I remember that when my sister Ruqayyah first started to invite me to Islam, that the main obstacle on my path to light was not the sacrifices that I would have to make in my eating, drinking, and conduct. The fact that I would have to learn a completely new and sometimes confusing language to even say my prayers did not cause me to loose any sleep either. The one felled-tree in my path to guidance and righteousness, was the fact that I would have to go around looking like her.
My sister, you see, wears full hijab, with her face and hands covered. Even though she assured me that the khimar and jilbab was all that would be required of me, the thought of my friends seeing me dressed like that kept me from declaring my faith openly for a long time, even though I believed it in my heart. The fact that I also had to cover up my hair, which I used to spend a great deal of time and money on, was then, also too much for me to bear.
Now because of this, many of you may think that I was a shallow and vain person, but my thoughts and actions should come as no surprise. As women raised in the West, from birth, we are taught that our self-worth is directly proportionate to our attractiveness. The society upholds unattainable and unrealistic images of beauty that the women in the society must constantly pursue. We spend of our time, energy and wealth, in this constant and illusive chase. We become slaves to Revlon, Vidal Sassoon, the fashion gurus in Paris and ultimately our own sense of vanity.
It will be three years ago, this December 25, that I stood before two Muslim sisters and declared openly my belief in Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW), and thus freeing and liberating myself from my former self-imposed bondage. Stepping out of the darkness of kufr (disbelief) into the light of Islam, it's funny that I found such freedom in the very thing that was keeping me from Islam in the first place; the hijab. Even though I get the wide gamut of strange stares, points and comments, this covering makes me feel honored, safe and cherished.
The word hijab comes from the Arabic word "hajabah" meaning to hide from view or concel. Women, who conceal their beauty in this society and do not give into its oppressive system, are looked upon as invisable, without sexuality, and backward. Because I'm often mistaken for a nun, and Islamic fundamentalist terrorist, who maybe hiding god-knows what up under all that stufff, or the poster-child for oppressed womanhood everywhere, I feel the hijab, for many women, is the truest test of being a Muslim. In instructing us to wear the hijab, Allah (SWT) has given Muslim women what they can bear of injunctions and obligations. For Allah (SWT) says,
"And We tax not any person except according to his capacity, and with Us is a Record which speaks the truth, and they will not be wronged." (Al-Mu'minun 23:62)Unfortunately, Satan and his cohorts are calling the Muslim woman to enslave herself to the creation, and to forget about her servitude to her Creator. Chastity, modesty and piety are deceptively marketed as shackles on personal freedom. Allah (SWT) warns the believers they should not let Satan deceive them, as he deceived their parents, Adam (AS) and Eve (AS). Under the guises of fashion, culture and modernism however, Satan has, and is succeeding to lead the Muslim woman into immodesty.
From the dawn of civilization, flowing dresses and headscarves have always been associated with "godliness" or "god consciousness." Even the Christian pictorial respressentation of the earlier prophets and their women folks bear a familiar likeness to the dress ordained for Muslim men and womn. This tradition of modesty is reflected in the Quran, wherein Allah (SWT) says,
"O Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover yourselves (screen your private parts, etc.) and as an adornment, and the raiment of righteousness, that is better..." (Al-A'raf 7:26)But since the hay-days of the feminist movement, there has been an increasing amount of scrutiny placed on the dress and status of Muslim women. According to these "liberated" women, the hijab not only covers the head, but also covers the mind, will and intellect. They say that our dress code is outdated and oppressive, and that it stops us from being productive human beings.
They speak out of ignorance when they say that our hijab does not belong in these modern times, when due to the constant decrease in moral values in the world today, circumstances make the hijab even more necessary. More than ever before, sex crimes are rampant and "liberated" women in the larger society now face increasingly higher chances of being raped or sexually harassed. The Federal Governemetnt conducted a research in which they found that in America, a rape-crime is committed every six minutes.
The women, who uncover their beauty and show off their bodies and made-up faces for all to enjoy, expose themselves to be harmed by these wolves in human clothing. Allah (SWT) enjoined the hijab on the Muslim woman to protect her from harm. He (SWT) knows His creation, and knows that when women make dazzling displays of themselves, with immodest clothes, perfumed bodies and made-up faces, that it serves to increase the sexual deviance of the overall society. Many of those who are misguided would have us think though that the hijab is a portable prison that restricts our minds, lives and hearts. It is none of these things, and in order not to fall victim to their plots, we must begin to understand what the hijab truly is
For Muslim women, the clothing requirements are not meant to be restriction but rather a way in which society can function in a moral and Islamic fashion. As Muslims, we are the torchbearers for the rest of humanity; therefore we must set the example and set ourselves apart for the rest of society. A wise person once said,
"If you want to judge the religiousness or morality of a people, look to the dress of its women."
Apart from the benefit it holds for the ummah and the larger society, the hijab has many virtues for the Muslim woman herself.
It's been almost three years now since Allah (SWT) guided me to the light of Islam, and took me away from the darkness of disbelief. Even though strangers tend to speak to me in loud, slow English, and always ask, "aren't you hot in all that,"
I have found the hijab to be the most liberating part of my conversion.
I adjure my Muslim sisters to reclaim the hijab. It is your right and an intrinsic part of your Islamic identity. Do not allow the Satan, Jinns and humans, to enslave you to your desires, egos and vanity, when Allah (SWT) in His Mercy, has given you the keys to freedom. As Muslims, we must lovingly submit to the will of our Creator, and let the whispers, taunts and ill intentions of the creation be of no consequence to us.
And what greater act of submission can there be for a true Muslim woman than the saying of the faithful believers when they are called to Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW) to judge between them, is only that they say, "We hear and we obey." By doing this, Allah (SWT) will increase us in faith and make our way easy for us (Insha-Allah). As true servants of the Lord of the worlds, we have no choice but to follow whatever orders He (SWT) has given us. As we are slaves, when our Lord says go there, we should go, and when He (SWT) says come here, we should come, with no hesitation whatsoever.
Let us strive then to be true servants of Allah (SWT) by doing our best to carry out His injunctions to the best our our abilties (Insha-Allah). Let us commit ourselves to not falling prey to the beckoning of the larger society to be among the "liberated women," but let us work to be among the "believing women," Insha-Allah!