Hijab… some see it as a symbol of oppression. I see it as a powerful part of my identity. When I put one of my favorite chiffon hijabs on every morning before school, I feel pride coursing through me. When I walk through the school hallways, my head is held high, and my hijab makes me feel empowered. Hijab is not what the media portrays it to be.
Islam enjoins women to wear hijab for their protection and empowerment. First and foremost, Muslim women dress modestly because Allah SWT in the Qur’an has obligated them to do so: “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:59). It’s important to keep in mind that Allah SWT knows best and everything He has commanded us to do is for our own good. Although we might not fully understand why Allah SWT has commanded us to do something, or restrict us from doing something, we have to trust Him, for He is the All-Knowing.
More Than a Beautiful Piece of Fabric
As my hijab experiences grew, I began to realize that hijab is more than a beautiful piece of fabric on your head and a modest mode of dressing. Hijab is a protection from unwanted attention. It is a cultural norm in the West that women are often portrayed in a sexualized way, and society instills in us values that encourage women to expose more of their bodies. True beauty, however, comes from within us — our character, personality, and spiritual self. Wearing a hijab makes you understand and honor your inner beauty. Hijab and modest clothing are a shield and gives women the power to keep their beauty private except when Islamically appropriate to display it to others.
According to the National Library of Medicine, many studies have shown that women who wear hijab and modest clothing experience a positive body image, compared to others who don’t dress modestly or wear hijab. The hijab symbolizes how the self-worth of women is determined, not by their body image but by their inner, true beauty. A cultural misconception about hijab is that Muslim women wear hijab and modest clothing “for men” so men do not experience “sexual distraction or temptation.” This, though, is a narrow and limited view. Muslim women wear hijab to please God. In fact, modesty is not only enjoined upon women but also upon men. In the Qur’an, Allah SWT states: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is well aware of what they do” (Quran 24:30).
Know Why You Are Wearing It
At times, it’s hard being a Muslim, hijabi teen in America. It’s not easy trying to live your life peacefully, while people think you are a walking threat. And when I wear my hijab, my pride and crown, it is often seen by others as an offense. I’ve learned that while society is often scared or put off through ignorance and/or hatred, it’s important to know your “why.” Why did you start wearing a hijab? Why did you feel inspired to start wearing hijab? The power of your “why” is like a lightning rod. It seizes the racist, ignorant energy of comments or stares and diverts them harmlessly into obscurity. Even better, you can take that negative energy and convert it into inspiration and motivation to keep unapologetically living your hijabi identity. It’s important to keep in mind that like all journeys, the journey of being a hijabi comes with its ups and downs. Reflecting on your “why,” however, makes your beliefs unshakeable no matter what’s coming your way.
A Beautiful and Powerful Force in One’s Personal Growth
My advice to the female, Muslim youth is that wearing a hijab should be a personal decision and not be forced upon you by anyone. Your purpose in wearing hijab should never be to please other people, but it should come from within yourself with the intention to please Allah SWT alone. Wearing hijab is a personal decision and an experience which is unique to each person. Realize that it’s more than a cloth covering your hair. In reality, the journey of being a hijabi is so beautiful and powerful a force in one’s personal growth. It’s striking how a simple practice of wearing a head-covering taught me the power of modesty and created a significant impact on my identity.
Never hide your Muslim identity. You may feel “out of place” and not fit in with the crowd; but have pride in who you are and don’t be afraid to show it. Be your own advocate. When you have a solid, concrete belief and passion about hijab and your Muslim identity overall, the effects of ignorance, bigotry, or Islamophobia that you might face are never able to bring you down.
On this World Hijab Day, we honor and voice our solidarity with our Muslim, hijabi sisters who walk with pride, speak with dignity, and continue to break stereotypes.