Why are Muslim women wearing a head scarf?
According to Islamic Sharia, there is a dress code for both men and women which serves the purpose of protecting their dignity and modesty and giving them respect. Both of them should not wear cloths that accentuate the shape of the body in such a way as to attract the attention of the opposite sex. Therefore clothing should not cling closely to the body, nor should it be transparent. As hair and hairstyle of a woman is an important part of her looks and may also add to her attractiveness, women avoid displaying this area by covering their heads. According to a saying by prophet Muhammad, nothing of a woman should be publicly visible except her face and her hands. Her intentions, personality and presence are best ascertained, in fact, from these areas of the body.
These rules are applicable only in the presence of non-kin men whom the woman in question could marry in theory. Within the family circle and in the company of some of her kinsfolk a woman may appear without covering her head. These kinship relationships are mentioned in detail in Qur'an, Chapter 24, Verse 31. At an older age a woman may discard the head-cover partially. However, as she also sets an example for the younger generation, it is better for her to continue to cover herself in accordance with the Islamic dress code. "Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage,- there is no blame on them if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not a wanton display of their beauty: but it is best for them to be modest: .." 24:60
Muslim girls start to adhere to the above Islamic dress code when they begin to develop a female shape (usually at the onset of puberty).
What about the Nikab?
There are two levels of Muslim women dress; the first is the Hijab, which refers to covering all the body, excluding the face and the hands. The second level is covering all the body, including the face and or without the hands. The four main Fiqh schools consider only the Hijab as the religious duty on Muslim women, the Nikab according to these schools is just a higher rank or a favor, but not a religious duty. Only few other non-main schools consider the Nikab as a religious duty. So, according to the major trend in Sharia law, only covering the head except the face and the hands, is the religious duty. But covering the face is not a religious duty.
Does the head scarf obstruct the Muslim woman from being an active member in her society?
No, at all. There have been across Islamic history great examples of successful Muslim women wearing the head scarf. The wife of the prophet, Aisha was known as a great scholar and narrator of prophet's life. The greatest fellows of the prophet (Sahaba) were consulting her after his death in the (Islamic Law) Fiqh issues. Head scarf did not restrict Muslim women to be scholars, poets, professors, doctors, nurses, TV interviewers, artists and scientists in all fields; Physics, Biology, Engineering, Crystallography, Zoology, etc. Hijab don't restrict Muslim woman from her given right according to Sharia to educate and work.
Is the head scarf an intruder product of Islamic culture?
Of course not. If we looked at three images put side by side, the first is of The Virgin Mary, the second is of mother Tresa, the third is of any Muslim woman. What would be the common thing between the three of them?
It's the scarf of the head. The three of Virgin Mary, mother Tresa and a Muslim woman are covering their heads. This can tell us that the head scarf is not related to some culture, but it's related to keeping dignity and modesty of the woman. We never claimed that head scarf of the virgin Mary or mother Tresa was an obstacle stone in their progress and success path. We never thought that the head scarf is an scarf over their minds. Neither we thought that their head scarf is an oppression to these great examples of purity and charity.