swt has created human beings to act as His vicegerents on earth and, like all
other forms of living beings, human beings cannot be complete unless they are
in a pair. This is incomparable to Allah swt Who indeed has no need of a
partner. Even the most perfect human being is in need of a partner. Allah

swt says in the Holy Qur’an:


of His Signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may
take comfort in them and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are
indeed signs in that for a people who reflect. 30:21


of the signs of Allah swt ’s wise creation is that He has created spouses for
us from ourselves. A man needs a woman to be complete and vice versa. Even when
people go to Heaven, they need to be there with their spouse. When Adam a was
asked by Allah swt to go to Heaven, Allah swt said:


…..O Adam, dwell with your mate in
paradise….. 2:35


the formation of a family, initially consisting of a man and a woman, is one of
the fundamental elements in Allah swt ’s design for human life. He swt
blesses us even more by giving us children. Children can only be well protected
and well brought up in the atmosphere of a family where there is a father and a
mother who love each other and their children, and who regard

children as a gift from Allah swt , bringing them even closer to one another.


Marriage: a
sacred covenant


that the family is a crucial aspect of creation, marriage is considered as a
sacred covenant between the husband and wife and Allah swt is the witness
above them. Keeping their marriage and family ties strong is essential. In a
well-known hadith, the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying:


construction has been built in Islam more beloved in the sight of Allah swt
than marriage.1


the other hand, divorce is considered as the most disliked permissible act. The
Prophet Muhammad said:

is nothing more disliked by God than a house which is destroyed by separation. 2


marriage is a sacred unity on which we need to build society and needs to be
very strong. To establish and strengthen this unity, Allah swt has observed
certain aspects in His creation and others observed in His legislation. These two
are very much in harmony with each other.


according to divine creation and legislation


creation: In His creation, Allah swt has made us in such a way that
we desire the opposite gender, that is, a man for a woman and a woman for a man,
at various levels. Some people may only experience this at the shallowest
level, which is sexual desire. But the desire of a man for a woman or the other
way around should not only be about sexual desire, because it can be
experienced at deeper levels, first psychologically and then spiritually.
Therefore, those who go to Heaven will still be in need of having a partner not
merely because they want to have a sexual relationship but because they find
complete comfort and tranquillity on the overall relationship with their
partner. We find that our missing element, the only thing that can make us feel
complete, is a woman for a man and a man for a woman. Thus, Allah swt has
made us in such a way that we have this deep desire for a partner and their somewhat
different yet similar natures make for a perfect match with one another.


desire brings a man and a woman together despite the fact that everyone loves
to be free and loves to have neither commitments nor responsibilities. However,
Allah swt has made us so much in need of this that we are ready to endure all
kinds of difficulties and undertake the many responsibilities involved in
finding and keeping our match. Of course, people who are more compassionate and
spiritual do not find it very difficult to accommodate another person in their
own sphere. However, for those who are selfish and self-centred, marriage is a
great challenge. Being used to doing everything as they wish and wanting to be
free from any responsibility, it is difficult for them to be somewhat
restricted and responsible. In any case, sexual, psychological, and spiritual
desires lead people of the opposite gender towards one another.


only do human beings have a desire for the opposite gender, but in His Wisdom,
Allah swt has created men and women with different personalities. There are
many things that men and women share and therefore they are a good match for
each other. If a man did not share anything with a woman then they could not be
good partners for each other but at the same time the beauty is that there are
also some differences between them because if a person is exactly like us, why
would we need them and how could they give us comfort? We need someone similar
to us in some aspects and yet different in other ways.


