Q. If the hijab is not compulsory, then why do all women wear it in the mosque?
A. Religious protocol is often more about custom and tradition than what is actually mandated. Also while you may think – and for us, that is the correct viewpoint – that it is not compulsory, there are many Muslims who think that it is. The mosque is not seen as the place for controversy, and one usually engages in the more "conservative" behavior to avoid argument. Even in religions that have long evolved from the headcovering, it seems that there is some idea that a woman should cover her head in a place of worship, as is evidenced by the hat that was so much an integral part of many Christian women's attire when going to church services up to just a few years ago.
From a purely legal perspective there are two maxims that may apply here: "dar al mafaasid yuqaddam ala jalb al masaalih – abnegation of problems takes precedence over the pursuit of good." Of course this is open to a lot of interpretation. Ours is that a Muslim woman who sees that the khimar is not compulsory and is actually quite a sexist imposition in this day and age will still be better off avoiding that argument in a place of worship. The avoidance of argument and resulting chaos and resentment take precedence over her educated abandonment of the attire. The second one is "yutahammal al darar al khaas li daf' al darar al aam – private tribulation is borne to avoid a more general one." She may feel bad having to wear what is not a requirement to go to a religious service, but if she does not, then the reaction of the majority might result in argument and worse. So she follows the protocol just to keep peace.
Posted November 19, 2018