It’s true- not Fox News true but actually factual: the debate about the hijab is contentious and very emotional. Many Muslims feel the Hijab is a symbol of commitment to God. For Westerners it is an often misunderstood piece of cloth that some feel threatens the separation of religion and state or the destruction of it, for those and others it is a catch-all scapegoat.
But what is the Hijab actually? IS it obligatory? What are its origins? Why is its existence so inflammatory?
Like many things it is important to start at the roots. Let’s start digging.
Pre-Islamic veiling- In fact the Hijab, or early forms of it, existed well before Islam. Some of the earliest references to the veil are from Assyrian texts dating near the 13th century B.C. where it was used to distinguish women of stature and respect (shown halfway down in the text). Some Greek and Helenistic statues also showed veiled women. American statues show extraterrestrial beings.
In medieval Europe it was common for women to wear a wimple. This piece of cloth covered both the neck and head as it was unseemly for married women to show their hair in public. The descendent of the wimple is worn by some nuns in the form of the habit.
Justifications and comparisons- Moving into the veil’s relevance in modern times, does this look familiar?
If you still do not see the connection then it’s obvious my caliber of writing matches the intelligence caliber of our readers. Here’s another:
“Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn or shaven; but if it be a hame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man”
A Qur’an quote? Nope; the one above has the pleasure of being from Corinthians 11:3-10.
The point I am trying to make is that the Hijab is not exclusive to Islam and therefore wide open to copyright infringement. In fact, many contend the Hijab is not an Islamic tradition at all but rather a tradition taken from the Persians, Greeks and others as Islam spread throughout Asia, Europe, Africa and soon enough, outer space. Of course, Muslims have found Qur’anic justification for the Hijab and coverings in general.
Since so much misinformation is out there, let’s look at the Qur’anic justification.
“And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any of their ‘zeenatahhunna’ (their beauty spots) except what is normally apparent. They shall cover their chests with their Khimar and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to God, O you believers, that you may succeed.” 24:31
In this passage of the Qur’an we see one of the more explicit passages speaking of women covering themselves. While this excerpt tells women they should cover themselves, many say it does not mention hair
. Back when Muhammad was alive it was (and still is) common for women, and men, to wear an abaya.
The Abaya is a loose garment which flows like a robe. Many believe the Qur’an was speaking about the Abaya when it commanded women to cover up. It was not until around two centuries after Muhammad’s death that the Hijab came into being on a large scale. In fact, some argue that the Hijab referred to in the Qur’an
is not the Hijab
we know today.
But what about sex segregation
? In this next Sura we see the origins of Muslim sex segregation.
“O you who believe, do not enter the houses of the Prophet for a meal without awaiting the proper time, unless asked, and enter when you are invited, and depart when you have eaten, and do not stay on talking. This puts the Prophet to inconvenience, and he feels embarrassed in (saying) the truth. And when you ask his wife for some thing of utility, ask for it from behind the screen. This is for the purity of your hearts and theirs.” 33:53
So as we can see there is some Qur’anic justification for covering. But if the Qur’an is ambiguous on women covering their hair, why do Muslims specifically say the Qur’an commands them to cover their heads?
The Hadith are a collection of extrapolations of the Prophet’s life made by Qur’anic scholars
and largely collected in the 8th and 9th (right around the time Muslims were encountering numerous veil wearing societies…) century. These extrapolations are used to answer very specific questions and give Muslims a better idea of what Muhammad said compared to what the Qur’an says. Any Muslim will tell the Non-Muslim that Hadith do not
in any way supersede the Qur’an. They see Muhammad as special in that he was a prophet of God and nothing more. Therefore the Qur’an are the words to follow, while Muhammad’s life is simply held in high esteem.
So there you have it, some hajib facts and justifications.