I begin with the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only what is apparent, and to draw their veils (khumurihinna) over their bosoms (juyûbihinna), and not to reveal their adornment except to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigor, or children who know nothing of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allâh together, O believers, in order that you may succeed.” Qur’an 24:31
The first point of contact between a people is established by their mode of dressing. It determines how they are viewed not only by outsiders but also by insiders. It equally defines how they view themselves. Most at times, a people’s mode of dressing dictates how they are addressed, hence, in order to be respected, they have to wear respectable dress.
The law of modesty as enshrined in all major religions in the world, seeks to create a morally upright society by taming the lustful desire that exists between the opposite sex -man-and-woman and to produce pious people. Whenever this law is undermined and people are systematically conditioned into accepting moral decadence as the new norm, then the society loses its moral bearing.
The world media has been particular in portraying a modestly dressed woman as a symbol of oppression and because it is part and parcel of the prescriptive practice of Islam that women be dressed modestly, they are more discriminated against. A woman’s mode of dressing is very important in Islam because of the position she occupies in the society: a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a symbol of respect that needs to be protected and respected. Thus, Islam prescribed Hijab for her.
What then is Hijab? Before delving into this intricate issue, it is pertinent to understand certain principle regarding things. In his book entitled “Al-Ghulu’ fee al-Deen (Religious Extremism), Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Mutairi opined that the knowledge of the reality of things and correct perceptions are considered fundamental openings to the lessening or removal of differences of opinions.
Hence, in the 12th volume of Al-Fatawa, Ibn Taymiyah said, “Many of the disputes among people are due to unclear words and ambiguous meanings. It gets to the point that one can find two people arguing and disputing over the meaning of a word or denying its implication while, if each were asked the meaning of the words they were saying, they have no clear perception of them, not to speak of what the words actually indicate.” What then is Hijab?
Linguistically, Hijab is whatever that comes between two things. its plural is hujub as was stated by Ibn Mandhur in Lisan al-Arab that Hijab is; وكل ما حال بين الشيئين. Allaah, may He be Exalted, used it in its linguistic manner when He says: “….and between us and you is a screen (Hijab)” Qur’an 41:5. The root word is hajaba which means (Hajb) to veil, cover, screen, curtain, partition, conceal, to disguise, to become hidden.
Approaching it from the Shari’ah point of view, as it is with other prescriptive practice in Islam, the reference solely lies on Qur’an and Sunnah strictly according to the understanding of the pious predecessors and learned scholars of the Islamic world.
Notably, there are five (5) verses in the Qur’an that came in imperative terms regarding the issue of hijab. Three (3) of these verses contain direct Divine command to all Muslim women and two (of those verses) were specifically addressed to the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The first verse was referenced above Qur’an 24:31, while the second verse which is to be understood in connection to the first is, “As for those women past childbearing who have no hope of marriage, it is no sin for them if they discard their outer clothing (thiyaab) as long as they do not dress up to show adornment. That they behave chastely is better for them. Allaah is Hearing, Knowing.” Qur’an 24:60.
The third verse states that: “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (jalaabib) all over their bodies. That will be better, so that they may be recognized (as free respectable women) and not annoyed. Allaah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” Qur’an 33:59.
Furthermore, a Divine command specifically directed to the Prophet’s wives (may Allaah be pleased with them) states that: “And stay in your houses. And do not display yourselves according to the display (tabarruj) of the Time of Ignorance.” Qur’an 33:33. Likewise, “And when you ask anything of them (the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him)), ask it of them from behind a curtain (hijab). That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts.” Qur’an 33:53.
There are numerous ahadeeth regarding this but two will suffice in view of the above referenced Qur’an verses. It was narrated that Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) in ihraam (a sacred state entered during the major pilgrimage (Hajj) or the minor pilgrimage (Umrah)), and when they drew near to us we would lower our jilbabs from our heads over our faces, then when they had passed we would uncover them again. Narrated by al-Albaani in Kitaab Jilbaab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah.
Similarly, in the books of Bukhari and Muslim, it was narrated from Urwah that Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) used to pray Fajr (morning prayer) and the believing women would attend (the prayer) with him, wrapped in their aprons, then they would go back to their houses and no one would recognize them.”
