Islamic concepts

Ḥijāb حجاب — layer, (layer of) separation, cover

The English word ‘private’ comes from the Latin verb privare, meaning ‘to separate, set apart’.

Ḥijāb in the Qurʾān

The word Ḥijāb is used eight times in the Qurʾān. Not once is it used for clothing.

  • disconnect between world views, barrier of understanding between atheists and Moe's message. hearts veiled from Muhammad's call (41:5)
  • persecutors blocked off, separated, disbarred, veiled from grace of allah on day of judgment 83:15
  • Prevents you from seeing
    • Horses hidden by the cover of darkness (38:32)
    • Allāh (swt) speaks from behind a veil. Prophets can’t see through. (42:51)
  • distinguish between good and bad
    • the barrier between Paradise and Hell (7:46)
    • invisible screen between Muḥammad ﷺ reciting the Qurʾān and those who don't believe in the next life (17:45)

Curtain of privacy

  • Mary kept herself in seclusion; Mary erected a curtain to screen herself off, isolate herself from her family (19:17)
  • Wives of Muḥammad ﷺ behind a screen (33:53)

God should speak to Muhammad from behind a veil 42:51 hearts veiled from Muhammad's call 41:5 separated, disbarred 83:15

Public modesty

  • public modesty, proper dress, dress code

In Quranic Arabic, Hijāb literally means ‘something that prevents or covers’. It’s the Muslim concept of modesty when going out in public. Ḥijāb applies to both men and women and involves various parts of the body.

Somehow the English loanword ‘hijab’ picked up the much narrower meaning of a woman’s headscarf or veil.

7:26; 24:31; 33:59

Ḥijāb of the eyes

Both men and women should not ogle each other in lust, except with their spouse. They should lower their eyes rather than look at any exposed private parts of the opposite sex. (Qur’ān 24:30-31)

Ḥijāb of clothing

When referring to clothing, Ḥijāb can be translated as ‘proper dress’.

For men:

For women:

, “Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage, there is no [blame] on them if they lay down their garments” (24:60), since Allah Most High made it permissible for old women in this verse to lay down their garments and it is clear that the intended meaning of laying down the garments here is not laying down all clothes. The intended meaning of it is only to lay down the jilbab or shroud from the external garments, the laying down of which will not lead to exposing the ‘awrah.

Ḥijāb of spiritual understanding

"the veil which separates man or the world from God."