Goodbye

Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu,

I know that I am being so fickle-minded these days; but the fact is: after much thought, I have decided to suspend all operations on this blog, for the time being at least. I will not come here, but the blog posts will remain as I have left them.
I want to thank everyone who has read and followed the blog. I want to wish all my Muslim sisters and brothers a very blessed Sha’ban and Ramadan.
Once again, thanks. May the peace and mercy of Allah be with all of you.
Goodbye friends, Goodbye brothers and sisters, Goodbye WordPress!

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Muslim woman: Not Just a Wife or Mother

imagesCAT653LVBefore I was a wife and mother, I was Muslim.

I had value even then.

When I became a wife and mother, my worth didn’t suddenly shift and depend on that.

And if I am no longer a wife or mother, I will still have purpose.

Allah, the One who created me, said:

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” 51: 56

This is my purpose. This is what I am supposed to do with my life. However, when we talk about Muslim women, it is usually in the context of her fulfilling her “purpose” of being a wife and mother. But what does this mean for the women who do not fit into either category?

Does it mean she is not fulfilling her purpose in life? Does it mean that she has no value? That she is worthless?

Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was not a birth mother.

Maryam (may Allah be pleased with her) was not a wife.

And Asiyah (may Allah be pleased with her) was not a birth mother and her husband was Fir’aun.

Yet, these women are praised. Why?

Allah says:

“And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.”
And Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into (her garment) through Our angel, and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient.”
66:11

We need look no further than the incident of slander against Aisha to see an example of her unshakeable faith. When her parents told her the rumours and they had no other words for her, she said, “I cannot but repeat the words which the father of Prophet Joseph had spoken: ‘fa-sabrun jamil’: I will bear this patiently with good grace.” 

And when the verses were revealed that declared her innocence, the first thing she said was, “Alhamdulilah.” She didn’t thank Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). She didn’t tell her parents: “I told you so!”

While it is indeed honourable to be a wife and a mother, it is problematic to single out these roles as the honour of a woman. Once we do that, we’ve taken away her fundamental value that comes from her having faith (imân). This value that she has is independent from any role she may carry out.

“Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” 49:13

Allah says: “Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women,the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.”

What’s beautiful is that these are all characteristics, not roles!

And Allah says: ‘And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer- those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, (even as much as) the speck on a date seed.” 4:124

And “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to have a good life, and We will surely give them their reward (in the Hereafter) according to the best of what they used to do.” 16:97

So a Muslim woman is striving to please her Lord, even when fulfilling her roles as wife and mother. Her value is not placed in her servitude to her husband or her children, but to her Lord.

When we talk about men, we don’t say that they were created to take care of women and that’s it. So why do we tend to focus on the same for women?

We take a few hadith and the rest become irrelevant. We know the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged men to marry virgins, but looking at his (peace be upon him) example, we see that he married women who were not virgins. He (peace be upon him) didn’t see them as worthless.

When Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) explained why he married a previously married woman, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “You have done well.” (Bukhari)

And he (peace be upon him) said, “The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person, is like a warrior fighting for Allah’s Cause or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all the night.” (Bukhari)

What if we took some hadith about men and made them the criteria to judge a man’s worth?

“The best of you are those who are best to their wives, and I am the best of you to my wives.” (Tirmidhi)

So what if a man doesn’t have a wife? Does that make him worthless? Does that make him the worst of men?  Of course not.

On what basis do you then judge him? The same way we should value the women –

“Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you (who has the most taqwa).” 49:13

*       *       *
Written by: Andrea Umm Abdullah . Taken from: (1)

Hijab: A symbol of my love

31308_887Going out to the world is a long journey

Every step I take, I do so with pride

Confidence is all they see as I stride

They cannot fathom why my beauty I hide

*       *       *

On the streets bewildered eyes at me stare

I return their gazes with smiling eyes

They wonder about my covered hair

And the reason behind my “foreign” disguise

*       *       *

They assume I am bound by my beliefs

An enslaved soul, a prisoner behind my veil

They think I am a figure of oppression

A lost silhouette hiding behind a male

*       *       *

Though my beauty from the world I choose to conceal

I have an identity, a voice, and a mind of my own

My inner beauty to them I will happily reveal

Because of my veil, as a human, I have grown

*       *       *

My hair, my body are not for others to see

Trying to live my life with humility everyday

Not a slave to modern day conventions just to “fit in”

With an open heart, the words of ALLAH I will obey

*       *       *

Since I am willing to declare my love to others

As a sign of my respect and appreciation

So why not do the same by wearing my veil?

