The word Hijab comes from the Arabic root word ‘Hajaba’, which means to conceal or cover. In an Islamic context, Hijab refers to the dress code required for Muslim females who have reached puberty. Hijab is the requirement of covering or veiling the entire body with the exception of the face and hands. Some also choose to cover their face and hands and this is referred to as Burqa or Niqab. The Hijab is not required in situations where there are only females and certain male relatives present. However, hijab is not just about outer appearances; it is also about noble speech, modesty, and dignified conduct. These righteous manners are also required of men. Muslim males are also required to dress in loose and unrevealing clothing in order to maintain their modesty and dignity.
The Hijab is Obedience
Although there are many benefits of Hijab, it is first and foremost a commandment from God. Therefore, wearing it is an act of faith and obedience to The Creator, as mentioned in the Quran:
Tell the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men).”Quran 33:59
God, the All-Wise, knows what is best for His creation, and has therefore provided guidance in order to benefit humankind. The wearing of hijab, just like any other act of obedience to The Creator, brings one closer to their Lord and helps bring a sense of satisfaction and contentment to the person wearing it. The Hijab in no way suggests that women are inferior to men.
The Hijab is Modesty
Islam promotes modesty and decency and seeks to minimise immorality within society. The Hijab, amongst other things, helps attain this goal.
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: That is purer for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty. They should not display their beauty except that which is apparent; that they should draw their veils over their chests and not display their beauty…”Quran 24:30-31
Note that in the above verses, it is men who are addressed first in regards to lowering their gaze and guarding their modesty. This counters the claim that all responsibility for such modesty is shouldered by women.
While Islam discourages public displays of immodest dress and sexual behavior, being a practical religion, Islam encourages love, affection and intimacy between married couples in private.
The Hijab is Protection
The wisdom behind the Hijab is to minimise sexual enticement and moral degradation in society as much as possible for both men and women. The Hijab helps protect men, women and society by creating stability in both families and communities in a number of ways:
- Shields from unwanted advances.
- Shields women from perverted looks and superficial scrutiny.
- May help reduce the likelihood of sexual assaults against women.
- Shields from sexual exploitation of women based on appearance.
- Shields from temptations and harmful desires.
The Hijab is Dignity
The Hijab promotes a woman’s femininity rather than suppressing it, and grants women dignity and self-respect for who they are, as opposed to being judged by superficial standards, such as appearance. This grants women the power to shape their own dignity via more meaningful standards, such as righteousness, knowledge and societal contribution, rather than having a consumer society dictate their worth through material means, such as how they look or how much money they earn. In the sight of God, men and women do not have to be identical in order to be equal, and this is reflected in the different roles and responsibilities which apply to each.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkul Karman, ‘The mother of Yemen’s revolution,’ when asked about her Hijab by journalists and how it is not proportionate with her level of intellect and education, replied:
“Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times.”
The Hijab is Respect
In a number of societies today, many women are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness. They are compelled to follow unrealistic and demeaning standards of beauty in order to satisfy unreasonable peer pressure and community expectations. In such a superficial environment, where so much emphasis is placed on external beauty, the internal beauty of the individual counts for very little.
Islam however, teaches that a woman is to be respected according to her virtuous character and actions rather than by her looks or physical features, of which she has little or no control. She does not have to use her body and charms to gain recognition or acceptance in society, as the Hijab directs self-worth away from appearance and onto qualities such as piety, virtue, modesty and intellect – attributes which are more equally accessible to all.
Every woman who wears a hijab or burqa is a unique individual, and it is unfair and inaccurate to make a sweeping judgement about all such women based on one item of clothing they have in common.
The Hijab in the Bible
The Hijab is not something new. Muslim women follow the example of righteous women in the past such as Mary, the mother of Jesus. Some of the evidence from the bible includes the following two verses.
“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
The Hijab is Confidence
The Hijab enables women to have confidence in themselves as human beings. It increases the self-esteem of women by allowing them to focus on what really matters in life. The obsession with physical appearance can have dangerous and unhealthy consequences, as some women go to harmful lengths in order to feel accepted by an increasingly demanding society. The Hijab helps prevent such mental and physical harms associated with a lack of confidence, by limiting self-consciousness based on appearance.
The Hijab is NOT…
- It does NOT hinder contribution to society.
- It is NOT a symbol of oppression.