the personality of a man is different to that of a woman but not so much so
that they cannot understand one another. It is possible to understand each
other because we have many things in common but we need to also understand and
appreciate the differences that we naturally have. If a man wants his wife to
think and behave exactly like him then this is missing the point. In the same
way, if a woman wants her husband to think and behave exactly like her then
this demonstrates a lack of understanding. What is important and crucial is for
a husband and wife to make efforts to understand and appreciate these
differences and work together to use them to the advantage of their family and


than anything else, a man is responsible for making sure that his family does
not lose its direction in life. Therefore, he is responsible, for example, for
showing some sort of power and strength in protecting his family against
poverty, enemies, problems caused by natural catastrophes, and so forth. The
man brings security to his family by the virtue of this power. On the other
hand, the woman brings peace to her family by showing love and affection. These
two elements need to come together to create a balanced family.


swt has both attributes of Glory sifat al-jal#l and attributes of
Beauty sifat al-jam#l . The power of a man and the love of a woman are
manifestations of these two important attributes of Allah swt . Man manifests
the Glory of Allah swt more and woman manifests His Beauty more. Of course
this beauty is not merely a physical beauty because spiritual and psychological
beauties are more important in bringing peace and tranquillity to a husband and

legislation: As discussed above, Allah swt ’s
legislation is in harmony with His creation. According to Allah’s plan,
the role of women is more the role of acting as the internal support for the
family whereas the man’s role is its external support. It can be found not only
in Islam but throughout the history of mankind, apart from the modern age which
is in many ways not natural and somewhat incompatible with human nature. Women
have always acted as the internal support, maybe because there have been
prophets for all nations or maybe because women have a natural tendency to do
so. The beauty, attraction, and love of a woman are meant to serve the family
to keep it firmly connected. The love and care she shows to her husband,
children, brother/s, sister/s, father and mother keeps the family together and
gives them so much power and strength that when they are exhausted from being
outside facing the daily struggles of life, they can always find comfort and
relief at home.


man’s role is mainly to act as an external element, that is, to go out and face
all the challenges and difficulties in the outside world. Though this may
sometimes result in him becoming exhausted and tired, he always knows that
there is someone at home who can bring joy and comfort, giving him a newfound
strength. Of course, women are not banned from going outside or from being
publicly active. Indeed, as it will be explained later on, the very reason that
hijab is legislated is to create an opportunity for women to be active
in society. However, there are two different functions expected from men and
women. Though in some cases the man may need to act as a mother and be
responsible for the internal aspect of the family and sometimes the woman may
have to work outside the home, the man’s essential role is to protect
the family from the outside and a woman’s is to protect it from the

this beauty and attraction of a woman, which is a manifestation of Allah
swt ’s Beauty, should serve the family from inside the home. It should not be
made available or presented to outsiders. Indeed, if it is presented to
outsiders then it will be used against the stability of the family. For
example, in a mixed-gendered environment, it is very likely that a man may
become attracted to a woman other than his wife because it is rare that a man’s
wife is always the most beautiful or the most attractive one and even if she
is, people who are not spiritually purified always underestimate what they have
and look for something new. Thus, in a mixed environment, the beauty of women
would be working against the stability of the family which is the foundation of
human society. As a result, the disaster of the breakdown of the family will
occur as has indeed been witnessed in many societies throughout the world.
Allah swt wants this beauty and this attraction to be used as a powerful
means of keeping the family intact. As previously said, we are not only talking
about the physical or sexual aspect of beauty as it has many other aspects. For
example, there is great beauty and power in the loving and affectionate voice
of your wife, mother, or sister, and therefore it is not merely the sexual
aspect of a woman that matters.


concept and legislation of hijab can be found in all divine religions. It
ensures that this great power of attraction is not used against human life and
society and so that women are protected against strangers who have not been
proven to be trustworthy and may result in taking advantage of a woman.
Interestingly, we find that before Islam, and even before Christianity and
Judaism, there has always been a long history of hijab. This is especially
emphasised in Abrahamic religions, so much so that up until today we find
traces of hijab in different Abrahamic traditions, though it is practised more
so in Islam.