And submit to ALLAH and let it be my declaration

*       *       *

Let me make my message clear:

My first reason for the veil is to please ALLAH

Second, my love for the Prophet -Peace Be Upon Him-

My third to emulate the Great Mothers of Faith

A decision that was not made on a mere whim

*       *       *

I do not wear the veil for the sake of any man

Nor because it happens to be the fashion of the day

I practise it because I Love my Creator and HIM alone

And for HIS LOVE I am happy to submit to HIS way

*       *       *

This was a beautiful poem by Rabab Maher, taken from her blog.

Hijab: Intentions & Perceptions

silb7S_535In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

‘Why does it matter whether we wear the hijab? These are outward acts. Allah looks into our hearts.’ This is what some of our sisters say. They often mention the words of the Messenger of Allah – upon him be peace – :

Allah does not look at your outward appearances and not at the forms of your actions; but verily He looks into your hearts (Muslim 2564)

He – peace be upon him – said in another hadith:

Actions are judged by intentions. (Nawawi 1)

Therefore, what these sisters say is true. There is nothing more important than our intentions. If an action is not accompanied with pure intention, the action will not accompany us when we leave this world. Outward action, even though not sufficient, is necessary. We live in this world and we cannot do without action.

The prayer (Salât), the fasting of Ramadan (Sawm), the paying of the poor-due (Zakât), the pilgrimage to the Holy House (Hajj) and the recitation of the Book of Allah (talâwat-al-kitâb) are all forms of worship. They are all external acts that involve the body. However, their effect is the purification of the heart. As Al-Ghazzâli writes in his Ihyâ:

‘Intention (niyyah) is to action (‘amal) what the soul is to the body. A body that has no soul is a corpse. And a soul that has no body cannot manifest itself in this world.

Therefore, this is something we should think about: Why are we wearing the hijab or the niqab or any other form of Islamic modest dress? What is our intention? If I wear the hijab because other women in my family or society wear the hijab, – and for no other reason –, I will enjoy only the social and outward benefits of hijab. If I wear the hijab for Allah, I will receive my reward also from Allah.

Everything that a Muslim man or woman does: he or she should do it sincerely for Allah. The hijab is no exception. If we wear the hijab for Allah, the hijab itself becomes a form of worship: a devotional act which aims at the purification of our hearts.

Secondly, what do we consider the hijab to be? Do we look at it as a burden or as something imposed on us by men or by the patriarchal society? Or do we think of it as a way of spiritual development and as a blessing from Allah? The women of the earlier generations did not consider the hijab to be a burden. Let us consider Umm Salamah – May Allah be pleased with her -:

Umm Salamah asked her husband, the Messenger of Allahpbuh: ‘How should we trail the hem of our garments?’  He said: Trail it by a hand span. She said: ‘But the feet may become uncovered!’ He said: ‘Then trail it a forearm’s length; and do not exceed that.’ (Abu Dawūd 4105)

Many of the jurisprudents infer from this hadith that a woman must also cover her feet. I am not going to delve into fiqhi issues here. There is a subtle point in this hadith: Umm Salamah convinced the Prophet – peace upon him – that a ‘hand span’ is not enough; and the Prophet – peace be upon him – had to change his opinion. Why did the Messenger of Allah – peace be upon him – feel it was necessary to say: ‘but do not exceed that’? Was this not because Umm Salamah and the other wives of the Prophetpbuh were so eager to cover themselves?

Another example, this time from the female companions:

Thabit Bin Qays narrated: A woman called Umm Khallad came to the Prophet – peace be upon him – and she was veiled. She was searching for her martyred son.One of the companions of the Prophet – peace be upon him- said to her: ‘You have come here asking for your son while veiling your face?’

