Refuting the Historical Negation of Hijab

Aisha Hasan

Despite decades of explanations and refutations, the hijab remains the most widespread and contentious issue surrounding Muslim women. From narratives of oppression to empowerment, the entire spectrum of feeling has been expressed over this simple piece of cloth covering a Muslim woman. In the age of modest fashion, the hijab has taken on another dimension altogether, and has in most mainstream discourse been validated under the liberal choice framework.

However, arguments against the need for the hijab persist, and, in some spheres, the niche idea that centuries of Muslims have misunderstood this obligation has become increasingly popular. This is best articulated in a TEDx Talk delivered by American author Samina Ali at the University of Nevada in 2017.

Popular by the standards of other TED Talks with nearly six million views, the video makes the case that hijab was used to differentiate between free women and slaves, and prevent free women from being abused at the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. She concludes from this that the Muslim woman’s dress is based on custom, and given that such customs no longer exist in the Western world, it is recommended for women to remove their hijabs.

The first four minutes of the video, in which Ali outlines her argument, can be watched here: 

Before addressing the substantive content of her talk, there are several limitations to Ali’s argument, given that she claims to have derived it from within the Islamic tradition.

1. References to scholarly consensus

Despite Ali claiming that her position has the support of ‘early Islamic scholars”, she fails to name a single one in the entire 17 minute video. For a talk taking place at a university, her lack of referencing is surprising. Islam has a rich historical tradition of rigorous scholarship, which she acknowledges, but otherwise fails to cite adequately.

Whilst Islam does not have a determined category of the clergy that are on a different religious plane, as other faiths do, the respect and acknowledgement of the knowledge of scholars is integral to our deen. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

The scholars are the heirs to the Prophets.[1]

In addition to this, the ijmaa‘ (consensus) of the scholars is taken by several scholars as determined source of Islamic rulings within the discipline of Usul ul-Fiqh (principles of jurisprudence)[2]. Consequently, to invent a supposed consensus is to introduce an abberation to the Islamic tradition.

2. Historical inaccuracy

Ali starts the video with a vivid telling of women in Madina making a dangerous journey to relieve themselves in the desert in the middle of the night. But in the rest of her 17 minute talk, she never actually ends the story. She says that then the women went to Rasulullah ﷺ and he allegedly gave them the verse from Surah Ahzaab regarding the jilbab, but then says that people were not happy with the ayah. So what did they do? Did they disobey the Prophet ﷺ and continue to dress as they had before?

Ali also makes the claim that “scholars” then decided that Muslim women must dress as custom dictates – but there were no scholars engaging in ijtihad at the time of the Prophet; he was the central authority. They were not needed when the Messenger of God ﷺ was receiving direct revelation. So who decided this, and when? All of these details have been conveniently left out.

3. Inventing circumstances

This is a similar point to the previous, but its differentiation is important. The story Ali mentions in the beginning as the reason for the revelation of the verses pertaining to the jilbab is inaccurate. Her invention of this elaborate tale is problematic because the reasons for revelation, or asbaab un-nuzool, are a delineated feature of Qur’anic textual analysis. They hold implications for how a ruling is understood when analysed by the mufasireen. To create a story and say this was probably the reason for the revelation of this verse shows, again, not just a disregard for Islamic scholarship, but a desire to replace it.

4. Taking the Qur’an in isolation

Ali’s analysis of the hijab looks solely at the Qur’anic verses pertaining to the topic, leaving out the crucial statements of the Prophet ﷺ and his companions. This has become an increasingly common feature of certain discussions about Islam, particularly with regards to women. Such perspectives undermines the very existence of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Allah sent a messenger to humanity as a mercy. He sent a perfect individual described as the walking Qur’an to show mankind how Islam should be lived – meaning that, if we disregard his statements about the issue of hijab and his interactions with his wives, daughters, and the other Muslim women of his community, we are missing a crucial part of the story.

Read more: Rejecting Hadith in the Face of Feminism

5. Devising reasons

Another issue with Ali’s argument is her claim that the hijab was actually a way to distinguish women of high status so they would not be bothered in public. In doing so, she makes this the reason for hijab. Within Islamic legal discourse, the reason for certain acts being made obligatory, forbidden, or otherwise is called the ‘illa. Her attributing differentiation as the ‘illa for hijab – as the very reason Allah commanded it – is again inaccurate.

