearing of hijab does not imply the same thing to Muslim women as it does to non-Muslim women. (For instance, the word hijab has come to mean modesty, privacy and morality. See here for more information about hijab dress.) We need to stop assuming that wearing the hijab means a woman is a second-class citizen. The polls show that the majority of Muslim women feel sorry for Western women because of the way they are degraded by the men who treat them as sex objects.  Seeing as how feminists also object to women being treated as sex objects, instead of judging Muslim women for wearing hijabs maybe we ought to wear them ourselves, as a show of solidarity.

53 Replies to “Women’s Rights: The Headscarf (Hijab)”

  1. I don’t care if hijabis are oppressed or repressed. Please put your virtue signalling Halloween costume into your closets and wear it when you go back to the country’where you or your parents came from.

    Modesty, makes me want to want to laugh. What does that even mean? Allah asked you to wear it? Why? The god who supposedly gave you the hair wants you to cover it up in order to stop enticing men? Some ligic thos god has! If sexual desire is so repulsive then why give women hair at all? If sex is for procreation then why should women have hair? And what sort of perverted hair and skin fetish do men from these sexually repressed nations have that their women cover up? You are still an object, and your dress is a coackroach repellent, just like wearing sexy lingerie is a coackroach attractant. The common denominator being the coackroach.

    Being an woman engineer or a doctor doesn’t make a society progessive. I like how this is thrown at our face. So what? Bangladesh has had more than one woman prime minister. Pakistan has also had a woman pm. So what?! Look at the state of women there. ( except of course the ultra-rich for whom Allah always bestows the most fortune and good luck and makes exceptions, they dine with Trump, with no hijab, while he unleashes hell on naive muslim religious puranitical)

    Muslim women and their virtue signalling is what gets to me. They delusional belief that hijab is a symbol of modesty and respect is a nightmare joke. If it were true, the Muslim majority countries where modest and virtous sisters are found in abundance should have been a beacon for women’s rights, including property rights, religious, employment right, right to choose her spouce, right to live in dignity and a right to choose what she wears, where she goes. It should have been a model for the rest of the western world to follow, yet, it is a hell hole that these hijabis and their families leave. Yet they have the audacity to tell me they are modest and virtous because of what they wear?! Hypocrates. Each one of them. Shame, Shame, Shame.

  2. You say Muslim women feel sorry for Western women for being degraded by men–the implication being that Muslim women avoid this by covering up. The problem with men who degrade women is the men themselves. They must be taught to respect women no matter how we dress. My hair is my crowning glory and I would never cover it up. I believe everyone should be permitted to live and dress as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else, but I will never believe that women who cover themselves–whether Muslim, Jewish or any other religion –are fully and freely choosing this. You may think you are—but that’s the nature of indoctrination–it’s hard to see that you’ve been indoctrinated. It may feel safer–especially in a community that feels women who don’t cover up are asking to be sexualized or hit on. But women should not have to hide themselves to feel safe in society. We must demand respect and equal treatment before the law and not let men make the rules for how we comport ourselves in the world.

  3. I have read all the comments above and I have to say I still find it depressing that a modern, intelligent woman should choose to cover her hair as if it is some sort of enticement. Why does piety and modesty in practising religion only apply to women? I don’t feel I can think of it as anything but a sign of subservience until I see it being embraced by men.

  4. The article was insightful. However, I disagree with it. First and foremost, I am an athiest. On the contrary, religion has ignited more wars and created an unstable geo-political climate across the globe than any other cause on earth. Both the Christian and Islamic history is pure bloodshed. That’s the truth.

    A little background about myself: I spent 7 years at a Lutheran School as a child. I despised it; I always found a problem bowing to a ghost, especially if they don’t do nothing for me.

    Unlike other people who need religion to validate their sole existence, I don’t need religion. I am comfortable in my skin, I am not afraid of anyone, and I believe in science. In addition, I also support gender equality. Men don’t own women, period. I could careless what culture or what religion a person belongs to. As soon as a person is brought into this world, they’re born free – a choice to choose their own life.

    Even Christians have come to terms with this. Most American Christians are very liberal, support science, and choose to do as they please (e.g. enjoy sex, drink, watch action movies, eat red meats on Friday’s, etc.). In fact, there are many LGBT individuals who happen to be Christian. Americans are the way they’re because of democracy, which is something that doesn’t exist in the majority of Islamic countries.

