Purdah – The Hijab & The Veil

The teachings of Islam concerning hijab (the veil) and segregation of men and women is sometimes a difficult concept to understand in secular society. This is because of the widespread and erroneous notion that observing hijab is a heavy restriction imposed on Muslim women. In fact, the very opposite is true. You will find that hijab is a means of protecting women, and providing them with freedom from many societal ills. In fact, the hijab is often identified as a means of liberation for women giving them full rights over themselves and drawing them nearer to God Al-Mighty. The word “purdah” or covering is also used to describe the concept and the practice of hijab.

Maintaining Moral Condition of Society

Islam provides guidance not only for individuals, but also lays down rules for the good of all society. In this case, the institution of hijab guards the moral condition of society. Muslim women share with men the responsibility of upholding the moral standard of society. The Holy Qur’an has laid down that one of the methods that men and women are to use to achieve that goal is hijab. It says:

“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” (24:31)


“Say to the believing women that they restrain their looks and guard their private parts, and that they
display not their beauty or their embellishment except that which is apparent thereof, and that they
draw their head coverings over their bosoms…..” (24:32)

The verse goes on to list close relatives from whom observing hijab is not necessary.

From these verses it is made clear that both men and women are to conduct themselves with modesty
and propriety at all times, and especially when in each other’s presence. This teaching is based on the
fact that Islam recognizes that “prevention is the better part of a cure.” So segregation of the sexes is
prescribed so that situations which cannot be controlled afterwards, are not allowed to develop in the
first place. In this way, erosion of moral values can be prevented, and society is safeguarded from
problems such as adultery, teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.


The Holy Qur’an requires that Muslim women dress modestly, cover their heads and wear an outer
garment to conceal their beauty from strangers. However, we must understand that this physical
covering is the only first step to developing hijab. The true and full observance of hijab/purdah is
achieved when “veiling” extends to a man or woman’s mind and heart. This means that one should veil
or shield his/her mind and heart from impure and immoral thoughts when in contact with the opposite
sex. One’s thoughts, words and actions should reflect a sisterly love and respect towards fellow beings.
This behavior leads to one’s own moral upliftment, and also creates an atmosphere where men and
women, instead of resenting and degrading each other, treat each other with respect and

Share Page: