As-Salamu ‘Alaykum my dear sister,
Thank you for your question and your honesty. I believe there’s three important points to address here. A) The experience you had with your father, B) the meaning and importance of hijab and how that can increase your self-esteem and self-worth, C) the kind of environment that support you with the hijab, including your friends.
First of all, in terms of your experience with your father, it is a natural instinct for a father to want to protect his children, especially his daughter(s). This can be demonstrated in making sure that she is dressed modestly in order to protect herself from unnecessary stares and troubles that females are usually not aware of because only men know how men think. So, from one angle, it can help you remember that alhamdulillah your father is in your life and cares about you, when other girls may not have a father in their life, or their father does not care. Having said, I can tell you my dear sister that the job of parenting is likely the most challenging job in the world, because it requires the caring, raising, educating, and influencing of another human being. Though sometimes parents may not have the best way of conveying a message or asking you to do something, be sure that there is nobody on this earth who will love you as unconditionally as your parents do. And at least in this particular case from what I can see, they have your best interest in mind.
So first, it’s important to remember that you parents are doing the best they can, given their circumstances. If you think they have wronged you in anyway (given that in this case, once again, I believe they have your best interest in mind), you should forgive them and not blame them for how you feel. Forgiving and even more importantly being kind and merciful to our parents is regarded so highly in Islam that is mentioned right after the worshipping of Allah in this verse:
“Your Lord has ordained that you must not worship anything other than Him and that you must be kind to your parents.” (Surat Al-Isra, Verse 23)
Even when the parents are non-Muslims, Allah asks us in the Qur’an to befriend them in this world and to be kind to them. So imagine the parents who are Muslims and try to ask you to do which is good (even if it seems to you that the message may not be conveyed in the best way). Open your heart to your dad, befriend him, and spend some time with him, and in sha’ Allah, you will see how much he truly cares for you.
Regarding the meaning and importance of hijab and how that can increase your self-esteem and self-worth, you mentioned that part of the reason you found it difficult to dress modestly as your father asked you to was because everyone around you does not dress modestly. You also mentioned that as soon as you had some time to yourself where you were not influenced by your friends, you grew closer to Allah and decided to wear the hijab, ma sha’ Allah. So first, congratulations, because hijab is like a Muslim woman’s badge of honor and her declaration that she loves and wants to be close to Allah and align herself with His wishes which are to protect the woman. It is said in the Qur’an:
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” (33:59)
Also, another verse explains the hijab:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap their head covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women… (24:31)
Therefore, hijab is your assertion that you refuse to be bombarded by the society’s standards of ‘beauty’ which unfortunately, as you mentioned, seem to now be equated with showing more and more of your body.
Prior to the 60’s, women of all faiths covered their bodies and dressed modestly. In fact, covering the hair is an aspect found in all original Abrahamic faiths, including Judaism and Christianity. I understand that we are in 2014, and I am well aware also of how society has changed and of all the challenges that are out there. And that is the beauty of Islam my dear sister. Society changes and their standards for ‘beauty’ changes (unfortunately not for the better), Islam though it is dynamic and has flexibility in certain fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) issues, it has some basic aspects that do not change, like the five pillars, the hijab, etc. That is because they are needed to maintain the goodness of society.
Take the time to read more about the beauty of hijab. I would suggest this article which emphasizes that hijab actually gives us freedom from the society’s bombardment of superficial beauty standards and does not allow society and the advertising industry to reduce a woman to an ‘object’ that is used to sell, tempt, or seduce. It is your assertion that when you are outside of your home in the public sphere and of your close family circle, – who love you regardless of your physical appearance -, you want to be treated according to your intellect and character as opposed to, for example, how beautiful your hair looks. And you mentioned ma sha’ Allah that you do have beautiful hair, so perhaps this is your test my dear sister. Allah has given you a beautiful blessing, and the way to thank Allah for His blessings is to protect them and use them in the way that He pleases.
