The concept of the Hijab in Islam is a topic that is discussed and debated still to this day. A reason why this topic is so controversial may be at the fault of men. For the most part, Islam, like most religions, is an internal concept. It starts with your mind and your belief and carries out with your actions and speech. Religion isn’t always physically identifiable; sure there are patterns that humans instinctively notice, but they are not always true. For Muslim men, there are no immediate external indications that can be linked to Islam unless sporting a thobe or kufi, which is not common among young Muslim men in America. There may be an argument to be made for beards, but beards are becoming more popular these days from a fashion perspective and are less likely to correlate to Islam. Muslim women who choose to wear a headscarf (which greatly outnumbers the amount of Muslim men who choose to wear a thobe and/or kufi on a daily basis) are easily identifiable, even from a quick glance at a distance. The hijab is an external expression of Islam.
When looking at the Qur’an and analyzing the ayahs where Allah SWT talks about the hijab, it is important to note that Allah SWT mentions what men should do before relaying what women should do. He states “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.”(Quran, 4:30). Before talking about what women should do, He commands men to have a modest eye and to prevent temptations by lowering their gaze. After His order to man, He writes “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste).” He is telling women the same exact thing, however, he is telling them after telling men. This is not a coincidence; Allah SWT is perfect and his book is perfect as well. There is a reason he commands men before women and if the Ummah believes women should be held accountable for their decisions on wearing scarves, then they should also criticize men for not lowering their gaze more often. The orders of these ayahs are significant and should not be forgotten.
We live in a time where the rhetoric pertaining to Islam is particularly negative. The term “Islamophobia” has become a common word used daily on major media outlets. Muslims as a whole are subject to harassment, discrimination, and other racially driven atrocities solely for their beliefs. This is an obstacle we face together but our tolerance to these matters differs by the individual. Muslim women who wear the hijab are more likely to be targeted by aggressors because of how easily identifiable they are. This is not to say Muslim men and Muslim women who do not wear the hijab do not face racism. There are numerous instances where these demographics are victims of hate crimes. However, Muslim women who wear the hijab must face the truth that every second they walk in public; they are being observed simply for wearing a headscarf. This is a major challenge that comes along with wearing the hijab.
Muslim women who wear the hijab don’t just face adversity from the general public, they are scrutinized from their fellow Muslims as well. When a Muslim woman wears a hijab, many Muslims tend to forget she is human and that she makes mistakes. For some reason, she is held to a higher standard than Muslim women who choose not to wear a hijab. Some make the claim that hijabis receive criticism because they are a physical representation of their religion and, consequently, must be perfect to represent Islam perfectly. This is an unfair platform forced upon Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab. When deciding whether or not to wear a hijab, a woman makes her decision based on her and The Lord.
So where does that leave men? We, as men, have to understand that we will never grasp just how difficult it is to wear the hijab in a culture that may not be so accepting of it. It is a religious challenge that we cannot fathom and because of this, we cannot determine what a woman does and does not do. Simply put, men do not have the authority to speak for women because men will never understand what women go through. If a Muslim woman chooses to wear the hijab, then we appreciate her courage and dedication to her faith. We do not expect her to live up to impossible expectations. If a Muslim woman chooses not to wear the hijab, then we still appreciate her. We do not think any different of her nor do we judge her because we are in no position to judge. Muslims are living in difficult times and diverting the ummah over issues that do not entirely concern us men is essentially a waste of time and energy. It is crucial that we put our effort into uniting the ummah, for only when we come together as a whole, can we conquer our main issues.