Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Hijab

“In Medina there were women walking around bare breasted! This is a historical fact.
there were uncovered women in Medina because the slaves were not allowed to cover! So Muslims should get out of this obsession with women! It’s a sickness in our own hearts. Just lower your gaze! We’re living in a society where people are walking around naked and we’re worried about a girl not wearing a scarf on her head…
A lot of men make it a hijab between a woman and her iman. Not all of you are acting like Sahaba! Why do we want our women to be like Sahabeyat?! I challenge you to put on a robe or a turban for one day! The reason why a lot of women are leaving Islam is because we’re chasing them out of Islam! We should know the time we’re living in!”

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Speaks the truth as always. We need to stop being obsessed with what we wear and so do the men. We need to put things into perspective.  So many women are being oppressed in the worst ways 24/7 and here we are complaining about hijab!



  1. Wow, I’ve always liked Hamza Yusuf, but I thought he was more conservative than this. I totally agree with what is said here, though…. If Allah didn’t think men were capable of controlling themselves, he wouldn’t have demanded that they do so.

  2. tradicionalista Said:

    he is more conservative, in the beginning he said the hijab is not cultural it’s definitely part of shariah and women that don’t wear it are in a state of disobedience but he was just saying we shouldn’t be so obsessed over it and that the muslim brothers should more compassionate towards the sisters
    thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. Muslim Apple Said:

    I remember Hamza Yusuf saying something similar at an Islamic conference several years ago and I really appreciated the sentiment and I continue to challenge these brothers who go around in track suits or looking like Shrek or any other non-Muslim while encouraging women to cover everything to spend just one week going around in a thobe or izar or turban.

  4. hijab Said:

    Sometimes when it comes to the hijab things just get more confusing, there are so many views out there and several explanations, what does one look out for although i have heard Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s life of the prophet (SAW) series which is amazing.

  5. Toure Said:

    In deed brothers should too dress in the proper Islamic attire if they are going to enforce a dress code on their wifes as a matter of example.
    I really hope the sheik is quoted out of context. This would really be an insult to the sisters who have endured the worst of criticism to wear the hijab so gloriously.
    We should know the time we’re living in…? I guess the Shariah has an expiration date according to that statement.

  6. No he never said the shariah had an expiration date nor was he implying anything like that. as I mentioned before, he said a girl that didn’t observe hijab is in a state of disobedience earlier on in the same lecture.
    I think he means the “time” statement to mean that now thing are not so easy, and that it’s not so easy to observe proper hijab.

  7. […] of the Qu’ran and people are lecturing her aout hijab as if it’s the criteria. Like Shaykh Hamza says, it’s an obligation but don’t make it a hijab between her and her deen. It can’t […]

  8. Hosam Said:

    What really blows my mind is this, Saidna Umar did not allow slaves to wear hijab, and they would walk around bare breasted in Medina, under his rule. Clearly, there must have been slaves who were Muslim at that time. I would love to know WHY he would not let them wear hijab, since his actions seem to suggest that hijab is actually tied to status, as opposed to modesty. Why else would he let women walk around BARE breasted, if the issue was really about modestly.

    With that being said, it is clear that Muslim scholars, who are people that know Islam (and I am clearly one who does not, and am nothing close to a “scholar”) have all decreed that hijab is required. My only concern is each of these scholars is one raised in a culture and atmosphere that must affect their reference points to make judgments. Clearly, Hamza Yusuf agrees with them that it is required, but since he was raised in America, you can see a clear distinction in his lack of “obsession” about hijab; middle eastern scholars put more of an emphasis on this topic then is warranted. They act like not wearing hijab can send you to hell, which is not true, and Hamza cites how sick people actually throw acid on women who do not wear hijab. What our middle eastern scholars really should be focusing on is real issues, like corruption and bribery, which has crippled middle eastern societies. But instead, rolling up your pants before you pray, and hijab/niqab are focused on.

