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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


World Muslim News

Muhammad Speaks

Imam Warith Deen Muhammad


QUESTION: What is the purpose for Muslim women covering their hair?

IMAM: I was watching a commercial on television about a week ago, a hair preparation was being advertised. I forget the exact words but they went: "Soft, sexy and shining." So the commercial industry seems to think that hair is sexy. They give sex appeal connotations and meanings to hair.

I have noticed myself how some women will use their hair to increase their sex appeal. They will use it suggestively. I've seen women throw their hair in front of the face to block the view, and then pull the hair away from the face exposing the view, opening the view in a sexy, suggestive way.

It is believed in the circle of learned scholars in the religion that the hair on women should be covered. The hair wasn't singled out, now. The instruction is that women should be covered, the whole body except for the hands and face. Some say the hands, face and feet. But definitely the hands and face can be exposed. No veil, but the rest of the body is to be covered.

It has been suggested that this is because men have associated sex appeal with practically every part of the woman. I accept that, I agree with that. But too, I accept that putting too much meaning, or importance on the covering of hair has brought in a kind of suspicion or superstition surrounding women. I don't think it's fair for us to treat women as objects of fear and superstition because they are not. The woman should be treated just as a man is treated.

In most countries you will find the men dressed the same way. No specific instruction was given except that man is permitted to be seen in public with the upper part of his chest and the lower part of his legs exposed. I guess it's for the reason that men historically or traditionally have been seen in public dressed to that extent and it was no offense. Whereas with the woman, religious society traditionally has treated the woman's whole body differently.

In parts of Africa, women go with the breasts exposed, and there are additional places on the other side of the world where women may be seen with the breasts exposed. We usually associate it with primitive life. I don't think it's primitive at all. I think it's what people have become accustomed to and we can't say they are not moral because they go that way.

If the women of those cultures that are not religious — in the popular sense as we understand religion — to that way it is because they haven't attached any moral meaning to their breasts yet. When they do, then they will cover their breasts also. We know Muslim women in Africa who embrace Al-Islam and they cover themselves like Muslims. They accept the cultural guidelines of the Islamic religion.

Here, in our community, I asked women to accept to dress as Muslims dress in most of the world — to cover themselves completely except their face and hands. But we don't make any big to-do about it.

If some woman is seen with her hair uncovered we don't raise the roof, because I understand that where there is some sex appeal in women's hair, there is also religious symbolism attached.

This symbolism is good but I don't think we should enforce these laws too fanatically. If we do we might cause people of higher intellect to underestimate our intelligence. They might think we are superstitious or fanatical people and we don't want them to think that.