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Veils, Headscarves & Muslim Women

Veils, Headscarves and Muslim Women

Why do some Muslim women wear a veil while others do not? Why cover the head at all with a headscarf? What does it all mean? And it is a symbol of oppression as some non-Muslims assert?

Here are some answers from Muslim women around the world (with thanks to River Garden Arts):

A Muslim Woman’s Perspective

Many people ask me about Islam and what it is like to be a Muslim woman. The question most often asked is: “Why do you wear that headscarf on your head?”

The whole stereotype that all Muslims are forced to dress like this is completely false. There are some Muslim women who do not choose to cover up and this is their decision. There are, however, many successful Muslim women who do cover up and have managed to become absolutely wonderful in their fields and still maintain the modesty that they chose to uphold.

Q: Why do you dress the way you do?

A: First and foremost, because Allah commands us to do so. In the Qur’an, Allah tells the believers to “lower their gaze and be modest.” Specifically, it says: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity 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; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their chests and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers…” [continuing list of family members and others in front of whom women are exempt from covering] (Qur’an 24:30-31)

Of course, Muslims believe that Allah has full wisdom and knows what is best for us, so we strive to follow His guidance in every aspect of our lives. Muslims have also discovered other advantages to dressing modestly, including: being known for who you really are; not being judged by your beauty or lack thereof; being able to conduct business in an atmosphere of respect; being readily known as a Muslim; liberation; comfort.

Image by Meena Kadri / Flickr, Creative Commons

Q: Aren’t you hot?

A: In many ways, covering the body protects it from the heat of direct sunlight. In loose, flowing clothing, the air around the body flows freely and cools more readily. The choice of fabric covering the body is more important than the square inches/centimeters exposed or covered. On severely hot days, we might be uncomfortable as is everyone else. During those times, we find comfort knowing that we are following the commands of Allah, and “the fire of hell is hotter.”

Q: Do the different colors mean anything?

A: Muslims are to dress in modest clothing, without attracting attention to oneself. For this reason, many Muslims choose earth-tone colors such as green, blue, gray, as well as the usual black and white. Beyond this, there are no specific meanings behind the choice of color. Some colors are more common in certain parts of the world, based on local tradition.

Q: Why are there differences in the styles of dress?

A: While Islam outlines a code of modesty, it does not command a certain style, color, or fabric. The range of clothing you find among Muslims is a sign of the great diversity among the Muslim community.

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As a Muslim woman, I like knowing when I put on the Jilbab (a dress like an overcoat which covers from the neck down to the feet) that I am totally covered and no one can see what my body looks like. This was a personal decision that I made to cover and I am proud to have made such an important choice for my well being and myself.

Most Muslim women today do not wear a full face veil. It is more common to see women in hijab, loose clothing topped by a type of scarf worn around the head and under the chin. Women don’t share a common style nor have the same reasons for wearing hijab. For many it reflects the belief that they are following God’s commandments, are dressing according to “the correct standard of modesty,” or simply are wearing the type of traditional clothes they feel comfortable in.

Image by Martha De Jong-Lantink / Creative Commons

Q: Do men have a dress code as well?

A: Absolutely. Both men and women are commanded in the Qur’an to “lower their gaze and be modest.” It is generally understood that men are not to expose the area of their body from the navel to the knee. However, many Muslim men would feel shy to expose a bare chest or bare legs in public. As with women, men are not to wear clothing that is tight or see-through. Indeed, in many Muslim societies the traditional clothing for men includes long, flowing robes, or long tunics that fully cover the body.

Q: What about the legal issue?

A: Regarding the question as to whether countries (examples include France and England) should ban head scarves or not, it is interesting to note how TIME magazine portrayed this issue. Time wrote, “Though the proposed law, which is expected to pass easily, would forbid students from wearing Jewish yarmulkes and large crucifixes, its main purpose is to stop the increasing use of the hijab, or head scarf, among Muslim schoolgirls.”

Well okay and fine, but does any born-again Christian who really reads the Bible honestly believe that Satan wants to ban Muslims from wearing head scarves? Could it be that Satan, who hates God, wants much more to ban Jewish yarmulkes and any signs of the cross he can? The cross and especially the Jewish people are the points of his greatest hatred and animosity. If he can hid it all with something like banning head scarves anywhere, is that not his wisest plan? Let us wake up – Satan does not hate Moslems more than he hates himself, but his fight is against God, not against Muslims. He simply uses everyone as tools of hatred.

Q: What do these Islamic clothing terms mean?

