Assalam alaikum & Peace to all
Muslim women struggle with a range of issues, none of them more prominent than that of hijab and of being modest (usually concerning clothing only)
I get upset when Islam is reduced to the fact of 'hijab or no hijab' when there are so many other important issues and concerns. While perusing the 'net' I came across one of the best articles to explain why women are told to cover and be modest. It answered so many of my concerns and questions - subhanallah - I am glad to have found such an enlighting article!
Here are some quotes from the article
These are the only verses which address the issue of clothing so specifically. Clearly, the basic principle is that of modesty. The first verse emphasizes the importance of one guarding her or his modesty, lowering one’s gaze in order to remain pure. This means that, in order for women and men to have respectful relationships (such as at work or school, etc.) they must focus on modesty in their behavior. This is enhanced by dressing in a way that reinforces one’s image as a modest person. It must be emphasized that behavior and appearance are both important in setting the tone of respectful interaction between men and women.
Interestingly, the Qur’an is really not that explicit about the exact definition of modest dress. By reading the Qur’anic verses above, women are advised to cover their breasts and put on their outer garments in a way that enables them to avoid harassment. In addition, women are advised not to draw attention to their "beauty" (zeenah). This term has been translated as both beauty and ornaments (as women used to strike their feet to draw attention to hidden ornaments such as ankle bracelets). Of note is that the Qur’an uses the term zeenah elsewhere, perhaps showing that in different contexts the word has slightly different meanings:The exact rules defining women’s dress have been determined based on interpretation of these verses and incorporation of concepts established in hadith. The inclusion of a head covering is derived from interpretation of the word khimar in 24:31 above. Most translators and commentators agree that this was a loose scarf worn at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) which covered a woman’s head, neck and possibly shoulders, leaving the rest exposed. Women were thus ordered to use the khimar to cover their breasts. Naturally, a woman would continue to cover her neck, head and shoulders and would then also cover her breast. This understanding of the khimar as a head-covering explains why Muslims believe that the Qur’an tells us to cover our hair. The injunction, however, regarding covering the hair in addition to everything else is implied, not specified in the Qur’an.
O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel (zeenah) at every time and place of prayer…(7:31)
When reviewing both Qur’an and hadith, there is no precedence for how to deal with such violations; the Prophet (pbuh) or his wives and companions simply reminded others to follow the guidelines. Not a single example of violence, imprisonment, humiliation or coercion can be found during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh)that would imply that such practices today are consistent with his example.
The Qur’an also says "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). Those who choose to behave a certain way as a reflection of their belief in God and His message and thus accept the challenges therein are not the same as those who behave to satisfy other people or laws set in place. The freedom and ability to choose to do good make the reward that much greater.
One thing though... which I am too sleepy to research right now is why we have to wear a scarf to pray? We are at home in the privacy of our husbands, family so why is it a mandate to wear it?? Anyone know the answer to that I would greatly appreciate it!