Nowadays, the general perspective of the common folk, with regards to the Hijab, is a totally unguided, misleading vision of an oppressive degradation of women, where individuals are forced to cover themselves and reduced to nothingness in society.
This idea is based on misconceptions which in effect hides and distorts the truth behind the veil!
The first thing we must understand is the concept of Hijab. The literal meaning of the word Hijab is to veil, partition or place a barrier between something. This does not solely refer to clothing and does not exclusively address women.
In Surah Nur of the Holy Qur’an, the command for Hijab is first directed toward the men then to the women. Allah (SW) says:
“Say (O Muhammad) to the believing men: lower your gaze and protect your modesty that is more pure for you…
And Say (O Muhammad) to the believing women: lower your gaze and protect your modesty and do not openly reveal your beauty (apart from to your mahrams)…”
In the context of the above verses, the Hijab initially starts with the lowering of the gaze. Muslim men and women are commanded to lower their gaze and not to look at the opposite gender. This reduces the possibility of any bad thoughts towards an individual which is a sin and the first step towards bigger sins. In this case, there is no physical barrier but a mental or invisible veil created by lowering the gaze.
The next part of the verse commands the Muslims to protect their modesty. This includes dressing in accordance to the Islamic dress code and refraining from all forms of lewd behaviour. This keeps the mind, body and soul free from sinful behaviour and promotes internal harmony as well as a healthy atmosphere of respect and cohesion in society.
The Islamic dress code consists of wearing clothing which fits the following criteria.
Extent: The minimum extent for men is from the naval to knees. For women, the compulsory amount covers the whole body excludes the hands, feet and face. Many Scholars consider the veiling of the face to be necessary because the above Qur’an verse states ‘Do not openly reveal your beauty’ and most of the beauty of a woman lies in the face.
Revealing: The clothes should not be transparent or tight which reveals the shape of the body. This is the case for both genders.
Dress type: The clothes should not be of the opposite gender. This means that men should not wear clothes that resemble women’s clothes and vice versa. The clothes (inc. jewellery) should not resemble those of other religions (e.g. wearing a cross).
Glamorous: The clothes should not be so glamorous or extravagant that they attract the opposite gender.
The criteria of the Hijab are such that it protects a woman from negative elements in society whilst promoting a healthy respect from all areas of society. This modesty, piety and morality are prevalent in society where Muslim men and women are allowed to wear the Hijab and to follow their way of life.
The myth of the Hijab being a tool of oppression was recently challenged when women of all ages and backgrounds began adopting the Hajib and defending their right to wear the Hijab. This was in the face of criticism by many political figures in discrediting the Hijab but it illustrated that far from being a tool of oppression it is a tool of liberation.
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