She said: “Now that I have lost my son, I will not lose my modesty.” (Abu Dawȗd, 2482)

Was Umm Khallad covering her face because she was forced by a man? No! Her husband, ‘Amr ibn Al-Jamuh, had been killed in the battle of Uhud. Now, her only son Khallâd was also killed by the People of the Book! Did the companions force her to wear the niqab? No, as the hadith also indicates. She was wearing it to preserve her modesty which was as dear to her as her own son.

We can also see this attitude towards hijab in the women of the Tabi’een. Hafsah bint Sireen, for example, covered her face with her jilbâb even when she was an elderly woman and the hijab was not obligatory upon her.[1]

Furthermore, the hijab does not symbolise a woman’s subservience to men. It symbolises a woman’s subservience to her Creator. SL_VEILThe proof is that a woman must wear the hijab regardless of what her husband says. If a husband tells his wife to remove her hijab, she has every right to disobey her husband. In Islam, it is unlawful to obey a created being in what opposes Allah’s laws and the laws of feminine honour and decency. In the Bible, we also read that Queen Vashti disobeyed her husband to preserve her dignity and self-respect. If Vashti were a virtuous Muslim woman, she would do the same:  she would prefer her modesty to her royal crown.

Again, some Westerns have written that the hijab is a reflection of the idea that women are the property of men. Firstly, the idea that a woman is the property of her husband is a Western idea. We can find this in Shakespeare’s plays. Petruchio says, referring to his wife:

She is my goods, my chattels;
she is my house, my household stuff.

The Shari’ah makes it clear: men should not treat women as their property. Marriage is a contract between two people. The husband has certain rights and responsibilities. The wife has certain rights and responsibilities. A woman does not belong to her husband in the way that a house belongs to a man. Man and woman belong to one another, in the same way that body and soul belong to each other. The body veils the soul and the soul animates the body. This is how the Qurán describes the relationship between husband and wife:

They (your wives) are your garments and ye are their garments. (2:187)

The commentators mention that our garment is the closest thing to us, after our body. Likewise, our spouse must be the one closest to us after Allah and ourselves. And Allah knows best!


[1] Narrated ‘Aasim al-Ahwal: We went to Hafsah bint Sirīn and she had put on her jilbāb and covered her face with it. We said to her: May Allah have mercy on you! Does not Allah say: “And as for women past childbearing who do not expect wedlock, it is no sin on them if they discard their outer clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment” [24:60] She said: Yes. And what comes after that? We replied: “But to modestly refrain from that is better for them.” She said: “It means to keep the jilbâb.’ (Bayhaqi 7/93)

My veil and your veil

ImageAn atheist asked a Muslimah:

You’ve donned the veil; why?

How wisely she replied:

You are more veiled than I. (*)

I have hidden my body

from prying eyes of men;

While you have veiled your heart

from the fragrance of Heaven (*)

My veil protects me

from the evils of this world;

yet your veil is a barrier

between you and your Lord (*)

I have hidden but flesh

You have hidden truth divine

Then, isn’t my veiling,

more liberating than thine? (*)

My religion is my sword

and the veil is my shield;

Would pearls be so precious,

if they weren’t so concealed? (*)

Concealed are souls and hearts

Visible are hands and feet

Yet hands are of no avail,

when the veiled heart does not beat (*)

Bodies are made of earth

And earth will be their veil;

The spirit is our truth,

and Truth will prevail. (*)

Reflections on the word ‘hijab’ in the Qur’an

138909292071In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

In modern English, when we use the word ‘hijab’, we are referring to the headscarf or the modest dress worn by Muslim women. The same is true of modern Arabic and most Islamic languages. However, as a matter of fact, the Qurán does not use the word ‘hijab’ in reference to women’s dress. When the Qurán wants to tell us about how women should dress, other words such as jilbâb or khimâr are used.

The word hijab appears several times in the Qurán: only twice in reference to women, and never in reference to women’s dress. In this essay, I am not going to talk about the concept of hijab or the modest dress in Islam. I am going to discuss the verses of the Qurán in which the word hijab is used. Thus, I will not mention those verses in Surah An-Nur and Surah Al-Ahzâb that are especially about Muslim women’s dress. I shall limit myself only to those verses in which the word hijab is used.

