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Is it a grave sin to not wear the head scarf?

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It is a grave sin. The grave sin is a kind of sin which Allah, the Exalted, has mentioned punishment for it in the Qur’an. A grave sin could also occur when someone insists on a sin which s/he thinks is not so important. But it is very important to avoid them. A non-hijabi woman continuously commits a sin.

The Holy Qur’an has ordered women to cover themselves in some situations.

“And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appear thereof. And let them wear their head coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments...” (Surah an-Nūr 24:31)

It is also mentioned in Surah al-Ahzāb,

“O Prophet! Say to your wives and daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over garments, this will be more proper, that they may be known and thus they will not give trouble. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah al-Ahzāb 33:59)

In the same chapter, Allah (S.w.T.) says:

“O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other of the women, if you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he whose heart has a disease yearn and speak a good word.” (Surah al-Ahzāb 33:32)

Another verse states,

“And when you ask them (the wives of the Prophet) any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain, this is purer for your hearts and (for) their hearts.” (Surah al-Ahzāb 33:53)

In the above verses, the Muslim woman is ordered to veil herself. She must not come before non-mahram without Hijab. She should dress in such a manner that strange men do not get an opportunity to glance at those parts of her body which arouse passion; and thus make her an object of desire. It is the responsibility of a woman to assume such poise and behaviour that she does not excite a man’s passions. Even a glance of lust can infatuate a man and a seemingly harmless encounter eventually lead to mischief and corruption in society, destroying entire families.

 

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Yes, clearly a woman is obligated to wear hijab in public, but if the only concern is men's lust, it seems that physically unattractive woman would not be obligated, and that's not the case. It seems apparent that there must be deeper and more meaningful reasons.

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Repressing someone's natural sexual nature is dangerous. Men in western countries don't go around assaulting women who wear yoga pants and shorts and (who 98.9 % don't cover their hair) and so on, saying that women should conceal themselves instead of men controlling their urges is dangerous and something I disagree with in applying the Quran. 

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42 minutes ago, Sawa said:

saying that women should conceal themselves instead of men controlling their urges is dangerous and something I disagree with in applying the Quran. 

That's why the Quran says men need to control their urges. If it's not emphasized in some societies, that doesn't mean it's not there.

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If the whole issue were men's lusts, women wearing something like this http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0320/4897/products/81HrK4FmhDL._UL1500_large.jpg?v=1455760082 would go much farther in that than normal hijab. (Warning: link contains photo of very unattractively dressed woman with her hair showing.)

I think we need to also consider that the Quran says believing women should cover themselves so that they might be identified as believers.

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55 minutes ago, Sawa said:

Repressing someone's natural sexual nature is dangerous. Men in western countries don't go around assaulting women who wear yoga pants and shorts and (who 98.9 % don't cover their hair) and so on, saying that women should conceal themselves instead of men controlling their urges is dangerous and something I disagree with in applying the Quran. 

There is plenty of sexual assault in the West (look at Donald Trump talking about literally jumping on women), but aside from that, the West is saturated with sex. If you have pornography on tap, legal prostitution, digitally altered pictures of semi-naked women almost everywhere, and 'dating' apps that allow you to have one-night stands whenever you want, then yeah, a woman walking around in a short-skirt and her hair showing probably isn't going to make much difference. 'Controlling your urges' is not really something that happens in the West, unless you restrict it to mean not sexually assaulting someone. When you have widespread promiscuity, prostitution, abortion, STDs, and consumption of pornography, I'm not sure how anyone can talk of people in Western countries 'controlling their desires'. Rather, they seem to have completely given in to their desires.

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Ever wonder why during salat, a woman needs to be dressed in her best hijab with everything covered even when she is alone in her room and nobody else can come in!

Hijab for both men and women is more about keeping ourselves modest, programming our brains to know that we belong to a much higher place than this plant allows us, and to show our tasleem meaning total submission to Allah swt.

Its side benefits are of course the preservation of chastity and honor for both genders. 

As far as struggle for us to lower our gaze, its much bigger effort and struggle than hiding our bodies. Lowering gaze not only from non-mahram but also other temptations such as others' cars, others' houses, others' watches, others' jewelries, others' number of offspring, others' wealth and so on. No wonder the Prophet S says that whoever does so will literally feel the sweet taste of iman in their throats. May Allah swt gives us strength to do so. 

 

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21 hours ago, notme said:

Yes, clearly a woman is obligated to wear hijab in public, but if the only concern is men's lust, it seems that physically unattractive woman would not be obligated, and that's not the case. It seems apparent that there must be deeper and more meaningful reasons.

21 hours ago, notme said:

 

O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. (Surat Al-Ahzab)

Edited by E.L King

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