Woman, as taught by Islam since the light of Prophethood, is a precious and most valuable treasure of this world. She is to be protected, honoured and valued. Like a precious stone, her beauty should be respected, hidden in security and safety so as not to be abused by unworthy eyes.
We live in times where a woman’s beauty is paraded and flaunted without limits throughout the media, as a worthless object of lust and mindless desire. Her body, which was created as a pure symbol of grace, is displayed in shameless ways to corrupt minds and distort the meaning of ‘beauty’. Is it really any wonder that society has become so unashamed in its ways?
Ultimately, Hijab is empowerment for the Muslim woman. It is her right to preserve her modesty, to guard herself from the corruption of society. The veil or Hijab is that distinctive symbol which identifies her as a woman of God; humble, modest. It places her on the pedestal she is worthy of: that no male other than her close relatives and her husband, has the right to behold her beauty.
It is reported that Sayyida Fatima, the honourable daughter of the Beloved Messenger, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A woman’s best adornment is her modesty.”
The Verse of the Veil – al-Qur’an
To emphasise the importance of the Hijab, it should be known that Almighty Allah revealed an entire elaborative verse in the Qur’an regarding this concept:
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their head veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to 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 women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical desire, or small children who have no sense of sex; and that they should not stamp their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O believers! Turn all together towards Allah, that you may attain bliss.” [Qur’an 24:31]
• Sayyida Aisha stated, “May Allah have mercy on the early emigrant women (Muhajirun). When the verse ‘That they should draw their head veils over their bosoms’ [24:31] was revealed, they tore their thick outer garments and made veils from them. And when the verse ‘That they should cast their outer garments over themselves’ [33:59] was revealed, the women of the Muhajirun came out as if they had crows over their heads by wearing outer garments.” [Abu Dawud]
The above report is an indication of the truly pious and God-fearing nature of the women Companions of the Prophet, who immediately obeyed Almighty Allah’s orders to observe the Hijab and fulfil their duties of modesty.
• Sayyidina Umar bin al-Khattab says, Allah agreed with him on three matters (i.e. sent Divine Revelation or Wahi on three matters, as he had hoped). One of these matters was in regards to the veil. He reports, “I said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.’ So the Verse of the Veil (of women) was revealed.” [Bukhari: Vol 1, Book 8, Hadith no. 395]
Hijab and its Virtues
The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “A woman should be concealed, for when she goes out, the devil looks at her.” [Tirmidhi, Hadith no. 3109]
• Preserves her honour, dignity & self-respect
Islam teaches the Hijab as a means of protection so that the Muhajiba (one who observes the Hijab) is known as a woman of honour, and is therefore protected from being harassed by men of evil and unrestrained desires:
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the believing women to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known [as free respectable women] and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an 33:59]
• Modest adornment
Allah has blessed mankind with clothing as a way to cover ourselves, and also to beautify our appearances in an elegant manner; indeed the Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.” [Muslim]
Allah says in the Qur’an, “O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness (libas al-taqwa) – that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember.” [Qur’an 7:26]
Here, the term libas al-taqwa refers to piety and virtue, which Hijab is an integral part of.
Requirements of the Hijab
• Sayyida Aisha reported that Lady Asma, the daughter of Sayyidina Abu Bakr Siddique, went to the Messenger of Allah wearing thin clothing. He said to her, “O Asma! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. (He pointed to the face and hands.)” [Abu Dawud]
• In another Hadith, the Beloved Messenger states, “When a woman reaches puberty, no part of her body should remain uncovered, except her face and the hand up to the wrist joint.” [Abu Dawud]
From the above Hadiths, it is clear that the entire body of a Muslimahshould be covered, except for the face and hands. The wearing of a Niqab, or face veil, is optional and a personal preference.
• Outlining the requirements of the Hijab, and clarifying its necessity upon every believing woman, Almighty Allah mentions in the Qur’an: “[The believing women] should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their head veils over their bosoms…” [Qur’an 24:31]
Regarding the term, “except what must ordinarily appear thereof”, Tafsir Jalalayn (written by Imam Jalaluddin Suyuti and Imam Jalaluddin Mahalli) interprets this as the face and hands, as stated in the above Hadiths. Other scholars interpret this as only the two eyes, or are of the opinion that only that which is impossible to cover may be exposed. And Allah knows best.
