Facts Behind The Hijab

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Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, London

The hijab is a garment that bestows its wearers wings of liberation. However, for those who fail to understand it, it is unjustly labelled a cage of oppression. In order to bring some clarity to this heavily misunderstood garment, a review of some facts is in order.

A Divine Commandment

Not uncommonly these days, one hears of the odd individual boldly announcing that the hijab is not a Divine commandment but a cultural tradition. A rather absurd notion when we observe that the hijab is universally adhered to across all cultural and geographical boundaries; from the Arabian deserts, to African villages and the suburbs of London and New York. So the hijab belongs to no-one culture, it is a practice of faith.

Let us clarify this matter with the Divine authority of the Holy Qur’an.

In chapter 24, verse 32 it states

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…”

There is much to be learnt from this verse, Firstly, that the hijab is not just a headscarf. Certainly not; there is much greater depth and breadth to this topic. The concept of the hijab defines a standard of modesty. The eyes observe the hijab through restraint of one’s gaze. The tongue observes the hijab through use of appropriate language when speaking to the opposite gender. Indeed, every part of the body partakes in observing the hijab in its own way.

Free Choice

Over and over again, Muslim women are told their hijab has been forced upon them, that they are unable to make decisions for themselves, or that they are deprived of their freedom. In reality, the only force involved for the vast majority of Muslim women donning the hijab is the force of persuasion of a beautiful teaching. If the hijab was to be forcefully enforced on Muslim women, would not a punishment be prescribed for those who don’t wear it? However, there is none to be found, only the wonderful realisation that Islam is a religion of choice. Once one is convinced of the truth of Islam and chooses to come under its fold, naturally then such a person adheres to its teachings.

Crucial For Social Morality

Without the physical aspects of the hijab, the moral state of society enters a steep decline. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an clearly states that the physical hijab enables women to be “distinguished and not molested”[i]. Society today is testament to the need for such physical barriers. Take the music industry for example, sexual assaults have been recognised as a worldwide problem to such an extent that the Swedish Bråvalla Festival has been made female-only until, as Emma Knyckare, the Swedish comedian organising the event, tweeted, “…ALL men have learned how to behave themselves”[ii]

Certainly then, before the hijab is outlawed and brought to question attention needs to be brought to the moral training of men.

Modesty is First Prescribed for Men

Prior to the verse cited above, the Holy Qur’an instructs the following, to men.

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” (Chapter 24: Verse 31)

So in fact, the concept of hijab is first prescribed for men. A certain standard of modesty is expected of Muslim men. Islam recognises the inherent differences between men and women, hence, it prescribes an additional physical covering for women. It places women in the driving seat, letting them decide who they wish to reveal their beauty to. Indeed, modern day advertisement testifies to the power of female beauty, wherever attention needs to be drawn, it is done so with women.

A Means of Liberation – Ask those Who Don it!

Sadly, the words ‘oppression’ and ‘hijab’ are often found in the same sentence. Would the world dare to ask those who don the hijab if they are oppressed or liberated. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t make for much of a headline as it would elicit only the resounding chorus of ‘We are independent, free and liberated women. This is our choice, the wisdom of which we see and experience daily. Just as no individual should to be stripped of their clothing, we should also not be stripped to what is akin to nudity to us, under the false pretext of liberation. If there is wisdom greater than Islam’s then show it to us, persuade our hearts and minds with arguments and reasoning as Islam has done.’

[i] Chapter 33:Verse 60
[ii] Swedish music festival to be female-only ‘until all men learn how to behave themselves’, Christopher Hooton, The Independent, Wednesday 5 July 2017
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/sweden-music-festival-men-female-only-bravalla-rape-sexual-assault-emma-knyckare-a7824366.html
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My Veil of Confidence

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By Riyya Ahmad, age 13, Aldershot, UK

Islam has suffered from false allegations about the veiling of Muslim women for centuries. The media portrays the veil, or hijab, to be a restriction on Muslim women when it is really an act of modesty.

It is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islam. Society believes that women who cover their heads, and wear modest clothes somehow have little freedom and are not able to express who they are. In fact, the very opposite is true. My veil actually inspires me with confidence in my day to day life.

If one looks with a deeper gaze on this subject, it will be found that the veiling of women is not something that Islam has introduced. The previous revealed scriptures also contain traces of similar teachings and Islam came only to complete and perfect them. It is a complete honour to follow in the footsteps of such a pious lady, Mother Mary (Hazrat Maryam) who is always depicted as having her head covered.