In fact, there is no known reason for the hijab other than it being an act of worship for God alone. Whilst it may reveal certain wisdoms or benefits, such as deflecting unwanted attention or identifying one as a Muslim, the reason for wearing hijab cannot be attributed to one of these goals, which could be fulfilled by other means. Again, what we are seeing from Ali is a distortion of Islamic scholarship and invention of scholarly narratives to an audience of laymen.

6. Logical fallacies

Finally, there are certain logical fallacies in Ali’s line of argument. The first is that if, according to her reasoning, the hijab is to differentiate between free women and slaved women, she is actually arguing that Islam legitimised or at the least turned a blind eye to the abuse of slaves. This is wholly untrue; Islam, revealed in a society where slavery was the norm, was a source of great reform in this regard, with constant encouragement for people to free slaves and treat them well and the promise of divine punishment for those who abused them[3].

Yet Ali’s most damning contradiction comes in final statement where she argues that, in order to not be abused, women should wear what is custom – and that could be a dress or yoga pants.

So what about people who are abused in yoga pants? What about women who wear short dresses and experience abuse? She is implying that abuse and sexual harassment are a result of what you wear, a form of victim-blaming regularly used against women. So how progressive can her argument really be considered?

Orientalism 2.0

Due to the fallacies in Ali’s core argument, the rest of her speech falls apart.

Her differentiation between the concepts of hijab and khimar fails to comprehensively explain either; the concept of a muhajjabah, an active participle derived of the word hajaba, means a woman who embodies the Islamic dress code, which acts as a barrier between her sexuality and society. The English euphemism “hijabi” has come to mean the same. As for the verse on khimar[4], it not only implicitly accepts the covering of the hair, but also specifically instructs women to cover the juyub, often translated as bosom but encompassing the chest and collarbone area.

Such an understanding of the comprehensive nature of the Islamic dress code has been reinforced by the statements of the men and women at the time of the Prophet ﷺ and by centuries of scholarship, from Imam Nawawi[5], Ibn Manzur,[6] and Ibn Hazm[7], to contemporary scholars such as Sheikh Nuh Keller[8] and Sheikh Faraz Rabbani[9].

Ali’s jump from this flimsy textual analysis to the treatment of Muslim women across the world also ignores some hard truths. In Ali’s home country of the United States, one in four women are abused by their partner in their adult life[10]. Women in the UK face a rape epidemic on university campuses[11]. El Salvador has the highest rates of femicide in the world[12], whilst India is repeatedly found to be the most unsafe country for women[13].

Men, regardless of their professed religion, can dehumanise and abuse women and justify it by the dominant cultural viewpoints that exist, even in self-proclaimed liberal societies.

In addition to this, the fact that allegedly Islamic countries do not adhere to the true spirit of the shari’a in many laws pertaining to women is a truth that Muslims have been trying to convey for decades. The constant portrayal of Muslim men and the Islamic world as cemented in an era of backwardness fulfils the colonial-age stereotype of the angry, dominating, and barbaric musalman.

As to the examples of the numerous achievements and exemplary character of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ female companions, such stories are well known and serve as a continual inspiration for Muslim women around the world. One cannot but help find it ironic that, whilst Ali lauds the business and military achievements of Khadija, Umm Salama, and Aisha, may Allah be pleased with them, she spends most of her talk denigrating the tradition they dedicated their lives to spreading and preserving. 

An agenda beyond hijab

Ali ends her talk in an emotive relating of alleged fataawa concerning women – but this narration is subject to many issues. Firstly, though some of what she quotes are the statements of scholars, others are weak or fabricated narrations attributed to the Prophet ﷺ. Her illustration of women as uneducated, slaves to their husbands, and defined solely by their sexuality would be immediately contradicted by knowledgeable scholars of note in the East and the West.

Whilst cultural norms compounded with ignorance have in several countries resulted in rampant abuse of women, Ali seems uninterested in this nuance or in establishing the popularity or legitimacy of such claims.

