Hijab

Muslim women wearing hijabs

A hijab (b/;[1][2][3][4] Arabic: حجابḥijāb, pronounced [ħɪˈdʒaːb] or Egyptian Arabic: [ħeˈɡæːb]) in common English usage is a veil worn by some Muslim women in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family, which usually covers the head and chest. The term can refer to any head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women that conforms to Islamic standards of modesty. Hijab can also refer to the seclusion of women from men in the public sphere, or it may denote a metaphysical dimension, for example referring to "the veil which separates man or the world from God."[5]

In the Qur'an, hadith, and other classical Arabic texts the term khimār (Arabic: خِمار‎) was used to denote a headscarf, and ḥijāb was used to denote a partition, a curtain, or was used generally for the Islamic rules of modesty and dress for both males and females.[6][7][8][9]

In its traditional form, it is worn by women to maintain modesty and privacy from unrelated males. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam and Muslim World, modesty in the Quran concerns both men's and women's "gaze, gait, garments, and genitalia."[10] The Qur'an instructs Muslim women to dress modestly.[11] Some Islamic legal systems define this type of modest clothing as covering everything except the face, hands up to wrists, and feet.[5][12] These guidelines are found in texts of hadith and fiqh developed after the revelation of the Qur'an but, according to some, are derived from the verses (ayahs) referencing hijab in the Qur'an.[10] Some believe that the Qur'an itself does not mandate that women wear hijab.[13][14]

In the Qur'an, the term hijab refers to a partition or curtain in the literal or metaphorical sense. The verse where it is used literally is commonly understood to refer to the curtain separating visitors to Muhammad's house from his wives' lodgings. This had led some to argue that the mandate of the Qur'an to wear hijab applied to the wives of Muhammad, and not women generally.[15][16]

In recent times, wearing hijab in public has been required by law in Saudi Arabia (for Muslims),[17][18] Iran and the Indonesian province of Aceh. Other countries, both in Europe and in the Muslim world, have passed laws banning some or all types of hijab in public or in certain types of locales. Women in different parts of the world have also experienced unofficial pressure to wear or not wear hijab.

In Islamic scripture

Quran

The Quran instructs both Muslim men and women to dress in a modest way, but there is disagreement on how these instructions should be interpreted. The verses relating to dress use the terms khimār (head cover) and jilbāb (a dress or cloak) rather than ḥijāb.[7] In the Quran, there are over 6,000 verses and only about half a dozen refer specifically to the way a woman should dress or walk in public.[19]

The clearest verse on the requirement of modest dress is surah 24:31, telling women to guard their private parts and draw their khimār over their bosoms.[20][21]

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their private parts; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their breasts and not display their beauty except to their husband, 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.

— 24:31

In Surah 33:59 Muhammad is commanded to ask his family members and other Muslim women to wear outer garments when they go out, so that they are not harassed:[21]

O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed.

— 33:59

The Islamic commentators generally agree this verse refers to sexual harassment of women of Medina. It is also seen to refer to a free woman, for which Tabari cites Ibn Abbas. Ibn Kathir states that the jilbab distinguishes free Muslim women from those of Jahiliyyah, so other men know they are free women and not slavegirls or whores, indicating covering oneself doesn't apply to non-Muslims. He cites Sufyan al-Thawri as commenting that while it may be seen as permitting to look upon non-Muslim women who adorn themselves, it is not allowed in order to avoid lust. Al-Qurtubi concurs with Tabari about this ayah being for those who are free. He reports that the correct view is that a jilbab covers the whole body. He also cites the Sahabah as saying it is no longer than a rida (a shawl or a wrapper that covers the upper body). He also reports a minority view which considers the niqab or head-covering as jilbab. Ibn Arabi considered that excessive covering would make it impossible for a woman to be recognised which the verse mentions, though both Qurtubi and Tabari agree that the word recognition is about distinguishing free women.[22]

Some scholars like Ibn Hayyan, Ibn Hazm and Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani questioned the ayah's common explanation. Hayyan believed that "believing women" referred to both free women and slaves as the latter are bound to more easily entice lust and their exclusion is not clearly indicated. Hazm too believed that it covered Muslim slaves as it would violate the law of not molesting a slave or fornication with her like that with a free woman. He stated that anything not attributed to Muhammad should be disregarded.[23]

The word ḥijāb in the Quran refers not to women's clothing, but rather a spatial partition or curtain.[7] Sometimes its use is literal, as in the verse which refers to the screen that separated Muhammad's wives from the visitors to his house (33:53), while in other cases the word denotes separation between deity and mortals (42:51), wrongdoers and righteous (7:46, 41:5), believers and unbelievers (17:45), and light from darkness (38:32).[7]

The interpretation of the ḥijāb as separation can be digested in three ways: as a visual barrier, physical barrier, and ethical barrier. The visual barrier has the opportunity to hide something from sight which places emphasis on a symbolic boundary (for example, between the Prophet's family and the surrounding community). The physical barrier is used to create a space that provides comfort and privacy for individuals such as the female elite. The ethical barrier, is known to make something forbidden such as the 'purity of hearts' in reference to the Prophet's wives and the Muslim men who visit them.[19]

Hadith

Moroccan girls wearing the hijab

The hadith sources specify the details of hijab (Islamic rules of dress) for men and women, exegesis of the Qur'anic verses narrated by sahabah, and are a major source which scholars used to derive their rulings.[24][25][26]

  • Narrated 32:4090. Abū Dawud classed this hadith as authentic.
  • Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba: "Aisha used to say: 'When (the Verse): "They should draw their veils (khumur) over their necks and bosoms (juyyub)," was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and veiled themselves (Arabic: فَاخْتَمَرْنَ‎) with the cut pieces.'" 32:4091. This hadith is often translated as "...and covered their heads and faces with the cut pieces of cloth,"[27] as the Arabic word used in the text (Arabic: فَاخْتَمَرْنَ‎) could include or exclude the face and there was ikhtilaf on whether covering the face is farḍ, or obligatory. The most prominent sharh, or explanation, of Sahih Bukhari is Fatḥ al-Bārī which states this included the face.
  • Yahya related to me from Malik from Muhammad ibn Zayd ibn Qunfudh that his mother asked Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, "What clothes can a woman wear in prayer?" She said, "She can pray in the khimār (headscarf) and the diri' (Arabic: الدِّرْعِ‎, a woman's garment) that reaches down and covers the top of her feet." Muwatta Imam Malik book 8 hadith 37.
  • Aishah narrated that Allah's Messenger said: "The Salat (prayer) of a woman who has reached the age of menstruation is not accepted without a khimār." Jami` at-Tirmidhi 377.