    Because of this hijab/niqab focus in Saudi, they have LOST the benefit and intelligence of half their society since this obsession of keeping women hidden has even lead to them not even allowing them to drive. And don’t say this is a cultural thing, it is not, it is their version of Islam. We have to be able to criticize ourselves, if not, we will never advance. Their women actually get rickets due to lack of exposure to sun, since they are lockup in their homes all day behind thick curtains which remain drawn. One must stop and look at western countries and ask why they are so much more advanced than middle eastern countries. We must be critical of ourselves. And those out there who are so ignorant and want to say Jews are the problem, or say that Jews caused 9/11, THEY are part of the real problem, and why we cannot advance.

    Look to Darfur, how many Muslim people are aware of what went on there, or DENY that Muslims are part of this terrible mass slaughter (and a lot of the killing was muslim vs. muslim). These people who deny reality, are the same people who obsess about hijab, and hold us back. If a woman chooses to wear hijab, and be modest, that is clearly better. But if she does not, then as Hamza Yusuf stated, she can be given advice, in a proper way, but that is it. She can clearly still be a good God fearing person, and Muslima. Also, the point has been made that we should not worship the law, the law was made to serve and help us, as a mercy to us. The way sometimes act about the law, it is like they worship it more than anything else. I fear that I must pray that God protect us from those who call themselves the religious people, since they seem to be doing the most harm.

    If anyone has genuine knowledge as to why Umar did not allow slaves to wear hijab, please let me know, I really would like to know the actual reason.

  9. assalamu alaikom
    jazakAllah khair for your comments
    I’ll get to responding to them next week inshaAllah: I have a lot to say.
    I hope Ramadan is treating you well.
    Pray for the Ummah to advance in these last couple of days of Ramadan when the dua of the faster is accepted. Pray that the ignorant people of this ummah get some knowledge etc.
    wa salamu alaikom

  10. […] Also, a transcript of what he said, is here. […]

  11. Baraka Said:

    Salaam ‘alaykum –


    And an (early) Eid mubarik!


  12. Burning Blue Said:

    Really, I think the point is that Muslim men, particularly those involved with Islamic organizations (mosques, ISNA, etc.) are completely obsessed with hijab. I’ve attended many Muslim events, worked at Muslim organizations, and served on volunteer committees as well as on Boards of Directors, and I can honestly say that people spend an incredibly disproportionate time hemming and hawing about what women are wearing instead of dealing with more important matters. What a woman wears is up to her, and is between her and God. Period.

    I think that women who choose to wear the hijab are brave and are, for the most part, doing it as an act of sincere devotion because they believe that it is incumbent on them or because they believe it is pleasing to God. (Some are also doing it based on familial or social pressures, but that’s a different matter altogether.) Debating its “incumbency” is pointless, because all of the arguments involve inference and circumstantial assumptions that can neither be verified nor wholly discarded. “Modesty” is indeed a virtue, but the forms of modesty are many, are varied, and are only clearly regulated in very few instances. I assert that it is more immodest for a man or woman to approach a stranger and criticize her for not dressing a certain way, than it is for a woman to be dressed in what is otherwise culturally-appropriate clothing. As Jesus (Peace and Blessings of God be upon him) is reported to have said: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Domestic abuse, poverty, illegal activities, the environment, hoarding and squandering of wealth, corruption…these are all far more pressing issues than whether or not women chose to cover their heads (or if the head covering of choice is “proper”). I pray that the preachers, imams, and community members learn to prioritize the challenges facing not just Muslims but all people and get over this tawdry fixation.

  13. Hosam Said:

    You know what is strange though; those same people involved with Islamic organizations walk out of the building, and can magically get along just find with American women. They go to banks with no problems. They communicate with their staff or co-workers with no problem. And a lot of the doctors have no problem hanging out at hospitals flirting with the nurses. But they step into realm of our community, and that ends, and every now has to be segregated. Forget about the obvious fact that when you step outside the building again you are no longer segregated. It’s like they want things to be like “back home,” but they don’t understand that this is home for US, where we are raising our kids, and where we will all stay. How do we get these people to think outside of the freaking box, in 2007, they still want someone out of a population of 1.2 billion to sight the moon with their eyes, and then do a background check on the person’s credibility, which always results in different start and end dates for Ramadan. Forget about the fact that we know exactly where the moon and sun will be, and that the Quran actually tells us they are on cycles, and doing what ISNA finally did can unite us. Nooooo……they still want to sight the moon, b/c actually thinking outside of the box (aka as thinking logically) might get you called a kafr…….

