Why Do People Wear Hijab?
Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh. My name is Aisha and I’m a primary school teacher from London. I would love to write a piece about hijab and why it’s worn by the Muslims. “Hijab” is a term that’s come to mean different things to different people. For some people, it’s simply the headscarf, but for others, it’s just dressing modestly. So, maybe in some baggy clothes. Allah has laid out a specific criterion for the Muslim woman’s dress code, and this can be found in the Quran and the Sunnah.
Myths About Hijab
In fact, one of the biggest myths that have been propagated about the hijab is that Muslim women have been forced into wearing it by our male relatives, whether it’s our husbands or our fathers. I distinctly remember an elderly Englishman asking me if my husband had forced me to wear mine, which I was really happy about because it gave me the opportunity to explain the truth to him. Sadly, most people won’t actually ask us, and I find it quite patronizing that the majority of people around us, including the media and politicians, all find it acceptable to speak on behalf of Muslim women without asking us for our views in the first place. The reality to this myth is actually at complete odds with the evidence, I mean, if the hijab was a symbol of women as subordinates, then how do we explain the fact that the highest group of converts to Islam—both in the UK and the US—are women?
Many of these women wear the hijab without having any male relatives to force them into it, and if the hijab was an issue for the majority of Muslim women, then how do we explain the results of the 2005 Gallup survey where Muslim women in 8 countries, including Egypt and Pakistan, were asked to describe what they resented most about the societies they live in? The majority in each country stated political and economic corruption as being their greatest concerns, whilst the hijab—the so-called halt of subjugation—was not mentioned.
I think we have to question this assumption that if a decision made is based upon freedom of choice for the woman, then somehow this alone is when she is valued and elevated. If we look at what freedom has created for women in society, we find that actually, the opposite is true. Secular liberal societies where people are free to determine for themselves how to view and treat women have made women’s lives miserable, from eating disorders to the rampant levels of sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence. According to Home Office statistics, an incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute in the UK. Is this really the value and elevation that women seek?
Alternatively, for the Muslim woman, there is no concept of freedom to dress as we please. Instead, we perform all of our actions out of obedience to the Creator, seeking Allah’s pleasure alone because Allah subhana wa ta’ala says in Surah An-Nur verse 51, “The saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allah and His Messenger to judge between them, is only that they say, ‘we hear and we obey. And such are the successful.” And so, the Muslim woman wears the hijab out of complete submission to Allah and unapologetically.
Though hijab is a law that seeks to hide women’s beauty, in a society where the very liberal values of freedom have created the viewpoint of a woman as being a sexual exploit, her beauty is seen as everyone’s business. However, the hijab cannot ensure women are protected nor honored, and the levels of sexual harassment in countries like Egypt, where many women cover, testify to this fact.
Reasons For Hijab In Society
The bottom line is that a piece of fabric alone can do little to change the predominant viewpoint of the woman, which is what leads to her exploitation in the first place. Instead, hijab has to exist as part of an entire system where all laws and values are in harmony with it. Hijab, when implemented as part of the entire system of Islam, seeks to create a society where women are honored and treated with respect. Through the Islamic education system, the correct Islamic thoughts are built in all citizens. There’s no concept of freedom to view people how you wish. Instead, Islam prohibits the exploitation of anyone and builds the correct viewpoint of the woman as being an honor to be valued for her character and her intellect over her physical appearance, because the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “The world and all things in it are precious, but the most precious thing is a virtuous woman.”
Now, this viewpoint is further insured in society by taking the woman’s sexual element out of society and restricting it to her personal and private life through societal laws such as dress code, but also segregation and the prohibition of any job roles or actions in society which exploit women, such as modeling or pornography.
Therefore, hijab, along with all the laws and values of Islam, came to regulate the relationships between men and women, ensuring productive cooperation between them in public life. This enables women to actively participate in all fields from politics to the workplace or even just at home or whilst out shopping, all free from harm and harassment, unlike the levels of abuse we see facing women in the West. However, this result can only be achieved when implemented as the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, implemented “the Hilafi system.”
If you’re curious about our relationship with the Supreme Being, check out our post on why people worship.