In the above verses, the terms Jilbab and Khimar appear in their variant forms, hence the need to understand what they mean. The definitive dictionary of classical Arabic, Lisan al-Arab by ibn al-Mandhur, provides the following definition, “The jilbab is the outer garment, mantle, or cloak. It is derived from the word tajalbaba, which means to clothe. Jilbab is the outer sheet or covering which a woman wraps around her on top of her garments to cover herself from head to toe. It hides her body completely”
While, Khimar comes from the word khamr, the root meaning of which is to cover. Everything that covers something else is called its khimar. Imam Abu’l-Fida ibn Katheer said: “Khumur is the plural of khimar which means something that covers, and is what is used to cover the head. This is what is known among the people as a chimera.” Also, Imam Abu Abdullah Qurtubi said: “Women in those days used to cover their heads with the khimar, throwing its ends upon their backs. This left the neck and the upper part of the chest bare, along with the ears, in the manner of the Christians. Then Allah commanded them to cover those parts with the khimar.”
Hijab has conditions which must be fulfilled in order for it to be properly accepted as a Hijab. Ibn Abdul Barr said in the 8th volume of al-Istidhkaar that “Any garment that shows the shape and does not conceal, it is not permissible to wear it under any circumstances, except with another garment that does conceal and does not show the shape, for the one who wears it is in effect naked, as Abu Hurayrah said, and this is narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah.”
In al-Albani’s authoritative book, Hijab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah fil Kitab wasSunnah, he outlined eight (8) conditions of Hijab. These conditions are as follow:
*The whole body, except for the exempted parts should be covered. Based on Qur’an 33:59. (Not just the head, but also the ears, neck, chest, the whole body from head to toe.
*It should not be an object of attraction in and of itself. “…and not to show off their adornment…” Qur’an 24:31. (Not the colorful and stoned veils of today.)
*It should be thick and not transparent or “see-through”. Concerning this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said in the hadith of Abu Hurayrayh recorded by Muslim: “During the last days of my ummah there will be women who are clothed but naked, with something on their heads like the humps of camels. Curse them, for they are cursed.” Another hadith adds: “They will not enter Paradise or even smell its fragrance, although its fragrance can be detected from such and such a distance.” (Not the see-through Abayas of today and veils “gele”)
*It should not be tight as to reveal body parts but rather it should be loose. (So, it is not Hijab if a woman puts on the scarf while she wears tight jeans or fitted Abayas or T-Shirts or suits, which reveals the shape of her body as we see today amongst many Muslim women.)
*It should not be perfumed. This was indicated in the hadith of Abu Musa al-Ash’ari that the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) said: “Any woman who puts on perfume then passes by people so that they can smell her fragrance, is an adulteress.
*It should not resemble the clothing of men. On the strength of Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Cursed the man who wears women’s clothes, and the woman who wears men’s clothes.” (Not the type that some women wear today that looks like men’s long thawb).
*It should not resemble the dress of a Kaafir (disbelieving) woman. Muslims, men and women alike, are not allowed to resemble or imitate the Kuffar (non-Muslims) with regard to worship, festivals or clothing that is specific to them.
*It should not be a garment that reflects vanity and arrogance. Ibn Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever wears a garment of fame and vanity in this world, Allaah will clothe him in a garment of humiliation on the Day of Resurrection, then He will cause Fire to flame up around him.”
In conclusion, the obligation of Hijab in the Shari’ah is not because Islam accuses every woman who does not put on her hijab of being immoral or because it assumes that all men are wicked and overwhelmed by lustful desires. Rather, it is the prerequisite of an ideal Islamic society to nurture its citizens upon righteousness and piety. Even in the bible the issue of dress code in accordance with the natural laws of modesty were addressed. For example,1 Corinthians 11:5-10 – New International Version (NIV), and in the first Epistle of Paul to Timothy and other places, women are commanded to cover themselves.
Oh! beloved Muslim mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, understand what Hijab is from the Shari’ah perspective and not what the modern society portrays as Hijab. Hijab is not just having a veil over the head while wearing tight garments that reveal the shape but Hijab is wearing lose, unattractive, thick and modest garment that covers a woman’s body completely without revealing the shape of her body parts.
I pray with all humility and sincerity to Allaah, to soften the hearts of our beloved Muslim women into wearing the proper Hijab. “It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allaah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allaah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in to a plain error.” Qur’an 33:36
Mr Abdul (Penabdul), an architect, is the Chairman/CEO of Sustainable Project Works (SPW) Ltd. Twitter: @Penabdull Instagram: @Penabdul