- It is NOT required in places where there are only females and close male relatives.
- It is NOT a sign of female inferiority to men.
- It is NOT a means to restrict a woman’s freedom to express her views and opinions.
- It is NOT a means to restrict women from pursuing an education or a suitable career.
- It is NOT a portable prison.
- It is NOT an act of defiance, confrontation or protest against non-Muslims.
- It is NOT something new – it has been practiced by many righteous women historically.
- It is NOT against community values – community values necessitate that people should not be judged by what they wear, nor discriminated against or mistreated, based on their choice of clothing or appearance.
- It is NOT worn with the intention of being intimidating or anti-social.
What Muslim Women Say About the Hijab
“I wore it at the age of 17 and now regret not wearing it earlier.” Faten, 27, Melbourne
“It’s not about being ready enough to wear it, it’s about being fortunate enough to wear it.” Madina, 22, Melbourne
“Wearing Hijab represents my freedom, my choice, not my oppression by the wants of men and media.” Nusaybah, 45, Melbourne
“I like wearing the hijab because I’m doing it for the sake of Allah, and every time I think about that, it puts a smile on my face.” Aisha, 13, Melbourne
“It allows me to realise my goals by having a career and going to school without worrying about the prying eyes of men. It forces people not to judge me based on my appearance, but on my thoughts and character.” Ms. Flavia, 22, USA
“My body is my business, and I shouldn’t have to defend what I wear to anyone. It is part of my religion, and the fact that I choose to wear it does not make me any less human.” Ms. Yasmin, 21, Australia
The Hijab is an act of obedience between the Muslim woman and her Creator. It is a source of empowerment and dignity, and millions of Muslim women around the world choose to wear the Hijab as part of their faith. Far from being oppressive, the Hijab is an act of liberation, purity and most importantly, belief. Respect for women is an important aspect of Islamic teachings, and this is illustrated via the Hijab.
True equality will occur when women do not need to display themselves to be valued nor defend their decision to keep their bodies to themselves.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
Just as Moses (peace be upon him) was sent with the Torah (the original uncorrupted revelation sent to Moses) and Jesus (peace be upon him) with the Gospel (the original, uncorrupted revelation – not the present-day versions), Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent with the Qur’an to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied.
The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wife, ‘A’isha, was once asked to describe the Prophet (peace be upon him), and she replied that “his character was a reflection of the Quran” (Muslim, 40), meaning he meticulously implemented the noble teachings of the Qur’an into his daily life. We will demonstrate how he translated these noble teachings into noble actions.
Mission of Mercy
And We (God) have not sent you (Muhammad) except as a mercy for mankind.”Qur’an 21:107
As well as calling people to pray, fast and give charity, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught that one’s faith in God should also affect one’s treatment of others. He said: “The best of you are they who have the best character.”
Many sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasise the relationship between belief and action, for example: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbour, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep quiet.”
The final Messenger (Peace be upon him) taught humans to show mercy and to respect each other:“He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy.”
In another narration, some people requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) to invoke God to punish the disbelievers but he replied: “I have not been sent as one to curse but as a mercy.”
Let them forgive and overlook: do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”Qur’an 24:22)
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was all for forgiveness and no amount of crime or aggression against him was too great to be forgiven by him. He was the best example of forgiveness and kindness, as mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’an: “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Al-Qur’an 7:199)
Indeed the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”Qur’an 49:13
“All humanity is from Adam and Adam is from clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a black over a white; except through piety.”
“God does not judge you according to your appearance and your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and looks into your deeds.”
It is related that once a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) called another companion in an offensive way, “Son of a black woman!” The Prophet (peace be upon him), became angry and replied, “Do you condemn him because of the blackness of his mother? You still have within you traces of ignorance from the pre-Islamic period.”
Good deeds and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is best, then he with whom you had enmity shall become as a loyal friend.”Qur’an 41:34
Islamic sources include a number of instances where the Prophet (peace be upon him) had the opportunity to take revenge upon those who wronged him, but refrained from doing so.
He taught man to exercise patience in the face of adversity: “The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.”
Practising patience and tolerance does not mean that a Muslim should be a passivist and not defend himself in case of attack. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) stated that, “Do not wish to meet the enemy, but when you meet (face) the enemy, be patient (i.e. stand firm when facing the enemy).”
