If you are a young Muslim woman, then you probably often think about hijab.
From Instagram and Twitter, to YouTube – everyone has an opinion, and there is no shortage of ideas about hijab: about its validity, about its importance, about the most fashionable way to wear it – you name it!
With the information overload on social media, it is so important to take a deep breath, and ground your knowledge of hijab in trustworthy, traditional Islamic scholarship.
What helps me is listening to Shaykhas like Dr. Tamara Gray and Shaykha Zaynab Ansari. They are strong, brilliant and brave women well-versed in traditional Islam.
The most commonly accepted opinion in Islam, across all schools of thoughts, is that hijab is obligatory. Here are 3 reasons why Hijab is significant in modern times:
Hijab Against Pressure to Be ‘Beautiful’
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw down their shawls over them. That will make it more likely that they are recognized, hence not annoyed. And Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.” [Qur’an, 33:59]
Allah created each and every one of us in the best and most beautiful of forms. Best and beautiful does not mean perfect. In fact, it necessarily means imperfect, because human beings are created with built-in flaws.
When handled well, our imperfections give us chances to grow, change, and become better believers. Through our struggles, we have opportunities to turn to Allah for strength and guidance.
The idea that our hearts and inner values – not our outer forms – matter has a powerful response to the challenges women face in our times; although this belief doesn’t sell cosmetics.
What sells is this: insecurity about the way you look, and feeling uncomfortable with your physical imperfections. When you feel insecure, you think that buying the right product will help you feel better.
And it might help you, at least for a little while. You can distract yourselves from your inner hurt by focusing only on your outer forms.
But no amount of cream, make-up will help you with your deeper internal fears. So many of us believe the lie that we will only be worthy of love and belonging if we look a certain way.
The standard of what is beautiful is very clear on both social and mainstream media: light skin, blue eyes, fair hair, impossibly tiny dress sizes; etc. The reality is that most of us don’t look like that. Every single person on this planet has some kind of physical imperfection.
Observing hijab can help you make your peace with your inherent flaws. Through hijab, you can opt out of the narrative that we must look a certain way in order to be worthy.
With hijab, we show up in the public sphere as identifiable Muslim women, linking ourselves to a global sisterhood of other women who are also visibly Muslim. We stand together as women of faith, empowered in our love for and commitment to our Creator.
At the same time, we have the space and flexibility to express our identity and traditions through how we wear hijab.
Hijab Connects to Our Foremothers
When we’re being bombarded by messages of Islamophobia, it’s so easy to lose sight of our rich history. Muslim women weren’t always under such close and negative scrutiny.
Our foremothers were illumined scholars, warrior queens and generous patrons. We came from strength, courage and generosity. We can tap into that, and deepen our roots.
Think of Muslim women throughout history and you will see their identifying marker – their hijab. Connect yourself to this long line of strong and inspiring female role models through wearing your hijab. Here are some examples of our incredible foremothers, from the series She is Me:
In the 6th century, Fatima Bint Sa’d Al Khair was born in China, and was an accomplished scholar by the age of 19. She traveled widely and studied with many teachers. Students would come to Cairo specifically to study with her.
In the 8th century, Queen Al-Adar of Yemen was able to build peace between warring tribes. She was famous for her philanthropy and nicknamed “The Lordly Lady of Piety”.
In the 10th century, Queen Aminatu of Zaria was a military genius who ruled her African nation for 34 years. She was a true warrior queen.
Hijab Reclaims Modesty & Ethics
One of the goals of hijab is preserving our modesty. Real Islamic cover helps us shift the focus away from our physical form, and reclaims the excesses of hijabista fashion. Choosing to observe hijab without the outward trappings of excessive beautification is a statement in itself.
The rise of hijabista fashion is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, the Instagram hijabistas out there make hijab feel more desirable and fashionable for the Muslim youth. It is encouraging to see young women inspiring others with their creativity and passion for Islamic clothing.
On the other hand, there is a risk that now the standard of what is beautiful for Muslim women has become very high indeed.
It is one thing to appear clean, neat and presentable, which is part of the sunnah. It is an entirely different story when women go out of their way to appear even more beautiful than they ordinarily are, missing the original goal of hijab.
There is also the problem of ethics behind the hijabista industry. Is it in line with the Islamic principles of justice, fair trade and commerce?
How ethical is the production process of these fashionable items? Have the materials been grown ethically, and produced locally? How have the workers been treated? These are just some questions to reflect upon as Muslims, both as consumers or sellers of hijab fashion.