Should Christian Women Wear the Hijab?
The dictionary definition of the Hijab is “a traditional scarf worn by Muslim women to cover the hair and neck and sometimes the face.” 1) hijab. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hijab (accessed: December 18, 2015). The definition itself identifies this as Islamic dress. So the question is, should Christian women use a Hijab to cover their heads when praying and prophesying (1 Cor 11:5-6)?
As we’ve covered already, the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 doesn’t identify any particular style for covering the head. Paul uses a verb to command an action (cover her head) rather than using a noun to indicate a particular style (e.g, put on a hijab). This means the style of covering falls into the category of Christian liberty. So if the question is, “is it biblically permissible to wear a Hijab?”, the answer is yes. However, a second question that should be asked is, “is it wise to do so?” Before we give our opinion, I think it’s important to understand the two main views in this debate.
View #1: No Hijab: Surrendering Liberty to Avoid Confusion
The first viewpoint is that as Christians we should avoid confusion about who we serve at all costs. A Hijab in Western culture is identified as Muslim clothing. 2) In cultures where the Hijab is not identified as Islamic dress, there would be no issue. In that case, it would be a perfectly acceptable choice for Christian women. So if a person sees a woman wearing one in public they will generally assume that she identifies with that religion. If she helps someone by “[letting her] light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16) people may wrongly direct that praise to Allah or his followers. That of course can be overcome by saying you’re a Christian, but if we’re honest we don’t always say ‘I’m doing this for Jesus’ when we’re doing good works. So this mindset would conclude that because the Hijab is so closely associated with Islam, that Christian women should use a different style.
View #2: Pro-Hijab: Don’t Surrender What’s Good
The pro-Hijab viewpoint is usually argued one of two ways. The first is that Christians should not have to surrender anything that is neutral or good. To give a similar example, the rainbow is closely understood as a symbol of homosexuality. However, believers understand that God is the creator of the rainbow, and it’s a beautiful symbol that he instituted as a promise to not flood the world again (Gen 9:12-17). Since that’s the case, those of this mindset won’t surrender the rainbow to allow it to represent a sinful lifestyle even though it risks confusion. Similarly, the Hijab is a beautiful form of dress which is not inherently Islamic, so Christians should feel free to use it. The other way the pro-Hijab position is argued is that if the public makes wrong assumptions based on the style of covering they wear, they should not be held responsible for that. We should not make decisions based on the opinions of others if they are inaccurate.
On the Head Covering Movement, we have featured testimonies of women who wear the Hijab. We will continue to do this and we support women who choose this form of covering as it is a matter of Christian liberty. We also realize that women can look beautiful wearing one. Having said that, it’s not a style that we would recommend for those who cover full time. If you only cover for church services then it’s clear who you’re worshipping and there is no confusion. However, the same cannot be said if you also cover during everyday life. Just a chapter before the head covering passage, Paul gave instructions to the Corinthians regarding meat sacrificed to idols. He said that even though it’s perfectly acceptable to eat this kind of meat, he told them to deny themselves this liberty if someone informs them that it was sacrificed (1 Cor 10:28). He told them to forbid themselves something that is good for the sake of the other person. Much like the pro-Hijab position, the Corinthians thought, “…why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?” (1 Cor 10:29) but that type of mentality is not others focused. We should be willing to deny ourselves what is our liberty to do for the sake of other people (Rom 14:20-21). So since the majority of people make an association between the Hijab and Islam, I think it’s wisdom for Christian women to use a different style when in public.
Discussion: This is an opinion piece, so we’d love to hear your take. Ladies, have you or would you wear the Hijab? Tell us why you choose or reject that style by leaving a comment below.
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