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Hijab: Faith, Rebellion, and Identity

Posted by AnonyMouse on May 19th, 2008


Hijaab… a concept and a command from Allah that has fueled many discussions, hot debates, and provoked the passions of many - Muslim and non-Muslim alike. It seems that no matter how many times the issue is attacked, defended, or mused about, people will never run out of things to say about it.

This article published in the Slate by Andrea Useem, titled “Loving and Leaving the Head Scarf,”is a personal and anecdotal analysis of women and their journey towards - and away from - hijaab. I personally found it unique in that though the emphasis is more on those who stop observing hijaab, the author does make a point of mentioning why she and others wore it in the first place, and includes Allah’s commands regarding it in Surah an-Noor and al-Ahzab. Nonetheless, it seems that despite knowledge (and acknowledgement) of its obligation, many women still choose to remove the hijaab because they feel that the only reason they’re wearing it is to fit in with the rest of the community; or that other Muslims’ judgement of them based on hijaab (whether they wear it or not) took away from its real meaning and thus rendered the observation of hijaab insincere and to be re-evaluated.

Some may say that it’s better for a woman who, despite knowing the obligation of hijaab, still doesn’t wear it purely for the sake of Allah but rather moreso to fit in, to take it off… but recalling verse 14 of surah al-Hujaraat (The desert Arabs say, “We believe.” Say, “Ye have no faith; but ye say, ‘We have submitted our wills to Allah,’ For not yet has Faith entered your hearts. But if ye obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not belittle aught of your deeds: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”), I’m inclined to think that once it’s been established that Allah has ordered something, you do it - whether or not you’re entirely convinced of your own sincerity. Again, a question: would it not be better for someone to continue wearing the hijaab and struggle with it and related personal issues, than to remove it completely because it’ll relieve her of those issues she’s dealing with?

Personally, I say that once you have acknowledged the commands of Allah, then that’s it: you should be wearing it no matter what others say or how you look at it. If you’re rebellious enough to take off the hijaab, surely you can be rebellious enough to fight against whoever or whatever it is that’s making you want to take it off! However, this attitude is based on the assumption that the reason for wearing hijaab has been conviction in the orders of Allah - to wear it for His Sake for the reasons that He explained to us. I guess it’s different for those who wear/ wore it just because they’re told to or forced to, as an expression of rebellion or conformity, or to work out their identity issues.

Furthermore, what can we say of the intention/ sincerity of those who wear it as an expression of rebellion (or conformity, as the case may be)? Can we say anything about them? Should we say anything about it? Or should we instead be more understanding that an individual’s personal circumstances change and their emaan fluctuates, which is then reflected in their actions?

I’m sure many of us have heard stories of those who have just accepted Islam, or just started practicing the Deen fully, were immediately pushed to wear the hijaab and did so out of pressure - only to take it off later. Such anecdotes make me feel sad, yet a bit confused also: on one hand, I don’t want to be harsh and judgemental (the same attitude that caused such damage in the the first place); on the other hand, I’m fully convinced that hijaab is waajib upon women and that to not wear it is a sin. Wisdom is required to handle such a situation if we’re faced with it (either within ourselves, or with a family member or friend).

If we look at this without focusing specifically on hijaab, we can see what the main point is: that of intention and sincerity.

Has anyone here gone through(or is going through) such a struggle with hijaab and related issues of faith, rebellion, and identity? How did you get through it? What was the final outcome? 

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