It's Just Cultural- You Don't Have to Wear that Thing

>> Saturday, September 11, 2010

i grew up in a community where it is normal to wear or not to wear hijab.i started wearing hijab at such a young age that i can't even remember the period that i didn't wear it (well you can blame on my short-term memory as well). Hijab is a normal thing to me, like a bra.Always there but never really feel the presence of it and its importance.when i came to study in Australia, that's when i realised i never did understand the true meaning of hijab. [at first,] the weird glances.the weird comments.the weird reactions all were totally new to me but alhamdulillah, it didn't bug me much .I started to learn Islam,like really learning it;the true virtues of being a muslimah .i realise that people do judge the things i do and the decisions i make and i don't want them to think bad about Islam if i did anything wrong.I stumbled upon your blog a month ago and alhamdulillah it's now a part of my life.i can never end my day without checking your blog.Thank you soo much for all the inspirational posts and advises! May Allah grant you jannah :)

Recently,I got this comment from my lab demonstrator at uni: "That thing you're wearing(hijab),i know it's not a religious thing,rather it's a cultural thing.You girls have been brainwashed to believe that it is. I've checked and i know there's nothing about covering heads in the quran and i don't want you girls to be ignorant about it."

and she told me about her story that she met a religious muslim couple and they told her that hijab was not a religious thing. she told us to 'blend in' as it would attract attention,which contradicts with the objective of wearing hijab at the first place.She's a feminist and has this way of thinking that hijabis are ignorant, brainwashed and oppressed.She sounds a bit annoying,but she's really nice when she didn't talk about this topic haha.

There's so much that I can say to prove to her that she's wrong and i don't know where else to ask for help except from u aunties.


p/s: sorry it's a bit long,i was planning on a short but concise message but wasn't able pls bare with me :p

The sister who need guidance

Dearest the Sister Who Needs Guidance!

Ma'shaAllah to you for becoming more religious and really learning about Islam and what it means to be a true Muslim. I think for many of us, we at first simply 'inherit Islam'. It takes effort on our part to decide to really understand what Islam really is, our obligations, etc., so Ma'shaAllah to you!

Also, we're so honored that you read our blog daily :) The truth though is that without you guys's questions, though, the blog wouldn't really work, so you deserve a pat on the back yourself =)

Now the thing about your question- it's a pretty complicated situation! There are several different approaches you can try to use—since we don’t know her, we can’t recommend which one will work best. You try with what you feel she will respond to best, inshaAllah, or even a combination, lol.

But first, whatever you do, it’s best to start off by letting her know that you appreciate her concern. Thank her graciously for taking some of her own time and caring enough about you that she would try and help you ‘see the light’. Be kind and courteous- then, you can use the

  1. You ‘are not brainwashed’ method
Remind her that you are an educated girl, pursuing your career, studying abroad in university, living in a society where if you wanted to, you could easily take it off and no one would notice/say anything. That means you made the DECISION, yourself, to keep it on, day after day.

Don’t just stop there, though. Explain to your lab instructor that you made an ‘informed’ decision. You see, your lab instructor is half right. To some people it is cultural. In fact, it was once almost cultural for you. You yourself began wearing it not really understanding its purpose. But then, you chose to dedicate yourself more to your religion and really learn about it. Explain to her that now that you have read up on it and know the different interpretations of the ‘hijab verses’ (although just between us almost all ‘real controversy’ today exists only on whether or not the verses refer to hijab or niqab, not actually on whether the hijab is obligatory), you are fully convinced of the interpretation that does include covering the ‘hair’. You choose to follow that interpretation. Your choice of interpretation if not understood by others should at least be respected…

Also, since she brought it up, you should explain that you are fully aware that the Qur’an does not literally use the word ‘hair’, but that it does refer to covering certain parts of the body and adornments and an implication of a woman’s adornment is her hair.

More importantly though, as Muslims, we have 2 important sources that guide us: the Qur’an and Prophet Mohammed sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam. There are many things in the Qur’an that are ‘unspecified’-for example, the Qur’an says over and over again “give charity and pray” but it doesn’t mention how much or how. We learn these from the Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam. The Qur’an wasn’t sent ‘alone’, but it was sent with the Messenger sallah Alahoo alyhee wa salam and he was clearly reported as saying things that indicated the hair should be covered.

