The controversy surrounding the Hijab, a religious head covering supposedly only worn by Muslim women, has been a contentious issue across the world over the past few years . Supporters argue that it is an essential expression of religious and cultural freedom and personal choice, allowing women to adhere to their faith and culture and maintain their modesty. Critics, on the other hand, view it as a symbol of oppression, arguing that it restricts women’s autonomy and perpetuates gender inequality.
The debate has intensified in various countries, leading to legal battles, social tensions, and discussions about cultural assimilation versus multiculturalism.
The controversy reflects broader conversations about religious freedom, women’s rights, and the intersection of religion and public life in diverse societies.
The valley of Kashmir is now embroiled in the same controversy. Recently, several female students from Vishwa Bharti Higher Secondary School in Srinagar alleged that their principal made a derogatory statement, telling them to ” go to a Madrassa if they wanted to wear the Hijab inside the school’.
The incident occurred on Thursday, 8th June 2023. This incident highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the Hijab, with different opinions prevailing. While some argue that women should wear the Hijab, others believe that they should not. It is crucial to recognize that women’s voices too should be heard in this matter.
I have heard some women saying, ” the Hijab is our choice” and I reckon that nobody has a right to challenge anyone’s choice. Everyone should have the right to live and choose his/her dress code without imposition. Promoting tolerance and respecting individual choices is vital and intolerance towards others must be a punishable offense in all honorable nations. In schools, students are required to adhere to a uniform dress code and wear a simple Hijab on top of it, not a trendy and elaborately designed one that has become popular nowadays.
The main purpose of the Hijab is to promote modesty and simplicity, not to display glamour.
What is actually the Hijab?
Different religious and cultural traditions have their own names for the head coverings worn by women. Jews refer to it as the ‘Tichel’, Christians as the ‘Mantilla’, Hindus as the ‘Ghunghat’ or ‘Pallu’, Sikhs as the ‘Chunni’, and Muslims use terms like ‘Khimar’, ‘Chador’, ‘Burqa’, ‘Hijab’ etc.
Regardless of the name or style, the Hijab is simply a piece of cloth worn by women of diverse faiths and races to shield their bodies from unwanted male gaze. It serves as a means for women to guard their modesty and preserve their dignity, protecting them from objectification and unwanted attention. It allows women to define their personal boundaries and assert their autonomy over their bodies.
When Christian nuns wear the Hijab, there is no problem. When Hindu and Sikh women wear it, there is no problem. When Jewish women wear it, there is no problem. However, when Muslim women wear it, there is a big problem. The Hijab is not a sign or symbol of subjugation or suppression of women, but rather an expression of individual choice and individual freedom. When a woman walks around in a bikini or a skirt, nobody bothers her. When a woman wears male clothing, nobody bothers her either.
However, when a Muslim woman chooses to adopt the Hijab, all official and unofficial forces come into action, leaving no stone unturned to harass and harm that Muslim woman. The fact remains that hate is short-lived, while love and truth are everlasting. No power on the earth can annihilate the culture, traditions, customs, and faith of Muslims.
“Aahun se soz-e-ishq mitaya nah jayega,
Phonkun se yeh chiraagh bujhaya nah jayega.”
[The fire of love cannot be extinguished through sighs;
This lamp cannot be put out with blows and puffs.]
History and Importance of the Hijab?
It may come as a surprise to many that Islam was not the inventor of modesty or the Hijab. These concepts existed in the laws of religions that were revealed before Islam, and traces of them can still be found in the modified books of those faiths.
”But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved, For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.” [The Bible,1 Corinthians 11:5-6]
”God made you women, so that you shall lower your gaze, do not look at men, keep your feet close, cover your head and do not disclose the garment, which should be concealed with the veil.” (Rig Veda Book 8 Hymn 33 Mantra 19-20)
The Hijab represents a woman’s submission to her Creator and her connection with her faith or culture. It elevates her position in the sight of Allah or in her society and endears her to her spouse. No man with a sense of gayrah (honour) would like any stranger to gaze at her female folk lustfully. In Islam, the Hijab is a test for the Muslim woman. It is clear from the Qur’an and the Hadiths that the Hijab is a religious obligation, which a woman has to undertake.
There is no scholarly difference on this point and the whole Muslim Ummah has applied it for over 14 centuries. When a Muslim woman wears the Hijab, she is obeying and submitting to Allah. The following texts from the authentic Islamic books refer to the obligatory nature of the Hijab:
”O Prophet! Ask your wives, daughters, and believing women to draw their cloaks over their bodies. In this way, it is more likely that they will be recognized ˹as virtuous˺ and not be harassed. And Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [ Quran : 33 :59]
”There are two categories of people of Hell whom I have not yet seen: a group having whips like the tails of oxen with which they will beat people. And women who will be dressed but appear to be naked―they will incline to evil and make others incline to it. Their heads will be like the humps of a two-humped camel inclined to one side. They will not enter Paradise and they will not smell its fragrance even though its fragrance can be smelled from such-and-such a far distance.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith no. 2128)
Dear women , the choice is yours: Do you want to wear clothes approved by politicians, actors and actresses, but not approved by the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), thus potentially leaving Islam and entering Hellfire? Or do you want to live this earthly life in a disciplined manner, following the guidelines laid down by the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) , the greatest genius ever born? Politicians, actors, and actresses are like candles that burn out quickly but the holy prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the dazzling sun that has been shining on the world for fourteen long centuries.
It is important to note that the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) was not an ordinary man; he was praised by truly intelligent and unbiased people worldwide. Read below what Michael H. Hart , a non-Muslim genius writes about your beloved prophet:
”My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.”
If giving up the Hijab or wearing fewer clothes is considered freedom, then animals are freer than human beings because they (the animals) wear nothing at all. Wearing the Hijab allows a woman to free herself from the superficial and self-centered desire to showcase her beauty and engage in competition with other women.
This innate desire, which is intensified by extravagant displays, can be tempered through modesty and covering. With the Hijab, a woman is no longer burdened by an obscene society’s expectations of what is considered desirable. She no longer feels compelled to rely on her physical appearance to gain recognition or acceptance from those around her. In fact she lives to make herself happy first , rather than to make others happy first.
I humbly request those who harbor intentions to harm and harass Muslims to redirect their time and efforts towards more constructive endeavours. Instead of worrying about the Hijab and the freedom of Muslim women , focus on building your career, contributing to the progress and prosperity of your own families, or addressing pressing issues in your respective areas such as hunger, poverty, and lack of education.
Respect the autonomy of Muslims, particularly Muslim women, and let them live the life of their choice , not of your choice. It is crucial to recognize that forsaking the Hijab by Muslim women will not resolve global challenges like climate change, poverty, growing inflation or unemployment. Refuse to be deviated by your corrupt leaders who attempt to divert your attention from matters of utmost importance to trivial concerns like the Hijab. Kindly live and let live peacefully.
About The Author’s
Aubaid Ahmad Akhoon is a renowned Educational Columnist Associate Editor of the Weekly publication ‘Education Quill.’ He currently serves as the Senior EDP Head at DD Target PMT Kashmir, a reputable institute renowned for its coaching classes in the Medical/JEE/Foundation Classes
Sahil Sharifdin Bhat. The author lives at Lethapora Pulwama. His books are available on Amazon , Flipkart etc . He can be reached at email@example.com