From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat

Queen Elizabeth II of the UK wearing a traditional British scarf
Hijab, Purdah, Niqab, Burqa and Khimar are all terms variously used to describe the head-scarves worn by Muslim women.

In the Quran

Verses 24:31-32

Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their natural and artificial beauty except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, and that they disclose not their beauty save to their husbands, or to their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers, or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or their women, or what their right hands possess, or such of male attendants as have no sexual appetite, or young children who have no knowledge of the hidden parts of women.

- Quran 24:31-32

The Quran begins by instructing believing men not to leer at strangers and to dress in a decent manner. Next, women are given similar instructions. Each gender is taught not to sexually objectify the other. However, whereas females are trusted to follow the commandment, males are not and therefore additional safeguards are made for women, by instructing them to cover their heads in front of strange men.

These teachings are justified by the fact that to this day there remains a greater chance of women being objectified than men. For example, the number of establishments worldwide dedicated to female strippers far outnumbers the numbers found for male (at more than nine to one, by some estimates). The effects on female self-image are also marked with the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery finding more than 1.5 million cosmetic procedures are conducted on women in the USA each year - almost ten times more than the number men undergo. Similarly, eating disorders linked with social pressures around body image such as anorexia are also found to be up to ten times more prevalent in women than men. 

Verse 33:60

Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw close to them portions of their loose outer coverings. That is nearer that they may thus be distinguished and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

- Quran 4:138

The Quran also advances the reasoning that women are less likely to be sexually attacked if they are dressed in a modest manner. By wearing the hijab, Muslim women are immediately recognised as chaste through their symbolic public attire, so no man can claim they were mislead regarding a lady's intentions or claim they did not know she wished to remain chaste.

To this day, the majority of victims of sexual attacks worldwide are female, with more than 7 women raped for every man annually in the UK with 2.5% of British women sexually abused annually, against just 0.4% of men.


One of the earliest modern critics of the Hijab was Lord Cromer (1841-1917) a Christian British imperialist who served as the Consul-General of Egypt. Notably, Cromer was the head of a movement which opposed the right of women to vote in the UK.

In some countries, the Islamic head-covering has been banned such as by the government of Nicolas Sarkozy in France. Muslims have reacted by pointing out such laws are anti-women, as they restrict their right to choose their own clothes. Nevertheless, non-Muslim women are free to entirely cover their bodies and heads during the cold months of winter in France, outlining the alleged hypocrisy among the critics of the Hijab.

Comparison with other faiths and cultures

Many other faiths have adopted similar customs. In orthodox Judaism women are also expected to cover their hair and many wear wigs to achieve this in public to this day. Meanwhile in Christianity Mary, the mother of Jesus, is typically portrayed wearing a headscarf and even as recently as a few decades ago it was common in the Christian nations of Europe and North America for women to leave their homes wearing headscarves.

See also