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Why dont all Muslim women wear hijab?

Olivia Lusala

Why don’t all Muslim women wear hijab?

February 11, 2019

Hijab is an Arabic word which directly translates to “barrier.” Many would recognize the word to mean the headscarf worn by Muslim women out of religious faith. Others would call it a tool of oppression in a patriarchal society that aims to police women’s bodies. City High is home to a growing Muslim student population, some who choose to observe modest dress and others who do not.

Contrary to popular belief, the hijab is not merely a physical object, but rather, it is the concept of both internal and external modesty. It does not simply stop at covering one’s hair. Within the Muslim community, there has been a lot of dispute over whether or not covering the hair is mandatory (fard) to fulfilling the demands of Islam. If this is, in fact, the case, then choosing not to cover one’s head would be impermissible (haram) in the faith.

Feda ElBadri ‘21 is a Muslim woman who chooses not to cover her hair in public.

“For me, [the concept of] hijab is modesty,” ElBadri said. “I don’t want it to seem that anything that I do outwardly somehow shows who I am inside. I don’t think that the way we act and the way we appear to other people somehow means that we’re good or bad.”

Still, many Muslim women who do cover their hair,hijabis, derive confidence and empowerment from their headscarves.

Nadal Elmak ‘21 believes that covering the hair is fard, and first began covering her own hair at the age of twelve. It was a decision that came not without strong deliberation on her part.

“I was like, ‘What if people start bullying me because I’m wearing this hijab? And I see other people getting mean comment[s]. Maybe I shouldn’t wear it,’” Elmak said.

Despite her inhibitions, she ultimately decided to wear a headscarf to school one day in seventh grade.

“I felt nervous. It was really scary and people would just stare at you,” Elmak said.

Though three years after that first day in seventh grade, Elmak has yet to regret her initial decision to begin covering her hair and believes that it has strengthened both her spirituality and her confidence.

“I feel like a hijab is protection from other people,” said Elmak, “I don’t need anyone. I can talk and feel protected with the hijab. I feel Allah [God] with me everywhere.”

While Elmak may have had to come to term with her anxieties about other people’s perceptions of her hijab, ElBadri has dealt with misconceptions surrounding her spirituality and commitment to Islam due to choosing not to cover her hair.

“People don’t think I’m Muslim or they think that I’m not religious,” said Elbadri. “I cover my hair to pray, and perhaps because hijab is interwoven with communicating to God for me, it is always going to have that wearer-to-God connection.”

The Muslim community is a large one, with an estimated 1.8 billion followers, according to the Pew Research Center. With that kind of size, it should come at no surprise that not all followers of “the world’s fastest growing major religion” believe covering one’s hair and abiding by the rules of hijab are a required part of the faith.

Samina Ali is an outspoken author, Muslim feminist, and activist who has written for The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast among others. Her TEDx Talk “What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab?” has garnered over 3.8 million views since it was first published at the beginning of 2017. In it, she describes hijab as it is interpreted in the modern day as a byproduct of misogyny, functioning as a tool to police Muslim women’s bodies and keep them in roles which are subservient to their male counterparts.

“It’s the women who’ve committed the crimes. It’s the women who got these funny ideas in their heads, ideas that actually led them out of the house, led them into society, believing that they can make a contribution, and we all know, honorable women, they stay at home; honorable women stay invisible,” Ali said in her speech.

Muslim women’s relationship with hijab does not exist on a binary. A woman’s perspective on the idea of hijab may even change within her own lifetime. Enter Dina Torkia.

Torkia, better known by her web alias, Dina Tokio, is a Youtube personality and social media influencer who first rose to prominence making hijab tutorials and marketing herself as a modest fashion icon, recently caused a stir online when she chose to publicly discontinue wearing her headscarf.

Torkia, who also made comments condemning the community of Muslims who choose to don the headscarf as a “toxic cult,” has since received torrents of negative backlash for her public decision. So much so, that she was able to make a 45-minute video just by reading through the vitriolic comments on her videos.

