When you see her you know.
The woman may be wearing a simple headscarf, or she
may be completely covered head to toe, including
gloves and a transparent covering over her eyes. This
is the sign of a woman who follows the tenets of
Islam. Both the Qur’an and the Hadith require that
when a woman leaves her house for any reason she must
cover her “personal adornment and physical charms”
from everyone but her husband.
There is a fairly broad
range of thought about how much of herself the woman
must cover. This may depend on the country or upon the
particular branch of Islam to which she belongs. The
simplest form of the veil (or hijab – literally
veil, curtain) covers just the head and the shoulders.
At the other end of the scale is the burqa,
which completely covers the body, including a
transparent mesh over the eyes.
But what is the purpose of
the hijab? Why are the women to cover
themselves so completely? It is because upon them is
placed the responsibility for the honor of not only
her family but of the entire community, as this
extended quote reveals.
When Allah (SWT) commanded
our sisters to observe Hijab, it was because of the
universal damages that would be caused by refusing to
observe it. It is not a matter of individual behavior,
as many people may think. A woman going out exposing
her charms attracts men, which sets off a chain of
undesirable events, causing lot of harm to several
people. Thus, the indecent behavior of one person
affects the community as a whole. Although the person,
who originally caused the damage, is to be blamed for
all the consequences, other members of the community
are also responsible to some extent for allowing such
a thing to happen. Therefore, it becomes a collective
responsibility of all of us to ensure that such
damages are not caused….
Discarding Hijab will harm
not only one’s own self but also millions of others.
Exposure of physical charm of our women may destroy
many homes and cause innumerable rapes and murders for
which we all are responsible.
It is pertinent to relate
one of the several heart-breaking stories caused by
discarding Hijab: A young innocent man, who saw the
photograph of an attractive woman, was immediately
infatuated by her physical charm. Unfortunately, he
had neither wealth nor position to get closer to her.
To fulfill his desire, he though [sic] of getting
money quickly by any means and resorted to stealing.
Finally, he ended up in
prison for robbing a few people and killing one.
Who is to be blamed for
all the consequences but the person who caused them?
Had that woman observed Hijab and refrained from
displaying her attractions, these crimes would not
have taken place.
Our Holy Prophet Muhammad
(saw) has said that on the Day of Judgment, such
people would be brought forward for trail [sic] on
charges of quasi-crimes in which they had a share of
responsibility. They would plead that they did not
commit those crimes, but then they would be told that
they removed their Hijab and attracted this person,
which made him indulge in those crimes.
Notice that the man who
committed the crime bears little of the responsibility
for the crime. Instead it is the woman’s fault –
because she tempted him by not covering herself! Even
Allah himself will hold her responsible. That’s a
heavy responsibility for a woman to bear. One wonders
why Allah (or Muhammad) would place such
responsibility in the hands of those who are
considered deficient in intelligence.
Women who are found guilty
of violating the commands concerning their dress may
find themselves victims of honor killings.
The woman’s relative will kill her in order to
preserve or renew the family’s honor. Other reasons
often cited for honor killings include marital
infidelity, failing to serve a meal on time, and
seeking a divorce.
Experts suggest the latter (seeking a divorce) is
likely the reason why 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan was
allegedly beheaded by her husband in New York earlier
Surprisingly, but perhaps
understandably, some Muslim women actually come to
think of hijab as liberating. As one writes,
A woman who adheres to the
tenets of Islam is required to follow the dress code
called Hijab,… It is an act of faith and establishes a
Muslim's life with honor, respect and dignity. The
Hijab is viewed as a liberation for women, in that the
covering brings about “an aura of respect” (Takim, 22)
and women are recognized as individuals who are
admired for their mind and personality, “not for their
beauty or lack of it” (Mustafa) and not as sex
Contrary to popular
belief, the covering of the Muslim woman is not
oppression but a liberation from the shackles of male
scrutiny and the standards of attractiveness. In
Islam, a woman is free to be who she is inside, and
immune from being portrayed as sex symbol and lusted
The veiling clearly offers
what at least some women view as a form of protection.
But Samuel Zwemer provides one more compelling glimpse
at the woman behind the veil when he writes:
In Arabia before the
advent of Islam it was customary to bury female
infants alive. Mohammed improved in the barbaric
methods and discovered a way by which all females
could be buried alive and yet live on – namely, the
What these women have not
understood is that true liberty is to be found in
Jesus Christ. While God’s holiness demands that His
law be fulfilled, in His mercy He sent His own Son to
fulfill that law for us – by His death on the cross.
And what does the Gospel of Matthew say? When Jesus
died on the cross, at that moment the veil in the
Temple tore from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51). That
veil, that barrier between us and God was severed! The
way is open for you to come to God, throw down the
heavy burden of your veil, and receive instead the
robe of His righteousness! [Isaiah 61:10]
To be sure, turning from
Allah to the God of the Bible is a difficult choice
for a Muslim woman to make. She is almost sure to lose
everything: her family, her home, her children,
perhaps her freedom, and possibly even her life. But
as one woman writes, “After spending all your life in
the darkness, it hurts your eyes to see the light for
the first time. But I can never go back to the
For more information on
the issues facing women in Islam, we recommend our new
book by John Ankerberg and Emir Caner entitled The
Truth About Islam & Women (Eugene, OR: Harvest
House Publishers, 2009). Contact our office or visit
our website for ordering information.