So what does hijab mean? Hijab, in its Quranic sense, means ‘concealment’, ‘covering’ or ‘veil’. Everything that comes between two things is a hijab: everything that acts as a barrier between two things. When the sun is hidden by the clouds, we can say that the clouds are its hijab. When seeds are hidden beneath the earth, the earth becomes a hijab for those seeds. When the female part of the flower is covered with leaves and petals, you can say that it – or she – is wearing a hijâb!

Therefore, when Allah used the word hijab in the Quran, it means ‘barrier’ in general. It can be any kind of barrier: it can be a wall, a curtain, a leaf, a cloud, or anything else. If we define the word hijab in its Quránic sense, the modest dress worn by women would be only one particular kind of hijab. It would be one example of hijab, which the Quran nevertheless refers to as jilbab or khimar.

The Word Hijab in the Qur’an
Now, let us consider some examples of the word hijab in the Qurán:

In Surah Al-A’râf, when Allah tells us about the people of Hell and Heaven, He mentions that: wa baynahumâ hijâb; meaning:

Between them is a barrier. (7:46)

There is a barrier (hijab) that separates the people of Heaven from the people of Hell. I personally think that even in this world these two groups are separated: maybe not physically but they are separated mentally. There is an invisible veil that separates pious people from greedy people. They cannot even understand one another.

We have this concept of invisible veil also in Surah Al-Isra’ of the Qurán:

When you recite the Quran, We put between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter an invisible veil. (17:45)

The Qurán uses the term hijâban mastūran which literally means ‘hidden veil’ or ‘veiled veil’. Hence, when we read our scripture, Allah puts an invisible hijab between us and worldly people.

In the Qurán, there are also verses that mention the hijâb between evil-doers and the Creator. Allah says in the Surah Al-Mutaffifin:

Nay, but that which they have earned is the stain that has covered their hearts! Nay, but surely on that Day, they will be covered from their Lord (17:45)

May Allah protect us from this kind of hijab! It seems that evil-doers also wear a hijab, but their hijab does not protect them from prying eyes. Their hijab separates them from God!

The word hijab is also used in the story of Prophet Solomon – upon him be peace-. Allah describes the setting of the sun in this way: hattâ tawârat bil-hijâb

The Sun was hidden in the veil. (38:32)

In this verse, the word ‘hijab’ is used in reference to the night. So, the night can also be a hijâb, a veil that covers many things!

In the story of Sayyidatnâ Maryam – The Virgin Mary, peace be upon her -, Allah mentions the word hijab to refer to the partition that the blessed virgin placed between herself and the Jews. Allah – Glory be to Him – says:

She placed a screen (hijab) between her and her people. Then, we sent unto her Our Spirit. (19:17)

So hijab was also practiced by Maryam – peace be upon her – for she secluded herself from the people and devoted her life to prayer and fasting. It is plausible that Allah sent the Angel Gabriel unto Mary – peace be upon her – after and not before she chose seclusion from the Jews.  From this, we learn that it is better to put the hijab between oneself and worldly people than to put the hijab between oneself and Allah. In any case, hijab is not only the wont of the wives and daughters of the Prophet – upon him be peace – but it is also the way of Sayyidatnâ Maryam, who was chosen over all women.

The Verse of Hijab

The verse of hijab (âyat al-hijâb) refers to verse 53 in Surah Al-Ahzâb which mentions the barrier between men and women in the Prophet’s house. Contrary to what some people think, the verse of hijab does not refer to the verse in Surah al-Nur which mentions the rules of modest dress for Muslim women. This verse in Surah Al-Ahzab has an interesting narrative attached to it that is found in the books of hadith. Here is a summary:

When the Prophet – upon him be peace – married Zaynab bint Jahsh, he invited the companions to his house for a feast. The companions came and ate with the Prophet. When they were fed, most of them left except for a few who remained with the Prophet and engaged in conversation. This was probably because these companions had great love for the Prophetpbuh; and desired to be in his presence as long and as often as possible. On that occasion, the companions were unwilling to leave and the Prophet was too shy to dismiss them. So, he – peace be upon him – rose to his feet and went to the women’s quarter within the house. He hoped that the companions will also leave and go to their homes. After a while, the Prophet returned to the men’s quarter and found that the companions had not left yet. The Prophet was still too shy to dismiss them; so he went to the women’s quarter again and this time Anas ibn Malik – who was a young servant of the Prophet – followed him. The Prophet drew a curtain between Anas and himself and this verse was revealed:

 O ye who have faith, enter not the dwellings of the Prophet unto a meal, without waiting for its time to come, except if leave be given you. But if you are invited, then enter. When the meal is ended, then disperse. Linger not in hope of discourse and conversation. Verily, that would be irksome unto the Prophet. He would shrink from telling you, but Allah shrinks not from the Truth.

