Traditional Islamic head covering or veil for women / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In modern usage, hijab (Arabic: حجاب, romanized: ḥijāb, pronounced [ħɪˈdʒaːb]) generally refers to various head coverings conventionally worn by many Muslim women.[1] While a hijab can come in many forms, it often specifically refers to a headscarf, wrapped around the head, covering the hair, neck and ears, but leaving the face visible.[2][3] Many Muslims believe that Muslim women are required to observe the hijab in front of any man they could theoretically marry. This means that hijab is not obligatory in front of the father, brothers, grandfathers, uncles or young children or regarded as mahram's.[4]

Smiling woman outdoors wearing a brightly coloured headscarf and embroidered clothing
A Tunisian woman wearing a hijab

The first clothing worn by the human race has been studied using anthropological, archaeological, and genetic methods. The results of these studies suggest that humans may have started wearing simple clothing as early as 170,000 years and as recently as 40,000 years ago (on average and most likely around 100,000 years).[5][6][7] The earliest known legal regulation on clothing was found in the Code of Hammurabi and Middle Assyria. According to the text of the Middle Assyrian Law of 1500 BC, the headscarf was defined as a symbol of free women who went out on the streets, in other words, entered the public sphere, and was guaranteed by law. Accordingly, slave women and prostitutes will certainly not cover their heads. When women violated this rule by wearing a veil, they were punished along with those who saw but did not report them.[8]

The use of the hijab has been on the rise worldwide since the 1970s and is viewed by many Muslims as expressing modesty and faith.[2] There is a consensus among Islamic religious scholars that covering the head is either required or preferred, though some Muslim scholars and activists argue that it is not mandated.[9][10][11][12]

The term ḥijāb was originally used to denote a partition, a curtain, or was sometimes used for the Islamic rules of modesty.[2][13] This is the usage in the verses of the Qur'an, in which the term sometimes refers to a curtain separating visitors to Muhammad's main house from his wives' residential lodgings. This has led some to claim that the mandate of the Qur'an applied only to the wives of Muhammad, and not to the entirety of women.[14][15] Another interpretation can also refer to the seclusion of women from men in the public sphere, whereas a metaphysical dimension may refer to "the veil which separates man, or the world, from God".[16] For some, the term for headscarf in the Qur'an is khimār (Arabic: خِمار).[2][17][13][18][19]

There is no consensus over how much of a veil is a necessity. Some legal systems accept the hijab as an order to cover everything except the face and hands,[20][16] while others accept it as an order that covers the whole body, including the face and hands.[21] These guidelines are found in texts of hadith and fiqh developed after the revelation of the Qur'an. Some believe these are derived from the verses (ayahs) referencing hijab in the Qur'an;[22] others believe that the Qur'an does not mandate that women need to wear a hijab.[9][10] Some reformist groups consider the issue of veiling in Islam only as a recommendation made according to the conditions of the past, and that regarding it as a necessity is an imposition of Islamist ideology.[11]

The hijab is currently required by law to be worn by women in Iran[23] and Afghanistan.[24] Since 2018, it is no longer required by law in Saudi Arabia.[25][26][27] Other countries, both in Europe and in the Muslim world, have passed laws banning some or all types of hijab in public or in certain types of locales.[28][29] Women in different parts of the world have also experienced unofficial pressure to wear or not wear a hijab.[28][29]

Hijab is similar to the tichel or snood worn by Orthodox Jewish women, certain headcoverings worn by some Christian women, such as the mantilla, apostolnik and wimple,[30][31][32] as well as the dupatta worn by many Hindu and Sikh women (as well as by Muslim women from the Indian subcontinent).[33][34][35]