Why do Muslim women veil themselves?

The modest attire of Muslim women has become so commonplace, that hijab, the Arabic word used to refer to the Islamic dress code, is now commonly used in English. One of the most visible aspects of Islam, hijab is often the subject of controversy as well. Some view it as a sign of the subjugation of Muslim women, while some others see it as an obstacle to the integration of Muslims in Western society.

However, to Muslim women who practice hijab, it represents an act of obedience to God. It also represents a step towards freedom, i.e. freedom from being judged by their looks rather than their intellect.

Modesty – Required of both men and women

A common misconception about hijab is that it is mandated only for women. Hijab is actually mandated for both men and women. The difference lies in how they are required to implement it. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and 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…”

[Al-Qur'an 24:30-31]

Both men and women are required to dress and conduct themselves in a manner that befits their dignity and is not the cause of temptation for others. Hair is considered part of a woman’s physical attractiveness. Therefore, covering of hair for the woman is considered essential to modesty of her attire, even in the Bible. This is the reason that nuns and orthodox Jewish women also cover their hair.

It is the outer dress of Muslim women which includes the head covering that is usually referred to as hijab. Hijab is not merely a covering dress, but more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. The headscarf is an outer manifestation of an inner commitment to worshipping Allah – it symbolizes a commitment to piety. Self or inner morality is what gives meaning to the external scarf.

The Face Veil

In the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars, a woman should cover everything except her face and hands. The face veil however, is worn by some Muslim women, who either consider it a requirement, or wish to adhere to a higher level of modesty.

Hijab – A liberation

A Typical style of Hijab worn by Muslim women

In a society in which women’s beauty has been commoditized, and where women often end up associating their self-worth with their looks, the hijab and its concomitant de-emphasis of physical beauty can be tremendously liberating. Muslim women wear the hijab out of obedience to God, while recognizing the immense wisdom behind His commandment.



  1. Stephen Villano says:

    I’d like to add the fact that the veil is a common sense and necessary thing to wear in the desert.
    During my deployment to the Persian Gulf region, we experienced quite a few sandstorms.
    Don’t let the name fool you, sandstorms are only PART sand, of varying grain sizes from large, highly abrasive particles to small, polishing particles. In with all of that is dust, finer than talcum powder and with the consistency pretty much the same as Portland cement dust. I use the analogy for a reason. It BEHAVES like concrete in your hair and scalp, hardening like a thin, irritating layer on your skin.
    Therein lies the veil’s original purpose: Protection from dust that would literally choke you to death.
    We were issued dust masks, they clogged in minutes.
    I promptly learned how to properly wear the keffiyeh. REAL quick. THAT didn’t clog as quickly, as movement moved it around one’s face a bit.
    The veil served the same, exact purpose.
    Others carried that traditional wear item with them over the centuries and its original purpose was lost to the west.

  2. Clay Zoid says:

    I asked a muslim woman why they dressed to cover all their skin and this kinda explains why, in case you did not know….

  3. Anonymous says:

    Get over it, you have your freedom in the USA. If you want to live here dress like American's.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I believe there is also something called "freedom of religion" and "freedom of expression" that is part of the American life. Therefore, based on our own established human rights, they can choose to dress this way just as you can choose to dress the way you wish. Not looking for debate, just stating fact.

  5. Don't use apostrophes to pluralize.

  6. Valerie O'Neill says:

    I understand the why; however, I think the major problem is that many Islamic extremists have actually subjugated and abused women – forcing the veil on them, so wearing the veil has become a symbol of oppression for (western) women who do not follow or understand these beliefs. Especially where many Muslim women do not go outside without the presence of a man – this urks women here. Instead of hiding, why not simply make society more accountable? Don't wear make up, don't put product in your hair, don't shave your body and wear loose and comfortable clothing that still allows you to communicate with others with the use of your expression and face? But no… they still have to look pretty for their husbands; therefore, this turns into a gender thing for me. Many feel that suffering on earth is the way you attain the highest level of paradise in death… these women are pretty devout – but to (western) women here, all it symbolizes are what the fanatics do – ie: lashings from the moral police, stoning your first wife to marry a second, hanging a woman that was raped, etc. The hijab doesn't offend me; however, the face veil does… this is due to our own history for equal rights and fighting to become persons. Many people sneer at religion because it's been the root cause of so much judgement here in the West. (IMO). It also starts to grate on people when demands are made such as having private areas at the airport to ID yourself, wanting public pools closed down to use in private, or wanting male students to be taken out of your teaching space – then that becomes discrimination to the male students. This concerns me immensely because I believe that where people of faith can become so fanatic and devout, how long will it take before we become another Iran? Human nature always allows history to repeat itself over and over again. On the other hand, I'd like to see Western women stop feeding the misgyny beast and supporting our rape culture – ie: posting body shots, hating on each other for small imperfections; being stupid to get men, idolizing Kim Kardashian…, creating their own gender oppression under the guise of being free to do what they want, etc.

  7. Aleck Clamshell Hinderbroth says:

    Did you really just tell someone they have freedom and then immediately tell someone to dress a certain way?

  8. Teresa Roper says:

    I find this funny, and stupid also. I am in an area where many women where not only the Hijab, but many also a veil; and where mascara and eyeliner and lipstick etc. Modesty and to shield their beauty? colourful attention getting hijads? WTHECK?

  9. I truly believe. In wearing the face veil. Some people make fun of the sisters that do, or the r making jokes about it . And it is stated in the Quran n in the hadith. It is not funny or stupid. U will see how the peoplein biblical times had dress. And the women also covered their face when they werearoung strange men, n they cover their whole body when they had to go outings public.

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