17 Reasons Why Women Wear Headscarves

What is “modest clothing?” For Muslim women, “modest clothing” may mean a multitude of different things. For some, it will mean a burqa. For others, modesty means loose clothing and a head-cover. For others, loose clothing that does not reveal cleavage, arms and legs is modest. And the variations continue.

Now, let us focus on head-covers alone for the purpose of this post—or perhaps because most people are focused on head-covers rather than on the many features of “modest” clothing and modest behavior. Muslim women who wear headscarves in public may do so for one or more of the following reasons:

1.) Many Muslims believe God requires women to cover their hair. Many people who don’t believe it’s required believe that it is preferable for Muslim women to cover their hair. The writer does not wish to enter theological debates over textual meanings in this post. It is sufficient that for many Muslim women, covering the hair is a religious act.

2.) Many Muslims believe that covering the head engenders a certain spiritual state of receptivity and centeredness. (Many Sufi Muslims believe that both men and women should cover their heads. In India and Pakistan, for instance, men usually wear skullcaps during ritual prayer.) So, many women who do not wear head-covers all the time may do so for religious occasions, or when inspired to do so.

3.) Head-covers convey a message of purity and godliness to many observers. Different traditions of religious iconography use mantles and other head-covers to symbolize purity and even saintliness.

4.) Many people believe that a headscarf engenders respect and honor for women, thus preventing men from flirting, etc. (This is not, of course, universally true. The writer feels that this is truer in Muslim countries and communities, and may or may not be true in non-Muslim countries. In some cases, head-covers are perceived as “sexy” and “submissive.” To Muslim women who believe in reason #2, that doesn’t really matter.)

5.) Head-covers may assist women in maintaining overall religious identities and behaviors. This is especially the case for young girls, converts who are racially indistinguishable from the majority, etc. Head-covers and other forms of “religious” clothing serve as mnemonic devices to remind the seeker of what s/he needs to do.

6.) Headscarves look really chic as part of a head-scarf-ensemble. The author, in her hijab-wearing days, could never quite hack the look (but that’s just her).

7.) Headscarves actually accentuate many women’s beauty by drawing attention to the face and away from the hair and the body. In many cultures, the face is more important as a place of beauty than is the body, and head-covers facilitate this focus toward the face, facial expression, conversation, etc., and away from secondary sex characteristics. This may be part of a woman’s attempt to deemphasize sexuality in her persona.

8.) They identify a woman as an observant Muslim to non-Muslims. This facilitates awareness of her lifestyle right off the bat, without necessitating lengthy explanations (“Sorry, I don’t drink.” “I’m sorry, I’m a conservative Muslim woman and I don’t shake hands with men.” “Oh, it’s time for me to pray; you see, um, I’m Muslim.”)

9.) They do the political work of representing a Muslim presence in society. Many Muslim women believe that headscarves are perhaps the only effective method of Muslim visibility in diasporic Western communities.

10.) They identify a woman as Muslim to other Muslims, allowing for instant community and exchange of salams. This may come across as a superficial benefit, but in a diasporic community, this instant community is psychologically invaluable. A subsidiary advantage is that head-covers identify a woman to potential spouses. In a diasporic community, where Muslims may be lost in huge suburban neighborhoods, this may be an enormous advantage when a person is looking to marry.

11.) They may be used in particular spaces such as mosques, ethnic enclaves, and other community spaces for the establishment of a certain cultural-religious “home” tone.

12.) They may be worn to achieve conformity to Muslim community norms and perhaps even to avoid stigma (of being “uncovered.”) Sometimes parents, religious leaders, and the like require the wearing of head-covers, but this happens less often than Westerners tend to imagine. (The writer, in her teenage years, rebelled against her parents and older kin by donning the veil.)

13.) In relatively newly-industrialized societies, they facilitate women’s mobility; by identifying status and chastity, these women may safely and freely enter public life. They may facilitate anonymity and security in spaces where visibility may endanger a woman.

14.) In certain cultures, covering one’s head is respectful to other people, especially to status superiors such as older people.

15.) For many Muslim women, head-covers are culturally normative and/or beloved, and are part of an ethnic outfit.

16.) It is convenient to simply wear your head-cover so that you have it handy for the next prayer time, instead of having to carry it around in a handbag.

17.) It’s not that easy to stop wearing a head-cover, especially in high-visibility diasporic communities. If you start wearing it, it’s possible to simply continue because it’s easier to continue than to give it up. (Post-9/11, however, we have a new situation where it may be easier to give up the head-cover.)

