The Counter Crusade

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Muslim Hijab, Christian Hijab

I don't know why Christians criticize the hijab, or veil, that Muslim women wear. Let's compare what Christianity and Islam say about the veil.

Islam

The women of Arabia at the time of the Prophet Muhammad already wore headcovers on their heads to protect them from the heat of the sun, but they wore them tied back behind their necks, leaving the front of the neck bare, as well as the opening at the top of the dress. So the Qur'anic revelation came, telling them that what they were doing was not enough, but that they should let it drape down to conceal the neck and the dress's opening at the top (above the chest).[1]

“Say to believing women, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts, and reveal not their adornment save such as is outward; and let them drape their headcoverings over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment . . .” (Qur’an 24:31)

Thus the hijab in Islam is for the purposes of modesty and dignity.

Now, women wear their hijab when they pray too. This is because if women are to express modesty and dignity before other men, then Allah is even more worthy of it. The Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Allah is more deserving of one’s sense of modesty than people are.”[2]


Christianity



NOTE: What I present here is the teachings of Paul and their explanation by Christian scholars, not of Prophet Isa (Yeshua) son of Maryam, peace be upon him and his mother.


There are two reasons, according to Paul, why women should wear a veil:

1) The first is because man was created for God's sake, and women were created for man's sake. Therefore, women should have a covering on their head as a sign that they are under the authority of men.

Now I want you to realize that the head of (i.e authority for) every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (I Corinthians 11: 3)

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of (i.e was made to honor) God; but the woman is the glory of (i.e was made to honor) man. (I Corinthians 11:7)

For indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. (I Corinthians 11:9-10)

A better translation of I Corinthians 11:10 says,

And so, because of this, and also because of the angels, a woman ought to wear something on her head, as a sign that she is under someone's authority.[4]

Contrast "man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake" with the Qur'anic,

" I created the jinn and humankind (al insa) only that they might worship Me." (Qur'an 51:56). Here both men and women are equal in that both of them were created to worship God.

2) The second reason is that an uncovered female head during prayer is disgraceful.

But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover the head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. (I Corinthians 11: 5-6)

To quote a Christian explanation of the above sayings,

"The apostle further elaborates on this matter of the woman disgracing her spiritual head or authority, if her head is uncovered--"For she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved" (11:5b). An uncovered Christian woman is as scandalous and reproachful as a bald-headed woman (haircutting was an act of grief - Deut 21:12; or an act of infamy - Isa 7:20)--remember that a woman's hair is a God-given endowment which reveals and highlights her beauty (see 11:15)....

Paul proceeds to argue in such a way that the Christian woman has no option but to have a covering or veil on her head. He argues, "For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for her to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head" (11:6). Notice the tight, irresistible logic. Do you recognize the syllogism (i.e., an argument consisting of two premises and a conclusion)?

Premise 1: Head not covered, then cut hair off

Premise 2: Cut hair or shaved head is a disgrace

Conclusion: Therefore you must have head covered

(for an uncovered head is a disgrace).

...
Apparently, these Corinthian believers misunderstood the purpose and practice of headcovering. A. R. Fausset writes, "The Corinthian women, on the ground of the abolition of distinction of sex in Christ, claimed equality with men, and, overstepping propriety, came forward to pray and prophesy without the customary headcovering."1 Hence, having laid the foundational Biblical principle which would guide his logic and application, the apostle Paul now proceeds to identify and address the issue or problem concerning the propriety and legitimacy of headcovering. Who is to cover the head?--"Every man who has something on his head [lit. down the head; e.g., a veil or tallith] while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered [i.e., nothing on the head; e.g., a veil] while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved" (11:4,5)."[3]


So I don't know why Christians would criticize Islam for commanding a veil when the New Testament (specifically the writings of Paul) also commands the wearing of a veil.


On a side note, Paul continues,

"Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him" (I Corinthians 11: 14)...



---------
1. SunniPath: Why Hijab?
2. SunniPath: Hijab at home.
3. The Biblical Practice of Headcovering
4. I Corinthians 11. Footnote b.

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