Rights of Women in Islam : HIJAB



Over the years, the dress code among Muslim women has been given great attention, especially in relation to the hijab practice in which is considered as a symbol of “oppression” towards Muslim women. While Islam is certainly not the only religion to introduce the practice of covering head, it continues to be the centre of attack and heavily discussed as the women’s right issue especially outside Muslim world. Furthermore, this has been included as a political agenda in some countries, which results in Muslim women being oppressed and their freedom to practice their religion was taken away. Sadly, we also see that some so-called “Muslim” secularists and hypocrites, under the false insinuation that wearing the hijab is oppression for women, make the ridiculous claim that the Quran “does not make a statement about covering the hair”. Obviously, this claim stems from their arrogance combined with their sheer ignorance on the matter. The purpose of this article is to answer these Critics’ claims to show them that their lies do not hold water.
In the Quran we read the following injunction about the hijab:
“Oh Prophet! tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient that they should be known (as such) and not molested and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Ahzaab : 59)
In the above verse, women are required to cast their outer garments for them to be recognised as a decent woman, and further to avoid any harassment in any way. The word used in the verse, jalabib (plural of jilbab), refers to an outer garment which covers the body completely, and so this is also an argument in favor of covering the hair. While the above verse does not specifically mention what is the right dress code applied (apart from the fact that women should cover their body), it clearly shows that the basic underlying concept is modesty. It is widely agreed that women who dressed and behaved modestly are respectable, and it helps in having respectful relationship with other women and men in their daily life. This is the most important reason behind the rules set in Islam, in which it gives total respect to women with regards to their body and preserve their dignity, and at the same time act as a guard and protection to them, at least to a certain extent, from being physically and emotionally harassed.
We have a general concept that Hijab is only for women and men are free from this limitation but this is not true. There is more restriction on men. They are asked to put there eyes down and they are not allowed to see a woman delibrately. If you read the Quran – before the mentioning of the ‘Hijab’ for the women, the Quran mentioned the ‘Hijab’, for the man. It is mentioned in Surah Nur, Ch. No. 24, Verse No. 30, it says to the believing man, that:
“He should lower his gaze and guard his modesty”. (Surah Nur : 30)
Such a just religion can never be found… except Islam, because it is the religion of Allah. The next Verse, Surah Nur, Ch. 24, Verse No. 31, says:
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty, that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof, that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hand posses, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye believers ! Turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.” (Surah Nur : 31)
Again, the main subject behind the Islamic dress code is modesty. Coupled with a number of hadiths, this verse being the only verse within the Quran to mention about wearing veil to be included in the package to safeguard women’s dignity. Besides these, she should maintain the Hijab. The criteria for Hijab in Islam, can be found in the Quran, and the Sahih Hadith.


