Monday, 27 June 2011



THE HIJAB: An Explanatory of what it is
And how and why to wear it

It has become a trend quite evident in today's world that there is much question or controversy over the hijab, or the head-dress that the muslim women wear. The basic question is to it's validity as an obligation by muslim women to wear it. And the secondary question is whether or not they should follow this practice.

With the following report, I propose to explain the various forms of the hijab itself, and how it is worn, for those women desiring to wear it, but don't know exactly how to do so. And, to answer the questions by muslims and non-muslims alike as to the validity and necessity to wear the hijab, I shall present the reason for it and the proof that it is indeed an obligation upon each believing woman.

The head-dress covering for the female muslim, or the basic hijab, can come in several different styles of essence of make-up and basic design, each with it's own method of application to adorn. The hijab can easily be divided into 3 basic styles: the khimaar, the triangular scarf, and the elongated shawl-scarf.

Khimaar: This is most generally made up of one piece of cloth, cut in a large flowing circle and going on the bias of the cloth towards the outer circular edges. The upper portion, where there is the opening for the face, is naturally narrower so as to provide a close fit to hug the head and enclose to reveal only the face. The opening of the face is then closed tight either by fixed stitches or perhaps a snap or even a safety pit directly under the chin to ensure a tight fit around the face, preventing it from slipping off the head or revealing the neck and/or ears. The khimaar generally comes in two sizes-small and large. The small will most generally cover the head and heck area only-the end of the material hitting at the upper shoulder line. The more large and complete khimaar is as it's name designates-larger-and flows down on all sides, front, and back, covering the shoulders, chest, and arms-the edges of this garment most generally touch the wrist area, or for the smaller woman, will cover even her hands.

Sometimes it consists of two parts-a small fitted cap or tie-scarf to fit on the head as a cap, and the larger, more draping over-section of the khimaar itself.

To better understand the basic nature of the term 'khimaar', it may help to understand the language itself. 'Khimaar' is a resulting term coming from the root 'khaymah', which means tent. The term 'khimaar', then, refers to a tent-like garment or covering.

Triangular Scarf: This piece is usually of two variants. One is that it is merely a triangular cut, to be placed upon the head and then fixed either by tying or pin at the chin in front. The other variant is a piece of square cloth, to be folded over into a triangle and then fixed in similar fashion as described for the first variant.

For both variants of the triangular scarf, some women sometimes opt to tie it in the back, revealing their neck. With this method of application, only the hair is covered. And yet some women opt to fix it in the front under the chin, yet they tuck in all the remaining cloth into the neck region of their garment, merely only covering the neck and head in quite tight fitting material. In both cases, although this is a form of modesty, still it is not sufficient, for it is not a true covering, since it is in fact revealing, and Allah knows best.

Elongated Shawl-Scarf: This is a piece of cloth usually measuring 1 & 1/2 meters to 2 meters in length, and the width may vary anywhere from 1/2 meter to 1 meter. This style takes more practice and determination to learn to wear as well as to keep in place. But-if it is the wider variety-is more covering than that of the triangular shape.

To get the best final result in covering, it is best to begin with centering it upon your head, before wrapping around, off-centered rather than centered. By this, I mean that the center of it, length-wise, should not be at the center of the top of your head. Rather, it should be off-center, causing a longer tail of the shawl on either the right or the left side-whichever side it is more comfortable and adaptable for you to guide the scarf under your chin and then back up around your head, to fasten in of the remaining outer front edge into the front edge of the scarf that is framing your face (this 'fasten' should be somewhere on the side, approximately in the region of the ear). The other edge (width-wise) of the shawl should then lie flat and form a result of flowing to cover the neck, breasts, and shoulder areas, according to the size of the width of the shawl itself.

Remember that this type of hijab is easier and more frequent to losen off of your head, and so as a result, some women prefer to affix this hijab (as well as the triangular scarf) at it's point of closure (where the two overlapping sides meet and connect) with some sort of a fastener-such as a hair pin or perhaps a hat-pin type. It is most inconvenient, not to mention in opposition of the nature or ideal of the hijab itself, to have to be consistently re-doing your adornmnent of the hijab in public.

The above-mentioned are the basic three forms of hijab. Now, on to the niqab, or the face covering. The strict description of the niqab, as per Arabic language goes, is that it is a veil, or a face covering, which is affixed to the head in some format (such as tied in the back, or closed with a snap or velcroe, or attached via a stretch elastic strap, etc.). And, according to this definition, this type of face covering leaves a slit opening which reveals only the eyes. Depending upon the way the niqab is made, and how the individual wears it, the size of the slit may vary on person to person-some revealing more, while others less.

This niqab is most generally affixed and worn over the underlying hijab (scarf, shawl, or khimaar).

The abaya, or the outer 'over cloak' may take on several distinct designs. The basic two styles is that which is worn from the shoulders, and that which is worn from on top of the head.

For the type which is worn from the shoulders, there are basically two distinctive types. One is that of a more fitted cut, and therefore tight-fitting such as a coat. It may be very loose and flowing from the shoulders down to the floor-but it's very nature of the cut-design of the garment-that it has fitted shoulders, arm-holes and sleeves, makes it fitted and revealing in it's very nature. The second major style within this group of 'shoulder abayas' is that which it's cut is less definitive and fitting, and more square and open, as is the traditional abaya. With each of these abayas, and for any abaya worn on the shoulders, it is imperative that the hijab is worn over the abaya. This is to ensure that there is some fabric over flowing from the neck, shoulders, and chest region. If this shoulder abaya is worn on top of the hijab, with the hijab tucked inside of the neck opening (which, by the way, many women tend to wear it, sadly), that gives a more easy opportunity for onlookers to notice the size and proportions of the woman's upper body. And this is in defeat of the essential purpose of the hijab (in this essence, I mean the hijab of the complete covering-not just the piece of cloth worn on the head) altogether.

