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Struggling With Hijab

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Struggling With Hijab

Kifah Mustapha

Struggling With Hijab

Understanding the struggle

Hijab is an issue of faith, and with faith comes struggles, tests and trials. Allah (SW) said: “Do people think that they will be left [simply] to say: We believe! And they will not be put to the test?” 29:2

Many Muslim sisters will feel the hardship of living in a time when practicing Islam makes them feel like strangers, just as the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Indeed, Islam has started [as something] strange and will come [back] strange as it has started; beatitude for strangers.”[1] The type of struggles the Sahabah faced in the early times of Islam will always come back, and what we see around us now as Muslim females are facing discrimination, peer pressure and closed doors in society because of their Hijab is a reminder of the struggle that will continue till the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (PBUH) even spoke about more harsh times when practicing Islam will come with a great hardship, he said: “For after you [there shall be] days [practicing] patience during them is like holding on [to burning] coal.”[2]

Like any other act of worship, Hijab needs faith, strong will and self discipline. Muslim women who do not wear Hijab are victims to the whispers from Satan, attacks from those who intend harm against Islam, and a lack of self motivation to respond to the order from Allah (SW). Women who are already wearing Hijab, face other kinds of challenges as well, and while many are solid in their faith, others are having problems holding on to it. It might be of lack of understanding the meaning of Hijab. It might be that they started wearing it because of culture or because parents were attending Mosques. It might be because of a marriage proposal that the husband expected it, or many other reasons.

Because of such tests, hardships and attacks, we have been witnessing a new trend in which many Muslim sisters wearing Hijab are trying to legitimize the removal of their Hijab by arguing that it is not an obligation in Islam! This is a very dangerous track! To accept Hijab as an obligation in Islam but to fail to practice it because of a weakness or pressure is a major sin indeed. But to argue against the concept itself and try to bend Quran and Hadith to support a false conclusion, is way more serious. That would lead people away from the path of Islam itself!

The Obligation

As Muslims, we submit and surrender to the will of Allah based on our knowledge that it is the truth. We trust in our Lord’s wisdom and the benefit that Islam is meant to bring to us. Accepting Islam should be a decision free from any pressures, inherited cultures or forced traditions! When a Muslim declares Islam as their religion they must take it all as a complete package. Allah (SW) blamed People of the Book prior to Muslims on the selective practices of religion! He said: {Then is it that you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part [of it}? What, then, shall be the recompense for those among you who do such [deeds] – except disgrace in the life of this world? Then on the Day of Resurrection such [wrongdoers] shall be driven into the most severe torment [of Hell]} 2:85.

The response of a Muslim believer should be: {Indeed, the only word of the [true] believers when they are called to God and His messenger to judge between them is but to say: We hear and we obey! Thus it is these who are [truly] successful} 24:51.

Verse # 1:

Allah (SW) said: {O Children of Adam! We have, indeed, bestowed upon you [a sense of want for] clothing- to cover your secret parts- and [garments] for adornment. Yet the garment of fearing God- that is the best [of human adornment]. This is of the [manifest] signs of [One] God, that they may remember [His mercy and be thankful]} 7:26.

Looking into this verse where it speaks about (saw’atikum) or the “secret parts” that clothes should cover, we ask this question: “Who decides what a private area is?” Is it left to each individual to decide for him/herself how much of their secret parts should be exposed and how much should be covered, or is it an understanding based on what was presented to us from the messenger of Allah (PBUH)?

Muslims understood the Quran through the practices of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions. The Prophet (PBUH) was the “living” Quran, and Sahabah were the people of righteousness as witnessed by Allah. All Muslim women from the time of the Prophet (PBUH) did wear Hijab and covered their hair! One century after another we hear that covering the hair is part of the understanding of how Muslim females should dress.

Looking more into the verse shall reflect on the relation between wearing clothes that cover the secret parts as an adornment, and the concept of fearing God (Al Taqwa.) Al Taqwa is a garment to protect the heart, and the clothes of adornment are the garments to protect the body. From the feeling of fearing Allah comes the feeling of being uncomfortable exposing your secret parts of the body in public.

