By: Maryam Hedayat
Whenever I plan to buy an abaya or jilbab (outer gown) or hijab or khimar (a veil), I search from one shop to another and from one market to another for the latest stylish and unique piece. After an enormous effort I finally succeed in finding that trendy and distinctive piece that most appeals me.
However, one day I thought, “Why do I put so much effort into finding that distinctive piece? Why am I so careful about the design, about the color, about the style and the appearance as well?”
When buying or wearing the hijab I just think of the impression people will have about me. Frankly, I am likely just trying to impress others by wearing a beautiful and trendy veil. Perhaps it’s not only me, but it may be that many of my fellow Muslim sisters do the same?
In fact, the abaya, the jilbab,or the veil are all part of the Islamic dress code which is intended to cover the believing woman from head to toe (except the face and hands). It is supposed to entirely hide the shape of her body.
Yet today it seems many of us prefer wearing a hijab which makes our body look slim, striking, and attractive. We are so much concerned and cautious about the appeal of our look and style that we nearly overlook the real intention of wearing a hijab.
The literal meaning of ‘hijab’ is to cover, to curtain, or to shade. Thus hijab is a way of ensuring that the ethical boundaries between unrelated men and women are respected.
Allah (swt) mentions in the Quran:
“O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah Al-Ahzaab: 59)
Perhaps some of us just follow it culturally. Since everyone around us is wearing hijab so we must also wear it, without understanding the deep reverence and purpose of wearing it.
In fact, the hijab is intended to shelter the woman and her beauty from public gaze and it should not be a thing which essentially enhances her beauty or draws attention to her.
It is obligatory for the Muslim woman to preserve her modesty in front of those who are non-mahram for her. A non-mahram male who is unrelated to a female by blood or marriage such that they could marry of they wanted to.
Allah (swt) further mentions in the Quran:
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, 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. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.” (Surah Al Nur: 31)
Despite such clear verses it looks like the trend today is to be covered but at the same time uncovered. It has become the norm to adapt sexy outfits to the hijab, try attempting to be veiled and appealing at the same time.
We find a very severe warning against wearing this type of clothing in the following hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) who said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
“I will not be a witness for two types of people who are destined for the fire: people with whips, like the tails of cows, who beat the people (i.e. tyrants who are the enemies of their own people) and women who, although clothed, are yet naked seducing and being seduced, their hair style like the tilted humps of camels. These will not enter the paradise nor will its fragrance reach them although its fragrance reaches a very great distance” [Muslim]
We should never allow ourselves and our actions to be dedicated to worldly pursuits at the expense of Divine guidance, for in the latter is great reward and eternal bliss for which we should strive in order to gain the pleasure of Allah (swt).
Therefore, a Muslim woman is encouraged to wear soft, sober colors, and to avoid hijab with eye-catching decorations, shiny fabrics that may draw the attention of the opposite sex. Hence the hijab should be thick and opaque, and loose enough so as not to reveal the shape of the woman’s body beneath it.
Allah (swt) mentions in the Holy Quran:
“And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger.” (Surah Al-Ahzaab: 33]
It is not compulsory that the hijab should be worn only in black color. It is permissible to wear any color of clothing so long as it covers the body decently and does not resemble men’s clothing.
Hence our dress must cover our body properly and decently. The design of our dress must avoid three grave sins: show off, arrogance, and self- indulgence. Also clothing should not be worn for the purpose of gaining reputation or increasing one’s status in society.
Of course it is easy to say we only dress for Allah (swt) but actions speak louder than words and modesty is an objective and an intention. The question is whether that objective and intention are apparent in our behavior or not.
So hijab should not just be seen as a cloth one puts on herself. Rather it is a symbol of worship and our devotion to Allah, and the ethics that come from them. It is a symbol of modesty that reflects our whole way of life. It is a loud form of expression of our heart and mind and it helps shape our societies. May Allah (swt) bless us in what He provides us to wear and guide us to His pleasure.