The Hijab, or veil, is currently one of the most contentious issues in both Muslim countries and the Western world, where it produces collective hysteria.
The “veil” is at the heart of a complex subject that is linked -in a rather perplexing way- to different notions such as culture, modernism, liberty, women’s bodies, identity tragedy, and the struggle of coexistence in a heterogeneous society.
All of the debates on this subject have the potential to uncover two important contemporary challenges.
- The first is related to Muslim women’s increased visibility in the West, and thus Islam’s role in these countries as they go through a process of identity creation.
- The second is in Muslim society, where the “veil” issue has exposed the existence of a profound and significant identity crisis fuelled by a strong “emotional support” for the veil as a symbol of Muslim identity.
But, before delving into the subject of who has the right to claim the “veil” and its religious legitimacy, we need to return to the Qur’an to observe how the sacred text addresses this issue, as well as the terminology regarding women’s ethical apparel.
The Term “Hijab”
To begin, it is critical to emphasize that the term “Hijab,” which is widely used, does not always refer to the scarf that Muslim women wear to cover their hair.
The term hijab does not have this meaning in the Qur’an. Furthermore, the lexical and intellectual meaning of the Qur’anic term Hijab reveals the polar opposite of reality.
On the hijab commandment, there is an unambiguous scholarly consensus (ijma’). The ayah that governs the head covering is found in Surah Al Ahzab, verse 59, where Allah (S) says,
In this context, the word jilbab should not be interpreted in the current sense of the word. The khimar or headscarf is referred to as jilbab in this context, according to the Lisan al Arab (essential Arabic lexicon).
We wear the headscarf to be recognised as believing women and to be protected, according to this verse.
Moreover, in Surah Noor, Ayah 31, Allah (S) clearly says,
This ayah does not merely mean “take khimar and cover your chest,” as you phrased it because Allah (swt) does not mince words. To completely comprehend the ayah, one must first know the meaning in which the passage was given.
Women had their headcovers knotted back behind their necks at the time of the revelation, according to Abu Abdullah Qurtubi, a 13th-century mufassir (a scholar who interprets the Quran).
They exposed the aperture (singular jayb, plural juyub rendered as “chests” in the preceding verse) at the top of the dress, as was the practice of the Christians of the period.
The use of the word khimar in the verse (which means head-covering, which was already in use) confirmed the practice of covering the head, but it also explained that the custom of the time was insufficient and that women should bind the existing headcover in front and let it hang down to conceal the throat and the dress opening at the top.
Islam perfected this practice when Allah (swt) revealed the above-mentioned verse, mandating that the existing head covering was to cover more than just the hair – but the neck, upper chest, and ears as well. Muslims should learn, understand and memorize the Quran by heart to understand the clear instructions regarding any issue of life.