Although presenting itself as a qualified critique of hijab emanating from within the Islamic tradition, Ali’s talk reflects what is perhaps the most labored criticism of religion: that rulings revealed hundreds of years ago can have no relevance to our lives in the 21st century, and that religion has been too severly manipulated by scholars for us to trust anything in the Islamic corpus beyond our own individual reading of the Qur’anic translation. In short, religion is outdated.

Her talk reflects a consistent and coordinated effort to undermine Islamic practices from their root values, and to take advantage of widespread ignorance of Islamic legal principles to advance a certain position. Such narratives are supported by numerous parties in the West, ranging from think tanks and lobby groups to individual donors and states, as part and parcel of an agenda to reform Islam to fit the new typology of religion as defined by secularism.

For Muslims who have watched such material and are confused – do not be deceived. There is context and there are explanations for these issues. Seek them out.

As a community, Muslims have tackled the issue of Islamophobia at length. Yet this form of anti-Islam rhetoric that otherises Muslims who adhere to basic Islamic practices and equates them with fundamentalists has received comparatively little attention. If Islamophobia ultimately succeeds when Muslims start foregoing religious practices, narratives such as Ali’s are equally, if not more, dangerous.

Until Muslims start tackling these challenges head on, we can expect the popularity of Ali’s talk to remain.

[1] Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah

[2] Often referred to as Ijmaa Ummah or Ijmaa Ulemaa – Hilal, I. Studies in Usul ul fiqh

[3] Abu Amina Elias – What does Islam teach about slavery?, Lewis, B. (1994) “Race and Slavery in the Middle East”, Oxford University Press

[4] Quran (24:31)

[5] An-Nawawi, al-majmu’ sharh al-muhazzab, (Beirut, 2002), pp.258-9.

[6] Ibn Manzur, Muhammad ibn Mukarram, Lisan al-`Arab, Vol.7, p. 273.

[7] Ibn Hazm, Al-Muhalla, vol. 3, p.217

[8] Verses of hijab in the Shafii opinion

[9] Verse of the jilbab

[10] Domestic abuse in the US

[11] Rape epidemic at UK universities

[12] Femicide in Latin America

[13] The most dangerous countries in the world for women

Aisha Hasan is the founder of the Qarawiyyin Project. A researcher in international development and the political economy of the Muslim world, she is also a student of Islamic Studies and a Quran teacher. She has been active in her Muslim community for several years, appearing on television, radio shows, and delivering talks at universities around the UK.

15 thoughts on “Refuting the Historical Negation of Hijab

  1. Salaam,

    Interesting piece, I will be sharing it to my group Sufism for Ladies on Facebook where Ali’s ted talk has been a point of controversy for the followers there. Personally I do not have a problem with Ali’s perspective but I do agree that the issue needs further examination – which your article achieves and thank you for that. What your article does not address is another far reaching problem in the Ummah – that hijab is an inappropriately policed practice. Women are bullied by men and other women to wear it or not wear it in a certain way. It is disproportionately emphasized over other important areas of practice and it is used to judge and tyrannize to the point that some believing women I know leave the practice of hijab to avoid harassment from other Muslims as well as harassment from non Muslims. I do not disagree that there are strong religious and spiritual purposes to the practice and I am strongly attached to the practice myself but the scholarly perspective you have presented does not begin to address the real life problems visibly Muslim women face in the real world. If you want to really contradict Ali then I strongly suggest that you address the hijab police and the social problems that we confront from non Muslims. The problem isn’t Ali, the problem is the climate of judgement in our own community and the misunderstandings surrounding hijab from non Muslims.


  2. What I found difficult to digest is the extreme concerns of non Muslims about matters only meant for Muslims. When Allah gave command for hijab, HE gave it solely to Muslims. Why the entire world is fighting it.?


