director’s note: In the second installment of Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose, the hijab is presented in many forms and through the eyes of various people. As we open our minds to various cultures and belief systems, it is important to remember that there are REASONS people believe what they do and it is only through really listening that we can come to understand our differences. It is our hope that these blog posts will spark meaningful dialogues and a better understanding of what makes up all the colors of the world. Imagine!
“Coarse talk does not come into anything without disgracing it and modesty does not come into anything without adorning it.” — Al-Tirmidhi, 4854
Different Types of Veils Worn
There is a variety of different types of veils worn all around the world. Muslim women wear these different types depending on multiple factors including the country they live in, the culture they are a part of, the occasion, or for some; even the weather. But most of all, the woman herself decides what she is most comfortable wearing, and makes her choices accordingly. One must remember that the Hijab or veils come in different sizes, types, materials and colours, and can even be worn differently under each broad category. As it is visually apparent, they provide varying amounts of coverage of the Woman’s body.
Why Some Women Choose Not To Wear It
Many people are not aware of this, but there exist a number of Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab at all. Just like those who wear the veil, women who choose not to have their own personal reasons. Some claim that the Qur’an does not explicitly talk about covering one’s body through a veil such as the hijab. They feel as though wearing the hijab is more of a cultural interpretation of the words written in the Holy Book. Some claim that it is too hot where they live, and they would not be able to bear the heat. Some say they aren’t ready for the commitment or the responsibility of wearing the veil every day in public. Oftentimes, women who wear the hijab in the public world receive a lot of social stigma, and things like stares and uncomfortable glances become a daily phenomenon.
Why She Doesn’t Believe In the Veil- Mrs. Sajeda Jamal
“Mrs. Jamal has more than 15 years of experience in the early childhood learning space and was raised in Dubai where she completed her B. Ed and Certificate in ECCE. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, curriculum designer and app developer”.
What is your view on the Hijab? Do you think it is necessary for a Muslim Woman to wear it?
No it’s not necessary. I feel it is more to do with the culture than with religion. Of what I have read in the Qur’an, the word used is Khimar which means “cover” and in the broad sense it could mean anything, like a bed covering or a sheet. Although the Quran does ask the woman to cover her bosom. But nowhere does it say to cover the hair or face. It does talk about cover the beauty, the word being used “Zinat”. Personally speaking, I feel like a modest dressing is more important. It is important for a girl to dress not to lure men in any way. Revealing dressing to me is improper dressing. I don’t see harm in wearing the Indian Shalwar Kameez (Traditional dress worn mostly in India and Pakistan), and do not see the need to wear any extra scarf over the head. I do not see why you would say that the entire beauty lies in the hair. That is stupidity.
Mr. Jamal (Mrs. Sajeda’s Husband): Firstly, the Qur’an is the only indisputable book, the word of God. It does not say “cover your hair”, it only says “khimar”. God is not short of words, and could have specifically mentioned “hair” or head. In Indian culture and Arab culture etc. women are expected to cover their heads. It is merely cultural. Additionally, you face is your identity, it is part of who you are, why do you throw that away?
What Is the Purpose of the Hijab?
To better understand the purpose and meaning behind the Islamic veil, what better way to do this than to read verses directly from the Holy Islamic Book: The Qur’an. In Chapter 24 titled an-Nur (meaning: The Light), in verse 30, Allah commands Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as follows:
Translated, it means: “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” (Al-Islam.org)
This message commands all Muslim men to glance downwards i.e. to not look at any other women lustfully (apart from their own wives) so as to avoid the possibility of temptation. This is often referred to as “Hijab of the eyes”.
In the succeeding verse, Allah commands the Prophet (s.a.w) to address the women of Islam:
Meaning: “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) …” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)
This is a very similar commandment as that which was given to the men in the previous verse, dealing with “The hijab of the eyes”. It also states that women should “Guard their private parts”, doing so by being chaste. (Al-Islam.org)
The teaching of “hijab of the eyes” is very similar to the biblical teachings as well. In The Gospel of Matthew, chap. 5, verses 27-28, Jesus (as) says: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Keeping this in mind, if you ever see a Muslim talking with the opposite sex and looking downwards, it is not because of a lack of confidence, but rather it is him/her abiding by the Qur’anic as well as Biblical teachings. Subsequently came the verse that describes the Islamic dress code for Women:
“…and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khumur over their bosoms…” (Al-Islam.org)
What does “Khumur” mean in this verse? the , ِخ َما ر is plural of khimar ُخ ُم ر Khumur veil covering the head. Check any Arabic dictionary like Lisanu ’l- ‘Arab, Majma ‘u ’l-Bahrayn or al-Munjid for further clarifications. Al-Munjid, which is the most popular dictionary in the Arab world, defines alkhimar as “something with which a woman conceals her head.”
Fakhru ’d-Din al-Turayhi in Majma ‘u ’lBahrayn (which is a dictionary for words specifically from the Qur’an and hadith) defines al-khimar as “scarf, and it is known as such because the head is covered with it.” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)
So the word khimar, by definition, means a piece of cloth that covers the head.
