It is common to see men wearing hats and women wearing hats or scarves as they enter mosques, temples and churches. But is there a religious significance to these head coverings? Our clergy clarify what is tradition and what is religious tenet.
Rabbi Mordecai Golshevsky,
Young Israel of Coram:
We view covering the head as a symbolic act of accepting the yoke of heaven upon us. So, when we are praying, we wear something that is symbolically restricting. A person standing before God understands that he is human and is limited in his abilities. And he also understands that God is not limited. God is omnipotent and omniscient, which means he has the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character including thoughts and feelings.
The wearing of the hat focuses us and makes us constantly aware of the presence of God and our limitations. We must live our lives in the parameters of our faith. Covering the head was a custom in Israel that became a law.
It is followed by all who enter the temple. If you are a visitor in a house of worship where this procedure is followed, it would be considered rude if you didn't do so as well. I'm, of course, talking about Orthodox Judaism. We wear our hats, or yarmulkes, all the time because we're always standing before God. Therefore, we're always reminded of our limitations and our responsibilities to God.
The Rev. A.G. Chancellor Jr.,
Fellowship Baptist Church, Wyandanch:
It goes back to 1 Corinthians 11:5: "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even as if she were shaven.
Some people take that Scripture literally. I would remind people that the hair is a covering. By the way, our tradition is that a man doesn't cover his head in church, and that the woman does the opposite. A man may wear a hat to church, but takes it off when he enters the church.
Baptist women are known for their hats. Many of our older women wouldn't come into the church without their head covered by at least a scarf.
I do want to make it clear that this head covering has nothing to do with one's salvation. Now, it is more of a custom that has been passed down.
At Fellowship Baptist Church, we don't insist on someone wearing a hat. And, of course, the younger congregants have gotten away from wearing hats. Remember the expression "Sunday best." Unfortunately, it seems many are attempting to conform the church to the world rather than the world to the church. But we try to stay open-minded. After all, my parents were appalled at some of the things my generation did growing up.T.J. Bindra, president, Sikh Organization of New York, which includes Long Island, and member of the Gurdwara Sahib temple in Glen Cove:
Historically, it is an article of faith for Sikhs to have uncut hair and uncut beards. It dates back to India about 400 years ago when Mughal emperors ruled India. Emperor Aurangzeb wanted to convert all of India's people to Islam. They could convert or face death.
Many Indians who didn't want to convert were fearful. Guru Gobind Singh was a religious leader who wanted to make Indian people stronger and to give them a distinct physical appearance so others would know them. He said that men would be called Singh, which means lion. He said they should not cut their hair or their beards. And, they should be warriors fighting against tyrants.
Today, there are five things we do: We do not cut our hair. We have a special comb to comb the hair twice a day. We wear a special bracelet as a sign of brotherhood. We wear certain underwear as a sign of chastity. And, we carry a symbolic sword on a necklace as a symbol that we fight against injustice.
We wear the turban, which in ancient times was a symbol of status, to keep our long hair neat and tidy. There are a few women who wear turbans, but they don't have to. Women are not supposed to cut their hair, but don't have to wear a turban.
Mohammed Saleh, chairman of the board of directors, Long Island Muslim Society, East Meadow:
It is a Quranic law that women must cover their heads. No hair should be visible either inside or outside the house of worship. They can expose their hands, face and feet. Everything else should be covered.
They do this to avoid attracting unwanted male attention. This commandment is a code of Islamic dress. Women do not have to dress this way at home with their families. And, they can also go without their hair covering before other women. Although it varies, usually it starts when the girl has her first period. Just as prayer for all is mandated, how a woman dresses is mandated by the Quran.