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What’s The Best for My Daughter’s Hair?

Questioner

Z (34-female-US)

Reply Date

Mar 11, 2018

Question

As-salamu `alaykum. Which is the modest, proper hair style and grooming for a Muslim teenage girl at home? Our 15-year-old daughter is blessed with very long and very thick hair (reaching hips), which at home, when allowed, she wears her hair usually loose, otherwise when going out in public she wears fullhijab al-hamdu lillah. Recently my husband's mother (my mother-in-law) came from India, to live with us here in the US. Among other things, she is NOT happy with her granddaughter's loose hair, which she says is "unkempt"! So she talked to my husband, and now every day basically, she is forcing my daughter to wear at home, Indian-style braids/plaits, 2 of them done with red ribbons, the way Indian girls wear! Or she puts the girl's hair in 2 high ponytails, but my daughter really does NOT like any of these new styles, but my husband says it is obligatory for my daughter to obey her grandmother's request! I am asking myself, are red ribbons modest for a Muslim girl? Jazakum Allahu k hayran.

Counselor

Answer


Daughter's Hair

In this counseling answer:

“Your daughter is a teenager who is exploring and learning about herself in new ways every day. She is going through a key time in terms of identity development and needs a certain level of freedom to learn about herself in a safe and guided way. Though it’s just my opinion, inside her own home she should not be stifled into having to conform to someone’s notion of what is a proper hairstyle. ”

 

As-salamu ` alaykum

You asked the basic question, “Which is the modest, proper hair style and grooming for a Muslim teenage girl at home?” I think what’s important is that Islamically, there is no proper hair style inside one’s own home. At home, one can wear their hair however they like. However, cultural standards and expectations are a different matter. Your mother-in-law’s demanding of your daughter to wear a certain hair style and ribbons is culturally based, not Islamically based, as I’m sure you know. The fact that she wears hijab outside of the home for Allah’s sake is wonderful and a very mature act on her part.

Your daughter is a teenager who is exploring and learning about herself in new ways every day. She is going through a key time in terms of identity development and needs a certain level of freedom to learn about herself in a safe and guided way. Though it’s just my opinion, inside her own home she should not be stifled into having to conform to someone’s notion of what is a proper hairstyle. By imposing such undue restrictions on her, you risk stifling her self exploration and expression. Where is she allowed the freedom to try on “new hats” if not within the safety of her own home? Raising teenagers is an incredibly sensitive balance between

  • Modeling
  • Guiding
  • Nurturing
  • Disciplining
  • And allowing them the freedom to explore who they are

By putting undue pressure and restrictions on her,you risk upsetting that balance.

On the other hand, it is also very important to remember that your mother-in-law is coming from India to the US and there are a lot of cultural issues that need to be kept in mind. Often, when our parents and grandparents move to the West from their home countries, they have a lot of problems adjusting to the cultural differences. For older people in particular, the changes can be a major source of anxiety, resulting in them becoming very attached to the ways of their homelands.

It is imperative that you and your husband (and your daughter) help your mother-in-law to understand her new country for the sake of alleviating her fear and anxiety about being in a new country and culture. It’s also really important that your daughter understands what her grandmother is going through in leaving her homeland to live in the US. In light of this, your daughter may even willingly abide by your mother-in-law’s wishes for a while to avoid causing friction in the home and to make her grandmother’s transition a bit easier for her. Perhaps if your daughter is better able to understand this about her grandmother, she may have a change in heart.

Nevertheless, as your daughter is 15 and maturing both physically and intellectually, encouraging her to wear braids, etc., might be a better approach, but I think it’s important to ultimately allow your daughter the freedom to choose.

Most importantly, be grateful to Allah that she covers herself according to His guidance when she leaves her home. Try and help your husband and mother-in-law understand that abiding by Allah’s laws is the most important thing.




About Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah

Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Study’s Community Education and Youth Studies Laboratory, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He received his B.A. from the University of Delaware (U.S.), his M.S. from Columbia University (U.S.) and his PhD from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies (PEKKA), Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 in the field of Youth Studies. Abd. Lateef is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 2001. He is married and has 2 children.

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