It is not uncommon for non-Muslims and even many Muslims to associate the Islamic commandments on Hijab with females, even though Islam has ordained Hijab for both men and women. In fact, many of us would be surprised to note that Allah[God] Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an:
“Tell the believing men to cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof….”
(translation of 24:30-31)
Indeed, before addressing women and telling them to conceal their bodies, Allah first addresses the believing men and tells them to lower their gaze!
The moment a man looks at a woman and if any brazen or unashamed thought comes to his mind, he should lower his gaze.
When discussing the issue of Hijab for men, it is essential to keep in mind the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A man once came to the Prophet Mohammed -peace be upon him- and told him he wished to commit fornication. As some of the companions of the prophet got up to strike him, he -peace be upon him- restrained them and then said to the man, “My son, how would you feel if someone wished to do the same thing with your mother or sister or wife or daughter?” The man replied that naturally he would want to kill the person. The Prophet -peace be upon him- then said, “If you do not wish for someone to do such an act with your mother or sister or wife or daughter, then why entertain such a thought about someone else’s mother or sister or wife or daughter?!”
In the context of dressing code, The conditions of a man’s Hijab differs from a woman’s due to the biological, physiological and physical differences between the genders. Islam dictates that a Muslim man’s basic Hijab is the covering of his body from belly-button to below the knee. Though this sounds like a rather sparse and loose definition of modesty, there are pertinent reasons as to this ruling. Men are required to work in Islam, unlike women, who are given the choice to earn their own income or not. Men are required to support their families financially regardless of their level of education or background.
With this ruling, it is inevitable that most of those who find employment as construction workers, farmers… would be men. In some cases, these workers spend most of their time under the hot sun or in extremely dry weather. This provision, the covering of the abdomen to the knee, is the basic requirement that they should observe – this serves as Hijab between themselves.
Ideally women should not be exposed to harsh terrains in search of employment. Should they be in the presence of the opposite gender while working outdoors, Muslim men should remember to observe the basic Hijab requirement in front of marriageable women, and preferably to cover up more.
However, in a social setting or if both men and women work indoors, the definition of Hijab for men becomes wider to endorse and fortify the concept of modesty.
Just like women, men should wear loose, long and non-transparent clothing so as not to attract attention from the opposite gender to their physical appearance. Men are not required to cover their hair, but many Muslim men do, with turbans or keffiyahs.
Popular attire worn by Muslim men around the world include thobes or dishdashs; these are long shirts that sometimes reach down to the ankles. Bishts or abayas are robe-like apparel that cover the whole body. Sirwal or sokoto are baggy trousers usually worn under a thobe.
These are apparel that are influenced by culture and are not ordained by Islam. The religion itself allows both Muslim men and women to wear clothes of their choice provided they comply with the tenets of modesty.
Complete ‘hijaab’ also includes the moral conduct, behaviour, attitude and intention of the individual. A person only fulfilling the criteria of ‘hijaab’ of the clothes is observing ‘hijaab’ in a limited sense. ‘Hijaab’ of the clothes should be accompanied by ‘hijaab’ of the eyes, ‘hijaab’ of the heart, ‘hijaab’ of thought and ‘hijaab’ of intention. It also includes the way a person walks, the way a person talks, the way he behaves, etc.