What is Hijab?

by Fatima Kermalli

It is truly, one coming right after another, but in a good way. February 1st of every year is designated as World Hijab Day, which has completed its sixth year. Approximately after a month on March 8, it is International Women’s Day.

Women and women’s issues have been placed in the forefront of society to such an extent that a special Day has been designated for them, which is a testimony to their importance. It also demonstrates the need for women’s issues to be addressed as well as for honoring them.

The subject of Hijab is an especially significant matter to discuss and publicize due to the misunderstandings that persist regarding it. Rather Hijab is the most apparent garment that instantaneously sets a Muslim woman apart from the rest of the population.

Therefore, Muslim women automatically become the ambassadors of Islam. A religion that has received much negative and incorrect propaganda as well. But the women, like all ambassadors who represent institutions with honor, adorn this Islamic dress with full conviction in their faith and all that it stands for, which is peace and all that is good. Henceforth, Hijab serves manifold purposes. However, to understand this concept one must understand the literal meaning of Hijab first. Hijab, in Islam, comes from the Arabic root word ‘Hajaba’, which means to conceal or cover. Outwardly, in the physical sense, Hijab is to cover or conceal one’s body except the face and hands. Others may choose to also cover these parts of the body as well, but it is not necessary.

Socially, Hijab is about maintaining one’s composure and conduct with modesty, dignity and noble speech. One manner of Hijab flatters the other. However, the physical aspect of Hijab is the one that receives the most negative attention by those who do not understand it. In fact, Hijab harmonizes the pure inner nature of a women and the outer beauty of a Women. Men also have a hijab to observe which is righteous conduct and to dress in loose and unrevealing clothing to ensure their modesty and dignity as well. Yet, the covering of the outer garment is emphasized for the women more so due to her delicate and beautiful features. Hence, the Hijab powerfully minimizes moral degradation in society. It promotes dignity because a woman is honored for who she is and not by how she appears. She is valued by her skills and characteristics and not judged according to superficial standards, such as materialism and looks. Hijab enables women to have confidence by empowering them to move about in society without the fear of being a target of unwarranted advances and sexual assaults and exploitation, which are greatly reduced by the observance of Hijab. The modest garment ensures women that she will be viewed based solely for who she is as a person giving her full strength to progress towards achieving things that really matter in life. The covering in no way prohibits women from becoming active participants in society, rather it gives her more freedom to do so.

And above all, Hijab is an act of obedience to the Creator that is manifested through His commandments. It is stated in the Holy Qur’an “Tell the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men).” (33:59)

This can be even more appreciated when the testimony to observing a religious covering is also found in the Bible. “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.” 1 Corinthians 11:3-6

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10

In conclusion, Hijab is a source of empowerment whereby millions of Muslim women around the world wear the Hijab as part of their faith.  Far beyond from being oppressive, the Hijab is an act of liberation, purity and a sure sign of faith. Undoubtedly, respect for women is paramount in Islam, as this is illustrated by means of the Hijab; for certainly, she may not be seen, but she is heard.

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