The list above shows that the Muslim headscarf is capable of a number of meanings, many of which are rather more mundane and less dramatic than outsiders might imagine.


  • gigiblack101@yahoo.com' Sara says:

    It is not stated anywhere in the Quran that a woman has to cover up. So therefore, wearing a Hijab is not for religious reasons. It is sexist, and it is discrimination towards women.

  • ninja2134@gmail.com' Guy says:

    I read, and I’m sorry, I but this article didn’t give me the real WHY. These are pretty good side-reasons, but it just didn’t go deep enough. If anything, the other commentator Sara partially answered my question, stating that the Quran doesn’t state it.

    But then that just begs the question even more, why?

  • tgups@heby.mail.telia.com' JohnAlfred says:

    I go with Guy´s response. I travel a lot and especially in London you can see 1000s of varieties. You can see a girl dressed in the absolute latest from the catwalk in high heels waring a scarf (often very colourful) on the one hand and a variety inbetween to a black gown with one or two scarfs at the same time. There seems to be a difference between loosly hanging scarfs and scarfs that are more or less tied around the head. This is,in my mind, a subject for a thesis.

  • justmohdhams@gmail.com' Mohammad says:

    Dear Sara
    it’s clear mentioned in Quran the woman has to cover up

    check Alnoor ver.60 also 31

    kindly check this link
    the translation from Arabic to English


  • justmohdhams@gmail.com' Mohammad says:

    thank you for your research
    kindly check the translation in Quran
    ver 31 and 60

    there is more in Quran mentioned
    but i believe this enugh
    the most important the woman cover up
    to follow Allah ( God) instruction
    what i like in your post, you study the deference
    between them.

    in the end what you did nice but if you add small explanation from Sheak” religious person ” the post will be great

  • lsouth47@gmail.com' RS-33 says:

    I feel the initial reason women and men covered up was for protection from the sun in the middleast because it is HOT there. Then after a while the wearing of the garments started having religious attachment.

  • emhartain@aol.com' Douglas Vernon says:

    So, it’s basically a way of being LOUD AND PROUD. Nice. force it on us.

  • emhartain@aol.com' Douglas Vernon says:

    As I said before, the men over there are like goats. Totally uncontrollable. So, in order to get respect from the men, the women hide their bodies. The horny bastards all get really really nice to them so they might get to see the ‘goods’. It’s ALL ABOUT SEX.. and PRUDISHNESS. How primitive. They (the men) are animals with an uncontrollable libido.

  • emhartain@aol.com' Douglas Vernon says:

    Wow, really? That just shows how fixated they are on sex. The first several passages are about nothing but sex. Then a bunch of chest thumping and bragging.. really… if this was what I was handed and expected to believe, I’d want to come to america too.
    What a stupid, self-centered, egocentric religion you have.

  • emhartain@aol.com' Douglas Vernon says:

    And, oh, one of our first 3 laws says if you break it we KILL YOU. Nice.

  • matthewclayburris@gmail.com' Frank Bascombe says:

    I like #7 for personal reasons….but I really really like this entire essay. I live in San Francisco and regularrly see their big beautiful eyes, but also love showing the respect.

  • matthewclayburris@gmail.com' Frank Bascombe says:

    It is culturally different. Dont be ethnocentric. Im not sure our sexual willy nillyism has been too sucessful either.

  • matthewclayburris@gmail.com' Frank Bascombe says:

    Not really.

  • matthewclayburris@gmail.com' Frank Bascombe says:

    And that is different from the western (christian) way how?

  • jumper@hotmail.com' cognitive sausage says:

    there is a fence, the biggest fence in the world and you sit on it. faster than a speeding bullet you change sides. You see an underdog, miles away, and run towards it like it’s the last thing on earth. you think the world is 50/50. you think everyone is simultaneously right and non-contradictory. you think bad is as good as evil. you think opinion counts more than fact. Don’t ever make a decision in case someone agrees or disagrees with it. You are like trying to nail jelly to a wall.

  • mommahottness@live.com' newberry girl says:

    The title “17 Reasons Why Women Wear Headscarves” doesn’t work well with the content of the article. Sorry but Muslim women are not the only religious group that cover …. disappointed to see a lack of diversity. The title suggested something more informative.

