Islam has provided us with clear guidelines to follow when it comes to the physical hijab. For women, that means wearing a loose-fitting garment that does not reveal her body with the exception of the face and hands, as well as a scarf that covers her hair as well as neck and chest. With this being said, it is important to keep in mind that when it comes to different cultural adaptations, the parameters of these guidelines can often be subjective; however, the minimal guidelines that Islam has set in place should be adhered to.
When it comes to the physical hijab and its rulings, Islam provides a clear guideline to which one must adhere. There are also multiple verses of the Quran that refer to the physical hijab:
Scholars have described the word, “khumur” in this verse as being, “something with which a woman conceals her head” (Rizvi, 1997). This head covering should cover the hair, neck, and the bosom.
In addition, the Quran states:
Scholars explain that the jalabib refers to, “a loose outer garment” (Rizvi, 1997). This means that the Islamic dress code for a woman must not only include a scarf that covers her head (her hair), but that the overall garment must be longer and loose fitting so as not to reveal her body, with exceptions of her face and hands (Rizvi, 1997). Scholars also specify that the feet must be covered completely (Hijab in Islam, Al-Islam TV, 2021). The physical Hijab must also not be a display to attract attention. Flashy clothing and clearly visible adornment of all sorts must be avoided to make the hijab aligned with Islamic principles.
It is important to keep in mind that Islam is a world religion that is not bound to one particular culture. Therefore, while hijab guidelines are set in place by Islam, the cultural adaptations of clothing within the parameters of those specific guidelines is often subjective, allowing for diversity in societies. For example, some women may use abayas or chadors, or if we take a look at the West, it is common to find a woman choosing to wear a loose outfit with a scarf to cover herself. It must be clear though that the minimal Islamic guidelines for hijab themselves are not open to interpretation (Rizvi, 1997).
Our Duty with Respect to the Physical Hijab
It is essential to constantly remind oneself of the purpose of the physical hijab, which is to preserve one’s beauty and maintain modesty in interactions with the opposite gender (Rizvi, 1997). One’s duty then, is to learn physical hijab rules and apply them to daily life and circumstances to the best of one’s ability. It can also be extremely helpful to look to resident scholars in the region in which one resides for more guidance and clarifications if needed.
Academy for Learning Islam. (2020). Reflection No. 254 on Q 33:59 – Hijab – A Respectable
Islamic Lessons Made Easy. (2021). Hijab in Islam [Video]. Al-Islam TV.
Rizvi, S. M. (1997). Hijab, The Muslim Womens Dress, Islamic or Cultural?