A friend reading my previous post on the tattered caftan, which I refuse to let go of, and which has travelled with me thousands of miles, took pity I suppose, and sent me a very nice youtube video on some beautiful caftans...
Of course, I started surfing the other related videos and fell on some "how to wear a hijab" - different fashionable styles of wearing it, quite colorful and very pretty.
I am talking here of the Hijab as in head veil, or headscarf, not to be confused with burqa, purdah, pushiya, yashmak, all synonyms for face cover/veil.
A woman can be veiled and still look very stylish, for sure.
A whole industry in the Muslim world is geared towards Hijabi fashion. The scarves, the dresses, the coats etc...
I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Quite the contrary. In certain instances it does serve a specific purpose.
I have veiled myself on occasion, when visiting what I'd call popular areas, in a few Arab capitals, and frankly I felt much more at ease circulating there with a Hijab on. I was not harassed and was left in peace. I felt protected.
I suppose the fact that I wore the Hijab gave a signal to the men that I was off limit. A barrier was in place. I was not to be approached in any way, shape or form...
I tried going to those same areas with no Hijab and the experience was most unpleasant.
So I am talking from experience here.
So while watching those videos on the Hijab it got me thinking about the real meaning behind it.
At the time of the Prophet, the first women to wear the Hijab were his wives, in order for them to be recognized as "apart" from the rest and in the specific historical context, it provided them protection from onlookers. They were not public property. They were not slaves. They were muslimahs - i.e Free women.
I suppose this then extended to the rest of the nascent female Muslim community to designate them as off limit to strangers...
Interestingly the word HIJAB comes from the verb HAJABA which means to veil, to separate, to protect, to delineate a border, to mark a distance...
A religious talisman with protective powers is also called a HIJAB.
Curiously, EYEBROW in Arabic is HAJEB. The diaphragm is HAJEZ. A checkpoint is also called a HAJEZ. An obstacle can also be referred to as HAJEZ. Anything that prevents you from having easy access to something is considered HAJEZ.
The root is Ha and Jeem i.e. H.J. which is found is HIJAB.
The Eyebrow is the border between the eye and the forehead. The Diaphragm is the border between the lower torso and the upper torso, and a checkpoint /barrier is also a border...so is the Hijab.
So yes, the Hijab can be a form of protection for FREE women, distancing intruders and putting a barrier, a border between themselves and the intruding men.
The Hijab on the other hand is NOT a tool by the men to enslave FREE women, by forcefully veiling them. This is not the primary CONTEXTUAL intention and meaning behind the Hijab.
And between the initial intention and what men made out of it, lies a world of difference and a world of consequences...
P.S; And here am just limiting myself to the exegetical interpretation of the veil. I have not even tackled the esoteric aspect of it and its symbolic analogy.