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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Hijab (Let's Speak on it!)


In Turkey and Tunisia, there are laws that prohibit the wearing of the hijab in schools, government buildings, and universities. On March 15, 2004, France passed a law banning "symbols or clothes through which students conspicuously display their religious affiliation" in public primary schools, middle schools, and secondary schools. A city in Belgium has also banned the Niqab (veil that covers the face).

Begins at a Young age...

My wife and I recently came back from a vacation in
Florida with my parents and sister. During that time (and for a while now) we've noticed my sister's issues with wearing the hijab. My sister is almost 9 and she does a good job with putting it on for prayer. But as soon as prayer is over she rips it off. On Jummah day, it stays in her bookbag until she's told repeatedly to put it on when walking into the masjid.

My wife literally grew up wearing the hijab. From the time she could walk it was instilled into her the importance of "covering" and pride in wearing the hijab as a young Muslimah
(thanks to Chevonne for the pic). We both hold the belief that it makes for a much easier transition at puberty when you have been wearing it since you were much younger. (not to say it can't be done otherwise)

The Meaning

"O ye who believe...And when ye ask (his ladies) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs..." (Holy Qur'an, 33:53)

The word hijab comes from the root word hajaba which means to veil, to cover, or to screen. Allah references the word hijab in the Qur'an when speaking about the Mothers of the Faithful (may Allah be pleased with them). I say Mothers of the Faithful because this was the term used to describe the wives of the Prophet (saw) and provides an important connection with those who are faithful, ie. the believers.

So the word hijab literally means a screen, but it denotes anything that intervenes between two things. When studied in the context of this ayah, it implies the separation of men and women. It implies a sense of modesty and purity. And when the Qur'an mentions dress, it speaks towards not just the physical but the spiritual as well (if not more importantly). This is why we find in Islam that the best dress is the dress of Taqwa (righteousness, G-d consciousness).

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear 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 Allah, that ye may attain Bliss." (Holy Qur'an, 24:31)

So the word hijab speaks for much more than just a veil or screen. The word does not even refer to an article of clothing. The language used in the Qur'an for veil or head-scarf is Khimar. Arabs were wearing scarves on their heads before Islam but with this revelation it was told to take that scarf that you are using to cover your hair and cover your chests/bosoms as well! What point is it for you to cover your hair if you are showing off your breasts and butt? For some reason some Muslims seem to forget the ayah in Qur'an that charges the wives of believers to wear a jilbab (outer garment) when in public.* And here again in 24:31, Allah says don't show off your body except what must ordinarily appear.

And here we come to the controversy. What must ordinarily appear? Hands? Feet? Face? What about nothing? Does the hijab (screen) necessitate a Niqab (veil that covers the face)?

My Opinion

There are hadith that restrict the phrase "what (must ordinarily) appear thereof" to face, hands, and feet. And there are some hadith that note that it was a practice of the Prophet's wives not even to show this. What must ordinarily appear is up to the interpretation of the interpretor and may be a test of his/her faith. I am of the opinion that the following words are key in understanding the context of hijab: "the believing women... that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty". And it is important to note that these same words also apply to MEN.

What is this to say? The hijab is more than just a scarf (as we like to think of it as just a scarf). It is a symbol of Taqwa (righteousness, G-d consciousness). The hijab filters Shaitan, and it takes courage to stand up against the influences of Satan. The hijab is a lifestyle choice. The hijab blatantly displays your beliefs and way of life. It is an obligation upon both believing MEN and WOMEN in order to guard your modesty. In the context of Qur'an, the obligation is not with the hijab or even the khimar, the obligation is with modesty in all aspects. But remember as Muslims, we follow the best thereof.

Islam is a simple religion. Islam speaks to the excellence in the human design. Your dress should ultimately be a reflection of your spirit. Pure, clean, modest.


Any suggestions on how to help my sister transition into this phase and love and appreciate what the Hijab represents?

What about for our general communities?

*According to Hadith, this ayah was revealed when the wives of the Prophet used to go out at night to use the bathroom. Allah tells His Messenger (saw) to command the believing women (especially his wives and daughters, because of their position of honor) to draw their Jalabeeb
(outer garments) over their bodies, so that they will be distinct in their appearance from the Pagan woman and from slave women. The word Jilbab comes from the word jalaba which means to attract or to bring about. A jilbab is meant to attract the right attention and divert the wrong.


Zahara said...

WOW, this was very well stated! As a future mother and parent ….. (and your wife) it is very important to me that our children see the best examples in us. They must also understand the importance of why they are doing certain things. Once a person understands the meaning behind rituals, traditions, culture and religion it is much easier to grasp the concept. As for your sister… is hard for me to openly comment on this subject because it is so close to home. For a nine year old Jayda is already stuck in her ways. I think she is old enough to read about Islamic issues and began to find her way............

Daarina said...

This blog spot was so excellent...and like Zahara said, very we stated. I think that hijab should be a natural process for your sister. Not saying that your family shouldn't encourage her to where it, but continue to guide her in her journey as a young muslim woman and explain the significance of Hijab to her. What helped me the most was being around other muslims within my age group who wore it. I begin to gain a greater appreciation for the Hijab. When i first began wearing Hijab, it was a personal choice and it felt sincere. It was definitely a growing process, both physically and spiritually. The more I grew spiritually as a Muslim, the more my external reflected that internal light.

thelegacymaker said...

Thanks for the feedback sisters. I think its always easier to be around other Muslims your age, no matter what topic. Imam Mohammed once described words from his father: (and I paraphrase) When one coal is separated from the rest it is bound to cool very quickly.

Mrs. PhD Extraordinaire said...

As Salaam Alaikum Bro Khalil! I enjoy reading your BLOG. . .excellent post! Keep up the good work. Do you mind if I add you to my blog roll?

thelegacymaker said...

Shukran! Thanks for reading...I don't mind at all :-)

Tariq said...

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 Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful.
( سورة الأحزاب , Al-Ahzab, Chapter #33, Verse #59)

Excellent post Marcus. Its good to see someone with a clear perspective. This has always been my position since hearing Imam Faheem Shuaibe's series of lectures on the topic. It just goes to show how far removed the thinking of many Muslims is today from the actual circumstances and true problem solving and logic that was going on in the early ummah. Many people think any analysis of Islamic history that doesn't blindly imitate a hadith out of context or a scholar without considering the circumstances is blasphemous. Thanks for being a breath of fresh air in the blogosphere.

thelegacymaker said...

Alhamdulillah! You touch on a very important topic when you mention the logic and problem solving in the early ummah. I look forward to reading your blog Thanks for your comment.

amirah:the uncool said...

I agree with daarina. I became more comfortable with it when I was around people who wore theirs with pride&dignity in order to please G-d...and as I got older, I wanted to wear it more often because I started to really embrace it. You should just give your sister a little time...hopefully inshaAllah she'll find her way into embracing the hijab.

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