BS (Social Sciences & Liberal Arts)

Faculty / School

School of Economics and Social Sciences (SESS)


Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Date of Submission



Ms. Maria Haqqani, Lecturer, Department of Social Sciences

Project Type

SSLA Culminating Experience

Access Type

Restricted Access


Over the past six decades, the practice of wearing hijab has significantly increased within Muslim communities worldwide, including Pakistan. Scholars have expounded upon several political, cultural, and religious reasons underpinning this upsurge. This research delves into the multifarious conceptualizations of hijab among a cohort of 12 Pakistani Muslim women. Through a cyclical reading of semi-structured interviews and subsequent systematic categorisation of themes, hijab is explored through the lenses of submission, agency, and normativity.

Within this framework, this thesis recognizes the interplay between submission to authority and the exercise of agency, questioning the often created division between these concepts. It dispels the notion that religious devotion inherently hinders women's agency and posits that true freedom manifests through actions driven by individual will rather than opposition to external influences. The study then delves into variations in the conceptualizations of hijab, acknowledging that it extends beyond modest attire to encompass virtuous conduct. However, it underscores that the desired modest behavior is intrinsically tied to the means through which that desire is nurtured and progressively realized and hence, the attainment of modesty is inconceivable without adhering to the prescribed manner of dressing modestly.

Through the use of verbatim quotations, the self-evident truths tied to hijabs and burqas are questioned, and subsequently, the role of knowledge encounters with media representations of hijabis in ascribing varying meanings to hijab is analysed. Then, the study emphasizes that, for the majority, the hijab is worn as an act of devotion to Allah, and fueled by the hope that repeated practice will nurture and cultivate the virtue of modesty.

Moreover, this research confronts the influence of statements by public intellectuals, exemplified by Parveez Hoodbhoy. His attribution of passivity and anonymity to hijabis serves as a mechanism for the otherisation of these women, drawing stark distinctions between the perceived categories of "normal" and "not-normal" girls based on their adherence to hijab. It critically assesses the ascription of qualities to hijabis that accentuate their perceived distinctiveness and posits that this process of differentiation extends to non-hijabis through a process of negative mirroring. Lastly, the study unearths the invisibility of hijabis, emphasizing that their visibility is not solely a product of inherent attributes but rather shaped by cultural discourse and perceptual filters.



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