This beautiful sunnah of shyness, modesty and innocence is an integral aspect of shaping a part of an individual. A time where our fellow Islamic brothers and sisters are gradually drifting away from knowledge only to become lost leaves in the wind. In a time where the value of hijab is being increasingly doubted, distrusted and even diminished. It is perhaps more important now than ever to become familiar with the Islamic rulings and virtues behind the hijab. This blog aims to address the purpose, significance and philosophy behind the hijab and clear up some common misconceptions surrounding it.
The term hijab is defined as a ‘barrier’ or ‘veil’ and comprises not only the dress of the external body but also methods of behaviour before members of the opposite gender, prohibiting unnecessary intermingling between males and females thereby promoting modesty, chastity and dignity. The hijab fosters goodness and repels evil by means of shifting the attention of an individual from the external body or dress to the quality of the mind, personality and intellect. This subsequently breeds self-respect signalling that the veil preserves and protects honour from evil thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, it reduces the impact of competition knowing one is not judged by the mere price of their clothes thereby functioning as a deterrent from social and ethical ills. In this way, it nurtures self-confidence liberating believers from a web of insecurities which stems from the desire to conform to an ‘ideal’ standard of what beauty looks like in the 21st century.
For these benefits to be achieved, Islamic Law requires all believers to cover themselves to a certain extent. For a woman, it is everything apart from her hands, face and feet. For a man, it is from the navel to below the knees. The hijab becomes obligatory upon reaching the age of puberty where one will be held accountable for their actions.
Allah commands in Surah Al-Nur:
“[Prophet], tell the believing men to lower their glances and guard their private parts: that is purer for them. God is well aware of everything they do.”[Qur’an, 24:30]
Thereafter, He commands in Surah Al-Nur:
“and tell believing women that they should lower glances, guard their private parts, and not display their charms beyond what is acceptable to reveal, they should let their headscarves fall to cover their necklines… ”[Qur’an, 24:31]
Hijab is not a choice but an obligation. It is more than a means of self-expression, a mere fashion accessory or a political statement. Hijab should be first and foremost adopted in order to seek and attain the pleasure of Allah and thus an act of servitude performed out of one’s longing for Allah and His closeness.
“Servanthood is giving up your personal choice in favour of what has been foreordained for you by divine decrees. It is freeing yourself from the power and might and recognizing the grants and blessings that He bestows upon you. It is embracing whatever Allah has commanded for you and departing from what He has prohibited for you.”[Imam al-Qushayri, Al-Risaalah]
Abu ‘Ali al-Daqqaaq (Allah be pleased with him) states, “Just as Lordship is a property of the Real (al-Haq) which never ceases, so is servanthood a property of God’s servant which stays with him as long as he is alive.” A Sufi recited:
“If you ask me, I will say: ‘I am his servant’”[Imām al-Qushayri, Al-Risālah]
“If you ask Him, He will say: ‘Here’s my slave’”
It is mentioned in a Hadith Qudsi where Allah says:
“My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes and his foot with which he walks.”[Imam Yusuf al-Nabhani, The Arba’in Series – Forty Divine Narrations]
This indicates we can only attain the pleasure of Allah through first obeying his laws and commandments. We should prioritise our fard (obligatory) and make it of upmost importance before performing nafl (supererogatory) actions. Adopting the hijab is one of those obligatory components necessary to attain the love of Allah and spiritually develop.
In an era where immorality and shamelessness are being promoted, we have been unconsciously tamed to accept a faulty notion that our value can only be found in the western expectation of beauty. An expectation which makes us feel that we are liberated when in reality we are imprisoned by the shackles of societal pressure in order to conform to its expectations. They deceived us to believe we are honoured when in reality we have been disgraced. That we have rights when in reality we have been programmed. An increased frequency of exposure to repulsive behaviour slapped across billboards, televisions and social media advertisements on a daily basis serve as a constant reminder to imitate such customs. They aim to use their destructive concepts and designs to desensitise us to such obscenity. This, in turn, has tampered with our faith, weakened our imaan and deteriorated our belief to the extent that the believers find it difficult to adopt the correct Islamic rulings on hijab. Almost as if we are like mice chasing after cheese only to reach a cat which devours us whole within seconds. Society paved a way and we blindly followed. It is imperative that we become self-alert, possessing the capability to critically evaluate and assess information rather than accepting things at face value.
The beloved Messenger (Peace be upon him) informed us of the existence of two groups of the people of the fire: one of which encompasses those women who are “clothed yet naked” and the second, “their heads are likened to the humps of camels”. What did our beloved Messenger (Peace be upon him) say about such women? He (Peace be upon him)said that “they will not enter Jannah nor smell its fragrance – it’s fragrance could (usually) be smelt from a far distance, a journey of many (miles).” [Imam Muslim, Sahih].
Sadly, such is the sorrowful state of today where we see Muslims who are dressed in clothing that is covering their skin, yet they appear naked. The gradual shift from abayas, to tightly fitted dresses, slowly evolving and becoming a gateway to shorter revealing attire. My precious sister, I ask you, what is left? As society transitioned, so did the idea of what hijab really is in a cosmopolitan society. We wanted to blend in, so we decided to make the hijab ‘fit in’. The hijab should be loose in that it shouldn’t reveal the shape of the body and its curves. Hijab styles revealing the top parts of the hair, the neck, the ears and chest should be avoided as it is contrary to the prescribed ruling of hijab. Furthermore, exposing the small parts of the body such as the legs does not amount to correct hijab. It is akin to an animal who in response to being offered a small morsel of food, returns intrigued for more. Don’t give it the opportunity to grow into an even bigger sin. Our religion prevents the initiation of sin by having rulings such as that of the hijab. In order to reap the fruits, we must adopt the hijab according to its true meaning and purpose. In doing so we should try our best to look up to and imitate the likes of Lady Fatima al-Zahra (May Allah be pleased with her) whose modesty was such that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) declared:
“Fatimah has protected her chastity and purity in such a way that Allah has forbidden the fire upon her and her family”.[Imam al-Haakim, Mustadrak]
This purity and chastity will continue in the hereafter as Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him)has stated:
On the Day of Resurrection, a herald will announce from behind a veil: ‘O’ People of the great assembly! Lower your gazes until Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, passes.’ “[Imām al-Hakim, Mustadrak]
My respected brothers and sisters in Islam, don’t be a lost leaf in the wind. Close your ears to the whining of the west and open your heart to the call of goodness. Proceed to the obedience of Allah and reclaim this lost pearl. Free yourself from the chains of society. The hijab tells us we are no one’s prisoner but a slave to the Lord Most High. Connect back to your Lord because all guidance comes from Him. Only when we obey His laws and commandments will we then “taste the sweetness of faith.” [Imam Muslim, Sahih, 34].