From the verse itself, you can see that Allah (SW) is talking to the children of Adam; so the issue of Hijab is not just an order to Muslims! Since the beginning of time females were told to cover the hair. In the Bible it reads: (And asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.)[3] It also reads: (If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.)[4]

Verse # 2:

Allah (SW) said: {And say to the believing women, [as well,] that they should lower their gaze [from men that are forbidden to them] and safeguard [the chastity of] their secret parts, and not exhibit their own [physical] adornment, except what [must necessarily] appear thereof. Thus let them draw their veils over their bosoms} 24:31.

In this verse Allah (SW) asks females to cover the physical adornment of their bodies; excluded from that are the face and the hands, as scholars of interpretation of the Quran quote Sahabah and Tabeien.[5] They support this point of view by the Hadith in which the Prophet (PBUH) told Asma the daughter of Abu Bakr: “If a woman reached menstrual period; it is not allowed to be seen of her but (and he referred to) the face and hands.”[6]

Many other Hadith(s) were mentioned describing the exposure of the face and the hands only while in public, which supports the concept of (except what [must necessarily] appear thereof) mentioned in the verse as to be the only allowable parts to be exposed:

    1. When the Prophet (PBUH) urged women to donate because they could be in Hell vulnerable to punishment in great numbers he said: “Donate, for I have seen most of you as the firewood of Hell.”[7] A woman in the middle with dark cheeks stood up and said: “Why O Prophet of Allah?” He said: “You curse a lot and you are not grateful to your spouses.” Women started donating earrings and rings from their jewelry in the clothes (set by) Bilal.”[8] The reference in this Hadith is that her cheeks were shown and it was the only noticeable feature mentioned.
    1. The Hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas about the lady from the tribe of Khatham when she asked the Prophet (PBUH) about making Hajj on behalf of her father and Al Fadl son of Al Abbas was riding with the Prophet (PBUH) and looking at her, and the prophet (PBUH) kept turning his face away from her.[9] In this Hadith a reference to the face being shown not the hair.
  1. Aiesha (RAA) narrated that women used to witness with the Prophet (PBUH) dawn prayer while covered with their clothes and would go back to their homes after the prayer is done (with no one able) to identify them because of darkness.[10] This narration is proof that if it was not dark they would have been recognized, meaning by their faces. This is also supported by another narration that stated: “No one knows the faces of each other.”[11]

Verse # 3:

Allah (SW) said: {O Prophet! Say to your wives and to your daughters and to the womenfolk of the believers that they should draw part of their mantles over themselves [in public.] This makes it more likely that they will be recognized [as virtues women], so that they will not be harassed. And ever is God all-forgiving, mercy-giving} 33:59.

This verse does not limit wearing Hijab to a special group of Muslim females, it speaks very clearly that the order is to all women. After this verse was revealed, Um Salamah (RAA) said: “When this verse was revealed, the women of Al Ansar stepped out with their heads like crows (as to color black) because of the head cover.”[12]

Hadith # 1:

A woman told the prophet (PBUH) when going to pray Eid that she cannot find a mantle (Jilbab); the prophet (PBUH) said: “Let a sister give (Jilbab) to her sister.”[13] This means that Sahabah females understood that stepping out is conditional by wearing Hijab.

Hadith # 2:

The story of Aiesha (RAA) when the false claim about adultery was rumored with Safwan Ibn Almuattel, she spoke of how he helped her catch up to the Prophet (PBUH,) she said: “He saw the dark (shape) of a human sleeping and he knew me when he saw me because he had seen me before Hijab. I woke up to him (saying: To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return) when he knew me, and I covered my face with my (Jilbab), and by Allah, we spoke no word, and I heard no word from him but (Inna lillah wa-inna ilaihi rajeoun.)”[14] This means that wearing Hijab was the practice at the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH.)

Benefits of Hijab:

Hijab is an act of worship that strengthens the relationship between the female and her Lord. Allah (SW) said: {But [as to] those who strive for Us [alone, against every evil], We shall, most surely, guide them upon Our pathways [to salvation]} 29:69. No doubt that Hijab is an act of Jihad in which Muslim females strive to maintain it for the sake of Allah, and for that they are rewarded in this life and in the Hereafter.

