Happy February 1st! Today is officially World Hijab Day – a day designated to celebrate and raise awareness about the dress-code of Muslim women and why we wear it.
As such, its a fitting day to start the first of our hijab series, given that the hijab is an intrinsic part of our lives as Muslim women (and even if it wasn’t, the media doesn’t really let us forget about it!)
But before we get into all the serious stuff, today we start with what World Hijab Day is all about – a tribute to Muslim women. In all the discourse around the hijab, we often lose sight of the people who actually wear it, the woman beneath the veil. So sisters, this is for you!
We live in an environment today where wearing the hijab is not easy. In an era of heightened Islamophobia, our Islamic dress makes us prime targets for those who are ignorant in society to vent their frustrations and prejudices. Muslim women in hijab have been punched, strangled, pushed down stairs, pushed at moving trains, attacked, verbally abused or even just glared at. We watch as countries across the world, be they secular or “Muslim”, move to ban forms of the hijab, defining you as a criminal for adhering to your religious beliefs. You would think it is impossible to walk around in the face of such hatred and not feel intimidated.
But mashAllah, time and time again, we see the Muslim women of this Ummah reject this intimidation, reaffirm their worship of Allah (swt) through their dress, and wear it proudly. They refuse to give in to ignorance, and instead go out of their way to educate the uninformed, welcome the unwelcoming and forgive those who judge them. Muslim women everywhere wear their Islamic dress while playing sport, while delivering speeches to thousands, while giving out aid in warzones, while treating the injured, while educating children andddd while riding motorbikes! We recognise that it is not an impediment to our daily lives, but rather something that fills our life with so much more barakah.
We also face the media onslaught, constantly trying to attach our hijab to labels like “oppressed” and “backward”. We are told that our hijab is a sign of our submissiveness to men, that we wear it because Muslim males cannot control themselves otherwise, that our concept of hayaa is something wholly unacceptable in the modern world. People point to countries such as Saudi Arabia, which are hailed as representations of Islam, where women cannot drive or travel the smallest of distances alone, and tell us that our hijab equates to support for them. People dress up in abayahs and burqas for Halloween without the slightest bit of shame, and we too are supposed to rejoice in the freedom that allows them to mock and degrade us.
But once again, Muslim women handle this situation with dignity truly befitting their status. They do not fall for these attempts to sway them in their religion, but merely point to the hypocrisy of the society in which they live, one which judges women first and foremost on their appearance of beauty. Who in reality is truly oppressed? They show the double standards of freedom of speech, which allow others to mock them, but prevents them from wearing some forms of hijab. And they distance themselves from the examples of Muslim countries today, who pick and choose which laws of Islam they want to implement to further their own political aims.
And lastly, and perhaps most sadly, we face the efforts of those who wish to reform the hijab; Muslims and non-Muslims. We are told that some forms of hijab are out-dated today, that hijab is only in the heart, and that it is open to interpretation. We have the emergence of multi-million dollar industries, marketing Islamic fashion as the next big thing, misinforming the masses and playing on our devotion to our faith and tempting us to forego our intentions of doing it for the sake of Allah. We fight daily against our nafs (desires) to fashion up our hijab or get sucked into the latest makeup trend. Despite the fact that hijab is supposed to free us from these superficial expectations, now sisters put on the hijab & still have an idealised image of beauty to live up to; because as Muslims we have created a culture where you’ll find the makeup tutorials next to the hijab tutorials. The two have become intertwined and sisters have the pressure to live up to two unattainable standards of beauty; the Western, and the Muslim.
Again, this is a struggle our sisters bravely face, but it is also a trial many girls face alone. This has reinforced the low self esteem most young people have in today’s society, and sometimes, even extends to more serious mental health conditions. And for the sake of these sisters, I ask that this is something we now turn our attention to; that we do not allow the hijab to be hijacked by these industries and made into a source of anxiety for us. We must keep the hijab as the symbol of freedom from submission to any human being, and preserve its modesty. The commercialisation of the hijab, may have made it more normal, but its also put huge pressures on our sisters to live up to that definition of “normal”. Its gone a step too far, and we must reclaim it not as a fashion accessory, but as an act of worship.
Everyone is on her own hijab journey, and I ask that Allah (swt) make it an easy trial for all of us who try wear the hijab correctly for His sake alone.
But my beautiful sisters, never forget what incredible individuals you are. I am so proud of my Muslim sisters who against all the odds, take pride in their identity and their love of Islam. Wherever you are on your journey, today is a day we recognise your struggles and your bravery.
May Allah bless you all! ☺️️