Why do Muslim women wear the hijab?

Hijab controversy: Amid the ongoing hijab controversy in Karnataka, students and netizens have taken to social media to express their solidarity with Muslim women wearing hijab. Soon #HijabisOurRight started trending on Twitter.

Muslim students in the state staged a protest outside the university campus after the principal refused entry to girls dressed in hijab. As Dalit students expressed their solidarity with the hijab-clad girls by adorning blue scarves, counter-protests were led by students in the state who started wearing saffron scarves.

A petition questioning the hijab restrictions has been filed by five students from the public PU university in Udupi. The petition will be heard in the Karnataka High Court on February 8.

Following the raging controversy, the Basavaraj Bommai government ordered a ban on clothing that disturbs equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges.

The state government invoked Section 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act 1983 which requires pupils to wear a uniform style of clothing compulsorily. The direction of the private school can choose a uniform of its choice.

What is the Hijab?

Hijab is a scarf or garment worn by Muslim women to cover their hair to maintain modesty and privacy from unrelated men, whether in public or at home. The concept, however, is not unique to Islam, but also adopted by other religions such as Judaism and Christianity.

Mention of Hijab

Although the tradition of wearing the hijab is deeply rooted in Islam, it is not mentioned in Islam. The term for covering the head is Khimar in the Quran.

Verse 59 of Surah Al-Ahzab states: “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the wives of the believers to get rid of their outer garments. It is more appropriate that they are recognized and not abused. And Allah is always Forgiving and Merciful.

History of Hijab in Islam

Veil during Muhammad’s lifetime

Historical evidence suggests that the veil was not introduced to Arabia by the last prophet of Islam, but that it already existed there and was associated with high social status.

Sura 33:53 of the Quran states: “And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them behind a partition. It is purer for your hearts and their hearts.” The verse descended on the Islamic community in 627 CE and the term for donning the veil, darabat al-hijab, was used interchangeably with “to be the wife of Muhammad “.

Spread of Islam and its traditions

As Islam spread across the Middle East into parts of Africa and Central Asia, and into different societies around the Arabian Sea, it incorporated local customs of sailing and influenced others.

However, the veil was neither compulsory nor widely accepted by many generations after Muhammad, but gained momentum after male scholars of scripture and law began to use their religious and political authority to regain dominance. ‘they had lost in society because of the egalitarian reforms of the Prophet.

Sailing by upper-class Arab women

Soon, upper-class Arab women adopted the veil while the poor were slow to adopt because it interfered with their work in the fields. The practice was adopted both as a fitting expression of Quranic ideals regarding modesty and as a silent announcement that the woman’s husband was wealthy enough to keep her idle.

Westernization of Muslim countries

Westernization began to dominate Muslim countries between the 1960s and 1970s. However, in 1979, large protests took place in Iran after the hijab law came into force. The law decreed that women in the country should wear headscarves when leaving their homes. While the hijab law was passed in Iran, it was not the same for all Muslim countries.

The resurgence of the hijab began in Egypt in the late 20th century as a means of coming together and rededicating oneself to the Islamic faith. The movement was known as Sahwah and the pioneers of the movement adopted Islamic dress which consisted of an loose-fitting, long-sleeved, ankle-length dress with a head covering that covered the chest and back.

The movement gained momentum and the practice became widespread among Muslim women. They wore it publicly to advertise their religious beliefs as well as to reject the western dress and cultural influences prevalent at the time.

Despite many criticisms that the practice of hijab is oppressive and detrimental to women’s equality, many Muslim women view the way they dress as a positive thing.

The dress code was seen as a way to avoid harassment and unwanted sexual advances in public and helped to desexualize women in the public sphere to enable them to enjoy equal rights to legal, economic status and comprehensive policy.

However, controversy erupted over the dress code and people from all walks of life questioned wearing the hijab and what it represented in terms of women and their rights. It has been debated whether, in practice, the hijab is truly a female choice or whether women are coerced or pressured into wearing it.

Since the discussion and discourse on the hijab has intensified, some nations have attempted to ban the hijab while others have made it compulsory for women to wear the hijab.

Different types of Islamic clothing

1- Hijab: It is a scarf that covers the hair and the neck.

2-Niqab: It is a veil that covers the face and head, keeping the eye area open.

3- Burka: It covers the whole body of a woman. It can be either a one-piece garment or a two-piece garment.

4-Khimar: It is a long scarf that covers the head and chest but keeps the face uncovered.

5- Shayla: A rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the head and pinned in place.

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