    On a different topic, have you guys checked out the below link for news (it’s a live feed). It is awesome. I am so sick of the same crap about Britney / Lindsey, or some drunk lady on her way to rehab being our only news…..

  14. Thank you burning blue for your comments I address Muslims and putting things into proper perspective in this post.

  15. Zeynab Said:

    MASHALLAH. This is a great post!
    I have a lot of respect for Shaykh Yusuf because of this. The ummah lets itself be divided by small issues that are personal; we make them political and thus let ourselves be divided by things like hejab, sectarianism, etc.
    Besides, as a Muslim women, I know that there’s nothing I hate more than being judged on what I’m wearing (or not wearing).

  16. sacrosanct Said:

    you’re totally right!
    Being a Muslim woman is quite absurd in these times because of these issues of dress.

  17. Hosam Said:

    Tradicionalista, looks like you went to some web site called yanabi and tried to confirm what Hamza said. I think the reactions you got on that web site are very revealing. Basically, these “religious” people were appalled by what Hamza tells us is a historical fact, and just simply denied the truth of this fact. Meaning, “religious” people really seem hell bent on trying to make our religion something it is not, and want us to conform to their version, usually based on their cultural preference, even though the intent of the religion may actually have nothing to do with what they are trying to impose. It is a process without thought. MAN, it would be nice if “religious” people really tried to understand our religion, instead of just focusing on taqlid (exact copying of what was done 1400 years ago), and quickly trying to judge peoples hearts by how they dress. I know the scholars are terrified of performing istajad, or actually thinking about things and applying the thought of the law to time period, and doing the same in the present, out of fear of corrupting our religion. But the fact of the matter is new smart thinking is WAY over due, and we must stop acting and thinking like it is still the year 600! It is simply ridiculous. You should get the source of Hamza’s statement, and take it back to these people and see what they do with it. I suspect it will not make any of them THINK, and they will simply deny the source without thinking, just to protect their version of Islam and what they want to impose on all of us. They will never stop and realize why something was being done back then (identifying women as part of the social status so they were not bothered by men in the streets), and how wearing hijab now, at least in a western society is probably achieving the opposite of the original intent of why Muslim women were wearing it back then. Meaning women who were it now get MORE attention, and are more likely to get harassed if they were it, as opposed to if they don’t. It is funny how men actually still want to think like it is still the year 600 though, b/c unlike western countries, in some middle eastern countries if women don’t wear hijab men will actually harass them, bother them, etc. They people just don’t want to advance, it is so sad.

  18. sacrosanct Said:

    Confirm what Shaykh Hamza said?
    I heard it myself.
    He also said that hijab is obligatory in the same speech so that’s not the discussion. If the people on that site are in denial, maybe they’re just not understanding the point.
    The only point of this post was to denounce the obsession about hijab.
    There are a few proofs for hijab and some of them do reveal that it was modesty as well.

  19. Hosam Said:

    I don’t mean confirm what he said, we all are able to read and hear what he said via YouTube and the transcript above. I mean confirm the sources he cites. What sources is he quoting?

    Yes, the scholars agree that hijab is mandatory. Some have tried to veer away from that, one who had his own tv show in the middle east actually got put off the air when he said it was not. However, what Hamza is pointing out, is that bare breasted women (“slaves”) in Medina were NOT allowed to wear hijab under Umar’s rule. If modesty was a significant understood motive of hijab at the time, why the heck would this be allowed? You see, our middle eastern scholars would never stray from their middle eastern culture. Saudi men still dress the way people did hundreds of years ago.