    In my point-of-view, the hijab is extremely offensive and the article contains several false allegations, especially the point about Western women being harrased by men. How about married women in the Middle East, Northern Africa, or Asia who get brutally beaten or inprisoned for doing something ‘offensive’ like talking to another man for the sake of just having a friendly conversation or walking alone without wearing the hijab? Domestic abuse in Islamic countries is very high. On the contrary, most western men respect women more than Muslim men; western men respect women’s individual rights, for the most part.

    As a western man having been born and raised in a democratic country, I understand the issues that haunts Islam. When you place a holy text as law over basic human rights that creates an imbalance for society, and it allows a gateway of unknown entities to develope radical ideologies due to the fact that a certain group of people having more power than the other. In other words, men are more dominant than woman and this alone has created detrimental impact on Islamic society as a whole.

    Are all Muslim men abusive? No, of course not. This isn’t about that. This is about what Islam has become to the rest of the world. The Islamic world is crumbling day by day. Christians were able to achieve a mainstream way of life that has evolved with changing times, whereas Islam hasn’t. As long as Muslims continue to embrace their prehistoric thought-process and continue to refuse to evolve change with time, Islam will never evolve like the way Christianity has and Islam will eventually collapse.

    Lastly, I support the separation of church and state, gender equality, marriage equality.

    1. Absolutely agree, the very notion that women should cover their ‘hair’ permanently in public because men think it’s ‘modest’ is an affront to all the equality freedoms we’ve fought for over centuries.

      Moreover, to impose this religion hegemony on schoolgirls restricts their full access to the curriculum – competitive sports, swimming, drama etc. The notion of ‘modesty’ has also inhibited many women seeking cancer adbice/treatment.

  5. I am an American and a Christian who is saddened and appalled by the Islamaphobia that is being made much worse by the current Presidential campaigns. I recently bought a hijab and plan on wearing it for the first time, tonight. I can’t believe that I came across this article, today. I wondered if anyone else had considered wearing the hijab strictly as a statement of solidarity with other American women who wear it for cultural or religious reasons. I also worried that wearing it may be offensive to Muslim women as I am not Muslim but was reassured today by a friend who lives in Algers that it would not be offensive and that they welcome any woman in joining them in wearing the hijab, especially as a sign of solidarity. Thank you for writing this article. I am sharing it on my facebook page.

    1. I can’t speak for all Muslims, but I see your actions as a perfect show of empathy, something that is badly needed in this current climate. It’s too bad when people see differences as a threat to their own way of life, instead of just accepting that we are not all going to be the same. I applaud you for your views as well as your actions. Thanks so much for your comments.

    2. To Nicole, I am Muslim and I know all about hijab, why a lot of Muslim women wear it, and how they are convinced it’s a religious requirement.

      Although you’re trying to show solidarity and support by wearing the hijab yourself, you’re actually helping spread a cultural phenomenon that promotes the sexualization of women. A woman is seen in the hijab culture as a sex object, period. She must be covered up and only show herself to her husband. She is compared to a piece of candy that a potential husband won’t pick up if it’s not well covered. These are the exact words they use.

      There’s a movement in the middle east now that’s trying to undo the brain-washing that started in the early 1980’s where the hijab first appeared and was promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood group.

      When you support the hijab, you’re basically helping women stay oppressed and controlled. The hijab wearers who say otherwise are sadly brain-washed.


      1. I myself wore the hijab for a couple of years after I converted to Islam and even though I no longer wear it, I still stand by my post. The women who inspired it did not feel oppressed or objectified in their culture. We are all brain-washed by our cultures. Putting people in black and white categories according to what they think or do only keeps us from being able to identify with them.

        Thanks for your thoughtful comment, though. I know that the justification for hijab is often wrong-minded, so I don’t disagree with all that you wrote. I do resent being told that hijab is mandatory, but then there are a lot of things I object to in how Islam is presented by some Muslims. (As well as how it is presented by some non-Muslims!) There is no one right way to do anything; only infinite variations.

