Why Do Muslim Women Cover Their Skin with Veils?

Hijab woman image

Many people are curious about why Muslim women wear veils covering their skin, especially their faces.

Some may think that this is a sign of oppression, backwardness, or lack of freedom.

However, this is far from the truth.

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Why Muslim Women Wear Veils

Muslim women who wear veils do so out of their own choice and conviction, based on their belief in God and His commands.

The veil, or hijab, is a term that covers various forms of clothing that Muslim women wear to cover their hair, neck, and body, except for the face and hands.

Some Muslim women also wear a niqab, a piece of cloth covering the face, leaving only the eyes visible.

The hijab and the niqab are part of an interpretation of hijab, which is the Arabic word for modesty, privacy, and morality.

Hijab is not only a dress code, but also a way of life that reflects one's faith and values.

Islam is a religion that teaches its followers to be modest, respectful, and dignified in their interactions with others.

Hijab ensures that the moral boundaries between unrelated men and women are respected and that women are not judged by their appearance, but by their character and intellect.

The Significance of Hijab

The main source of guidance for Muslims is the Quran, which is the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Quran contains verses that instruct both men and women to dress and behave modestly.

God says:

Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, God is well aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, that which their right hands possess [i.e., slaves], or those male attendants having no physical desire [i.e., eunuchs], or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to God in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.

(Quran 24:30-31)

These verses clearly indicate that God wants both men and women to be modest in their dress and conduct, and to avoid any temptation or harassment that may arise from exposing one's beauty or attraction.

The verses also specify what parts of the body should be covered by women in front of men who are not related to them by blood or marriage (mahram).

These include the hair, neck, chest, and legs.

The face and hands are not mentioned as part of the adornment that should be concealed.

Differing Interpretations of Hijab

However, some Muslim scholars have interpreted these verses to mean that women should also cover their faces as an extra precaution or preference.

This is based on some narrations from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions that indicate that some women at his time used to cover their faces when they went out in public.

For example:

Aisha (may God be pleased with her) reported:

Riders would pass us while we were with the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) during Hajj [pilgrimage]. When they got close, we would lower our jilbabs [large cloaks] from our heads over our faces. When they passed by we would uncover our faces.

(Sunan Abu Dawud)

This narration shows that some women at the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to cover their faces when they encountered strangers on the road.

However, this does not necessarily mean that this was a mandatory practice for all Muslim women at all times and places.

Rather, it could have been a cultural custom or a personal choice that was influenced by the circumstances and environment of that era.

Therefore, Muslim scholars have different opinions on whether covering the face is obligatory or recommended for Muslim women.

Some say that it is obligatory based on the Quranic verses and the prophetic narrations.

Others say that it is recommended based on the example of some righteous women in Islamic history.

Yet others say that it is permissible but not required based on the general principle of ease and facilitation in Islam.

At What Age Is Hijab Worn?

Generally, young children do not need to wear the hijab.

Muslim women typically begin wearing it around the age of 13, coinciding with the onset of puberty.

However, the obligation to wear the hijab varies among individuals, and even girls below the age of 13 may choose to wear it.

Some consider the hijab to be obligatory, while others view it as a matter of personal choice.

Some women choose to wear the hijab voluntarily, while others are compelled or instructed to do so by their parents.

Therefore, the hijab is a subject of diverse opinions and practices among Muslim women.

Why Is the Hijab Necessary?

Muslim women wear the hijab not solely because of Islamic teachings.

Various factors, including cultural and historical influences, have shaped the perception of the hijab.

Let's delve deeper into the reasons why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab:

Historical Background of Hijab in Islam

The practice of women covering themselves existed before the birth of Islam, and this tradition was incorporated into Islam's teachings.

The shift in the perception of hijab as being either mandatory or regressive began during the late 18th century when Western colonial powers ruled over Muslim-majority regions.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of Turkey, initiated modernization efforts in Turkey, aiming to catch up with Western nations.

As a result, the hijab was banned as an Islamic symbol.

The hijab's political significance grew in the wake of these changes.

However, it was not until the late 20th century, following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, that hijab became mandatory, sparking a transformation in the fashion choices of Muslim women.

Spread of Hijab among Educated Women

In Turkey, urban areas experienced a surge in hijab-wearing women during the 1970s and 1980s.

Traditionally, hijab was associated with conservative women from rural and remote areas.

Yet, during this period, educated urban women began adopting the hijab.

The Turkish government, promoting a secular stance as part of its modernization drive, reacted by banning the wearing of hijab in universities.

This prohibition led to protests by hijab-wearing students and Islamist activists, turning the issue into a political one.

Initially, hijabs were modest and predominantly dark in color, echoing the traditional image associated with rural and less-educated women.

Rise of Youth-Driven Hijab Fashion

Economic growth enabled people to invest in fashion, leading to the diversification of the hijab.

It gradually evolved into a "fashion item" those Muslim women embraced.

The hijab became visible in various media, from magazines and movies to online shopping platforms, encouraging Muslim women's consumption.

With the rise of hijab fashion, businesses thrived, particularly in Turkey.

Hijab styles were modernized, making them fashionable and appealing.

Companies competed to enhance their designs, leading to the global spread of hijab through online stores.

This transformation extended beyond Turkey, reaching Egypt and other nations.

As a result, the perception of the hijab shifted from being associated with uneducated, low-income rural women to educated, economically stable urban women.

If you are new to hijab, you might be wondering how to wear it, what styles to choose, and what accessories to use.

This article will give you some tips and tricks on how to wear hijab for beginners, as well as some examples of different hijab styles for different occasions.

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