Your Hijab Questions Answered

What do you want to know about the way Muslim women dress, the headscarf, and the hijab? Beliefnet answers your questions here.

BY: Dilshad D. Ali
Islam Editor


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Why do women choose to cover themselves or wear the hijab?

This is an intensely personal decision. Of course not all Muslim women follow these rules of modest dressing. Some adapt these rules to modern times (like wearing a headscarf over Western-style clothing that still covers the body). Some women argue that modesty is a state of mind and has nothing to do with clothing. Still others say that what is written in the Qur’an and in hadiths cannot be denied--that Muslim women must cover up.

Those who choose to follow Islamic dress codes do so for myriad reasons: They feel compelled to honor what the Qur’an asks of them. Or they feel covering up will identify them to the world as a Muslim woman. Or they feel that covering up will give them safety and the liberty to move about freely. Still others say that covering up and downplaying their physical beauty allows them to be appreciated for their mind, not their body. And for some women, it’s not a choice. Some Muslim countries (like Saudi Arabia) require Muslim women to cover up. And many families around the world insist that their women follow the code of Islamic dress.

Why do some Muslim women cover completely and others just cover their hair?

Muslim women make choices when it comes to Islamic dress. Some girls, perhaps in copying their mothers, cover from a very young age (though a girl is required to cover up when they hit puberty). Other women begin covering later in life. Some don’t ever cover their hair. Many Muslim women in North America adapt Western fashions to Islamic dress by wearing a headscarf over long-sleeve tops and pants or jeans. Other women, keeping in mind the requirement that Islamic dress should be loose, choose to wear robes over their clothes that hide the shape of their body. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal choice.

Why do some Muslim women not cover at all?

Again, the decision to cover or not is a personal one. Some who don’t cover their hair or expose other parts of their body (or wear tight clothing) argue that modesty is an inner quality that has nothing to do with clothes. Other women argue that the requirements of Islamic dress as stated in the Qur’an and hadith must be adapted for modern times. They say that now, especially in Western countries where so many women don’t cover, practicing Islamic dress draws attention to a woman instead of deflecting attention away.

What is the penalty for not adhering to Muslim dress?

There is no Qur’anic penalty for not adhering to Muslim dress. But some hadiths describe the Prophet Muhammad as saying that if a woman doesn’t follow the rules of Islamic dress, her place in paradise, along with her husband’s, father’s' and sons’ places in paradise, will be jeopardized. And when it comes to the Qur’an, strict Muslims believe that if it’s written in the holy book, it must be followed.

Does it get hot, covering everything up?

Speaking as someone who wears the hijab (though I don’t wear robes over my clothes), it does get hot sometimes, especially on a very hot, humid day. I usually feel the heat the most on my neck under my scarf. But a person can get used to anything. And I’m so used to wearing long sleeves, long pants, or skirts and a headscarf that I don’t feel the heat as much as when I first starting wearing hijab three years ago. In fact my headscarf and full-coverage clothing often protect me from the sun and make me feel cooler than when I’m at home, wearing whatever I want, and exposed to the heat of summer. And I must say, wearing the headscarf has saved me from many a bad hair day (though that’s not why I wear it!)

Are there Islamic modesty requirements for men?

In Islam, men and women are required to control their desires. They must avoid being alone with members of the opposite sex outside of marriage (or close family). Men are allowed to expose more of their body but are encouraged by Muslim scripture to cover up and avoid tight clothing. During prayer, they must be covered from the naval to their knees.

Once they put it on, do women ever take off the hijab?

Yes, some women do take off the hijab for a variety of reasons. Just because a woman decide to adhere to the Islamic dress code for modesty doesn’t mean a she maintains that clothing for the rest her life. This decision to de-jab ( slang for taking off the hijab) often coincides with a a major life change, like moving to a new city. Read this essay from

one woman who took off her hijab

to learn more.

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