Whether or not women ought to wear the hijab is a very controversial subject. There are a total of 3 Quranic verses that talk about it. There are so many different views and interpretations on why it is or is not mandatory.
We at Halal Guidance are NOT here to tell you whether you should or should not wear the hijab. It is a personal choice and every muslim woman should do her research, educate herself, and then make her final decision.
That’s the purpose of this article. To provide you with all the sources and research that’s out there, summarize it for you, and LET YOU MAKE YOUR DECISION!
Table of Contents:
1. Is it Haram To Not Wear The Hijab? Did Islam Make it Mandatory for Women?
2. Why Do Muslim Women Wear The Hijab In The First Place?
3. Does The Quran Mention That It Is Mandatory for Women to Wear The Hijab?
4. Fatwa About Whether or Not Women Should Wear The Hijab?
Is it Haram To Not Wear The Hijab? Did Islam Make it Mandatory for Women?
To answer this question, we looked at what the islamic experts had to say. Once you read the quranic verses about how men and women must dress modestly (which we’ve covered below), it can be easy to just say “oh well there is no direct mention of muslim women having to wear the hijab so it’s not mandatory”
It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, and context matters so much here!
So let’s look at what the experts had to say.
1- Dr. Shabir Ally
Dr Shabir Ally (a Canadian imam) was interviewed and asked whether or not the hijab is mandatory and whether it is a sin for women not to wear the hijab.
To summarize his response, he referenced Surah An-Nur which essentially tells muslims that they must dress modestly and that women must cover their chest area etc.
However when asked, is it a sin to not wear the hijab?
He responded by saying that covering the hair is a recommended practice because it has been part of islamic tradition for ages but he also added that he would hesitate to say that the hijab is a requirement and that women who do not wear the hijab are sinning.
Here’s the full video:
2- Nouman Ali Khan
Nouman Ali khan makes an argument that in the pre-Islamic era, women wore a “khimār” which a scarf that covered their hair. This scarf would then be left to hang on their backs. After referencing the Quran, Nouman Ali Khan makes the argument that Allah instructed women to let the “khimār” hang in front of them (instead of their backs) to cover their chest area as well, as that is deemed as dressing modestly (source).
The point here is that since women already wore the “khimār” it was assumed that women would continue wearing it but the only thing that was mandated here is that the “khimār” ought to also cover their chest area so that women were dressed modestly.
Why Do Muslim Women Wear The Hijab In The First Place?
Before we dive into whether wearing the hijab is mandatory or not, let’s look into why muslim women are encouraged to wear the hijab in the first place.
1- Modesty & Privacy
Different cultures wear the hijab differently, but the one thing they all do is cover a woman’s hair. Typically the hijab is matched with modest clothing to protect the woman from men’s and women’s gaze.
While yes, an argument could be made that it’s the man’s role to control himself and lower his gaze. But can women safely rely on the kindness of a random stranger? Don’t think so. Islam tells women to take their safety in their own hands!
Furthermore, it’s purpose is to essentially keep a woman’s beauty only to her family and husband (speaking of husbands, check out our recent post 21 halal gift ideas for him if you’re looking to get him a gift soon!)
One thing worth mentioning, to avoid raging potential feminists reading this, it’s first a man’s responsibility to avoid any sexual harassment towards women!
The hijab paired with a veil attracts little to no attention to the woman. Back in the day, that was a major advantage because it prevented women from being sexually harassed or even raped.
Yes that is an extreme reason, but it is what it is.
Granted, the hijab is not protecting the women physically. It protects her because there is less attention on her and therefore keeps her safe.
While we try to remain unbaised on Halal Guidance, but here’s an example to help explain this point.
If 2 women are walking in a sketchy area. One woman is wearing nothing but a short shorts and a short t-shirt, while the other woman is wearing a hijab along with a veil that doesnt really show her figure.
As a woman, which one of those 2 women would you rather be? Probably the second lady! That’s what we mean when we say that hijab acts as a layer of protection
3- Deemphasizes Physical Beauty
We’re sure you’ve seen it a million times on TV where a girl tells the guy something along the lines of
“oh, you only like me for the way i look… you don’t like me for who I am”
Well, that cliche line also makes a fair argument as to why women choose to wear the hijab. The hijab, paired with modest clothing, deemphasizes a woman’s beauty and therefore puts more emphases on her personal qualities.
In the world of social media, this may be a weird thing to say nowadays. But there’s more to women than just their physical looks, and a hijab (paired with modest clothing) helps people focus more on a woman’s personality as opposed to superficial things like how she looks like.
Still don’t fully understand? Here’s a very comprehensive video we found as part of our research which clearly explains why women wear the hijab.
Does The Quran Mention That It Is Mandatory for Women to Wear The Hijab?
