Hijab aims to promote modesty in society. In relation to other people, it is meant to help focus on the intellectual and emotional aspects of the member of the opposite gender, rather than their physical aspect. In relation to ourselves, it helps facilitate a sense of modesty and inner dignity. Hijab has a number of components.
“Say to the believing men to lower their gazes and guard their chastity… And say to the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their chastity and not to display their charms in public.” (The Holy Qur'an, 24: 30-31)
The first is in terms of clothing. Men must wear clothing that covers their private parts. It is also recommended for them to wear clothing which covers their body fro mthe shoulders to the feet. Hijab for women involves covering the entire body and hair, except for the face and hands, and to wear loose clothing which does not reveal the shape of the body.
Another component of Hijab has to do with the way a person looks at others. A look that has a lustful intention is not permissible, whether it comes from a male or female.
Another important component of Hijab is to adhere to modesty and dignity when interacting with members of the opposite gender. This includes avoiding physical contact, flirting and other actions which may lead to inappropriate relations.
While Hijab is questioned by many and sometimes seen as being a tool for oppressing women, one need only look at today's Western societies to see why Hijab is necessary. In these societies, we see a very high prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment of women. We also see the sexualisation of women and young girls by mainstream media and advertising. Hijab offers a solution to many of these problems. At the same time, we see women who observe Hijab achieve great success in these same societies: working in prestigious careers, raising families, running businesses and contributing to society in many positive ways.
Hijab does not oppress women. It liberates them from an obsession with their physical appearance. It allows us to focus on the personalities of the people around us, rather than their looks.