Hijab is the modern word for the practice of
which all practicing
past the age of
are instructed to do in their holy book, the
No precise dress code for men or women is set out in the Qur'an (the most
specific part being 33:59 mentioning that believers "draw their cloaks
close round them (when they go out)"), and various Islamic scholars
have interpreted the meaning of hijab in different ways.
The basic requirements are that when in the presence of someone of the
opposite sex other than a "close family member" (Mahram),
a woman should cover her body, and walk and dress in a way which does not
draw sexual attention to her, and that a man should be covered from at least
the navel to the knees, and similarly not wear figure-hugging clothes that
draw sexual attention to him.
Generally drawing sexual attention is only allowed between married couples
where it is highly encouraged
and they do not need to cover any part of their body in each other's presence
(other Mahrams should hide at least their sexual organs from each other).
It is claimed that hijab strengthens the family and therefore improves the
children's mental health.
As a rule of Islam, "in the case of necessity, for example for saving
lives or avoiding severe hardship, hijab rules are waived".
The way in which Muslims who practice hijab interpret the stated rules
varies from country to country and even individual to individual.
The word "hijab"
is also frequently used specifically to mean a headscarf
worn by a Muslim woman. In this case, it most often refers
to a square scarf which is folded diagonally and worn over
the head to cover the hair, ears and throat, but not the
face. The word used in the Qu'ran for a headscarf is "khimar",
which might be better to use when referring to headscarves
in general, as many people argue that this use of "hijab"
is incorrect, and it can certainly lead to confusion. See
veil for a general description
of headscarves and veils worn by both Muslim and non-Muslim
list of hats and headgear
for a list of all kinds of veils
How do people wear hijab?
Opinions on what exactly constitutes hijab vary among
Muslims. Perhaps the most accepted and common practice for
women however is the covering of the body except for the
face and hands (wrist to fingers), in a simple manner that
does not attract sexual attention from men (by avoiding
sheer fabrics or figure-hugging clothes for example). Some
have said that both sexes should cover their heads, wrists,
and ankles; others believe that women should cover their
faces as well.
Some liberal Muslims in the
West choose to follow hijab by dressing in a way that
would be considered modest for the culture in which they
e.g. western business clothes.
Why do people wear hijab?
Hijab is sometimes controversial: its
proponents suggest that it provides higher
levels of sexual security, especially for
women. They offer as evidence the situation
of Islamic countries regarding sex crimes,
compared to other countries with same economic
situation and GDP per capita. This, of course,
is a specious comparison as there are numerous
other variables at play which may account
for the different rates. Some believe that
hijab is unfair and oppressive. On the other
hand, many Muslim women, including many
in western cultures, state that they prefer
to follow hijab as a sign of their faith
and submission to
Allah (not to men), so that all Muslim
women are respected equally rather than
for their appearance, and as a matter of
Taliban practice of forcing
Afghan women to wear full
(a garment which covers the entire body,
except for netting or a grille over the
eyes for the women to see out of) was described
as cruel and
misogynistic, however very few Afghan
women chose to take off their burqas after
the Taliban fell . Similarly the majority
Pakhtun women in the
North Western Frontier Province of
Pakistan continue to wear the burqa,
even though there are no laws enforcing
burqa-wearing in Pakistan.
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