It is completely normal for teenage girls and women even as they get older to continue struggling sometimes with feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. This is again where it helps to understand how honored you are in the sight of Allah when you choose to wear the hijab and follow its code of conduct by not just dressing modestly, but also acting modestly, especially with the opposite gender. We are told in the Quran:
“You shall maintain chastity, not committing adultery, nor taking secret lovers” (5:5), and “So be not soft in speech, lest he, in whose heart is a disease, should feel tempted; and speak decent words.” (33:32)
It is important to remember my dear sister that in Islam interaction with the opposite gender should be based on necessity. It should be polite, respectful, and sincere so that it does not leave room for the Satan to enter and tempt either of them. So, derive your self-worth and self-esteem from knowing that you are trying to draw closer to Allah, The Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, and The One Who holds power over all things, including people’s opinion of you. Remember to seek the Creator, and the creation will seek you, whereas if we seek the creation and forget about the Creator, we will never satisfy them.
Finally, you need to find a friend or a group of friends that you feel comfortable with when wearing hijab, that support your decision, and who can continue on this journey with you of growing closer to Allah. I swear to you my dear sister that loving a sister for the sake of Allah is one of the most beautiful things you will taste in this world. Loving for the sake of Allah means that you love her, because she reminds you of Allah and brings you closer to Him, and this leads you to pray together, learn together, do good together, and you have no other worldly benefit between you. These people, in fact, on the Day of Judgment are higher in status than the prophets and the martyrs as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) explained: “Among Allah’s servants are people who are neither Prophets nor martyrs, but whom the Prophets and martyrs will deem fortunate because of their high status with Allah.” They asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Inform us of who they are.” He said: “They are people who loved each other for Allah’s sake, without being related to one another or being tied to one another by the exchange of wealth. By Allah, their faces will be luminous (illuminated with light), and they will be upon light. They will feel no fear when the people will be feeling fear and they will feel no grief when the people will be grieving.”
Search for this sister or group of sisters, who you will love for the sake of Allah and who will help you reach this amazing status on the Day of Judgment, in sha’ Allah. Parting yourself from friends you’ve had your whole life is not easy; however remember Allah’s words in the Qur’an:
“Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other, except for the righteous.” (43:67)
I know how difficult it can be to imagine your closest friends as your enemies, but there is such truth and sheer honesty in this verse because of how serious the matter is; Paradise or Hellfire.
Many brothers and sisters start growing closer to Allah; however, as they are not surrounded by supportive friends, they move farther away from Allah again. This does not mean that you should totally desert your old friends – unless they are falling into serious trouble in which you need to respectfully distance yourself and say you cannot participate in activities that aren’t aligned with your morals. However, if you find they are just friends who are in ‘ghafla’(meaning they’re not fully aware of how important it is to grow closer to Allah), maintain occasional ties with them and encourage them to do good with you like going to the masjid or joining a study circle. But make sure that you yourself have enough support from other friends who encourage you also, for you cannot give what you do not have. Just like someone who can’t swim, he can’t save someone who is drowning. He needs to learn how to swim first to be able to rescue those who are drowning. So, in this case, you need to be strong enough first by surrounding yourself with encouraging and supportive friends of hijab. You can look for these friends in the masjid or among your family friends. Make du’aa’ that Allah grants you such friends that help you on the path to Allah.
Also, continue fostering a close relationship with the Quran. I highly recommend br. Nouman Ali Khan’s tafseer lectures which can be found on YouTube in order to help you form this strong relationship with the Quran, and ultimately with Allah.
Don’t forget to make du’aa’ that Allah keeps you on the straight path. One of the du’aa’s that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recited the most was: “Allahuma ya muqaliba al quloob, thabit qalbi ‘ala deenak”, “Oh Allah, The Turner of the hearts, keep my heart firm upon your religion.”
I pray Allah will bless you, keep you on His straight path, and grant you the company and environment that will continue to bring you closer to Him, and closer to Jannah, in sha’ Allah.
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