  6. Now, after the Muslims women are involving more and more in the society, those people are trying to get them back to the ghettos by banning them from wearing the Burqa…And the other one who were saying that: Men are imposing the burqa to those women and are covering that by saying: it’s her choice. This argument is simply ridicules, it seems that she doesn’t want to hear that someone wear it because of their spiritual journey, she definitely wants them to oppressed. And the French guy who were saying: We are banning it because of the dignity of the woman and gender equality ==> Since when the equality is used to restrict the liberty of free choices. Those people need to be reminded that this law is totally opposed to the universal human rights.

    Living in the west, the hijab has become a potent indicator of identity with many non-Muslims viewing it as a political statement. However, it is pertinent to note that the hijab is, first and foremost, an act of worship that women engage in, and an act undertaken to seek the pleasure of one’s Lord.

    The definition of a hijab is fiercely contested by many Muslims, and unfortunately most of those who engage in the topic are unaware that it is very much defined by Islamic law, the Sharia, and not cultural habits or one’s idea of what modesty is, or should be.

    In discussing the hijab, Islamic jurists have stipulated a number of conditions for it to be a hijab in the Islamic sense. In brief, these conditions are that one’s clothing must cover the entire body in a way that the shape of the body is not apparent and the material must not be so thin that one can see through it. Clothing should not resemble that which is specific to men nor the disbelievers. It should not be attractive to men, nor should women be perfumed in public. The main aim of hijab is to stop fitnah; females who are attractive by nature attract the gaze of males which then leads to other greater sins such as fornication and adultery. Allah commanded women neither to display their adornment nor to display any form of behaviour that might attract the attention of men.

    In fact, scholars from various schools of thought prohibit women from raising their voices in public, even if it be the utterance of the talbiyah during hajj or the Adhan (call to prayer) between females. The Sharia also prohibits men to visit lonely women and to stay alone with them. It also prohibited men to look at women. One of the main problems is limiting the hijab as being a manifestation of female Muslim identity. When France banned the hijab they looked at it as a religious symbol unable to understand the meaning of ibaadah (worship). However, it is unfortunate to see many Muslims treating it as merely a form of identity, and once the symbolic representation has been accomplished the necessity to perform it in a way that meets its conditions laid down by Allah is overlooked. This is one of subtly reprehensible values that many western Muslims have unknowingly adopted. We have to understand that Islamic practices including observing the hijab are actions of ibaadah. They are meant to please Allah, avoid being disobedient, and earn hasanaat in order to attain a high rank in paradise.

    This is a major mistake that many Muslims fall into when undertaking many Islamic practices. Having the correct aim in wearing the hijab is the first and main step towards a solution for this problem. It should be noted that projecting concerns about this non-sharia form of hijab does not imply discouraging Muslim women from observing a limited form of hijab which they have chosen, but instead it serves to encourage Muslim women to progress to observe the correct method of hijab. The intention of this article is driven by the desire for improvement and progress and not to incite women to withdraw from the hijab completely.

    Some Muslims posit that we should not be strict in calling for the proper observance of many Islamic practices in the west, and as such, we should encourage Muslim women to do as much as they are, without criticism, even if some do not complete such observance. Undoubtedly we agree to encouraging Muslim women to do as much as they can, but correcting wrong or incomplete Islamic practices is an obligation upon those who know.

    It is indeed the case that many sisters are completely ignorant about the conditions of the legally valid hijab, and hence it is incumbent upon us to raise awareness of the legal conditions and features of a correct hijab. Knowledge is the cure for many of our mistakes. Advising sisters who undoubtedly wear the hijab out of good intentions as well as educating their parents is another way towards solving this issue. It might be a good idea to print and distribute some leaflets that describe the authentic hijab in a way that goes beyond merely a head covering.

    1. Clearly you are a Muslim man. Why don’t you put on a hijab and walk around in it for a while and see how it feels.

  7. I was born in a strict Muslim family who forced me to wear the Hijab when I turned 11. I didn’t feel ready. At heart I was still a kid. After reading all your comments about feeling g so peaceful after wearing the Hijab, I couldn’t stop myself. I have never felt peace wearing this cloth. I’m 19 now and every day I wear this piece of cloth, I feel that someone is deliberately taking the air out of my chest. I’m always depressed because I never got the chance to express myself through the way I dress. I might have worn it by choice, had my family not forced me but in the end all it did was take me away from this religion and my family.

