There are many reasons behind the obligation of Hijab. Almighty Allah in His wisdom gave a physical body – male or female – to the soul while on earth. Each gender has different roles and rules to follow. These rules are to maintain virtue and decency in society. Both men and women are asked to lower their gaze and to cover certain parts of the body. Hijab is an act of obedience, an identity for a Muslim woman, and promotes modesty in society. It is also a spiritual manifestation of the majesty and beauty of Allah’s names. It is an integral part of submission to Allah.
Hijab is one of the obligations set out by God for the good of the human being both in this world and in the Hereafter. We believe that the human being is essentially a soul first, which existed before coming into this world and will exist after leaving it. The body is a sort of shell to house the soul. Perfection and beauty of the soul are gained by traveling towards God on the path He has prescribed.
Laws given by Allah keep human beings from getting distracted from the ultimate goal of achieving closeness to Allah (s). Having certain checks in place, like that of lowering the gaze and abiding by the Islamic dress code of hijab, allow one to create an atmosphere of virtue and discipline. This atmosphere in turn aids in the maintenance of healthy relationships between the genders, and furthermore, a healthy society (Academy of Islam, 2020).
Hijab could be better understood through the following points.
1) First and foremost, it is to gain spirituality and closeness to God through obedience. It is a command of Allah, as attested to in the Quran, hadith, and unanimously agreed on by scholars of Islam. Just as salaat, fasting, etc. are laws that we obey, hijab is also one such law.
2) Hijab is an identity for Muslim women. It declares, without speaking, that the wearer is a God conscious believer. The decency and virtue it exudes are more powerful than any words that could be used to convey the same.
Modern culture today is replete with examples of the results of such exploitation.
3) Hijab promotes modesty in society. Hijab preserves modesty and fosters decency in interactions with the opposite gender and thus, in society as a whole (Rizvi, 1997). Islam is a religion that does not just function at the individual level, but at a societal level as well. Hence hijab is not only prescribed as an obligation to women, but to men as well. It is important to note that hijab is not only the physical covering in the form of a headscarf, but it extends to one’s other body parts as well; one example being the hijab of one’s eyes (Rizvi, 1997).
4) A spiritual and metaphysical meaning behind the hijab exists as well. As discussed previously, God has beautiful names which comprise of beauty and majesty (Jamal and Jalal). The male and the female are creatures of God, each manifesting certain aspects of His names and qualities. A woman represents the beautiful qualities of Allah, manifesting Divine beauty. The Jamal of the women is balanced with the Jalal of the hijab, a dignity and majesty for the beauty within her. According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the Absoluteness and Majesty of the Almighty is manifested most directly in the masculine state and His Infinity and Beauty in the feminine state (Nasr, 1980). Islamic spirituality necessitates social patterns, art of dress, and many other ways of life to create the balance of qualities in the genders.
Western society has long seen the hijab with a derogatory perspective. Along with the secularism and individualism that is an integral part of Western society, this has led some to proclaim that hijab is outdated and unnecessary. For a believer who submits to the Almighty, there can be no doubt that hijab is an integral part of obedience to Allah.
Academy for Learning Islam. (2020). Reflection No. 254 on Q 33:59 – Hijab – A Respectable
Ali Zayn al-Abidin, Imam. (n.d.) Treatise on Rights (Risalat al-Huquq) (W. Chittick, Transl.).
Rizvi, S. M. (1997). Hijab, The Muslim Womens Dress, Islamic or Cultural?
Nasr, S. H. (1980). The Male and Female in the Islamic Perspective. Studies in Comparative Religion, 14.