In Defence of Non Hijabi Sisters |

In Defence of Non Hijabi Sisters

It had been ten years since she had set foot in a mosque. Being at university had broadened her mind in many ways, one of them being her reconnecting with Islam.

She had begun praying five times a day a month ago, and now felt ready to pray in public, at the university's Juma prayer.

She paused and stood a few feet away from the women's entrance. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the silk scarf out of her purse and tied it carefully on her head. Her ponytail stuck out a bit. She smoothed the creases on her long-sleeved beige shirt and tugged at the bottom of it to make it longer over her pants.

The prayer was great. She had never felt this sense of inner peace.

Afterwards, she tried mingling with the sisters, but nobody even looked her way. A few of them even pretended not to hear her greeting. The only sister who did talk to her said in a huff: “You know your prayer is not accepted in those pants and that tiny thing you pass for a Hijab. I suggest you get more Islamic knowledge and dress properly before coming back here.”

The words stung her like a million bumble bees. Too numb to respond or speak, she charged out of the hall. Never again would she associate with these people, she told herself.

And never again would she return to Juma.


Are you shocked reading about this incident? Don't be. It has been a reality in almost every Muslim community in North America.

This harsh judgment and intolerance shown towards Muslim women who do not wear Hijab can lead to at least some Muslim women to become alienated from the Muslim community, and could lead to a loss of Islamic practice.

You can find many Quran Hijab Quotes becasue Hijab is an obligation clearly ordained in the Quran and Sunnah, but the above-mentioned method of its enforcement and encouragement is not Islamic, according to Muslim scholars, researchers and activists. Muslims have to start seeing the issue from a different perspective, they say.

Some arguments in support of non-Hijabi sisters

”I would say that the overwhelming majority of Muslim women I have met who don't cover and who believe in God, believe they should cover, but believe they're not ready yet,” says Sharifa Alkhateeb, vice-president of the North American Council of Muslim Women, in an interview with Sound Vision.

This reality indicates there is a seed of faith that needs to be nurtured and encouraged. As well, it means these women need all the support they can get.

Abdalla Idris Ali is a member of the Islamic Society of North America's (ISNA) Majlis Shura, which debates Islamic issues and establishes policy for the organization. He says what also has to be remembered is that many Muslim women are coming from cultures where the Hijab is not practiced, for whatever reason. These sisters should not be condemned. Rather, Islamic concepts like Hijab, should be explained to them.

Another possibility is that Muslim women who do not wear Hijab are coming from families which are either not practicing Islam, or are downright hostile to it.

In this situation, “it's actually a celebration that a young Muslim woman wants to pray Juma,” says Kathy Bullock, who started wearing Hijab two weeks after she converted to Islam.
“I think that's where the tolerance comes in.”

Another reason some Muslim women may find Hijab difficult is because of the often negative ideas surrounding Hijab. For instance, that wearing Hijab kills marriage and job prospects. Muslim activists must seek to dispel such myths.

”There needs to be a lot more support for the women who decide to cover,” says Bullock, who completed a PhD. about The Politics of the Veil from the University of Toronto in January.

Bullock also gives a chilling warning to those who condemn non-Hijabi Muslim women: “We might be wearing Hijab but we might be doing something incredibly wrong which cancels out the reward [for wearing it].” One of these things she mentions is arrogance.

Why are some Muslims so sensitive about the Hijab?

Some Muslims seek to condemn non-Hijabis out of their understanding of the Quranic injunction of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Yet, they fail to take the right approach in doing it, in accordance with the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), which was one of kindness, gentleness and patience.

Interestingly, some Muslim men and women who criticize non-Hijabi Muslim women seem to have different reasons for doing it and varying ways of approaching a sister who does not wear Hijab.

“Unfortunately on the brothers' side there is a push to make Hijab the marker of Islamic identity,” says Bullock. She also emphasizes the hypocrisy of many Muslim men criticizing Muslim women who do not wear the Hijab, while they themselves wear tight jeans or pants, or short shorts. These forms of dress are strictly prohibited for men in Islam. Yet, go to any Juma or Jamaah prayer, and these forms of unIslamic dress can be easily seen.