2.      “Feminism” method-

Tell her that although she may find the hijab restrictive, you don’t find it any way restrictive. Instead, you find it liberating. It liberates you from the ever fickle fashion industry (designed mainly without real women in mind) which continually manages to make girls dissatisfied with themselves and has them believe that in order to be beautiful, they have to ‘sell themselves’. The hijab makes you comfortable with the inner you! Explain that while many woman seem to feel that their worth is only in how much they reveal, for you, your worth is decided by your intellect and what you as a person really has to offer.

Show that you feel that the hijab is the ‘ultimate feminist tool’.

Also, while discussing this point, you should address her concern that hijabis are oppressed or backwards. You may want to explain that in some parts of the world, such as Egypt, most of the female population don the hijab. Despite this, they are still engineers, doctors, nurses, graphic designers, artists, etc. The hijab doesn’t render them [nor you] incapable of doing something. It simply reflects a commitment you have with God….

The fact is what stands in the way of a hijabi girl’s life is not actually her veil- it is the (welcoming or unwelcoming) attitudes around her surrounding the veil.

When policies bar hijabis from education/from schools/from work places/etc., then, they fuel oppression and bar the women from living their lives fully. Not their hijabs!

At this point, you might also want to take the time to explain two things:

a)That men have their own kind of ‘hijab’ as well
b) how Islam came and championed women’s rights. Tell her this startling fact- the first university was created by two Muslim women sisters!

3. I like it method/ the individualist method

First, in order to do this method, you need to correct this misconception she has. The purpose of the hijab isn’t about ‘blending in’. The fact is that we are told to wear hijab to be recognized that we are pious, righteous women/ Muslim women. That means the hijab should differentiate us from others.

“O you Prophet, say to your spouses and your daughters and the women of believers, that they draw their outer garments (jalabibhun (plural of the Arabic word: jilbab) closer to them; that will (make) it likelier that they will be recognized and so will not be hurt. And Allah has been Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful.” ( 33:59).

What’s more we as Muslims are actually not told to ‘blend in’- we’re told to be different. We have a narration of the Prophet sallah Allahoo alyhee wa salam where we are called ‘strangers’…that doesn’t mean that we are rebelling against people or countries but that we choose not to change ourselves or our principals no matter where we are and that does make us a little different.

The purpose of the hijab isn’t then to ‘blend in’, but it is to help a person protect their modesty and the best way to protect one’s modesty is to obey God….

After explaining all that to her, you have to make it clear that you like that! Explain that you yourself won’t settle for being ordinary! Nope, you’re different, unique, extraordinary and you like being that way. She can't argue with that, LOL.

Not only that, but wearing the hijab allows you to be an ambassador to your religion. It allows you to invite people to God.

You can also try to reason with her logically. Why is it that today people can dye their hair X color and style it a certain way to let know others know that they are ‘emo/X/whatever’- but that when you want to identify yourself with your religion and your way of life, it just means your brainwashed?

Also, here you can start discussing ‘diversity’. We keep talking about how we are a global people and that we should accept diversity in all its sizes, shapes and colors. Yet, do we really practice what we preach?

Finally, every workplace has a uniform- you can say, “I like the thought that God chose my uniform for me”.

Well, sis, these are just some thoughts on how to deal with her. inshaAllah this will all end up being a great dawah opportunity for you! Who knows? She may get interested into reading more about Islam and women's rights, etc. =) Wouldn’t that be awesome?

May Allah keep you steadfast on the deen and all of us, Ameen!

P.S. I love how you said wearing hijab was normal like a 'bra', heheh! :P

P.S.S. Is it hard to read this post? It appears 'very tiny' to me? Let me know if it is!

6 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Dreamer September 11, 2010 at 4:38 PM  

Awww what a beautiful post masha'Allah!!
This would be a great addition to "I Got It Covered" as well!

p.s. Eid Mubarak!

UmmKhaled September 11, 2010 at 9:35 PM  

Ohh I just wanted to come and say I am following you now! I didn't know u had a bloggie! woohoo. I have one too :)

Shireen Baig September 12, 2010 at 9:52 PM  

sighhhhhhh, how much i LOVE this!!

oldie goldie September 13, 2010 at 10:44 AM  

mashaAllah! great post girls!

Umm Teem March 25, 2011 at 6:37 AM  


LOVE LOVE LOVE (Million times!) LOVE THIS!

You have answered my qs also! Alhamdulillah..

BIG HUG to my dear 'aunties'! \(^_^)/

Jazakumullahu khayran :)

Anonymous,  August 12, 2011 at 10:43 AM  

“I like the thought that God chose my uniform for me”. I love that, mashaAllah! Nicely put ^.^

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Asalamu aialkum!
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