As a Muslim woman, hijab is compulsory. The Quraan unequivocally states:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent and to draw their veils all over their bodies and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers……” (al-Noor 24:31)
“We can start to cover up when we are ready.”
“She is still so young – none of us wore scarf at that age.”
“It’s our intention and what is in our heart that really matters.”
Sure, while we are all at different phases in our Muslima metamorphosis; there is no amount of modern Muslim manifestos and justifications that can in any way skew the direct command from God that has remain unaltered for over a millenium.
So first and foremost, this blog is by no means intended to pass judgement on anyone whatsoever. It will explore my personal, ongoing transformation and most importantly delve into what it means (and what it certainly does not mean!) to be a hijabi – specifically aimed at my non-Muslim readers. Ultimately my intention is to reach out to all my fellow Muslimas as well as to uncover the many stereotypes that surround a covered women. Also I am fully aware that “Hijab” is not only about covering our hair but of course dressing modestly so that the shape of our body is completely concealed.
The Conception of a Hijabi:
I will admit, rather ashamedly, that I only started to wear a headscarf conscientiously when I was 26 years old. Although I had already performed haj (pilgrimage to Makkah) about a year earlier, I had not fully committed to covering my hair until we were trying to conceive my first child. I made a pact with the Almighty that should I miraculously find myself with child; I will start covering what I considered to be my best asset – my hair. Recalling my ultimatum with God makes me cringe with utter embarrassment and humiliation. How arrogant of me to bargain with the One as if He requires my forced devotion??
Well I was positively knocked up before I could even start to ponder which hijab style suited me best! I will admit, rather ashamedly again, that at the outset, the experience was dauntingly difficult, simply because I started to don a scarf in my fattest days when I was already feeling rather unattractive and the scarf covering my modern haircut made me feel more like an ouma than a glowing mama-to-be! But I faced the challenge day by day and persevered because I may be labelled a lot of things, but I am certainly not an ouma who turns on her word! So as I stand today, I am a long way off from where I should be but I have also improved significantly from that first day when it took me over an hour to decide which black scarf to wear and how to tie it and then bawled for another hour because I thought I looked like a baby hippo. There are still days that temptation butts its highlighted, tousled uncovered head into my mind and I relapse, albeit slightly. However, my consolation is that now I am proud to be immediately recognised as a Muslim, so at the very least, if my plane crashes the rescue workers will know to bury me according to Islamic rites!
Admit it, when a hijabi enters a room, no matter how liberal and progressive you are, you immediately think that the she is different (at the very least!). And while your judgement may be accurate in many ways; it is certainly not because her controlling Taliban-of-a-husband/father coerced her into covering up; nor that she is an uneducated simpleton who is covering her balding scalp and it certainly does not mean that she does not take pride in her body by doing pilates and laser hair removal! She is however different in that she deliberately made her own choice to surrender to the ultimate power albeit a contradiction to everything that modern society dictates how an intelligent, beautiful woman should appear. She is different because she will not raise her hand to greet a strange man because her entire body is regarded as sacred and only for her husband. She is different because she has never sipped any form of alcohol and has never been tempted to even when no one is around.
Hijabi in Progress:
While my dressing is a long way off from being the epitome of piety; I would like to think that I have steadily progressed from the mini – skirt, “it’s what’s in my heart that matters” anthem days. I am definitely no fashionista but I do enjoy my own comfortable, casual style, which for me is the most challenging aspect of wearing hijab and covering up appropriately. Although I have recently committed to wearing long sleeves and looser clothing, as a result of an Arab mocking my so-called “hijab” while I was in Dubai in mid -summer wearing a t-shirt while my hair was covered; my wardrobe still wholly resembles that of a “low-jabi”! I am constantly looking for inspiration to up my game and I have discovered that the greatest encouragement emanates from surrounding myself by women who have conquered the summit of modesty, those who are always covered from head to toe on the hottest days on the most public of beaches. It is very easy to fall into the trap of convincing ourselves that it is all about our intention and a scarf doesn’t suit me and it doesn’t matter if you are covered up if you have a black heart . . . . . .the list of excuses is endless. But what I have come to realise is nothing deeply philosophical or religious but actually pretty simple: a lady who is effortlessly shrouded must surely have a mighty deep connection and devotion to God to be able to publicly renounce the western concept of beauty; to be able to bear the heat of the African summers and to calmly and proudly proclaim in today’s atmosphere of Islamophobia that I am a Muslim Woman!
Life Book Hacks:
- Just do it! Stop making excuses and looking for loop-holes because there aren’t any my dear. Go out and buy a scarf and tie it any damn way you feel like. Wear it with whatever outfit you had planned on wearing. It’s a start and you can only improve from there on.
- Attend inspiring lectures about the Mothers of Islam or listen to the widely-available selection of podcasts or simply talk to someone who inspires you. Just open you ears and your heart will follow.
- Accept that it is a compulsory part of our faith just like prayer and charity. We don’t neglect those so who gave us permission to basically walk around naked?
- A wise woman once said to me “Change your exterior and your interior will follow”. It’s not the other way around!
** picture used is from ilmfeed