I have been forced to wrestle with my decision to not wear hijab. I say “forced” because I made my decision and yet people have come out of the woodwork to “discuss” with me about why I am not wearing hijab. Ya know, the people who never really talk to you, who never socialize with you, who have nothing ever to say to your face…. suddenly, they NEED to know why you stopped wearing hijab. Hey, ever think it was never your business, you are not a close enough friend for me to confide in about what is going on in my life, so you are not one that needs to know jack.
So, what I want to say to them, but won’t because they won’t open their mind enough to hear, is that hijab has it’s purpose of “protecting” women from men’s gaze and harassment… a matter of modesty. It is to detract men from a woman’s beauty so that she may be known for her intellect, compassion, wisdom, spirituality and kindness. I am all for that. However, wearing a scarf on your head in the west does not do this among both non Muslim and Muslim people.
Let me start with the obvious, some non Muslims react to the hijab as a means of stifling women’s voice. A way of removing her from the social fabric. In some cases they believe that we are weak and subservient. They are wrong of course, some Muslim women are that way due to their culture. But, convert women who maintain their identity are not. We are just as outspoken, hard headed, bold powerhouses as we ever were. The hijab does not silence our innate nature.
Among Muslim population, the hijab sends a message too. An immigrant Muslim man sees me with hijab and I get this: “Oh you are hijabi Muslim, you are good Muslim, I need to marry you.” Seeing the hijab, they automatically assume I am good and by good they mean, submissive. They mean, they can put me in a home and I will slave away cooking for them and cleaning house and birthing many babies. They mean that they can spend all their free time with their friends and I have no need for socialization; being in my home with my upteen kids is enough for me. They also say they need to marry me not because I am a good person, intelligent, compassionate, wise, spiritual or kind…. no, no, no, they mean white face with scarf on head equals green card. They will say they love you in five seconds flat without ever asking one thing about you. Granted not all immigrant Muslims are like this, but too many are like this.
The thing about hijab in the west is that it does not do what it is suppose to do. It does not protect women so they will not be harassed. We get harassed from non Muslims for being Muslim and we get harassed from Muslims for being Muslim and not being “real” Muslims. By both sides, we are not recognized for intelligence, compassion, wisdom, spirituality and kindness; we are seen as tools. Non Muslims use hijabis as a proof of what is wrong with Islam and Muslims use as for whatever they can get out of us. The hijab has been sadly an excuse for men to not hold up their end of the bargain. In the Quran, where it mentions modesty for women, it mentions modesty for men. Both are to cast down their gaze and guard their chastity. Women are told to take the khimar (what Mary wore on her head) and cover her bosom. Now this can be interpreted in many ways, although many say it cannot simply because they follow shaykh so and so. The beauty of Islam is that it is open for interpretation and it is meant for differing opinions because there are four schools of thought and there are many parables in the Quran. The men and women of Arabia covered their hair because of the sun. So, perhaps God did not mention cover the hair because it was already being done by both sexes or because that was not what He was most concerned about; exposing our bosom (most men’s favorite part) was His biggest concern. Later in the Quran we find another verse asking women to let down their jalabib (long dress). This is not talking about the hair, but talking about the legs. In these two verses the main concern is the revealing of the body. Despite the mindset revolving around hijab; modesty is always key in all religions.
There is a hadith that best illustrates my feeling of hijab. Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhu): “Al-Fadl bin Abbas rode behind Allah’s Messenger (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) as his companion rider on the back portion of his she-camel on the day of Nahr (slaughtering of sacrifice, 10th Dhul-Hijja) and Al-Fadl was a handsome man. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) stopped to give the people verdicts (regarding their matters). In the meantime, a beautiful woman from the tribe of Khatham came, asking the verdict of Allah’s Messenger. Al-Fadl started looking at her as her beauty attracted him. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) looked behind while Al-Fadl was looking at her; so the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) held out his hand backwards and caught the chin of Al-Fadl and turned his face (to the other side) in order that he should not gaze at her. She said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! The obligation of performing Hajj enjoined by Allah on his worshippers has become due (compulsory) on my father who is an old man and who cannot sit firmly on the riding animal. Will it be sufficient that I perform Hajj on his behalf?’ He said, ‘Yes.'” [Sahih Bukhari] Prophet Mohamed, sallahi alayhi wa salam, did not scold the woman for showing her beauty, he instead directed Al Fadl’s face away, forcing him to lower his gaze, so as to not to stare at the woman’s beauty. Men have shirked their responsibility and blame women for their own shortcomings. Hijab is not an excuse for men to behave like barbarians and they need to refine themselves instead of expecting women to control them like rabid dogs.