The Spiritual Significance of a Hijab or Burqa


I want to know what is the spiritual significance of wearing a hijab?....earlier i used to see woman shunning out of temples during periods as a sign of oppression towards women but then i realised it has a spiritual reason behind it...some beings carry our prayers higher and they are repelled by period blood’s i felt bad all these years just due to my ignorance i did now i want to know why hijab or burqa?....whats the spiritual significance behind it?

—Esha, India


Dear Esha,

I wouldn’t attribute a deep significance to a custom like that at this point in history. But let me share some background for its possible origins and deeper meaning.

Yogis speak of the human head as the seat of the “thousand-petaled lotus.” This is said to be the seat of the soul. This seat is not the physical body and brain so much as the subtle, or astral, body of light which creates and sustains and occupies the physical body. It is an energetic prototype of the physical body (a kind of light-energized “blueprint”). It precedes the birth and survives the death of the physical, human body.

The preponderance of hair on the head is said to be the result of the highest level of energy-rays coming from the crown chakra (the top of the head). Yogis and other intuitive spiritual adepts, relate to the hair of the head in one of two ways: either to let it grow out like antennae, as if to connect to all life around them and including the subtle life flow of God in all creation; or, to cut the hair and withdraw from attachment to or identification with the creation in seeking God within.

What does this have to do with covering the head? Well, that’s my point: not a lot. But here’s what is said, and it is “all relative”, because it relates to male and female (two basic relativities in creation). Customs and attitudes vary not only among yogis on this subject but also in faith traditions and cultures. Let me try to explain:

In the ancient archetypes of male and female, the female, because she gives birth to the child(ren), has the role to perpetuate the species. She cares for the home and the children. Thus her role places her in the position and in the role of embodying desire for the creation, for the things of this world. The male is attracted to the appearance (beauty etc) of the female and is energized to act to possess her. He deposits his seed within her but then goes away to work or to hunt etc etc. Thus the female is said to draw the male principle into action; into the creation. The implication, symbolically, is that the male would not engage in the creation unless tempted or invited to do so. She is, in a sense, the temptress or force that begins and perpetuates the creation. (It was Eve, after all, who invited Adam to taste the apple she offered him!)

The full, wild, sometimes beautiful, head of hair of the female represents the wild, swirling, attractive energy of the creation. Like the swirling, sheer, diaphanous dresses of the female dancer, the hair of the woman is covered when entering sacred precincts to symbolize humility, withdrawal of the life force energy inward away from the senses and away from the creation, bowing in awe, as it were, at the feet of Infinity; of the divine Presence.

Socially, wearing a head covering out in public reflects this “containment” of the attractive power of the woman in society. It can be looked upon as repression (if imposed against her will) or her ego can resent the affirmation of humility and love for the greater power of God. Or, it can be an affirmation of sacredness; of love for God; humility; and, in the Muslim context especially, surrender to God’s will.

Yogananda further explained that woman, as the archetype, represents feeling and man, reason. When, within oneself, one’s feeling side (emotions etc) are offered calmly into clear reason and true principle then harmony results; when reason is supported by calm feeling, then, too, harmony results. When they are separated, war “between the sexes” (the mind and heart) breaks out!

But no matter what it is, it remains but a symbol: an outward “ritual” or act. The important thing remains always one’s state of consciousness. She can wear the covering with love for God or with seething, repressed sensuality and everything in between! At this point in history, it is merely a custom. One perhaps not even understood by those who enforce it, those who accept it, or those who resent it. I suspect it has “outworn” it’s spiritual usefulness and has become too much of a symbol for other things than originally intended. It would be better, at this point in history, that a woman who wears it do so by personal choice and with true understanding rather than by force or sheer habit of custom.

Perhaps this is more than you expected but I hope it is helpful to you.

Nayaswami Hriman