Torkia provides a very public and severe example of the criticism that Muslim women face when making decisions about how best to follow their faith. While having doubts about hijab is not uncommon, many women do not end up removing their headscarves as a result of them.

Heibat Ahmad ‘21, much like Elmak, was in the seventh grade when she first began covering her hair.

“I had just come back from my trip to Sudan and I saw all my neighbors and family wearing them. I wanted to try it out and I stuck with it,” Ahmad said.

Unlike Elmak, however, Ahmad did have doubts following her decision.

“The exact same day, seventh grade, I was sitting in the car and I was about to be dropped off. I was sitting in the car and I was like, ‘You know, I kind of don’t want to do this,’ But I went inside and did it anyway,” Ahmad said.

Neither Ahmad nor Elmak can recall ever having felt pressure from family members to begin covering their hair.

“I think that they would be shocked by the change because I’ve worn [a headscarf] consistently for four years now, but I think that they would be fine [if I took it off],” Ahmad said.

At the end of the day, ElBadri wants Muslim girls to know that they have a choice when it comes to whether or not they will cover their hair.

“If we say something like, ‘All Muslim women should wear hijab,’ what are we going to do then? Are we going to make it a problem for Muslim women who don’t wear hijab?” asked Elbadri. “I value the connection that [I] have to God, to Allah, more than anything else. If you feel that [covering your hair] will strengthen your connection, then you do what you do. You do it to be a better Muslim, to be a better person. I don’t want it to be that you’re trying to be better for anybody else, because at the end of the day it’s about you and your relationship with your religion.”

 

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  • G

    Gillian RoyApr 9, 2022 at 7:43 am

    I really struggle to understand why anyone would follow the supposed words of someone they don’t know ever existed! Blindly following some religion without questioning. There may well have been someone called Muhammad or Jesus or Shiva but come on.
    I was brought up in the Christian faith and several of the commandments are sensible in that, we should not kill or steal, etc. I believe in “Do onto others as you would be done by”. I believe in decency, kindness and caring. Isn’t that enough for everyone? Not the ramblings of someone who may never have existed. What is wrong with intelligent people?
    I dislike how women in many societies are treated so badly. I believe we are all born equal, yet in many Muslim societies women are treated as chattels. To cover themselves so not to entice men. As someone said earlier, men should be taught to treat women with respect. In Muslim Pakistan, rape is common but women are blamed. So covering up modestly doesn’t stop rape! Rape is a way of subjugating women. Look at the Russian soldiers in Ukraine. In the 21st century, men are still raping. War is started by men. Women having to wear the Burka is perpetrated by men. So the answer is, men need educating that women are equal and should be treated with decency. What has religion done in this world anyway? Made it kind? Stopped wars? No… Some of the most evil things done to man has been because of religion. I’ll stick to believing in kindness thank you, not some unknown, faceless God!

    Reply
  • L

    Laiba IrshadApr 1, 2022 at 11:41 am

    It’s not just to cover your hair or to hide it from opposite gender, Muslim women and men should have to cover their body. It’s because Muslim women should recognized in a community or group. It’s a verse that women have to cover their selves whenever they step out of their home. And you can show your face if you are willing to, your hands and your feet too.

    Reply
  • S

    sophieNov 28, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    I didn’t know this was a student publication! This is fantastic work. Keep it up.

    Reply
  • C

    ColetteAug 2, 2021 at 3:28 am

    Thanks for sharing this, it’s really interesting.

    Religious text do feel biased by the dominant beliefs in the time period the wisdom was channeled.

    Out of curiosity, are there references to men having to lower their gaze, mind their chastity and not display their charms beyond their immediate family circle?

