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Head Covering or Hijab in Christianity


A common misconception is that Muslim women are the only ones who cover their hair. It may be true that Islam is the only religion in which most women follow its directives to cover the hair, but it is not the only religion to have such directives.

It is particularly interesting to look at the case of Christianity, since Christianity is the predominant religion in the West, and it is Westerners, including observant Christians, who are often the first to criticize Islam because of the hijab (modest dress, including headcovering).

Is Covering the Hair a Religious Commandment for Christian Women?

There can be only one answer to this: yes, it is! Simply open the Bible to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 11. Read verses 3-10.

But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraces his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not covered, let her be shaven. But if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. A man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God. But woman is the glory of man. For man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority over her head, because of the angels.

The meaning of this passage is plain enough. We can make the following syllogisms:

Syllogism 1

Praying with an uncovered head is a disgrace

Having a shaved head is the same as praying with an uncovered head

Therefore, having a shaved head is a disgrace

Syllogism 2

If it is a disgrace for a woman to have a shaved head, she should cover her head

It is a disgrace for a woman to have a shaved head - see syllogism 1

Therefore, a woman should cover her head

In other words, the passage means what it says. Have you ever wondered why Catholic nuns dress like they"re wearing hijab (Muslim hijabi women, have you ever been mistaken for a nun? I have, more than once).

Have you ever wondered why Mary the mother of Jesus (peace be upon them both) is always depicted in Christian art with her hair covered? Did you know that until the 1960s, it was obligatory for Catholic women to cover their heads in church (then they "modernized" the service)?

There are some interesting points that can be made about the Christian directive.

1) The explicit purpose of the Christian woman"s head covering, as stated by Paul, is that it is a sign of man"s authority over woman. The explicit purpose of Islamic hijab is modesty. Strange how so many Westerners think that the purpose of hijab is a symbol of male authority.

2) The Christian woman is to cover her head whenever she is praying, whether it be at the church service or just personal prayer at home. This may mean that if she is not praying at home, she is uncovered around male guests who are not related to her; or if she is praying at home, that she is covered around her own husband and family. If any more proof were needed than Paul"s own words that the Christian head covering is not about modesty, this must certainly be it!

This puts hijab (head covering) in a whole new perspective, doesn"t it! To my non-hijabi Muslim sister who feels that hijab is a sign of oppression for the Muslim female, please do read the above and then read the Quran. Believe me, if Allah SWT meant for hijab to be a sign of male authority, the Quran would be as unambiguous about it as Paul is in the Bible. Isn"t this difference the kind of thing that attracted you to Islam in the first place?

Do Any Christian Women Today Cover Their Heads?

It is true that most Christian women do not, and many don"t take other teachings of the Bible (against pre-marital sex, adultery, etc) literally either. However, there do seem to be a growing number of Christian women out there who are committed to following the Bible as it is written.

Christian Women wearing Head covering and practicing what it says in Bible:

Below are some of the Picture and comments of our Christian sister who practices according to bible teaching. I have manage to get the details from one of the website.

Lesson on how to cover your head by one Christian sister

Here are some examples of head coverings as some women wear them. All of these pictures were taken during services in the Orthodox Church. Some of the women are wearing hats, but more are wearing scarves. Here are some tips I"ve gleaned during the years I covered my head.

"If you choose to wear a scarf, often it will slip down off of your head. If you fold the scarf into a triangle, cross the ends and then tie them in a knot at the base of your neck (like the woman in picture number four), it is quite easy to put the scarf back up onto your head (especially if it is silky). Ones that are long and rectangular like in picture number three work well wither tied under or chin or wrapped around and tied in the back of your neck.

"Bobby pins are very useful for securing scarves to hair. Another trick (and my favorite) is to buy very tiny claw clips and use them to keep your scarf from slipping off. See picture number one (and my friend Gabby"s head) for bobby pin how-to.

"Tying smaller scarves/bandannas underneath your hair is also easy to do.

"Wearing a hat is less work to keep on, but it can be tricky to find a good one.

"It is hard to keep children away from scarves, especially when they aren"t used to their mother wearing one. Practicing around the house might help get your children used to seeing you in a scarf, but you may just have to train your children not to touch your scarf. I think that securing the scarf to your head with bobby pins or mini claw clips will work well though, too.

Comments about Head covering by other Christian sisters:

Jamie Carin and Claudio Romano said...

I see most women wear scarves. That is interesting. Most women at my parish (Roman Catholic) wear lace veils and mantillas. Do you guys ever wear them? There are always some really nice ones on ebay and if you get a nice old one made of beautiful lace they are usually very soft and stay on your head even without any pins or anything.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Emma for the lesson!

Now I have no excuses other than my own fears and reservations about standing out.

TAS said...

Thanks for the pictures! Right now I cover with just a simple white fabric triangle trimmed with white lace (I think I got it from prayercoverings.com?) When I had a baby, I had to starting using a small claw clip and clipping it under my hair. I look a tad bit like a nun, but it works and I don"t have to tug at it all through services! =) I might look into getting some pretty scarves to use now though - they look so nice!

Emma said...

Some women wear mantillas or lace veils, but most of the women use scarves in the Orthodox Church... I"m not really sure why because I it doesn"t matter:) It"s good to know that they stay on well!

Mimi said...

Thanks for the tips. I tend to wear a mantilla (I am Orthodox) but do wear scarves sometimes, especially during Lent as mantillas slip during prostrations.

Hi Mimi!

Since the clips are the super tiny ones (almost for little girl"s hair), they don"t do damage to the scarf... at least none that I"ve seen. If I had a scarf with lace or one that was delicate or special, I probably wouldn"t take the chance though:)

Leah said...

Thanks so much for this post; I"m a protestant in the Reformation tradition, and I serve on the Faith, Order, Witness Committee of the San Diego Ecumenical Council. One of our committee members is an Antiochian Orthodox priest, and he has arranged for us to attend free of charge tomorrow"s full-day session of the Orientale Lumen Conference, that meets annually at the University of San Diego. The day will open with Divine LIturgy, so I went online to see if I needed to wear a head covering (I"d already decided to wear a long skirt and long-sleeved blouse, as I do most Sundays at my own church).

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