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Challenges in Observing the Hijab

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Anonymous

Reply Date

Dec 19, 2017

Question

As a Muslim observing the hijab in a non-Muslim country, I have been facing a lot of challenges. I feel like I am looked down upon, alienated and socially isolated. It is distracting me from my studies. I am worried that it will limit my career opportunities due to discrimination. It is not possible for me to migrate to a Muslim country. Although I am trying my best to maintain a positive attitude, I am worried about becoming depressed. I understand that wearing the hijab is compulsory, but I also understand that religious practices are not meant to harm us, either mentally or physically. If the hijab is causing such serious disturbances, how would the jurists consider this? Under what circumstances is it permitted to remove the hijab? Thank you. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Counselor

Answer


Challenges in Observing the Hijab

In this counseling answer:

While things may be difficult now, in sha’ Allah, if you continue to wear hijab, it will get easier. Allah is most merciful. Allah helps and blesses His servants in ways we cannot imagine. While, of course, the ultimate decision of whether to wear hijab or not is yours, sister, please do think about these things and make du’aa’ to Allah for guidance. Even living in an Islamic country does not guarantee we will be free from discrimination, bias, tests, and trials.”


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us with your concerns and experiences. I am sorry to hear about what you have been experiencing. In some countries, it can be a challenge to maintain hijab, especially in an area wherein there are few Muslims and a lot of ignorance. While you did not say to what degree you are experiencing alienation (from total to partial), I am sure it is not a pleasant feeling. I am sure you feel rather alone right now.

I am also not clear on how you are being discriminated against, looked down upon and alienated. At any rate, you need a support system of good friends. You need to feel that you belong somewhere in your community. Perhaps not fitting into the social circles you are seeking to find acceptance it may be a blessing in disguise for they may be detrimental to you in the long run. Allah knows best.

I would kindly suggest sister that you seek out to Muslim sisters who are there. Try to befriend them.  Seek out mosques, Islamic centers or social groups for Muslims in your area. While there may not be a mosque or Islamic center where you live, there may be small groups of Muslims who have formed social or study groups for support.  A Google search may bring some up if you put in your city with keywords pertaining to Muslims and Islam.

Sister, I encourage you to in sha’ Allah re-evaluate your situation. Are you being threatened? Has anyone harmed you physically? Do you feel as if your life could be in danger? Do you have any friends there who could help you feel more comfortable and supported? These are important points to clarify because if your life is at risk, then no, Allah does not want us to be in danger.

Indeed, many Muslims have faced danger, fears, discrimination and even loss of opportunities just for being Muslim. However, they persevered by depending upon and trusting in Allah. They were rewarded. For instance, if you feel your career would be stunted because you wore hijab and you decided not to wear hijab, what would you do about praying, not partaking in alcohol, celebrating Ramadan, etc.? Surely, questions would arise as to these things from classmates, co-workers and in social situations. Would you “pretend” that you are not Muslim? Or would you discuss that you are a Muslim and educate others about Islam?

Sister, if you are not in danger and you take off your hijab, there will be other things which you will also have to either “hide”, give up, or lie about. These are things we should not do as Muslims. I understand it is hard right now. I understand that you feel probably a little scared. It also sounds as if this situation may be fairly new to you, forgive me if I am wrong.

Often times when we look at a situation we are in, we realize that it could be a test from Allah. A hadith states,

I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?’ He said: ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.” (Ibn Majah)

As we can see, sister, we all face trials and tests in this life. Some are made to make us stronger. Some are to test our faith. Some give us new ways of coping with adversity to make us better servants to Allah.

It could be that you are being shown two paths – one in which it may be easier to remove your hijab so you can succeed further in your career and social life without stigma or discrimination. On the other path, you are continuing to wear your hijab and perhaps risk not being promoted, not being accepted into certain social circles, or even possibly being harassed for your faith. Sister, in sha’ Allah please ask yourself, from which path do you think you would receive Allah’s blessings from? While we may think that there is a blessing in compromising our religion, please look at it from this perspective in regards to that which you are seeking (career opportunities, etc.). The Prophet Mohammad said

Indeed there is a fitnah for every Ummah, and the Fitnah for my Ummah is wealth.” (Tirmidhi)

Sister, I urge you to examine the nature of your distress concerning wearing hijab. It is mainly because you fear you won’t excel at your career? Or is it because you fear for your life?  If you fear for your life that is a different matter, indeed. However, if it is because of social acceptance or career advancement, I kindly encourage you to trust in Allah for the outcome of your worries. By observing hijab and facing the social consequences, in sha’ Allah, you are in fact placing yourself in a position to be richly blessed by Allah. We can never know how Allah will change things for us when we are obedient. We never know how He will bless us when all appears to be against us. But if we compromise, give up, and succumb to social, cultural norms and/or discrimination just to please society, we are not pleasing Allah.

Sister, I kindly encourage you to try to seek out other Muslims in your area for support. Join an online group if there are not any Muslims in your area. Please, in sha’ Allah, re-evaluate your reasons for not wearing hijab and ask yourself: whom am I seeking to please? People or Allah? Who has final control over my future or career; me or Allah?

While things may be difficult now, in sha’ Allah, if you continue to wear hijab, it will get easier. Allah is most merciful. Allah helps and blesses His servants in ways we cannot imagine. While, of course, the ultimate decision of whether to wear hijab or not is yours, sister, please do think about these things and make du’aa’ to Allah for guidance.  

As far as what the jurists have to say, I encourage you to write to our section “Ask the Scholars” for a complete answer regarding this. I hope this has helped in some small way, sister. It is an issue for many Muslims worldwide.

Even living in an Islamic country does not guarantee we will be free from discrimination, bias, tests, and trials. Every station in life comes with its own set of issues to deal with. Right now, this happens to be yours. In sha’ Allah, dear sister, you will make a decision that will be conducive to your religion and your life in the country in which you live.

We wish you the best,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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