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12 August 2008updated 27 Sep 2015 2:30am

Hijab, the dress code for Muslim women?

Zubia Malik from the UK Community of Submitters writes why she stopped wearing the Hijab...

By Zubia Malik

The first step seemed somewhat simple for me: wear the ‘hijab’ (veil) and that would be making a statement to me and to others that I am a true ‘Muslim woman.’ Modest and dignified. I know for a lot of women embracing Islam that this is fundamental to their journey because either their understanding from the Hadith and Sunna (what is understood to be the practices of the Prophet Muhammad) leads them to this conclusion or they are told by others in their local Muslim community that this is a requirement upon all women entering Islam.

My initial wearing of the hijab was at university and upon examination the real reason behind this was to discourage any male intrusion, a form of protecting myself from unwanted attention. Little did I realise that by adorning this veil I would be entering some form of ‘groupie.’ That wearing this cloth over my head gave me a ticket straight to God’s Kingdom. I am in no way against those women who wear the hijab as part of the modest dress code but I am concerned about those who are teaching others about Islam and promote the hijab as the only modest way for a Muslim woman to dress.

I soon realised that my reasons behind wearing the hijab became questionable. Was I sending out a message to others that this is the way for Muslim women to dress? Was the hijab the only way? Or was I adhering to some culture that was practised centuries ago in the time of Prophet Mohammad.

It now leads me onto the question of the word ‘hijab’ and where it comes from. The Arabic word ‘hijab’ can basically be translated as ‘barrier’ and occurs in the Quran several times but not once does it refer to the veiling of women. In the present time, the context of hijab is the modest covering of a Muslim woman. The question now is where did the veil originate from if the Quran does not require veiling?
“Hijab” or veil can be traced back to pre-Quranic civilisations. A common misconception is that that the requirement for veiling originated with the Arabs but this is clearly not the case.

The actual Quranic verses relating to the dress code has more to do with following the basic rule, number one being righteousness, those who follow this will have no problem in making the right decision to reveal only what is necessary. God refers to terms such as ’maintaining modesty and not to reveal too much of their bodies, lengthen their garments……’

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Removing the hijab for some may be seen as a form of regression but ironically for me it has been a test in understanding what God has asked of me, bearing in mind that wearing the veil is certainly not forbidden but equally neither is it a requirement for me using the Quran. Many Muslim women may disagree with my understanding of the dress code for women in Islam, however, they cannot use the Quran to promote their version of the dress code.