Hijab 101

Assalamu Alaikum, guys!

Today I want to talk about the oppressive rags we Muslim women are forced to cover our long gorgeous locks with…just kidding! Well, we are going to talk about the hijab but this will be an enlightening conversation and one that stresses greatly that most of us aren’t being forced to wear it. Contrary to popular belief, the word hijab does not mean headscarf. The most accurate translation would actually be “barrier” or “partition”. I know I call my headscarf a hijab and so do most other muslimahs, it’s just easier that way. But, as you can see, the term itself has a much deeper meaning. You can find a very well written, clearly explained article by the BBC here. This article highlights verses supporting modesty and the wearing of a headscarf as well as a few hadiths on the various types of dress. Definitely worth the read!

So for those of you wondering where you can find evidence of modesty and hijab (in this sense, simply covering) and also questioning why men don’t have to abide by it, I give you An-Nur 24:30 of the Quran where Allah (SWT) instructed Muhammad (SAW) “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” (24:30)

Men don’t get off so easily here. In their case they must be covered from below the knees to just above the navel, cannot wear gold or silk, and cannot wear clothing that drags on the ground.

And to the women, “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khumur over their bosoms…” (24:31)

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” (33:59)

And for the history of how hijab came to be and an in depth look at the controversy of hijab vs. no hijab, I suggest listening to this very informative TED Talk given by Samina Ali. Obviously, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the question of whether the Quran actually commands women to wear the hijab. We’re not touching that one with a ten foot pool in this post, that’s for another day…maybe. I’m not ready.

Needless to say, I love my hijab. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about the reasons why I chose to wear it and how it has empowered me. I also enjoy educating people about it if they want to know. I’m sure we’ve all heard or seen ignorant comments concerning the way Muslim women choose to dress. You’ve got uni-lingual Betty from Alabama who thinks we should all be jailed for our burqas, speak American, and go back to Shania Twain law (I wish I was kidding but this sentence was constructed from pieces of real comments made by real Americans). I’m aware that talking about the different types of hijab won’t conquer bigotry in one fell swoop but it’s a start. Also, most of us can speak more than one language with our “American” being ten times better than yours, Betty.

Anyway, below is a nice little graphic on the different styles of hijab or veil.

Veils BBC News Web ArticlePhoto taken from here.

Here in the States, I’ve witnessed mostly the hijab, al-amira, shayla, and khimar. As I’m sure many of you can imagine, the niqab and burqa wouldn’t go over so well although some women still choose to wear it, mashallah. There are many different reasons for why women choose to wear a certain style. For many it’s cultural and for many it’s based on their interpretation of modesty and what they believe the Holy Quran has instructed. For most of us, the veil is not a symbol of oppression for we wear it proudly and it is a part of who we are and a symbol for what we believe. It is not a garment meant to confine us to shame but one that commands dignity and respect.

What most people here don’t realize is that Islam and Muslim women are complex and detailed. It’s not what you see on TV and it’s certainly the farthest thing from what Betty posts on Facebook. There’s a tendency for people to see a veiled woman and refuse to see the woman. Instead she’s a walking symbol with no thoughts, feelings, passions or fears. Before I reverted and began covering my hair, I saw the same thing. I didn’t think of hijabi women as being normal like me. Alhamdulillah, my eyes have been opened! At the end of the day, we are normal, we’re simply trying to live our lives and practice our faith in peace. We aren’t untouchable or scary or violent. The misinformation and violence of radical groups shown on TV is not an accurate representation because, frankly they are not a part of Islam.

The true representation of Islam lies within the kind-hearted and dedicated Muslims in your community. And instead of making rash assumptions and listening to Betty, take some time to go to the source. Read the Quran, talk to the Muslims you may interact with, ask questions, and learn about the culture and why things are the way they are. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Thank you and assalamu alaikum!

Nahlah

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