    So what are your “proofs” ? I am not being difficult, I would really like to know. I just ask that you stop and think about what I am writing, instead of go into argument mode. Is it the single hadith that states

    “Asma bint Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands”

    To me, this says it “does not suit a women” to dress a certain way. That is different than I women shall not, must not, is forbidden, etc. Totally different. And this is with her basically walking naked b/c her clothing is see through. Also, we as Muslims are critical of the bible, and how it has been changed. One of the reasons is translations, and the time it took to actually get it written down and compiled (hundreds of years). But Buhkari is not much different, 200 years before these hadiths were written down. Just try during one life time to tell sever people a story, and see how it is changed. My experience, is just over a week if you tell someone something, and he tells several people, the story changes. Also, logically, over 200 years I think the memory of people would have to be affected. I say this understanding our religion was originally an oral tradition. I don’t think Hamza could come and say anything more to people about hijab without loosing credibility. But he is clearly challenging people to think and understand our religion, which many of us do not. Listen to the challenge he issues to the typical “religious” stereo typical men. Dress like you live in Saudi HERE, and see how people react to you. He did not say dress more “modestly” as men. That may seem like a silly distinction to you, but I feel it is important, b/c he usually is very well thought out in his choice of words. Here hijab is seen as a cultural thing, not a religious/modesty thing. Covering someone head to toe in niqab is a clearly a redundant exercise to a typical observer, and the person is not left with the thought wow “she is modest” especially since her husband is walking along with her wearing shorts in burning heat when they are visiting Europe. Most people think woman wear hijab in the home. Also, he makes a reference to the time we are in. Wow, what an insightful comment, b/c everyone knows the hadith on that issue. Which is a totally logical hadith (I am tired of accepting hadiths that make no sense, like the guy who did not eat with his right hand lost its use immediately).

    What are your “proofs” about modesty and why were women allowed to be bare breasted during the time of one of the most rightly guided caliphs ?

  20. sacrosanct Said:

    First of all, did he make a reference to the caliphate of Umar or did he just say Umar didn’t let them wear hijab in the Prophet’s time? The latter is what I originally thought.

    No it is not just the hadith you cited. as that hadith has some weaknesses anyway.

    I’ll come back with my proofs on modesty. Right now I’m gonna eat.


  21. Hosam Said:

    Ya, the above transcript is not the whole thing, he says “saidna Umar did not allow them” to wear hijab and this was within a “islamic system” “during traditional islam” If not during Umar’s 10 year rule, then when are you thinking it was, and why would Umar have that power to prevent people from dressing a certain way if not during his rule? I really would like to see the source Hamza Yusif is citing, b/c this is really such an intersting comment he made, and while he tells us to look it up, he does not give us any other real information to point us where we can find these “historical facts.”.

  22. Adil Cole Said:

    This statement by Hamza Yusuf is very distressing to me, I am aware of certain statements that he made regarding advising women in the West not to wear Hijab if they were afraid of physical harm. But the only other Islamic speaker I heard make this statement regarding woman walking around bare chested was a member of W.D. Muhammad’s community. I want to know where did Hamza get his information for this. I am fairly well read in Islam in general, and especially Islaimc history, and I have never read any text concerning women walking around bare breasted. I have read that as part of the Hajj many of the mushriks, men and women, would circumambulate the Ka’ab naked as part of their pagan rituals. But in an environment such as Mecca has, it would not be logical from the basis of human physiology to walk outside without being covered as the intense power of the sun would be very harmful to exposed skin. I have read of slave women who did not cover their hair, but like others it is my belief that this related to non-Muslim woman or happened during a period when certain rulings of the Shari’ah were not well known, such as there was disagreement for some time on the legality of Mut’a marriage (Shia’s still hold it valid). In response to Hosam above (19), yes one of the main hadith is located in Bulugh al-Maram which is as you stated; however, you have to take into account the linguistic usage of the Rasul’Allah SAAS in regards to the Sharia in general. “It does not suit . . . ” is similar (and maybe the same in the original Arabic) to many other prohibitive statements, such as “It does not behoove someone who belives in Allah and the Last Day to do . . . ” This is not advise, these are specific prohibitions administered in the beatiful language of the Rasul. I do myself go out in a turban and thawb when I am in my personal time, so I know well the looks/questions in regard to this type of dress. It is obligatory in the Sharia’ for a women to wear hijab, but yes some men go beyond what is correct in regards to enforcing it, as there is no text in traditional Islamic literature regarding punishment for not dressing Islamically. There is no Hadd punishment for not wearing Hijab, and it is not mentioned amongst the Kabai’r (Major Sins). With all this being said, my point is let us not take away from the Sharia’ just to combat those who go overboard. This is the same as other hot-button topics in the Ummah, we should not argue against those who practice extremes in the Sharia by jumping to the complete other side of the fence, let us take the correct path of the middle, one where we preach the true Sharia, unclouded by the fogs of the “extremists” or the “liberalists.”