  8. I appreciate the above article. It is refreshing!
    I am an American, white female who is marrying a European Muslim. I was raised Catholic but have drifted from Christianity in general. I have chosen to wear a hair cover….as a symbol of my love, faithfulness, and fidelity to my future husband. I love him, I love God/Allah, …..and our beautiful life together. AND I ALSO LOVE MYSELF. It is totally my personal choice. My fiance loves me… cover or no cover. God put it in my heart to dress in a different way….and I love doing so. I feel attractive and cherished. I feel pretty even. Maybe that comes from his love for me. I like to dress stylish….so my cover is more fashionable…but nonethe less….IT IS A COVER. And it has brought about challenges and negative comments & looks. For me…I started wearing it at home. Then out doing errands. Then to appointments…like the doctor. Then finally I recently transitioned into the workplace. My cover resembles something like Evita/Eva Perone would wear….pulled behind my neck. I am not to the point of wanting to cover my neck…eventho I know this is a proper cover/hijab. I will wear a proper cover to the Mosque when we do go….down the road. But for now…I wear my scarves and as one rude person put it…..my “head gear”. That was rude at minimum. But…in the end…I answer to God/Allah and my Fiance/future husband. In the land of the free and the home of the brave….women can dress, marry, and worship as they choose. I am thankful for my freedoms and my right to choose. And I thank all those who have died or given their life to protecting my freedoms in America.

    -Chris in Largo, FL

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective on and experiences with covering, Chris. I can relate to much of what you wrote. (I wore the hijab for a couple of years.) May Allah bless your (upcoming?) wedding and bring you every good thing!

      1. Hi Ellen, after reading the article and comments, I realized that the article has been out here for a while now. I have 2 questions; are you still wearing the hijab? If not, what make you change your mind?
        I converted to Islam about 4 years ago and begin wearing the head scarf after the second year. However, I’m having second thoughts about it. Not about the hijab entirely, as I have always being modest on my dressing. I am trying to understand better the necessity of covering the head (considering that hijab is not just the scarf but includes the entire outfit, the way we act and react under all circumstances) Thanks.

        1. I can understand you having second thoughts about wearing the hijab; it’s a highly controversial practice, partly because some women are forced to wear it, and also because there are so many opinions about what hijab means (as you point out, it means much more than the wearing of a headscarf). I no longer wear it but my reasons are too complex to go into here. I still respect and admire women who do wear it and feel sorrow that it has such negative connotations for so many people.

  9. Too late to comment? :-)

    Finding a justification for wearing hijab might help give a clarification for this practice to make it more convincing to some one who looks at Islam from outside.

    To me, it is a form of worship. Just like prayer. I wear hijab, and I can think of alot of reasons why wearing hijab is useful. But none is the reason I wear hijab. I wear hijab just because Allah asked me to.

    As simple as this :-)

    1. No, it’s not too late to comment. Look how late I am in replying!

      Of all the reasons I’ve heard for why a woman should wear hijab, yours is the one I like best. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. I am not sure about writing my comments here. but the arguments given for women wearing hijab still don’t resonate with me. i agree that many women wear hijab out of their own choice not fear of their men. but how that choice developed and was adopted still remains unanswered in your article. even if men had nothing to do with a single woman’s decision to don a scarf, why does she wear it. i would like to know the reason. To please God? surely God is not concerned about that, surely God just wanted women to be safe and respected. so does that mean we are living in the 21st century where women don’t feel safe and respected if they don’t wear a scarf. Choices develop due to social structures and culture. women don’t wear scarves to look pretty, may be once in a whole they would, as a fashion choice , but to do it daily as a compulsion whether self inflicted or men-inflicted does not make sense if they have nothing to prove by doing it.

