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Purpose of the Hijāb
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Response: I have some questions on the answer you have given in your column regarding the purpose of the Hijāb. I understand from your answer that ‘not rousing men’ is not the purpose of the Hijāb. Then why does the Hijāb have to be worn in front of men? Does it also have to be worn in front of non-Muslim women? And excuse this question: what about wearing the Hijāb in front of women who are lesbians?



Comment: I had written in my reply that the real reason for wearing the Hijāb (ie covering the head and chest) is inner purification of a lady. However, this inner purification is something which is not specific to ladies only. Men also need it as the Hijāb verses also specify (24:30). Moreover, what I was trying to stress in my answer by the words ‘not rousing men is not the purpose of the Hijāb was that the real purpose is inner purification which has a very broad connotation; the Qur’ānic word for this inner purification is Tadkiyah. It means to cleanse something of evil and to groom it with good attributes. In other words, Tadkiyah is a combination of two things – one negative and the other positive. On the one hand it rids a person from evil and on the other nourishes good qualities.

So, I would rephrase my statement regarding the objective of the Hijāb as: ‘Its purpose is the inner purification (Tadkiyah)of the lady who wears it and of the non-mahram male relatives that interact with her.’

The Hijāb is not required in front of women in general; This requirement springs forth in the presence of non-mahram males, whether Muslims or non-Muslims. As far as lesbian women are concerned, keeping in view the spirit of the Hijāb directive outlined above, it seems that Muslim women should observe the Hijāb in their presence.


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