The Holy Quran says:

“O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you raiment to cover your shame, and to be an elegant dress;…” (7:27)

Islam provides guidance for a peaceful, harmonious and logical way of life.  You will find that the hijab is a means of protecting women, and providing them with freedom from many social ills and it is a blessing for them. The word “purdah” is also used to describe the concept and the practice of hijab. The Holy Quran has laid down that, one of the methods men and women are to use to achieve that goal is hijab. It says in the Holy Quran:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts…” (24:31)

And then women are addressed:

“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head covers over their bosoms…” (24:32)

Living in western society, it is inevitable to be asked why I wear my hijab and how my veil inspires me. And every time, my answer remains the same; it makes me who I am. It is a part of my identity. Without it I would not be as confident as I am today. It protects me, while still letting me do the daily tasks I desire to do. The veil is my spiritual way of gaining closeness to Allah the Almighty and my faith.

Thus the question follows: do you ever feel constrained by your veil? I reply, “If my hijab restricted me from being out and about like you, then yes my hijab would constrain me. If my hijab limited me from achieving the education we all have a right to, then yes my hijab would constrain me. But if I am out and about alongside you, and I am building an educational career to the same level as you, then you tell me, does my hijab constrain me?

My veil is not just an ordinary cloth draped around my head, it is my respect, my dignity, my honour, my faith and my blessing from Allah the Almighty, surrounding me as I go confidently in the direction I desire.

Ofsted and Hijabs: Truth Unveiled

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Sarah Waseem, London

I read with some surprise and concern that a group headed by former Parliamentary candidate Amina Lone, is planning to meet with Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Schools to discuss the “unacceptable rise of the hijab in state funded primary schools”.

In a rather convoluted letter, the group argue that primary schools, by allowing young girls to wear the hijab are in some way sexualising them and denying them gender equality. Interestingly, they seem not to have any concerns about the sexualising of young Jewish boys wearing the kippah, or young Sikh boys wearing the patka. Also, the fact that most primary school do not include dresses or skirts for boys in their uniform policy does not seem to present concerns for them regarding the ‘sexualising’ of boys.

It is correct that Islamic teachings do not require young girls to wear a head covering until they reach puberty, apart from when they are performing Prayers. However, the reality is that girls mature at different rates, with some starting menarche at primary school. Therefore, a general ban on hijabs in Primary School would hinder these girls from practicing their faith.

The covering of the head by adult Muslim women is clearly mandated in the Holy Qur’an, in chapter 24 verse 32 or in some editions verse 31. The group argue that some Muslim countries pressurise women to “cover up”. However, many of these countries have also allowed extremist versions of Islam to flourish. They have appalling human rights records including religious discrimination against other faiths, AND other sects of Islam, notably Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. This is nothing to do with the hijab or the suppression of women’s rights but is politically motivated to achieve the dominance of one group over another.

For the authors to refer to the horrific treatment of Yazidis by so called Islamic State, in the context of Primary Schools allowing the hijab as part of their uniform policy is just inexcusable. The majority of the Muslim world has repeatedly condemned the actions of so called Islamic State and distanced themselves from them. For example, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad has repeatedly warned about the dangers of international governments supporting extremist groups through their funding of weapons.  Wearing a hijab does not turn Muslims into terrorists and murderers!

The authors disingenuously link FGM to Islam when the overwhelming evidence shows that this practice is not permitted according to the teachings of Islam. Moreover, FGM is a terrible practice that is also prevalent in certain Christian and pagan societies.   The authors also disingenuously allude to an association between Islam, child sexual exploitation and forced marriages. I challenge them to produce references from the Holy Qur’an  to support any of these allegations.

I find it sad that once again, Islamic practises are being attacked in such a sensationalist way by focusing on women, the very section of society that the authors seem to want to ‘empower’.

Wearing the hijab does not disadvantage girls and women in any way. I invite the authors of this letter to meet with ladies from our Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, doctors, teachers, business women, health professionals, lawyers, all of whom lead fully integrated lives in society and wear the hijab.

 

* Edited for correction on 11/09/2017

 

The Significance of Gender Segregation at Jalsa Salana

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By Navida Sayed, Hounslow, UK

Every year thousands of Ahmadi Muslims flock to Jalsa Salana UK (the Annual Convention) in Alton, Hampshire. The aim of the event for the members of the community is to attain spiritual advancement, unite in universal brotherhood and promote peace. Many guests attend for whom a salient feature of the convention is the segregation of the sexes. The separation of Muslim men and women at religious gatherings can be perplexing, misunderstood and sometimes difficult to accept especially in Western society.