A: Different terms reflect different styles of dress. Often the same clothing has various names depending on what area of the world it is worn. Here is a list and description of typical clothing worn by many Moslems:

* Hijab – clothing that follows the laws of Allah
* Khimar – triangular or circular head-scarf
* Niqab – facial veil
* Abaya – cloak over garment which covers body
* Jilbab – robe or coat that cover the whole body except head and hands
* Burqa – a garment that covers body from head to toes
* Shalwar khamis – roomy pants with a dress
* Chador – similar to a burqa
* Dupata – a large Indian style shawl

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  1. Hi Chrissy,
    Perhaps you should do some more research on the Muslim hijab. Hijab is the women’s style of dressing modestly, particularly by covering their hair and bodies. Actually, many Christian throughout history and even today in various parts of the world cover their heads. Many Muslim and Christian women do this not because they are forced to, but because they choose too. They are rising and taking a stand against popular culture, which tells them they have to dress a certain way in order to get popular attention. If a woman dresses a certain way out of obligation to pop culture, isn’t that just as bad or worse than dressing out of obligation to religion? Actually, I think hijab head scarves are really beautiful; if I were Muslim, I would gladly wear one.
    In response to your comment about liking to have sex appeal, I would encourage you to look up 1 Corinthians 8:13, 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, and Matthew 5:28. If they way you dress causes your brother to stumble, you have a problem. I’m not saying you should cover your head and wear a nun’s habit, but do take your brother’s temptation into consideration when picking out your jeans. Of course in saying this, I am assuming you are a Christian since you are obviously not a Muslim and you are on a website for teaching Christians about Muslims. Thanks for reading!

  2. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

    1 Corinthians 11:6

    If Bible prohibits women not to disclose her beauty why not islam?????????

    Where the christians law vanished? Why dont u follow?


      1 CORINTHIANS 11:16 says nothing about this at all in ANY ENGLISH BIBLE!

      PLEASE CHECK & see this info is WRONG.

      • Your bible tells the women to cover their heads or let it be shaved. Your bible tells them it is dishonorable!
        In the bible it says “If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off (which it is) she should cover her head”

        Corinthians 11:5
        ” But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

        So imagine havering a scarf cover your head. Just like they show Mary (Mariam) then in the Quran it tells us draw your cloaks/scarves over your bosom. ( in Surah 24:30)

        • Holy Quran talks about being modest, draw the cloak over you when you go outside a veil over the bosom there is no mention of a head scarf we are forbiden to cover the face!!

    • Hi, well, let me surprise you muslims…in Bible 1 Corinthians 11:6 talks about married! praying wife only! when she praying Only!!! NOT every day!!! read verse 4 and 5 before 6th. !!! Christian laws did not vanished!!! Bible is about grace and LOVE, and its not about rules and regulations to mood changing person. READ the Bible! 🙂 people… 🙂

  3. Thank you for another magnificent post. The place else may just anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m at the look for such info.

  4. If muslim women dress just like what their God want its good that mean they having faith or trust in God…DONE!!!They do its because they love their God.For me its very2 nice.I hope i will get married with muslim haha.Pray for me.

  5. I just wanted to enquire, if i get married to a muslim man, how does my name change? How do they choose a muslim name for me as a Christian woman?

      • I have many cousins who married Christian girls they did not change their names and remained Christian you do not have to convert to Islam only you cannot eat pork and drink wine! Only problem is the children then!

    • Hi Shamonique Damon,
      Actually, if you like you name and prefer it then you can keep your name.
      However, if you want your name to change as well, you can choose one yourself!
      You normally choose a name through it’s meaning,if the meaning is good then you can keep the name.
      You see,i can’t exactly remember which Hadith it was but the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) encouraged muslims to keep names which had good meanings since on the day of judgement,you are going to be called by that name.
      Hope this helps!

  6. for those of yous who blindly claim that Quran says that Muslims can’t be friend with Christians or Jews(B Hamid), well one thing that i want to say is that please DON’T Judge Quran when u haven’t even looked at it because it never said anything about Muslims restricted to be friends with Christians or Jews. and please don’t tell me that you listen to the Media!!!!! ….. also those extremists that are soo called Al Qaida, do NOT represent Islam. its time for those who blindly listen to the Media or any other false information,that you please look in to that Book and try to understand it and then talk about it weather its wrong or RIGHT.

    • I am a christian and I really don’t see a problem with the muslim women wanting to cover up. I love their outfits and I would actually wear one too! Jesus says that we must love each other. Just becuase everyone has different opinions and differnet ways of worshiping God and serving Him does not mean we should be hateful to one another. I respect muslims and love them just as much as I love everyone else! Lets find what we have in common instead of what our differences are. This world needs love and love is all the world needs. Muslims are beautiful people. I see through the eyes of Jesus and no other. I feel with the heart of God. Everyone on this earth is so beautiful and precious. May God bring all of us together with love and not hate anymore. We can all learn things from each other that can benefit us all. God bless everyone with love and happiness and peace!

  7. Well friends, May I know about this religion——–Can women of Islam do marriage with the male personality of Non-Islamic religions !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!If the answer is YES, its okay,but if the answer is NO then what’s the remedy if the Muslim women want to marry Non-Islamic religious persons———– Please, I just want to have knowledge in this regard with due respect to you all.

    • Read your word GOD warns the children of GOD not to be married to unbelievers. And he specifically forbids us to marry people from certain tribes.

  8. Personally I believe that respect is most important that any religion. If you respect others we can get alone to each other no matter what religion he or she practice. What it is important to me is that there are so many mid- gender definitions (real people) that deserve our respect too and if any religion do not understand that it is obsolete .

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