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    • M

      Musawer HakimiNov 13, 2021 at 10:21 am

      Men have to cover up their body from above the belly button to under their knees beyond their family circle. Zina is referred to pre-marital sex, but in Islamic view Zina comes not only from the main parts but from looking talking and touching as well. In the other hand women cannot show other than wrist to fingertips ankles to toes and face to any other than family circle. They also have to keep in mind their hijab which does not only refer to the physical scarf you see muslim women wearing, but to what they keep modest from unnecessary attention. No one has to do it against their will men or women , because it is the relationship between a men or a women and god and whosoever oppresses a women or a men against their will is against Allah and Islam entirely. Islam never enforces, and we muslims can never enforce, our duty as muslims are to give guidance, not to change hearts of individuals which only is in the power Allah. I hope that answers your question may peace and blessings of Allah rain upon us all Insha Allah.(am a 19 year old teen and no one has forced me to cover my belly nor my knees)

      Reply
    • A

      AnonDec 1, 2021 at 10:58 am

      Yes, it does tell men to lower their gaze and protect their chastity.

      The Quran in verses 30 and 31 of Surah An-Nur says:
      “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (avoiding its concentration on a person’s body, or a certain part of it) and to be mindful of their chastity; in this they will be more considerate for their own well-being and purity, and surely God is fully aware of all that they do” (Quran 24: 30-31).

      There is nothing about displaying their charms, however, men also have requirements to cover up (everything from the navel to the knees must be covered), they are just less strict than the requirements for women (for obvious reasons. Hope this helped.

      Reply
  • K

    Kristin RochonJul 23, 2021 at 1:40 am

    It cracks me up when people condemn others then quote any of the many religions. There are seven billion people on the planet. If one billion are Muslim then six billion are not. That would be suggesting that six billion people are going against Allahs will well half because only the women right…. I respect everyone’s religious beliefs especially if it makes you feel closer to god. Men should wear one as well. They could get close to god too. Its kinda silly to suggest that six billion people are out of favor due to not wearing a head scarf. I respect all religions however im American and believe im equal to a man. I have an education, job, child, nice home and if i was going to wear that I would gsve my husband wear one too. If its not about opportunity or oppression then have the men wear them as well. Problem solved.

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    • A

      Abdul Musawer HakimiNov 13, 2021 at 10:27 am

      Men also have to protect their body parts besides the main parts. From above our belly to below our knees and it is not only the hijab of ones outer self but also their inner self. Men and women differs in various ways and each individual is responsible for what and how they represent themselves amongst the society apart from the family circle. Thank you and may peace and blessings of Allah fall upon us all. (Again i repeat myself no one has forced me to wear modest clothes as a man or to cover my knees or my belly although it does get critisizm because it is against Islam.)

      Reply
    • I

      IsmailNov 30, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      Kristin rochon, its not about if women are mandated to cover themselves then its applicable to men too. Do not confuse reality with mentality. The female gender is obviously different from its counterpart and trying to be or act like someone you are not is simply impossible. The charms borne on a female necessitates the need for a hijab to cover them except to their husbands and others as prescribed by the holy Qur’an. Consequently the majority of the seven billion that prefer to remain apparently naked constitute the most important element which triggers infidelity, Immorality, sexual harassment and above all, rape. Think deeply and you will see the bigger picture. The same cannot be said to males as they may not have what it takes to apparently arouse a female, at least not comparable. So why do you cling to stubbornly to your logic when its based on human (imperfect) judgement. If you truly believe in God whether its Jesus to you or not, then you should be ashamed or calling a decree from Allah as silly. A very provocative statement there, but of course, out of ignorance. So there you have it.
      PS you should always know a thing about you topic before you stick your nose into the affairs of the Muslims. Religion is not based on human logic, but of divine logic. Otherwise you can create a new religion and it will make sense to us

      Reply
      • P

        PpDec 4, 2021 at 12:32 am

        Funny that you say that hijab prevents rape! Fully covered women in Muslim countries still get raped and don’t even get the justice they deserve, so that’s a mute point. I believe in everyone’s right to choose to wear whatever they want for religious reasons or otherwise, however you making that statement is pretty “provocative” as well. How about we also teach our boys to be respectful of other people, both women and men. In many countries, women are equal to men and have the exact same rights. It’s a shame that many Muslim countries (not all) don’t provide the same rights.