And when you ask of them (the Prophet’s wives) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. This is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. (19:17)

From this verse and the ahâdith related to it, we learn that in the house of the Messenger of Allah, there was a space allocated to men and a separate space allocated to women. There was also a ‘curtain’ (hijâb) which separated the two spaces. Allah commands the companions to respect this hijâb and if they need to ask anything of the Prophet’s wives, to ask it ‘from behind the curtain’.

Thus, one can say that this separation of men and women – when there are guests in the house – is also of the Sunnah of the Prophet. Before modern times, this tradition was followed in most Muslim countries. In traditional Indian architecture, houses were divided into two parts: the women’s inner apartments or zenana, and the men’s outer quarters or mardana. Likewise, in traditional Persian architecture, there was a partition between the private section andarūni – and the public section of the house birūni. Even today, in many Arab houses, men and women do not sit in the same area, unless they are closely related. The partition, however, was more or less forgotten with the rise of modern architecture. Nowadays, some Muslims tend to opt for open kitchens because of modern design, whereas this type of design completely disregards the privacy of women. When the kitchen has neither walls nor doors, women will not be able to do kitchen-work without being watched by the male guests. Anyway, let us go back to the verse of the hijab.

 It’s only not about dress!

It is clear that the verse does not say anything about how men and women should dress. As for the ruling on women’s dress when they go out of the house, one should refer to the verse in Surah An-Nur and the other verses in Surah Al-Ahzab. In this verse, Allah tells us about the separation between men and women in the house; and that can be done not only by clothing, but also by walls or curtains. Of course, this kind of hijab – curtains and walls – is only possible indoors and not in the street. That is probably why women were told to cover their bodies when they go out of the house.

Only the wives of the Prophet?

Some people say that this verse pertains only to the wives of the Messenger of Allah – peace be upon him- and that other women do not have to follow this injunction. This view is plausible, as the wives of the Prophet were held in great respect by the Muslims and their status was not like that of other women. However, there are several points for us to consider:

First point: Sometimes, Allah does not give us the reason for a particular commandment. Allah tells us to pray two rak’ahs at Fajr. Why two rak’ahs and not three rak’ahs? Allah does not tell us the reason. Here, however, Allah tells us clearly why the hijab is needed and why there should be a barrier between men and women. Allah gives us the philosophy behind hijab: This is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. (19:17) Therefore, the ultimate reason for hijab is the purification of the hearts. This is the reason (‘illa) behind the hijab.

Now, according to a principle in fiqh: If the reason remains, the injunction also remains. So, for example, a doctor tells patient A not to smoke because that may lead to cancer. Now, if patient B also wants to avoid getting cancer and if his health condition is similar to patient A, then the same ruling also applies to patient B. When Allah commands a particular group of people to do something for a particular end, and that end is also desired in another group of people, then the command must be followed by both groups.

So the question is: whose heart needs to be purified most? Is it the hearts of the Sahaba and the wives of the Prophet, who were the best men and women of all generations? Or does it apply to us as well, for our hearts needs purification more than their hearts?

Second point: There is an Arabic saying that goes: iyyâka a’ni was’ma’ē yâ jârah. There is a story behind the proverb. I’ll tell you the story before I translate the saying: Once upon a time,  an Arab man fell in love with his neighbour’s daughter but he was too shy to express his love openly. Thus, he composed a love letter to the tent! In this letter, he spoke to the tent and praised the beauty of the tent and so on – but at the end, he wrote: iyyâka a’ni was’ma’ē yâ jârah – I’m speaking to the tent, but O neighbour’s daughter, hear it!’ In other words, outwardly I am speaking to the tent; but in reality, you are the subject of my thoughts. I am speaking to no one but you.

