1. The hijab is not compulsory
There are some who argue that the hijab is not a fard (obligation) and that it is adequate for the woman to dress modestly according to her own interpretation of modesty, though in reality there are numerous evidences that say otherwise. In surah an-Nur, it is mentioned that Muslim women must wear head-coverings.
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and protect their private parts. They should not show their Zeenah (charms) in public beyond what may (decently) be apparent thereof; hence let them draw their head-coverings (khumur) over their necks and juyub. And let them not display (more of) their charms to any but their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbands sons, their brothers, their brothers sons, their sisters sons, their womenfolk, their concubines, such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs (in walking) so as to draw attention to their hidden charms.” [An-Nur: 31]
In one hadith, the Prophet(saw) said, “When a young girl begins to menstruate, it is not correct that anything should be seen of her except her face and hands up to the wrist.” [Reported Abu Dawud]. Therefore, all parts of the woman’s body, save for her face and hands, are considered awrah (parts of the body that is obliged to cover and forbidden to reveal in the presence of any non-mahram man).
2. Wearing hijab is my choice.
In order to ward off any false notions that muslim women are forced into wearing the hijab, some muslims claim that hijab is a matter of personal choice when questioned about their reason behind wearing it. Although their hearts may be set in the right place, this statement is truly misleading. It is clear that the wearing of hijab is fard (obligatory), as commanded by Allah (swt) in His book and through His Messenger (saw), and as Muslims we must strive to please none other than Allah by obeying His commands and refrain from what He has made unlawful for us. Thus, we do not have any choice in regards to this matter.
“It is not (fitting) for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error.” [Al-Ahzab: 36]
3. Hijab = headscarf
There often arise confusions when it comes to defining the meaning of hijab, with many believing that it strictly applies to the headscarf. Linguistically, hijab derives from the Arabic word hajaba, which means to conceal, screen or veil. Therefore, when Islam mentions the hijab, it is referring to a covering or something which protects and is used to refer to the mandatory dress of the Muslim person, be they male or female.
For the Muslimah, the hijab constitutes of khimar and jilbab. The Khimar refers to the headscarf that covers her head and drapes over the neck and bosom. Surah an-Nur ayah 31 mentions khumur, which is the plural form of khimar. The jilbab on the other hand, is a singular outer garment which conceals the clothes a Muslimah primarily covers herself with. This definition is discerned from a lexical and textual basis. Lexical definition of the word jilbab is sourced from classical Arabic dictionaries. An example of this is al-Sihah, a dictionary compiled by the Arab lexicographer Abu Nasr al Jawhari, in which it is stated that “the Jilbab is the cover and some say it is a sheet. It has been mentioned in ahadith with the meaning of one sheet, which the Muslim woman must wrap over her clothes when in public”.
The explanation of the word jilbab as per Islamic texts can be found in passages such as surah an-Nur ayah 60: ‘And as for women past child-bearing who do not expect wed-lock, it is no sin on them if they discard their (outer) clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment. But to refrain (i.e. not to discard their outer clothing) is better for them. And Allâh is All-Hearer, All-Knower.’ From this ayah it can be concluded that the garment mentioned must be an outer garment as the verse could not possibly be saying they should discard their normal everyday clothing. That is why the two great companions of the Prophet (saw), Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn Mas’ud, both understood the garment to refer to the jilbab, since that is the outer garment that is worn by women. The jilbab is to be worn over her home clothes whenever a woman leaves the house
However, when the woman is in her private dwelling, it is sufficient that she covers her awrah without her having to wear the jilbab if a non-mahram is present. In adition to the khimar and jilbab, it is required that the muslim woman abstain from the practice of tabarruj. Tabarruj is wearing any clothing, jewellery, make-up or perfume in the presence of non-Mahram men that would draw attention to her beauty. Allah(swt) states in His book, “...and do not keep exhibiting your beauty and decorations like what used to happen in the Jahiliyyah period (before Islam).” [Al-Ahzab: 33]
4. The jilbab is not compulsory
Allah has also revealed in the Qur’an concerning the importance of wearing jilbab: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (Jalabib) close round them (when they go outside). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” [Al-Ahzab: 59]. Furthermore, it has been reported in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Umm ‘Atiyyah who asked; "O Messenger of Allah! What about one who does not have a jilbab?". He said, "Let her borrow the jilbab of her companion". This further emphasises the urgency of the jilbab.
It is clear from these evidences that the jilbab along with the khimar is a fard. This is why when the verses for covering were revealed the Muslim women of the Prophet’s time responded immediately without delay by covering their awrah with whatever material they could find. Safiyyah, daughter of Shaybah, said that ‘Aisha (RA) had mentioned the women of Ansar, praised them and said good words about them’. She then said, “When Surat an-Nur came down, they took the curtains, tore them and made head covers (veils) of them.” (Abu Dawud). These honourable women had earned praise from the Messenger (saw) and the pleasure of Allah (swt), and as the Muslim women of today we should aspire to be positioned in such an elevated status by following in their footsteps.
5.The khimar or jilbab is a cultural phenomenon
Some Muslims have claimed that the khimar or jilbab derived from pre-Islamic Arabian culture or custom and therefore non-obligatory in Islam. They hold the belief that the wearing of the khimar and jilbab is no longer relevant or necessary as it is not the norm or custom of the society or world in which she lives. This view is a complete disorientation of the true understanding of the Islamic texts and Islam in general. The texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah are not derived from any pre-Islamic laws or customs but are solely from Allah(swt).The laws of Allah (Shar’a) was sent down to change the corrupted traditions and customs of the people. Some customs may be in line with the Hukm Shar’a, in which case rulings on the acceptability of these customs must be proved by the evidence from the Islamic texts (Qur’an and Sunnah). Hence, the customs cannot rule over the Shar’a, rather the Shar’a rules over the traditions and customs. To claim that the Creator used pre-Islamic traditions as a basis for the commands that He revealed, provision of evidence from the Qur’an, Sunnah, or Ijma-Sahaba is crucial, yet no such proof can be found. Furthermore, there is no support from the Qur’an or Sunnah that these definite Islamic rules and obligations such as the khimar and jilbab can be altered or re-interpreted according to the prevailing societal traditions. Therefore those who have made such a claim are succumbing to their own desires by using their own minds and assumption to interpret the origin and extraction of the Islamic laws, which is a grievous matter. The Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever interprets the Quran according to his own opinion, even if he gets it right he has indeed committed a sin.” (Reported by Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).
The Muslim woman’s attire is not a fashion statement, nor should one wear it for this purpose. Rather, it is a way of worshipping our Creator, who is the only one worthy of our entire devotion. The Muslim woman is a thinking individual whose main purpose in life is to seek the pleasure of Allah (swt). Therefore, as a humble servant to her Creator, she would look to the Qur’an and Sunnah to seek guidance concerning the rules of her dress before her own mind and desires. She would understand that any action based upon other than the Qur’an and Sunnah would not be accepted by Allah (swt) and bears no fruit of hasanat (rewards). She would understand the grave punishment waiting in the Hereafter for the one who neglects even one Command from the Creator(swt). And remember Allah’s words: “Have you (oh Muhammad) seen him who has taken as his illah (god) his own desire? Would you then be a wakil (disposer of his affairs) over him? Or do you think that most of them hear or understand? They are only like cattle; nay they are even farther astray from the Path.” [Al-Furqan: 43]
May Allah gives us the strength and courage to keep us steadfast to the Deen. Ameen.