Today is World Hijab Day, a day to recognize millions of Muslim women around the world, who choose (yes, contrary to popular belief, choose) to wear hijab and opt for a more modest lifestyle.
The brainchild of this movement is a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women (non-Hijabi Muslims/non-Muslims) to experience the hijab for one day.
I think we could all use some religious tolerance and understanding in today’s climate of hatred and intolerance, right? Please feel free to visit the official website of World Hijab Day to learn more.
My Hijab Story
It’s been 13 years since I decided to wear Hijab and 12 since I actually started wearing it. If someone had told me 13 years back that I would start wearing hijab by choice, be confident in it, keep up with it for so long and actually love it then I would probably laugh at that someone and shrug it off completely.
Although I am a born and bred Muslim, raised in Pakistan which is a predominantly Muslim country, the truth is, Hijab is not common in my family. Yes, I grew up in a practicing Muslim family where I was taught not to lie, cheat, hurt others, believe in the Oneness of Allah and practice the five pillars of Islam but as I look back as an adult, everything I was taught was more on a spiritual level.
This more physical aspect of Islam known as Hijab, however, was never really discussed at home because that’s how uncommon it is in my family and social circle. Due to my ignorance, I had a very twisted image of hijab based on what I had heard from people who have zero knowledge of it and the media. I used to think of Hijab as oppression and as something that no woman would choose to do by her own free will. Little did I know back then that I would myself start wearing Hijab. Over the past 12 years, I’ve been asked various questions regarding Hijab or have heard interesting statements regarding it. Some of which I’m going to answer/respond to here in hopes that it will clear some confusion regarding it:
Why did you start wearing Hijab?
I was inspired by O-level Islamic Studies teacher, Miss Hira, who is this confident, outspoken, fun-loving, career-oriented, independent lady with many other wonderful qualities. This was the first time I ever met a Hijabi and got to spend some time with to actually get to know her better and her perspective.
To me it was shocking to see a Hijab wearing girl with all these qualities. After all, a Hijab wearing girl has no say, right? She’s oppressed and has been forced to wear it so how can she be confident, independent, career-oriented and most of all fun-loving? This is when curiosity got the best of me and I started researching about Hijab. For the first time ever, I started reading up on what Hijab is? What is its significance in Islam? Is it just for women? (Contrary to popular belief, it’s not. This is a separate topic altogether and I’ll write about it in detail some other time.)
It took a whole year from that point for me to research about Hijab and to finally start wearing it. I realized during this time that I want people to judge me for who I am, my intellect, my talents and my thoughts and opinions rather than my looks or the way I dress. I realized that feeling beautiful, being comfortable in my own skin and being confident in my abilities is more important and empowering than merely looking beautiful.
Here’s a Nasheed by the wonderful Dawud Wharnsby I came across during the same time:
Did you start wearing Hijab by choice?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, a few of my family members were concerned about me starting to wear it since I was just a teenager back then and the only girl in the family wearing it. You meet all kinds of people, some are supportive, some people can also be downright rude and a lot of them also jump to the conclusion that it must’ve been done forcefully. Naturally, dealing with all that at a young age is not easy and as an adult I now understand my family’s concerns but whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? ^_^
Does everyone in your family wear Hijab?
During my O-levels classes, we were all waiting for our cars to come pick us up when a lady wearing niqab came to pick someone up. Automatically, my classmate assumed that it’s my mother and said that maybe my car’s here. I just smiled and responded that that’s not my car. This has happened on more than one occasion. It’s not necessary for all the family members to wear it, if I have chosen to wear it. Doesn’t make me any more pious or makes them any less pious. It’s an act of worship, maybe they carry out other acts of worship that are more pleasing to Allah swt than my hijab.
Do you shower wearing your Hijab?
I never thought I’d be asked this question living in a Muslim country but I have and here’s the answer: Yes, I do. It’s difficult getting the shampoo in there with the hijab on but I somehow make it work. Teehee! Just kidding! Hijab is only supposed to be worn in front of certain people, mostly people other than family. So yes, I do shower without the hijab. Yay!
Girls who wear Hijab have trouble finding a partner
A lady actually told my mother that girls who wear hijab have a hard time finding a partner. Being a mother, it was obviously not something she wanted to hear. I had a discussion with her that this Hijab is for the sake of Allah and if He has decreed a partner for me than wearing hijab or not won’t make any difference. Fast forward, today I’m happily married to a guy who wanted to marry a girl who wears hijab and accepted me without asking me to change myself in any way, Alhamdulillah.
Hijab is just a cultural thing
There are verses in the Qur’an that very clearly explain the importance of modesty for both men and women:
“Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.” (Al-Quran: 24:30)
“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their head-covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” (Al-Quran, 24:31)
So no…Hijab is not just a cultural thing. Yes the ways in which women cover themselves differs due to cultural difference, for e.g. Women in the Middle East often wear abayas while in Pakistan women commonly wear loose shalwar kameez.
Whether a woman chooses to wear hijab or not is her choice but saying that it’s not a part of Islam is not right; the concept and importance of modesty in Islam is crystal clear.
Even after wearing Hijab for so long, I’m still learning things and trying to perfect it. I also make it a point not to judge others who don’t wear Hijab or might seemingly go wrong in other aspects of religion because I was once there too. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things that I do now but there’s still so much more to learn and things to improve upon. Hijab is not just a piece of fabric that you wrap around your head and you suddenly become pious and free from all evils. It’s a lifestyle and constant reminder to strive to be the best version of yourself.
I hope this post clarified a few misconceptions and hopefully helped create some understanding and tolerance for hijab. Now it’s time for a little giveaway!
Do you wear hijab or know someone who does? Share your Hijab Story to get a chance to win hijabs by Hidden Pearls and other goodies. Head over to my Facebook page for more details!
Hop on to read what others have to say:
Rashdah Hameed – World Hijab Day – Celebrating Muslimahs
Sharmeen Kidwai, What Happened When I Put A Scarf On
Mona M Ismaeil, What Does The Hijab Mean To Me
Ramsha Rose, My Hijab Story – Tag | World Hijab Day
Aminat O OdunEwu-Seesa, World Hijab Day – Amazing Stories
Humaira Ahmed, World Hijab Day – My Hijab Story
Diah Dwi Arti, The Freedom To Wear Hijab For Muslim Women
Maheen Nusrat, World Hijaab Day – My Story
Sussu Leclerc, My Hijab Is A Hot Charcoal