So why do Muslim women first and foremost don their hijab?
The concept of awrah.
Awrah is basically a part of your body that you would instinctively feel very uncomfortable if exposed.
This is just being human and that actually differentiate us from animals. This is most probably because God has designed us as human beings – men as well as women – to be the best of His creation.
Covering these bodily parts that are considered as awrah is necessary to define what is modesty and decency. It actually facilitates the interaction between human beings, the men with women, or even within the same gender.
If you look at how civilisation evolved you will find that the more civilised people become , the more it will be reflected in the way they cover themselves up.
At the most basic civilisational level, human beings would just be wearing enough to cover their body against the element of nature.
Once they get more sophisticated they become more elaborate in the way they dress.
Those who covers versus those who don’t
I’m not trying to imply that those who are probably not covering their awrah are really not civilised. That’s not the point.
The point is just to show that as human beings become more advanced in their civilisation, their manner of dressing becomes more sophisticated too. In other words, the more sophisticated people become, the more elaborate is their manner of dressing.
Parts of awrah for men and women
It is important for Muslims to know that the part of awrah for men is the body part from the umbilicus to the knees.
And for women it is more or less the whole of her body, except for the face and the hands.
Of course there are arguments on whether the head or hair is also part that you need to cover.
It’s your personal choice?
Donning hijab is supposed to be a very personal choice, depending on how much you want to follow Islamic teachings. It is you who have to make that decision. Hence the element of forcing somebody to observe hijab or forcing somebody who has observed hijab to take it off is definitely against that personal choice. It also depends on how much you want to practise your faith and to be seen as doing that.
I would prefer to look at it as a very personal choice in terms of the person trying to relate and practise the religion.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُغَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and (the) women (of) the believers to draw over themselves [of] their outer garments. That (is) more suitable that they should be known and not harmed. And is Allah Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (Al-Ahzab, 59).
Generally speaking, Muslim women who choose to wear hijabs do so fundamentally because it is prescribed in the Quran:
وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
And say to the believing women (that) they should lower [of] their gaze and they should guard their chastity, and not (to) display their adornment except what is apparent of it. And let them their head covers over their bosoms, and not (to) display their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers or fathers (of) their husbands or their sons or sons (of) their husbands or their brothers or sons (of) their brothers or sons (of) their sisters, or their women or what possess their right hands or the attendants having no physical desire among [the] men or [the] children who (are) not aware of private aspects (of) the women. And not let them their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah altogether O believers! So that you may succeed (An-nur, 31).
قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
Say to the believing men they should lower their gaze and they should guard their chastity. That (is) purer for them. Indeed, Allah (is) All-Aware of what they do (An-Nur, 30).
These are things that constitute the decency and modesty of Muslim men and women in the public sphere as the Quran define it. And I wear the hijab simply because I want to follow the Quranic instruction.
[This article is an excerpt from Datuk Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj’s video regarding hijab].