”I think some of the men put too much emphasis on the women instead of looking at their own selves,“ she says.

However, Alkhateeb thinks most of the men are less vigilant than the women about Hijab, partly because they figure the women are going to take care of it.

She argues that the majority of the Muslim men who are over concerned about with the issue of Hijab because they don't trust themselves sexually, and fear their own reaction to a woman who is not covered Islamically.

For women, weak self-identity and faith could explain the harshness shown towards non-Hijabi Muslimas.

“It is so difficult to maintain the practice of covering, emotionally, psychologically on the job and in everyday life, you get so much negativity from other people that the reaction of most of the practicing women and activists is to develop a cocoon, a protective cocoon, and part of that protective cocoon is in continually, verbally and in other ways rejecting what is unlike yourself,” explains Alkhateeb.

“And that is to shore up your own self-identity. I think that part of the reason they are so negative is because this is part of shoring up their own self-identity and because there is a hidden fear that if they let down their guard that they'll stop covering. And if they allow any space in their mind to alternative ways of thinking that their thinking will fall apart. And that means that the underlying precepts and concepts are not strong.”

Where does Hijab fit on the Islamic ladder?

“While it is correct to say that Hijab is correct in the teaching of Islam we tend to forget that there are many other basic issues, why the over obsession?” asks Jamal Badawi, a member of the North American Fiqh Council.

Part of the reason some Muslims treat non-Hijabis so harshly is because of their lack of understanding about where the obligation of Hijab ranks on the Islamic ladder.

A more correct approach would be gradual and would mean implementing more important aspects of Islam, like Iman (faith), and praying five times a day before moving on to requirements like Hijab.

“We fail to see any Ayah (verse of the Quran) pertaining to Hijab in the entire Makkan revelation that was given to the Prophet, that's almost 13 years. The injunctions about more detailed aspects relating to the righteous Muslim community were revealed during the Medinan period. Some in the middle, and later part of that period,” explains Badawi.

“This is a revealing lesson for us because it shows that Allah knew in advance what injunctions He wanted to reveal,” he adds. “Yet He delayed the revelation of those matters until many, many years of preparation on the level of Iman, submission to Allah, love of Allah and the sincere desire to voluntarily obey Allah and His Messenger. Once that base was established it wasn't difficult at all for the believing women to willingly abide by the injunctions of Allah."

Badawi says this is similar to how the Islamic commandment forbidding intoxicants was introduced.

“The same process of preparation took place to the point that when the final prohibition of intoxicants was revealed it wasn't difficult for men to abide by that willingly and immediately.” He explains this was especially difficult for Muslim men, who were the ones reported more likely to consume alcohol than women at that time.

“Some well-intentioned Muslims seem to miss these lessons from the gradual revelation and become too legalistic to the point of doing more harm than benefit, notwithstanding their good intentions,” adds Badawi.

Wrongly using the "baseball bat" approach to the Hijab

“Muslims gain a little bit of knowledge and they want to run around with a baseball bat and beat people over the head with religion. That's exactly what [has] made many young people leave the mosque,” says Alkhateeb.

Using the right method to tell Muslim women about Hijab is crucial, just as it is in advising Muslims to implement any other requirement of the faith.

“In the Prophet's whole life he led by encouragement not pressure,” she says. “The way he behaved is the opposite of how most Muslims who are practicing Muslims behave towards each other in terms of giving advice. His way was not carrying around a religious baseball bat.”

The thinker and writer, who has also been an activist for the last 35 years points out the “baseball bat” methodology is in full swing when many Muslims encounter non-Hijabis.

“Instead of inviting her and embracing her, they're immediately trying to think about what they can criticize her about,” says Alkhateeb.

The Prophet also did not use“vigilantes” to impose a religious requirement like Hijab.

“When we deal with the Sunnah, we find that he never appointed vigilantes to go around to reinforce something that believing Muslim women were encouraged to do, or use any harsh words or actions to arrive at that desired situation or desired setting,” says Badawi. “The approach that he followed which we should follow as our example was not to focus on issues like Hijab before Iman and psychological and spiritual preparation was in place.”

