بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله رب العالمين و الصلاة و السلام على محمد و آله الطاهرين
Islam is a world religion; its presence can be felt all over the world through conversion or migration. However, the most visible symbol of Islam’s presence in the West is the hijab—the headdress used by a Muslim woman to cover her head. In the Greater Toronto Area, you can see Muslim women in hijab at schools, in colleges and universities, in the workplace, in malls, and on the streets.
Being the most obvious symbol of Islam’s presence, it is also the easiest target for harassment against Muslims. Whenever a racist politician or the media or any hate group attacks Islam, the very first target is the Muslim woman’s hijab. Also, some so-called experts on Islam and the Middle East assume a patronizing attitude and try to teach Muslims that hijab is not a religious requirement in Islam, saying it is more a cultural issue used by Muslim men to oppress the women. Some self-loathing Muslim journalists, politicians and intellectuals also jump on that back wagon to prove themselves as “progressive” and “liberated”.
Is hijab really a cultural tradition of the Persians or the Turks that was adopted by the Arabs who implanted it into Islam? Or is there a religious basis in the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet for hijab?
The term “hijab—الحجاب” literally means a cover, curtain or screen. It is not a technical term used in Islamic jurisprudence for the dress code of women. The term used in Islamic jurisprudence that denotes the conduct of unrelated men and women towards one another, and their dress code, is “satr or satir—الستر، الساتر”.
In the last two decades however, the Muslims in the west, as well as the media, use the term “hijab” to define the headdress and the overall clothing of Muslim women.
It is in this latter meaning —headdress as well as the overall clothing— that we have used the term “hijab” in this article.