Friday, December 30, 2011

What is the True Meaning of Hijab?

What is the True Meaning of Hijab?

By Yasmin Mogahed

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of  al-`ālamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam is His Messenger.

Question: Salam, I am a teenage Arab Muslim girl. As a teenager, I feel I have yet to discover the true meaning of a "hijab". Many people I ask give me just one straight forward answer. It is making sure no hair on your head is revealed to any man unrelated to you. I feel there must be a lot more to it than just that, and I am very eager to learn what it is exactly that allows a women to call herself a "muhajaba". Also, I have met and seen many women wearing fashionable headscarves full of designs, prints etc. Does not this go against Islamic teachings?(Muslimah)        

Salām Muslimah.

I would like to commend for your desire to understand the essence of Islam, not just the rituals. May Allāh guide us all to the true wisdom and beauty of His religion, and allow us to submit faithful to Him.

Hijab is a symbol of our worship and servitude to Allāh.

Before we have a true and complete understanding of hijab and its real meaning, one needs to take a step back and start at the beginning. Allāh says in the Qurān (The Words of Allāh), what means:

“We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them for a (mere) play.”

[Al-Anbiyā', 21:16]

In this verse Allāh makes clear that everything He created has a purpose. Every star in the sky, every fish in the ocean, and every leaf on a tree was made for a specific reason. So too was the human being created for a specific purpose. Allāh explains this purpose clearly in the Quran. He says what means:

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” 

[Adh-Dhāriyat, 51:56]

It is important to note even the construction of this statement. Allāh did not just say that He created jinn and mankind to worship Him. He began with a negation. He said: "I did not create the jinn and mankind." By saying it in this way, Allāh begins by clearing the board from any other purpose before He states what our one and only purpose is: to worship Him and Him alone.

Now, it is in that context that one should begin to understand the subject of hijab. Hijab should properly be seen as simply another show of devotion to our Creator. Just as we pray and fast because He commanded us to do so, we should view hijab in the very same light.

Just as praying and fasting sincerely for Allāh's pleasure brings us closer to Him, so too does wearing hijab — if done with the same sincerity. By obeying Allāh's commandments, hijab is just another way to worship our Lord. And in so doing, it brings us closer to realizing our purpose of creation.

That purpose can be reflected even in the clothes that we choose to wear. If when we choose our dress, our intention is to please Allāh, that action in itself is an act of worship. In the very choice of one piece of clothing over another, is an act of worship.

Many people like to refer to hijab as a "personal choice". Yes. It is a personal choice. It is a personal choice to submit to Allah Almighty rather than the fashion of society. It is a choice to be beautiful to God, rather than to people. And it is a choice to cover and dignify the body Allāh gave you, rather than give in to a culture that teaches women they are to be sex objects who sell their bodies to market beer.

Hijab is a symbol of modesty

However, hijab should not just be seen as a cloth one puts on the head. Rather hijab is a symbol of our worship and servitude to Allāh. It is a symbol of modesty, which is not just about our attire; it extends to our whole demeanor.

If someone is wearing the hijab of modest clothing but is not modest in their behavior, they have only shown the external modesty. But internal modesty is missing. Because both internal and external modesty is essential, Allāh mentioned the two together in the Quran:

“(30.) Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allāh is All-Aware of what they do. (31.) And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husband's sons, their brothers or their brother's sons, or their sister's sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allāh to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.”

[An-Nur, 24:30-31]

Al-Qurtubi (rahimahullah) said:The phrase, “what is apparent” in the verse “it applies to the face and hands.” In other words, a woman must cover all her body except her face and hands while in the presence of men who are not related to her directly, and the list of those in whose presence she needs not cover is clearly outlined in the above Qur’anic verse. (Al-Qurtubi Al-Jami` li Ahkam Al-Qur’an, vol. 15, p. 213)

In this verse of the Quran, Allāh does not just talk about the dress of modesty, but also the demeanor of modesty. In fact, both internal and external modesty is so important that the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) connected it with faith itself.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that teaches the exact opposite. In our society today, modesty is viewed as a sign of weakness and insecurity, when in fact modesty is a sign of dignity and self-respect.