    1. Dear fayfay,

      As a muslim student in college I am finding it interesting to learn about what people perceive the hiijab is. Reading this article one line struck me: “Muslim women who dress the way they do solely because of the requirements of their culture.” This is not true. Sure some women do wear the scarf because of tradition and culture, but the true reason to wear the scarf is for religion. I agree with you and I believe God does want women to be safe and respected and for that reason I love wearing the scarf. I do it for God and spiritual reasons, not for men. I do not allow culture and social norms dictate what I choose to believe/how i choose to dress. I have nothing to prove fashion wise, it is simply for God. I hope you continue to ask questions and learn about the hijab if it interests you. The best way to learn about anything is to ask questions. All the best. :)

    2. ” To please God? surely God is not concerned about that, surely God just wanted women to be safe and respected. so does that mean we are living in the 21st century where women don’t feel safe and respected if they don’t wear a scarf. Choices develop due to social structures and culture. women don’t wear scarves to look pretty, may be once in a whole they would, as a fashion choice , but to do it daily as a compulsion whether self inflicted or men-inflicted does not make sense if they have nothing to prove by doing it.”
      I agree with FayFay ( albeit almost a year later when I found this); I’ve traveled the world a fair amount, and have noticed that the hijab is more a training-by-culture-and-religion than anything else, including in the USA. If it’s not a cultural expectation ( only “bad”girls/women [i.e, slutty] don’t cover their hair) or for a beloved male’s sake (to make him feel more comfortable) or to please an anthropomorphic God ( only imperfect humans would think that a piece of fabric is a reliable way to determine the presence of faith; are they saying that the Original Source and Center couldn’t see into your heart/mind/soul without it?) I’ve seen it used many ways, many reasons– but never once have any of those reasons been able to stand up to rational examination.

      1. I think it’s a shame when the hijab is seen as “proof” of either piety or modesty/chastity. Sometimes it’s just a meaningful expression of the wearer’s faith (like the cross can be for a Christian). Some women feel that it helps to remind them of their responsibility to live life as Muslims. And others find that it concentrates their attention on God. I don’t think any of those reasons are irrational (unless faith in God is also seen as irrational).

        Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  11. I have read before in the Quran but now i cannot find it. It said something along the lines of it being worse to judge a woman for not wearing a hijab than for her to not wear one.

  12. I believe men also have a hijab except its not physical. Men’s hijab is to control their sex drive and keep their eyes to themselves. But most men don’t realize that.

  13. I would like to start out by saying I agree with Eve. The wearing of the hijab is based on making the man comfortable. They can not control themselves and women must do this for them and discomfort themselves. This is wrong, men are not mindless animals. They know what’s right and wrong. They can formulate that “hey maybe I shouldn’t look at her this way because it’s disrespectful” or “I know it wrong to rape so no I won’t do it”. But apparently it’s the women’s fault because she was born that way. Men can not control themselves. So tell me why aren’t they being punished for there poor self control, the extent of their punishment is a mere slap on the wrist. We, women, are made uncomfortable because of the ignorance of men. I can go on and defend my claim for a while but I know I will be out numbered because of the number of hijab supporters, and I don’t have the time to individually respond. Also I don’t feel the need to encourage a barrage of ignorance that is sure to come: one intellectual can’t fight a army of misinformed. It’s like saying the earth is round for the first time all over again. However, If they wish to wear it for fashion or because they want too for their own personal reasons I fully support it. Lastly I would like to point out everyone is judged for what they wear. Modest to not your are a religious/prude freak to a whore/ slut. Everyone is judged. So be judged for what you want to be and what you are comfortable with being classified as.
    Thank you for reading, looking forward to all the response (and laughing at a few if not many)
    PS. I did listen to the other arguments with an open mind as I had not yet formulated an opinion.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree that of all the reasons for wearing hijab, “helping” men to curb their sexual desires (and supposedly their basic nature) is the weakest one. Men should be expected to treat women with respect no matter how they are dressed. I have no problem with a woman wanting to be modest, but she shouldn’t have to feel like she would cause a man to have sinful desires toward her if she wasn’t. (The truth is, dressing and acting modestly doesn’t protect women from unwanted sexual advances anyway.)

  14. I am a Persian woman who has experience living in Iran and dealing with the dress codes and I can guarantee you that the majority, if not all, women who wear the hijab within their country, HATE it!
    Imagine having to wear an extra layer of clothing over your original one in weather that can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius… We wear our hijab because we’re afraid to be one of those people who get taken to jail, for not wearing ‘proper hijab’.

    However, women who wear their hijab, even after moving to a ‘free country”, have a different story.

