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Islam, Christianity and the Veil (Hijab)


Saturday, November 17, 2007


Never has there seemed to be such a hot topic as this since the world has become "more aware" of Muslims. And out of this population, the practicing Muslima (woman who is of Islamic faith)...stands out more than anyone else I know.


I wonder if the average world citizens knows that even Christian women wore the veil and even pre-dating Christianity? The first recorded instance of veiling for women is recorded in an Assyrian legal text from the 13th century BC which restricted its use to noble women and forbade prostitutes and common women from adopting it. Greek texts have also spoken of veiling and seclusion of women being practiced among the Persian elite and statues from Persepolis depict women both veiled and unveiled, and it seems to be regarded as an attribute of higher status. For me, veiled women have this ethereal beauty about them. A dignity found in the simplicity of the garment.


Biblical references to veils

The Tabernacle (reconstruction) showing the veils which covered the sanctuary and the courtyard Hebrew mitpahath (Ruth 3:15; marg., "sheet" or "apron;" R.V., "mantle"). In Isaiah 3:22 this word is plural, rendered "wimples;" R.V., "shawls" i.e. wraps.
Massekah (Isaiah 25:7; in Isa. 28:20 rendered "covering"). The word denotes something spread out and covering or concealing something else (comp. 2 Cor. 3:13-15).


Masveh (Exodus 34:33, 35), the veil on the face of Moses. This verse should be read, "And when Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face," as in the Revised Version. When Moses spoke to them he was without the veil; only when he ceased speaking he put on the veil (comp. 2 Cor. 3:13, etc.).


Paroheth (Ex. 26:31-35), the veil of the tabernacle and the temple, which hung between the holy place and the most holy (2 Chr. 3:14). In the temple a partition wall separated these two places. In it were two folding-doors, which are supposed to have been always open, the entrance being concealed by the veil which the high priest lifted when he entered into the sanctuary on the day of Atonement. This veil was rent when Christ died on the cross (Matt. 27:51; Gospel of Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).


Tza'iph (Genesis 24:65). Rebekah "took a veil and covered herself." (See also 38:14, 19.) Hebrew women generally appeared in public without veils (12:14; 24:16; 29:10; 1 Sam. 1:12).
Radhidh (Cant. 5:7, R.V. "mantle;" Isaiah 3:23). The word probably denotes some kind of cloak or wrapper.

Women's headcoverings

Main article: Christian Headcovering

Traditionally, in Christianity, women were enjoined to cover their heads in church, just as it was (and still is) customary for men to remove their hat as a sign of respect. This practice is based on 1 Corinthians 11:4-16, where St. Paul writes:


Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil. A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord. For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given (her) for a covering? But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God (New American Bible translation)


I understand that certain feminists and some Muslim women see the wording of women being the glory of man as being sexist. I personally feel anyone can take an interpretation of the Bible or any religious texts to make it suit his or her own needs. What needs to be done is to take this text into the context it was intended.


"Why do Muslim women wear the hijab?"

Canadian Muslimah Sumayyah Hussein explains: It's not the first time this has happened and it is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed.

One of the major misconceptions about the hijab (covering of the body except the face and hands) is that young women are forced to wear it by their parents or by male family members.

Sumayya Syed, 16, says that what parents or men want have nothing to do with it. In fact, she astounds people who ask by saying that every woman should have this form of liberation.
Syed maintains that when a woman is covered, men cannot judge her by her appearance but are forced to evaluate her by her personality, character, and morals. "I tell them that the hijab is not a responsibility, it's a right given to me by my Creator who knows us best. It's a benefit to me, so why not? It's something every woman should strive to get and should want."


Another viewpoint

According to Akim in his blog, he states that: "What we need to note here is the article and possession, it says the head of every man is Christ, however, NOT that the head of every woman is man." This honestly makes more sense to a Roman Catholic like myself.


The woman’s prerogative

"For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Now, this fouls up every authority man tries to exercise over the woman because it says it is the prerogative of the woman to decide on whether to cover her head or not. There is no duty of man to impose this on the woman.


This is usually read as the man ought to have power of the head of every woman and force them to appear in a wifely role or subservient role."

In regards to Islam, I think certain forms of the hijab such as total cover is more of a tribal customary issue rather than religious. Within Islam women are not supposed to feel forced to cover their heads, (however in certain Islamic societies I think there is religious and societal compulsion to do so)...I think again, it is all in the interpretation:


According to Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, Hijab (head cover) for Muslim women is not mandated in the Qur’an. If it is, it is only the subjective interpretation of an ayah (verse) on the part of the reader. Hence, many Islamic scholars say that according to hadith, a woman should cover her whole body, except her face and hands. The majority of Muslims do not know in which hadith this is mentioned. A very limited number of Muslims know that this is in Sunan Abu Dawud. The English translation of Sunan Abu Dawud is in three volumes. Again, nobody ever mentions that it is in Volume Three. Actually, it is in Volume 3, Book XXVII, Chapter 1535, and Hadith number 4092, titled: "How Much Beauty Can A Woman Display?" For the benefit of the readers, the exact hadith is reproduced below:


(4092) 'Aisha said: Asthma', daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the
Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asthma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of the body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands. (Note 3523).

The veil has many critics and just as many supporters. It can be seen as either a liberation for the Muslim woman, (not being the object of sexual desire and basing her self-worth on looks) or as some might see it, as a repression of her spirit. I believe that it takes a strong woman to veil, especially these days within a Western country due to generalizations about Muslims. I see Muslimahs as being in the forefront of their religion because when they practice hijab they are a visible symbol of their faith. Unlike some Muslim men I have known over the years, one cannot immediately recognize if they are Muslim unless they tell you. Unlike a woman....her faith is displayed for all to see...
(still under constructive thought)




Posted by Marianna at 4:40 AM

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