February 1st marks International Hijab Day, a day to raise awareness for the practice of covering the hair by Muslim women. Initially I intended to write my first blog post on that date but hey, as a practicing Muslim woman wearing the Hijab, my Hijab day is every day. 🙂
Hijab is looked at as a symbol of modesty, but before it was a symbol for that to me, it was a symbol for my religion in the public sphere. I’ve been wearing my Hijab for over ten years now, and since the first time I stepped out of the house with the Hijab on my head I made a statement: I automatically became a representative of Islam.
I have been asked to justify the Hijab a lot, to my friends, family and even random people in the street. By having these conversations and later on reflecting on them and having emerging thoughts on the subject, I was able to have a personal understanding of Hijab. That yes, it is a means for modesty and protection, but even more than that, it is a mean for achieving confidence and belief in your abilities and power as a human being.
I have lived in a Muslim and non-Muslim society simultaneously, and because of that I was able to tackle the notion of Hijab from both angles. So I constantly went back and forth between two main questions:
- How can hijab cure and prevent spiritual illnesses such as backbiting, ill thinking, pride etc.?
- How can Hijab play a vital role in empowering women?
To address the first question, I would like to go back to understanding that Hijab does not only mean the way the world looks at you. It is mainly the way you look at the world – through lowering your gaze, a slight cover, an elegant way in addressing illnesses of society and bad situations. When we learn to overlook faults of others, we learn to control our pride, we automatically decrease backbiting and ill thinking. We become free from this “silent noise” in our brain that makes it hard to focus on what really matters.
“Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do.” [The Holy Quran 24:31]
“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their natural and artificial beauty except that which is apparent thereof…” [The Holy Quran 24:32]
The verses above give initially the exact same commandment to both men and women, meaning that Hijab is a way to overcome spiritual illnesses for both genders. Lowering the gaze is not only intended towards the other gender. It is also the lowering of the gaze of a man towards the wealth of his brother too.
Me as a woman, I am luckier because by wearing my hijab every day, I’m reminded of the responsibility to reform myself and the means of doing that.
The second question is engraved in my journey, and I think it’s the journey of a lot of girls living in non-Muslim environments. It is engraved in growing up having doubts in everything we were raised with, including our choice to wear a certain garment. These doubts and these questions are ways for a woman to grow into a person who lives by what she believes, and to live her life in the way she chooses to, not because she was raised in a certain way, but because she wants to. Once, I didn’t like those questions, I felt they were weakening me. However, once I embraced them, I was empowered by them, for they became the fuel for my journey in understanding myself.
Wearing my Hijab every day, despite being told by the society I live in that I shouldn’t, is empowering, is fulfilling and is truly my decision.