    1. It’s unfortunate whenever a woman feels forced or pressured to wear hijab. I am certain that that is not what God intended. What I have the most trouble with is that it is primarily men who make the rules about wearing hijab (although I realize that women also promote it). If men had equally strict rules about their dress it would be one thing, but they don’t–or they don’t have as much pressure to follow them. The fact that it is only women who are targeted makes me suspicious of the rule-enforcers’ motives. I can’t help but think that it is all about control.

      1. i think forcing women to wear hijab is against islam, as hijab is part of religion and as quran says religion is not compalsury so don`t make sense to me how rulers force it…anyway forcing to wear hijab also means the rulers are not giving chance to men to to do jihad( here i am talkng abt true jihad,striving,controlling oneselves) , quran in verse 24:30 says that men should lower gaze, so i think saudi,irani men are not getting their rights to do jihad(LOL)

        quran 24:30 Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.
        now how on the earth a saudi or iranian men are going to pass this test if their government put women in (niqab+hijab+burqa) , and taliban dresscode is like plastig bag LOL, i think without going to extreme postion, there must be balance between rules and freedom, if you force then where is the test, saudi,iranian govt need to realise this

        1. Thanks so much for your comments!

          One of the things I most admire about Islam is the emphasis on the greater jihad. And learning to control one’s sexual desires and behavior is certainly part of that. However, I don’t think wearing or not wearing hijab makes it easier or harder on men to control themselves. It bothers me when that is given as the reason why women should “cover.” It lets men off the hook and puts the responsibility on women. Men should be required to control themselves no matter what a woman is wearing!

  15. Why do Muslim women wear Hijab?

    Why should women wear it?

    And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not show off their beauty and ornaments except what is (ordinarily) visible thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards God, that ye may attain Bliss.

    Surah 24 Verse 31

    O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

    Surah 33 Verse 59

    The first reason for wearing hijab, then, is that it is a command from God. Religious Muslims – like any other religious people belonging to any revealed religion – don’t feel comfortable in deliberately disobeying God! If some Muslims, despite of the semantic clarity of the Qur’anic verses, still think that this ruling is not mandatory, this will not alter the message.

    We can have some Muslims who unjustly or ignorantly deny the illegality of drinking alcohol, eating pork or even committing major sins like stealing, fornicating… etc. This does not mean that such things are permitted in Islam! In Islam it is very easy to detect or judge whether a certain ruling is mandatory or not, by going back to the major sources of Islamic legislation. This we technically name as ‘shari’a’. Those sources are the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Muslims, and sunnah, which is the sayings and guiding acts of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as stated in authentic books. So, simply this is the very same case with hijab.

    Notice that this ruling of hijab, is highly esteemed among Muslim women, despite the big pressure of most regimes in the Muslim majority world to forbid it. Sometimes it is forbidden by force or women are discouraged from wearing it. The issue is seen as a means of secularizing or globalizing the Muslim states! This is, in-fact, except for two or three Muslim countries, which encourage their women to observe this ruling or at least “let it go”.

    The rest are on a savage war against it. Turkey is the outspoken example of such hostility, but the other regimes are not less hostile, albeit silently, towards it. Despite this fact you can find Muslim women insisting on wearing it, even if it costs them their jobs and social status …

    In fact, there is wisdom behind this heavenly command of hijab and behind Muslim women’s challenge to wear it. It is that in the Islamic culture – like many other cultures – the idea of women’s respectability and virtue is related, among other things, to the propriety of their dress. In Christianity for example, nuns cannot show up without their hijab. Also, regular ladies wear it while attending masses, which is a reflection of self-admission that God wants to see them this way! Also, as far as I know, in Judaism, the most religious faction amongst Jews, namely The Hassidics, have their strict rules about covering women’s bodies. Even in secular societies, some women judges have to cover their heads, during sessions, as a way to show their dignity and self-respect.

    Remember that your own puritan American society, before being swept over in the 1950s, by this permissive value system, used to look with embarrassment to any woman going out to the street without her hat! Mini skirts only appeared recently together with the secular and atheist style of life that some people in the west – and the East as well – chose for themselves.

