As salaamu alaikum warahamatullahi wabarakatahu
Since many years there have been a number of studies and subsequent articles on vitamin D deficiency in Muslim women who wear Hijab. If you do a subject search on Google, you can get almost 80,000 hits on the topic with lots of opinions and a whole bunch of dire warnings.
What is required of women in Islam is to cover the head and the entire body in front of non-mahram men, because Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allaah is Ever Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful” [al-Ahzaab 33:59].
Hijab is a definite obligation for every Muslim woman. Deficiency in calcium and vitamin D is something that can be treated medically and by eating food that contains those nutrients, and by exposure to the sun in a place where there are no non-mahram men, such as exposure to the sun through windows, on the roof of the house, in remote parks, and so on.
Allah, may He be exalted, has prescribed and enjoined hijab, and He knows best about His creation and what is best for them. Sharee‘ah does not enjoin anything that causes obvious harm or considerable problems.
Following a medical study in which a number of doctors took part, Dr. Muhammad al-Shaakir (consultant in bone disease at the specialist King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh) rejected what has been said about women’s Islamic clothing playing a part in vitamin D deficiency and said: This theory has no connection to truth. Specialists think that one of the means of protection against bone disease is exposure to the sun so as to enable the skin to produce vitamin D. The Muslim woman’s hijab does not prevent her being exposed to the rays of the sun, because minimal daily exposure is enough to produce sufficient amounts of this vitamin.
It should be said to women who do not wear hijab for this reason: Fear Allah, may He be exalted, and beware of His Punishment; adhere to that which He has enjoined upon you, and stop making false excuses, for nothing is hidden from Allah; Allaah knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the hearts conceal (cf. Ghaafir 40:19). Seek remedies and treatments in that which Allah has not forbidden, and you will find it, in sha Allah.
Thus some study states that covering oneself with black cloth and rarely exposing the skin to sunlight does have a significant negative impact on the biological ability to synthesise vitamin D for the body.
Well-known consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Sadiah Ahsan-Pal from Karachi says “There is nothing wrong with covering yourself,” she clarifies. “But some women are using the wrong colour i.e. black and the wrong fabric i.e. synthetic to do so.” Instead it is recommended that they use light-coloured fabrics that breathe because they are made of natural fibres such as silk or cotton.
“Synthetic is not the appropriate fabric for this weather, it doesn’t allow your skin to breathe or your perspiration to evaporate,” cautions Dr Sadiah. “It has also resulted in the development of many skin and fungal infections and irritations. What is worse is that many people do not even connect the dots as to why this is happening though it’s fairly common sense.”
There is another factor that determines susceptibility to Vitamin D deficiency, Race, or more specifically, skin pigmentation. In one United Kingdom study researchers made the comment that “For certain ethnic groups there is an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency as people with dark and pigmented skin are less efficient at making vitamin D in their skin.”.
If some sisters are really afraid that they may face this health issue because of covering their bodies then let us see how can we help ourselves AND our families by getting the vitamin D that we need:
1. Drink Vitamin D fortified drinks like Milk, Orange Juice and some of the Vitamin Waters that have vitamin D in them naturally or added as a supplement.
2. Eat dairy products like cheese, butter and yogurt and fortified cereals that have vitamin D in them. Also eat canned mushrooms and egg yolks. “Fatty” fish like salmon also help with vitamin D. And if you can’t stand the taste of fish, hold your nose and gulp down some good old fashioned fish oil.
3. If you still won’t eat all of the D that you need in your food choices, take a multi-vitamin that has at least 600 units of Vitamin D in it or a Vitamin D tablet. But don’t overdo it! Remember, Muslims are supposed to be moderate in all things.
4. The easiest and best way to get the vitamin D that you need is the SUN! Big, bright thing…comes up every day? Sisters, there are ways to get a little tanning without compromising modesty. A safe amount of sun exposure is just 10-15 minutes which will get your body to produce Vitamin D naturally without being a hazard to your skin health. Sensible sun exposure means the exposure of arms and legs for 5-30 minutes (depending on time of day, season, latitude, and skin pigmentation) between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm twice a week..
Allah knows the best, May Allah help us all to do that which He loves and which pleases Him and guide us all to the straight path, aameen..