Hijab: A Summary of Do’s and Don’ts
1. Ensure your chest area is covered. (“Draw their head veils over their bosoms…” [24:31])
2. Ensure all your hair is covered. (“Should not display their beauty and ornaments…” [24:31])
3. Dress smartly, within the bounds of Sharia or Islamic Law. (“Let the mark of Allah’s favour and honour upon you be seen.” [Hadith: Abu Dawud])
4. Avoid extravagance and seek moderation. (“Eat, drink, wear clothes and give alms without extravagance and without conceit.” [Hadith: Bukhari]”)
1. Wear clothes which show the shape of your body either through tight fit or transparency. (“…Women who, although clothed, are yet naked seducing and being seduced, their hair style like the tilted humps of camels. These will not enter the paradise nor will its fragrance reach them although its fragrance reaches a very great distance.” [Hadith: Muslim] )
2. Dress with the intention to impress others, and in a manner which leads you to become conceited. (“Eat, drink, wear clothes and give alms without extravagance and without conceit.” [Hadith: Bukhari])
3. Dress in such a manner which resembles a man. (“Allah has cursed the women who imitate the men and the men who imitate the women.” [Hadith: Tirmidhi])
4. Dress in such a manner which resembles the unbelievers. (“Indeed, these are the clothes of Kuffar (unbelievers), so do not wear them.” [Hadith: Muslim])
Lowering the Gaze
“…Not display their beauty except to 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 women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical desire, or small children who have no sense of sex; and that they should not stamp their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O believers! Turn all together towards Allah, that you may attain bliss.” [Qur’an 24:31]
The Muslimah should not display her beauty i.e. be seen without Hijab, by those other than whom the Qur’an mentions in the above verse. In short, she cannot display her beauty to those she is able to marry also known as ghair mahram males.
The Holy Qur’an also teaches both genders to lower their gaze, meaning to protect their eyes from staring at each other. It is known that a great percentage of human communication is visual; therefore from a simple glance, Shaytan creates an opportunity to put lustful thoughts into the minds of men and women.
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…” [Qur’an 24:31]
And, “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.” [Qur’an 24:30]
Hijab and the Man
When discussing Hijab, the question often arises; why is emphasis for covering up placed upon the women instead of the men?
Firstly, it should be noted that men definitely have a degree of Hijab to observe. In addition to modest clothing and following the ways of the noble Sunnah, men must also lower their gaze and protect themselves from their desires in regards to women.
This is commanded upon them in the Qur’anic verse: “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.” [Qur’an 24:30]
This is further explained in several Hadith, which tells us that the first glance is allowed however the second glance is not. This means that a man may look once but he should then turn away:
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said to his cousin Sayyidina Ali,“O Ali, do not follow a glance with another, for you will be forgiven for the first, but not for the second.” [Tirmidhi, Hadith no. 2701]
• Sayyidina Jareer ibn Abdullah said, “I asked the Messenger of Allah about an accidental glance at a woman. He commanded me to turn my gaze away.” [Tirmidhi]
Imam Nawawi states in his commentary or Sharh Sahih Muslim, that:
“What is meant by an accidental glance is if one’s gaze falls upon a non-mahram woman accidentally; there is no sin in that initially, but he must look away immediately. If he looks away immediately, there is no sin on him, but if he persists in looking, then he has sinned, because of this Hadith, for the Prophet commanded him to look away. And Allah says (interpreting the verse): “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts)…” [Qur’an 24:30]
Men must lower their gaze and avoid looking at women at all times, except for sound and legitimate purposes, namely testimony, medical treatment, proposing marriage, buying a slave girl, buying and selling, etc. In these cases it is permitted to look only as much as is necessary and no more. And Allah knows best.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim, 14/139]
One of the main reasons for why the Hijab is so focused on women is because woman is a man’s weakness. This is an innate trait which has been embedded into his nature. Therefore, the woman is asked to observe the Hijab not just for her own protection and modesty, but also to protect the man from his own weakness and lower self (nafs). Indeed, the Qur’an states, “For man was created weak.” [Qur’an 4:28]
Regarding this verse, Tafsir ibn Kathir reports Imam Waki’s comment: “Concerning women; man’s mind leaves when women are involved.” And Tafsir Jalalayn interprets this verse thus: “For man was created weak, unable to abstain from women and passions.”
Therefore, the Hijab is a protection and a for of purity for both genders and is ruled according to the nature of each. Since woman is made naturally soft-hearted, modest and humble, she is asked to cover up and protect herself; and since man is created weak, he is taught to exercise self-restraint. If both genders fulfil their individual duties, their faith is protected and their purity is preserved.
And Allah says in the Qur’an:
“If any one does a righteous deed, it is for the benefit of his own soul; if he does evil, it works against his own soul. In the end will you all be brought back to your Lord.” [Qur’an 45:15]
Qur’an & Hadith regarding Haya (or Modesty)
• “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…” [Qur’an 24:31]
• 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.” [Qur’an 24:30]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Imaan (faith) consists of more than sixty branches. And haya (modesty) is a part of faith.”[Bukhari]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Indeed haya and imaan are Companions. When one of them is lifted, the other leaves as well.” [Baihaqi]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “When lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective; and when haya is a part of anything it becomes beautiful.” [Tirmidhi]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Hayadoes not bring anything except good.” [Bukhari]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Every Deen (religion) has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya).” [Abu Dawud]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Surely Allah (is One who) has haya and is the Protector. He loves haya and people who cover each others faults.” [Bukhari]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Hayacomes from faith; faith leads to Paradise.” [Bukhari]
• The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Hayaand trustworthiness will be the first to go from this world; therefore keep asking Allah for them.” [Baihaqi]
May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon our Beloved Prophet Mustafa, upon his Family and his Companions.