Badawi stresses inviting to Hijab and other Islamic requirements should be done in a way “that would motivate people to respect the moral values of society rather than simply forcing them to do so. In fact that goes back to the definition of Islam which is willing trusting and loving submission to Allah and obedience to His Messenger.”

As an example, he cited an incident from the lifetime of the Prophet when a Bedouin man urinated in the mosque. When other Muslims saw this, they became very angry and wanted to rebuke him harshly.

The Prophet on the other hand, stopped them and told the man gently what he was doing was incorrect.

“That story is a classic example of the contrast between the attitudes of some well-intentioned Muslims who want to correct the wrong immediately and by any means and the approach of the Prophet of kindness, gentleness, persuasion and wisdom,” he explains.

Temporarily tolerating the wrong: a rule of Usul al-Fiqh

“The other aspect which is frequently missed is another rule of ordaining the good and forbidding the evil which was addressed by many scholars especially by the famous Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah,” says Badawi. “The rule basically is that if in a given situation, attempting or trying to forbid the wrong may result in greater harm than benefit, then it is better to tolerate the wrong on a temporary basis.”

“I think the classic example that Ibn Taymiyyah is referred to is when the Tatars invaded Muslim lands,” explains Badawi. “He was told that some of these soldiers were drinking and that they should be stopped because this is part of forbidding the wrong yet, he advised that they should be left alone. His reasoning was that if those soldiers become sober, they might go on killing more people which is a greater harm than drinking”.

“This is not a new rule,” he emphasizes. ”It is a basic rule in Usul al-Fiqh, the roots of Islamic law, that if some harm is inevitable then it is better to tolerate the lesser harm in order to prevent great harm.”

Badawi demonstrates how this rule could apply to a situation where a Muslim sister who does not wear Hijab attends Juma prayer.

“For example, if that sister is approached in a harsh way she may not come again which could hurt her and hurt the community at large. But if she's welcomed first and there's demonstration of brotherhood and friendship, then in a gentle and wise way that is suitable for her, she can be encouraged, then of course it would be a far better result than the confrontational, harsh approach.”

Involving non-Hijabi sisters in activities

“It's only by mixing in the right company that someone who is contemplating Hijab will have the strength and courage to make the final act,” says Bullock.

This means women offering friendship, as well as involving the sisters in Islamic activities through organizations like Muslim Students' Associations. Bullock notes that if a Muslim woman wants to do something for Islam she should be applauded “because she could be out there doing something else.”

“Muslim organizations have a duty to say what is right and to invite in the best of manner women to cover and to support them when they do so but that doesn't mean individuals should be judgmental when women are not covering,” she adds.

Involvement, but not leadership

However, Ali and Badawi draw the line of involvement of non-Hijabi Muslim women in Muslim organizations at the leadership level.

They both say that any Islamically-oriented organization will select a person to be their leader who reflects their goals and aspirations. That means a Muslim woman who does not wear Hijab would not be selected because she is not fully following the precepts of Islam. Similarly, a Muslim man who is not fulfilling Islamic obligations like prayer, chaste behavior, etc. would also not be selected for a leadership position in such a milieu.

Badawi says this is not exclusion. Rather, it is the natural outcome in any milieu which aims to be Islamically-oriented. Its leadership will represent the precepts of Islam as much as possible.

“I'm against the term exclusion because if we apply the Islamic Shura (consultative) method then the leadership would emanate from the people, will be chosen by the people. And if the community or Islamic organization in a given setting are truly Islamically oriented, one would expect that the person chosen to be the spokesperson and symbol of that organization should reflect their conviction and values in the best possible way.”

A Positive Approach

Badawi gives an example of how he, “with my weaknesses” approached an aggressive non-Hijabi sister and the result.

Many years back, during a visit to Australia, one sister, during one of his lectures, a non-Hijabi Muslim woman asked questions about Hijab, in a disapproving manner. He talked to her kindly and give information without harshness.

Two years later, he returned to Australia, and a sister in full Hijab approached him, asking if he recognized her. He did not.

“I am the one who was arguing with you about Hijab two years ago,” she told him. “But it is the approach and information that you gave me that helped me to study more, to educate myself and to make up my own decision and I am happy with what I decided.”

