Wearing Hijab

I can understand why some Christian women are attracted to hijab. It is a code for modest dress; it is attractive and allows for the wearing of colour and pattern, if one is not inclined to be Plain; for those of Eastern European or Middle-Eastern descent, it is an appropriate ethnic dress. I am of Northern stock myself. The dress of Scottish women two hundred and fifty years ago shocked the Quakers of Phildelphia when the clans started to emigrate to the New World, so that ancestral model is not one for a truly modest woman to look to. (The issue was too much free-flowing hair and way too much bosom and ankle.) A more Quakerly approach suits me, having dressed in black as a priest for several years.

I suppose one question is if Christian women should adopt hijab. I would say that strictly speaking, no, because it implies an adherence to Islam. But adopting hijab-style principles and dress would always be appropriate. The covered head and modest garment are correct in terms of Biblical teachings, as well as Christian practice for centuries.

How much is too much? Christian and Jewish women were never required to cover their faces as a religious principle; niqab is inappropriate for Christians as a spiritual discipline.  I would avoid anything that implied an ethnicity that would mislead someone. This could be an important issue in some Moslem countries. Christians should avoid dressing too native lest it lead to misunderstanding. I knew an American man who got taken in by the police for refusing to go to the mosque when he was found in the market in Arab dress, in Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, don’t dress in such a way that it would embarrrass your Moslem friends. The hijab is a sign of modesty, and a rather strict one at that. Cover from neck to ankle and past the elbow. If you are comfortable wearing pants, then the top you wear should cover down to your thighs, and be loose. The bosom should not be emphasized, nor the hips. I would avoid excessive jewelry, too; it isn’t modest to show off either wealth or fashion sense.

It is up to you to wear the hijab bonnet or simply a scarf draped to cover the hair. For those with delicate or fragile hair, the bonnet may rub too much and break your hair. It would be best to pull your hair back gently, and tie and pin the scarf rather than wearing two layers of pressure. If you have really long or thick hair, avoid the camel hump bun at the top of the head.

Make-up, if you wear it at all, is best kept natural and soft – no long lashes, obvious colours on the eyes, or china doll blush. Lipstick should be natural and light. It is not modest to draw too much attention to your features. The hijab, close to the face, already acts as a frame. Choose the fabric colour to complement your natural features, not clash.

My main concern is that while your body and hair are covered, your face is exposed to UV rays. I can’t see wearing a bonnet or large-brimmed hat with hijab, although the hat would be a good idea outdoors! A bad sunburn is dangerous, so be sure to wear a sunscreen or carry a parasol.

Those who are already wearing hijab-type dress may want to add to this, or corrct me if I’m wrong. I’d be interested to hear from you. why did you choose Eastern dress? How do other people, Christian and Moslem, react? Has it caused you problems?

Be assured that I am supportive of your decision. Modesty is always right!

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26 thoughts on “Wearing Hijab

  1. In response to your asking if any of your readers wear hijab, I do. I am a Christian woman who was called to cover and after trying out the various Christian head scarves was dissatisfied, mainly because I feel strongly that my ears and neck also should be covered. With a head scarf, I was constantly tugging at it because my ears kept “slipping” out, and of course, my neck was revealed.

    I was drawn to the type of hijab called Al-Amira, which has a 1-piece style that is, essentially, a large tube of fabric that you pull over your head that covers both ears and neck. There is a slight “brim” to it. It tucks into all my tops so that no flesh is revealed.

    Now, while feeling this strongly about my neck and ears, I do wear tops that bare my arms from the elbow down with no sense of misgiving on my part. However, I do always wear ankle length skirts or dresses. I have a few that are shorter (still falling below the knee) that I wear with leggings underneath, so that no skin shows on my legs.

    I have had two people ask if I was Muslim when seeing my hijab, so yes, this does bring up the issue with people that perhaps I am a Muslim, to which I answered that I was a Christian called to cover but that the Christian cover style was not enough for me, so I wore the hijab. This on one occasion prompted someone overhearing the conversation to ask WHY I covered, and I was able to share with them my convictions.

    While I wore a Christian-style head scarf, not a single person asked me why I covered.