    You can also tell that hijab is the way Islam neutralizes a woman’s stereotyped role as a mere female, by inciting the society to deal with her as a human being away from her “extra feminine powers”! No wonder then that the majority of Muslim women refuse to let their ‘mill go with all winds’ and that they insist on keeping their Islamic identity. This is regardless of the consistent unfair criticism and sometimes satire against it. They wear hijab, not only in submission to God’s order, but also because their inherent moral code is in full harmony with its philosophy.

  16. As Salaamu Alaikum Sister! You’ve made a really strong argument and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your perspective!

    1. Thank you, Sister. I think it’s interesting that I wrote this before I even knew I wanted to convert. Allah moves in mysterious ways.

  17. No, I don’t see the truth behind wearing a hijab – because you can be a modest and righteous person in your heart and in your life. It is not necessary to make a show of your piousness, no need to show it off.
    Also, if hijab means modesty, how come men do not wear it also? Isn’t modesty expected from all Muslims?
    Finally, if men automatically respect a woman who is wearing a hijab – what kind of respect is that? Wearing a hijab to me seems like substituting open, equal and responsible behavior with an easy-to-follow man-made norm. Sorry, but this is how I feel.

    1. You’re certainly entitled to your own opinion, but I wonder if you would allow Muslim women the same right. Why are people so quick to state what they think hijab means instead of asking the women who wear it?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

    2. mashallah Eve,
      This shows how limited your knowledge is in terms of Islam as a way of life and human beings in general. wowo re look your definition of truth.

      how can one be modest & righteous in the heart or in life without it being manifested in the action through the body parts.
      does man comprise of only the heart or all the other parts of human whole. so how can the heart be the only part to be righteous. pity can never be a show off because it represents your whole self it takes both inner and outer part to make a whole (human).
      my dear men and women can and never will be the same. cant you see our body structures women have breast and hips while men have muscles. with this difference how can we dress the same way.
      finally hijab is not a man made thing or law but from Allah/ God so please make more enquirers about Islam.

      sisters in Islam hijab is a most and the best for you and i so let us hold on to it.

      Remember that every human is a slave either to your evil desires, your parents, kings so call civilization/freedom/ democracy, kings/presidents etc but we do give in to thing or some one. therefore try to give in to nothing but Allah alone and only.

      barakallah fee

    3. Modesty goes for both women and men. For women, because of their physique, it has been ordained on them to dress modestly to hide their beauty which can attract men. Besides wearing hijab they are also supposed to cover their bosom and other parts. Men have nothing to hide as women, except their gaze, which may lead them to stare at women who are not dressed modestly!

      Apart from the religious principle I think women wearing hijab and covered modestly look dignified and graceful, dont they?

      Iftekhar Ahmed

  18. Hello, thanks for the article. I am a revert and a 19 year old college student and it is tough at this time to cover my hair. It’s mainly though ebcause of my family. I woould cover at school but now when i was out with family. I felt really good wearing the hijab before, but it got difficult. I’m really thinking about covering my hair again! thank you.


    1. Hi, Rose!
      I’m proud of you for following your heart by becoming a revert. That’s the hardest part–and the easiest–if you know what I mean. It’s after we say our Shahada that we’re faced with all sorts of things like whether or not to wear the hijab.

      You might want to check out my other blog which is specifically about my being a Muslim convert (and a feminist!). It’s called I, Muslimah (http://muslimah.femagination.com). You also might want to check out a blog written by a college student who reverted and also wears the headscarf. Her blog is Maha Muslimah (http://mahamuslimah.wordpress.com/).

      I reverted in September of 2009 and started wearing hijab about six months later. At first it was hard to tell my boss that I wanted to cover, but I’d already told him I’d converted, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise. My family members accept it to different degrees, but they respect my wishes. I even wore hijab to my daughter’s wedding.

      Is there a Muslim Student Association where you go to school? Maybe it would help to meet other students who cover.

      I hope for the best for you and I will keep you in my prayers.


  19. Thank you for this article. I am currently learning about Islam. A couple of months ago I noticed a change in me, dressing more modest was one of them. But the most important change has been the peace that I feel as I learn more about Islam. I am however worried about my families reaction, my husband is not taking to the idea well. I am currently wanting to cover my head with a scarf, is it ok if I do that even though I am not converted yet?