  3. Speaking as someone raised Sunni who has worn hijab for 12 years in Muslim and non Muslim countries and who would have agreed with you in the past, now that I’m older and more apathetic towards it I think that the way you handled this topic shows the reluctance of many Sunnis who undergo classical training to really reflect on the gendered legacies of slavery in mainstream fiqh. Samina Ali correctly pointed out the reality that in tafseer and fiqh texts, hijab is outlined as not necessary for enslaved women – the reason why her argument is socially effective is because of how widespread and mainstream the argument is that hijab is for “modesty” and because women’s bodies tempt men or are somehow more sexual than those of men. If you critique Ali then you have to also critique how “modesty” has been used by popular shaykhs, fuqaha, and regular schmegular Muslims alike to justify hijab, turning how women wear hijab into an endless goalpost-shifting game based on men’s arbitrary opinions of what is “attractive” rather than “just an order which we have no reason for beyond obeying God”.

    I think is absolutely right of you to point out that it’s problematic of Ali to talk about “abuse” in a way which ignores how sexual harassment really works in women’s lives. But you portray this as though it’s the “classical” position, ignoring how often the classical tafaseer also interpreted the word “harm” as sexual harassment (although some early ones did not do this) and engaged in victim blaming and genuinely didn’t care about the harassment of the enslaved. If you’re going to critique Ali for departing from the traditional interpretation, then you need to also critique past scholars for how they interpreted hijab and the material effects this had on the lives of enslaved women (who whether you like it or not from a Muslim perspective were historically stripped in the marketplace to be displayed to potential owners).

    As for your discussion of Ali’s sources, if you speak Arabic then it’s the work of a moment on Shamila to pull up early opinions on hijab, including ones which contradict your argument about 3illa being separate from the command to wear hijab (which you portray as being very clear rather than interpreted). It’s not good enough to respond to Ali by saying that she “quotes weak ahadith” when weak ahadith are actually how much of seerah and tafseer of the Qur’an is done, and also when collections of weak ahadith are seen as legally admissible in many Sunni legal schools if they are all collected together, and ALSO when different people have different ways of measuring what they believe is “weak” hadith narration. We have aqwal attributed to the Sahaba saying it’s fine for Muslim men to look at the bodies of enslaved and non Muslim women uncovered, and in fact portraying Sahaba BEATING enslaved women who covered their heads and berating them for “acting like free women”. This implies that the early fuqaha and mufassireen did not just see this as a technical 3illa but as a status marker which they worked strongly to enforce. This also explains why women were ordered to take off niqab during hajj – because coverage was a status marker which is to be erased during the equality of Hajj. Not only this but you have Hanbali fiqh which argued that a man could come to a woman’s house and see her without her headcovering or jilbab if he wished to marry her. If you really want to critique Samina’s ideas about hijab then again you first have to critique how past fuqaha and mufassireen very clearly saw “the order to wear hijab” in a way tied to women’s status as well as men’s contracted or monetary ownership of access to their bodies.

    Overall it seems to me that your response to Samina Ali is much more about your frustration as a woman experiencing Islamophobia in Western institutions, where people will undermine you wearing hijab by claiming that it is not a real religious practice and therefore not protected, or they will portray it as a sign of “backwardness” and “oppression” and “belonging to your husband”. You wear hijab for reasons of your own which society has to learn to respect and stop portraying as backward and using as a shortcut to racially and sexually and religiously harass you, period. But it’s not fair to your fellow Muslim woman to accuse her that her concerns about how hijab has been interpreted are just a result of some Western thinktank buying her out, and it’s not fair to tell her to shut up about e.g. patriarchal interpretations of hijab because you don’t want Westerners to give you a bad rap about it. You certainly wouldn’t like it if someone described a Tedtalk about wearing hijab as being “pushed by the agendas of Saudi petrodollars and Islamist fundamentalists”. Instead a disagreement needs to actually take Samina’s arguments about the texts and their legacies seriously in their own right.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Asalaamu alaykum sister,

      Jazakillah khair for your feedback! We always appreciate hearing from our readers.

      Whilst you have raised some broader important issues, such as the manipulation of the concept of modesty in Muslim circles, romanticisation islamic history etc, the objective of this article was to highlight the gaps and outright contradictions between Ali’s video and concepts in Islamic studies.

