Monday, December 03, 2007

Hijab - Not a symbol

Some of my more intimate acquaintances may know this about me: that I didn't always think hijab was mandatory or obligatory for women. (If you find this to be especially shocking, please take a deep breath before reading on...)

In fact, my first introductions to Islam involved arguing against the necessity of hijab. (Another deep breath please.)

Even when I finally decided to start wearing hijab, I was not fully convinced that as a Muslimah, I needed to. (Calm down... it's ok.)

I started to wear it by challenging myself, to prove covering was not too difficult for me, and to conquer any fear which might have up until then prevented me. Aware that I needed to wear it to pray, I accepted it (begrudgingly) but as a full-time habit, I disagreed. Yet I wore it anyway, to prove I could, to decide whether I should, and to proudly declare that yes, I am Muslim, and I'm not afraid to say so.

The secret was that I liked wearing it, once I started. I felt uniquely feminine, and dignified. I identified with it, and began to appreciate it. And finally I did accept it as an obligation (long after I started wearing it), succumbing to the vastly overwhelming opinion of scholars that it is, in fact, obedience to Allah.

Before my change of attitude, taking off the hijab to visit my family, or to work out at the gym, did not bother me so much - a minor inconvenience, only slightly uncomfortable. Yet afterwards, it became a more serious issue, one that has been aggravating my familial relationships for the last year. In front of my immediate family I don't mind to take it off but with my sisters' husbands around, I feel loathe to uncover--which they take as an offense. (How the male mind might reach that conclusion, I am left to wonder.)

Yet as I become increasingly convinced of the necessity and propriety of covering my body (I prefer to say covering my body rather than covering "my hair" or "my head") I refuse to waver on this principle. I assert that I am covering out of obedience to God, and that not only should I be permitted to wear hijab but that I in fact must wear it and nobody can reasonably nor sensibly object.

To say that I must make a decision whether to cover and sever familial ties, or to join my family by uncovering as per their wishes, truly calls into question the obedience of Allah, of the Creator, over that of the creation. Wearing hijab does not symbolize that I am Muslim. Covering is not symbolic of my faith. It is an act of faith, and notice the distinction.

Today, I wear it not to say that I am a Muslim, I simply wear it because I am Muslim and Allah has commanded me to. The observation that "some Muslim women don't wear it and they want to fit in" has no impact on the instruction for women to cover, no more than a drunkard on the prohibition of alcohol. "Some Muslims" don't pray either, but alhamdulillah I am not one of them. I choose to practice Islam, and I love to practice Islam, and Allah has made it easy for me.


UmmAli said...

Asalam Alaikum
Hijab is not makes a women a Muslim. Her belief in Allah and Islam is what makes her a Muslim. But in the eyes of others a women wearing hijab she is a Muslim. So in a way it is a symbol, but in a way it isn't. I hope that makes sense lol

As for your family dear I don't really know what to say. My family didn't really have much to do with me before Islam and now defiantly don't. I went back home, SC, when my father died and they seen me in hijab for the first time. It was a little hard, but alhumdillah. I am kind of happy I was not in niqab at that time, I don't think that would of went over well.

Anyways sis stay strong. :)

MyHijab said...

Salam Alaikum sis

The issue of the family is a big one for me. I have had a sister of mine upset at why I wear the hijab in the presence of her husband. She said that it means that I am assuming things about him ie that he will feel things for me if I don't have the hijab on, or something along those lines.

This makes me uncomfortable. First and foremost, I wear the hijab not for how her husband may or may not feel but because it is an obligation on me as a Muslimah.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam UmmAli -

You're right that hijab is not what makes a Muslima. For me, though, as a Muslim I am choosing to submit to Allah. If I took of the hijab instead of submitting to Allah I would be submitting to the preference of my family... and the ramifications of that are awful. That would not be an act of Islam so I see no reason to disobey Allah to please them. It's not worth it, to me. Jazakillah khair for the comments though, I appreciate it. :-)

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam MyHijab -

I think you, too, know what I'm going through here. My sisters feel the same way even though they aren't Muslim and don't understand Islam. My family is trying to guilt me into taking it off in front of my bro-in-laws too by insisting they are just like family... but they're not. Not trying to be rude to them at all, and this is sad because one of them especially was really like a big brother to me a few years ago. But he's not. I don't really think either would feel any kind of romantic feelings towards me, but then again I'm not wearing hijab because I feel like it, but like you said... because it's an obligation. Jazakillah khair for your comments.