The Significance Importance of Veil & Influence on Our Lives and Sociality

For many women, wearing the hijab was and is an element of piety, but it’s been coopted into a political symbol.

Sociologist Caitlin Killian explains that in the past as in present, the tradition of veiling has been influenced by different religious interpretations as well as by politics.

Many people are surprised to learn that the hijab, in the sense of a head-covering appears nowhere in the Qur’an.

The General Concept of Veil:

The word “veil” could be used to explain a wide range of headscarves and clothing, the term has found important meaning and application among Muslims and Christianity throughout history.

  1. A veil is a soft covering of clothing or hanging cloth that is intended to cover some part of the head or face or an object of some significance. It has often been used by women in many cultures and religions as well.
  2. Khimar (small veil covering one’s head and bosom)
  3. A kind of covering sheet (veil) that is used by the woman to cover her body

History of the veil:

Veiling has a long history in European, Asian, and African societies. The practice has been prominent in different forms in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The practice of veiling is especially associated with women and sacred objects, though in some cultures, it is men, rather than women, who are expected to wear a veil. Besides its enduring religious significance, veiling continues to play a role in some modern secular contexts, such as wedding customs.

Coptic Christian woman wearing a veil (1918)

The Religious Concept of Veil:

The concept, however, is not unique to Islam but embraced by other religions too such as Judaism and Christianity. Catholic nuns still wear head coverings, and Mary the mother of Jesus, peace be upon him, is always depicted in a head covering. Orthodox Jewish women are also required to cover their hair.

Significance of the Veil in Islam:

Islam is a world religion; its presence can be felt all over the world through conversion or migration. However, the most visible symbol of Islam’s presence in the West is the hijab the headdress used by a Muslim woman to cover her head. Hijab, or veil among Muslims, takes the center stage whenever there is a battle between truth and falsehood. It has always remained a debatable, sensitive and controversial issue for decades, across the world.

“And tell the believing women to reduce of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which appears thereof and to wrap their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, fathers, sons, husband’s sons, brothers, brother’s son, sister’s sons…” (Qur’an 24:31)

This verse in the Holy Quran tells us that veil is a religious obligation, and every woman faithful to Islam should cover their head. A woman who wears a hijab doesn’t show off her beauty.

The Purpose of the Islamic Veil:

The veil is considered as a sign of obedience among Muslim women in Islam. The veil is an important part of sharia, that women are obliged to wear. It is not merely an identification means, adornment, or a barrier for women to fulfill their roles and task in society. Wearing a veil that appropriates the guidance of the Messenger of Allah -peace, and prayer of Allah be upon him- is an obligation for women, just as they are obliged to perform any other obligations in sharia, such as prayers, fasts, etc.

The veil In Islamic Scripture Texts:

The majority of Muslims and non-Muslims believe that the Islamic Scripture Text Quran explicitly and unequivocally prescribes veiling upon Muslim women. but somewhere some believe nothing is mentioned in the Quran.

  1. Every occurrence of the term hijab (the Arabic word that is regularly translated as the veil in English); and
  2. All Quranic verses address the question of Muslim women’s proper attire, even though the Quran may not use the term hijab.

In Quran:

Although the tradition of wearing the hijab is deeply rooted in Islam,
Qur’anic verses relating to dress codes use the terms khimār (head covering) and jilbāb (a dress or cloak) rather than ḥijāb. The term veil (Khimar) is used in the Quran a total of five times to refer specifically to the way a woman should dress and walk-in public. These passages are listed below for easy reference.

In Hadith:

The term hadith refers to the tradition of Sayings by the Prophet Mohamed, and of actions he did. This tradition is viewed by Muslims as a key resource of practical information on how Muslims are supposed to behave on a daily basis.

  • Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba: “Aisha used to say: ‘When (the Verse): “They should draw their veils (khimaar) over their breasts (juyyub),” was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and veiled themselves (Arabic: فَاخْتَمَرْنَ, lit.’ to put on a hijab’) with the cut pieces.’” Sahih al-Bukhari, 6:60:282, 32:4091. This hadith is often translated as “…and covered their heads and faces with the cut pieces of cloth,”as the Arabic word used in the text (Arabic: فَاخْتَمَرْنَ) could include or exclude the face and there was ikhtilaf on whether covering the face is farḍ, or obligatory. The most prominent sharh, or explanation, of Sahih Bukhari, is Fatḥ al-Bārī which states this included the face.
  • Yahya related to me from Malik from Muhammad ibn Zayd ibn Qunfudh that his mother asked Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “What clothes can a woman wear in prayer?” She said, “She can pray in the khimār (headscarf) and the diri’ (Arabic: الدِّرْعِ, lit.’shield, armature’, transl.’a woman’s garment’) that reaches down and covers the top of her feet.” Muwatta Imam Malik Book 8 Hadith 37.
  • Aishah narrated that Allah’s Messenger said: “The Salat (prayer) of a woman who has reached the age of menstruation is not accepted without a khimār.” Jami` at-Tirmidhi 377.

Islamic Jurisprudence & Law:

Islamic law is oftentimes used as a synonym for sharia. However, we must understand this Islamic law to be a law created by men, and not the law of God which itself is perforce unknown and unknowable. In fact, the Arabic term sharia literally means “path,” and is used in the Quran to refer to God’s law.

Evidence for The Obligation of Veil Dress Codes:

There are only a few references to veiling in the hadith and most of these actually refer to the khimar, which is restricted linguistically to head covering. The covering of the face is only mentioned in three hadith and never by the command of the Prophet Muhammad. In fact, in one hadith, the companions of the Prophet Muhammad are even surprised at one woman’s wearing of the niqab during her time of bereavement.

