I was once asked by someone in the industry whether I would consider removing my hijab if I wanted to progress in my career and that I had all the ‘skills and potential’ but didn’t really have the right ‘look’ for TV
Last month, I was able to break through a glass ceiling that I felt had cast a shadow over me for so long – when I, a woman wearing a hijab, did my first TV report for STV news in Scotland. It was a massive step for me, yet there is so much more that needs to be done for better representation in the UK media.
Currently in Scotland, there is a real lack of representation from black and Asian ethnic minority media…
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UMAR AND THE HIJAB
If you ask a Muslim why Muslim females wear the Hijab (veil) the reason given is usually one of two (or a mixture of both):
They are obeying a command from Allah as given in the Qur’an; it is a matter of piety.
They are protecting their modesty by dressing this way instead of showing their body off for everyone to see.
The crux of the issue is how this mandate made its way into the Qur’an in the first place? We can find this information in the ahadith by examining the revelational circumstances of these verses.
Qur’an Ayahs Regarding the Hijab
Yusuf Ali:And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.
Pickthal: And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.
Shakir: And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful.
Yusuf Ali: O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Pickthal: O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.
Shakir: O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
The first verse above states that the purpose is to hide women’s beauty from men. The second verse makes it clear that it is to prevent molestation/harassment whilst traveling. We also do not find any such requirement for Muslim men. What are the possible explanations for this?
Women’s beauty is so enticing that men are unable to control themselves if they see an uncovered female – This cannot be right because women do not have to cover themselves in front of those males to whom they are related.
Women are not attracted to men – Even the casual observer knows this is untrue – the vast majority of women are not asexual.
Women have more self control than men – This may very well be the case, but only with the caveat that ‘men’ refers to Muslim men.
The current perception in Islamic society is that an unveiled woman is asking to be sexually harassed or assaulted. Although not a guarantee, they believe that the wearing of a veil is added protection against the chance of assault. However as we look at the ahadith, we find that none of the above reasons are correct as we see when studying the revelational circumstances of these verses. The Hijab verses were sent down in response to a specific situation occurring at the time.
Ahadith Regarding the Hijab
Umar bin Al-Khattab’s Involvement
Narrated ‘Aisha: The wives of the Prophet used to go to Al-Manasi, a vast open place (near Baqia at Medina) to answer the call of nature at night. ‘Umar used to say to the Prophet “Let your wives be veiled,” but Allah’s Apostle did not do so. One night Sauda bint Zam’a the wife of the Prophet went out at ‘Isha’ time and she was a tall lady. ‘Umar addressed her and said, “I have recognized you, O Sauda.” He said so, as he desired eagerly that the verses of Al-Hijab (the observing of veils by the Muslim women) may be revealed. So Allah revealed the verses of “Al-Hijab” (A complete body cover excluding the eyes).
Sahih Bukhari 1:4:148
Narrated ‘Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab used to say to Allah’s Apostle “Let your wives be veiled” But he did not do so. The wives of the Prophet used to go out to answer the call of nature at night only at Al-Manasi.’ Once Sauda, the daughter of Zam’a went out and she was a tall woman. ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her while he was in a gathering, and said, “I have recognized you, O Sauda!” He (‘Umar) said so as he was anxious for some Divine orders regarding the veil (the veiling of women.) So Allah revealed the Verse of veiling. (Al-Hijab; a complete body cover excluding the eyes). (See Hadith No. 148, Vol. 1)
Sahih Bukhari 8:74:257
‘A’isha reported that the wives of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) used to go out in the cover of night when they went to open fields (in the outskirts of Medina) for easing themselves. ‘Umar b Khattab used to say: Allah’s Messenger, ask your ladies to observe veil, but Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) did not do that. So there went out Sauda, daughter of Zarn’a, the wife of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), during one of the nights when it was dark. She was a tall statured lady. ‘Umar called her saying: Sauda, we recognise you. (He did this with the hope that the verses pertaining to veil would be revealed.) ‘A’isha said: Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, then revealed the verses pertaining to veil.
Sahih Muslim 26:5397