Segregation of the sexes exists in all spheres of society including schools, hospitals, prisons, members clubs, workplaces and gyms. Yet when Muslims uphold the same principle it is seen as a medieval sign of the oppression and subjugation of women. Unfortunately some misconceptions are due to atrocities and injustices against women inflicted by bigoted extremists. To make matters worse, the negative biased and sensationalised stories about women in Islam plague the media. Taken together this creates a public narrative that there is a need to rescue and liberate Muslim women from the clutches of the faith of Islam.

In any workforce employees happily comply with company regulations in order to keep safe and protect their rights. Disregard or disobedience could result in disciplinary action or even termination of employment. Likewise practicing Muslims are expected to understand and obey the teachings of Islam, which is the faith of their choice. The commandments of Islam for both men and women to observe Purdah (veiling as a mindset) are for the betterment of society. This does not necessitate that teachings of Islam are out-dated and in need of reform.

For Ahmadi Muslims the separation of men and women during prayers and religious events has always been the norm and stems from Islamic teachings relating to Purdah. Many individuals may be completely unaware that males were the first to be instructed in the Qur’an to lower their gaze. Being aware of men’s weak innate nature, God also commanded women to cover themselves as a preventative measure. In Islam a woman is not regarded as a sex object and is free from exploitation and harassment.

Those who strongly oppose gender segregation on the grounds that both genders are being deprived of each other’s company are not aware Islam upholds the belief that intimate relationships should be confined to the private domain of marriage only. The separation of the sexes in mosques and religious gatherings is a preventive measure both for men and women to maintain the highest standards of good behaviour, dignity, self-restraint, modesty and purity.

The separate spaces are for their own comfort and ease where they do not have to cover up and where they can relax and reap the benefits of attending religious gatherings. Religious settings and gatherings such as the Jalsa Salana are not places of social hangout rather the prime focus is to reap spiritual benefits through prayers and listening to the speeches.

Sitting separately from men at community events or wearing the Hijab, does not restrict a Muslim woman’s role. She is encouraged to seek education and is not restricted to pursue a professional career. Ahmadi Muslim women excelling in highest standards of academic achievement can be witnessed in the award ceremony on the second day of Jalsa. Muslim women have all the rights that Muslim men enjoy, and in some ways, have certain privileges, which men do not enjoy. In a recent survey amongst 323,500 American adults, 56% of working mothers with children under the age of 18 said they would prefer to stay at home and take care of their house and family. A Muslim woman has the right and choice to stay at home and raise the children and for her husband to shoulder the financial responsibility for family. Another privilege is that a Muslim man has absolutely no right to demand anything from his wife’s income, property or wealth and Islam gives her the right to spend it as she wishes.

At the Jalsa Salana we welcome all interested in discovering the true teachings of Islam including the treatment and rights of women. Islam has granted women a position of dignity and honour and was the first religion to formally grant women a status never known before. The moral, spiritual and economic equality of men and women as propagated by Islam is unquestionable.

At Jalsa special guided tours are offered and female guests have the option of visiting the women’s area too. Leading some of the tours over the years, I found the reactions of the female guests were always the same. Whilst walking across there would be an air of silence, suspense and a few questions amongst the groups. Upon entering the ladies arena the guests were astounded, some politely commenting that they expected to see only be a few women behind a curtain in a small space. Of course the prime question always arises, why do we sit separately?

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community made life easier for its members especially for women to enable them to have recognition through their own women’s organisation known as the Lajna Ima’illah. Ahmadi Muslim women around the world have their own mosque areas, offices and at Jalsa Salana an entire ladies arena to themselves.

The women’s organisation works alongside their male counterparts under the direct guidance of the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be his helper and guide).

If anyone still considers that Ahmadi Muslim women are regarded inferior to men because of the segregation all they need to ask is who does the cooking? The answer people maybe expect is the women as there certainly would be no shortage of female participants at the Jalsa. In reality meals cooked over the course of the three day event for thousands of guests attending the Jalsa are all prepared by men, including peeling hundreds of bags of onions and potatoes, cooking and washing the gigantic pots and pans in very hot working conditions. Men could say that this is unfair on them, but they never complain and take on the task voluntarily and happily to serve the guests of Jalsa Salana. Likewise the men do all the cleaning and all of the heavy work.