Hijab in the


we look at the Holy Qur’an we find that it has addressed the issue of hijab in
about ten verses and in none of these verses does Allah swt introduce hijab
as a new command. It is not a new command. Islam did not introduce hijab for
the first time; rather, Islam tries to remind us of that which has always
existed and ensure that we understand and practise it in its proper way.

example, Prophet Muhammad s was asked by Allah swt to tell ladies that they
should keep their covering, or jilbab, close to themselves, so that it
covers them properly:


Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to
draw closely over themselves their jilbāb… 33:59


swt did not say that they should wear a jilbāb because this was a known and
understood idea at the time, but they did not know how to practise it correctly
so sometimes they wore it so loosely that the parts of the body supposed to be
covered were visible. Through the Holy Prophet s , Allah swt asked them to
keep their jilbāb close to their bodies so that it suitably covered and
protected them. Allah swt also told the Holy Prophet s to ask the believing
men to be cautious about their approach in looking at women because this is
another aspect of a woman’s protection.


part of the protection of her beauty derives from the lady wearing proper hijab
and part of the protection comes from Allah swt asking men to respect a lady
by not having bad intentions when looking at her and by not looking at the
parts of her body that are not to be seen. To protect the beauty of a lady,
Allah swt says that men of faith, principles, and high values should be
careful about the way in which they look at her, all of which is done out of a
sense of care, respect and honour for a lady. Contrary to how some people
think, if a woman is considered as a sexual object, there would be no reason to
be so careful about the beauty of a lady and trying to safeguard and protect it
from anyone who may have bad intentions. Islam regards this beauty as a manifestation
of Allah swt ’s Beauty and only some clearly defined people can look at, touch
or have contact with. These are either the people who have no sexual intention
at all like a father, brother, uncle, young children, or the one who has proven
himself trustworthy and reliable and has made vows and commitments to protect
her, which is her husband. Therefore, in Islam, hijab is not merely related to
clothing. It also regulates the manner in which women should look, how contacts
should be formed and maintained, and the manner in which they are to speak. For
example, Allah swt says in the Holy Qur’an that the wives of the Prophet s
should speak very carefully to people who are not their close relatives. They
should not speak in a way that might attract those people to their beauty or to
their privacy. Allah swt says:


wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women: if you are wary of
Allah , then do not be complaisant in your speech, lest he in whose heart is a
sickness should aspire, and speak honourable words. 33:32


wives of the Prophet s are asked not to speak very humbly and softly to men
who are not related to them by birth or marriage in case they have a sickness
or weakness in their heart and who therefore may think that the lady is giving
them an improper signal.


important part of hijab is reducing unnecessary contact with unrelated members
of the opposite gender. A man and woman who are not related should keep their
contact to a minimum. As previously stated, Islam is not against women being
active in society and, indeed, hijab facilitates this. However, men and women
should not form and increase unnecessary contacts without having specific and
useful aims and intentions. For example, if there are men and women working together
in the same office they should keep their contacts at a reasonable level. They
must not openly and freely speak to each other, and this includes laughing,
joking, or doing everything apart from, for example, physically touching each


Hijab as a sign
of a woman’s honour


is a special outfit of honour. Historically, there has been a custom among
kings to give special clothing to people who had done a great service to him or
to those who were highly revered in his court. This clothing was considered
very respectable and was not used, for example, in the house or when going to
buy something from the market. It was an outfit of respect and was normally
only used in official ceremonies, to receive guests, or to visit the king.
Hijab is this clothing of honour given to women by Allah swt indicating that
is more than a protection. The following are a few examples that further
portray its reverence:


a woman prays in her home while no one else present, not even a child, she must
still wear hijab when she is standing before Allah swt , the Lord of all the
worlds. If hijab was something only intended to protect a woman from men who
are not relatives and may have bad intentions, then why should she wear it when
she is standing alone before Allah swt ? This shows that hijab is clothing of
honour and should be worn when we meet those who are very important. So a woman
should wear her best dress i.e. her hijab when she stands before Allah swt in
prayer, when she visits the shrines of the Holy Prophet s and the Imams a ,
a masjid, and going out into the public. A woman at home does not need to wear
hijab the same way the beneficiaries of the king wear it. Indeed, sometimes she
should not wear it at home. It is only when she goes out that she should
observe it.