Hijab is a demonstration of the response to the call of Allah (SW) that enriches the quality of life for Muslim females. Allah (SW) said: {O you who believe! Answer God and the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life} 8:24. If Hijab is practiced it brings peace and tranquility to each female because by responding to the call of Allah these feelings will be the gift and reward from Allah to His servants. Allah (SW) said: {These are the ones who [truly] believe and whose hearts grow calm [with assurance] at the remembrance of God. Most assuredly, it is by the remembrance of God that hearts grow calm} 13:28.

Hijab is a safety zone for the hearts to be pure from any evil thoughts. Allah (SW), when speaking about Hijab to the wives of the Prophet (PBUH), said: {Furthermore, [with respect to his wives,] whenever you ask them for any article, then ask them from behind a screen. That is [sure to deepen] the purity of your hearts, and their hearts} 33:53.
If preventing people from seeing the wives of the Prophet (PBUH) completely was seen as a way to purify the hearts from such evil thoughts, then Hijab for a normal Muslim female would serve the same purpose.

Hijab enriches the relationship between a spouse and her husband. When husbands have no access to see the beautiful attributes of females but of their wives, it will indeed strengthen the relationship between them on all levels. This concept versus the hurtful comparison that both spouses make to each other when they are exposed to nakedness of the other gender and relate that to what they think they are missing in their own life from their spouses.

Final thoughts

Beauty is something all people look for. A companion of the Prophet (PBUH) was concerned about his love for beauty and the way he looks versus the concept of arrogance the Prophet (PBUH) was warning about! He said: “A man would love for his clothes and shoes to be (looking) nice!” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty; arrogance is the rejection of the truth and contempt of people.”[15]

We should ultimately be concerned about Allah (SW) and the beauty in relation to how He sees us! A girl or a woman who puts Hijab with this intention shall reflect the beauty that is honorable, insha Allah.

A noble woman called Rabee’ah Al Adawiyah used to say these words as a dua that reflected on the quality type of the relationship she had with Allah: “I wish for Your sweetness (with me) then (let) life be bitter; and if You are pleased (with me) then (let) all people be angry. I wish for my relationship with You to be active and ongoing, and my relationship with the people disconnected. If love is from You (to me) then everything will be (fine and)easy; for (at the end) all is over dust is dust.”[16]

Sh. Kifah Mustapha

[1] Hadith narrated by Imam Siyouti in Al Jamea Al Sagheer
[2] Hadith narrated by Ahmad Shaker in Umaadatu Attafseer
[3] Genesis 24:65 The verse is speaking about Rebecca when she saw Isaac
[4] 1 Corinthians 11:3-16
[5] Scholars mention the face and hands or just the clothes only; See Tafseer Baidawi, Attabari and others
[6] Hadith narrated by Abu Daoud. The Hadith is Mursal.
[7] No doubt that the Hadith does not indicate that females are going to Hell because of their gender but rather because of certain bad deeds explained later like cursing and being ungrateful. It is a known fact in Islam that deeds are the means to lead toward Heaven or Hell not gender. The great Imam Judge Ayyadd said that: “females are the most in both Heaven and Hell for women are the most children of Adam.” He was referring to the numbers of females in Heaven exceeding males because males could have more than one female as a wife in Heaven.
[8] Hadith narrated by Muslim
[9] Hadith narrated by Bukhari
[10] Hadith narrated by Bukhari
[11] Imam Shawkani narrated this reference from Imam Al Baji
[12] Hadith narrated by Abu Daoud
[13] Hadith narrated by Bukhari
[14] Hadith narrated by Bukhari
[15] Hadith narrated by Muslim
[16] These words were said by a famous poet called Abu Firas Al Hamadani describing his relation with the ruler. Imam Ibn Taymiyah said these words should be only described as a relation with God. Rabee’ah used these words when making dua to Allah.

Sh. Kifah Mustapha