        Reply
  • C

    ClarisssMay 19, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    It is not specified in the Quran to wear a Hijab. A head covering is for prayer, because of the power of the angels. If you understand history, the Hijab is from the Roman Catholic Church and their doctrines in the middle east.

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    • A

      Abdul Musawer HakimiNov 13, 2021 at 10:37 am

      Allah commands us to gaurd our modesty (man and women) and private parts. Allahs words are the best of words and Muhammad’s (PBUH) teaching is the best of teaching and what he teaches us still nowadays does not come from his own knowledge but of that which Allah has sent to him. We as a man or women are responsible for gaurding our modesty and both men and women get critisizm for not doing it the In the way of Sunaah (the teachings of the prophet). I hope that answers your question and you can read my other replies if you wish to know further

      Reply
  • A

    Ali JafferyApr 20, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    “Why don’t all women wear hijab?”, the answer is simple, it is due to the watering down of faith, we have seen this in other religions such as Christianity and Judaism where secular and westernised ideologies are favoured which distort the religion. Religion is eternal, it does not change which time even if the society and social opinions change. Islam is very clear on the ruling of Hijab, it is commanded by Allah and there is no exception, Quran chapter 24 verse 31 states ‘وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ ۖ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ ۚ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ’. This translates to ‘And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. And let them not display [more of] their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs [in walking] so as to draw attention to their hidden charms And [always], O you believers – all of you – turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state!’, according to Al-Afsay with several other translations being basically the same.

    If you want to understand why all Muslim women do not wear hijab then simply look towards the questions ‘Why don’t Christians circumcise?’ ‘Why don’t Christians refrain from eating pork?’. It is because Christianity has been adapted by its adherents so they will fit into society and eliminate social pressure. Religion and faith is being reformed into something new which is different from the true original religion.

    Hijab will always be obligatory for the Muslim woman as Allah has commanded it out rightly in the Quran, no matter how any woman tries to object to this through either her action or her speech, it will not change the truth.

    Reply
    • M

      Miriam YDec 6, 2021 at 2:57 pm

      “Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope,”
      meaning He does not ask a soul what is beyond its ability. This only demonstrates Allah’s kindness, compassion and generosity towards His creation.

      Much of the Quran is open to interpretation from different scholars. What is true and immovable in Islam are The Five Pillars. The rest depends on what school of thought you follow. Allah knows your heart, if you’re wearing hijab or not, it is only for Him to judge. Muslim brothers and sisters should respect each other and their personal decisions regarding this, walk your own path and may Allah bless you.

      Reply
  • E

    EmmeApr 17, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    Penelope… I hear you. Faith like any kind of commitment has different levels. No one should feel coerced by others to embrace a level of commitment they are not ready for. Start where you are. That should be good enough. Stay open and see where YOUR journey takes you.

    Reply
  • Y

    Yaritneth ColonApr 8, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    Hello I became Muslim one year ago, I still learning and getting into Islam . My question is it haram to not wear hijab married or not ? And Why it’s haram?
    I very confused I been searching and watching videos about it but I still don’t understand. I didn’t grow up into Islam I was raise different where my hair was always open and dress differently . So I want someone to help me understand the meaning of it why it’s. Haram not wearing hijab.

    Reply
    • K

      KhushbakhtNov 11, 2021 at 11:09 am

      Hello. I am a Muslim woman and i was born in a Muslim household. My parents/family thinks of ‘Hijab’, as a headcovering, mandatory for women. I have to wear one because they discourage me doing otherwise. I have been facing doubts about the concept of ‘hijab’ being mandatory for women for a long time now. Even though i am at conflict, i suggest you to read over the ayahs’ translation a few times or as many times as you like on your own. Look for multiple translations. If you conclude that it is indeed what the ayah says and what you should do then that’s what you should do. And vice versa

      Reply
  • S

    SadeeJan 15, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Ew. Self hating requires therapy.