True modesty means not only being modest in front of people, but also in front of Allāh.

Regarding your question about "fashionable hijabs full of designs and prints," there is no black and white answer. The question one must consider is what the purpose of hijab really is, and whether a particular type of dress contradicts that purpose.

For example, if one is wearing a headscarf that is excessively beautified, and therefore draws more attention, one must wonder whether that is fulfilling the object of modesty, both internal and external.

Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha) reported: Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakar as-Siddiq (radiyallāhu`anhu) came to the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) while wearing thin clothing. Rasulullah (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) approached her and said: ‘O Asma! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. Rasulullah (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) pointed to the face and hands.” [Recorded by Abu Dawud]

Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said:

“The best of your women are the affectionate, the fertile, the comforting, and the agreeable – if they fear Allāh. The most evil of your women are those who expose and display themselves, and those who strut (to show off), and they are the hypocrites. Those who enter Paradise are like the red beaked crow.”

[Recorded by Al-Baihaqi]

The mentioning of this kind of crow is to highlight that those who enter Paradise will be as rare as this kind of crow.

We see from the above verse and Hadith (prophetic statement) that it is certainly unlawful for a Muslim woman to make a display of herself. Further, it is a quality of the most evil of women. Therefore, do not be envious of the disbelieving women. They only have this life to enjoy, while the believing women will have Paradise. There is nothing in your Hijāb to be ashamed of as it is the garment of the righteous and pious female worshippers of Allāh.

In order to truly show how evil those women who expose themselves are, let us ponder the narration by Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu`anhu) over the following statement of Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam), who said:

“Of the people of Hell, there are two types that I have never seen; the first are those holding whips like the tail of an ox with which they flog people. The second are women who would be naked despite being dressed (i.e. either paltry dressed or wearing translucent clothes), who are seduced and who seduce others. Their hair is high like the humps of a camel. These women will not enter Paradise, nor will they smell its fragrance, although its fragrance can be smelled from such and such a (very far) distance.”

[Recorded by Muslim]

We seek Allah’s Guidance in all our affairs; and we ask that He shows us and allows us to remain firm on the straight path.

Anas bin Malik (radiyallāhu`anhu) reported: The supplication most often recited by the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) was: “Allahumma atina fid-dunya hasanatan, wa fil-akhirati hasanatan, wa qina ‘adhab-annar (O our Rabb! Give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).”‘ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

It is desirable to recite this Du’a which is mentioned in the Qur’an (Al-Baqārah, 2:201) and which comprehends all that is good both in this life and the Hereafter. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) made it a habit to recite this Du’a, and the Companions were eager to follow him in all his words and actions.

'Abdullah bin Mas’ud (radiyallāhu`anhu) reported: The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate: “Allahumma inni as‘alukal-huda, wat-tuqa, wal-‘afafa, wal-ghina (O Allah! I beseech You for guidance, piety, chastity and contentment).” [Muslim].

 “Guidance” means guidance towards virtue which one needs at every step. The ability to do good and steadfastness on the Right Path is also covered by the term guidance. To comply with the Orders of Allah and to prevent oneself from what He has forbidden is Taqwa (fear of Allah), the importance of which needs no elaboration. ‘Affaf is prevention from sins. It also means evasion from seeking help from others. Ghina means riches which makes one independent of others so much so that all one’s hopes are centered on Allah Alone. The prayer quoted in this Hadith is very comprehensive indeed. 

And Allāh Almighty Knows Best.

[Excerpted with modification Via On Islam dated 2011/12/21]


Laura Metwally said...

Why does it say: By Yasmin Mogahed and than posted with a picture of Tawakkul Carmen?

Md Radzi Ahmad said...

Because Carmen covered her head, part of the awrat.