When Do Muslim Girls Start Wearing the Hijab?

Luis Davilla/Photodisc/Getty Images

In the Islamic faith, all individuals are expected to become responsible and accountable for their behavior at the age of puberty. The Islamic teachings about modest dress begin to apply to any person, male or female, at that time.

Islamic teachings about modest clothing are based on the Quran, and on the specific sayings/traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, a body of teachings known as the hadith. In one often-cited tradition, it is reported that a young woman visited Muhammad's wife Aisha while she was wearing see-through clothing.

Muhammad averted his eyes and told her, "After a young woman reaches the age of puberty, nothing should be seen of her except this and this," motioning to his face and hands. Therefore, in the tradition of Islam, it is expected that Muslim girls will adopt more modest styles of dress that do not expose too much at this time in life.

The Hijab

The term hijab in general terms means the practice of modest dress for all Muslims, but it also is used to refer to the specific garment worn by Muslim women to cover the head. In this contest, the hajib is a scarf-like article of clothing that is designed to cover the head, shoulders, and chest of a woman.  For Muslims fallowing the tradition, it is expected to be worn when in the presence of adult men outside the family when in public. At home when only family members are present, it is not worn. 

Variations in Hijab Clothing

Different branches of Islam have different interpretations regarding the instructions for the wearing of the hijab—primarily regarding how much of the body must be covered.

While historically, different Islamic cultures had different legal requirements for what form of hajib was required, this is becoming more and more a matter of choice. The requirement has vanished entirely for most nations where the government structure is secular. In nations where the governments are Islamic, there may be legal requirements on the wearing of the hijab.

Nations where Muslim women are expected to wear some form of hijab include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and most of Iraq. In other predominantly Muslim nations, there is no form of hijab enforcement, although there may be considerable societal pressure to do so. 

Hijab clothing can take many different forms, depending on the particular branch of Islam an individual belongs to. Conservative branches of Sunni Islam, for example, may use a form of hijab that requires women to cover all exposed skin with a garment known as a burka (burqua). Burkas are predominantly seen in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Other forms of hijab include the chador, a full body outer covering that leaves the face exposed. For less conservative Muslims, the hijab is a fairly simple and often colorful head scarf that wraps around the neck and shoulders to hide only the hair. In western countries, Muslims often wear this form of hijab, although many modern Muslim women increasingly choose to omit it altogether. 

Hijab, especially the forms that entirely cover the face, are controversial in some western countries, especially in Europe, and some nations have taken the extreme measure of outlawing the burka, which entirely covers the face.

France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria, Germany, Australia, and Norway are among the nations that have full or partial restrictions on religious apparel that hides a person's identity. These policies change frequently, and it wise for traveling Muslims to check current policies before visiting Western nations. 

Hijab Customs

Even before the age of puberty, many girls are becoming accustomed to these values of modesty. Muslim parents are generally careful about choosing appropriate clothing, even for their young children. While they may or may not wear the hijab yet, many young girls choose not to wear short skirts or shorts, belly shirts, or sleeveless tops in public.

In some families and cultures, girls begin to wear the hijab at puberty simply out of pressure from the family, peers, or Islamic society.

And some girls decide on their own to start wearing the hijab even before the age when it is required of them. It is becoming more common for some modern Islamic families to leave the decision about hijab up to the young woman herself. They may try to educate her about her Islamic responsibilities, but ultimately they allow her to make the choice when she fully understands and feels ready to commit to the decision.

It is important to note that Islamic values of modesty apply to both men and women and that the responsibility for making good choices in this regard falls on boys and girls equally.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Huda. "When Do Muslim Girls Start Wearing the Hijab?" ThoughtCo, Jan. 10, 2018, thoughtco.com/when-do-muslim-girls-start-wearing-the-hijab-2004249. Huda. (2018, January 10). When Do Muslim Girls Start Wearing the Hijab? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/when-do-muslim-girls-start-wearing-the-hijab-2004249 Huda. "When Do Muslim Girls Start Wearing the Hijab?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/when-do-muslim-girls-start-wearing-the-hijab-2004249 (accessed January 19, 2018).