further piece of evidence is as follows. Slavery was a phenomenon that existed
all over the world and Islam managed to end it relatively quickly and indeed
centuries earlier than it ended in other parts of the world. During the era in
which slavery still existed but was being tackled and was finally stopped by
Islam, the female slaves were not obliged to wear hijab. For them, hijab was
not compulsory though they could choose to wear it. However, a free woman, or
the mistress of a house, was required to observe hijab. So if hijab is a burden
or is only a form of protection, why must a free woman observe it? Many people
who do not understand hijab think that it is a sign of a woman’s inferiority
and that they are to wear hijab because they are inferior to men or to unveiled
non-Muslims. On the contrary, those in higher positions are supposed to observe
hijab more. Thus, whoever is closer to Allah swt should observe hijab more.


know that historically people like Lady Fatimah a observed hijab more than
anyone else. If hijab is a burden then presumably she should have been exempted
from it or at least only have to observe it to a very minimum extent. Lady
Maryam a also observed hijab more than anyone else at her time.


hijab is an outfit of honour and the people who are closer to Allah swt
should observe it more. Though real elevation is being close to Allah swt ,
those who are considered to be in a high position in society, for example, a
lady who is more educated than others, such as doctors, nurses, teachers,
engineers or university lecturers should dress in hijab more because Allah
swt Himself has offered them this clothing of honour. Women who are educated
are expected to appreciate and understand it more than those who are not. If
Allah swt has given someone more blessings in this world such as
intelligence, education, wealth, and possessions, and if someone is given
respect because, for example, they come from a respectable family or a large
tribe, such people are supposed to observe hijab more because this shows that
they know how to appreciate this outfit of honour that Allah swt has
provided. It is a matter of disgrace and sheer ungratefulness that the king
gives someone something and the beneficiary refuses to take or use it and
instead of appreciating it, it is regarded as a burden. This is definitely not
the way that hijab is to be regarded.


for women who are not Muslim and do not observe hijab as a requirement of their
own faith for whatever reason, a faithful Muslim man, who is not to look at the
hair of a Muslim woman, may look at the hair of a non-Muslim woman provided
that he does so without wrong intentions. If a man has bad intentions, he is
not permitted to even look at a woman’s clothing that is not worn. However, if
a man has to speak for a good reason to a lady who is not a Muslim and
therefore does not wear hijab, then he may look at her hair, but of course
without any wrong intentions. Thus, if hijab is a form of restriction and
pressure, then the non-Muslims who lived in Muslim lands and under Islamic rule
would be required to observe hijab more and men would be allowed to look at
them even less than at Muslim ladies.


we can conclude that hijab is not a form of restriction. Hijab is to be used as
a way of protecting ladies and as a means to be active in society. It also
reminds everyone that ladies are not to be treated as someone’s wife when they
appear in public. Men must remember that when a lady comes out in public she is
not someone from whom they should want to gain something physically or
sexually. When a lady appears in public she is to be regarded as a human being.
She must be judged, examined, and treated based on her intellectual and
spiritual merits. If a lady is to be employed in an office or as a lecturer,
for example, should she be employed simply because she is very beautiful or
because she dresses in a way that can attract the youths? Is this the attitude
of a rational society? What about those people who are not that beautiful? What
about those people who are aging? Should a woman only be treated with respect
in public when she is beautiful and when she does not dress properly? This is
obviously wrong. Hijab is there to make sure that when a woman appears in public
she would only be treated according to her human qualities such as her good
character, good behaviour, intelligence and wisdom. These human qualities are
things that can be easily maintained, promoted and improved by her, but no one
can change their appearance without spending large amounts of time and money
which are not available to everyone. Hijab assists in creating a proper and
rational society in treating people according to the moral qualities they
strive to achieve rather than their mere physical appearance.


what is wrong with someone who is not considered by others to be beautiful? Do
they have to remain at home and should not appear in public? This is an
incorrect idea. A good, proper and rational society would treat people
according to the good qualities that they have achieved and not according to
their physical appearance. Thus hijab also helps in this regard.