As for the abaya which is worn on the head, the basic cut and design of it is more full and flowing and loose-fitting than which is the type worn on the shoulders. This basically holds true even for the latest developments in some of the newer styles which are partially fitted for the shoulders and arms area. Some (the older fashions) of the abayas are completely open down the middle of the front, and only meet at the front, revealing the dress underneath. To cover herself well with such an abaya, the woman needs to manually or physically over wrap the two portions of the front and then hold it in place with her hands as she maneuvers about. Needless to say, the mere logistics of the design of this abaya, and it's lack of fastening to keep the front closed presents more difficulty for the womans as well as the high likelihood that as she moves about, there will inevitably come situations in which she won't be completely covered. The modern abayas of this style have small openings at either side where the natural point of exit for the hands comes. This development in itself is rather new, somewhere in the range of 15 years now. Previously, there was no such opening for the hands at the outer edges. If she wished to keep the abaya on her and to let it cover her in length, then she needed to keep her hands inside, holding the abaya together and on herself from within the inside, creating great difficulty in any maneuverings and interactions with others. Very difficult-if possible at all-to grab hold of a door handle or to handle merchandise or money in the market, etc. Double hard if she had to take care of or handle a child. In most cases, in those days, the women would bring the abaya together in the front at the waist region in over-lapping fashion, then she would flip the lower ends of the abaya over her forearms, bringing the lower edge up to her hips or mid-thighs in a rather hip-hugging fashion. This would serve a double purpose of keeping the abaya together in the front as well as the every important result of freeing up her hands for practical usage. But it would also then naturally reveal whatever dress or pants she was wearing under the abaya, as well as in it's resulting hip-hugging fashion, would of course drag every passerby's attention to her hips. Naturally, not a very good 'hijab' in the sense of covering, for it tends to attract more attention of onlookers rather than what it prevented.

Nowadays, the common form of the abaya worn on the head is one which provides rather wide sleeve-like apertures for the arms, and the two front sections are cut larger than what is needed to merely meet in the middle-rather, they overlap and are fixed to either side by fasteners and ties near the waist region. The under flap is affixed towards the one side by fasteners underneath (inside) and the upper flap is affixed to the other side by fasteners on the outside. Yet another form of abaya has developed-which has been dubbed the 'Islamic abaya'-it is either of one large tubular piece of cloth with opening for the face and neck, resting only on the top of the head (also, of course, openings at the sides for the hands); or perhaps originally open in the front but sewn a permanent seam down the front so as not to open, leaving only the opening for the head.

In each case of whatever style of the abaya chosen, the type that is worn on the head is the last thing to go on over the hijab and niqab. The middle section which lays on the top of the head normally falls about right in the middle of the top of the crown of the head.

Although this type of abaya is perhaps the best choice if one is desiring the most modest and complete form of covering, it is a bit more difficult to properly wear and maneuver about while donning, for it does have frequent tendency to slip off the top of the head to the shoulders. To wear this type of abaya, the woman needs to take frequent attention to adjusting it and returning it to it's resting spot on her head. This is most often true at times of sitting and standing or bending over, or getting in and out of a car. And if she has children or any other load to carry, or needs to move about in manner that requires more physical movements and adjustments, this type of abaya proves to be more of a hindrance than a help. In such cases, it may be more wise and prove easier to opt for the shoulder type and use a rather large flowing scarf or khmaar in order to properly cover her shoulders and chest regions.

As a closing statement, I would like to remind all that the basic purpose and meaning of and for the hijab is to cover and conceal. If the hijab is revealing or perhaps attractive (and therefore a distraction) in any way, then it has not met the goal and requirement of concealing.

The hijab is something that Allah (SWT), has written as a guiding law for all of the believing women. And to disregard it in disobedience is a grave sin. And Allah said:

'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; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husband's sons, their brothers or their brother's sons or their sister's sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hand possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex…' (s. 24, v. 31)

And Allah knows best in all matters.

I pray that we shall each, wherever we are in the world and surrounded by whatever society, shall find within ourselves the courage and determination to seek Allah's pleasure by implementing His guidance and His commands into our daily lives.

Do not fear the onlookers of the kuffar who may want to somehow intimidate you, my dear sisters, or otherwise pressure you into rejecting the hijab and literally letting your hair down. Nor should you be influenced by those weaker muslims who have, for whatever reason, discarded and all but forgotten the hijab themselves. Do not be fooled by the trickery of those who would claim that to don the hijab is merely a matter of personal choice.

Religion itself is a personal choice. And to pray or not, or to fast or not, etc., is a matter of personal choice also. But before we make the choice to pray or to fast, we know that these are obligatory duties we owe to Allah, and so we perform or observe them in practice. And so is the hijab-a duty we owe to Allah which we should observe and practice. It is obligatory upon each one of us to wear the hijab, as He has so obviously and clearly directed the believing women to do so.

Are you a believing woman? If so, then there should be no question in your mind nor hesitance in your heart to take on the hijab as He has commanded you!


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