The Quran mandates men and women to dress modestly and to lower their gaze. However, according to Islamic scholars there is no direct mention that women must wear the hijab. Instead, the word “khimār” (head cover) is used and it is understood to also include a head covering.
The word khimār is used because in pre-islamic Arabia, women wore a head scarf that typically covered their hair and the long piece is left to hang in the back.
Surah An-Nur [24:31]
And enjoin believing women to cast down their looks and guard their private parts and not reveal their adornment except that which is revealed of itself, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their husbands, or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or of their own sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or the women with whom they associate, or those that are in their bondage, or the male attendants in their service free of sexual interest, or boys that are yet unaware of illicit matters pertaining to women. Nor should they stamp their feet on the ground in such manner that their hidden ornament becomes revealed. Believers, turn together, all of you, to Allah in repentance that you may attain true success.Surah An-Nur Quran 24:31 (source)
The Quran makes it clear that covering oneself is a must to ensure modestly. It also mentions that a woman does not need to wear any coverings in front of family or young children (Wearing the hijab is a little different around adopted children, learn more about whether adoption is allowed or considered haram in Islam).
One thing to keep in mind is that in the pre-islamic days of ignorance, women wore some sort of a head band. They also wore shirts that was partly opened in the front which exposed the upper part of the bosom. Nothing covered their breasts other than this shirt (source). It looked something sort of like this:
This definitely did not help the men back then when trying to lower their gaze, and put women at risk from sexual advances. Which explains why Allah has mentioned this surah.
Sūrat l-aḥzāb [33:59]
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.Quran [33:59] Sahih International Interpretation (source)
In this surah, Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is ordered to ask his family members and other muslim women to wear their garments when out and about in order to not be identifiable and prevent sexual advances towards them.
Fatwa About Whether or Not Women Should Wear The Hijab?
Here are a few sources of fatwa about
1- General Fatwa Ruling on Whether Women Must Wear The Hijab
The question asked was
We have received a question in which the inquirer asks for a clarification of the legal ruling regarding hijab1 and whether it is obligatory in the Shari‘ah?Dar-Alifta (source)
The response was:
It is obligatory for every Muslim woman who has reached the age of legal accountability (which is the age when a woman first begins menstruation), to wear the hijab. This ruling is established in the Quran, Sunnah, and by the consensus of the Muslim community. In the Quran, God the Almighty says, “O Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and women believers to make their outer garments hang low over them” (33:59).
In the chapter of Light (al-Nur), God the Almighty says, “And tell believing women that they should lower their glances, guard their private parts, and not display their charms beyond what [it is acceptable] to reveal; they should let their headscarves fall to cover their necklines and not reveal their charms” (24:31).
In the Prophetic traditions, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O, Asmaa! If a woman reaches menarche nothing should be seen [of her body] except this and this,” and he pointed to her face and hands.”3
This is also the consensus of the Muslims from the earliest generations and their successors. It is necessarily known to all Muslims to be obligatory in religion.4Dar-Alifta (source)
This fatwa is strongly for women wearing the hijab. It mentions the same verse we mentioned above and the interpretation here is that since Allah has ordered Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to have his wives to wear the outer garmont, that this applies to all muslim women.
Dr. Shabir Ally has a different opinion to this conclusion as he states that it is difficult to come to this conclusion from the Quran. Therefore, people who come to this conclusion are purely basing it on Hadiths and not the Quran.
2- Should Women Take Off Their Hijab If It’s Causing Problems at Work?
A woman asked the Egyptian Dar-Al-Ifta if it was permissible to take off her Hijab because she is a professor at a non-muslim university and wearing the hijab has resulted in a lot of discrimination against her. Here’s her question:
I am a married Muslim woman and I work as a university professor in a non-Muslim country. When I first started my teaching career, I was surprised to find the students objecting to my hijab and making noise to prevent me from practicing my job. In addition, they would make ridiculous comments and create trouble in class.Anonymous (source)
Should I continue wearing the hijab or it is permissible to take it off to avoid problems?
They responded by saing:
Concerning the case in question, if the matter is restricted to only some disturbances from your students which you can overcome with tact, courteousness, and a proper handling of the situation, it is impermissible to for you take of the hijab. Otherwise, if matters escalate to assaults which cannot be averted or to losing your job when you cannot find another source of income except in this particular place, it is permissible to remove your hijab in the most restricted manner and for the least possible time while covering as much as possible from your body. This is based on the Islamic maxim that states, “Necessity is measured by its extent.”Dar Al Ifta (source)
God the Almighty knows best.
Similar to the conclusion that Samina Ali came to in her TedX talk, the rise of Islamophobia and Anti-Islamic rhetoric has cause hijabi women a lot of problems. In the case of this professor, she was experiencing a lot of discrimination and the students prevented her from doing her job.
The fatwaa released basically said that if you can change your job or mitigate the situation at your current job, then it is impermissible to take it off. However, if both these options are not possible, then she can take it off within limits.