    My view on covering is somewhat liberal in the sense that I view my covering as a visible sign of my recognition that I am covered under God’s grace and blessings. I have this view along the lines of nuns who wear head coverings because Christ is their husband, as they have no earthly husband. I do have an earthly husband, to whom I am also submissive, but it is Christ to whom I owe the higher submission, because of His grace to me. Did that make sense?

    • It makes perfect sense – I think most covering women feel that way. Although I am Plain Anglican, I get mistaken for Amish/Mennonite a lot. I don’t mind,nor do they. Thank you for your witness.

    • Ann, I so appreciate what you said here about your “liberal” view on covering. I myself cover for similar reasons – I feel that it reminds me to reverence All That Is. Very similar feel to how I’m interpreting your saying you’re “covered under God’s grace and blessings.”

      Magdalena, it’s amazing (again!) the timeliness of both your posts today about head covering as today I wore my kapp to work for the first time. My office is a bit toxic and so I was expecting the worst, but have received positive feedback both from colleagues and visitors.

      • I started off by covering at church and not in other places. Then I got my courage up after all the positive comments. I don’t think my old friends even think about it now. It is part of my daily routine, and it takes less time than most women put into make-up.

  2. I do not wear hijab although I have been asked if I am a muslim or if I were in the process of converting to islam. An elderly man probably from Somalia greeted me with “Asalam aleikum” so he probably also believed that I was a muslim. When I was mistaken for a muslim I wore a scarf on my head tied at the neck and some of the hair in my forehead was showing so I was not even close to hijab.

    I would not wear a head covering which is very similar to the hijab just because I do not want to be mistaken for a muslim and that is also the reason I mostly wear head bands and a cap in church. I sometimes wear a scarf tied at the neck but since people seem to think I am muslim then I avoid it. I wear a cap in church and a head band most of the time otherwise as I am in the process of covering full time and I will take it step by step. I hope to wear scarves and caps all the time at some point though.

    • I’ve never been mistaken for Muslim in a covering, but I was often mistaken for a nun when I wore black or white! People would greet me with, “Hello, sister,” and I’d correct them with “It’s Mother, actually.”

  3. magdelaina,

    My first reference point to headcovering was that of Hijab; a dear Muslim friend acted as the support and catalyst for my covering; I had been convicted re 1 Cor 11 since the late 90’s, but saw no way of incorporating it into my returning faith-life. I was re-baptized in April 2001 and saw this as an ideal opportunity to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and commence covering. on the morning of my baptism, a my friend brought around four hijabs; we were going two a piece; I chose a white 48×48 square scarf with pale tiny turquoise blossoms on it and silver sprigs; (which all washed off after the first laundering). plus a white hijab with blue iris. I wore the first when plunged into the pool that afternoon, and once in dry clothes, wore a black large lace triangle knotted at the chin; they thought it was just to protect my hair, and my minister never supported my covering. Over the following months, I covered the fringe that remained uncovered in the early days; 18 months time, my family and I came to blows; there is still pain today; nobody understood, and, the enemy used this to sabotage my witness. I hijabed in one form or another until my marriage and return to Anglican church, when an elderly lady who was one of the founding members of the parish suggest I wear a mantilla, like the lace triangle. I have done so, or worn wide headbands to this day, around family only bun-covers, though hijab is the most comfortable, practical and easy on the hair type of covering. I have run into many Christians who cover hijab-style and a google search of Christian hijab brings up many sites, audiovisual presentations and articles. I’ve worn the niqab twice and have found it an incredibly liberating and powerful experience. In my thinking, i wish Christians had a scriptural and historical precedent that would allow one to follow the discipline of niqab if one found themself thus convinced and convicted.

    We coverers in Australia are minimal; I know of only half a dozen, and most only cover for church/worship/bible study corporate or private. I know one or two that have covered in the past but have encountered such open hostility that they have had to retreat to covering for private prayer only. Australia does not have an herritage covering community such as Amish or menonite that has been here for hundreds of years; indeed, european settlement has only been here for just over 200 years and the first church was not built until half a century after the first pub…

    There are menonite and bruderhoffe communities here now, but these have only been here since around the 1990’s, and, half the bruderhoffe were deported back in 2003. the closed brethren cover but are malligned by society and the Australian government has been a hairs bredth upon several occasions over the past decade from launching a Royal commission into the denomination and banning it. When the Mediterianian post war migrations commenced, Greek and italian women were virtually compelled to remove their headcoverings, and our Muslim population, numbering only around 300,000 is ever haranged for modest dress and hijab.

