I can’t be the only Muslim woman or “covered” woman who gets a BILLION questions about the headscarf. While I seldom enjoy being asked random questions by strangers, and generally prefer the unassuming question “Why do you wear hijab” (addressed in the general FAQ and in a number of articles), I usually get a number of invasive questions instead. While some enquire out of genuine curiosity, these questions are generally asked in a range of accusatory tones. Since I think some of these are valid and important questions but deeply hate repeating/explaining myself over and over again, here a quick list of answers to frequently asked questions about hijab:
Do you cover because you’re Muslim?
There are a number of faiths, beliefs and situations that can push someone to cover. Personally, I wear a headscarf as one aspect of expression of my faith in Islam. This type of head-covering is commonly called “hijab”.
Isn’t it warm?
It certainly can be. With the right fabric, style and layering, hijab generally provides much needed shade in warm weather. There’s certainly more leeway in winter since the weather lends itself well to thickness and layers. While such thorough coverage provides great sun protection, I’d still greatly encourage women to take vitamin supplements especially for those who don’t spend much time outside.
Isn’t it itchy?
It depends! The most important factor in causing itchiness is the hair and scalp condition. Broken hair, dry or oily scalp and putting hijab over wet hair all can cause hijab to be itchy. The types of fabrics on the head can also play a huge role in comfort/discomfort.
Do you HAVE to wear it?
I don’t believe that hijab is mandatory. While I believe God required both men and women to be modest of body, mind and speech, I don’t believe that covering the neck/hair/face is a religious obligation. However, I do believe that it was a common custom at the time of Prophet Muhammed (7th Century AD) and that he suggested to women that they cover their hair and their faces in some specific circumstances as a means to maintain bodily autonomy, privacy, and – in the case of face covering – safety!
Do you wear it at home/in bed/the shower?
The short answer: no. Hijab is not suggested for women unless they share a space with men who are not closely related to them by blood or mariage, this is irrelevant in bed and in the shower and generally uncommon at home unless there are visitors.
According to the Qu’ranic passage it is suggested that Muslim women should be modestly dressed except in the company of:
- their fathers, sons and brothers
- their husbands, their husbands’ fathers and their husbands’ sons
- their brothers and their brothers’ and sisters’ sons
- male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified*
- children who have not reached puberty.
*interpretations vary from meaning men who are impotent, eunuch, homosexual or trans*
However, it is important to note that not everyone adheres to a strict definition of what “modesty” means and may choose to establish their own rules of hijab based on their comfort and safety.
Personally, I choose to wear hijab in all public settings but remove my head covering in some private settings provided I feel safe and comfortable. I have also been known to keep hijab on even when only women are present if I feel like my bodily autonomy (right to do what I please with my body) might be questioned.
Is your husband/father/imam forcing you to wear hijab?
The majority of my partners as well as my father have discouraged me from wearing hijab. Most imams I have encountered have remained staunchly silent on the subject matter or referred to it as strongly recommended but, fundamentally, a woman’s choice. The vast majority of Muslim women *in Canada* who wear head coverings do so of their own will. That is not to say that there is not an unfortunate number of women who are coerced or abused into wearing it but this is not the reality for most hijabi/niqabi in North America.
Isn’t hijab insulting to men?
The short answer is no. Hijab is no more insulting than wearing a shirt or a bra. However, what is insulting to men is the belief that men are unable to control their emotions or that they are only capable of being hungry, angry or horny.
This type of sexist belief appears throughout the world and creates a toxic view of masculinity that is at the root of a large number of social issues. Hijabis and non-hijabis, women and men, and Muslim and non-Muslim can all arbor this type of view of masculinity.
Wearing hijab does not indicate support of toxic masculinity. In fact, a large number of Muslim women (including a large number of hijabis and niqabis) are heavily engaged in dismantling systems of oppression for both women and men.
Doesn’t hijab support the men/governments who force women to wear it?
The men and governments who force women to wear hijab are coercive, oppressive and abusive. Then again, so are men and governments who force women out of them!
While removing hijab may be a strong statement for women in or from these relationships/countries, it does not in and of itself address the root cause of the problem : the problematic, even dangerous power disbalance between genders and the lack of accountability of abusive men/governments.
There is no doubt that coercive, oppressive and abusive behaviours and policies *must* be addressed but the ultimate goal should ALWAYS BE to support women’s rights to agency (the right to choose).
What do you think of non-hijabis/niqabis?
I get asked that question A LOT! I nailed a perfect answer a few years ago: “even those who argue that hijab is in the Qu’ran can only point to one vague passage about it whereas slander and backbiting is clearly forbidden about half a dozen times!” My opinion is absolutely irrelevant, as it should be, because being a woman and being a believer is not about pleasing others but about pleasing yourself and pleasing God.
Let this be clear:
- If you choose to show or hide YOUR body: I support you!
- If you shame other people for their choice to show or hide THEIR bodies: not cool, I will call you out!
- If you support laws that forces other people to show or hide THEIR bodies: you’re an asshole!
- If you force other people to show or hide THEIR bodies: I have to fight you!
Every individual (women or men) should be empowered to define and live out confidence and modesty on their own terms, WITHOUT the input from family members, friends, society or the government. Let people be.