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New Muslim: Can I Wear Hijab Sometimes, Not Full-Time?

11 July, 2020
Q Dear About Islam team, I'm a new Muslim living in a non-Muslim country. Normally I don't cover my head, but I do it when I travel to Turkey and would like to try doing it while I'm in my country too. What worries me a bit is that all my female Turkish Muslim friends, whether they cover their heads or not, say that wearing a headscarf is a "serious decision". So kind of once you start wearing it, you shouldn't take it off. That's also what I've read on one of the websites with advice on wearing hijab: that wearing it inconsistently might confuse and even offend other Muslims. Is that true? To be honest, I don't feel ready to wear headscarf all the time, for example at university or during certain social meetings. But I feel I want to wear it sometimes, for example when I'm just going for a walk. I would like my transition from not wearing towards wearing it to be smooth, I don't think I can do it in just one day. Could you please explain me why wearing hijab sometimes might offend some Muslims and why would that be worse than not wearing it at all? Thanks in advance for your answer!


Short Answer:

  • Absolutely, take it slowly if you need to! Hijab, though important, is NOT a pillar of Islam, and you have higher priorities to concern yourself with, like establishing a strong relationship with Allah through prayer and learning the basic tenets of this new faith.
  • Take your time, go at your own pace. And most of all, remember: wearing hijab is an act of worship, and it’s for God alone.
  • No one has a right to be offended with your practice or lack of practice as a Muslim.
  • Your relationship with Allah is YOUR relationship with Allah.

Asalamu Alaikum Sister,

Congratulations on accepting Islam!! May Allah (SWT) continue to guide us.

I completely understand your concern about hijab.

I am also a convert living in a non-Muslim country (the US).

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When I converted, I had no intention of wearing hijab at all.

But Allah put the desire to wear it in my heart and I have been a “hijabi” since 2001. Alhamdulillah.

For others it is a longer process and sometimes life long struggle.

Everyone’s path is different, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Before I proceed in answering your question, please understand that it is only my opinion. It may differ from other’s.

Also know that I am not an Islamic scholar, but I am coming from the perspective of a convert myself.

Give Hijab Its Proper Importance

You wrote that people have told you “that wearing a headscarf is a ‘serious decision’”.

Taking the shahada was a serious decision.

The process of incorporating the pillars of Islam and Iman into your life are serious decisions.

Hijab is a peripheral issue that Muslims place a disproportionate amount of importance on.

To quote the title of a YouTube video by Suhaib Webb, a fellow American convert and Islamic scholar, “the Fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] is different for converts to Islam”.

Islamic Law: Not One Size Fits All

This is because Islamic jurisprudence is based on many factors.

In Islam, there are some hard and fast rules that apply to everyone and these usually deal with the five pillars—prayer, shahadah, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage—of Islam, the 6 pillars of Iman, and some other well-established directives.

But some (perhaps even the majority) of Islamic law is flexible and depends on a person’s era, place, culture, financial means, etc.

The spirit of Islamic law is to establish justice. Justice is not one size fits all.

Therefore, you cannot follow the letter of the law and ignore the spirit.

If you do, justice will not be established and the purpose of the law will fail.

In this way, the jurisprudence may be different for you because your circumstance is different from what is the norm.

You, as a convert, are not in the same situation as heritage Muslims (those born into Muslim families), including your Turkish friends.

So, to apply the same rules to a Muslim with a Muslim family, community, a safety net, and strong support system the same way we apply rules to a brand new Muslim who has none of this yet, does not seem just.

Intentions, Intentions, Intentions

If your intention is to incorporate hijab into your life slowly so that you can get used to it and make sure your transition is successful, then you should know that Allah judges our actions based on what our intentions are.

If it is your intention to become successful in wearing hijab in order to surrender to God alone, it seems, to me at least, that this is a good intention.

And Allah knows what is in our hearts and is the most merciful.

Also, there is no such thing as all or nothing in Islam.

If your intentions are good, and you are doing your very best, then do what you can until you can do more.

For example, if you are trying to pray five times a day, as Islamically required, but you can only get in three prayers a day, you shouldn’t stop praying those three prayers just because you haven’t done all the things.

In your case you are wearing hijab sometimes, trying to get up to a point where you will wear it consistently.

To me, that seems like a great place to start. The all or nothing philosophy is intimidating and makes things hard for people.

“Offending” Muslims by Trying to Please God?!

You wrote something that struck me as strange, and actually, it made me mad that others would actually give such advice.

You wrote, “I’ve read on one of the websites with advice on wearing hijab: that wearing it inconsistently might confuse and even offend other Muslims.”

First of all, if a Muslim is confused by your journey, then they must be confused by most things in life.

That sounds like their problem, not yours.

More importantly, if other Muslims pretend to be offended by your sincere efforts to live the path that is Islam, they should really know that they are not God.

They don’t get to be offended. Not. Their. Business. 

Your Journey, Between You And Allah

This whole idea that you might offend someone if you don’t fulfill GOD’s rights on YOU, is a kind of religious manipulation that I, for one, do not put up with. Ever.

Notice how the hijab and all acts of worship (something done solely to seek nearness to God) are GOD’s rights on YOU.

Other people don’t get to get involved in that. This is the epitome of “two is company. three is a crowd.”

If someone imagines they have a right to take offense by your journey to Allah, they should seriously, seriously stop and think if they have all their ducks in a row.

It may seem like people who have been Muslim for many years or even all of their lives have it down and don’t need to fix themselves.

But 10 out of 10 times that is false. We are all in need of improvement.

Be Easy On Yourself

Lastly, be easy on yourself.

You are new to Islam, a faith that God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over a period of 23 years.

You do not have to learn everything overnight. Go at your own pace.

And please know for sure, without a doubt, that wearing hijab does not make one a Muslim, and not wearing hijab does not make one a non-Muslim.

It is not a core pillar of Islam even though some people make it seem as such.

You have other priorities right now: learn to pray, really learn who Allah is, learn the pillars of Iman and Islam.

When you do these things, you will feel your faith grow, you will become strengthened in your courage of conviction, making getting closer and surrendering to God a priority.

Allah knows best.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Islam is a Marathon – Not a Sprint

New Muslims: Keep Going