By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you.”Qur’an 3:159
On one occasion, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) reacted angrily after being insulted by a person.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised her: “Be gentle and calm, O ‘Aisha, as Allah likes gentleness in all affairs.”
He also said: “Show gentleness! For if gentleness is found in something, it beautifies it, and when it is taken out from anything, it makes it deficient.”
And the servants of The Most Gracious (God) are those who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: ‘Peace.’ ”Qur’an 25:63
Addressing his companions, he said: “Allah has revealed to me, that you must be humble. No one should boast over one another, and no one should oppress another.”
Such was his humbleness that he was fearful of being worshipped, a privilege only befitting God:
“Do not exceed bounds in praising me as the Christians do in praising Jesus, Son of Mary. I am only the Lord’s servant; then call me the Servant of Allah and His Messenger.”
The Ideal Husband
And live with them (your spouses) in kindness.”Qur’an 4:19
Not only was he a devoted husband, he also encouraged his companions to follow his example: “The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals. And the best among them are those who are best to their wives.”
The Ideal Example
Indeed you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character.”Qur’an 68:4
It is important when trying to understand Islam that one goes directly to its sources: The Qur’an, and the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and that anyone does not judge Islam based on the errant actions of a few Muslims.
Comments from Non-Muslims
Mahatma K Gandhi, a major political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, remarked: “It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.”
George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright, declared: “The world is in dire need of a man with the mind of Muhammad; religious people in the Middle Ages, due to their ignorance and prejudice, had pictured him in a very dark way as they used to consider him the enemy of Christianity. But after looking into the story of this man I found it to be an amazing and a miraculous one, and I came to the conclusion that he was never an enemy of Christianity, and must be called instead the saviour of humanity. In my opinion, if he was to be given control over the world today, he would solve our problems and secure the peace and happiness which the world is longing for.”
Islam is a natural and complete way of life. It encourages one to give due attention to their relationship with their Creator (God). It teaches that people find true lasting happiness and peace through being close to God, following His guidance and performing good deeds.Muslims constitute approximately one fifth of the world’s population, making Islam one of the largest religions. Belief in and worship of the One True God is the purpose of life and cornerstone of Islam.The Arabic word “Islam” literally means “submission” to the One True God alone. One who voluntarily surrenders their will to God is called a Muslim, who can be from any racial or ethnic background.
A distinguishing feature of Islam, unlike many other religions, is that it is not named after a person or tribe.
The 6 Aspects (Articles) of Belief
1. Belief in Allah
“Allah” is the unique Arabic name of The One True God. Allah has no rivals, partners, equals, children or parents. He is not like His creation, as nothing shares His divine essence and perfect attributes. Some of His names and attributes include: The Creator, The Most Merciful, The Most High, The All-Powerful, The Most Just, The All-Wise, The Sustainer and The All-Knowing.
He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, the One who has granted us countless blessings, such as our faculties of hearing, seeing and thinking, as well as the ability to walk, talk and be productive. As such, we should acknowledge, thank and worship Him alone by following His guidance.
It is rational to conclude that such a complex and balanced universe is not possible by any other than a powerful and intelligent being. It is therefore illogical to believe that the universe created itself, or was the result of random or coincidental events.
2. Belief in the Angels
Angels are made from light, have allocated tasks and never disobey their Creator. Details about a few have been revealed, such as Gabriel, who delivers God’s message to the Prophets, and the Angel of Death, who takes the souls of people.
3. Belief in the Revealed Books
Allah sent divine revelation to His Messengers as a guidance and mercy to mankind. These include the Torah and Gospel as originally revealed to Moses and Jesus respectively, and the Quran as revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
The Quran is the literal word of God and the final revelation to all of mankind. There are many clear signs and miracles that it is from God, examples of which include:
- Contains a simple, pure and universal message which appeals to Man’s inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
- Contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty – yet the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known, historically, to be illiterate.
- Contains many scientific facts which have only been discovered recently despite being revealed over 1400 years ago.
- Free from any errors or contradictions.
- Preserved, word-for-word, since it was revealed in its original Arabic language, unlike other scriptures which have been distorted, changed or lost.
The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it can only be from God. Together with the authentic sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is the primary source of Islamic knowledge.
4. Belief in the Prophets
Muslims believe that thousands of Prophets were sent by Allah, at least one to every nation, to convey God’s revelation. These Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Their mission was to return people to the worship of the One True God, to serve as practical examples of how to obey God, and to guide people to the path of salvation. Prophets do not share in any part of God’s divinity, and any type of prayer or worship towards the Prophets, or to God through them, is strictly forbidden and considered a violation of God’s right to be worshipped alone.
– Prophet Jesus
Muslims believe that Jesus is an honourable prophet of God, born miraculously through his virgin mother Mary. He performed many miracles with the permission of God, such as healing the sick, curing the blind and speaking as a newborn defending his mother from accusations. Although Muslims respect and love Jesus, they do not worship him. He is not considered the son of God, nor part of a trinity, nor does he share in any of God’s perfect attributes. God says:
It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When he decrees an affair, He only says, ‘Be’ and it is.Quran 19:35
– Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final Prophet sent to all of mankind. He came with the Quran to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied, and was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful and brave human being. As with Jesus, Muslims do not worship Muhammad.
5. Belief in the Day of Judgement
The Day of Judgment is the inevitable event when each one of us will stand before our Creator and be questioned about our good and bad deeds. Every one of our actions will be accounted for, regardless of size.
On this momentous Day, Allah, the All-Just, will settle all matters fairly and no person will be wronged. Everyone’s rights will be returned. All will be treated justly, by either the reward of Paradise, or the punishment of the Hellfire. Without a Day of Judgement, life would be grossly unfair, as not everyone receives justice in this world.
6. Belief in Divine Destiny
Allah knows everything from the past, the present, and anything that will occur in the future. He has power over all things – nothing occurs without His knowledge and permission.
Every person has been given the free will to choose between right and wrong, and will be held to account accordingly
Free will does not contradict the fact that events can only occur with God’s knowledge and permission. Nor does it mean that God’s power over everything prevents or restricts people’s free will. God’s knowledge of people’s decisions does not mean that they are being forced to make such decisions, and God is not necessarily pleased with everything that He allows to occur.
The 5 Pillars of Worship
The foundation of a Muslim’s life.
1. The Declaration of Faith
The declaration of faith is bearing witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. It must be based on a sincere and firm belief in the heart, followed by action. With this declaration, a person rejects all false deities, asserts that Allah is the only One worthy of worship, and accepts His final Messenger, hence becoming a Muslim.
2. The Five Daily Prayers
Prayer establishes a personal and spiritual connection between the Muslim and their Creator, and is a constant and practical reminder of a person’s duty to obey God. The five prayers are prescribed once each at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Each prayer can take a few minutes to perform, consisting of recitation of the Quran, supplications, praising Allah, and various movements. In preparation for prayer, Muslims wash certain parts of their body, such as the face and hands, to ensure spiritual and physical purity.
3. The Annual Charity
The annual charity is an obligation on every Muslim who meets certain criteria (e.g. has wealth above a certain threshold). A mere 2.5% of one’s annual wealth is donated to those who are eligible, such as the poor, the needy or those in debt. It purifies one’s wealth and carries many benefits for both the giver and the receiver. One benefit is it reduces the gap between the rich and poor, ensuring everyone has their basic needs met.
4. The Annual Fasting
Every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. It serves as a spiritual purification, nurtures patience and self-restraint, and provides many health benefits.
5. The Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, must be performed once in a person’s life, if they are physically and financially able. It occurs annually in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, unifying people of every colour, race, status and age, as they join in worship of the One True God. All pilgrims wear simple and similar clothing, which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God. This great journey consists of many components, including sacrifices, travelling and praying at various sites. Such an experience is life altering and humbles a person, making them more patient and thankful.
The Concept of Worship
Any action that Allah is pleased with.
Islam’s concept of worship is not restricted to only the five pillars. Worship is an all-inclusive term for any actions that are pleasing to Allah. Everyday activities can become acts of worship by purifying one’s intention and ensuring one’s actions are in line with God’s guidelines. Examples include smiling, being good to one’s neighbours, supporting one’s family, being honest, and even removing rubbish from the road.
It should be noted that Allah is not in need of anyone’s worship, rather, we are in need of Him and our worship is for our benefit.
The above-mentioned aspects of faith and acts of worship make up the essence of Islam. When practised, Islam fulfils the spiritual, physical, psychological and social needs of all people, and is a practical and rational way of life. Furthermore, it is the only way of life which is accepted by God Almighty, and the only path that leads to everlasting Paradise.
Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.Quran 16:97