The Hijab is a practice in Islam that has been subject to a lot of criticism from western media and advocates of women rights. It is viewed by many(usually non-muslims) as a practice that is designed to restrict the freedom of women in Islam. Some countries, for instance France, have gone to extents of passing laws that prohibits or make it illegal to wear the Hijab in public places. These laws are clearly an infringement on the basic right to freedom of religion that each human being is entitled to. What really needs to be understood is that, every religion has its practices and they are followed because they hold a certain significance to the followers of that religion. The Hijab is a practice in Islam that clearly needs to be understood by all.
The Hijab, as defined by wikipedia, “is a veil that covers the head and chest, which is particularly worn by a Muslim female beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males. It can further refer to any head, face or body covering worn by Muslim women that conforms to a certain standard of MODESTY. It not only refers to the physical body covering, but alo embodies a metaphysical dimension, where Al-Hijab refers to ‘the veil which separates man or the world from God’. Hijab can also be used to refer to the seclusion of women from men in the public sphere. Most often, it is worn by Muslim women as a symbol of MODESTY, PRIVACY and MORALITY.”
By definition, modesty is the state or quality of being modest. It is a state in which there is a lack of vanity or there is a regard for decency of behaviour, speech, dress etc. Modesty can be translated as simplicity. Going by its definition, modesty thus, is a virtue or state that is to be sought by every human being. It is a state that is accepted and believed, by any rational being, to be a vital ingredient necessary for the growth and development of any sound and moral society.
Modesty in Islam concerns both men’s and women’s gaze, gait, garments and genitalia. The Holy Qur’an, Sura 24: 30-31, says,
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze(from looking at forbidden things) and protect their private parts(from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah(SWT) is All-aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze(from looking at forbidden things) and protect their private parts(from illegal sexual acts) and not to show of their adornment except that which is apparent(like palms, eyes etc) and to draw their veils over their bosoms and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbands sons, their brothers or their brothers sons, or their sisters sons, or their women, or the (female) slaves whom their right hand 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 O ye believers, turn ye all together towards Allah(SWT), that ye may attain bliss.”
The Hijab therefore is for both men and women but for each, a direction or how to wear the Hijab has been given. It is a symbol of modesty for all and a way of attaining bliss and the pleasure of Allah(SWT).
The Hijab as a symbol of modesty, is therefore something to be applauded, encouraged, embraced and also something to be proud of. It should not be viewed as archaic or as a bondage or restriction to the freedom of any individual(as is the case with western cultures with regards to Muslim women). As Muslims, we embrace the Hijab with pride, honour and strive to continue upholding it as a symbol of MODESTY, PRIVACY and as a KEY to preserving the MORALITY in our society.
May Allah(SWT) continue to guide us, give us strength to stand up for truth, forgive our shortcomings and make us steadfast in seeking His pleasure. May He grant us His mercy and make Jannah our final Abode. Ameen.