Recently I was at a ladies-only event, but since it was held in a public venue, many of the women remained covered just in case a random man walked in.
At some point, I ended up sitting near a couple of older sisters whom I had never met. For several minutes they sat silently and seemed disinclined to chat. Then, out of the blue, one of them gestured to my twelve year old daughter and asked, “Does she wear hijab all the time?”
Slightly confused by her question, I answered, “Well, yes, when she’s outside. Not at home with family, of course.”
“But not just here, today?” she persisted. “Even at school? Even at the mall?”
“How do you get her to do that? How do you get her to wear hijab?” the older lady asked, abruptly. “We can’t even get our daughters and granddaughters to do it.”
I can’t be sure of her mindset, but I suspect she was thinking that it was ironic that while some “born-Muslims” struggle with submitting to hijab, here I was, an American convert, and my daughter and I were both covering.
“I can’t take much credit, honestly,” was my reply. “Alhamdullilah she chose to wear hijab when she reached maturity, and it wasn’t a struggle. But it is only by the grace of Allah SWT that any of us obey Him.”
The sister looked at me with interest. Maybe she expected to hear about some bribes or punishment guaranteed to keep a girl properly covered?
“I make du’a almost every day for Allah (SWT) to keep me and my kids on the straight path,” I continued. “I think that’s the best way. None of us should get complacent in our Ibaadah (worship).”
That was the end of my conversation with her, but since that day I have given the matter some deeper thought. While I do believe the grace of Allah (SWT) is the fundamental reason my daughter (or any of us) wear hijab, I realize there ARE some ways that parents can support and encourage their daughters to cover. Insha’Allah this list will be of benefit to other parents or grandparents who want to give the young ladies in their life the very best support.
1. Make du’a.
As often as possible, ask Allah (SWT) to enable you and your children to live righteous lives, including all of the requisites of Islamic dress and behavior. Allah (SWT) says that a parent’s dua for his/her child will not go unanswered.
2. Start the hijab conversation from a very young age, and keep it positive.
Tell young Muslimahs that modest dress and behavior are for the sake of Allah (SWT), to love and obey Him and to earn His rewards.
3. Do not oversimplify hijab by making it all about men’s desires!
So many people tell their daughters a version of, “Cover your beauty so that you won’t tempt men.” In Islam, the male and female are both commanded to be modest.
Men must lower their gaze and dress and act appropriately. Women, in addition to striving towards modest behavior, are required to cover their body and hair. They should perform this act of worship to obey and please Allah (SWT). With this proactive mindset, the female is taking ownership of her worship. She is not forced, threatened, or frightened into doing it. It is between her and her Creator. It is an investment, Insha’Allah , in the hereafter.
4. If you are a mother, aunt, or grandmother, wear your hijab with pride, knowledge, and optimism.
Now and then, let the young Muslimahs in your life know why you cover and how eager you are to earn Allah’s blessings. Dress appropriately but also with self-care. One can be modest while still looking “put together.” Daughters will pick up on even the slightest negative comments like, “This hijab makes me look old/fat/old-fashioned.”
Focus on the positive instead. Wear modest clothes that compliment your skin and eye color, that give you energy and make you comfortable and happy. Your love (or hate) relationship with hijab will be obvious.
5. Enable your young Muslimah to spend time with friends who also wear hijab.
Most teens and pre-teens care deeply about what their peers think and are influenced by them. Make sure the people they spend the most time with are good examples! This might require some effort on your part.
Your daughter might not currently have any friends who cover, so you could arrange for her to meet some who do through Muslim youth groups, masjid activities, or family friends.
In the case of our own daughter, when she reached maturity, she was blessed to have a few close friends who had already started covering.
However, after we moved to a new city, those friends lived far away. Recognizing how crucial their friendship and example were to our daughter, my husband and I willingly made the three-hour round trip a couple times each month, just to nurture those relationships. Having a few very strong Muslim girlfriends made a huge, positive impact on our daughter.
6. Throw a hijab party!
Celebrate your daughter’s passage into womanhood by hosting a joyful, girls-only gala. Our daughter’s party featured decorations in her favorite colors, yummy snacks, festive cupcakes, games with small prizes for the winners, and several gifts for my daughter from friends and family. The party does not have to be extremely elaborate or expensive to make a girl feel special and loved.
7. Speaking of fun. . .
As Cyndi Lauper sang in the 80s, girls just wanna have it! In the teen years, our children will be observing their non-Muslim peers engaging in many forms of entertainment that are not allowed.
Make sure you, as a parent, enable your Muslim kids to have wholesome fun with their friends. If following Islam seems like nothing but a burden and a long list of duties and restrictions, our youth will not feel inspired. But if they are allowed enjoyable and appropriate alternatives, then they will see that one can be both practicing AND joyful.
Almost all forms of entertainment can be made halal with a little creativity and effort. This is a huge way parents can support their teens. It takes time and energy, but it is better than losing our kids to haram activities.
8. Have the same high expectations of your sons.
Everyone– especially siblings!– hates double standards. Your daughter will surely notice the injustice if she is expected to act and dress modestly while her brother gets away with all kinds of inappropriate behavior. Sadly, this double standard is a norm in some cultures.
Make sure to teach your boys to maintain their modesty, lower their gaze, and treat women with respect. Remind them not to wear short shorts or swimming trunks that hang low, below the belly button. Be just as strict with their manners as you are with your daughter’s. Boys, too, must answer to Allah (SWT) for their actions!
9. Nurture your young Muslimah’s talents during pre-puberty and puberty.
This is a time to invest in the woman she is becoming. Help her achieve her dreams and reach her potential. If she has a talent or a passion, nurture it however you can. Invest in the classes or supplies she needs. Give her your attention and appreciation.
The young women of our Ummah deserve this dedication. Furthermore, when we invest in them, they will feel empowered, loved, and more willing to listen to advice and to connect with their family and Muslim community.
10. LISTEN to her.
Really listen! If she has concerns about wearing hijab, don’t just interrupt her with your own opinion, dismiss her fears, or ignore her. Especially if you are a father who has never had to be a “visible” Muslim in a predominantly non-Muslim society, you have no idea what a covering Muslimah is going through.
If she says, “I’m worried what the kids at school will say,” you might be tempted to answer, “Don’t worry what others think!” or “I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Those platitudes will not help. Brainstorm with your daughter. Discuss possible scenarios and how she could respond with confidence. Talk about what to do in the case of bullying. Help her formulate responses that are succinct and correct. Most important, tell her that you’ll have her back no matter what.
11. Dress appropriately yourself.
This might seem obvious, but a mother is going to be her daughter’s first role model. Look at your own way of dressing and see if it meets Islamic guidelines. If not, is it reasonable for you to expect your daughter to cover? If you are a father, make sure you are fulfilling your Islamic obligations. Kids can spot hypocrisy from a mile away.
12. Make sure she knows that your love for her is not contingent upon her hijab.
This might sound strange, but some girls will cover just to earn their parents’ love or, conversely, rebel against their parents by uncovering. If you have a solid, loving connection with your daughter, she will not confuse her Islamic obligations with her relationship with her parents.
Yes, technically children are required to obey their parents, and a daughter should cover if her parents command her to. Ultimately, however, our daughters will be grown, independent women who will need to choose to wear hijab every day for the sake of Allah (SWT) alone . . . not because we are watching over them, but because He (SWT) is.
First published: April 2016
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