Sometimes, Allah’s verses in the Quran are like that. For example, Allah says to the Prophet – upon him be peace -:

If you should associate anything with Allah, your work would surely become worthless, and you would surely be among the losers.” (39:65)

Is it possible for someone like the Messenger of Allah – peace be upon him – to even think of committing shirk? Of course not! So, this verse apparently addresses the Messenger of Allahpbuh  but Allah knows that the Prophet will never commit shirk. In this way, he is warning the people and the believers. The verse says that even the Prophet’s works would become worthless, then what about yours? So we should not be so sure of ourselves.

Or, another example, the Prophet said:

By Allah! If Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, were to steal; Muhammad would surely cut her hand off.”

Is it even possible that Fatimah – May Allah be pleased with her –, one of the four chosen women in Paradise, should even think of stealing?!! No. That is impossible. So why did the Prophet mention Fatimahraa? He mentioned Fatimah – May Allah be pleased with her – to emphasize that the rule of Law has no exceptions.

Likewise, the verse of hijab outwardly addresses the wives of the Prophet – May Allah be pleased with them –– whereas in reality all men and women must follow and respect this Qur’anic injunction. For if the hijab was needed for those saintly men and women, it is definitely more needed in our times. This is the view expressed by many Quranic commentators, such as Al-Jassâs, Ash-Shawkâni, Ash-Shaqniti, Ibn Jarir and others. Ibn Kathir – May Allah have mercy with him – also says: ‘If one wants to ask something from a woman, he should ask from behind a screen.’

Hijab does not mean no communication!

Finally, we should remember an important but often forgotten point. Allah does not say: ‘Do not ask anything of the Prophet’s wives.’ Allah does not say: ‘Do not ever speak to the Prophet’s wives’. Allah says: ‘When you ask anything of the Prophet’s wives, ask it of them from behind a curtain.’ So the Islamic hijab does not mean that there should be no communication between non-mahram men and women. It means that this communication should always take place from behind a hijab. This view is also supported by the Sunnah: Many of the Sahaba – male companions of the Prophet – would ask their questions from A’isha; and she – May Allah be pleased with her – would answer. She would tell them about the Messenger of Allah; but she would do so from behind a screen. There should always be a hijab in between.

This hijab can be a curtain or a wall in the house, it can be modest dress, and it can also mean our behaviour, our thinking and our piety. Outward hijab is not efficient if it is not accompanied with inner piety. Inner piety always manifests itself in modest dress and behaviour. Piety is, by itself, the most important and the most efficient hijab; for it is piety which gives meaning to modest dress. Piety is the invisible hijab that all Muslim men and women must wear. As the Qurán also says in Surah Al’-A’râf:

And the garment of piety: that is the best garment. (7:26)

Why don’t men wear the hijab?

bahrain-coupleIn the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

‘Why don’t men wear the hijab? Why is it that men are not required to cover themselves as extensively as women have to in Islam? Women have to cover from head to foot; men have to cover only from the navel to the knee. Why does this disparity exist? What is the difference between a man’s hair and a woman’s hair? Why do only women have to cover their hair? Why don’t men cover their hair and their faces?’ These are some of the questions that modern Westerners ask and sometimes Muslims do not know how to answer.

Interestingly, Christians never asked Muslims such questions a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, Christian authors such as John Damascene wrote extensively against Islam. They criticized every aspect of Islam that they could think of; but they never criticized Muslim women for covering their hair. How could they criticize Muslim women for covering their hair, when the Virgin Mary – peace be upon her – was always depicted with her hair covered? How could they criticize Muslim women for covering their hair when Saint Paul had also said: ‘A woman who prays with her hair unveiled disgraces her head’? At that time, Christianity also valued modesty in dress and behaviour. The same is true of Judaism. The Mishnah makes it clear: “Jewish women, married or unmarried, should not walk in the marketplace with uncovered hair.” So, how could they reproach Muslim women for following the Shari’ah when their own Halakhah said the same thing? Therefore, in the past, modest dress was the norm. At the time of Imam Al-Ghazzali or other scholars, there were not so many books about the hijab, because everyone understood what the hijab was and there was no need to defend the traditional Islamic modest dress.

