"Why do Muslim women have to cover their heads?"
This question is one which is asked by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. For many women it is the truest test of being a Muslim.
The answer to the question is very simple - Muslim women observe Hijaab (covering the head and the body) because Allah has told them to do so., "O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not annoyed..." (Qur'an 33:59)
Secondary reasons include the requirement for modesty in both men and women. Both will then be evaluated for intelligence and skills instead of looks and sexuality. A school girl was quoted as saying,
"We want to stop men from treating us like sex objects, as they have always done. We want them to ignore our appearance and to be attentive to our personalities and mind. We want them to take us seriously and treat us as equals and not just chase us around for our bodies and physical looks."
A Muslim woman who covers her head is making a statement about her identity. Anyone who sees her will know that she is a Muslim and has a good moral character. Many Muslim women who cover are filled with dignity and self esteem; they are pleased to be identified as a Muslim woman. As a chaste, modest, pure woman, she does not want her sexuality to enter into interactions with men in the smallest degree. A woman who covers herself is concealing her sexuality but allowing her femininity to be brought out.
The question of Hijab for Muslim women has been a controversy for centuries and will probably continue for many more. Often forgotten is the fact that modern Western dress is a new invention. Looking at the clothing of women as recently as seventy years ago, we see clothing similar to hijab. Those active and hard-working women of the West were not inhibited by their clothing which consisted of long, full dresses and various types of head covering.
Even more so, Muslim women who wear Hijab do not find it impractical or interfering with their activities in all levels and walks of life. Hijab is not merely a covering dress but more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. Dress is only one facet of the total being. The basic requirements for a Muslim woman's dress also apply to the Muslim man's clothing with the difference being mainly in degree. For men, modesty requires that the area between the navel and the knee be covered in front of all people except the wife. The clothing of men should not be like the dress of women, nor should it be tight or provocative. A Muslim should dress to show his identity as a Muslim. Men are not allowed to wear gold or silk. However, both are allowed for women.
For both men and women, clothing requirements are not meant to be a restriction but rather a way in which society will function in a proper, Islamic manner.