    EVen French and Belgian laws would prevent us Christians from plain dress and headcovering in public places.

    modesty and covering is rare, though there are a few of us at university; I would say, around 3 or 4 in total.., though i am the only overtly ‘Plain’ one.

    I have encountered some resistance from Muslims when I used to hijab; they saw it as misapprpriation of a symbol they saw as their own, and a form of false advertising.

    Sadly, Muslim attire, especially that of South East Asia, is by far the most beautiful modestwear and way of covering in the world, in my view, having worn it for around 2 years. It is sad, because we Christians are not known for our own modesty; the Christian comunity violently opposed to any form of faith that is physical, tangible and outwardly visible; misinterpretation of Matthew’s gospel and jesus words on fasting.

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

    • I suspect that because Australia was largely settled, as you say, after the time of headcovering, it was never a consideration; also, many immigrants were from Ireland and Scotland, where headcovering was not a tradition. In church, women would simply shift their shawl to cover their head. It may have been a lack of fine fabric such as lace and cotton. I don’t know. It is also that “inward” expression which you mention, a very important Protestant principle. Personally, I think the attitude that “this is a private conviction, I don’t want to be proud and express it publically” is both vain and cowardly. Have the courage of your conviction!

  4. Covering has a long tradition that extent beyond the three Abrahamic faiths and through the centuries has seen many changes. Some do appear similar to the Muslim hijab, some Nuns’ coverings are similar in style to the short khimar, falling to about the mid chest. Even the Nuns’ coverings have change quite dramatically since Vatican 2 with many of the older style habits and veils being reduced to “mufti”. The hijab has many variations and can cover from head to toe, head to finger tips, elbow or shoulder. The more “liberal” versions look very much like the Grace Kelly style, tied at the back of the neck. In Turkey it is common to see brightly coloured hijabs worn by young and old, unlike in Saudi, Iran or Iraq, and not forgetting the full covering worn in some of the rural areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As for Christian women wearing the hijab, I think that it comes down to why they wear it and that it is worn with respect for Islam. Human nature is such that some people will always misinterpret the outward sighs and draw the wrong conclusions, some Muslim Sister I know have been confused with Nuns.

    • Mother Kay and I had a discussion about “elbow modesty” in the Middle East. I practice elbow modesty more from aesthetics than conviction, but she found that she was turned away at some sites in Israel because she showed elbows. She is modern modest, but was rather amused that the small bend in her arm was considered showing too much flesh! I intend to do more reading on Islamic dress soon since its influence is spreading.

  5. Frances Fischer’s article over at http://www.quakerjane.com addresses ‘elbow’ modesty; I think you will also find resources on traditional Jewish Modesty websites; Tsnius is also particular re elbow modesty; I practice it for similar reasons to you; asthetics, I believe it finishes off the garment’s line perfectly, in the event one is not wearing full length sleeves. I go for three-quarter sleeves for spring, sumer and early autumn.

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

    • Like a lot of Australians now, I can’t take much sun exposure, either. I used to get burned arms, so I have to cover at least past the elbow outside. No farmer’s tan for me!

      On the matter of Tsnius, I was pleased when a Conservative rabbi once said that I was the only woman in the room who was dressed presentably; this wasn’t in a synagogue, he was lecturing on Jewish burial practices, and I think he was a bit appalled at the lack of modesty other women showed. It was disrespectful – they had been warned beforehand! And that was before I was Plain.

  6. Tsnius has a handful of very simple guidelines. Legal minima, if one will; sleeves below the elbow, necklines above the collarbone, hems below the knee (even when sitting) nothing that will accentuate or draw attention to the figure, no shorts or tight pants; if pants are to be worn, appropriate length of tunic, blouse or overshirt is to provide satisfactory coverage, and headcovering. the Jewish lady speakers I’ve heard at uni have observed tsnius, and been pleasantly surprised when I’ve brought it up, more than happy to share, using the opportunity to try and re-infoce (gently) the idea of modesty with everyone there.