  • nothindoin@comcast.net' nada says:

    I’ll tell you how. During the Egyptian ‘spring’ a female reporter was horrendously sexually assaulted by a huge group of men while more men just looked on and were, disgustingly, tantalized by it. The entire premise of requiring WOMEN to cover up so men can control themselves was a great way to ensure you have an entire country filled with men who are basically no better than dogs in heat. Quite literally, uncontrollable animals. The Western reporters were horrified. This DOES> NOT> HAPPEN> in western cultures!!!! our men grow up seeing women every day, hair neck, full bodies, eh, it doesn’t mean much at all. YOu get desensitized to it so women’s body are not that sexual of themselves just walking down the street. This female reporter being mauled by Muslim men in broad daylight in the middle of a celebration would be like a women being sexually assaulted in Times Square on New Years Eve — just would not happen . Not possible. No really, NOT POSSIBLE and the proof is in the pudding. Times Square New years eye men and women jammed packed on Times Square never ONCE has their been masses of American men so out of control sexually that they attack some women for simply being in public. That reporter was saved BY WOMEN, Another disgrace. A mass of women had to form a circle , go out in the crowd of animals and surround her, then take her back completely surrounded so more animals wont get at her. Seriously, you Muslim men are like dogs and you create this in yourself by excusing your violence and expecting your women to deny they are human beings.

  • nothindoin@comcast.net' nada says:

    well, there it is. cover up for you’re a shameful slut. Thanks. nice to know, as if we didn’t already. It’s slut shaming.

  • nothindoin@comcast.net' nada says:

    Personally I find the headscarf offensive and no matter how you try to dress it up you can’t undo the very bottom line of what it means. Either women have worth and value quite apart from their purity or they do not. And to say you ‘have’ to cover up, which, please, we know very well Muslim women must cover up or they are slut shamed, is (1) giving the slut shamer the power over women to judge her worth and value. (2) scares a women into wanting to conform or be judged, shamed, bring shame on her family or violence on herself. If you are man walking next to a women in a head scarf anyone Western is looking at you like you are essentially a terrorist to women. If you are a women wearing a head scarf in a Western country people are looking at you wondering if you’re soft as a grape in a free c ountry to subject yourself to such oppression. Like a black person choosing to stay with their owner after emancipation. Do your daughters a favor and leave. Be brave enough to choose freedom for all the future female generations in the family. please. Jesus told the crowd 2000 years ago they were not worthy to stone a women for adultery, 2000 years ago! Muslims now are not where Jesus was 2000 years ago. how sad.

  • rilme@yahoo.com' Ril says:

    I’m Christian and in the new testament, we believe in being forgiven and made clean by jesus’ blood. So no headscarves or covering up to stop men from “lusting”. I don’t get why some archaic religions are so fixated on covering women…

  • fkmslms@mail.com' IH8MSLMS says:

    m-slums file more discrimination lawsuits than ALL OTHER GROUPS COMBINED. They file more lawsuits than gays, blacks, and illegal immigrants all put together. That fact alone proves that the filthy beasts have no desire to become a part of whatever community they have invaded. The can hide behind the scarf claiming religious needs and use it to practice taqiyyah and hatred towards infidels. If you want to dress in a tent then go back to the Flintstone countries that spawned you evil thugs. We don’t want you here!

  • fkmslsm@mail.com' IH8MSLMS says:

    The quran was written by a lying, cheating, stealing, thieving, murdering, raping pedophile called mohammed (pieceofbaconbeuponhim). It is NOT the word of a higher power but rather the ramblings of a psychotic false prophet. Only the foolish or psychotic would follow that garbage.

  • elenapiceno21710@gmail.com' Helen piceno says:

    I just came a Muslim women I get more respect then ever now I cover my head because i believe in God and that why women cover heads and us women it covers are heads is because we have respect for are self and we don’t need attention from MEN we don’t have to have it we save are self from men who don’t have respect for women so to stop the rapes that happens to us women we should cover up are body’s and respect are self and when we are covered up it makes the man’s mind wonder what we have under are covered body and im now being respected by all men

  • rue99@hotmail.co.uk' Rue says:

    There is no 60:31, are you just making up ayahs now?

    And 24:31 is clear in what is says. Show me the word for hair and I will believe that ayah is saying something besides that women should cover their bosoms. Anything else is misogynistic interpretation.

  • aeyafp@nottingham.ac.uk' Pickles says:

    Or maybe what has changed is who you associate with. You are stupid to say that a piece of cloth of your head equals respect. All you religious people should spend more time discovering the truth and appreciating the world, instead of slagging it and the people on it off constantly. You are not better than anyone, you don’t have any kind of truth. You are delusional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *