According to Islam, the Hijab is practiced in order to build one's self-esteem and maintain one's self-respect and dignity amongst society and its members. It is a practice which allows women an escape route from the negative expectations of society. The Hijab is a practice which teaches Muslims self-control and order, a significant element of Islam.
It is common in today's times for people to view the physical version of the Hijab as "oppressive" and "condescending", particularly upon women. However, something that both Muslims and non-Muslims alike tend to overlook is that the Hijab is more than a simple cloth or covering which flows loosely over a woman and her body. In fact, the Hijab is a vital aspect of living an Islamic way of life and indeed is necessary to be practiced by both males and females.
"Sister, your hair is showing!", "AstaghfirAllah sister, your pants are too tight!" People are always on the lookout for Hijabis and what they are wearing in order to determine whether or not our sisters are in fact practicing correct Hijab. The truth is, only a Hijabi knows the extent to which she is accurately practicing Hijab, and any form of praise, especially towards the younger generations, is much-needed encouragement which will Insha'Allah see our Hijabis blossom into beautifully practicing Muslim women. It is easy to ask, "What is the point of wearing Hijab if you are not going to wear it properly?" However, every effort deserves to be acknowledged so that we may attempt to establish a method by which practicing Hijab for the sisters is made as easy and comfortable as possible.
At times, we find it necessary to remind our sisters and mothers of what we think of their Hijab. However, it is the brothers who need to put a greater emphasis on their own practice Hijab, as some Muslims in the 21st century tend to overlook the necessity of it all together. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean every Muslim brother is not practicing any form of Hijab, but from personal experience, I have noticed, amongst the younger generations particularly, that it is our brothers who are overlooking the need for practicing proper Hijab.
In a society full of uncovered women, appealing bodies, and lustful beauty, it is hard for any individual to avoid the amazing scenery the world sets up for its members. It is far too easy to abandon the Hijab for a man when attending co-ed high schools, colleges, and workforces. The saying of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) reminds us: "It is better for a man to have an iron nail drawn through the center of his forehead than for him to touch the palm of a strange (non-mahram) woman." With positive team spirit and work culture often observed within organizations in the 21st century, we often find ourselves throwing handshakes, slapping high fives, and patting each other on the back, irrespective of our gender.
With the opposite gender left, right, and center, we live in an era which has unfortunately made living a completely Halal way of life almost impossible. Yet we should never allow the distractions of this world to overthrow the importance of Hijab. Although the Hijab amongst Islamic societies is given greater emphasis in regards to, if not entirely associated with, women, the Hijab is in fact a practice which is compulsory upon both genders. While women cover themselves from the gazes of men for their own benefit and dignity, likewise men have also been instructed to observe proper Hijab. As Allah says in chapter 24, verse 30 of the Holy Qur'an, "Tell the believing men to lower their eyes and guard their private parts. There is for them goodness in this. God is aware of what they do." A man's Hijab does not consist of a loose covering over his body, but rather is a much more difficult practice: the lowering of his gaze. What should be noted is that Islam puts an equal amount of emphasis on the Hijab which is to be observed by both men and women.
The key to survival for Muslims in both Islamic and non-Islamic nations when it comes to Hijab is to simply maintain one's modesty and keep one's eyes to yourself. While the solution sounds so simple, the reality is that it is not. Have faith in yourself and in Allah. "Each step a person takes order to become closer to Allah, he/she will be rewarded for every dust particle that settles upon him whilst on that journey." Start your Hijab journey today with small steps at a time, and whether you are male or female, Allah will surely guide you in order to help you achieve perfect Hijab.