Hijab for men:
When it comes to Hijab for men and women, Allah addresses the men first: “Tell the believing men to lower their gazes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is All-Aware of what they do,” (Surah Noor 24:30)
The concept of being modest in one’s dressing, behavior and manners is something highly emphasized in our religion for both men and women. I know many people associate the word ‘Hijab’ with women but reality is that the vast majority of Hijab rules apply equally to both men and women, so here is a breakdown of some of the most important Hijab and Hayaa (modesty) rules for men.
The Dress Code
Although, the primary requirement is for women to cover everything except their face and hands, and for men to cover from their navel to their knees, I believe in modern society men too are required to cover much more than that.
If we understand the basic premise behind the requirement for men just to cover that part of the body, it is based on the fact that men are more easily visually stimulated than women. However, we live in a time in which the male body is also hypersexualized and the media focuses a lot on sexualizing the chests, muscles and six packs of men, so today the bodies of men can be just as sexually arousing for women as the bodies of women are for men.
With this in mind, and keeping in mind that Fiqh changes according to the needs of the time (but the Shariah doesn’t), I believe that men living in lands affected by this hypersexualization should cover their upper-bodies as well and that it is against Islamic modesty to show off your muscles to the opposite gender.
I would summarize the Hijab dress-code for men as follows:
1. Covering from the navel to the knees is a must – no two-ways about it, but that is only the minimum, not the recommended
2. Men must dress is a way which is modest and avoid any dressing which is tight-fitting, sexually arousing or transparent
3. Dressing which is specific for women is prohibited for men to wear
4. Dressing which forms part of any other religion is prohibited for men to wear
Actually, points 2-4 apply equally to men and women and the only difference is point number one.
Keeping the above in mind, we should be aware of how our dress is perceived by the opposite gender. Furthermore, the common trend of wearing tight-fitting jeans, or wearing the pants so low that the backside becomes exposed in Rukhu and Sajdah is completely unacceptable and against the laws of Hijab, and invalidates the Salah.
It is with this in mind that Muslim cultures over time have developed forms of clothing for men which are modest like the Thawb and Kurta. However, this does not make the wearing of a Shirt and Pants prohibited, rather they are permissible as long as the pants is loose-fitting and does not expose the awrah.
The Behavior Code
Muslim men are warned first to lower their gaze. Lowering the gaze does not mean that you stare at the ground, and avoid any contact with the opposite gender, rather it means that men must avoid lustful glances at the opposite gender. It is the intention and issue of lust that makes the glance prohibited, and this applies equally to both men and women.
However, lowering the gaze is not the only obligation upon men. Men and women alike must be modest in their dealings with the opposite gender, regardless of how the other is dressed. A woman being dressed inappropriately does not justify lustful glances, cat-calls or any form of sexual harassment from men. This kind of behavior is completely inappropriate and prohibited for Muslim men. A sin of another does not justify a sin on your part.
When dealing with the opposite gender (yes, you will deal with them, its part of life and not Haraam), men must remember that Islam demands utmost respect, good manners and politeness. Rudeness is just as uncalled for as sexual harassment. Be polite without being flirtatious, it is perfectly possible and many good men do it every day.
To summarize the behavior-code, Islam demands we treat all people with respect, and so we must be respectful and polite with whoever we deal with. This is itself part of modesty.
Gender interaction is an unavoidable part of human life. Those who believe that Hijab means ignoring, being rude to and boycotting the opposite gender are clearly not familiar with the Seerah and the fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions interacted with the opposite gender on a daily basis.
What is actually prohibited can be listed as follows:
1. Lustful glances
2. Being alone with a member of the opposite gender (khalwa)
3. Touching a member of the opposite gender who is not your Mahram
4. Any flirtatious or immodest behavior
5. Dressing inappropriately
Keep these rules in mind and follow them, and it will be enough to avoid falling into any temptation.
A note regarding the beard
For many years, I regarded the beard as a part of the Hijab of men. However, I no longer hold to this opinion. Don’t misquote me, I still believe that shaving the beard is Haraam. However, I believe that the obligation to grow the beard is based more on maintaining the Fitra i.e. the natural way men are meant to be, and not to do with Hijab.
This is because through experience I realized that the beard enhances the beauty of a man and makes him look more manly and awesome. So we must stop shaving off our beards, but at the same time, don’t expect your new beard to chase women away, it doesn’t always work like that. 🙂
Note: I did not discuss the issue of Isbaal (wearing the pants below the ankles) as I believe it is a separate Fiqh issue about which there are different opinions, and is not directly related to Hijab and modesty.