There are six criteria – 1st is extent, which is the only difference between a man and a woman. For the man, he has to be covered from the naval to the knee. For the woman, her complete body should be covered – the only part that can be seen, is the face and the hands up to the wrist. If she wishes to cover them, she is most welcome, but it is not compulsory that she should cover it.  Otherwise the full body should be covered. This is the only criteria which differs, between the man and the woman.
The second criteria is that, the clothes she wears, should not be so tight, that it reveals the figure.
The clothes she wears… third point – it should not be so transparent, so that you can see through.
And the fourth point – she should not wear glamorous clothes, or he should not wear glamorous clothes, which attracts the opposite sex.
The fifth point is that a person should not wear cloth, which resembles that of the opposite sex – like you find men wearing earnings. If you wear one earring, it signifies something else – if you wear two earrings, it signifies something else. It is prohibited in Islam.
And the last criteria is, you should not wear clothes which… that resemble of an unbeliever. These are the six basic criteria of Hijab, in Islam.
If we analyse the society, the maximum number of crime that takes place in any country, it is in America. According to a report by the FBI in 1990, in the year 1990 ‘One thousand, two hundred & fifty five women were raped’. These are only the reported cases. And the report says ‘Only 16% of the cases were reported’. If you want the exact figure, multiply 1,02,555 with 6.25, and you get the answer – more than 6,40,000 ladies were raped in America only in 1990. And if you divide this by the number of days in a year, divide by 365, you get a figure of One thousand, seven hundred and fifty six women are raped every day, in America, in the year 1990.
And the report says… ‘Every day One thousand, nine hundred ladies are raped’. It is the report of 1991. Now the Americans got more bold and the last report which came in Autumn, in 1993, it says… ‘Every 1.3 minute, one woman is raped’ - you know why? America has given the women, more rights, and more women are being raped. Out of 16% that are reported, only 10% are arrested. Means only 1.6% of the cases, are arrested. Out of that, 50% are let free before the trial – Means, only 0.8% of the rape cases, are held. Means, if a man rapes One hundred & twenty five ladies, the chances of his being caught, is one. Who would not like to try. One hundred & twenty five ladies you rape, and you get caught only once. Out of that, 50% time you get a punishment of less than 1 year… though the USA law tells you that… ‘For rape, you have got a punishment of life imprisonment’. But they say… ‘It is happened only the first time… the raqpist is caught the first time – so lets give him a chance, and a punishment of less than 1 year’.
Even in India, according to the National Crime Bureau report, which had come in the papers, on the 1st of December 1992, it said that… ‘Every 54 minutes, one case of rape is reported in India. Every 26 minutes, one case of molestation – every 1 hour 43 minutes, one case of dowry death. If you analyse the total number of cases of rape that are taking in our country, it will be… every couple of minutes, one case of rape. I am asking a simple question – if you ask every lady to do Hijab, will the rape case in USA remain the same, will it decrease, or will it increase? If you apply the Hijab for every lady in India, will the rate of rape decrease, will it remain the same, or will it increase?
You should understand Islam, as a whole. Even suppose, after that even, after a lady does Hijab, or irrespective a lady does Hijab, or not, a man is commanded: ‘He should lower his gaze’ - and if suppose after that, if a man commits rape… in Islam, he receives capital punishment – you call it a barbaric law? I have asked this question to several people. Suppose… I have asked this question to many of the gents. Suppose your sister is raped, and if you are made the judge – leave aside what Islam tells you, leave aside what Indian law tells you, leave aside what American law tells you – If you are made the judge, what punishment will you give to the rapist of your sister? And all have said… ‘Death sentence’. Few went to the extreme of saying… ‘I will torture him to death’. Want to ask you a question… ‘If you apply the Islamic Shariah law in America, will the rape case decrease, will it remain the same, or will it increase? If you apply the Shariah law in India, will the rape case decrease, will it remain the same, or will it increase?
So but natural, let us analyse practically. You say you have given women rights theoretically, but practically, you are degrading her to a status of a concubine and a mistress. Suppose two ladies… two twin sisters were equally beautiful – if they are walking down the street, and if round the corner there is a hooligan, who is waiting for a catch… who is waiting to tease a girl. Both twin sisters are walking, both are equally beautiful – one is in the Hijab… Islamic Hijab – one is wearing a mini or a skirt. Which girl will that hooligan tease? Which girl will he tease? But natural, the one in the short or the mini girl. If a girl is wearing a normal salwar kameez, with her head open… may be the salwar kameez tight, and the other girl is wearing a Islamic Hijab – Which girl will he tease? But natural, the girl who is not in Hijab. It is a practical proof, that Hijab is been ordained in Islam not to degrade the woman, but to protect her modesty.


While most Western societies often consider veil to cover women’s hair as a radical and violation to women’s right, Muslim women feel that veil gives them freedom. Different from the definition of freedom set by the West, a Muslim woman who follows Islamic dress code consider themselves free from being judged by her physical features, but rather to be judged by her character. What important is their intellectual and personality, and not the discrimination for their beauty. While women always emphasize on their beauty to fulfil the standard of attractiveness set by men, Muslim women set themselves free from being such a display object , but rather consider themselves as humans who have an exclusive right over themselves.
Following the Islamic dress code including wearing veil to cover women’s hair obviously has no effect on women’s social interaction. The rights of each Muslim woman to get proper education and enjoy equal right with other women and men is not denied although they are required to wear veil and cover themselves according to Islamic requirement. With that reason, the word “oppressive” assigned to Islamic women’s dress code certainly has no basis at all. Unfortunately, this has been a favourite issue for some countries to deny the right of these Muslim women from getting proper education and play a major role in the society, without realising that they give a heavy burden upon these Muslim women, and that is what we call oppression!
If these so-called “Muslim” critics do not wish to follow Islam, the world is full of many other religions they can choose from.Christianity, for example, will let you do whatever you want, eat whatever you want, drink whatever you want, or wear whatever you want, as long as you accept the blood of Jesus to cleanse your sins. But if these same critics know that Islam is the truth, then please do not play games with it just because they do not wish to wear the hijab. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had stated that in later generations of his Ummah there would be  “… women who would be dressed but naked and on top of their heads (what looks like) camel humps. Curse them for they are truly cursed.” (Sahih Muslim).
We would like to challenge these critics to find a single historian who will say that the Muslims in the time of Muhammad (PBUH) did not believe that wearing a head scarf was commanding by Allah and His Messenger. Just one, simple request… otherwise, desist.

Courtesy: Dr Zakir Naik, Rafidah Abdul Jamal & Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi and Navedz

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