    You are so right about the practical side of modesty; with the highest rates of melanoma in the world, you’d think Australian’s would embrace modesty if for no other reason than its health benefit. loose, light-coloured flowing fabrics that breathe (natural fibres) are the only thing to wear in a hot climate; all one needs is 10 minutes sun exposure on hands forearms and head per day in summer BEFORE 11 and AFTER around 4 in the afternoon, and 30 minutes of same in the ‘winter’ months, though winters in the Sydney basin only fall to around 16-17 degrees celcius maxima in midwinter, with one or two biting days of 12 degree cold; the surrounding blue mountains only drop to around 6-8 degrees celcius on average in winter, same for Oberon and other Great Dividing Range townships; if snow falls along the majority of the Great Dividing Range, it is only once every 5-10 years and is melted right off by lunchtime. even our Euphamistically named ‘Alps’ (snowy Mountains) need artificial snow and winter temps at night in these regions drop to around -6-8 degrees C; having loived in Canberra for 3 years, these minima are not as horrid as one thinks due to elevation and climate; it is very dry in these places, low humidity, and even when waiting for the bus of a morning, my only need for the cold, above my blouse, skirt and jersey (no thermals needed) was a wool tweed jacket and pair of leather dress gloves. The frosts would be melted off by mid-morning and the days would be warm. At these latitudues and altitudes, 15 degrees C is t-shirt and shorts weather!! It is humidity that makes these temps cold when one is out in them. Well, that’s enough of the meteorological ramble!!!!! You Northern Hemisphere readers need to pack up and come down to the Great South land!! 🙂 Actually, we have many Northern Europeans and British migrants each year; everyone loves the sun, the light…

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

    • Tsnius is so simple that any woman could follow it. I don’t know why we don’t see it more. Even thos ewho don’t cover daily would still find it practical.

      As for weather in Australia – Nicholas would love it; if I can ever get my episcopal issues straightened out, maybe we will emigrate!

  7. Magdelaina,

    You would be most welcome here with us upon arriving; it would be a privelege to have face to face fellowship and friendship with a fellow Anglican who is modest/plain – I’d come to your church (if you would be pastoring)…

    Yes, Tsnius is so very simple and universally adoptable; The reasons why more women do not take it up are concisely summerised in your ‘Self Esteem’ post… way too many have fallen under the lure of supposed ‘fashion’ and ‘beauty’; unable to see that they’re simply being used as money pumps for the big labels and manufacturers, and that what is being manufactured is done so often under disgraceful conditions with workers exploited, workplaces dangerous and hazardous, and, materials simply unsustainable. People tolerate wearing rags, or a rough approximation, slaves to a system that decrees one must change their look every year! the plain dresses I bought for winter back in 2008 are still going strong!! I am beginning to transfer the cool weather wardrobe (long sleeve dresses and pettiblouses) and they are wearing wonderfuly, just as wonderfully as they did last year, and the year before. I have ordered a few pieces this year; a second black pettiblouse, a grey skirt and vest set, a brown vest to match my brown skirt and blue vest to go with my blue skirt, plus new denham (I am unhappy with the length of my existing denham skirts; I have a friend who is eagerly awaiting them; they’re in as good condition as they were when I got them back at the end of 2008!).

    If I continue to look after everything, it will wear well for another two years – and more!! I am amazed at the way the customa made clothing is holding up!! I should ask my husband to take a couple of snaps; me and the doggie, to post (it will be a good example of what the King’s Daughters make…and the way plain is kind to large women (5′ 2″ and 90kg…not exactly runway material, but, I am comfortable with me; after all, the only person who sees me in all my glory is my husband, and he loves me regardless; my only imperitive to shed a few kgs is that of my future health), which is what it is; currently, I am blessed with excellent blood pressure, cholesterole and fasting blood sugar. .

    • Today i am wearing a dress that I’ve had about fifteen years. I check it occasionally to see if the seat and elbows are gong, but it is still hanging together. It’s my aprons that suffer the most!

  8. Despite the current title of my blog, I don’t wear hijab, lol. I spent some time in the Middle East and picked up several scarves, which is where my interest in headcoverings originally came from. When I cover my hair at church (which I don’t do all the time), I usually drape a scarf loosely around my head and neck. I don’t really go for caps or mantillas, generally speaking. I guess it’s just a personal choice of what a woman is comfortable with/likes wearing. My experience is that Western Muslims generally are not opposed to non-Muslim women wearing hijab. However, like you said, there is the issue of being mistaken for practicing a different religion. Each woman should discern what is right for her, IMO. I don’t wear hijab in the Islamic sense, but if other Christian women want to, that’s fine by me. Several Christian women have commented on my blog that they wear some form of hijab, and I’m happy to provide them with style tips.

      • What a pretty blog! My husband’s niece looks so like Audey Hepburn, and doesn’t even realize it. How sad is that? I love your sunny attitude about everything, and the videos are great for those who want to wear a scarf but weren’t born origamists.

    • I think it is significant that “Harrasment in Egypt” came up as your main blog. I looked through it, read some of the posts, and I am very impressed with what you’ve done. I hope other women in the West become aware of what our sisters live through and that information like yours will inform how we live with each other. When Moslem women were fighting for their rights in Iran, I suggested to seminary classmates that we all wear hijab in support. It didn’t get very far.

  9. Sarah Elliot: I am an Australian and a head -coverer! 🙂 But I don’t know any other (christian) coverers in person, I live in perth. I also attend an Anglican church.

    I wear many different styles, some of which do not look religious at all, and some of which look ‘christian’ or ‘muslim’ – I have had people assume I am Christian, a nun, Muslim and Jewish!
    While I often avoid hijab styles, I do prefer them! And I don’t think Christians should or have to, avoid muslim-looking styles. I do mostly because it tends to make family/friends uncomfortable. But if I am with people who can deal with it, then I wear hijab.
    I posted on it here:
    http://strengthofmylife.blogspot.com/2010/04/hijab-head-covering-again.html
    There is a link at the end to a great article called “looking like a muslim”

    • Sarah will be glad to hear that! As I say, the intention of covering is what matters. I think hijab style is beautiful myself, but I chose something else, or maybe it chose me.

  10. I began to read what you all have been saying about head covering and I couldn’t stop reading. Very interesting. I myself was raised half my childhood a muslim of muslim parents but later converted to christianity through the love of Christ through my loving mother. I have always loved the modesty of covering the head and modest dressing but did not grow up having to cover my hair. I was so comforted to read in Corinthians that Christians also cover their hair as a way of worship and order. Last year there was a christian women’s fellowship in which I met a Rabbi that touched my life in a significant way. I have been covering my head ever since. Not for her, but for me. It means something to me when I cover my hair and dress modestly. Now I have the bible to support, me and so many other women in fellowship with me sharing similiar beliefs of modesty. Please continue to write. Your words are a testimony for all to read.
    God bless you all.

    • You are certainly having an interesting faith journey. I woudl like to hear more if you want to share it. I don’t object to hijab, as Christian women wear it, although they may at times accidentally mislead people – but worse things happen in life! We all begin covering from some cultural reference, and it matters little what form that takes – women of mediterranean and middle eastern background, although Christian, may feel most comfortable in some form of hijab or plain veiling rather than the Germanic and English kapp. The tunic and loose pantaloons of native Egyptian and some arabic cultures are certainly modest and feminine. I wouldn’t want anyone to exclude those as modest dress just because the legs are covered in “trousers.” I am not qualified to write much on this, perhaps someone else would like to add her remarks.

      Thank you for commenting, and may the Lord bless you.

  11. I am a Christian lady who is inspired by Islamic modesty. I would really like to wear hijab because it covers all the aspects of my body that I want to be hidden. But I don’t want people to think that I am muslim so I will wear a giant cross necklace as well.

    • I’m not sure if you are joking here, but in case you are not, I would advise you not to do so. Muslims will be offended, and Christians will probably take it badly, thinking you are Muslim and making fun of their faith. Just dress in simple Christian modesty. It is an insult to Islam to match their distinctive, religiously prescribed attire with a Christian symbol. I honestly think you might find yourself physically threatened if you undertake this.

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