At Jalsa the women also have the privilege of being addressed by the spiritual Head of the community Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahamd directly in their own gathering on the second day of the convention when he also awards female students for their academic achievements. The Lajna Ima’illah (women) have office bearers and teams of women in all departments such as health & safety, security, registration, administration, press & media, audio visual, camera crew, Voice of Islam radio, hospitality, Humanity First, discipline, first aid, exhibitions and much more. All the women are volunteers and at Jalsa Salana the volunteers comprise academics, professionals and housewives working in unison with the men all united as one. As Ahmadi Muslim women, we have absolutely no problem with the segregation, rather it is a source of great freedom and success for us. Furthermore segregation applies equally to men as it does to women, so any question of inferiority cannot apply for both are bound by this rule in equal measure.

We invite all female guests attending the convention to visit us on the ladies side and witness for themselves women leading women. Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we are well aware and educated about our rights in Islam. The men in the community are also reminded about their womenfolk’s rights. One of the beautiful aspects of Islamic teaching is that by defining the role of women in society, and then by giving dignity to that role, it makes women feel fulfilled, empowered, respected and liberated. As Ahmadi Muslim women who experience this at first hand we can vouch for the wisdom and benefits of this teaching, as the independence we gain from segregation is a source of great strength.

 

The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly

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Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

Once upon a time, a poet of the British Isles remarked “the flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly”. He wrote in praise of a beauty that was hidden, a charm that was veiled and a loveliness that sought no advertisement. A flower whose fragrance was all the more sweeter and lush for its lowliness and modesty.

Such a reverence for the modest has sadly dwindled from among us. Somewhere in the tumult of history, the shy, lowly flower has been swept away by the winds of modernity. Winds that feed and nurture only the bright, the brilliant and the bold.

So it is that modesty has become a relic of a bygone era. Those who still cling onto antiquated notions like it are told they are like birds, whose unseeing eyes are unaware of the bars of their own cage. We, they instruct us, need only shed our chains and be released from our prison.

There is a kind of humour in this. As Muslim women, our worldview, like that of our sisters of other faiths, is centred not on gaining some token of liberation or trophy of empowerment but on being submissive to the will of God. For it is our conviction that true happiness lies in striving to establish a connection with the Divine and in living life according to the principles He has laid out, principles which if followed bring peace to the heart and contentment to the spirit for they are so perfectly in tune with our natures.

As Muslim women, feminist icons will never be our role models. Instead, we look to the example of the one saintly woman whose praises were extolled in our scripture, a holy personage revered and loved by Christians and Muslims alike, Hadhrat Maryam (peace be upon her) otherwise known as Mary.

Mary is addressed in chapter three, verses 43-4 of the Qur’an which state.

And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.

‘O Mary, be obedient to thy Lord and prostrate thyself and worship God alone with those who worship.’

These verses enjoin purity, piety and complete devotion. Mary (peace be upon her) exemplified all of these virtues. And as we know, one of the most iconic aspects of Mary’s image was of course her veil.

Islam, being a complete system of life, for every moral exercise or virtue it seeks to inculcate has an ‘outward form’ or practical step. To build a connection with the Divine, we pray. To be compassionate, we give alms. To learn sacrifice and suffering, we fast. And to increase in modesty and inner light, we cover ourselves and conduct ourselves accordingly.

In this connection, the Qur’an enjoys women to ‘show not of their beauty’ and to “draw their head-coverings over their bosoms” for that is closer to modesty[1]. As with all things, the choice lies with the woman whether or not she wishes to act upon this teaching.

The Qur’an is a scripture that encourages this attitude in its followers, “Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds”. (6: 163)

Love and devotion of this degree must always come from the heart. And if we truly do see the headscarf as a garment of devotion, then we must allow women the agency to enter into this bond of devotion themselves out of love and love alone.

So, the philosophy behind veiling is simple. It is an attitude to life that places at its centre devotion to God and that does away with the objectification of the female form that consumerism encourages and engenders. It is freedom itself. Well a kind of freedom rooted in submission.

However, we aspire to no more. For it is as Wordsworth said in a moving poem dedicated to his wife

True beauty dwells in deep retreats,

Whose veil is unremoved

[1] See Quran 24: 32

Note: Written upon hearing of the ECJ rulings of the 14th of March

Source: https://closetothesourceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-flower-of-sweetest-smell-is-shy-and-lowly/

Liberty Not Neutrality

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By Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge, UK

On the 14th of March 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of a corporation wishing to prohibit its employees from “the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign”. The plaintiff in this case, Belgian citizen Ms Samira Achbita was a “hijabi”, a woman observing the Islamic code of dress. The court ruled that the company, GS4, had the right to impose “neutrality” in dress-code.

In light of these statements, we really must ask ourselves whether we, as a society, have the right to define precisely what level of clothing is considered appropriately “neutral”? The Hijab worn by Ms. Achbita and so many Muslim women is a spiritual garment that offers us security and comfort of the heart. The Hijab by no means restricts women nor is it a political statement; what it represents to us is but devotion to God. Why must this spiritual garment be brought into courtroom disputes and become a pawn in the political arena?

After all, we cannot forget that the headscarf, the turban, the kippah- all are a part of the religious landscape of Europe. Indeed, Muslim and Jewish communities have long peopled the lands and isles of Europe. The sacred garments we wear hold so much meaning to us, to many of us they form an essential part of practice of our faith. Why then have the fabrics we have for so long donned become cause for such contention?

An equally alarming side to the ruling however is that if we start to maintain the rights of employers and corporations over and above the rights of the European citizen, where does it lead? Are we not embarking on a slippery slope of curtailing citizens’ rights to freedom of religion, one of the most sacred rights enshrined in our law? Though this ruling does not directly prohibit religious dress, it sets a precedent for allowing corporations and private entities to usurp the rights of their employees when it comes to religious expression. A precedent that could have dire consequences indeed.

It is a point where, as a society, we must question what path is it that we wish to take. Should we side with those wishing to enforce a colourless “neutrality” or are we to thrive in tolerance and co-existence? For integration does not mean wiping out any sign of difference, visible or otherwise- it means embracing one another in goodwill and respect and being all the stronger for it. As a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association here in the UK, I have never felt there to be any conflict between my Islamic faith and loyalty to Britain. In fact, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) maintained that loving your country is a part of faith. And I have always had before me the examples of countless women- doctors, teachers, lawyers, researchers who live, work and flourish alongside colleagues of all faiths and backgrounds all the while observing the Islamic code of dress.

There is no doubt that Britain is a nation that lives up to its values of peace, tolerance and respect. However, in the times we live in, we must hold on to these values ever more dearly. For a free state is a free state and a police state is a police state, regardless of whether it is “secularism” or religious orthodoxy the latter espouses.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments that “it is not for government to tell women what they can and cannot wear”. I hope this ethic extends to corporations and businesses too for it is a sure marker of any society whether it is money or morality that defines our ethics. One can only hope that the Belgian courts take no further steps against our freedom to practice our religion and that they rule in favour of liberty and not so-called “neutrality”.

Attack On Religion? Hijab In The Workplace

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK

In recent weeks I noticed a few matters which were pleasant to the ears of Muslim women. Standing out was the news that Debenhams plan to begin stocking the hijab and modest clothing items in their department stores. This ties in with the rising popularity of clothing brands designing modest wear and means the choice and accessibility of fashionable clothes is becoming more extensive and, importantly, the hope for tolerance of the hijab, a symbol of faith.

However the climate has once more turned sour with the news that the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that prohibiting religious symbols in the workplace is not discriminatory. Under this ruling an employer could prohibit the Muslim Hijab, Sikh Paghri, Jewish Kippah or Christian crucifix. With religious freedom being curtailed in this way we are left with the fact of discrimination on the grounds of religion being set in law – a dangerous precedent to be set in a Europe currently witnessing the rise of far-right elements.

This ruling may be seen as acceptable if an item is a danger or restricts the worker from doing their job safely or competently, however when this is not the case a prohibition on the grounds of a neutral look is unjustified. Are we destined to become clones with nothing to differentiate one worker from another?

In cases of the Hijab, Muslim women have been wearing it and finding no restriction to the jobs they do whether they are doctors, teachers, scientists or shop workers and from participating in sports activities. Muslim women in these situations are exercising their free choice and are proud to work and fully participate in society while remaining true to their faith. Any ban on a hijab in the workplace could lead to many Muslim women leaving the workforce which itself could lead to accusations they don’t mix in their communities.

What’s a Muslim woman to do? Many in the West complain that Muslim women are forced to cover their heads by the laws of Islam and by the men in their lives. Now they themselves are passing laws which can require women to uncover their heads. A great deal is made about a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body even in regards to terminating the life of an unborn child; yet where a head covering is concerned she appears increasingly told what to do regardless of her choice in the matter.

Laws such as one allowing an employer to prohibit religious symbols are only taking us down a slope which will become ever more slippery leading to further infringements on the rights of the religious; a grimly dystopian future, so different from a joyful and united free Europe, beckons.

