I am a Muslim woman and I have chosen to wear the hijab.
I am always excited to answer questions about why I have chosen to follow this rule in Islam, but these days no one asks me anymore. It’s mostly because I am currently based in the Muslim majority country of Bangladesh. Weirdly, we Muslims who chose to wear the hijab also need to be reminded of it’s purpose from time to time. I was super happy when a friend of mine sent me a direct message to my Instagram asking me about my hijab. I thought, instead of explaining to her in short and in a hurry, I’d write up this piece to help her, and anyone else who’s curious to understand.
We know hijab as the scarf women wear around their heads and as a component that covers their body with loose and modest clothing. Basically, not exposing the skin except the face and hands. Hijab does not stop there. Hijab does not only mean a head or body covering. Actually, hijab is a code of conduct for Muslims to follow. For both women AND men.
First, we have to understand what hijab is in the context of Islam. Everyone may have their own opinions, but that doesn’t necessarily define the true meaning of hijab. I could give a thousand explanations, but let’s start by referring directly to the source.
Rules and instructions of Islam are found in two primary sources – Quran (word of God) and Hadith (collection of sayings of the last prophet, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which have been recorded by his disciples). Both of these sources mention Hijab.
Hijab is a code of conduct for Muslims to follow.
What does the Quran say?
Guess what guys, the Quran mentions the Hijab for men BEFORE it mentions it for women. When you understand the term, Hijab as a code of conduct, you will better understand the significant role it plays in Islam.
It is first emphasized for the men in the following verses of the Quran:
Surah Nur, Ch. 24, Verse 30, says to the believing man, that, ‘He should lower his gaze and guard his modesty.’
After it speaks to the men, then it speaks to the women:
Surah Nur, Ch. 24, Verse 31, says, ‘Say to the believing woman, that she should lower her gaze and guard her modesty and display not her beauty, except what is that necessary of, and to draw a head covering over her bosom, except in front of her father, her son, her husband’.
So what’s the purpose?
1. Mind over matter:
You know how people don’t want to be judged by what they look like? You know how there are several social media movements calling for body positivity and recognizing that all shapes exist (The Body Image Project)? You know how we all want to help our sisters around the world love their bodies and appreciate what they have? Here we are.
Islam teaches women that our bodies, what we look like underneath should not be a criteria on which you are judged. Islam teaches us to see intellect first. Islam teaches us to not become obsessed with what we look like, but rather work on our mental and inner strengths. This is the essence of hijab. Hijab is our reminder that our body is a temporary asset. We should keep it healthy and maintain a healthy relationship with it. Instead of being materialistic and self-centered, we should focus on becoming better versions of ourselves. Hijab helps the women who choose to wear it, do just that.
2. Protecting dignity and remaining modest:
Going along with the above, when we don’t make our looks our first priority, we protect our dignity and modesty. Once we learn and understand the concept that our physical appearance should not be the basis in which we are judging people, we truly learn to love each other for who we are and appreciate the complexities of every human.
People generally have a misunderstanding around hijab and what it means. Many think it is forced on women and all Muslim women are subjugated to covering their hair and bodies. This is an entirely incorrect view. The hijab of women is a cautionary procedure for her to follow to ensure her protection and maintain her modesty if she chooses. Islam sees women as the foundation of society. In this sense, the hijab was given to women in an effort to heighten the respect that women deserve and should be receiving.
I love wearing the hijab. It helps my mind stand out before my looks. It helps my intellect leave a lasting impression. It allows me to gain mental strength over my physical strength (one of the main reasons I lift heavy is to work my brain). It reminds me not to hoard physical possessions like clothes, shoes, makeup etc. Hijab reminds me that bodies are an asset, and we are the soul inside the body. Hijab reminds me that the body is temporary and I want to keep it healthy, fit and strong as long as I live. Hijab has taught me to see a person’s mind and never judge by the cover. No matter your religion, nationality, race, physical structure, age, occupation, skills – your mind, soul and heart are what define YOU.
My hijab, my choice!