Scrolling down through Facebook, an image of sisters in different stages of hijab was shown . It started with one who didn’t cover at all and ended with one in niqab. A debate was quickly sparked as to how we shouldn’t judge these sisters because the hijab journey is a very difficult one.
As Muslim sisters, we generally know what is required of us by Allah. We know we have to cover and wear modest clothes. However, for some of us, it is a very big step to take whether we are new Muslims or young Muslim women.
Find your empathy
The situation made me think back to when I first started covering one year after accepting Islam. It took several years of frustrations and swapping styles before I finally got to the point where I found a style I am now comfortable with, I look good in and follow Islamic requirements. I was having a conversation with my husband’s cousin, Nour, a 19-year-old student living in Cairo, about the trials and tribulations of hijabis in the world today.
Nour explained to me that when she started university she was only one of a handful of young women wearing hijab and it automatically made her feel very self-conscious. She told me how everyone had already formed an opinion of her before even speaking to her. They assumed that she was uptight and no fun. This is not Nour at all and whilst she has her principles and boundaries, she most certainly is not a boring young woman who doesn’t like to have fun.
Why the assumptions???
Nour likes to wear skirts and loose clothing so she is fulfilling the hijab. Many of her fellow students don’t understand why she chooses this style of clothing over more fashionable, tighter clothes. It is amazing how different the same people treat her, if she wears something that is a more tailored or form-fitting than normal. Everyone suddenly pays her so many compliments of how she has lost weight and how good she looks.
She told me that this makes it harder to try and comply with the requirements of hijab because she is incredibly flattered and of course this can be a temptation to start wearing tighter clothing. She then went on to say, she has a friend who wishes to wear longer skirts or looser clothes but when she tries, her parents tell her that she looks old and they make fun of her.
I was surprised that this goes on in a country like Egypt where the vast majority of people are Muslims. How hard must it be for a young Muslim woman in the West, where she is living among non-Muslims, who are not even aware of the requirements of hijab? Isn’t it sad, that we have become cowards to fashion, devoted to looking beautiful and sexy and that if anyone dares to dress modestly, we find they look frumpy, old fashioned or that they are dull, boring people?
It’s a sexist world all the way around
Women, in general, have so many pressures to look good in this world. We are constantly aware of how when a woman wears tight and revealing clothes that she is seen as beautiful, fun and sexy. This is the message given to all young women and it is very difficult not to be pressured by that. The fact that parents make fun of young Muslim women, when they try to wear modest clothing or friends and colleagues see you as dull and boring because you refuse to comply to tight, sexy clothes tells us a lot about the modern day pressures on young Muslim women.
So the next time you see a non-hijabi sister or a sister wearing hijab but with tight jeans/form-fitting clothes, it may be wise to think about how incredibly hard the hijab journey is, how many pressures she may be facing to try and follow what Islam requires of her.
Instead of shaming her, your sister needs respect, encouragement, kindness and du’a that she can fulfill the requirements of the hijab in a sexist, pressurized, fashion-dominated world.
Special thank you to Nour El Koussy, a civil engineering student, for her candor on this subject.