 

Hijab: A Diverse Icon Of Muslim Modesty

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By Munazzah Chou, Hertfordshire

For many in the West, the modest dress of Muslims, particularly the woman’s hijab has become synonymous with the concept of modesty in Islam.

However, modesty encompasses far more than the clothes one wears.  In the Holy Qur’an, God says:

“O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down to you raiment to cover your shame, and to be an elegant dress; but the raiment of righteousness – that is the best…”
(7:27)

Modesty can be thought of as freedom from conceit or vanity and propriety in dress, speech and conduct. It can be expressed in social interaction by communicating in a way exhibiting humility, shyness or simplicity.

Modesty in Islam is known as ‘haya’, a word which describes both shyness and a deeper modesty that is based on faith; an uneasy feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one’s fear of being exposed or censured for unworthy or indecent conduct.  A sense of haya should affect a Muslim’s conduct before God, before others and even when one is alone. A comprehensive explanation of haya can be found in the following hadith:

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud relates that one day the Prophet said, ‘Be shy of Allah as much as is His due.’ The Companions present said, ‘All praise to Allah, we are shy of Him.’ The Prophet said, ‘That is not the point. Whoever is shy of Allah should protect his head and that which enters it, and his stomach and that which he puts into it (i.e. preserve it from unlawful wealth) and he should remember death and that which is to come after it; and whoever desires the Hereafter should abandon the adornments of this world. Whoever fulfills these duties has been shy of Allah as much as is His due.’
(Musnad Ahmad)

Haya is an attribute which encourages the believer to avoid anything distasteful or abominable, it keeps a believer from being neglectful in fulfilling their obligations for fear of displeasing Allah. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, has said,

“Modesty and faith are interlinked: if either of them is lacking, the other is lacking too.”

When faith is lacking, the life of this world can become the primary preoccupation. This can lead to behaviour that is immodest, overbearing, and assertive. A believer who is convinced of meeting God and having to account for what he does in this life will hesitate before stressing his own importance and acting in any manner considered immodest in any  way. When modesty is wanting, the dictates of faith can never be fulfilled.

Hijab is an Arabic word meaning barrier or partition which in Islam has a broader meaning and includes behaviour as well as dress for both males and females. Islam stresses the relationship between body and mind and the wearing of the outer garments and veiling of the body leads to veiling of the heart and shielding it from impure thoughts.  The Holy Qur’an states:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.”
(24:31)

“And  say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head coverings over their bosoms…..”
(24:32)

These verses make clear that men and women are to conduct themselves with modesty and propriety at all times, and especially when in each other’s presence. The physical covering is only the first step to developing hijab. The true and full observance of hijab is achieved when “veiling” extends to the mind and heart and then we become impervious to impure and immoral thoughts when in contact with the opposite sex.

All women among the people of the book i.e. Jews, Christians and Muslims have been instructed to observe head coverings but Islam is unique in its philosophy. The Holy Qur’an states:

“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, and the women of the believers, that they should pull down upon them of their outer cloaks from their heads over their faces. That is more likely that they may thus be recognized and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.”
(33:60)

Yet another purpose of hijab is to protect women from unwarranted harm. Often in the West women are considered and treated as sexual objects and Hijab is a physically manifested barrier to that harassment.

The view that hijab inhibits freedom and equality, a most prevalent view in the West may well have had its roots in the biblical explanation of the creation of man and woman and the veil:

“A man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God. But woman is the glory of man. For man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority over her head, because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians, 11:7-10)

Thus, according to the Bible, the veil is a sign of man’s authority over woman and the standing of women in society has been clearly defined as subservient to men.

The Islamic rationale for hijab is entirely at odds with this prevailing stigma and numerous Quranic references attest to a woman’s equality to man. In Islam hijab signifies modesty as well as comprising a protective role.

The Promised Messiah, founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, writes,

“The observance of hijab is an outward expression of inner modesty, which is not only an icon, sign and representation, but a means to attain the level of modesty required for faith.”

The hijab is a measure to prevent arrogance, vanity, pride, vulgarity, impurity, unchaste behaviour, as well as a physical barrier to deflect unwanted attention. It is a visible representation of our humility, chastity, simplicity, inner beauty, obedience and faith.

Finally returning to the concept of modesty the word ‘haya’ is from the same root as ‘hayat’ which means ‘life’. Thus, modesty is coupled with spiritual life, and without this we would be living a life that is spiritually dead.