      The issue of slavery and the hijab’s function in that regard was not meant to be addressed in detail – there is more comprehensive work on understanding slavery as a phenomenon as a Muslim by Professor Jonathan Brown, a paper coauthored by him and published on Yaqeen Institute is a good introduction to the topic:

      As to the illa, whilst readings of Islamic work are important, in the absence of a teacher they can be misunderstood. The author of this paper was taught and confirmed with female scholars and students of knowledge regarding whether an illa of hijab existed – not all minority opinions are always given weight and it is here that the insight of scholars is needed. Similarly, the highlighting of weak hadith was not to say that they can never be used, but rather to point out that Ali had collated some of these as well as some heterodox fataawa and labelled them all as the opinion of several scholars (with the added implication that this was at the least not contradicted by the mainstream given that hijab is generally considered obligatory) which presented a disingenuous image of islamic scholarship.

      The Qarawiyyin Project regularly attempts to clarify islamic issues that have been misunderstood in society, and acknowledges that this is sometimes due to the promotion of certain problematic or unsubstantiated islamic opinions devoid or unrelated to current contexts, via our articles, podcasts, social media interactions and events. The objective of this article was not however to highlight every instance where classical scholars misunderstood or abused hijab – there is already significant work clarifying the correct mindset with which to understand this obligation. Nowhere was it implied that Muslims have universally understood this correctly. You may find another of our articles interesting in this regard –

      Finally, the article did not imply Ali herself was being bought by any think tank – rather it highlighted that her views are reflective (“reflects”) of a set of narratives that are convenient to many institutions and plays, perhaps unconsciously on her part, into a wider agenda.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your response, although I’m not sure that it really addresses my real concern – that Samina Ali is being painted as a “modern heterodox interpreter who cites weak ahadith and goes against ijma3 and presents a disingenuous image of Islamic scholarship” in comparison to the author, when I’m not convinced that hers is a truthful representation of “Islamic scholarship” either rather than a very 20th century post-abolition set of new arguments over “why we should wear hijab”.

        If you want your argument to be convincing (rather than preaching to the choir), then it’s not good enough to dismiss Samina Ali’s argument as “citing heterodox opinions” either – there are many issues which Sunni Muslims accept today which used to be “heterodox” opinions in the past, even though these might go conveniently unmentioned in fiqh or usul classes. For example until the Black Plague entered North Africa, most interpreters of hadith (as opposed to Muslim doctors) argued that there is no such thing as contagion (citing the hadith on this topic), until Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani had 3 of his daughters die to the Plague and authored a treatise which is now the accepted “orthodox” interpretation in hadith circles. So a discussion convincingly arguing against Samina’s interpretation of the verses has to be built on stronger ground.

        However, I get that in most of the official Sunni circles that are popular to seek knowledge in, a lot of emphasis is placed on theologizing the idea that “the majority are always correct”, so it might be hard for us to go any further with this discussion if there is an implicit fear of being painted as not in line with “orthodoxy” or “the majority”. Thank you for your engagement either way.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. (This also addresses points in your second comment)

      It is unfortunate that you have rendered the author’s views as merely a 20th century outrage (which others have similarly claimed, that the hijab is merely a component of identity politics which only stretches to at least the 1970s).

      I would like to engage your points in an order which reflects some foundational points:

      Since you bring up the term ‘heterodoxy’, this is a point of hermeneutics. There are two points that need to be raised on sunni theological hermeneutics. The question of epistemology: there are three sources of knowledge that are recognised, scriptural, empirical and rational. Where they differ in the weight assigned to and interaction between these sources of knowledge, they are working within the same hermeneutical framework. The reason why the point of theology is important is because it also situates the example you give in its context. hadithists were actually resolving the conundrum of conflict between two seemingly contradictory statements within this same hadith: the first part you mention, the second part: wa firra min al-majẓūm (escape from the (contagious) leper). This was a point of theological concern rather than purely pathological (due to your mention of muslim doctors here). It was not the denial per se of contagious disease itself, but the attribution of the efficient cause of catching the disease. God or the disease itself. And 2, plurality of opinions within sunni hermeneutics is not the same as the issue of orthodoxy/heterodoxy. That although there is disagreement on the substantive conclusions of A and B, there is an agreement on the rules of interpretive engagement.

