That thing is sooo ugly, I want to be fashionable. Islam is in my heart, it doesn’t matter how I’m dressed.”
If you haven’t realized it yet, this post is about the observance of external hijab. Being that this site is geared towards sisters, I will not be addressing the external hijab of men but please note, that before Allah told women to cover and lower their gaze, he first addressed men.
Honestly, this is not my favourite topic to discuss at all. I think people, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, have made the observance of hijab into such a big deal when at the end of the day, it’s just another instruction from Allah. Part of the reason why it’s been made into such a majour issue as well as why it’s so hard for people to observe it stems from the way that it is often taught. For those who are born into the deen, you’ll most likely remember being taught about the importance of salah, sawm, obeying your parents, not lying, etc but rarely about hijab. Many sisters decided to begin observing hijab after learning about it through friends or other sources while others remember their father handing them a scarf once they reached puberty without an explanation of what exactly hijab is. The observance of hijab has also been made hard due to the increasing emergence of “interpretations”. The one thing that I have learned from the Qur’an is that many things, especially those in regards to day-to-day life are expressly clear and leave absolutely no room for ambiguity. The ayat that commands hijab and the Ahadith that corroborate these ayat are also very clear. Alongside this, it is important to note, that prior to 50-60 years ago, before Muslims decided that the deen needed to be revamped to please the West, there was very little mention of things that were already clear in the Qur’an, hijab included, being able to be interpreted or manifested in different ways. Are we now saying, that those Muslims from the time of the prophet(SAW) till the 1950s, were not practicing Islam correctly? That they were observing hijab incorrectly? Of course not, these earlier generations of Muslims did not feel the need to put their deen aside for the sake of man. While not all followed Islam correctly, they did not attempt to revamp religious obligations.
This new found love of interpretations and the lack of the ummah to teach hijab while they teach other aspects of the deen has resulted in many treating its observance as an “other”, something that you can adapt to your life whichever way you see fit or not adapt at all. It has also resulted in the ummah trying to market hijab to our young sisters so that they can be motivated to wear it. The latter can be seen in all the trendy new hijab/Muslimah blogs, hijab You Tube videos, hijabi instagram accounts or the emergence of terms such as hijabista and hijabi fashionista. While the intentions behinds these avenues might be good, ultimately you’re not fully fulfilling the guidelines that Allah(SAW) has given. I know some people say you shouldn’t be so focused on guidelines and criteria but if that is your belief, why does it only apply to hijab? Why am I not allowed to perform salah in any way that I see fit? The answer to this is that Allah knows best. If he wants us, His creations, His servants, to do something in a certain way then we should. Who are we to challenge Him? So, what does Allah and His messenger(SAW) tell us constitutes proper external hijab for a female when in front of non-mahrams? Well...
1. The khimar(scarf) must be worn and should cover the hair, ears, and neck and drape the chest.
2. A jilbab must also be worn.
3. Your hijab(scarf and jilbab) should not be tight, transparent, ostentatious or flashy. These commands can be found in the Qur’an 24:31 and 33:59.
Scholars often tend to add more guidelines, which are accurate, but these are the most basic that can be derived from the Qur’an.
If you want to wear tight clothes and a scarf, that’s fine because it’s your version of hijab. If you want to wear short sleeves and completely adorn yourself, it’s fine because it’s your interpretation of hijab. If you don’t want to observe even the most minimal form of hijab, it’s also fine because you can interpret the hijab however your want.”- This is not a direct quote but instead a compilation of comments often echoed by sisters who lack a proper understanding of hijab or who choose to not observe properly
Unfortunately though, the majority of us have strayed from these guidelines. We are now at the point where we convince ourselves and others that we don’t need these guidelines. Most sisters have heard the comments above being said and some might have even said them themselves. Ultimately though what we are saying when we repeat or agree with such statements is that “Allah, the all-Knowing, the all-Wise, did not know what He was doing when He made these guidelines”(Astagfirullah). As Muslims, we should of course, never believe such a thing.
If you take a look at the ayat that I have mentioned you will notice that the word “hijab” is not mentioned. You'll also notice that in the beginning of this post I referred to the above covering as 'external hijab'. This is because hijab is the overall concept of covering and modesty, both externally and internally and is therefore not just about how you’re dressed. So while hijab is not mentioned, the above guidelines are. At the end of the day, remember that no one’s interpretation outweighs the direct instruction of Allah and His Messenger. If you wholeheartedly believe that the Qur’an is The word of God and the ultimate guidance for life, then the observance of hijab or at least the acceptance of it, should not be difficult. As Muslims, we should never pick and choose Islamic rulings to observe but instead accept and follow it in its entirety.
What are your thoughts on hijab? How do you observe hijab? If you don’t, why not? Comment below!
Edit: Some sisters have expressed that they were unsure whether or not I was promoting hijab and whether or not I believe it exists in Islam. Sister Halimah and I both believe that the observation of full hijab(scarf and jilbab) is fard and mandatory upon ALL Muslim women who have reached puberty.We have come to this conclusion based on the ayat that I have mentioned above. I observe full hijab and Halimah wears the scarf and often rotates between long skirts and an abaya. The point of this post was to state what proper hijab is and that although there are many who think that hijab is just a matter of draping a scarf on your head, that understanding is incorrect. May Allah guide us all.
*This post is not necessarily meant to convince you to become a muthajiba(one who observes hijab) but instead to give you a brief explanation on what hijab is. Sister Halima and I will both be posting about our personal journeys towards becoming muthajibat very soon on the 'Muslimah Worries' page.
As humans in this dunya we are inundated by many distractions, misguidance, and falsehoods therefore making life much more confusing and difficult. What are we thinking, saying, observing, and experiencing in our lives? Are we truly living by Islamic ideals? This is where we can choose to actively “Strive For Clarity.”