So what does the phrase “Place their Khumur over their bosoms” mean? Let us dive into a little Islamic History: According to various commentators of the Qur’an, the women of Medina in the pre-Islamic era used to put their khumur over the head with the two ends tucked behind and tied at the back of the neck, in the process exposing their ears and neck. By commanding women to “place the Khumur over their bosoms, Almighty Allah ordered the women to let the tied ends of their scarf loose, subsequently extending onto their bosoms so that they may cover their ears, neck and chest area. (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”) Our understanding of these verses was then confirmed by the reaction of the Muslim Women to this commandment of God. The Sunni source quotes Ummu ’l-mu’minin ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, saying:
However, it is crucial to note and to understand that different women interpret the Qur’an’s words differently. Many women simply believe that wearing the Hijab is a cultural translation of the words from the Holy book and do not think that Khumur is something that covers the head, but rather just the bosom. (As it is not stated explicitly in the Qur’an but that most people agree that the definition of the Khimar is a cloth that covers the head.) Finally, the verse goes on to give the list of the mahram – male family members in whose presence the hijab is not required, such as the husband, the father, the father-in-law, the son(s), and others. This verse ends with a list of the mahram, i.e. the people in presence of which the veil is not required, for e.g. the Husband, the father, the grandfather, sons(s) and so on and so forth. There also exists another verse in the Qur’an that talks about wearing a loose garment Jalabib (sing. Jilbab) around themselves as to not attract attention towards their figure. In essence, the purpose of the hijab is to promote modesty, and in turn, safeguard women from the lustful stares of men (and vice versa) and to ensure that both women and men do not commit illicit acts. It is about empowering women, and giving them a medium through which they are no longer objectified by society, but liberated from it. They are much more likely to be judged by their personality and intellect rather than their body and their sexuality. It is important to keep in mind that the religion of Islam is a lot about prevention rather than cure. A lot of the commandments by God restrict any acts that may lead to unlawful behaviour.
The Science Behind the Hijab
You may be surprised to know that the hijab is not merely a baseless practice, it too has a science behind it. All of what is in the Qur’an is scientifically accurate knowledge. Let’s look at the ways in which the brain works, and how the hijab may help a woman. The brain is one of the most fundamental organs of the human Body. It receives inputs from sensory modalities, i.e. feeling, smelling, seeing and testing etc. The stimuli that is received from various parts of the body is then stored and processed in the brain. It connects different ideas together, forms new ones, and makes decisions upon what actions should be taken in response to the given information. The brain builds the bridge from input to output.
Therefore, the conclusion that controlling sensory information coming from the eyes can largely impact the working of and further tasks such as memory, analysis of stored information, processing thoughts, learning, recognition, and several social and emotional facets relating to fed stimuli is most definitely a logical one. Neurons in the brain have the task of processing all this oncoming information, and distributing it to various parts of the brain for timely retrieval in the future. Lastly, the output of this processed information is relayed back to our brain or corresponding muscles in the form of words, actions and thoughts. Thus, it is safe to conclude that if wrong or incorrect sensory stimuli is fed to the brain, the neurons processing and storing that kind of information will in turn result in the imparting of bad ideas, thoughts and finally, bad actions and words. A simple diagram of the same information is given below:
It is then crucial to understand the fact that when a person is exposed to an environment with large amounts of provocative stimuli, especially coming from the eyes and the visual system, it leads to relevant and similar kind of aggressive and provocative words, actions and thoughts. Younger, more susceptible individuals with minds that are easily affected by such stimuli, lacking a resolute enough self control will quickly get affected by the kind of stimuli that is provided to them. They are highly likely to think, act and say things that directly correlate with what they hear, smell, taste, but especially see around them. This is why kids that play violent video games or games with similar themes are often drawn to behave in the same aggressive manner. With the advent of ever-advancing science and technology, in a world where all kinds of resources and all kinds of stimuli are at the tips of your fingers, it is even easier to get exposed to obscene or inappropriate themes. Not only this, with social gatherings, events, parties, universities etc. there is a lot of interactions between males and females. I am not claiming that this is wrong, but rather stating that there is higher tendency of receiving provocative stimuli in these kinds of social situations.
Moreover, both males and females can dress modestly, wearing loose, unprovocative clothing that stops an indecent kind of sensory stimuli from entering people’s minds. Everyone must also maintain a certain level of modesty in the way they carry themselves, the way they talk and the words they use and in their actions and converse with other with people. This could essentially help minimise or even prevent “unwanted emotional or social consequences”. (Haydari)
Once again, it is essential to enforce the idea of prevention before cure. Both women and men must do their part in acting, talking and dressing in a decent manner so as to avoid the wrong kind of sensory stimuli from entering one’s minds. Another very important aspect of ‘purdah’ or veiling that is outlined in the Qur’an is the lowering of the gaze.
The Health Benefits of the Hijab
“In Chinese medical texts, in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine, it was stated that wind can cause sudden changes within the body and will upset the body’s equilibrium thus, creating bad health.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)
It has been written that ailments such as the common cold and flu are related to wind elements that disturb the body’s equilibrium when they enter the body, and cause symptoms such as a running nose or sneezing. “In the traditional Islamic medical texts of Al-Jawziyya, there are numerous references to the “four elements” of fire, water, air and earth and how these affect the body in adverse ways. In particular, we are advised to stay away from drafts and protect our heads in wind, breezes, drafts and cold weather.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”) Also, covering the head is important for a variety of health reasons in the warm weather. V.G. Rocine, a prominent brain research specialist, discovered that phosphorus found in the brain begins to melt at 108 has found that brain Phosphorus melts at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a temperature that can easily be achieved if one stays under the sun for a short period of time without a head covering. When this takes place, a temperature that can be easily reached if one stays under the hot sun for any length of time without a head covering. When this happens, irreparable damage to the brain is done, including memory loss and loss of a few brain functions. “Although this example is extreme, Brain damage can still be measured in small degrees from frequent exposure to and overheating of the head.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)
Bernard Jensen, noted chiropractor and neuropath claims that this is due to the fact that the brain “runs on the mineral phosphorus” (“Science Behind the Hijab”), which is easily affected by heat.
In the end, the Islamic dress code is meant for and in the interest of Women’s safety and well-being, rather than her subjugation or oppression, as media often portrays it as.
Next week: the hijab does not keep you from doing what you want