Hijab, a personal journey - By Sharifa
The topic of hijab has been in the media since Muslim women became an object of interest internationally for numerous reasons (not relevant to this blog). It is often a heated debate that can occasionally become a personal attack on a woman. For the Western world the concept of ‘hijab’ is bizarre and this is mainly due to a lack of education regarding Muslims. Many in the Western world feel hijab is used as a measure of controlling and oppressing a woman. Disclaimer: This blog is not aimed at defending the existence of hijab nor is it here to explain the religious meaning. I am not a scholar of Islam or any religion however as a Masters graduate who combined theology with Ethics I feel I can speak of my personal experiences regarding something quite personal.
The hijab is a personal journey of spirituality. It is the start of what most women hope will be a life long decision to be closer to Allah. Many women begin the journey with these high hopes of practicing their faith and finding peace. Many women will remain close to Allah and go from strength to strength. I cannot stress enough how much the hijab is a personal decision for a woman. Indeed the personal decision is based on religious beliefs but the autonomy to wear it comes from a personal decision.
A hijab should not be used to pass judgement on women who choose to wear it or those who do not. I feel that there is a backlash from the high numbers of women wearing the hijab and that it is tainting it. Both Muslims and non-Muslims alike are quick to give their opinions on veiled women. I have heard, seen and read many of these heated discussions regarding the hijab. I find it shocking that Muslim women have to endure negative and sometimes offensive comments from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. On one side of the coin are the non-Muslims commenting with limited knowledge on how it is oppressive and on the other Muslims criticizing women for wearing the hijab wrong or for not covering at all.
Before I continue I would just like everyone to take a minute and think about all the problems we have in the world…the suffering from natural disasters, the deaths from wars and diseases. Surely we as mankind have greater issues in the world to debate about than a woman’s physical appearance?
Society does not criticize the appearance of Nuns for choosing to work in the name of there Lord and thus nor should any believing woman of any religion be criticized for choosing to be closer to her faith. Christianity, Judaism and Islam belong to the Abrahamic religions and all three share some basic beliefs. The concept of covering with a veil/hijab does not solely belong to Islam. In all three religions the concept of covering in holy buildings is a key part of worship and some themes for why a woman should cover are shared. With that in mind I ask you to think about the struggles a believing woman may go through in her every day life?
The hijab becomes a part of your every day life in the same way Islam is a way of life. A woman who chooses to cover can be tested in many ways. As humans it is in our nature to make mistakes and should a woman struggle with her beliefs it is our duty as humans to not add to her problems. As Muslims we should know better than to judge a woman on her appearance. I advocate that both men and women practice lowering there gaze, than passing judgement. As someone who has been wearing the hijab I know first hand what it feels like to face criticism. Men who want to give me ‘dawah’ have stopped me on numerous occasions to advise me on not wearing colourful hijabs, using makeup as a veiled woman etc. My advice to you is to lower your gaze!! I am an adult, surely you realise I am aware of my decisions?
It is already sometimes a struggle to cover for a range of reasons. Women are beautiful creatures, it is natural to want to look and feel your best. If that means a woman wants to style and show her hair then it is her prerogative to do so. Some women struggle with adapting their entire wardrobe to accommodate the hijab or for fear of being stereotyped and discriminated against.
Regardless of her reasons, her struggles are a personal battle and I believe the matter is best left there. As I have already stated the hijab is a very personal matter. With that in mind please don’t judge me as I am simply here as a woman who made a decision to wear a hijab.