Photo Attribution:,_Afghanistan_on_July_18,_2005_050718-A-UK569-053.jpg


ASA, I'm very disappointed in the rigidity of this article. There has never been consensus on the requirement of the hijab.  Many high-level Islamic scholars have stated that the hijab is not clearly required in Qur'an or Sunnah, or at least is open to interpretation. Historically, Muslim women have even prayed with their hair uncovered and have been accepted for this. In Egypt, about a decade ago, there was a public debate between two high-level shariah experts -- one said hijab was a religious duty and one said it wasn't. If two learned scholars follow the accepted methodology and issue differing fatwas, then Muslims can choose with fatwa to follow. I'm really disappointed that SoundVision would publish an article like this that is so completely lacking in nuance, historical fact, and acknowledgement of the wide variety of scholarly opinions on this issue

I understand your perspective; however, please mention the high-level Islamic scholars who said that it wasn't clearly required. I will mention the ones that the Muslim ummah collectively agree on their accuracy and precision. According to Sahih Al-Bukhari, 4480, and Abu Dawud, 4102, ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “May Allah have mercy on the first Muhajir women. When Allah revealed the words ‘and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)’ [al-Nur 24:31] they tore their aprons and covered their faces (ikhtamarna) with them.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 4480; Abu Dawud, 4102). Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala started Surat Al-Noor with describing it as a Sura with an obligation or an order from Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala. Later on in Surat Al-Noor, the above mentioned verse in the hadith with the letter (لام) as an order and obligation. 
To conclude this response, please provide your evidence, authentic narrations and verses from the Qur'an, to support your argument. Thank you.

I'm from an extremely religious family , I perfrom my prayers, fast and do follow the Quran but I really don't feel like covering my head. My mom doesn't understand. This is my problem.Thanks a lot. This article was really good.



It's cool even if you don't wear one, as long as you are covering your whole body decently. Besides what is so great about the hair that needs to be covered, men have hair too. Right? We have this thing with hair that it shouldn't be shown, you will be judged and sent to hell for this etc. As long as you are doing other good deeds and prayers it's all good



I'm not sure tbh I don't want my scarf but I will wear good clothes so what if I take off my scarf will I be judge badly for it ?


Ellicott city

assalaam alaiqumi am raised n bought up in an islamic country..this article is very informative!!jzk n keep it 1 advice to all muslimahs when they say "we have to do the main pillars of islam n den do hijab OR LET US B READY N PURE OF HEART N DEN WE WILL THINK OF HIJAB" i dont no y ladies dont understand dat shaitaan is in our nafs n he will not let us do ne good n who is to say may b god forbids death knocks at our door!!! r we still goin to wait for our hearts to b ready for hijaab!! its faraz n we all ladies no man seein our body parts n hair is gunnah for us ladies..d more we r indulge in dis world d farther we will b from deen...n shaitaan will not let us cover our selves untill we defeat him by wearin it slowly n den d taste of shyness n modesty will come on its own!!! our hearts dont have to b ready we our selves e to be ready for our deen!!



great article Masha ALLAH


somewhere in the dunyah

My own daughter and nieces have experienced thier hair being yanked in mosque just because a couple of strands were peeking out. They then no longer wanted to return to mosque. Trust me a kind word will do more than physically hurting someone



Assalam alaikum, I would like to thank the author of this article for highlighting a situation that is rife in western society. I am yet to wear a hijab as I feel it is a difficult step to take as the hijab is percieved with much prejudice in the west,and also I would like to establish more Islamic ways before portraying an outward symbol of my religion as wearing a hijab brings with it the responsibility of conveying Islam to the world. You as aperson are then symbolic of everything Islam represents and non-believers look to you to understand what Islam is. This is a difficult responsibility to undertake. This is why I feel it is a great shame that muslims are looking down at other muslims and judgng them when they more then anyone understand that only Allah almighty has the right to do judge as only He is aware of the purity of a persons heart. I have had first hand experience of being excluded for not wearing a hijab. It is a believers role to encourage not discourage those that wish to practise islam, and it is with the example that we as believers set that others will follow.keep up the good work. Huda Hafiz



Omg I see ur post is 11yrs old but I'm a recent revert & I haven't told many people but I cannot bring myself show others my religion, I feel like a hypocrite. :(




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