The H-word.


That’s right…Hijab.

I thought I would adress this topic first and foremost because well, it is inevitable and I just want to get it over and done with.  Sadly, the topic of the hijab is NEVER over and done with.  The simple definition of the hijab refers to the scarf/headcovering worn by Muslim women.  However, the hijab is so much more complicated than that.  It is a deeply symbolic piece of fabric, with the threads of spirituality and morality woven tightly and reinforced culturally. The hijab is not only a physical veil that is meant to ensure modesty, it is also a metaphorical veil that dictates behavioral codes between the two genders in order to ensure chastisty.

Depending on the translation you use, the Quran  (24:31) refers to the hijab as a garment that goes over a woman’s bossom (Yusuf Ali, Pickthal) and/or over her head (Shakir, Bakhtiar). I have talked to women across different cultures and they have justified covering or not covering based on their own interpretation of this specific verse.  Of course, the prevailing culture largely dictactes whether a woman will cover her hair and how she will do it.   The hijab spectrum is wide, from bandana scarves to a full out burqa.  A woman in the West will most likely wear a hijab with a pair of jeans while those in Saudi Arabia will wear it with a black cloak (abaya).   And depending on where she lives, a ‘covered’ woman will either be frowned upon or looked up to…the reactions are mostly geopgraphically specific. It is frustrating that whether or not a woman wears the hijab, there will always be a reaction. Some Muslims ostracize their Muslim sisters for not wearing the hijab, some non-Muslims (and Muslims) demean hijab wearers and label them as victims of opression.  It is not suprising therefore that these reactions wear out many Muslim women, driving some to take ‘breaks’  from the hijabi lifestyle or abandoning it altogether.

In order to achieve a more peaceful society, we all need to develop a greater INTER-religious and INTRA-religious tolerance.  Each one of us is a product of a unique interplay of childhood upbringing, education, culture, religion, and environment; let us celebrate that diversity.

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4 thoughts on “The H-word.

  1. I think that everyone in France should read this. By assuming that women don’t have a choice, they demean women further and the good intentions (I assume that it is good intentions) backlash.

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  2. Mashallah…love it! As a woman in the west currently, I must confess I do wear to fit my convenience. I sometimes wear it and other times dont. Even though later on I feel guilty for not wearing. But when I still wear it infront of my non-muslim friends they dont care or judge me about it and that makes me happy and proud to wear…and more happier when they try to pronounce it as hajib…

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  3. WOW!!! My sister this is amazing.!!!! Keep it up.!!!
    You have given me a different insight of the H-word. I’ve always referred the H-word to be either Halal or Haram now I have to do improve my juggling skills with the addition of a third H-word – Hijab
    Your blog about the H-Word, reminds me of an article written by Susie Hawkins “The Essence of the Veil: The Veil as a Metaphor for Islamic Women” in which she mentions a young woman called Leila she says, quote:
    “Then there is Leila, a twenty-five year old single woman living in her native city of San Diego, California. With a graduate degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Leila is the image of the successful, well-educated twenty-first-century woman, with a bright career ahead of her. Yet Leila, who was raised in a moderate Muslim home, has begun to cover her hair with a scarf and wear loose clothing in the traditional Muslim fashion when she appears in public. Having seriously re-examined her faith, she chooses to veil herself as a sign of her devotion to Islam.

    Despite the vast diversity in their lives, all of these women “veil” themselves in obedience to the Qur’an and Islamic law. To some degree, most Muslim countries adhere to Islamic law, which requires women to cover their heads and often their entire bodies in public. Westerners may be surprised to learn that Muslims such as Leila, who live in secular countries where no veil is required, wear one anyway. These women do not see the headscarf as repressive or restrictive. Rather, it is viewed as a sign of their identity and their devotion to the Prophet Muhammed and his teachings.” Unquote.
    Inspiring !!!!.
    Isn’t that how we should all perceive Hijab?
    Anyway, with so much emphasis and attention about Hijab being mainly pertained to the female gender, and on top of that, the lack of understanding about the real purpose of Hijab, is causing a great sense of the misconception. This emphasis and this misunderstanding, is giving feminists and “anti-Islamists” even more ammunition to regard Hijab as a case of discrimination against women or as a symbol of their oppression in Islam.
    People tend to forget or maybe they don’t know that Hijab is not just a piece of cloth that is worn by women to cover their hair. In Islam, the literal meaning of the word Hijab is “curtain”, a protection of oneself from the possibility of having any impure thoughts.
    “Wearing one” (Hijab – “The curtain”) is prescribed for both male and female as seen in this Quran verse.
    ” (surah 35:33). “If you ask his wives for anything, speak to them from behind a curtain. This is purer for your hearts and their hearts”
    The context of the verse here is not just to create segregation between opposite sex but also to protect oneself against any impure thoughts such as sexual temptations. The verse is asking both men and women to have piousness from the heart. To love and fear Allah from within oneself, this Hijab is what’s called “Hijab-un- Naffs.” Protection of oneself from any impure thoughts and deeds.

    Having said that, we should not forget that the verse that Mwanawapate has mentioned in her blog, (surah 24:31) Allah is giving both MEN and WOMEN a direct commandment to protect their bodies, honour, dignity, and their devotion to Allah by lowering their gazes.
    “Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands……………” (Qur’an 24:30-31)

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