Anyway, we do not live in the Middle Ages anymore and there are people – both Muslims and non-Muslims – who ask: ‘Why do only women have to wear the hijab? Why do women have to cover their hair and not men?’ How do we answer this question?

First of all, for a Muslim, it is enough to know that the Qur’an commands women to wear the hijab. Men are told to ‘cast down their glance and guard their private parts.’ (24:30) whereas women are also told to: ‘cast their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers…’(24:31) or to their other mahārim. For a Muslim, no other reason or explanation is needed. We have to obey Allah, even if we do not comprehend the reasons behind His commandments. This answer satisfies many Muslims; but it is not likely to convince non-Muslims who do not accept the authority of the Qur’an in the first place.

The question ‘Why don’t men wear the hijab?’ is based on the false assumption that men and women are equal. Men and women are not equal. No two things are equal in every respect. If two things were equal in every way, there would be one thing and not two things. If man and woman were equal in every way, they would be identical; there would be one sex and not two sexes. Men and women are equal in that they are both humans. They are equal in many things, unequal in many other things.

A woman’s hair is not like a man’s hair.  Even in a country such as the United States or Australia, a woman’s haircut costs four of five times more than a man’s haircut. Why this inequality? Why this discrimination based on gender? It’s not because women have longer hair or cutting women’s hair takes longer or anything like that. These are excuses. It’s because women, as a rule, are willing to pay more for their haircuts. Women are more concerned with their appearances than men.

Women spend much more time in front of the mirror. Whether we like it or not, this is the case. Women all over the world are more interested in jewellery, ornaments, cosmetics and beautiful clothes than men. Naturally, we pay more attention to our bodies. Men also pay more attention to women’s bodies. An Arab poet describes this difference very beautifully:

Woman is a hunter, and man too is a hunter

Woman is prey, and man too is a prey

She uses her body to captivate his heart;

He uses his heart to captivate her body

To an Arab man, feminine beauty is like wine

He who drinks but once will never be satiated;

Whereas the beauty of men, in the eyes of women

Is sweet and pleasant like milk and dates.

I think what this poem is trying to say is that there is a difference between the way men look at women and the way women look at men. Woman seeks to rule over man’s heart, whereas man wants to dominate woman’s body. Man seeks woman actively whereas woman wants to be loved and sought after. Woman wants the protection of man, whereas man wants the company of woman. Also, women are stronger than men in controlling their desires. A woman can control her desires more easily than a man. Generally, women are more bashful than men; as the hadith also indicates:

‘Allah divided bashfulness (hayā) into ten portions: he gave nine portions to women and one portion to men.’

Islam teaches that a woman should share her external beauty only with her husband (and to a lesser extent, with her mahārim) and not with every man on the street. Islam does not teach that we should share our knowledge or our thoughts only with our husbands. Let us consider our role models: A’isha – May Allah be pleased with her – was so modest that she was eager to cover her face even in the state of ihram, as the hadith indicates. But the very same woman is the narrator of many of our ahâdith. She passed on her knowledge to the future generations and inspired Muslim women and men for fourteen centuries.

Having said all these, it goes without saying that modest dress is also important for men. The reason we wear modest dress is not only because our bodies might be attractive to the opposite gender; but also because modest dress is a sign of human dignity. Allah created human being to be His slave (‘abd) and vicegerent (khalifah); men and women should dress in a way that reflects this status. Our dress should remind us of our servitude; remind us of the fact that we are not free on this earth to do what we want, but to do what Allah wants us to do.

Unfortunately, there are some brothers who expect their wives to wear the abâya and the niqāb; while they themselves wear short-sleeved T-shirts and shorts. If you expect your wife to dress like the wives of the Prophet, you should also try to dress like the Prophet – peace be upon him-. If you expect your wife to dress like the female companions of the Messenger of Allah, try to wear clothes that resemble those of the male companions – May Allah be pleased with them all-. Even though men were not told to wear the hijab or to veil their faces, they were told to dress modestly and to behave modestly.  The Prophet – peace be upon him – said:

‘Every religion has a character, and the character of Islam is modesty.’

May Allah – Glory be to Him – help us to acquire modesty and humility, which are the characteristics of this religion. In sha’ Allah


 Useful Sources:

* Ideal Muslimah: Why Men Don’t wear Hijab?