    1. There is nothing that says you can’t cover your hair if you’re not a Muslim. After all, some Christians and Orthodox Jews cover their heads as well. But be prepared for people assuming that you are Muslim. If that doesn’t bother you, maybe you’re ready to become a Muslim.

      I converted about four months after I wrote this post. I wasn’t expecting to when I wrote this, but when I look back I can see that I had been thinking about it for some time. I hesitated, though, because I didn’t think I could handle people’s reactions. Imagine my surprise when my husband and children were supportive (my parents are deceased; that might have been another matter!).

      Anyway, I can relate to your feelings of peace as you learn about Islam. I felt and still feel that, too, and I have found that wearing the headscarf is part of that feeling. It just feels good to me.

      Feel free to write me directly if you have any questions or just want to “talk.” My email is miteypen [at] ameritech [dot] net. In the meantime, I’ll pray for you and your husband, if that’s okay.

  20. I’m an LDS girl that has been praying, contemplating, and studying about wearing a Hijab about six months now. I finally felt the calling of the spirit and am going to spend February wearing a Hijab. This article helps me feel confident in my decision to at least give it a month. Thank-you so much for writing it!

  21. well written!Its true cuzz I really feel GREAT when i where hijab and its a women’s right… chrestians,jewish and many more religions used to where hijab or actually the used to SHAVE their hair instead!

  22. I wonder how many non-Muslim women have “hijab envy” but would never admit to it because of all the people who associate hijab with oppression…

    1. Some hijabs and the way they are worn can be very beautiful. I admit that there are times when I think I look better in a hijab than without one! I certainly don’t associate it with oppression and neither do the other Muslim women I know who wear it.

      Thanks for your comment!

      1. hello….i really appreciate all tht u have written….m a muslim to but have never been forced by anyone nor my parents about wearing a hijab…but i decided i must be wearing one being a muslim girl!!…..but i faced through allot of consequences…..my friends did not accept me cause it was very out of the way and unusual of me to look like that..and m one sort of a person who gets infuenced by peoples sayings allot..and i lost all courage when my own parents said that i look wierd and it would b better if i discountinued wearing it!! due to which i stopped..well its a fact that i will be very much desolated if people around me say that m “not looking good”….come on its tendency!!girls of my age would feel insecured!! :( but yes i do get motivated by reading articles like yours but m really confused…. hope to hear answer!!

        1. Since I wrote this post I have converted to Islam and now wear the hijab. I love wearing it, even though there are times I wish I didn’t have to (around family members who don’t approve, for instance).

          I think the most important thing is to figure out why you want to wear it and to remind yourself of that every time you feel unsure about it. I’m assuming you want to wear it because Islam means a lot to you. Hold onto that and remember that you don’t look weird, you look beautiful, partly because you are glorifying Allah.

          Of course your family and friends are going to think you look weird–they’re not used to you wearing it. But the more you wear it, the more used to it they’ll get.

          I know it’s hard to go against the crowd, especially when you’re a teenager, but just look at it this way: You’re actually ahead of the crowd, because you’re not afraid to stand up for your convictions. That makes some people uncomfortable, because they know they’re not brave enough to do that. I’d bet that secretly they’re wondering how you can be so sure of yourself and your faith.

          You also need to remember that many people still find Islam to be strange. Those are exactly the people you need to influence by showing them what a Muslim is really like. But how will they know that you’re Muslim if you’re not wearing the hijab?

          I’m not trying to talk you into wearing the hijab, I just want you to stop for the right reasons.

          I admire you for caring so much about this issue. I’m sure you’re a wonderful representative for Islam.

          Write back if you have any more questions or comments!

          Oh, and you might want to check out my blog about being a Muslim where I write more about this topic and many others. It’s at http://muslimah.femagination.com

  23. So nicely written! I am a muslim woman and I thank you for writing this article. I hope more people will begin to understand the truth behind the hijab/veil. I couldnt have done a better job myself. God bless you.

  24. A refreshing article after so many comments about Muslim women being oppressed as if awaiting liberation.

    1. Thanks for your comment and for having an open mind. This is one of my more popular posts, and although most people don’t comment, I get the feeling that they are mainly supportive. That’s encouraging.

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