      This is also an incorrect reading of the example. Ibn al-Salah (d. 643), a most prominent hadithist already discusses this before Ibn Hajar (d. 852) on the apparent conflict of meaning (he actually references a similar hadith ‘lā yu’dī shei’un shei’an’ and takes the lā here to mean lā of prohibition, I.e. one should not infect others) Please refer to ‘ulūm al-Ḥadīth of Ibn al-Salah and Ibn Hajar’s Nuzhat al-Naẓar for more detail)

      In summary, this is an erroneous analogy to the original point of the author.

      The point of ‘theologising the idea that the majority are always correct’ again overlooks the detailed points of methodology that the author has made. The issue of consensus itself is a very broad topic (Consensus ranges from, according to its: (i)announcement (ii) range (iii) certainty (iv) quorum). In legal hermeneutics, the consensus the author is pointing to is the conventional usage of khimar to mean head-covering. The multiple reports from pre-islamic poetry and post-islamic reports inform us of the existence of a consensus in the community, here on the signification of the word khimar, (consensus according to its certainty) (that the words of revelation can either have a linguistic, shari’, and/or conventional meaning (as understood by the recipients of revelation)

      Regarding the issues you raise on classical tafaseer:
      – critiquing past scholars on how they interpreted hijab- although they may have contextualised rulings based on social analyses, it is not the same as endorsing maltreatment of slaves on epistemological grounds. The qur’anic/prophetic ideals are quite clear on the treatment of slaves (the author has also linked an article). Yes historically, there were social implications, but obligations are moral values in and of themselves… that’s what makes them obligations..
      – regarding the ‘illa, there seems to be confusion between the verse of khimar (Nur:31) and the verse of jalabeeb (Ahzab: 59). And as the author rightly pointed out, in the plain sense of the verse of khimar, there is no ‘illa mansusa (scripturally explicit cause). And for argument’s sake, (in legal hermeneutics, on the spectrum of certainty) if one were to hypothesise a cause for the verse; the degree of certainty is lower than the degree of certainty of the linguistic implication (qat’iyya al-dilala) of the words themselves.

      – Weak ahadith: you’re right that they are used in seerah and exegetical narratives… and they were not used in issues of law and ritual.
      – The issues with slavery mentioned also raise the question of moral epistemology and ontology. I would also recommend reading Brown’s slavery & islam, specifically the chapters ‘species of moral change’, and ‘conclusion & crisis: concubinage & consent’…
      – On marriage which you term as ‘men’s contracted or monetary ownership of access to their bodies’ (which was tied in with the obligation of hijab, and which has been explained above)- is a reductionist and one-dimensional approach to marriage in Islam. In fact, compared to the legal dimension, the spiritual dimension of marriage is just as, if not more emphatic due to the scriptural pronouncements (wa ja’ala beinakum mawadda wa rahma..)… but the art of spirituality isn’t the professional work of jurists..

      And my final point.. I hope we can remain open to be transformed by the Qur’an and Sunna, rather than seeking to transform them into instruments that are used in the service of our will.


      1. correction: between the 2 seemingly conflicting hadiths (la ‘adwa..) and (firra min al-majẓūm) both mentioned together by Bukhari (r). And one explanation of (la ‘adwa) is that the la is the lam of nahy (prohibition) i.e. la ‘yu’di ahadun gheirah: one should not infect another person.


  4. I’m frustrated by the lack of input of female scholars on this matter. I genuinely don’t believe men should be the majority voice in making these decisions. Hijab quite literally dictates the life of a Muslim woman far more than her prayers, fasting, and other actions because she wears it every time she steps out of the house. It dictates how she dresses every day for every minute that she is out.

    I know nothing about hadith and how Islamic jurisprudence is done, but I don’t understand how they can cite “modesty” as a reason for wearing hijab. It doesn’t make sense because modesty changes according to cultural norms and standards, why should an Arab standard be enforced on the rest of Muslims worldwide now and in the future?

    Especially when citing the reason “because women’s bodies are tempting” I mean which hadith exactly states that women’s bodies are tempting and that the antidote is being covered? Look at societies where hijab is practiced, it hasn’t solved the issue of “women’s bodies being tempting” nor has a niqab or hijab truly helped women from being objectified, if a man chooses to objectify you because of his thinking, then he will do so regardless of what you’re wearing. And if he’s sick enough to rape you, then he’s going to do that regardless of what you are wearing. How is clothing a solution to these problems?

