Hijab – Liberation or Oppression?
By Mohamedhusein Kara (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Islam has constantly emphasized on the concept of modesty in religion. In chapter 24, verse 31, Allah commands the Prophet; “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste)…”
Islam introduced and made hijab compulsory on women as part of decency in the interaction between members of the opposite sex. Men, whether they confess or not, are slaves of lust. Thus, among the functions of hijab is to shield women from abuse and harm – which unfortunately is widespread in today’s society. Hijab sends a signal to such men that the wearer is a modest and chaste woman. It shows she is sanctified to one man and is off-limits to others. Not only that, hijab eliminates the chances of extramarital affairs, boosting the preservation of marriage.
Hijab isn’t just a piece of cloth on a woman’s head. It’s a way of life. It is an attitude in itself. It is how a woman presents herself, how she chooses to be recognized. Just because some women have their hair covered, they assume the requirement of Hijab fulfilled. Hijab actually requires more than just covering your head.
Some Muslim women believe that although the principles of modesty are clearly outlined in the Quran, they perceive the wearing of the headscarf as a cultural interpretation of these scriptures and therefore opt not to wear Hijab. Women may opt not to wear Hijab due to conflicting reasons, some may be uncomfortable, and for some it may be a personal choice. Islam does not permit Muslims to judge women who don’t wear Hijab as that is a grave misdeed on its own. The Quran clearly states; “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256).
Some feminists and the West have labeled hijab as ‘oppressive.’ You will find most of these activists are Christian and therefore say Mary is the mother of Jesus. In all of Mary’s pictures, she is seen with a veil over head, covering her hair. Looking at one owns religious history and then passing a comment about another is a miscalculation and very sad. Hijab is NOT a symbol of oppression. In fact, the display of semi naked women on commercials and in the entertainment industry in the West is a true sign of oppression. Neither does the hijab prevent a woman from acquiring knowledge nor does it prevent them from contributing to the betterment of human society. Historically, there are numerous women who wore Hijab and greatly contributed to Islam. Among them is Bibi Khadijah, who spent all her wealth to promote Islam. Lady Zahra, the beacon of light. She faithfully stood by her husband and also advocated for him during his struggle for his right to the caliphate – and I could go o n and on.
Hijab actually is a symbol of freedom. This is because women no longer have to comply with the expected standards of the society as they are glamorously showcased in the world today. Hijab gives women the freedom to set their own standards to live up to, without worrying about what the society has to say – which is clearly extremely liberating.
In Islam, women are considered gems. What do you do with a gem? Safeguard it. Similarly, women must be safeguarded too.