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful. ( Qur’an 33:59)

Scholars, such as Imam Abul A’la Mawdudi from the Indian subcontinent, suggest that these verses refer to covering the entire body, including the face and hands. The order ‘cast their outer garments’ in Arabic is similar to the phrase ‘draw together. Scholars say that as a result of this verse, the women at the time of the Prophet drew together their garments over their entire body, including the face.

Narrated ‘Aisha (wife of Prophet Muhammad): The Messenger of God, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, used to offer the Fajr prayer and some believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the Fajr prayer with him and then they would return to their homes unrecognized. (Bukhari)

This hadith has been dated some time after verse 33:59 was revealed. Proponents of the the veil dress codes say that this hadith shows that the women during the time of the Prophet were not recognisable and hence they must have worn the veil dress codes.

…And when ye ask (the Prophet’s wives) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. (Qur’an 33:53)

The wives of the Prophet were indeed required to wear the veil dress code by this Qur’anic verse. This is because the special status they had meant they had to be kept clear from all gossip and slander. Scholars say that if the wives of the Prophet, as the best feminine examples, were required to wear the veil dress code, then the ruling falls on all women.

O Wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the other women. (Quran 33:32)

Most scholars are in agreement that the verse about the screen, or concealing of the face, is only obligatory on the wives of the Prophet. They say the verses are a clear indication that the wives of the Prophet are much more restricted in their movement due to their political position, and that their code of conduct does not constitute a code of conduct for women in general.

Evidence Against The Obligation of Veil Dress Codes:

Most scholars, including the four main schools of Islamic jurisprudence, hold the view that the veil dress code is not an obligation.

Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof… ( Quran 24:30–31)

According to the majority of contemporary scholars ‘, what is apparent of it’ refers to the hands and face.

Abdullah bin Abbas reports that the Prophet was riding a camel with Al-Fadhl, Abdullah’s brother, behind him. A beautiful woman came to ask the Prophet about the Hajj of her father. Al Fadhl began to stare at her; her beauty impressed him a lot. The Prophet (PBUH) having noticed this while Al Fadhl was busy looking, put his hand behind and turned his face away from her hither and thither as she went along with them. Al-Abbas said to the Prophet, “you are twisting the neck of your nephew!” The Prophet replied, “I noticed that both the boy and the girl were young; and I feared that Satan may intervene”. (Tirmidhi and Bukhari)

Scholars argue that the Prophet controlled the boy Al Fadhl’s gaze, but didn’t mention the fact that the woman was not covering her face. As a rule, anything that Prophet Muhammad stays silent about is tacit approval. This hadith would seem to indicate strongly that the veil dress code is not obligatory.

Obligation V/S recommendation in The West Muslim World:

The Scholars in the west, Some contemporary scholars have gone further in their rulings about the niqab in the West. Although they may agree with its practice in Muslim countries, they say that it is harmful in the West and should therefore be avoided.

  • Some people believe that the veil dress code is recommended (sunnah)
  • Everybody believes that inviting people to Islam (da'wah) is obligatory (fardh)
  • The niqab is often a very significant barrier to da'wah in the West where the concept of face-covering has never been known
  • If a recommended action is a barrier to an obligatory act, one must not sacrifice the fardh for the sunnah

Freedom of choice

Although the much stronger scholarly opinion holds that the niqab is not an obligation in Islam, it is appreciated that there is an opinion that believes it is. Differences in opinion are respected and celebrated, which is why a follower of one of these opinions will rarely say the other is completely wrong, or haram.

Covering Head/Hairs in Islam:

Among other body parts, the head has been given a lot of emphases, when describing clothing among women in Islam. This has been the center of controversy, especially in Western countries, where it is argued that this practice undermines women in society and may promote security threats.

Islamic Clothing of the veil in Islam:

Clothing has always been an important factor in Islam, it is widely mentioned in the Quran and Hadith, and explanations have been given to clarify the need for a particular code of dressing in society.

The Veil Dress Code:

The Hijab is the most commonest, especially in Western countries. This covers the neck and head alone. However, most women outside these countries are required to use the traditional veil, mainly in the Muslim World.

Rules of Veil in Islam:

This is highly emphasized in cases where the woman is in public, say, in the company of strange people who might not know her or understand her religion. Importantly, Islam is composed of a host of prohibitions and conditions, which define one’s way of dressing, as dictated by Islamic teachings.

“ No woman should mix with a woman and describe her to her husband so that it is as if he can see her”. ( Muslim)

These are some rules in Islam;

  1. Covering all of her body but the exception
  2. Not functioned as Adornment
  3. The material (the fabric) must be thick, not sheer/transparent
  4. It should be loose, not tight
  5. It is given no fragrance or perfume
  6. The clothes should differ between men and women
  7. The clothes should cover the women’s whole body.
  8. It doesn’t resemble the clothes of infidel women (disbeliever)
  9. It is not ‘popularity clothes’

Final thoughts:

The spiritual hijab and esoteric veil are what protect and seek the seeker of truth like an esoteric protector at all times from problems, worries, noise around the environment, as well as negative traits and inferiority.

I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective and until next time, keep reflecting.

Thank you for reading!

Finally, I pray to Allah to benefit those who read this article and others, grant me truthfulness in what I say and do, preserve my thoughts and my pen from deviation and guide me in all my affairs.

And all praise and thanks are due to Allah, without Whose help and guidance nothing can be accomplished. May Allah bless you with happiness, success, guidance, health, and knowledge. May Almighty Allah give us the strength to follow the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and make us part of the group who is among the most righteous! Ameen.

Be patient with yourself. And Keep learning!!

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Writer | network engineer | Traveler | Biker | Polyglot. I’m so deep even the ocean gets jealous

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Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid

Raja Muhammad Mustansar Javaid

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Writer | network engineer | Traveler | Biker | Polyglot. I’m so deep even the ocean gets jealous