Hijab represents more than a Muslim woman’s headscarf. It is a philosophy of modest dress and behavior to be followed by both Muslim men and women.
Quaiser D. Abdullah, a professor in Temple University’s College of Education and the faculty adviser for the Muslim Student Association at Temple, said Muslims who follow hijab wear clothing that creates a “barrier” of modesty.
He added that not all types of clothing meet the minimum requirement for a barrier, which is to be covered from above the navel to below the knee. Coverings from above the navel to below the knee can also be defined as an ‘awra.’
He added that this concept extends from a headdress worn by women to a concept of modesty that extends to how all Muslim people may dress.
“The hijab has been almost hijacked to refer to the headdress for women,” Abdullah said.
If people wish to refer exclusively to a women’s headscarf, and not the entire concept of hijab, Abdullah said the proper name is “khimar.” Islamic jurisprudence, or Islamic law, also uses the Arabic word “satr” to refer to a covering instead of the “hijab.”
In his book “The Islamic Modest Dress,” Iranian cleric, philosopher and politician, Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari, writes that “hijab” is what “appears behind a curtain.”
There are other subtle ways to follow hijab. For example, “the hijab of the eye,” is a physical boundary established by the Quran for men to lower their gaze in modesty.
This is referenced in Chapter 24, verse 30 of the Holy Quran: “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.”
Sheikh Bilal Hussain, a 2004 business administration alumnus who spent six years studying at the Islamic Seminary at Mashhad and Qom, Iran, said Islam mandates modesty for all Muslims, adding that modesty is to give dignity to a person.
“When we talk about modesty and what that means, it varies from culture to culture,” Hussain said. “When we talk about, for example, the idea of modesty, we are talking about controlling a man’s faculty of desire.”
In some cases, a woman wearing a hijab headscarf, or khimar, can be considered more identifiably “Muslim” than a man dressed in the conceptual definition of hijab.
“You can’t tell a guy is Muslim just by looking at him,” said Hasan Zaidi, a senior bioengineering major.
There is no single way for men and women to dress in hijab, Abdullah said, because traditional dress varies by culture and personal interpretation of the Quran.
Like the hijab, Islam as a whole can be misinterpreted.
“One of the criticisms that has been brought up about Islam is that it is abusive toward women,” Zaidi said. “Sometimes Muslim men are seen as the executors of that abuse.”
A 2011 Pew Research Center study found that 22 percent of American, Western European and Russian non-Muslims surveyed consider Muslims respectful toward women.
“If there is a misogynist in the news who happens to call himself Muslim, that doesn’t mean Islam is misogynistic,” he added. “The name Islam has been abused to enact political agendas, so educate yourself about the religion. …When you hear something about Islam, don’t take it at face value.”