    Religion is about the practices that bring you closer to Allah SWT and strengthen your faith, so the reason for wearing hijab has to be one concerning faith, not a cultural standard, or based on the actions of others (in this case, men lusting at women). Furthermore, why is the possibility of a man sinning my responsibility as a woman? We’re such a misogynistic society (men and women both) that we rarely look at the gender inequality we enforce on ourselves and other women.

    I feel like cultural views and theories are being used to push hijab on Muslim women, the only reasonable thing I’ve heard regarding hijab is that “you’re obligated to wear it because God said so and it’s for God”. Yet it doesn’t make sense why women and men are ordered to pray, fast, and do hajj, in strikingly similar ways, and then suddenly, when it comes to modesty men have to wear long shorts and women have to wear hijab in a certain way that affects every aspect of their life in public spaces. Why would our acts of modesty have to be so different if they’re done for our Creator, who (as far as my Islamic knowledge allows) does not differentiate or discriminate based on our different biology when it comes to our deeds.

    If hijab is obligatory, wouldn’t the prophet saw have given us explicit directions on how to properly fulfill the modest attire part of our faith? In the same way we were instructed to do vital and important things like salat and fasting? Where are the ahadith on how to properly wear hijab if it’s just as obligatory and vital to a woman’s faith?

    Hijab predated Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and a lot of times I feel like preserving cultural traditions associated with our religion is the reason it has maintained its status as relevant to the religious narrative. The lack of discourse of this matter in a non-patriarchal space further fuels this when paired with the lack of female religious leaders part taking in these conversations and decisions.

    By the way, I’m saying all this as an Arab hijabi who wears her hijab for cultural reasons and not religious reasons.


  5. Please look into Javaid Ghamdi, Shabir Ally, Abu Layth, and Adnan Rashid. These are scholars who don’t believe hijab is mandatory.

    And also, hijab really has no history among subcontinent women. This is why, to this day, the majority of Muslim women from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh do not wear hijab.


    1. I don’t know about the others but you’re mentioning Shabbir Ally? The man whose fatwas go against the Quran and the Sunnah? Hasn’t he said that kafirs can enter Jannah and interest isn’t completely haram to everyone? If you need to quote people like that, then you’re just going fatwa shopping and looking for the people who will support your false claim instead of the people who will give you a ruling based on the Quran and the Sunnah.


  6. Dear Person who wrote this article,
    I am a muslim woman trying to figure out the logic behind wearing a headscarf other than during the obligatory times during prayer where it makes sense that it is needed (out of respect and per the narrated words of our prophet (peace be upon him)).

    You have written a huge explaination and still not answered my curiosity, but instead bashed a woman that put out a possible theory for a reason. Because the Qu’ran has neither explicitly instructed it, nor put emphasis on how important it is.

    You said it yourself that the verse points out we should cover our chest and collarbone area. I will add the other verse that merely points out for women to wear a cloak outside for their safety. So how does it relate to cover hair? The holy Qu’ran explains important guidelines to its very detail, don’t you think God almighty wouldn’t say something so important in a detailed matter?

    Wearing headcover during prayer? MAKES SENSE
    Wearing proper clothes and hiding private parts adequately? MAKES SENSE
    Not showing hair or even parts of the face? ✋ Makes no sense.

    Especially because it contradicts the point where men and women are equal. They equally have to lower their gaze, because they equally lust for another. That means the rules of covering the body has to be equal as well. And that is exactly why the verse explains to cover their chest only: because thats the private part that a woman has additionally, and man has not.

    And also, how dare you blame women for being abused and raped because of their clothing? Is it the animals fault too? for being abused by a human just because they happend to be at the wrong place wrong time and didnt run away with their feet? And if you think women with headscarfs are not treated badly by men and are protected, then I highly advice you to do more research.

    Just because everyone does something, doesn’t mean its automatically the correct way. When things get narrated from such a long time ago, certain things should be picked up and reevaluated. Thats why, as muslims, we are asked to use our God given brain.

    However, I am not perfect and I marely stated my opinion and logical conclusion and if I am wrong, pray for me that Allah shows me and explains to me this issue. I surely am praying to be on the right path. But I will not follow blindly.


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