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It's much easier to act as if critics of Islam have a problem with Muslims as people than it is to accept the uncomfortable truth that Islam is different


The Quran


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Last 30 Days
2001 (Post 9/11)

What can we learn about
Islam from this woman?

What Does Islam Teach About...

Veils and Covering

Does Islam require women to cover themselves?


There is some disagreement as to whether the face should be veiled, but almost all scholars agree that a woman's hair should be covered. The covering of cloth is supposed to keep the sexual appetites of passing men at bay when women travel outside the home. This might even save a woman's life, since she is usually assumed to bear the responsibility of unlawful sexual encounters and thus subject to stoning or harassment.


Quran (33:59) - "O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known so as not to be annoyed."  This is from the Noble Quran.  The word 'annoyed' is yu'dhayna, which actually means 'harmed' or 'hurt' elsewhere in the same sura.  How would a woman be 'harmed' for not covering herself?  Let's just say that Yusuf Ali translates it as 'molested' - as in a woman could bring sexual abuse on herself if she is not properly covered.

Quran (24:31) - "And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known." The woman is not only supposed to cover herself, except with relatives, but to look down, so as to avoid making eye-contact with men.

Quran (33:55) - "It shall be no crime in them as to their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their woman, or the slaves which their right hands possess, if they speak to them unveiled" A woman may present herself without a veil only to family and slaves.

Hadith and Sira

Sahih Bukhari (6:321) - Muhammad is asked whether it is right for a young woman to leave her house without a veil. He replies, "She should cover herself with the veil of her companion."

Sahih Bukhari (60:282) - After Muhammad issued the command (Quran 24:31) for women to cover themselves, the women responded by tearing up sheets to cover their faces.

Abu Dawud (32:4092) - The Apostle of Allah... said: "O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands" This was narrated by Aisha.

Abu Dawud (2:641) - The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman who has reached puberty unless she wears a veil.

Sahih Bukhari (52:250) - [The Prophet said] "It is not permissible for a man to be alone with a woman, and no lady should travel except with a Muhram (i.e. her husband or a person whom she cannot marry in any case for ever; e.g. her father, brother, etc.)." - Neither is a woman allowed to travel by herself.

Sahih Muslim (26:5395) - A'isha reported that Sauda went out (in the fields) in order to answer the call of nature even after the time when veil had been prescribed for women. She had been a bulky lady, significant in height amongst the women, and she could not conceal herself from him who had known her. 'Umar b. Khattab saw her and said: Sauda, by Allah, you cannot conceal from us'.... he said:" Permission has been granted to you that you may go out for your needs." - This is proof that Muslim women were told by Muhammad to wear the burka, rather than a simple hijab.  Here, a woman who wanted to relieve herself (without first seeking permission from a man) was identifed by Umar by her height rather than her face, since it would not have been visible.

Sahih Bukhari (8:395): Narrated Umar: "My Lord agreed with me in three things: -1. I said, "O Allah's Messenger, I wish we took the station of Abraham as our praying place (for some of our prayers). So came the Divine Inspiration: And take you (people) the station of Abraham as a place of prayer (for some of your prayers e.g. two rak`at of Tawaf of Ka`ba)". (2.125) -2. And as regards the (verse of) the veiling of the women, I said, 'O Allah's Messenger! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.' So the verse of the veiling of the women was revealed. -3. Once the wives of the Prophet made a united front against the Prophet and I said to them, 'It may be if he (the Prophet) divorced you, (all) that his Lord (Allah) will give him instead of you wives better than you.' So this verse (the same as I had said) was revealed." This interesting hadith reveals that Umar was the source of the verse on veils and that "Allah" followed with a concurring verse.  Evidently, early Muslims were not well-known for skepticism.


Islamic law (Sharia) requires women to cover themselves. The practical application in modern Muslim countries varies with a combination of individual and social taste. The Taliban require full burqas (covering everything, including a mesh for the eyes), while the more secular governments of Turkey and Tunisia once banned headscarves in public buildings (the bans have since been lifted following the rist of Islamism).

The head covering is interpreted as a symbol of male domination by most critics - and by those Muslim women who fight for the right to dress as they please.  When Islamists slit the throat of a 21-year-old Algerian named Katia Bengana for refusing to cover her hair, she defended her choice even as a gun was pointed at her head.

Some apologists insist that the veil is not mandated by the religion, although they do not have anything within the sacred texts to counter the passages in which Muhammad instructed its use. In fact, verse 24:60 says that the veil is optional only for unmarried women too old to have children.

Curiously, the same apologists who claim that women do not have to wear hijabs often make a great deal of noise when employers in the West ask their workers not to wear them for practical reasons.  Although they say that it is not a religious requirement, they certainly do not act like it.

CAIR's Jamal Badawi, often held up as a 'moderate' scholar, insists that the hijab is "a command of Allah to Muslim women" and it should be "the duty of the state" to enforce it.

In 2017, al-Azhar university in Egypt decreed that the veil was compulsory for Muslim women... and not even open for debate: "It is not acceptable that anyone from the public or non-specialized people, regardless of their culture, to voice their opinions on the matter." Can anyone seriously claim that the leading Sunni institution in the world doesn't understand Islam?

Many women do wear the hijab by choice, but it is impossible to say what percentage, since the pressure to cover one's head can be subtle or pronounced.  In 2011, an imam at a supposedly moderate mosque in Sammamish, Washington claimed that Muslim wives wear the hijab because they want to, but then stated that they may be "punished" if they refuse. In Pakistan, uncovered women are routinely attacked with acid. In Iran, Basij fundamentalists have raped and killed dress code violators.

Clerics, such as Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, have said that unveiled victims of public rape invited their attackers: "If I came across a rape crime – kidnap and violation of honour – I would discipline the man and order that the woman be arrested and jailed for life.' Why would you do this, Rafihi? He says because if she had not left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn't have snatched it... If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem."

In responding to a 2014 anti-hijab demonstration by women, an Iranian activist bluntly stated that "it is a man's right to benefit from what he loves. When a man forces himself onto a woman because she is showing off her beauty, this should not be considered rape."

In 2017, an Islamist lawyer on Egyptian TV stated that "when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her."

Even the most prominent Islamic scholar in Europe, Tariq Ramadan, told one of his own rape victims: "Either you wear a veil or you get raped.

In keeping with this theme, Muslim rapists in the West have been known to credit their motivation to the victim's choice of dress (one such example being from Australia in 2011). It is somewhat obvious that many women rely on the veil for for protection against unwanted male attention in Islamic society. Even non-Muslim residents and Western visitors to the Islamic world often find it necessary to cover themselves so as to avoid the harassment of Muslim men on the street.

In 2014, a cleric suggested that babies be put into burqas to protect them against molestation. (Condemning child molesters eventually occurred to him as an afterthought).

in 2018, a refugee to Sweden beat his 14-year-old sister with a baseball bat for refusing to wear the veil.

In 2019, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who famously resists calls to condemn Female Genital Mutilation, was accused of hypocrisy for appearing to care more about the removal of a headscarf than the forced removal of a child's clitoris.

Veils and burqas are increasingly more common in Muslim countries with the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism.  In the West, they are gradually becoming a chic statement of political protest or a symbol of religious distinction.

Palestinian suicide bomber, Zeynab Abu Salam...
she knew how to keep a tight hijab.

Additional Reading:

Why We Don't Wear the Hijab (Video)
Why a Beard is Mandatory in Islam

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