International Union of Muslim
Women
Vitamin D and Hijab:
Exposing Some Facts and Shedding Light on the Subject
 Since 2001 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.  This
article will explore some of the research and themes of the published stories and try to put it into
context with the reality of Muslim women who wear hijab. We will also try to provide constructive
advice on getting enough vitamin D in your diet.

 Below are some headlines that seem to target Muslim women who wear hijab...

  • ‘Women in hijabs 'need sunlight or risk illness'
  • ‘Could Dressing Conservatively Make Muslim Women Sick?’
  • ‘Nutrition: Muslim Women Have Low Vitamin D Levels’
  • ‘Arab-American women need supplement to boost dangerously low vitamin D levels.’

 Notice how all four headlines focus on racial or religious wording that seems to convey a
message that dressing like an Arab/Muslim woman will get you sick.  The contents of the articles
carry the point further by focusing on the fact that these studies, done on Muslim women in
several countries, found that Muslim women who don’t get enough sun, or who don’t consume
enough vitamin D in their diet, have a higher risk of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and a
host of other medical problems.  

 Please pay attention Sisters...MUSLIM WOMEN WHO DON’T GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D IN
THEIR DIETS CAN GET SICK!!!  

 This is not just a western conspiracy to get Hijab wearing Muslimas to modify their habits of
dress.  It is a documented fact that religious women who dress modestly can and do seem to
suffer more vitamin D deficiencies than do women who don’t cover.  Jewish Women, Christian
Women, Muslim Women, Hindu Women, Atheist Women and in fact ANY woman who does not
get enough sun or vitamin D in her diet from other sources can and probably will have health
problems.

 Let’s identify one half of the underlying problem.  Women (not just Muslim women) don’t seem
to be getting enough sun. OK, that is simple.  Now the question, Why?

 The studies above focused on Muslim women because of the way they dress.  It was assumed
that because “they” were so different and went to “extremes” in covering, that “they” were
obvious candidates for certain vitamin deficiencies.  Many researchers chose to overlook
religious Jewish or Christian women who choose to dress in modest attire that is every bit as
concealing as your average Muslima.  They also dismissed the large female populations who
work long hours in office buildings and other indoor occupations where sun exposure is at a
minimum.  Also excluded were wearers of high SPF sun blockers that are a part of many ladies
daily cosmetic routine because of skin cancer warnings and, here in the northern half of the
northern hemisphere, the women who wear layers of clothing.  The clothing referred to here is
not hijab but mandatory protection against the cold for large parts of the year that in turn ends up
blocking the sun’s rays from producing vitamin D.

 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.”.  

 Obviously the writers of the above headlines must think that all Muslim women are of “darker”
or “more pigmented” races in order to paint us with a vitamin D deficiency brush. But guess
what? Scientists and Journalists, please listen up!,  it is not just women who are Muslim who are
having this health issue, it is people of color, especially women, who cover against the sun and
women of any color or religion who don’t drink enough milk, eat fatty fish, or take supplements
that are affected.  It is MEN and WOMEN and CHILDREN who are having problems because
they avoid the sun or have poor diets.  So this information affects not just the Muslima and her
Sisters, but our entire FAMILIES!

 Now to address the other part of the underlying problem...Women don’t make up for insufficient
sun exposure by adjusting their diets. Again the question, Why?
Maybe it is just me, but personally, I have never enjoyed a nice big glass of cold milk unless it
had a lot of chocolate in it.  I like ice cream.  I like cheese.  I like yogurt.  But not too much of
any of them.  I also like fish...occasionally.  Another thing, some of the members of my family are
lactose intolerant. We don’t keep a lot of milk products around the house.  See, I can find lots of
reasons to NOT get the vitamin D that I need in my diet.  How many other people make the
same kind of excuses?

 But let’s not get into the issue of how good some Muslims are at making excuses for some of
their actions.  Right now we need to focus on how we, ESPECIALLY Muslim Women, can help
ourselves AND our families by getting the vitamin D that we need.

 Among the fear-mongering and distorted news on the internet and other media are some
sources of good information.  By sifting through the on-line material, reading some professional
journals and talking to real, live DOCTORS, the sisters here at IUMW have come up with some
practical guidelines that make sense and don’t take a lot of effort in order to achieve maximum
benefits.

 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.

 There are some simple methods for getting the sun you need.  Do you have a private porch or
deck, someplace where you won’t be observed?  In the Middle East and Africa, many homes
have a private courtyard where the ladies can be unobserved while they are uncovered, but in
the US and Europe it is more difficult.  If you have a backyard where you can set up some
screens or panels that allow the sun to shine on you but keep prying eyes out, do it!  Sit and
relax for a couple of minutes reciting dua’s or just taking a break. Don’t stay out for very long and
if you want to break it up into several 5-10 minute “mini-tans”, use a timer to keep track.
If finding a suitable spot is really out of the question or the weather in your area is unfavorable
for outdoor sunning for extended periods of time, invest in a small sunlamp and use it a couple of
times a week.  Read the warnings about using it though because a sun lamp can also cause sun
burns.
 Still having trouble getting enough sun in your life?  Light colored fabric can allow a lot of sun to
permeate the cloth and allow your skin to absorb some of the sun’s rays.  Don’t stay out too long
because you can still get a burn and you don’t want your shape to be observed through the
transparent material.
 To sum it all up, Vitamin D is important for Muslim Women.  You don’t have to give up or
compromise Hijab to get what you need (either in vitamins or in life.)  Writers like to take items
out of context and use it to show how wrong Islam is in THEIR opinion.  And Muslim women need
to ignore the hype and find the truth just like we do with Islam.

Some of the Material I found:
 The first online article that I want you to access is titled “Vitamin D and your health: Breaking
old rules, raising new hopes.”  This was published by the Harvard Medical School and does a
great job explaining what Vitamin D is, what it does for your health and what can happen if you
don’t get enough.  The URL is as follows: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/vitamin-d-
and-your-health.htm

 The second online article that I would like you to see is “How to get enough Vitamin D.” This
one has a lot of good tips about getting enough “D” in your diet and in your life. The URL is: http:
//www.ehow.com/how_2160026_enough-vitamin-d.html

Below are some more sites that helped in research for this article:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-469196/Women-hijabs-need-sunlight-risk-illness.html
http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/06/could-burkas-ma.html
http://www.shiachat.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=31419
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12149082
http://www.medica.de/cipp/md_medica/custom/pub/content,lang,2/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/oid,27698
http://www.slate.com/id/2169013
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/hfhs-aw021209.php
http://www.ehow.com/how_2160026_enough-vitamin-d.html