    “It’s the women who’ve committed the crimes. It’s the women who got these funny ideas in their heads, ideas that actually led them out of the house, led them into society, believing that they can make a contribution, and we all know, honorable women, they stay at home; honorable women stay invisible,” Ali said in her speech

    Reply
    • K

      KazmierNov 29, 2021 at 6:12 pm

      I’m a non religious African American and I was dating a guy from a Muslim family. I learned a lot about the religion and the culture. From what I was told the hijab is a choice, but other households do enforce it on their women which I think is ridiculous force anyone. I will say I do like that the hijab is a way of saying I want you to see me for who I am not my appearance. But it makes cringe that it’s also a way of putting a man’s hunger at bay when in reality women should be able to dress however they want without being mistreated or disrespected by man. That blame shouldn’t be put on women it should be taught to men to learn self control and respect. How is it immodest to show your hair? Or even wear skinny jeans? And after reading that article somethings sound a bit controlling and I can’t help but feel like a
      sexist man who created this blame for women… “Woman who are modest, stays home and remain invisible is a honorable woman” every woman is beautiful in her own way. So I don’t see why it’s wrong for a Muslim woman to be outgoing owning her beauty out loud in whatever way she chooses too with such confidence??? She’s a vibrant beauty who knows her power

      Reply
  • C

    CristinNov 12, 2020 at 8:23 am

    I read about hijab being a barrier & that it has something to do with modesty.
    I have 2 questions:
    #1 – How is showing one’s hair in public associated in any way with immodesty?

    #2 – I see (apparently Muslim) women & girls wearing hijabs, who appear to be in their late teens or twenties, dressed immodestly in jeans & revealing tops, & other garments in an immodest way, acting visibly in a way that attracts attention to themselves. How does this uphold the hijab as a mark or reminder of modesty? I cannot make sense of it.
    P.S. I am female. Not criticizing, but curious.

    Reply
  • A

    AliNov 5, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Subhannallah, welcome to islam sister Penelope. It sounds like you are already a good muslim with a kind heart. Meditate on the Quran and remain steadfast in prayer and Allah SWT will guide you on the straight path.

    Regarding this hadith, I do not have enough knowledge to comment on its context or translation. Thank you for asking your question as it’s led me to research more into islam and our deen. The first word revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) from Allah SWT was “Iqra” which means to Read. To seek knowledge is incumbent upon us, and so I would like commend you for reading the Quran and researching hadith, and would also like to share some links I found interesting after reading your comment and learning of this hadith for the first time.

    https://www.amazon.com.au/Women-Islam-MERNISSI/dp/0631169059 -The late islamic feminist Fatima Mernissi explores this hadith in an apparently well researched and thorough manner.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCgb86oskYM -A brief exposition on the aforementioned book

    https://www.academia.edu/30969452/Veil_and_the_Male_Elite_A_Feminist_Interpretation_of_Womens_Rights_in_Islam_By_Fatima_Mernissi_pdf -another book by the same author

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/110193.The_Veil_and_the_Male_Elite -Reviews of this book by numerous muslim (and non muslim) women

    Reply
  • P

    Penelope LukeOct 24, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Good Day, I have been reading the Quaran and truly believe in the words of Mohamad.[peace be with him] I do have some issues with a few Hadith concerning women, especially concerning Abu Bakra after the war with A’sha and Ali. he says “Those who entrust their affairs to women will never know prosperity” For me this goes against Mohamad’s[peace be with him]teaching of democracy and his respect for woman .He valued Hadija and A’sha’s comments. I am also a woman who dislikes head coverings of any kind on me personally, [Although there are many beautiful head scarves] can I be a good Muslim woman without the hijab? I do understand some of the reasons in Mohamad’s [peace be with him}time was for protection and modesty and maybe today, but unnecessary for me to relate to God. Prayer, kindness and respect I am hoping are the main teachings I am connecting with. Thank you for your opinion PS . I am a Canadian woman raised Anglican. I have not followed a religion in many years and always beleived in one God and honesty etc, but struggled with all religions feeling they are the only true one. Penelope

    Reply