Hijab in


there are many hadiths from Prophet Muhammad s and the Ahlul Bayt a about
hijab. Some people think that hijab is not something that was taught by the
Prophet himself, but was made up by people later on. However it is certainly
rooted in the Holy


As explained previously, it existed before the advent of Islam. There are ten
verses in the Qur’an specifically about it and then the Holy Prophet s
mentioned it with so much care and giving so many details. Those who are
interested can find tens of hadiths in major collections of hadith. In what
follows, I will refer to some hadiths to illustrate how delicately hijab is
treated in Islam.


Muhammad s advised ladies to be careful about their hijab when in their
homes. For example, sometimes even when a lady is inside her house, her
neighbours may still be able to see her when she stands next to the window,
goes out into the courtyard, or goes onto the roof as people do in eastern
countries .3


Umm Salamah, the wife of the Holy Prophet, s said:


day Maymunah and I were with Prophet Muhammad s and Ibn Umm Maktum who was
blind came to see the Prophet s . The Prophet s asked us to have our hijab.
We said: “O Apostle of God! Ibn Maktum is blind and is not able to see us”. The
Prophet s said: “Aren’t you able to see him?”4


it is not proper for a lady to appear without hijab next to an un-related man,
even if he is blind. Whilst it is true that that the blind man cannot see the
lady, it cannot be forgotten that she can see him, and this may have an effect
on her. In some cases, it is also possible that the man is pretending to be


In a
hadith about Lady Fatimah a , we find that instead of the Prophet s or Imam
Ali a telling her what to do when there is a blind visitor, she autonomously
put on her hijab:


Ali a reports that a blind man asked permission to visit Lady Fatimah a .
Upon hearing this, Lady Fatimah covered herself. The Holy Prophet s , in order
to illustrate her a level of understanding and knowing too well what her a
response would be, asked: ‘O Fatimah! Why are you observing hijab when
this man is unable to see you?’ She a replied: ‘He cannot see me but I can
see him and he can smell my fragrance.’ In response to her wisdom, the Prophet
s said: ‘I bear witness that you are part of me.’5


this is the way in which the Holy Prophet s and the Ahlul Bayt a very
carefully observed hijab.


to another well-known hadith, one day the Prophet s asked his
companions: ‘What is the best for women?’ No one was able to give the right
answer. Imam Ali a then asked Lady


a , and she replied: “The best for women is not to see men who are not her
close relatives non mahrams and not to be seen by them.” When the
Prophet heard this, he was very pleased, and said: “Truly, Fatimah is a part of


their marriage, Imam Ali a and Lady Fatimah a asked the Prophet s to
advise them as to what their duties are. The Prophet s instructed that Imam
Ali a should undertake the tasks outside the house and Lady Fatima a should
undertake the tasks inside the house. Lady Fatimah a said afterwards: “Other
than God no one knows how happy I became when the Apostle of

God saved me from interacting with


hijab necessary contacts are fine. From a spiritual point of view, unnecessary
contacts should be kept very much to a minimum or if possible completely
stopped, even though this may not be obligatory from a jurisprudential point of
view. A woman can be very active in society but this should be only for doing
something useful and productive with which she can feel very happy and
satisfied such as teaching, nursing and seeing patients. A woman should not be
just wandering around on the streets, going to different places and talking to
many people,

any good reason to do so. This is not good for a lady and would also gradually
exhaust her because a woman is created like a flower. Imam Ali a advised
Mohammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah not to assign women difficult tasks and to treat
them cordially under all circumstances.8


So a
woman should not exhaust herself, and the family should not let a lady exhaust
herself, by doing unnecessary things.


Allah increase our understanding of His creation and His plan for us! May Allah
make our families and societies stronger day by day! May Allah bring that peace
and tranquillity that He has planned for us into our life!

7 Ibid., vol. 43, p. 81


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