  23. Mo Said:

    Any nation that treats women poorly will remain a poor country.

  24. hello mr hamza. how are u doing? i hope you are fine. well i am also called hamza and i would like to be ur friend and i want you to know that i a in ghana now i want to know more about u. well i want you to email me back

  25. KG Said:

    It would have been better if he said that we should just advise them and then leave them be as it’s not our decision.

    However, if anyone must be pressuring, it should be no one other than a woman’s father, husband, or brother. And even then, really, just the husband. He has legitimate concerns about the example the wife sets for the children. But this is something that should be discussed as I’m pretty certain just the very idea would be enough pressure for women who take their children very, very, seriously.

    And to the women, stop worrying so much. The pressure from Muslims to cover up is not nearly as much as the pressure from other cultures to take OFF your clothes and yet I hear so few sisters complaining to them (to them and about them is not the same) the way they complain to other Muslims about enforcing hijab. So long as YOU are comfortable with how you live your life, so long as you’re confident that when you eventually meet the angel of death on your deathbed, that you did what Allah had asked of you, then what business is it of anyone else’s?

  26. Abu Abbas Ahmad ibn Yusuf al-Maliki Said:

    Salam `alaykum Sidi Hamza Mohammed:

    If you would like to contact Shaykh al-Irshad Imam Hamza Yusuf (hafiDhahullah), you may email at

    Wa salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

  27. from_amongts the muslims Said:

    O believers salaam. Be careul of what you say about your scholars…fore, at its best, if you say something that is negative but true (due to differing opinions in our faith) there is little benefit in it for you, for it is considered a valid difference of opinion.

    Islam is a broad gate…ask Allah to expand yourselves and then you shall see as Jesus pbuh saw. He saw a dead dog, and the companions commented on the bad smell departing from the dog, but Jesus pbuh said how beautiful its teeth. The other is a projection of our internal state???

    I read much here…and I advise, as the Prophet advised us, Say somehting beautiful…

  28. Noor Said:

    I just admire this person. Yet, I heard his answer to this question in person, and there’s a part at the beginning that’s omitted here. He mentioned clearly first that hijab is a wajib on muslim women. And refusing to wear it is considered a “ma’siya” in Islam, and then he commented that it’s not the only ma’siya. Men also commit lots of ma’siya’s in their lives. And he continued with the above quoted speech. Just though I would add that to be fair to the man. God bless.

  29. Amna Said:

    In response to Hosham’s comment about Shiekh Hamza’s style of speech here, I have seen a few of his videos and I think he has this strategy for talking very quietly and logically in small discussions or interviews but is more provocative in speeches to bigger audiences, perhaps, male audiences.
    The only problem with this is that when you are being provocative in speech your rhetoric may not be so intellectual and polished. Like he says “Look at those people” in reference to the naked western people. Well, that is in direct opposition to lower your gaze. I think that we will save our time and innocence by not looking at either the naked westerners or the muslims — let’s not judge anyone and save our nerves for something more important. Wearing revealing clothes is meant to distract people and distraction is only a waste of time — why let those people succeed in their idle goals.

    In response to Adil, if women could not walk around bare-breasted or part naked in Arabia than why do you think there were the ayah in Surah Nur was revealed to specifically instruct Muslim women to cover their bossoms?

  30. Amna Said:

    Also, if what is said about Umar is true, I think we are living in better times, not worst. I do not think that women wearing Hijab face so much discrimination in the West (except perhaps France or Denmark) but they have this freedom to choose. The bad times are on the Muslims women being oppressed in Muslim countries or was on olden times when women were taken as slaves and not allowed to wear hijab?

  31. Aneesah Said:

    I Think Hamza Yusuf Is The Best By Far Everything he says has a great impact on me and i also agree to alot of his words mashallah may Allah reward him.

  32. Ghaus Said:

    Shaykh Hamza YUsuf is totally right… Reformation is a growth process, and a growth process takes time.

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