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The Proper Observance of Hijab

The Qur’an addresses Islamic modest dress as follows:

“And tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to [those relatives who fall within bounds of close relationship explained in the Qur’an]...”

Chapter 24, Verses 30-31.

The purpose of this modesty is to maintain the dignity of both men and women when they interact.

First, men are required to take the lead in respecting women. They should not engage in or approve of any activity which objectifies or demeans a woman. They are also required to cast down their gazes in humility and to observe the general philosophy of modesty of the heart and dress. They must wear decent clothing and avoid activities and places that will cause them to witness that which they should not.

Hijab does not prevent men and women from interacting for the purpose of study, work, performing good deeds, and so on. Rather, when hijab is mutually observed, such interactions will take place in sincerity of purpose and devoid of impropriety.

Women should respect themselves as dignified beings and interact with men in purity. They should not modify their behavior around men so as to seem invitingly attractive or flirtatiously pleasing and thus allow themselves to be objectified.When among men who are not close relatives, women should dress modestly so that their adornment (source of beauty and attraction) is covered. Muslim scholars unanimously state that a woman should respectably cover all except her hands and face. Muslim women fulfill this requirement by wearing loose fitting clothing and covering their hair with scarves.

The requirements for modest dress differ between the sexes due to fundamental biological distinctions and causes of attraction. One will observe these distinctions in Western society where a relatively small number of women read pornographic magazines or visit prostitutes when compared to men who engage in such activities.

Contrary to some views, hijab is not a sign of inferiority of woman nor is it imposed upon her by the opposite sex. Before God, men and women are distinguished from one another only in terms of individual piety. When observing modest dress, before one another, they are distinguished by non-physical characteristics such as intellect and integrity.

Islamic modest dress does not socially suffocate women by denying them free and necessary movement, expression of opinion, education, health care and other human rights. Rather, hijab assists in building a sound society and reduces the number of crimes such as rape and molestation since a possible stimulus for such crimes is not present when hijab is observed. Observance of hijab is part of a larger system in Islam that when properly followed maintains the dignity of men, women, and society as a whole.

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